The Key of David
By Warder Cresson (Michael Boaz Israel ben Abraham).
Opinions of the Press
[From the Pennsylvanian]
ANOTHER HINCHMAN CASE.
We have just been informed that there is another case now in progress of investigation before a court of inquiry in this city, that will not only rival the notorious Hinchman case, but reflect greater disgrace in the end on the prosecuting party, inasmuch as all their charges are to be prompted and sustained by religious prejudice, as well as the other motives in such cases, viz: avarice and pride.
It appears that a gentleman (Warder Cresson, Esq.) recently returned from a residence in the East, at Jerusalem, and there became convinced that Judaism was the true ism, and consequently became a Jew. He was appointed our Consul there, but did not act as such, as by some foul play his commission papers were detained from him by those he entrusted to receive them from Government to send to him. On his return, the disgrace of his change of faith was so keenly felt, that, together with the desire, probably of handling his property freely, prompted the persecuting party to institute a charge of lunacy against him; and he being a warm devotee to religion, is not too well qualified to maintain his ground, owing to those having wealth and influence to obtain a judgment in their favor.
As these proceedings are, for policy sake, kept secret from the public view, we forbear now to enter more fully into the particulars, but we may, probably, before long. By the Constitution of the United States, an American citizen is guaranteed his civil and religious liberties; and we trust those who are dark-minded enough to deprive a man of these, from such motives, may meet the just indignation of the American people.
If a Jew turn Christian, it is all natural and proper, we dare say; but if a Christian turn Jew, the man must be insane! Admirable reasoning! We heard a fellow once speak of a friend who had renounced Catholicity, and became a Protestant, as a very fine, honest man, to which we assented, for we knew his worth; and we then spoke highly of another friend who had left Protestantism for Catholicity. "Oh, he's a d----d rascal!" said our interlocutor. "Why?" we asked, rather astonished. "He turned Catholic!" was the answer. This kind of bigotry is disgraceful both to individuals and the community.
[From the N.Y. Times]
A second Hinchman case is in progress in Philadelphia. The friends and family of Warder Cresson, Esq., late Consul at Jerusalem, are applying for a writ of de lunatico to shut him out of the possession of part of his property, on the ground of being a lunatic for embracing Judaism. Mr. Cresson had a deed of trust for half his property, but was not so insane as to convey the other half, so they wish to obtain that moiety under this writ. That a Christian court would decide that adopting Judaism as a religion would be a proof of insanity, we never can believe. It would be an attack on the founder of Christianity himself. It would be incompatible with reason and common sense. Every man believing in one God, and having faith in the bible, its law and its revelations, is Dei Gratia a Jew, without being one of the chosen people. for that requires entering into the Abrahamic covenant. We know the history of Mr. Cresson, and believe him to be sincere in his new faith. If he is crazy on that account, what is to be the condition of the whole Gentile world at the promised time? We must be careful how we allow such writs of inquiry to undermine the civil and religious rights of citizens.
[From the Philadelphia Herald.]
We invite the attention of our readers to an article in relation to this gentleman, on our first page. We have most impartially and deliberately examined the facts in this case, as they have come up before us; and it seems to be as clear as the beams of the sun at noonday, that a false charge of lunacy has been preferred against Mr. Warder Cresson, with the determinate design to get into his opposers' possession his whole estate, after an assignment of one-half had been made by him in their favor.
This object they thought they would doubtless obtain, alone upon the ground of religious, or, as the article on "Legal Decisions" asserts, "Cradle Prejudice." But the charm is broken--the bird has been liberated from the cage of prejudice--and is now enjoying the free air of toleration, instead of being deprived, by such a base conspiracy, of God's highest gift--REASON, and consigned forever to the confines of a lunatic asylum, and to the association of maniacs.
And what it the most remarkable feature of the whole affair is, how a woman of character (as it is said Mrs. Cresson is) could expose in open court, before the public, letters of the most confidential character, between her husband and herself, and expect still to be esteemed a woman of trust, we cannot imagine.
[From the Philadelphia Herald.]
CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.--WARDER CRESSON'S CASE
Warder Cresson was discharged on Monday, by a jury's verdict, from all imputation of insanity. This gentleman, it is now well known, has become a member of the Jewish persuasion. In 1844, he was appointed U.S. Consul at Jerusalem, where he proceeded, and amid the scenes of Palestine he became a convert to that old and venerable faith, which was founded by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and confirmed and established by the Divine Legation and miracles of Moses. Mr. Cresson returned to his country in 1848, and, finding he could not conciliate his belief with that of his family, he generously divided his property with them, by a deed of Trust, and became an exile from all he held dear and loved. The sacrifice was great, but his conscience was supreme; he was soon after prosecuted by his family for lunacy; but the jury, after an important investigation of six days, liberated him from his thralldom, pronounced him sane, and capable of conducting and managing his worldly affairs. This prosecution was an attempt to coerce conscience, through the horrors of a Lunatic Asylum, and deprive a man of his civil and religious liberty, and throw an imputation on the Jewish Faith; but the jury, with a sagacity and magnanimity (for they were all Christians) that does them high honor, vindicated the truth of American Rights, and of our Republican Constitution.
[From the Sunday Dispatch.]
CONVERSION AND LUNACY
The question how often a man may change his religious belief without being considered insane, seems to have been in the course of investigation in the Court of Common Pleas of this county during the last week. Warder Cresson, a descendant of one of our Quaker families, has shown considerable vacillation in his opinions upon sectarian tenets. Having a fair income, being independent of the world, and living without the necessity of continued employment, his mind, which seems to have a speculative tendency, has been engaged in an investigation of different creeds. He is, perhaps, fickle, and of unsteady and unsettled disposition. In the course of his investigations he embraced and rejected the principles of various sects. Enthusiastic in his nature, he was not satisfied with the mere approval of controversial doctrines, to which his mind may have been led. When he embraced the tenets of a religious persuasion, he became at once a complete proselyte, rigid in the observance of every form. As a Shaker, he renounced worldly vanities, betook himself to affiliation with a village community, and danced through their form of worship with earnestness. As a Mormon, he gave himself up to the guidance of the saints.* So it was whilst conforming to the practice of other sects.
Finally he went to Jerusalem, having been appointed United States Consul at the Holy City. In Palestine he became a decided, and, as far as the evidence appears, consistent convert to Judaism, and conformed to all the requisites for the admission of a Gentile among the ancient people. Up to this time his relatives had borne with his various changes of belief without complaint, but their patience or their avarice could not brook his last conversion. If he had become a Roman Catholic they would probably have acquiesced; but to become a Jew, argues, in the minds of the relatives of Mr. Cresson, absolute, confirmed lunacy. It does not appear that he was not able to manage his worldly business with care, economy, and wisdom. No effort has been made to show that he is not competent to attend to his own affairs, or manage his estate with prudence and skill. The evidence has been confined to an investigation of his religious vagaries, and an elucidation of various statements made at sundry times. He was not always choice in his language when speaking of sectarian affairs, and, after his proselytism to Judaism, spoke rather disrespectfully of the Christian religion and its mysteries. These freedoms of language evidenced the strength of his opinions at the time they were uttered, and seem to be natural with every convert, the enthusiasm of whom generally exceeds that of those nurtured in all the principles of the faith.
The case itself is rather peculiar. The conversion of a Christian to Judaism is uncommon; and, on the other hand, the proselytism of a Jew to Christianity is nearly as rare. We do not understand why a person who, after investigation, turns to the Israelitish faith, should not be permitted to do so without imputation of lunacy. We suppose that, in the opinion of his relatives, his most grievous error was his last. They could permit him to become Shaker, Millerite, or Mormon, without complaint, but when he became a Jew, all confidence in his sanity was lost.
There are other views which might be considered in reference to this matter. Mr. Cresson has considerable expectations, of which, if he is declared a lunatic, he may be deprived. It is probably that the entire proceeding has its origin in this fact. If a man is poor, he may change his faith every year; it will excite no resistance: but if he has property which may be taken from him when the law declares him unable to manage it, the interest of his relatives in the state of his mind is greatly increased. They watch ever aberration; fearful, not that he will jeopardize the salvation of his soul, but that he will mismanage his estate. Morgan Hinchman was subjected to a guardianship of this kind; and if Orestes A. Brownson, who changes his religion every year, has not yet been made the subject of a commission de lunatico inquirendo, it is probably because his worldly means are not extensive. As regards Mr. Cresson, we wish him a safe deliverance from the hands of the Philistines. He is undoubtedly somewhat visionary in his ideas about religion, but what else ought we to expect from one who studies the metaphysics of creeds? In a worldly point of view he appears intelligent, and able to conduct his own affairs. We must protest against any weakening of the barriers between sanity and insanity. All men have their eccentricities and peculiarities--particularly in regard to religion and its ceremonies. If the mere fact that a man who studies sectarian subjects changes his creed is to be taken as a proof of madness, who shall pronounce of sound mind?
[From the Sunday Dispatch.]
Law, a sublime science: its perversions, and its cause--"A respectability" Asylum--Sheriff's Jury--Case of Warder Cresson--Organic Laws--"Pettifogging" minds.
Law is full of sublimity, because of its power. By extending to its professors the attributes of the thing itself, Law has been styled a "sublime profession"--thus confounding the essence with the shell, the nut with the burr that surrounds it. Law, as an abstraction or a concretion, is always sublime, because unalterable in its authority; but the profession of the Law is liable to variation, from the degenerate, abject, and adulatory spirit of man, which too often sinks it to the level of contempt, and seldom allows it to rise to a dignity that can inspire veneration.
Many causes conspire to derogate from the dignity of the legal profession; among which, none has operated so perniciously as its contempt of truth and justice, by a resort to quibbling, chicanery, trick, artifice, and consequently falsehood. It may be said, this is the abuse of the profession. Granted. But is it not its general character? If a man, who knowingly violates truth, cannot respect himself, how can others respect him? There is no other foundation for self-respect, but truth. Try it. Analyze your own feelings--examine those of others. A liar, a quibbler, or an equivocator, always despises himself, and is still more despised by others. This feeling extends from the Bar to the Bench, and gradually spreads its influence over the whole Court, infecting the Jury box with practical Jesuitism, seducing the witnesses to commit perjury, and worse than all, inoculating public opinion with the mental "smallpox" of the Bar, in that virulent type that is certain to kill all honesty.
Want of Integrity is a natural child of this incestuous debauchery of the Bar, with attributes that dishonor its fame, and deflect it from the course of justice, till it becomes the pander of a knavery without a rival in the cells that Avarice fills with victims, or Bribery empties of its subjects, through the pretence of a clemency that, when traced to its source, is found to be the offspring of a "bribe," or a flattery, or a cheat.
Blighted in its morals, decrepit in its impotence, ghastly in its putrid corruption as the Bar is, still it has its ornaments, brighter by the contrast of the darkness that surrounds them, and sweeter in perfume from the stench of the weeds in whose company they flourish. But alas! how rare the examples! A Tilghman is a black swan! A Coulter, a white raven! A Washington and a Marshall are the "rara avis" of the profession.
It is one of the curses of false pride, common to all countries, but in an eminent degree peculiar to us, to make the professions, especially that of Law, the refuge of all who seek to acquire what they think they do not possess in a position of industry--"respectability;" by which all fitness or qualification of intellect is sacrificed to a measure, account for the lamentable fact that so little genius and talent is to be found at the Bar, now so thronged by mediocrity in search of social elevation, so far as a "liberal profession" can confer it. But this abuse is fast curing itself; for it must be obvious that the very fact of making law a "refuge," or an "asylum," or a "respectability plaster," would necessarily deprive it of all power to accomplish the object, by filling it with those who, by their own confession, were not "respectable!" By the way, this word has become so equivocal, as to make it doubtful whether it exalts or degrades. It was always of dubious meaning, and the squabble to possess it has made it so soiled and tattered, that common sense is often puzzles to recognize features that were almost more or less distorted by a queer grimace; for, we have "respectable" scavengers, "respectable" play-actors, and "respectable" parsons!
The stupidity that would consider Law as a profession more "respectable" than farming, shoemaking, cabinet-making, or printing, is really so transcendent, as to excite a compassion to tender as to border on contempt. In "the good old times of Queen Bess," reading and writing were judged to be so deficient in respectability, that genteel people never acquired both; and if some nobleman could read, very few disgraced themselves by writing, which was confined to a class of people considered as the lowest order. At this time, and in this country even, "a clerk" is not considered "a gentleman," and yet a Lawyer, who both reads and writes, the two most disrespectable vocations of old times, is now put before all others, and the sons of good old mechanics and farmers, who rank highest in "God's Peerage," are mad to climb up to the Bar, that they may clutch a thumbful of "respectability." Fudge! What superlative nonsense! What contemptible vanity! But out on it! What is it but substituting idle rascality for honest industry? What is it but paying homage to the conceit of the coxcomb, at the sacrifice of respect for labor? But, as we said just now, this folly is curing itself; and the "starving point" to which legal respectability has been reduced, is now fast thinning off the crowd, who once pushed and trampled down one another in their scramble to get into the "Bar." One State has already abolished all laws for the recovery of debt, thus bringing men down to the "cash in hand" system of doing business, as John Randolph said, on the principle of "the philosopher's stone;" and the time cannot be far distant when Pennsylvania will follow so wise an example, by placing all credit on the voluntary basis, without legal coercion to lead to the bloody-bond exactions of a heartless "Shylock," on a naked and penniless debtor.
From this cause, rather than any natural repugnance or antagonism between genius and law, we find great paucity of talent at the bar, and consequently a lamentable dearth of talent on the bench, which is supplied from those "learned in the law," a term once pregnant with pithy meaning, implying sterling sense, profound knowledge, and a vast grasp of comprehension, but now reduced to a superficial smattering of "precedents," a propensity to quibble and joke, and the substitution of an arbitrary will for the true and legitimate power of science, logic, and intellect.
The faculty of generalization is, if not innate, at least original, and not to be acquired by study; and hence, it is a gift as rare as it is valuable; few minds possessing the power to resolve details into principles, and apply principles to details. A competent judge must possess the power of generalizing, or he becomes lost and confused in the multiplicity of "precedents." A man of detail will make an excellent mechanic, watchmaker, or jeweler; but make him a lawyer, and he sinks to a "pettifogger;" make him a judge, and he stumbles among "precedents," precisely as a "blind horse" picks his way through a cypress swamp, stumbling, splashing, and falling at every step--a wretched spectacle of abortive efforts.
The bar requires a master intellect. The smart young debater at a club-room, fluent, voluble and ready, will naturally acquire enough conceit, from the applause of small minds, to feel that he is destined to make a "great lawyer;" but his want of faculty of generalization soon convicts him of a "great mistake;" and if he attack himself to a political party, and in virtue of political influence rises to the bench, he is certain to make his friends grieve, and his enemies triumph.
Here we behold another of the curses of the whole American judiciary, in that political influence which thrusts legal qualification aside, to "give a helping hand" to partisan imbecility to rise on the bench. In Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, this has been a fountain of poisoned waters to the cause of justice, and a stigma on the whole character of the judiciary. The power of appointment by the Governor was too often a burlesque on the whole bench, from this cause; and this abuse, so frequented and pernicious, led to the new experiment, now to be tested at the polls, of an elective judiciary by the people--an experiment that has one feature to recommend it, that it establishes at once a political judiciary, and leaves us in no doubt that the bench is occupied by politicians, and not judges. This is candid, honest, and, as the sailor says, "above-board." On the old system of executive appointment, political considerations were disclaimed, and yet we had none but political judges appointed. Now, the people have the question fully before them; and, from the two parties, a good selection may be made by the independent voters, who will look more to the judicial qualification than to partisan bias.
Mr. Wm. Wilkins, the President of the Democratic Judicial Convention, made a sad mistake when he slandered the Supreme Court as an "oligarchy" who had the power to carry ruin and desolation to the fireside of the citizen; and that to elect the judges was an awful duty, a most appalling event! How supremely ridiculous, as well as unjustifiably wicked, thus to excite groundless fears, and sound a false alarm. The most that an incompetent judge can do is to grovel in detail, like James Campbell, or bluster in passion, like A.V. Parsons, whose caliber of intellect fit them for the details of business or mechanics, but totally disqualify them for the bench. And Mr. Wilkins, himself, is not of a higher school. The people of Pennsylvania may think slowly, but they judge wisely, and act with discretion and sobriety; nor will they even sacrifice a great public interest, or the cause of human rights, or the sacredness of justice, to partisan passions or political views. They are moderate, prudent, and full of discretion; and to no community could the election of the judiciary be so safely confided.
It must be confessed that the change is made at an eventful crisis, when a transition of opinion to a new relation of property and wages is making an extensive revolution in the sentiments of mankind. Yet a people as sedate as those of Pennsylvania are not liable to be carried away by new-fangled doctrines, that would unhinge the ties of social dependence and harmony. They will never elect to the judicial bench a Jack Cade, reeking with vice, passion and licentiousness, or a Jeffries, festering with corruption. No Pennsylvania will vote himself "to be hanged" without a fair trial, by voting for a brute, a fool, or a rascal, as Judge on the bench. No Pennsylvanian is so besotted as to vote for a dolt, or a bully, or a blackguard, though Governors have appointed blackguards, bullies, and dolts. A party designation will give no idea of any quality of head or heart, that ought to distinguish the man who gains a seat on the bench, no more than "Puritan," or "Blackleg;" and notwithstanding a President and Senate of the Unites States once appointed a man Chief Justice of the United States, because he had "removed the deposits," even that precedent of servility to power will not elevate a notorious fool to the bench of any court in the State of Pennsylvania--for the honesty, as well as the intelligence of the people, is superior to that of any President, or any Governor.
"Legal decisions," it is true, do not always rest with judges; but too often bad judges usurp the rights of the jury, and nothing is ever lost, but much gained, by having a good, learned, wise, and intelligent judge--the opinion of Governors to the contrary notwithstanding.
In a transition state from the old dogmas of the "dark ages" to a new era of human rights, half defined, and half to be battled for, do we not tread on eventful times, in regard to legal decisions, when a popular judiciary is to come to the bench on the waves and surges of controversies involving every vital element of civilization? And this, too, amidst the workings of novel opinions, and the new ideas eliminated by a popular system of universal education, fermenting the popular mind to a more perfect development of all that contributes to a higher destiny of human enjoyment. If all the past is to become "obsolete," because unjust, let not all the future remain uncertain, because rational, truthful, and in accordance with human rights. We believe the character of Pennsylvanians susceptible of impressions favorable to a learned and wise popular judiciary. But the perils, to be avoided, must be foreseen. Onward, but not downward, must be our course. We want judges for the whole people--not for any class of interests. We want judges for the Constitution--not for any separate, conflicting and selfish factions! We want judges for the general good and public safety--not for any corporation power or legal cupidity; and by choosing the best offered by both parties, we shall be certain to get them. Where, then, are the dangers of a popular judiciary?
The low grade of talent, in general, at the bar, works for evil every way. Our sheriffs must be men too popular to be talented--too clever to be educated--too selfish to be just; and they must be guided by the counsel of imbecile, ignorant, or venal lawyers. Now, the sheriff's jury, having the power to consign a "sane man" to the mad-house, is of more importance than the judiciary proper. We have seen it send Morgan Hinchman to the lunatic cells. It also found a verdict against Warder Cresson as a lunatic! In both cases, the outside jury," in concurrence with the "traverse jury" empanelled, reversed the decision of the sheriff's jury, which is unquestionably the most unreal mockery of justice to be found in any age or country, however barbarous and profligate, ignorant or tyrannical.
The entire testimony against Warder Cresson was made to turn on his change of religious opinions, which common sense decrees to be a matter exclusively between a man and his God, and which all American constitutions, especially that of Pennsylvania, guarantee as an inviolable right, above the persecution of human bigotry, and outside the action of judicial power. In the force of popular prejudice against a proscribed sect, lawyers and parties thought they beheld a certainty of condemnation before any empanelled jury, who could be arraigned for lunacy on a charge of having embraced the faith of the Jews! Nursery influences alone, they cried out, would decide that question before a jury of Christians! And the calculation was craftily enough built on a knowledge of the frail judgments and poisoned opinions of twelve men under nursery influences, continued for eighteen centuries, and brought to bear under the nose of a bigoted bench, should they prove so fortunate as to have a judge of that character, to try the case; but in this hope they were, fortunately for Cresson and the whole world--yes, they were sadly disappointed; for a sound lawyer, with strong intellect, liberal principles, and an invincible devotion to constitutional guarantees, happened to try the case, who stood in bold contrast to most of his colleagues, for all the high qualities that distinguish the clear-headed jurist. The cause of the persecutors of Warder Cresson who thought to be triumphant by the counsel opposed to him, who forgot the outside jury in the vehemence of their zeal to divide "the spoils," 'till Judge King, in his charge to the jury, told them in "downright set terms," that they could not take into consideration any of the religious opinions of the man, who was protected in his "rights of conscience" by the constitution, and was, therefore, amenable for his religious opinions to no human authority. It fell like a thunderbolt on the lawyers, the jury, and the court-room audience. What! A Jew to have constitutional rights of conscience!--Vulgar bigotry stood appalled. Legal rapacity looked "chapfallen," and the bronze visage of more than one member of the bar fell abashed, even to the modesty of the virgin. What a magnificent edifice of forensic eloquence fell in ruins to the ground, as the clear tones of the judge's voice announced the awful decree from the consecrated pages of the constitution--a judge who, if as honest as talented, would shine an ornament to the bench, with no superior but Richard Coulter on the supreme bench--whose lucid power of generalization makes legal principles clear as the noontide sun--whose ratiocination is of the highest order, and whose logic is the "club of Hercules" against all sophists, prevaricators, quibblers and punsters, who mistake shadows for substance, or confound fog with fire. Oh! "the pride, pomp and circumstance," of glorious chicanery! What a fall was there!--Had all the temple of avarice, indeed, melted into thin air? Even so. The great mealy-mouthed orator had forgotten the constitution. By the way, how few pleaders ever think of it; how many, alas! too many know nothing about it, and, as an Irish barrister once said, "understand less."
The ignorance of the constitution is among the marvels of the bench, not less than the bar. Minds fashioned for detail, and incapable of generalizing, have a perfect horror of "organic law."--They delight in the "rigmarole" of an act of Assembly covered up in dull, senseless verbiage, where one eternal song synonymous lulls the ear into stupor, and confounds all meaning by a multitudinous cacophony of synonyms run mad. They delight to revel in those balmy groves of legislative nonsense, into which the sun of common sense never penetrates. But tell them of the organic law, and they leap and jump with all the horrors of a torpedo-bite. They can't understand how the constitution can override laws, nullify facts, and make a man innocent, where their interest and eloquence would make him out guilty! Oh! the agony of attempting to practice a profession, whose first principle cannot be comprehended! Where are all the first principles of American law? Why, "graybeards" will tell their students, in "Coke, Lyttleton, Blackstone, et id omne genus!" What transcendent nonsense. No.--The first principles of American law are to be found in the volume of American Constitutions, and nowhere else.
Warder Cresson's triumph was a victory proclaimed for the whole human race. It emancipated man forever from the legal tyranny of nursery superstitions, as brought to bear upon legal decisions, involving personal liberty, the rights of property, and the enjoyment of happiness. It expelled from courts of law all pleas grounded on religious opinions. "No such issues shall ever defile judicial records," was written in letters of fire on the walls of the courts, and a loud huzza of victory made the walls ring again, as the "outside jury" claimed to have defeated the black letter tomes of dark ages, handed down to the light of 1851 by Coke, Lyttleton, Blackstone, and their satellites, "wearing big wigs and black gowns."
Who will ask, after this, if legal decisions are of any importance to the people? Who will contend, after this, that there ought not to be a popular judiciary?
Now, it may have happened that, but for the "outside jury," of which the public press composes no inconsiderable part, Judge King, like his colleagues, might have forgotten the "higher law" of the Constitution! All the probabilities lean on that side; for judges, as well as lawyers, hate all constitutional law, as an interference with their functions, and an abridgment of their power and influence. A wit once said, "Any lawyer would rather be pelted with rotten eggs than have the Constitution crammed down his voracious jaws."
TRIAL OF WARDER CRESSON
Josiah Randall, Esq., placed this case in its true light on the argument of a new trial, when he told Judge King that "if Mr. Cresson had been charged with lunacy for joining any other religious society than the Jews, the case would have been laughed and hooted out of the court."
We talk much about the inestimable value of the free exercise of our civil and religious liberty, and that we ought to watch any encroachment upon those privileges with the greatest jealousy; but in what way has Mr. Cresson been protected in the constitutional exercise of his right?
When he found that it was impossible for him to harmonize or even conciliate his religious belief with that of his family, he nobly gave them, by deed of assignment, one-half of the mortgage of $5,320. This is confirmed by one of his persecutors' own testimony, which is upon file in the Prothonotary's office. He says that "Mr. Cresson offered to give them one-half of the mortgage and go to Jerusalem, but these proceedings were instigated at the request of his family." What proceedings? Charge of lunacy.
But why? Because they could only upon this ground deprive him of the whole of his property; this is self-evident, because they already had in their possession the "deed of assignment," which secured to them the one-half. This deed of assignment they accepted of him, and had it acknowledged before a justice of the peace, thus showing their belief of his most perfect sanity and capability of doing business.
Really, when we dispassionately consider this case, we cannot possibly conceive how it was ever permitted to enter our courts of justice at all.
It is a base proceeding, to take a perfectly sane man, after thus openly acknowledging his sanity--it is an outrage to deprive him of all his property, interest and principal, for more than two years, and endeavor to throw him upon an unfeeling world as a lunatic, and consequently incapable of transacting any kind of worldly business.
If Mr. Warder Cresson was really a lunatic, it was a visitation from an Almighty power, over which he had not the least control; and if he was the "affectionate husband and father," that all the opposite parties' testimony assures us he ever had been, he was most undoubtedly deserving of tender and compassionate treatment from his family.
They brought forward nine witnesses to prove his insanity; all of these were interested but two or three. One of the latter, John DuBois, had not seen him but one single hour since the year 1834, and then he had just put his son under his care and tuition to learn farming. Mr. Cresson produced seventy-three of our most respectable citizens, some of whom had known him for more than thirty years, and who solemnly testified that he was a man of sound mind and understanding--of excellent abilities, capable of transacting his worldly concerns, and of a moral character. Indeed, it is remarkable, that not one charge of an immoral nature has been preferred against him, not even by his most bitter persecutors.
In the course of David P. Brown's argument on part of his family, he said, "That Mr. Cresson asserted that it was for the poor paltry sum of $5,320 that this prosecution was instituted, but that was not the case, for if Mr. Cresson would only come back to his family, they would all receive him with open arms."
How could they possible "receive with open arms" a lunatic? We cannot conceive of any good reason. If it was not for the money, what was it for?
"Oh," says Mr. Brown, "Mr. Cresson was deluded upon the subject of religion, having changed his religious opinions five or six times." Wherefore, then, desire him to come back to his family? To delude them, we suppose. Admirable reasoning this.
And even supposing Mr. Cresson had been deluded upon the subject of religion, is this the way to reclaim him?--to stigmatize and ruin his character by a charge of lunacy, and thus deprive him of all means of obtaining subsistence, after taking away all his property, principal and interest, from him, was leaving him but the alternative to beg or steal.
If a person is so unfortunate as to be afflicted with a grievous and sore headache, do you beat and inflict repeated wounds upon that man's head? Or if any person is afflicted with sharp and acute pains of body, do you pinch, torture, and stick pins in him to assuage his pains? Is this Christian philosophy? Why, then, treat a worthy citizen in this way? Even if he were not made, is not such a treatment enough to make him do?
They charged him with being changeable, until they found that nothing they could do would change him--neither the loss of wife, children, property, social affection, starvation. Then they only wanted him to make one change more and come back, and then, but not till then, he would be perfectly of sane and sound mind and understanding.
They charged him with "wasting his property," but he made out such a plain and uncontradictory statement that it could not be invalidated.
They then charged him with being very excitable. But after David P. Brown using every means that laid in his power to excite him by ridicule, misrepresentation, gestures, shaking, and vociferation, he then took the opposite tack, saying, "One mark of insanity is, where persons are inveterate and callous to their nearest friends. See that man through this whole trial, not one tear bedews his eye, nor one muscle move his cheek." The victory was complete, for
Wickedness is weak, its power fails,
Mr. Cresson came out unscathed.
[From the Public Ledger, May 14.]
COMMON PLEAS, MAY 13.
FEIGNED ISSUES.--Warder Cresson's case, which was called up yesterday, was opened this morning, and occupied the entire session. This is a case in which an issue is formed, and now under trial before the jury to determine the question, whether Warder Cresson is sound in mind or not, a commission of Lunacy having been taken out against him by his wife. It is a case of considerable interest and of some importance.
The family of Mr. Cresson applied for a writ of lunacy on the ground that he had become insane on the subject of religion, and was not only incapable of managing his estate, but was in danger of sacrificing it entirely to the gratification of an absurd zeal.
The principal part of the morning was employed in reading a number of letters, by Mr. Cresson, during his visit to England and Jerusalem in 1844-45. The case is still pending, and will probably occupy several days, as there is a large amount of testimony to offer and several distinguished counsel concerned.
[From the Public Ledger, May 19.]
Warder Cresson's case, which was under trial all last week, was concluded today. David Paul Brown, Esq., made an able speech in summing up the testimony, to prove Mr. Cresson's Insanity and incapacity to manage his pecuniary affairs, quoting many of the letters he had written from Jerusalem, which were, he said, of an extraordinary character, and which he urged could not have been written by a sane mind.
Judge King made a brief but lucid charge to the jury, under which they retired to deliberate upon their verdict. A short time after 3 o'clock* the jury returned into court with a verdict in favor of the defendant, that is, deciding that Mr. Cresson was of sound mind. David Paul Brown for the Plaintiff: Horatio Hubbel, Josiah Randall, and Wm. Linn Brown, Esqs., for the defendant.
* The court adjourned at 3 o'clock, took their dinners, and immediately returned with their verdict at about half after 3 o'clock.
[From the Public Ledger, May 22d, 1851.]
THE CRESSON CASE.--The verdict of the Jury in this case on a writ "Lunatico Inquirendo," now so familiar to the people of Philadelphia, is of more importance than its mere personal relations would imply, and sanctions a prominent constitutional right of every republican citizen to exercise freedom of conscience, without degradation to his liberty, property of life, or the impairment of his standing in any position necessary to his happiness.
The decision is of vital importance, as settling forever that the principle, that a man's "religion opinions" never can be made the test of his sanity. This is American doctrine, as well as the dictate of reason, common sense, and social happiness. Once admit the contrary, would not our courts be crowded with litigation to some other sect, and of course leading to a system of persecution equal to any contained in "the Book of Martyrs?" God save the "Trial by Jury," and the habeas corpus, which ever day becomes more precious.
Now let the reader examine both sides of these impartial statements as they have appeared in the daily papers, then let him look at unredeemed Humanity, and what a picture of depravity here presents itself: here is a man's own Wife and Son, "Flesh of his Flesh and Blood of his Blood," taking part with evil advisers, against the Wife's own Husband, and the Son's own Father, who had been working hard for them day and night for above twenty years, and who, they testified, "had always been a Kind Husband, and Affectionate Father," until his change of Faith, and they actuated solely by a Religious Prejudice, and a most bitter enmity and a desire to obtain his only half, and all that he had reserved to go quietly away with, after he had first given them half.
Look at them, resorting to all the persecuting measures in their power, first by endeavoring to deprive him of "Heaven's highest and noblest gift," (Reason,) by swearing him to be a lunatic, affirming to positive falsehoods, taking part of one action and putting it to part of another action, that never occurred together; then exposing detached parts of his most confidential letters in open court, which are perfectly rational and instructive, when read consecutively, as they were written.
Look at them, depriving him of all his capital and means of livelihood for yearly three years. Good Heavens, what a Wife and what a Son! as strangers have repeatedly said; well may Angels blush--most assuredly will the sting of self-conviction and self-condemnation goad the consciences of his guilty persecutors.
I can appeal to Almighty God as truly as Abraham or Ruth did, that I never had any other motive or object in connecting myself with the Jewish Church, but the love of Truth and the Honor and Adoration that I owe to his ever exalted "Unity" as the alone foundation of all strength. And although my persecutors tried hard to condemn me upon the ground of mono-mania, let me inform them, there is no mania or madness as bad as Poly-mania, or Poly-theism, for that is rank idolatry and Insanity. One, is the foundation of everything, of all numbers and of all numerical value: without three ones, or two and a one, there can exist neither Trinity, nor Triangle." There cannot exist any Alphabet without the one, which is the Alpha, or the first, Greek letter.
And what sort of Book-keeping would it be, carried on upon the principle of "One being Three," and "Three being one?" And who would be willing to pay their money away, and give Three dollars for One, or who would take One dollar for Three? Yet Christians' own Testimony declares "That the invisible things of him (God) from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." Rom. i. 20.
Where now, Christians, is your TRINITY when clearly seen and understood by the things that are made, for instance, by a system of Book-keeping carried on upon the same principle that your Godhead is, that "One is Three" and that "Three is One?" and because of this very great error all the West will be condemned before the East, until you learn your first all-important lesson, that one is only one; like the poor Book-keeper, who had pursued the erroneous plan of "Three being One," you must go back and start right. Where now is my Mono-mania, in stating the all-importance of the Unity, or Oneness? and where now is your Poly-mania?
You cannot find a single science that can stand without the one, for its foundation; neither can you find a single system that is correct, or can be built upon your "One in Three," or "Three in One theory." Go then, as I have done, to the East and learn Wisdom and First Principles, and you will find a Bank there that will yet sap and undermine all the boasted civilization and enlightenment of the West.
And if you can ever bring about that day that you have been so long praying for, When "there shall be one Lord and his name One," (Zec. xiv. 9,) without the true Theory that One is only One and no more, and that too without strictly practicing it, then I will admit that you are Sane and that I am Insane; that your Poly-Theism or Poly-Mania is perfect Sanity and Truth, and that I am Insane in believing that One is only One, for what is Unity but Oneness? and what is Oneness but Unity, Harmony, Peace, and Love?
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