May Clarissa Gillington Byron.

Anecdote of Sir Matthew Hale online

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The New York Public Library

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Bequest of

Wilberforce Eames



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From the



for 1826

Rochester, N.Y.

Printed by Everard Peck





A gentleman worth about £ 500 a year,
in the eastern part of England, had two
sons. The eldest had a rambling disposi-
tion. He took a place in a ship and went
abroad; after several years his father
died. The younger son destroyed his
father 1 3 will and seized upon the estate.
He gave out that his eldest brother was
dead, and bribed some false witnesses to
attest to the truth of it. In the course
of time the brother returned; he came
home in indigent circumstances. His youn-
ger brother repulsed him with scorn - told
him that he was an impostor and a cheat,
and asserted that his real brother was
dead long ago, and he could prove it..
The poor fellow, having neither money nor

— 3 —

friends, was in a most dismal situation;

he went round the parish making bitter
complaints, and at last came to a lawyer,
who, when he heard the poor man's mournful
story, replied to him in this manner:

"You have nothing to give me; if I
undertake your cause and lose it, it will
bring me into foul disgrace, as all the
wealth and evidence is on your brother's
side. However, I will undertake your
cause upon this condition; you shall entei
into obligation to pay me 1000 guineas if
I gain the estate for you. If I lose it
I know the consequence, and I venture up-
on it with my eyes open."

Accordingly he entered an action

against the younger brother, and it was

agreed to be tried at the next general

assizes at Chelmsford, in Essex. The

lawyer having engaged in the cause of the
poor man, and stimulated by the prospect

— A- —

of a thousand guineas, set his wits to
work to contrive the "best method to ob-
tain his end. At last he hit on this
happy thought, that he would consult the
first of all judges — Lord Chief Justice
Hale* Accordingly he flew up to London
and laid open the cause in all its circum-

The judge who was the greatest lover
of justice of any man in the world, heard
the case patiently and attentively, and
promised him all the assistance in his
power. It is probable that he opened
his whole scheme and method of proceeding,
enjoining the utmost secrecy. The judge
contriving matters in such a manner as to
have finished all his business at the
King's Bench before the assizes began at
Chelmsford,, he ordered either his carriage
or his horses, to convey him down very
near the seat of the assizes. He dis-

missed his man and horses, and sought for
a single house. He found one occupied by
a miller. After some conversation, and
making himself quite agreeable, he pro-
posed to the miller to change clothes
with him. As the judge had a very good
suit on, the man had no reason to object.
Accordingly the judge shifted himself from
top to toe, and put on a complete suit of
the miller's best. Armed with the millers
hat and shoes, and stick, away he marches
to Chelmsford; he had procured good lodg-
ings to his liking, and waited for the
assizes that would come on the next day.

When the trial came on, he walked
like an ignorant fellow backwards and for-
wards round the county hall. He had a
thousand eyes with him, and when the court
began to fill, he soon found out the poor

fellow that was the plaintiff.

As soon as he came into the hall the

— 6 —

miller drew up to him: "Honest friend,
said he, how is your case likely to go
to day?"

"Why, replied the plaintiff, my case
is in a very precarious situation, and if
I lose it I am ruined for life,"

"Well honest friend replied the mil-
ler, will you take my advice ? I will let
you into a secret which perhaps you don't
know. Every Englishman has a right and
privilege to except against any one jury-
man through the whole twelve; now do you
insist on your privilege, without giving
any reason why, and if possible get me
chosen in his stead, and I f ll do you all
the service in my power."

Accordingly when the clerks of the
court had called over the jurymen, the
plaintiff excepted to one of them by name
— the judge on the bench was highly of-
fended with this liberty.

— 7-

"What do you mean

t says he,




against that gentl<

3man ?"

"I mean, my Lord,

to assert




as an Englishman,

without giving a

reason why. "

The judge who had

been deeply bribed,

in order to conceal it

by a show



dour, and having confidence in the su-
periority of his party, "Well Sir, said
he, as you claim your privilege in one in-
stance, I grant you a favour; who would
you wish to have in the room of the man
excepted against?"

After a short time in consideration,
"my lord, I wish to have an honest man
chosen in," and he looked round the court
— "my lord, there's that miller in the
court; we'll have him if you please,"

The miller was chosen in. As soon
as the clerk of the court had given them
all their oaths, a little dexterous fellow



— 8 —

came into the apartment and slipped ten
Carolus into the hands of the eleven jury-
men, and gave the miller but five. He
observed that they were bribed as well as
himself, and said to his neighour in a soft
whisper, "How much have you got?"

"Ten pieces," was the answer.

He concealed what he had himself. The
cause was opened by the plaintiff's counsel
and all the scraps of evidence they could
pick up were introduced in his favour. The
younger brother was provided with a great
number of witnesses and pleaders, all plen-
tifully bribed as well as the judge. Their
evidence deposed, that they were in the
self- same country where the brother died,
and saw him buried. The counsellors plead-
ed upon this accumulated evidence, and
everything went in full tide in favour of
the younger brother. The judge summed up
the evidence with great gravity and delib-

— 9 —

eration; and now, "Gentlemen of the Jury,"
said he, "lay your heads together, and
bring in your verdict as you shall deem
most just."

They waited but a few minutes before
they determined in favour of the youngest
brother. The judge said, "Gentlemen, are
you agreed, and who shall speak for you?"

"We are agreed, my lord," replied one^
"our foreman shall speak for us."

"Hold, my lord," replied the miller,
"we are not all agreed, "

"Why," says the judge in a very surly
manner, "what* s the matter with you; and
what reason have you for disagreeing?"

"I have two reasons, my lord," re-
plied the miller, "the first is, they have
given to all these gentlemen of the jury
ten pieces of gold, and to me but five;
besides I have many objections to make to
the false reasoning of the pleaders, and


JO —

"the contradictory evidence of the witness-

Upon this the miller began a discourse
which discovered such vast penetration of
the law, and expressed with such energetick
and manly eloquence, that astonished the
judge, and the whole court, as he was go-
ing on in his powerful demonstrations, the
judge in a surprise of soul stopped him
with — "Where do you come from, and who
are you?"

"I came from Westminster Hall," re-
plied the miller; "my name is Matthew Hale;
I am Lord Chief Justice of the King»s
Bench. I have observed the iniquity of
your proceedings this day, and therefore,
come down from a seat which you are in no
wise worthy to hold. You are one of the
corrupt parties in this iniquitous busi-
ness; I 1 11 come up this moment and try the
cause over again."

— 1 1 —

Sir Matthew then went up with the
miller 1 s hat and dress on, began the trial
from its original, searched every circum-
stance of truth and falsehood, evinced the
elder brother's title to the estate, from
the contradictory evidence of the witness-
es, and false reasonings of the pleaders;
unravelled all the sophi3 try to the very
bottom, and gained a complete victory in
favour of truth and justice.


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Online LibraryMay Clarissa Gillington ByronAnecdote of Sir Matthew Hale → online text (page 1 of 1)