Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

take a cup of coffee, and while he was absent it was carried out and deposited in the carriage.

He did not think there was anything very remarkable in this, but when they reached the Hogenberg, the lady called out to him to stop, that she felt very ill ; at the same time she expressed a wish that himself and the driver would walk a little in advance, taking the child who accompanied her with them. In a few minutes they returned and found her apparently quite recovered. Soon after, the same thing occurred, but this time she told Hennings that she felt so ill she could not proceed any further, but wished to return to Hamburgh. All this seemed natural enough to him, and he had no suspicion that there was anything wrong. It was different, however, when he heard that a body had been found exactly at the spot where the carriage had stopped. Those acquainted with Wachtler were called upon to examine the body, and their report confirmed the worst surmises. A guard was immediately placed over the house to prevent Frau Wächtler from communicating with persons from without until she was sent to prison. Many circumstances were now brought to light which tended strongly to show that she was the guilty person. A laundress named Neumann came forward and stated that, on the morning of the 22d, Frau Wachtler had sent for her and given her a bloodstained bed to wash, with strict injunctions to bring it back clean on the following Saturday. The laundress said that when she came to the house she found her " sitting on the bed as white as a corpse.” It was first suspected that the servants must have been privy to the murder; but on an investigation it was found that there was no ground for any such suspicion ; even her paramour, a hairdresser of the neighborhood, was entirely exonerated, although arrested as an accomplice. The substance of the evidence given by the servants of the accused is as follows: At halfpast two o'clock Frau Wächtler awoke them and ordered coffee to be immediately prepared for her husband, who, she said, was about to start on a journey. The cook went below to get it ready, but she desired the waiting-maid to stay beside her. When the coffee was brought up they drark it together, the wife sitting on the side of her husband's bed, and looking very pale; the bed-clothes were drawn up, and they supposed their master was asleep. After some time, seeing that he did not stir they enquired for him, and were informed that he had just stepped to a neighboring room to see to the packing of some wares he intended to take with him, and would be back immediately. It was after this she sent for the laundress as already stated, and then shut herself up for some hours. When the servants were readmitted to her room, she appeared to have been washing linen; the water was red, and there were some stains of blood on the floor. One of these seemed to point to an adjoining room, and the cook, whose curiosity was somewhat aroused, went there, and saw three sacks standing together, two containing soiled linen, but in the middle one she thought she felt a human head. Horror-stricken, she hastened out of the room, but could not resist the feeling that urged her to return.

This time she was satisfied that she felt not only the head, but also the knees and calves of the legs. It occurred to her that it must be the body of her master; but she thought it impossible that her mistress could have contrived and executed such a deed alone.

But the worst witness against her was her own daughter, a child seven years old. She was accustomed to sleep with her father; and she related that on the night in question, just as the clock was striking two, her mother lifted her out of the father's bed, and had her placed in another, with her brothers. The suddenness of the action seems to have thoroughly awakened her; for although she was bade .go to sleep again directly, she found it impossible to do so; and as she lay feigning sleep, to satisfy her mother, she observed her leave the room and presently return with a hatchet, with which she struck the father." Father stirred. a little, and there was blood on the sheet. Then mother sat down on father's bed, and drew the clothes up over him, and I went to sleep.”

The trial was postponed three times because Frau Wächtler accused other persons of having committed the crime; but the only effect this had on her fate was to protract her trial, which in consequence of it lasted three years. Each of those she charged with the murder, was fully acquitted, and proved to be innocent ; finally, when she saw that all her plans had failed, and that all her money would not save her, she made a full confession of her guilt two or three days before she was executed.

It is painful to reflect that in not one of these cases would the law have been vindicated had they recently occurred in this country. The worst of the criminals would have escaped under one pretext or another. The most probable result would be that the jury would not agree; that there would be at least two or three whose "gallantry” would not permit them to condemn a woman. If, perchance, all agreed, it would probably be to acquit her on the ground that she had received some slight or insult which no lady should be expected to submit to; if the crime was proved to be too deliberate, so that it could be considered in no other light than as premeditated, then it would be found that she was insane just at the moment she committed the deed, but now quite sane and fully able to resume her former position in society.

Not only are law and justice permitted to be made a farce of in this way by our jurymen, encouraged by a vitiated public opinion, but disgrace is brought on the bench as well as the bar at the same time. It is hardly necessary to explain how this is done, for it is notorious. Who that knows anything of our jurisprudence is not aware that nine-tenths of the lawyers who undertake to defend our female malefactor3 act more like pugilists, or fish-women, than like advocates ? Let the most exemplary person that ever lived appear as a witness against these “ learned gentlemen,” and he is sure to be treated as if he had devoted his whole life to thieving and lying. A stranger would think that it is he and not the prisoner at the bar who is on trial. But who would abuse even a murderer as these pettifoggers often abuse ladies and gentlemen whose only wish in the case is to state the truth when called upon by the authorities to do so? It is obvious that, even were our jurymen disposed to do their duty honestly, “ without favor or affection, malice or ill will,” the cause of justice would be greatly injured by this disgraceful system, since there are but few whose zeal for the vindication of the law is such that they will subject themselves to be thus used for it. Nay, many suffer serious injury themselves rather than submit to such an ordeal. The class of lawyers alluded to pursue this course whether their clients are male or female; but for the latter, they think they may throw off all restraint, and bully and abuse all who will not do as they direct them.

It is not alone in criminal cases that our jurymen and lawyers

violate their trust in this shameful manner; in civil cases they pursue the same course and receive the same applause from the mob. In the latter as well as in the former, their object is not to discover what is right and just, or what is wrong and unjust, and proclaim it accordingly, but to show

that a woman is right whatever she does; that she is no crim inal, although it is clearly proved that she has committed murder, and that she is a virtuous woman, although the proof that she is the reverse is equally clear.

Those who administer the law in this way would have the world believe that they are very manly; but the truth is that they are very unmanly, and that none despise them more than the sensible part of the sex whom they pretend to honor. If the jurymen who give the sort of verdicts to which we have referred would appear in their box dressed in the largest hoop petticoats, they would be much more in character than they do in their ordinary costume ; and the same garments would serve the pettifoggers much more fitly than gowns. In short, it is no wonder, for the reasons mentioned, that all classes have lost confidence in trial by jury. Had it not been for this, we would have been' among the first to denounce the recent trials by court-martial. Not because the military court has not done its duty conscientiously and fairly, for we think it has; but because we should not like to see such a precedent established, if we saw any reason to expect that the ordinary courts would vindicate the law and punish the guilty. But there was not the least; the proceedings in a civil court would only have added to the number of legal, or rather illegal farces with which our jurisprudence has been disgraced during the last seven years.

It is obvious that we are not peculiar in this view of the case ; for then there would have been no court-martial after the war was over. Our rulers felt convinced that certain parties were guilty of murder in its worst form; but they felt almost equally certain that an ordinary jury would either disagree about their guilt, or acquit them altogether, and thus encourage others to imitate their example. None regretted more than we that a woman should be included among those doomed to the gallows; but we felt at the same time that, if a woman was found as guilty as the men, she ought to suffer the same penalty with them. None will deny that military officers who have distinguished themselves in defence of their country, have as much gallantry as the jurymen who acquit all women; as much as the pettifoggers who abuse all that give testimony against any woman; as much as the crowd of idlers or malefactors who throw up their hats in triumph when any woman is acquitted. Who would hesitate for a moinent to say which of the four parties would be the first to protect a woman if she were in danger ? which would respect her most if she deserved it? or which would appreciate her charms most if she possessed such ? Assuming the officers to be gentlemen properly so called, it is to them the distinction would be awarded in each case ; but precisely because they possess gallantry, because they are gentlemen actuated by a sense of honor, they would remember that they have a grave duty to perform-a duty to society as well as to the government in whose service they are ; they would also remember that their respect, esteem, and admiration are due not to the bloodthirsty or base of the sex, but to the virtuous and good, who would have every reproach them if they neglected to make that distinction.

ART. V-1. M. T. Ciceronis Opera Omnia. Parisiis, 1827–32. 2. B. G. Niebuhr's Lectures on the History of Rome. Edited by

L. SCHMITZ. London, 1849. 3. T. Mommsen: Römische Geschichte. Berlin, 1856–9. 4. Merivale's History of the Romans under the Empire. Vols. 1-3.

New York, 1863--4. 5. Cicero's Letters to several of his Friends ; translated by W.

MELMOTH. Letters to Atticus ; translated by Dr. HEBERDEN.

Life, by Dr. MIDDLETON. London, 1848. 6. Cicero. By THOMAS DE QUINCEY. 7. Life and Times of Cicero. By W. Forsyth. London, 1864.

CHARACTER may be called the general expression of spirit. The body has its forms and features, which we unconsciously gather up into a certain unity expressing to us the entire outward man, and the features of the soul naturally blend and pass over into a harmony of their own. This generalization we seize, or attempt to seize, as it represents to us the very essence of the inner man. We name it character. It is the faithful miniature projected by the hidden soulthe brief though full utterance of the moral nature. It is, in short, the sum total of the meaning of the inan. But there is more in character than in the man himself. Its roots go down into every soil he treads ; its juices borrow from every

stream he crosses. Each of us is, like Ulysses, a

« VorigeDoorgaan »