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through his own hand. These were very formidable difficulties; for the law of evidence, as administered in our criminal jurisprudence, very properly regards the absence of motive for an act, the commission of which depends on circumstantial proof, as one of the important things to be weighed in favor of innocence; and as to the shooting, it was certainly in a high degree improbable that a man would maim himself, in order to maintain a false statement that he had been robbed and maimed by some one else. But in grappling with these difficulties, Mr. Webster told the jury that the range of human motives is almost infinite; that a desire to avoid payment of his debts, if he owed debts, or a whimsical ambition for distinction, might have been at the bottom of Goodridge's conduct; and that having once announced himself to the community as a man who had been robbed of a large sum and beaten nearly to death, he had to go on and charge somebody with the act. This was correct reasoning, but still no motive had been shown for the original pretence; and, if there had not been some decisive circumstances developed on the evidence, it is not easy to say how this case ought to have been decided. These circumstances made it unnecessary to believe that, although Goodridge himself discharged the pistol which wounded him, he intended that result. His story was, that the pistol of the robber went off at the moment when he had grasped it with his left hand. Yet, according to the testimony of the physicians who attended him, there were no marks of powder on his hand; and the appearance of the wound led to the conclusion that the muzzle of the piece must have been three or four feet from his hand, while there were marks of powder on the sleeve of his coat, and the ball passed through the coat as well as the hand. This state of the evidence justified Mr. Webster's remark that " all exhibitions are subject to accidents. Whether serious or farcical, they do not always proceed exactly as they are designed to do." Goodridge, he argued, intended to shoot the ball through his coat-sleeve, and it accidentally perforated his hand also. This discredited his story more than any thing else, and convinced the jury that, if he found any of his money on the premises of the Kennistons, he placed it there himself. The Kennistons were acquitted. Goodridge returned to the charge;
Jackman was put on trial at the next term of the court^ and the juiy disagreed. At his second trial, Mr. Webster defended him, and he was acquitted. These criminal proceedings were followed by an action for a malicious prosecution, instituted by Pearson against Goodridge. Mr. Webster was of counsel for the plaintiff in this case. The evidence was now still more clear against Goodridge; a verdict for a large amount was recovered against him, and the public at last saw the fact judicially established that he had robbed himself. He left New England a disgraced man. No clew to his motive was ever discovered.
Twenty years afterward, Mr. Webster was travelling in the western part of the State of New York; he stopped at a tavern, and went in to ask for a glass of water. The man behind the bar exhibited great agitation as the traveller approached him, and when he placed the glass of water before Mr. Webster his hand trembled violently, but he did not speak. Mr. Webster drank the water, turned without saying another word, and reentered his carriage. The man was Goodridge.
VENTION TO REVI8E THE CONSTITUTION OF MASSACHUSETTS—
THE PLYMOUTH ORATION CASE OF LA JEUNE EUGENIE—
DEFENCE OF JUDGE JAMES PRESCOTT ELECTED TO OONGEESS
IN the summer of 1820, while Mr. Webster was diligently occupied in the practice of his profession, Mr. Calhoun, who was then Secretary of War, made an official tour to the North, for the purpose of examining the forts and arsenals of the Federal Government. His reception by Mr. Webster in Boston is thus described by Mr. Ticknor:
"When Mr. Calhoun caine to Boston in the summer of 1820, as Secretary of War, to examine the arsenals and forts, Mr. Webster, who then lived in Somerset Street, was particularly hospitable and attentive to him. They had always been on good and kindly terms, even during the war, when they were leading in opposite parties. Whatever collisions they might have had on the floor of the House, were all forgotten at the tune of Mr. Calhoun's visit to Boston. Mr. Webster was then earnestly devoted to the practice of his profession, but he was unquestionably not without political aspirations. He was much with Mr. Calhoun; went with him to the arsenal at Watertown, and passed the rest of the only day he could be with him in driving about the neighborhood. A large party of the principal persons in this portion of the country, I recollect, waited long for them at Mr. Webster's to dinner. Mr. Calhoun talked much and most agreeably at table, and it was evident to all of us that Mr. Webster desired to draw him out and show him under the most favorable aspects to his friends. After dinner, a considerable number of young men, particularly
of the young lawyers of the town, came in and were presented to Mr. Calhoun. We all said, 'Mr. Webster wishes Mr. Calhoun to be the next President of the United States;' some added, 'He has been driving with him all day, tete-d-tete in a phaeton, and they understand one another.' But the positions of such men arc stronger than themselves, and they understand one another without words."
In the midst of the professional practice which has been partly described in the last chapter, Mr. Webster was called upon to act a very important part in an entirely new sphere of public duty. He had been hitherto known as a leading member of Congress, and as a very eminent lawyer. In these capacities he had, at the age of thirty-eight, achieved a reputation which can scarcely be regarded as second to that of any man in America, when we take into account both his position at the bar and his position as a statesman. Of all those who were practising in the Supreme Court of the United States in 1820, Mr. Pinkney is the person with whom we naturally compare Mr. Webster. He was much older than Mr. Webster, and as an advocate and a lawyer he was undoubtedly a very great man—inferior to no one who has ever yet addressed that tribunal. That Mr. Webster, before he was forty, became the equal and competitor of Mr. Pinkney, is certainly a fact admitted by their contemporaries, and it marks the position to which Mr. Webster attained by very rapid strides, as if it belonged to him of right. But Mr. Pinkney added another to the list of distinguished lawyers who have not been equally distinguished in parliamentary life. His place, as he himself well knew, and as he once said in Congress, was in courts of justice; and there, in spite of the affectations which covered him with a mantle of small weaknesses, he was regarded, by all who were accustomed to hear him, as a person of prodigious strength, ^o amount of foppery could obscure the splendor of his intellect or intercept the blaze of light which he poured upon his subject, when he forgot, in the earnestness of his reasoning and the vehemence of his elocution, his strange desire to be considered rather an idle and elegant man of fashion than the indefatigable student and laborious lawyer he really was.1
1 Mr. Justice Story was in the habit one occasion, when Mr. Webster and Mr. of relating the following anecdote: On Pinknev were opposed to each other in the same cause, the latter had an as- became more and more drowsy; the
Neither Mr. Clay nor Mr. Calhoun, who were nearer Mr. "Webster's age, was greatly distinguished as a lawyer. Mr. Calhoun, in fact, never practised the law; and, down to the year 1820, Mr. Clay, who had become very eminent in political life, was known chiefly as a statesman, and had gathered no special laurels at the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. Of Mr. Webster, therefore, it may be said, at the period to which I now refer, that, when we regard the double reputation which he had acquired on the floor of Congress and in the courts of law, and consider his age, he was the most conspicuous person in the country. All this reputation was now to encounter new hazards, in new and untried fields of intellectual exertion.
The State of Massachusetts had existed under a free constitution of its own creation, since the year 1780. This constitution, the work of John Adams, Samuel Adams, and other patriots of the Revolution, had been made in the midst of the Revolutionary War, and, of course, before the Constitution of the United States. It was in many respects a model of a free representative government, carefully reconciling popular rights with public order; but the circumstances of the Commonwealth for which it was designed had in forty years undergone some changes. Maine, which had hitherto belonged to Massachusetts as a part of her jurisdiction, had asked and obtained the consent of the latter to a separation. The necessity which this induced for modifying the representative system, and other exigencies growing out of the progress of society and the relations of the State to the Federal Government, caused the assembling of a convention of the people of Massachusetts to revise its constitution. This body met in Boston in November, 1820, and terminated its sessions in January, 1821. Mr. Webster was one of the delegates to it.
sociate who was not remarkable for the counsel on the opposite side, the judges,
brilliancy or importance of his discourse, and the spectators paying a very languid
This gentleman had been speaking for attention, if any at all. Presently, ceas
some time, opening his cause in a very ing to speak from his own notes, Mr.
prosing manner, and more than one of stated a new point, and followed it
the judges had even relapsed into some- by some observations that caused everything very like a nod, when Mr. Pinkney body to take up their pens and open was called out . As he left the court, he their ears. At that moment a whisper handed his notes to his colleague. Mr. from Mr. Webster became audible
went on for some time from his own through the room—' He has got on the
brief, and the atmosphere of the court armor of Achilles 1'"