COUSIN SALLY DILLIARD
SCENE.—A Court of Justice in North Carolina.
A beardless disciple of Themis rises, and thus addresses the court:--May it please your worships and you gentlemen of the jury, since it has been my fortune (good or bad I will not say,) to exercise myself in legal disquisitions, it has never before befallen me to be obligated to denounce a breach of the peace so enormous and transcending as the one now claiming attention. A more barbarous, direful, marked, and malicious assault—a more wilful, violent, dangerous and murderous battery, and finally, a more diabolical breach of the peace, has seldom happened in a civilized country, and I dare say it has seldom been your duty to pass upon one so shocking to benevolent feelings as this—which took place at Capt. Rice’s in this county; but you will hear it from the witnesses.—The witnesses being sworn, two or three were examined and deposed—one, that he heard the noise, but did not see the fight—another, that he saw the row, but don’t know who struck first—and a third, that he was very drunk, and could'nt say much about the scrimmage.
Lawyer Chops.—I am sorry, gentlemen, to have occupied so much of your time with the stupidity of the witnesses examined. It arose, gentlemen, altogether from misapprehension on my part. Had I known, as I now do, that I had a witness in attendance, who was well acquainted with all the circumstances of the case, and was able to make himself clearly and intelligibly understood by the court and jury, I should not so long have trespassed on your time and patience. Come forward, Mr. Harris, and be sworn.
So forward comes the witness, a fat, chuffy looking man, “a leetle corned,” and took his corporal oath with an air.
Chops.—Mr. Harris, we want you to tell all about the riot that happened the other day at Rice’s, and as a good deal of time has already been wasted in circumlocution, we wish you to be as compendious, and at the same time as explicit as possible.
Harris.—“Exactly,” giving the lawyer a knowing wink, at the same time clearing his throat.—Capt. Rice, he gin a treat, and cousin Sally Dilliard, she came over to our house, and axed me if my wife, she moughnt go.—I told cousin Sally Dilliard that my wife was poorly, being as how she had a touch of the Rheumatics in her hip, and the big swamp was up, for there had been a heap of rain lately; but however, as it was she, cousin Sally Dilliard, my wife she mought go. I told cousin Sally Dilliard that Mose, he was foreman of the crop, and the crop was smartly in the grass; but however, as it was she, cousin Sally Dilliard, Mose, he mought go.
Chops.—In the name of common sense, Mr. Harris, what do you mean by this rigamarole?
Witness.—Capt. Rice, he gin a treat, and cousin Sally Dilliard, she came over to our house and axed me if my wife, she moughnt go. I told cousin Sally Dilliard—
Chops.—Stop sir, if you please, we don’t want to hear any thing about cousin Sally Dilliard and your wife; tell us about the fight at Rice’s.
Witness.—Well I will, sir, if you will let me.
Chops.—Well, sir, go on.
Witness.—Well, Capt. Rice, he gin a treat, and cousin Sally Dilliard, she came over to our house and axed me if my wife, she moughten’t go—
Chops.—We want to know about the fight, and you must not proceed in this impertinent story. Do you know any thing about the matter before the court?
Witness.—To be sure I do.
Chops.—Will you go on and tell it, and nothing else?
Witness.—Well, Capt. Rice, he gin a treat—
Chops.—This is intolerable! May it please the court, I move that this witness be committed for a contempt—he seems to me to be trifling with the court.
Court.—Witness, you are now before a court of justice, and unless you behave yourself in a more becoming manner, you will be sent to jail; so begin and tell what you know about the fight at Capt. Rice’s.
Witness.—(alarmed)—Well, gentlemen, Capt. Rice, he gin a treat, and Cousin Sally Dilliard—
Chops.—I hope this witness may be ordered into custody.
Court.—(after deliberating,)—Mr. Attorney, the court is of opinion that we may save time by letting the witness go on in his own way. Proceed Mr. Harris, with your story, but stick to the point.
Witness.—Yes, gentlemen. Well, Capt. Rice, he gin a treat, and cousin Sally Dilliard, she came over to our house, and axed me if my wife, she moughnt go. I told cousin Sally Dilliard that my wife was poorly, being as how she had the rheumatics in the hip, and the big swamp was in the road, and the big swamp was up; but howsomever, as it was she cousin Sally Dilliard, my wife she mought go. Well, cousin Sally Dilliard then asked me if Mose, he mough’nt go. I told cousin Sally Dilliard as how Mose, he was foreman of the crop, and the crop was smartly in the grass—hut howsomever, as it was she, cousin Sally Dilliard, Mose he mought go. So on they goes together, Mose, my wife, and cousin Sally Dilliard, and they comes to the big swamp, and the big swamp was up, as I was telling you—but being as how there was a log across the big swamp, cousin Sally and Mose like genteel folks, they walks the log—but my wife, like a d----d fool, hoists up her petticoat and waded. And, gentlemen, that’s the heighth of what I know about it.—Sat. Eve. Post.
 William T. Porter, Editor of Spirit of the Times, apparently loved this piece so much that he reproduced it more than once in his paper.
Source: Spirit of the Times and Life in New York 1.15 (24 March 1832 ): 2. (Alderman Library, University of Virginia).
Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.
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