« PreviousContinue »
PROFESSIONAL LIFE STORIES.
How Lincoln and Judge B. Swapped Horses. When Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer in Illinois, he and a certain Judge once got to bantering one another about trading horses; and it was agreed that the next morning at 9 o'clock they should make a trade, the horses. to be unseen up to that hour, and no backing out, under a forfeiture of $25.
At the hour appointed the Judge came up, leading the sorriest looking specimen of a horse ever seen in those parts. In a few minutes Mr. Lincoln was seen approaching with a wooden saw-horse upon his shoulders. were the shouts and the laughter of the crowd, and both were greatly increased when Mr. Lincoln, on surveying the Judge's animal, set down his saw-horse, and exclaimed: "Well, Judge, this is the first time I ever got the worst of it in a horse trade."
A Remarkable Law Suit About a Colt. The controversy was about a colt, in which thirty-four witnesses swore that they had known the colt from its falling, and it was the property of the plaintiff, while
thirty swore that they had known the colt from its falling, and that it was the property of the defendant. It may be stated, at starting, that these witnesses were all honest, and that the mistake grew out of the exact resemblances which the two colts bore to each other.
One circumstance was proven by all the witnesses, or nearly all of them, viz: that the two claimants of the colt agreed to meet on a certain day with the two mares which were respectively claimed to be the dams of the colt, and permit the colt to decide which of the two he belonged to.
The meeting occurred according to agreement, and, as it was a singular case and excited a good deal of popular interest, there were probably a hundred men assembled on their horses and mares from far and near.
Now, the colt really belonged to the defendant in the It had strayed away and fallen into company with the plaintiff's horses. The plaintiff's colt had, at the same time, strayed away and had not returned, and was not to be found. The moment the two mares were brought upon the ground, the defendant's mare and the colt gave signs of recogoition. The colt went to its dam and would not leave her. They fondled each other; and although the plaintiff brought his mare between them, and tried in various ways to divert the colt's attention, the colt would not be separated from the dam. It then followed her home, a distance of eight or ten miles, and when within a mile or two of the stables, took a short cut to them in advance of its dam. The plaintiff had sued to recover the colt thus gone back to his owner.
In the presentation of this case to the jury, there were thirty-four witnesses on the side of the plaintiff, while the
defendant had, on his side, only thirty witnesses; but he had on his side the colt itself and its dam-thirty-four men against thirty men and two brutes.
Here was a case that was to be decided by the preponderance of evidence. All the witnesses were equally positive, and equally credible. Mr. Lincoln was on the
side of the defendant, and contended that the voice of nature in the mare and colt ought to outweigh the testimony of a hundred men. The jury were all farmers, and all illiterate men, and he took great pains to make them understand what was meant by the "preponderance of evidence." He said that in a civil suit, absolute certainty, or such certainty as would be required to convict a man of crime, was not essential. They must decide the case according to the impression which the evidence had produced upon their minds, and, if they felt puzzled at all, he would give them a test by which they could bring themselves to a just conclusion.
"Now," said he. "it you were going to bet on this case, on which side would you be willing to risk a picayune? That side on which you would be willing to bet a picaynue is the side on which rests the preponderance of evideuce in your minds. It is possible that you may not be right, but that is not the question. The question is as to where the preponderance of evidence lies, and you can judge exactly where it lies in your minds by deciding as to which side you would be willing to bet on."
The jury understood this. There was no mystification about it. They had got hold of a test by which they could render an intelligent verdict. Mr. Lincoln saw into their minds, aud knew exactly what they needed;
and the moment they received it he knew his case was safe, as a quick verdict for the defendant proved it to be. In nothing connected with this case was the ingenuity of Mr. Lincoln more evident, perhaps, than in the insignificance of the sum which he placed in risk by the hypothetical wager. It was not a hundred dollars, or a thousand dollars, or even a dollar, but the smallest silver coin, to show to them that the verdict should go with the preponderance of evidence, even if the preponderance should be only a hair's weight.
A Famous Story.
It is said that Mr. Lincoln was always ready to join in a laugh at the expense of his person, concerning which he was indifferent. Many of his friends will recognize the following story-the incident actually occurred which he always told with great glee:
"In the days when I used to be 'on the circuit,' said Lincoln, "I was accosted in the cars by a stranger, who said:
"Excuse me, sir, but I have an article in my possession which belongs to you."
"How is that?" I asked, considerably astonished.
The stranger took a jack-knife from his pocket. "This knife," said he, was placed in my hands some years ago, with the injunction that I was to keep it until I found a man uglier than myself. I have carried it from that time to this. Allow me now to say, sir, that I think you are fairly entitled to the property."