The Judges often tell stories on the members of the bar, albeit they are much oftener the subjects of stories themselves. We lately heard one of the former illustrating the propriety of “letting well enough alone,” by the following anecdote:
An affray case was on trial in the Circuit Court of Pike County, in which some six or eight peace-breakers were represented by almost as many lawyers, each of whom, in turn, put the only witness for the State through the tortures of a tedious cross examination. Nat----, a well known Montgomery practitioner, was counsel for a big black fellow in the crowd, who answered to the name of Saltonstall. As to this defendant, the only proof which was elicited on the examination in chief of the witness for the prosecution, was that —to use the peculiar phraseology of the narrator—“while the rest on ‘em was a cussin’ and clinchin’ and pairing off for a reg’lar r’yal, Saltonstall jest kept sloshin’ about.” This expression was repeated a half dozen times—Saltonstall kept sloshin’ about. The Solicitor and Nat both construed this to mean that Saltonstall was only moving about, drunk, among the combatants, and the former did not press for an explanation. Presently, however, it came to Nat’s turn to cross-examine for his client; and as he had received quite a handsome fee considering how things stood, he felt bound to make something of a “demonstration.” So quoth he, with the air of the avenger of injured innocence:
“Come, witness, say over again what it was that Mr. Saltonstall had to do with this affair?”
“Saltonstall? Why, I’ve told you several times, the rest on ‘em clinched and paired off, but Saltonstall, he jist kept sloshin’ about.”
“Ah, my good fellow,” exclaimed Nat, quite testily, “we want to know what that is. It isn’t exactly legal evidence in the shape you put it. Tell us what you mean by sloshin’ about.”
“Well,” answered the witness very deliberately, “I’ll try. You see, John Brew and Sykes they clinched and fout. That’s in a legle form, ain’t it?”
“Oh, yes!” said Nat—“go on!”
“Abney and Blackman then pitched into one another, and Blackman bit off a piece of Abney’s lip—that’s legle, too, ain’t it?”
“Simpson and Bill Stones and Murray was all together on the ground, a bitin’, gougin’, and kickin’ one another—that’s legle, too, is it?”
“Very!—but go on!”
“And Saltonstall made it his business to walk backwards and forwards, through the crowd, with a big stick in his hand, and knock down every loose man in the crowd as fast as he come to ‘em! That’s what I call sloshin’ about!”
Nat is of opinion, now, that unless a prima facie case is made out by prosecution, on the direct examination of their witnesses, it is quite as well for the defendant to waive his right to cross examine.—Montgomery (Ala.) Mail.
Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner, 5 May, 1854: 4. Library of Virginia Archive.
Joe Essid prepared this typescript.
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