The Bay State Monthly — Volume 2, No. 3, December, 1884 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 96 pages of information about The Bay State Monthly — Volume 2, No. 3, December, 1884.

Whether a particular occurrence took place or not, is a question which, whether it be tried by a judge or by a jury, must be decided upon evidence; which consists, in part, of circumstances, and, in part, of acts, but in part also, and very largely, of the sworn statements of individuals.  While falsehood and corruption prevail among all classes of the community so extensively as they now do, it is useless to claim that decisions based upon human testimony are always or generally correct.  Perjury is as rife as ever, and works as much wrong as ever.  To a conscientious judge, like Judge Pitman, “the investigation of a mass of tangled facts and conflicting testimony” cannot but be wearisome, as he says it is; and, in many cases, the sense of responsibility “cannot but be oppressive;” but he has so often repeated a dictum of Lord Redesdale that he must be presumed to have found solace in it—­“it is more important that an end be put to litigation, than that justice should be done in every case.”  There is truth in that dictum; but, like other truths, it has often been abused, especially by incompetent or lazy or drowsy judges.  More unfortunate suitors have suffered as martyrs to that truth than the judges who jauntily “cast” them would admit.

Judges may do their best; juries may do their best; they will often fall into error; and instead of glorifying themselves or the system of which they are a part, it would be more modest in them to say, “We are unprofitable servants.”  Not many judges have been great enough to say, “I know I sometimes err,” but some have said it.  The lamented Judge Colt said it publicly more than once, and the admission raised, rather than lowered, him in the general esteem.  When he died the voice of the bar and of the people said, “Other judges have been revered, but we loved Judge Colt.”

Massachusetts gives her litigants the choice of a forum.  All trials in civil causes are by the courts alone, unless one party or the other claims a jury.  If the reader has a case of much complexity, either with respect to the facts, or with respect to the law, perhaps he would like to have our opinion as to which is the better forum.  The answer is the same that was given by one who lived at the parting of the ways, to a weary traveller who inquired which fork of the road he should take:  “Both are full of snags, quagmires and pitfalls.  No matter which you take, before you reach the end of your journey you will wish you had taken the other.”  In the trial by jury, and in the trial by the court, just as in the trial by ordeal, and in the trial by battle in the days of old, the element of chance is of the first magnitude.



A century ago the world knew nothing of the art of lithography; color-printing was confined to comparatively crude products from wooden blocks, most of which were hardly equal to the Japanese fan pictures now familiar to all of us.  The year 1799 gave us a new invention which was destined to revolutionize reproductive art and add immensely to the means for education, culture and enjoyment.

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The Bay State Monthly — Volume 2, No. 3, December, 1884 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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