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D. A.-Have you any counsel?

F-I don't know.

D. A.-Who are your counsel ?

F-I don't know.

At this stage of the proceedings, Gov. Seward could no longer restrain himself. He buried his face in his hands, and burst into tears—and seizing his hat, he rushed from the court-room, perfectly overwhelmed with his feelings. And who that had but a common share of sympathy, could fail to be most sensibly moved at witnessing such a procedure on a subject so awful, allowed before one of the highest tribunals of the land. An instrument read to this idiotic creature, pregnant with his death, requiring him to respond to the same, when the wretched being had not the first glimpse of what it all meant, or what effect it would have upon him. D. Wright, Esq., who had assisted Gov. Seward on the preliminary trial, arose after the reading of the indictment, and declared he could not consent longer to take part in a cause which had so much the appearance of a terrible farce. But Gov. Seward, (who had returned to the room,) immediately sprang to his feet and exclaimed—“ May it please the Court-I shall remain counsel for the prisoner until his death !" At the solicitation of the court, Mr. Wright finally consented again to take part in the cause, and assist Gov. S.

As the commission of the acts charged were not denied by the prisoner's counsel, the only question at issue was his sanity at the time of the homicide. Gov. Seward labored with unwearied assiduity to establish the insanity or dementia of Freeman, of which he was himself satisfied beyond a possible doubt. At great expense, defrayed by himself, he summoned into court the most eminent medical professors and practitioners from various and extreme parts of the state, whose intelligent and unbiased testimony fully sustained the ground on which he urged the defence.

At length after a laborious and exhausting trial of two weeks' duration, aided by the abhorrent nature of the crime, the overwhelming popular clamor, and various decisions of the court, subversive in many instances, of established rales in capital trials, the attorney general succeeded in procuring from the jury a verdict of guilty.

Gov. Seward's efforts in behalf of the prisoner were thus defeated. But he had faithfully discharged his duty, and the responsibility of holding an insane or idiotic person responsible for his deeds, rested not with him. Freeman was adjudged and condemned as a sane man. Gov. S. had no more to offer in that place, and the court was suffered to proceed in passing sentence upon the prisoner.

As in reading the indictment, so in the passing of the sentence, a scene occurred unparalleled, we venture to affirm, in any court of justice. Instead of standing in the dock as is customary, the

Judge directed the prisoner to be brought to his side upon the bench. The Judge then said to him :—

"The jury say you are guilty. Do you hear me?"

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"The jury," repeated the Judge, " say you are guilty. Do you understand?"

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"Well! they are those gentlemen down there," continued Judge Whiting, pointing to

the jurors in their seats-" and they say you are guilty. Do you understand?"



They say you killed Van Nest. Do you understand that?"

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"I am going to pronounce sentence upon you. Do you understand that ?”

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"I am going to sentence you to be hanged. Do you understand that?" "No."

The prisoner was then led back to the dock, and the Judge proceeded to pronounce sentence of death upon him. This he did in the form of an address read to the audience—thus tacitly admitting, what was evident to every person in the immense multitude present, that Freeman knew not a word he uttered, or the strange scene thus transpiring. He was conveyed to his cell as unconscious of the sentence that had been pronounced upon him, as an unborn child.

A bill of exceptions was prepared by Gov. Seward, but the Judge refused a stay of proceedings. It was however, subsequently granted by a Judge of an appellate court, and in October following, on a full review of the whole case, a new trial was granted. But Freeman, who had proved himself a monomaniac in the committal of the homicide, now sunk so low in dementia, that Judge Whiting, before whom he was tried and convicted, pronounced him incompetent for another trial, and refused to proceed with the case. A few weeks later, the wretched and imbruted William Freeman passed from earth to the presence of a more wise and merciful Judge.

A post-mortem examination was made, by the most eminent physicians in the state, which showed that Freeman's brain was diseased and destroyed. The publication of Gov. Seward's second argument* in this remarkable case, an effort of the highest and

See Vol. I. p. 409.

most attractive character, unsurpassed in eloquence, logic and legal ability, had already wrought a reaction in public opinion, which was rendered complete and universal by this postmortem examination. Now, there is no one act of Gov. Seward's life, for which society is more grateful to him than that of having saved the community from the crime of the judicial murder of Freeman-an ignorant colored boy who had been confined in the state prison for an offence of which he was innocent, and driven to lunacy by a sense of the injustice of his punishment, and by inhumanity in the exercise of penitentiary discipline.

Before leaving this case, it is due to Gov. Seward to insert another extract from an article by the clergyman in Auburn, to whom allusion has already been made, written immediately after the conclusion of the trial, and published in the journals of the day. It describes the impression made at the time by the highminded and humane course of Gov. S. on a class of individuals who did not allow retaliatory emotions to cloud their judgment, or harden their feelings, against the forsaken creature who committed the dreadful homicide. The sentiments it utters in regard to the part taken by Gov. Seward in this remarkable case, we are confident will find a response in every unprejudiced and humane heart.

The conduct of Gov. Seward in this painful affair reflects the highest honor upon him. Shocked, horrified, though he was at the awful tragedy which had been enacted, and which had destroyed a family with whom he was on terms of intimate friendship, yet seeing the blood-stained, wretched negro deserted by all, even those of his own caste and color, and becoming abundantly satisfied that he was an insane, irresponsible being, he nobly volunteered in his defence. Moved alone by the sympathies of his generous soul, and a high sense of duty to the weak and defenceless-in opposition alike to the entreaties of friends ever watchful of his reputation and interests, and the imprecations of an incensed multitude, eager that the blood of a demented creature should be shedhe boldly threw himself between the victim and those who would hurry him in hot haste to an ignominious death! Without fee or compensation of any description, for four weeks he toiled through the sultry hours of the summer day, far into the shades of night—sparing no time, no strength, no ability—contesting every inch of ground, with an industry, a perseverance, an unyielding faithfulness, that wrung commendation even from those most exasperated against his idiotic client. And all this for whom? For a NEGRO-the poorest and lowest of his degraded caste-and who though seated directly by his side, did not know that he was his counsel-was not even aware that one of the mightiest intellects of the age, one of the noblest spirits of the world, was taxing his utmost energies in defence of his life!

In his eloquent appeal on the preliminary trial respecting Freeman's insanity, Gov. Seward alluded to the excitement which had been kindled against him for the faithful

ness with which he defended both Wyatt and Freeman, in the following thrilling pas.


In due time, gentlemen of the Jury, when I shall have paid the debt of nature, my remains will rest here in your midst, with those of my kindred and neighbors. It is very possible they may be unhonored-neglected-spurned! But perhaps years hence, when the passion and excitement which now agitate this community shall have passed away-some wandering stranger-some lone exile-some Indian-some Negro-may erect over them an humble stone, and thereon this epitaph-' HE WAS FAITHFUL!'"

What spectacle more interesting can be witnessed on earth than was presented on this trial? A statesman of the most commanding talents-one who had received the highest honors the people of his native state could bestow upon him—one whose wellknown abilities call around him crowds of wealthy clients, able to reward his valuable services with streams of gold-turning from all these, at the call of humanity, and going down unrewarded, yea at great pecuniary expense to himself, to the defence of this forsaken, pitiable son of Africa! Unrewarded, did I say? A richer reward than silver or gold is his! Wherever the tidings of this strange trial shall be wafted throughout this civilized world, they will carry the name of SEWARD to be embalmed as a sacred treasure in the hearts of all lovers of humanity--of all who sympathize with the degraded and enslaved Ethiopian-of all who pity those whom God has deprived of reason!

In 1849, forty persons residing in the interior of the state of Michigan, about sixty miles from Detroit, were indicted on a charge of burning the railroad depot in that city. The Michigan Central Railroad Company adopted, and carried forward the prosecution. Eminent lawyers to the number of ten, were employed by the company to sustain the indictment; and every other lawyer of mark, in that state, except one, was retained by the prosecution, to prevent him from engaging in defence of the prisoners. The offence, connected with other circumstances, had produced an excitement scarcely less than that which has been described in the case of Freeman.

The prisoners then in jail, represented these facts to Gov. Seward, and appealed to him to defend them, stating that in consequence of the wealth and influence arrayed against them, they were deprived of the opportunity of obtaining proper counsel at home. Although Gov. Seward had then withdrawn, as he supposed, for ever from jury trials, he seems to have believed that he could not leave those persons, whether innocent or guilty, to suffer for want of defence, without a reproach to the profession to which he belonged, and of which humanity is the highest ornament. He repaired, therefore, to Detroit, arriving after the trial had commenced. It lasted four months-the longest judicial trial that has occurred in this country. Almost without compensation, he persevered in defence of the unhappy prisoners to

the end, in the midst of an excitement which allowed no charity either there or elsewhere, for the motives by which he was governed. He had, however, the reward of success, so far as to procure the acquittal of twenty-eight persons accused.*

Of the character of Gov. Seward's professional labors and conduct in the department of arguments at the bar, illustrations will be found in his pleas for the liberty of the press, and against the fugitive slave law, and for the rights of inventors, contained in the present collection.†

The retirement of Gov. Seward from office, permitting party heats to abate, and freeing his views on public questions from the influence of prejudice, was followed by a growing reaction of popular sentiment in his favor. He had been opposed by the abolitionists, because he withheld his countenance from their extreme measures, and by the enemies of abolition, because of his sympathy with the cause. Adopted citizens had been led to distrust the sincerity of his efforts in their behalf, and protestants saw danger to religion in his zeal for equal justice to the foreigner and native. The friends of internal improvement accused him of lukewarmness, while the opponents of that system predicted the impoverishment of the state from the extravagance of his zeal. But now all these prejudices were softened. His character and his opinions were presented in a truer light. His sincerity was placed above the reach of suspicion. No one questioned his rare abilities. While new friends were constantly won, his old friends adhered to him with affectionate fidelity. Though abstaining from the exercise of political influence, he was regarded as the leader of his party in the state, and his labors were claimed for every movement in behalf of its interests.

Upon the organization of the Native American party, which commenced with the burning of Roman Catholic churches, and aimed at a complete change in the naturalization laws, the adopted citizens with one accord, appealed to Gov. Seward for sympathy and protection. His speeches and letters, during the agitation of this subject, show his vigorous resistance to principles which he had always regarded as political heresies. In this respect, his course has been uniform and consistent, from the beginning.

Notwithstanding Gov. Seward was overruled in his opposition to the nomination of Mr. Clay for the presidency, in 1844, at the *See Vol. I. page 523. See Forensic Arguments, Vol. I. p. 391.


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