Copyright
Daniel Webster.

The works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) online

. (page 44 of 53)
Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 44 of 53)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


arming of himself to defend it, are not circumstances of a very
suspicious character.

He stated that he did not travel in the night ; that he would
not so much expose himself to robbers. He said that, when he
came near Alfred, he did not go into the village, but stopped a
few miles short, because night was coming on. and he would not
trust himself and his money out at night. He represents him
self to have observed this rule constantly and invariably until
he got to Exeter. Yet, when the time came for the robbery, he
was found out at night. He left Exeter about sunset, intend
ing to go to Newburyport, fifteen miles distant, that evening.
When he is asked how this should happen, he says he had no
fear of robbers after he left the District of Maine. He thought



DEFENCE OF THE KENNISTONS. 451

himself quite safe when he arrived at Exeter. Yet he told the
jury, that at Exeter he thought it necessary to load his pistol
afresh. He asked for a private room at the inn. He told the
persons in attendance that he wished such a room for the pur
pose of changing his clothes. He charged them not to suffer
him to be interrupted. But he now testifies that his object
was not to change his dress, but to put new loading into his
pistols. What sort of a story is this?

He says he now felt himself out of all danger from robbers,
and was therefore willing to travel at night. At the same time,
he thought himself in very great danger from robbers, and there
fore took the utmost pains to keep his pistols well loaded and in
good order. To account for the pains he took about loading
his pistols at Exeter, he says it was his invariable practice, every
day after he left Bangor, to discharge and load again one or
both of his pistols ; that he never missed doing this ; that he
avoided doing it at the inns, lest he should create suspicion, but
that he did it, while alone, on the road, every day.

How far this is probable the jury will judge. It will be ob
served that he gave up his habits of caution as he approached
the place of the robbery. He then loaded his pistols at the tav
ern, where persons might and did see him ; and he then also
travelled in the night. He passed the bridge over Merrimack
River a few minutes before nine o clock. He was now at a part
of his progress where he was within the observation of other
witnesses, and something could be known of him besides what
he told of himself. Immediately after him passed the two per
sons with their wagons, Shaw and Keyser. Close upon them
followed the mail-coach. Now, these wagons and the mail
must have passed within three rods, at most, of Goodridge, at
the very time of the robbery. They must have been very near
the spot, the very moment of the attack ; and if he was under
the robbers hands as long as he represents, or if they staid on
the spot long enough to do half what he says they did, they
must have been there when the wagons and the stage passed.
A.t any rate, it is next to impossible, by any computation of
time, to put these carriages so far from the spot, that the drivers
should not have heard the cry of murder, which he says he
raised, or the report of the two pistols, which he says were dis
charged. In three quarters of an hour, or an hour, he returned,
and repassed the bridge.



452 DEFENCE OF THE KENNISTONS.

The jury will next naturally look to the appearances exhibited
on the field after the robbery. The portmanteau was there. The
witnesses say, that the straps which fastened it to the saddle
had been neither cut nor broken. They were carefully unbuckled.
This was very considerate for robbers. It had been opened, and
its contents were scattered about the field. The pocket-book,
too, had been opened, and many papers it contained found on
the ground. Nothing valuable was lost but money. The rob
bers did not think it well to go off at once with the portmanteau
and the pocket-book. The place was so secure, so remote, so
unfrequented ; they were so far from the highway, at least one
full rod ; there were so few persons passing, probably not more
than four or five then in the road, within hearing of the pistols
and the cries of Goodridge ; there being, too, not above five or
six dwelling-houses, full of people, within the hearing of the
report of a pistol ; these circumstances were all so favorable to
their safety, that the robbers sat down to look over the prose
cutor s papers, carefully examined the contents of his pocket-
book and portmanteau, and took only the things which they
needed ! There was money belonging to other persons. The
robbers did not take it. They found out it was not the prose
cutor s, and left it. It may be said to be favorable to the prose
cutor s story, that the money which did not belong to him, and
the plunder of which would seem to be the most probable in
ducement he could have to feign a robbery, was not taken.
But the jury will consider whether this circumstance does not
bear quite as strongly the other way, and whether they can be
lieve that robbers could have left this money, either from acci
dent or design.

The robbers, by Goodridge s account, were extremely careful
to search his person. Having found money in his portmanteau
and in his pocket-book, they still forthwith stripped him to the
skin, and searched until they found the sum which had been so
carefully deposited under his clothes. Was it likely, that, hav
ing found money in the places where it is ordinarily carried,
robbers should proceed to search for more, where they had no
reason to suppose more would be found ? Goodridge says that
no person knew of his having put his bank-notes in that situ
ation. On the first attack, however, they proceeded to open
one garment after another, until they penetrated to the treas
ure, which was beneath them all.



DEFENCE OF THE KENNISTONS. 453

The testimony of Mr. Howard is material. He examined
Goodridge s pistol, which was found on the spot, and thinks it
had not been fired at all. If this be so, it would follow that
the wound through the hand was not made by this pistol ; but
then, as the pistol is now discharged, if it had not been fired, he
is not correct in swearing that he fired it at the robbers, nor
could it have been loaded at Exeter, as he testified.

In the whole case, there is nothing, perhaps, more deserving
consideration, than the prosecutor s statement of the violence
which the robbers used towards him. He says he was struck
with a heavy club, on the back part of his head. He fell sense
less to the ground. Three or four rough-handed villains then
dragged him to the fence, and through it or over it, with such
force as to break one of the boards. They then plundered his
money. Presently he came to his senses ; perceived his situa
tion ; saw one of the robbers sitting or standing near ; he val
iantly sprung upon, and would have overcome him, but the
ruffian called out for his comrades, who returned, and all to
gether they renewed their attack upon, subdued him, and re
doubled their violence. They struck him heavy blows ; they
threw him violently to the ground; they kicked him in the side;
they choked him ; one of them, to use his own words, jumped
upon his breast. They left him only when they supposed they
had killed him. He went back to Pearson s, at the bridge, in a
state of delirium, and it was several hours before his recollec
tion came to him. This is his account. Now, in point of fact,
it is certain that on no part of his person was there the least
mark of this beating and wounding. The blow on the head,
which brought him senseless to the ground, neither broke the
skin, nor caused any tumor, nor left any mark whatever. He
fell from his horse on the frozen ground, without any appear
ance of injury. He was drawn through or over the fence with
such force as to break the rail, but not so as to leave any
wound or scratch on him. A second time he is knocked down,
kicked, stamped upon, choked, and in every way abused and
beaten till sense had departed, and the breath of life hardly
remained ; and yet no wound, bruise, discoloration, or mark of
injury was found to result from all this. Except the wound in
his hand, and a few slight punctures in his left arm, apparently
made with his own penknife, which was found open on the



454 DEFENCE OF THE KENNISTONS.

spot, there was no wound or mark which the surgeons, upon
repeated examinations, could anywhere discover. This is a
story not to be believed. No matter who tells it, it is so impos
sible to be true, that all belief is set at defiance. No man can
believe it. All this tale of blows which left no marks, and of
wounds which could not be discovered, must be the work of
imagination. If the jury can believe that he was robbed, it is
impossible they can believe his account of the manner of it.

With respect, next, to delirium. The jury have heard the
physicians. Two of them have no doubt it was all feigned.
Dr. Spofford spoke in a more guarded manner, but it was very
evident his opinion agreed with theirs. In the height of his
raving, the physician who was present said to others, that he
could find nothing the matter with the man, and that his pulse
was perfectly regular. But consider the facts which Dr. Balch
testifies. He suspected the whole of this illness and delirium
to be feigned. He wished to ascertain the truth. While he or
others were present, Goodridge appeared to be in the greatest
pains and agony from his wounds. He could not turn himself
in bed, nor be turned by others, without infinite distress. His
mind, too, was as much disordered as his body. He was con
stantly raving about robbery and murder. At length the phy
sicians and others withdrew, and left him alone in the room.
Dr. Balch returned softly to the door, which he had left partly
open, and there he had a full view of his patient, unobserved
by him. Goodridge was then very quiet. His incoherent ex
clamations had ceased. Dr. Balch saw him turn over with
out inconvenience. Pretty soon he sat up in bed, and adjust
ed his neckcloth and his hair. Then, hearing footsteps on the
staircase, he instantly sunk into the bed again ; his pains all
returned, and he cried out against robbers and murderers as
loud as ever. Now, these facts are all sworn to by an intelli
gent witness, who cannot be mistaken in them ; a respectable
physician, whose veracity or accuracy is in no way impeached
or questioned. After this, it is difficult to retain any good opin
ion of the prosecutor. Robbed or not robbed, this was his con
duct; and such conduct necessarily takes away all claim to
sympathy and respect. The jury will consider whether it does
not also take away all right to be believed in any thing. For
if they should be of opinion that in any one point he has inten-



DEFENCE OF THE KENNISTONS. 455

tionally misrepresented facts, he can be believed in nothing.
No man is to be convicted on the testimony of a witness whom
the jury has found wilfully violating the truth in any particular.

The next part of the case is the conduct of the prosecutor
in attempting to find out the robbers, after he had recovered
from his illness. He suspected Mr. Pearson, a very honest, re
spectable man, who keeps the tavern at the bridge. He searched
his house and premises. He sent for a conjurer to come, with
his metallic rods and witch-hazel, to find the stolen money.
Goodridge says now, that he thought he should find it, if the
conjurer s instruments were properly prepared. He professes to
have full faith in the art. Was this folly, or fraud, or a strange
mixture of both ? Pretty soon after the last search, gold pieces
were actually found near Mr. Pearson s house, in the manner
stated by the female witness. How came they there? Did
the robber deposit them there ? That is not possible. Did he
accidentally leave them there ? Why should not a robber take
as good care of his money as others ? It is certain, too, that
the gold pieces were not put there at the time of the robbery,
because the ground was then bare ; but when these pieces were
found, there were several inches of snow below them. When
Goodridge searched here with his conjurer, he was on this spot,
alone and unobserved, as he thought. Whether he did not, at
that time, drop his gold into the snow, the jury will judge.
When he came to this search, he proposed something very
ridiculous. He proposed that all persons about to assist in the
search should be examined, to see that they had nothing which
they could put into Pearson s possession, for the purpose of
being found there. But how was this examination to be made ?
Why, truly, Goodridge proposed that every man should exam
ine himself, and that, among others, he would examine himself,
till he was satisfied he had nothing in his pockets which he
could leave at Pearson s, with the fraudulent design of being
afterwards found there, as evidence against Pearson. What
construction would be given to such conduct ?

As to Jackrnan, Goodridge went to New York and arrested
him. In his room he says he found paper coverings of gold,
with his own figures on them, and pieces of an old and useless
receipt, which he can identify, and which he had in his posses
sion at the time of the robbery. He found these things lying



456 DEFENCE OF THE KENNISTONS.

on the floor in Jackman s room. What should induce the rob
bers, when they left all other papers, to take this receipt ? And
what should induce Jackman to carry it to New York, and keep
it, with the coverings of the gold, in a situation where it was
likely to be found, and used as evidence against him ?

There is no end to the series of improbabilities growing out
of the prosecutor s story.

One thing especially deserves notice. Wherever Goodridge
searches, he always finds something; and what he finds, he
always can identify and swear to, as being his. The thing
found has always some marks by which he knows it. Yet he
never finds much. He never finds the mass of his lost treasure*
He finds just enough to be evidence, and no more.

These are the circumstances which tend to raise doubts of
the truth of the prosecutor s relation. It is for the jury to say,
whether it would be safe to convict any man for this robbery
until these doubts shall be cleared up. No doubt they are to
judge him candidly; but they are not to make every thing
yield to a regard to his reputation, or a desire to vindicate
him from the suspicion of a fraudulent prosecution.

He stands like other witnesses, except that he is a very inter
ested witness ; and he must hope for credit, if at all, from the
consistency and general probability of the facts to which he
testifies. The jury will not convict the prisoners to save the
prosecutor from disgrace. He has had every opportunity of
making out his case. If any person in the State could have-
corroborated any part of his story, that person he could have
produced. He has had the benefit of full time, and good coun
sel, and of the Commonwealth s process, to bring in his wit
nesses. More than all, he has had an opportunity of telling
his own story, with the simplicity that belongs to truth, if it
were true, and the frankness and earnestness of an honest man,
if he be such. It is for the jury to say, under their oaths, how
he has acquitted himself in these particulars, and whether he
has left their minds free from doubt as to the truth of his nar
ration.

But if Goodridge were really robbed, is there satisfactory
evidence that the defendants had a hand in the commission of
this offence? The evidence relied on is the finding of the
money in their house. It appears that these defendants lived



DEFENCE OF THE KENNISTONS. 457

together, and, with a sister, constituted one family. Their fa
ther lived in another part of the same house, and with his wife
constituted another and distinct family. In this house, some
six weeks after the robbery, the prosecutor made a search ; and
the result has been stated by the witnesses. Now, if the
money had been passed or used by the defendants it might
have been conclusive. If found about their persons, it might
have been very strong proof. But, under the circumstances of
this case, the mere finding of money in their house, and that
only in places where the prosecutor had previously been, is no
evidence at all. With respect to the gold pieces, it is certainly
true that they were found in Goodridge s track. They were
found only where he had been, and might have put them.

When the sheriff was in the house and Goodridge in the cel
lar, gold was found in the cellar. When the sheriff was up stairs
and Goodridge in the rooms below, the sheriff was called down
TO look for money where Goodridge directed, and there money
was found. As to the bank-note, the evidence is not quite so
clear. Mr. Leavitt says he found a note in a drawer in a room
in which none of the party had before been ; that he thought it
an uncurrent or counterfeit note, and not a part of Goodridge s
money, and left it where he found it, without further notice. An
hour or two afterward, Upton perceived a note in the same
drawer, Goodridge being then with or near him, and called to
Leavitt. Leavitt told him that he had discovered that note
before, but that it could not be Goodridge s. It was then ex
amined. Leavitt says he looked at it, and saw writing on the
back of it. Upton says he looked at it, and saw writing on the
back of it. He says also that it was shown to Goodridge, who
examined it in the same way that he and Leavitt examined it.
None of the party at this time suspected it to be Goodridge s.
It was then put into Leavitt s pocket-book, where it remained
till evening, when it was taken out at the tavern ; and then it
turns out to be, plainly and clearly, one of Goodridge s notes,
and has the name of " James Poor, Bangor," in Goodridge s
own handwriting, on the back of it. The first thing that
strikes one in this account is, Why was not this discovery made
at the time ? Goodridge was looking for notes, as well as gold.
He was looking for Boston notes, for such he had lost. He was
looking for ten-dollar notes, for such he had lost. He was look-

VOL. v. 39



458 DEFENCE OF THE KENNISTONS.

ing for notes which he could recognize and identify. He would,
therefore, naturally be particularly attentive to any writing or
marks upon such as he might find. Under these circumstances,
a note is found in the house of the supposed robbers. It is a
Boston note, it is a ten-dollar note, it has writing on the back of
it ; that writing is the name of his town and the name of one of
his neighbors; more than all, that writing is his own hand
writing! Notwithstanding all this, neither Goodridge, nor
Upton, nor the sheriff, examined it so as to see whether it
was Goodridge s money. Notwithstanding it so fully resem
bled, in all points, the money they were looking for, and not
withstanding they also saw writing on the back of it, which,
they must know, if they read it, would probably have shown
where it came from, neither of them did so far examine it as
to see any proof of its being Goodridge s.

This is hardly to be believed. It must be a pretty strong
faith in the prosecutor that could credit this story. In every
part of it, it is improbable and absurd. It is much more easy
to believe that the note was changed. There might have been,
and there probably was, an uncurrent or counterfeit note found
in the drawer by Leavitt. He certainly did not at the time
think it to be Goodridge s, and he left it in the drawer where
he found it. Before he saw it again, the prosecutor had been
in that room, and was in or near it when the sheriff was again
called in, and asked to put that bill in his pocket-book. How
do the jury know that this was the same note which Leavitt
had before seen? Or suppose it was. Leavitt carried it to
Coffin s; in the evening he produced it, and, after having been
handed about for some time among the company, it turns out
to be Goodridge s note, and to have upon it infallible marks of
identity. How do the jury know that a sleight of hand had
not changed the note at Coffin s ? It is sufficient to say, the
note might have been changed. It is not certain that this is the
note which Leavitt first found in the drawer, and this not being
certain, it is not proof against the defendants.

Is it not extremely improbable, if the defendants are guilty,
that they should deposit the money in the places where it was
found ? Why should they put it in small parcels in so many
places, for no end but to multiply the chances of detection?
Why, especially, should they put a doubloon in their father s



DEFENCE OF THE KENNISTONS. 459

pocket-book ? There is no evidence, nor any ground of suspi
cion, that the father knew of the money being in his pocket-
book. He swears he did not know it. His general character
is unimpeached, and there is nothing against his credit. The
inquiry at Stratham was calculated to elicit the truth ; and,
after all, there is not the slightest reason to suspect that
he knew that the doubloon was in his pocket-book. What
could possibly induce the defendants to place it there? No
man can conjecture a reason. On the other hand, if this is a
fraudulent proceeding on the part of the prosecutor, this cir
cumstance could be explained. He did not know that the
pocket-book, and the garment in which it was found, did not
belong to one of the defendants. He was as likely, therefore,
to place it there as elsewhere. It is very material to consider
that nothing was found in that part of the house which be
longed to the defendants. Every thing was discovered in the
father s apartments. They were not found, therefore, in the
possession of the defendants, any more than if they had been
discovered in any other house in the neighborhood. The two
tenements, it is true, were under the same roof; but they were
not on that account the same tenements. They were as dis
tinct as any other houses. Now, how should it happen that
the several parcels of money should all be found in the father s
possession ? He is not suspected, certainly there is no reason
to suspect him, of having had any hand either in the commis
sion of the robbery or the concealing of the goods. He swears
he had no knowledge of any part of this money being in his
house. It is not easy to imagine how it came there, unless it
be supposed to have been put there by some one who did not
know what part of the house belonged to the defendants and
what part did not.

The witnesses on the part of the prosecution have testified
that the defendants, when arrested, manifested great agitation
and alarm ; paleness overspread their faces, and drops of sweat
stood on their temples. This satisfied the witnesses of the de
fendants guilt, and they now state the circumstances as being
indubitable proof. This argument manifests, in those who use
it, an equal want of sense and sensibility. It is precisely fitted
to the feeling and the intellect of a bum-bailiff. In a court of
justice it deserves nothing but contempt. Is there nothing that



460 DEFENCE OF THE KENNISTONS.

can agitate the frame or excite the blood but the consciousness
of guilt ? If the defendants were innocent, would they not feel
indignation at this unjust accusation? If they saw an at
tempt to produce false evidence against them, would they not
be angry ? And, seeing the production of such evidence, might
they not feel fear and alarm ? And have indignation, and
anger, and terror, no power to affect the human countenance or
the human frame ?

Miserable, miserable, indeed, is the reasoning which would
infer any man s guilt from his agitation when he found himself
accused of a heinous offence ; when he saw evidence which he
might know to be false and fraudulent brought against him ;
when his house was filled, from the garret to the cellar, by those
whom he might esteem as false witnesses ; and when he him
self, instead of being at liberty to observe their conduct and
watch their motions, was a prisoner in close custody in his own
house, with the fists of a catch-poll clenched upon his throat.

The defendants were at Newburyport the afternoon and
evening of the robbery. For the greater part of the time they
show where they were, and what they were doing. Their
proof, it is true, does not apply to every moment. But when it
is considered that, from the moment of their arrest, they have
been in close prison, perhaps they have shown as much as
could be expected. Few men, when called on afterwards, can
remember, and fewer still can prove, how they have passed
every half-hour of an evening. At a reasonable hour they both
came to the house where Laban had lodged the night before.



Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 44 of 53)