It had already become famous. Early in April the press of the city, though in those days unused to giving local affairs more than the feeblest attention, had spoken of this suit as destined, if well founded, to develop a case of “unparalleled hardship, cruelty, and oppression.” The German people especially were aroused and incensed. A certain newspaper spoke of the matter as the case “that had for several days created so much excitement throughout the city.” The public sympathy was with Salome.
But by how slender a tenure was it held! It rested not on the “hardship, cruelty, and oppression” she had suffered for twenty years, but only on the fact, which she might yet fail to prove, that she had suffered these things without having that tincture of African race which, be it ever so faint, would entirely justify, alike in the law and in the popular mind, treatment otherwise counted hard, cruel, oppressive, and worthy of the public indignation.
And now to prove the fact. In a newspaper of that date appears the following:
Hon. A.M. Buchanan, Judge.
Sally Miller vs. Belmonti. }—No. 23,041.
This cause came on to-day for trial before the court, Roselius and Upton for plaintiff, Canon for defendant, Grymes and Micou for warrantor; when after hearing evidence the same is continued until to-morrow morning at 11 o’clock.
Salome’s battle had begun. Besides the counsel already named, there were on the slave’s side a second Upton and a Bonford, and on the master’s side a Sigur, a Caperton, and a Lockett. The redemptioners had made the cause their own and prepared to sustain it with a common purse.
Neither party had asked for a trial by jury; the decision was to come from the bench.
The soldier, in the tableaux of Judge Buchanan’s life, had not dissolved perfectly into the justice, and old lawyers of New Orleans remember him rather for unimpeachable integrity than for fine discrimination, a man of almost austere dignity, somewhat quick in temper.
Before him now gathered the numerous counsel, most of whose portraits have long since been veiled and need not now be uncovered. At the head of one group stood Roselius, at the head of the other, Grymes. And for this there were good reasons. Roselius, who had just ceased to be the State’s attorney-general, was already looked upon as one of the readiest of all champions of the unfortunate. He was in his early prime, the first full spread of his powers, but he had not forgotten the little Dutch brig Jupiter, or the days when he was himself a redemptioner. Grymes, on the other side, had had to do—as we have seen—with these same redemptioners before. The uncle and the father of this same Sally Miller, so called, had been chief witnesses in the suit for their liberty and hers, which he had—blamelessly,