List Of Contents | Contents of Elinor Wyllys, by Susan Fenimore Cooper
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distinct recollection of him, even at that time; the colour of
the hair, and a general resemblance in complexion and features,
might well be the amount of all that could be advanced in favour
of the likeness; the plaintiff resembled the Stanleys, father and
son; but probably a hundred other men might be picked up in the
country, in whom the same resemblance might be found--men who
laid no claim to the name or estate of Mr. Stanley. Similarity of
handwriting was not uncommon either; and here some dozen notes
and letters were produced, and proved to a certain degree that
this assertion was correct; in several cases the resemblance was
very great; and Mr. Ellsworth maintained, that with the documents
in the possession of the sailor, undeniably written by young
Stanley, any common writer, devoid of honesty, might have moulded
his hand by practice to an imitation of it, sufficient for
forgery. So much for the resemblance; he would now point out the
difference between the plaintiff and William Stanley in two
points, which, if clearly proved, must convince the jury that
identity was utterly impossible, a pure fiction, a gross
deception. He then produced the portrait of William Stanley;
after acknowledging that there was some general resemblance, he
suddenly showed the difference in the formation of the hands,
fingers, and nails, between the boy and the plaintiff. This
difference was indeed striking, for Ellsworth took a moment to
point it out, when the sailor was in court, and engaged in
putting a piece of tobacco in his mouth, and his hands were in
full view. For a second he seemed out of countenance, but he soon
resumed the confident look he had worn throughout. Mr. Ellsworth
entered very minutely into this fact, showing that painters
usually gave a correct idea of the hand, when it was introduced
in a portrait; and the impossibility of the natural formation of
the hand being entirely changed, either by time or hard work, was
proved by the testimony of anatomists. The family physician of
the late Mr. Stanley was an important witness at this stage of
the trial; he swore to the fidelity of the portrait, and
confirmed the fact of the particular formation of William
Stanley's limbs when a boy; he thought it very improbable that a
lad of his frame and constitution would ever become as heavy and
robust as the plaintiff. He was asked by a juror if he thought
this impossible? "No; he could not say it was impossible." The
difference in gait was then examined.

{"spoken the Jefferson" = passed and communicated with}

"There is yet another point to be examined," said Ellsworth,
"similar in nature, but still more decided in its bearing." He
then brought forward all the testimony that had been collected,
as to the temper and capacity of William Stanley; it was clearly
proved, chiefly by the young man's tutors and companions, that he
was morose and stubborn in disposition, and dull in intellect. So
far this point was easily settled; but it was difficult to place
the opposite facts, of the cleverness and better temper of the
plaintiff, as clearly before the court as they had appeared to
the defendants. Any one who had seen him under the same
circumstances as Mr. Wyllys and Hazlehurst, during the last three
months, would have been convinced of this difference; but in the
court-room it was not so easy to place the matter beyond dispute,
although two witnesses gave their opinions on this point, under
oath, and Ellsworth did all he could, by attracting attention to
the plaintiff, to his manner and expression; but he was not quite
satisfied with the result of his own endeavours.

"Let us now look at the conduct of this individual; we shall find
it, I think, quite inconsistent with that any man of plain, good
sense, would have supposed the most easy and natural course under
the circumstances; while, on the other hand, it is entirely
consistent throughout, in being strongly marked with the stamp of
improbability, in its general aspect, and in its details." After
a review of the plaintiff's course, as it stood in his own
statement, he proceeded to investigate his conduct during the
last three months, maintaining, that had he really been William
Stanley, he would have presented himself long since to Mr.
Wyllys, unsupported by Mr. Clapp; he would not have found it
necessary to visit Greatwood, and examine the house and place so
thoroughly, before submitting to an examination; he would not
have waited to be examined, he would voluntarily have told his
own story in a manner to produce undeniable conviction. For
instance, but a few weeks since, when, if we may believe his
story, that pocket-book came into his possession again, had he
gone to Mr. Wyllys, shown it, and merely told him accurately,
from whom, when, and where he had first received it, he would
have been immediately recognized as the individual he claims to
be. Had he been William Stanley, he could have told those simple
facts, he would have told them; while they were facts which it
was impossible that an impostor should know, since they were
confined entirely to Mr. Wyllys and his friend's son--Mr. Wyllys
himself having given the pocket-book to William Stanley when they
were alone together. He appealed to every man there present, what
would have been his own conduct under such circumstances? As to
the readiness of Mr. Wyllys to receive William Stanley, could he
believe him living, it was proved by the past conduct of the
executors, their anxiety to obtain a correct account of the young
man's fate, their hopes at first, their regrets at last, when
hope had died away. Ellsworth closed his speech by observing,
that after this review of the circumstances, considering the
striking differences pointed out in person, temper, and capacity,
from those of William Stanley, the irreconciliable difference in
the gait and formation of the limbs, and the unnatural conduct of
the plaintiff throughout, had Mr. Wyllys received this man as
William Stanley, the son of his deceased friend, it would have
been a gross neglect of duty on his part.

There now remained but one act to complete the defence. It was
concluded by Mr. Grant, who went over the whole case in a speech,
in his usual well-known manner, learned and close in its
reasoning, caustic and severe in its remarks on the opposite
party. His general view was chiefly legal; occasionally, however,
he introduced short and impressive remarks on the general aspect
of the case, and the particular character of the most suspicious
facts presented by the plaintiff; he was severe upon Mr. Clapp,
showing a shrewd and thorough knowledge of the man, and the legal
species to which he belonged. The Longbridge lawyer put on an
increase of vulgar nonchalance for the occasion, but he was
unable to conceal entirely his uneasiness under the sharp and
well-aimed hits of one, so much his superior in standing and real
ability. Mr. Grant dwelt particularly upon the suspicious
appearance of the facts connected with the volume of the
Spectator, and the pocket-book, both of which he admitted to have
belonged to William Stanley originally; and he seemed to manage
the difference in temper and capacity more effectually than Mr.
Ellsworth had done. His speech was listened to with the closest
attention during several hours; after having reviewed the
testimony on both sides and finished his legal survey of the
ground, he concluded as follows:

"Gentlemen of the jury; the facts of this case are before you, so
far at least as we could reach them; there are doubtless others
behind the curtain which might prove highly important in
assisting your decision. You have followed me over the dull track
of the law wherever it led us near this case, and I thank you for
the patience you have shown. The subject is now fully before you,
and I conceive that you will agree with me that in the present
case, the counsel for the plaintiff have undertaken a task of no
ordinary difficulty. It seems a task by no means enviable under
any of its different aspects; but really, in the whole course of
my experience at the bar, it has never yet fallen to my lot to
witness so startling a feat of legal legerdemain, as that
attempted in this court-room by the counsel for the plaintiff. I
conceive, gentlemen, that they are engaged in a task seldom
attempted since the days of wizards and necromancers--they have
undertaken to raise a ghost!"

It was now time for the plaintiff's lawyers to close the trial.
Mr. Clapp wished to speak again, but Mr. Reed took the case
entirely in his own hands; he was evidently firmly convinced of
the identity of his client with William Stanley, and the natural
indignation he felt at the accusations of the defendants, and the
treatment the sailor had received from the executors, gave
unusual warmth to his manner, which was generally calm; it was
remarked that he had never made a stronger speech than on that
occasion. He did not dispute the honesty of the opinions of Mr.
Wyllys and Hazlehurst, but he conceived they had no right to hold
such opinions after examining the testimony in behalf of the
plaintiff. He conceived that the defendant attached an importance
altogether puerile to mere common probability, every-day
probability; how many facts, now proved as clearly as human
evidence can prove, have worn at first an improbable aspect to
many minds! How many legal cases of an improbable nature might be
cited! He would only allude to a few; and here he went over
several remarkable cases on record.

"And yet he would even engage to answer the objections against
his client on this very ground of probability; much had been said
about the volume of the Spectator, but Mr. Hazlehurst could not
swear to having read it at Greatwood four years since; while it
appeared on cross-examination that his brother had the same
edition of that book in Philadelphia, and that Mr. H. was in the
habit of reading his brother's books; it also appeared that other
volumes had been lost from the house at Greatwood in the course
of the last four years. He held it then to be clearly probable;
first, that Mr. H. had not read that identical volume shown at
the interview, but one belonging to his brother; secondly, that
the same volume had not been lost within the last four years;
that others had been lost was certain, but that this volume had
been in the possession of his client for nearly twenty years was
PROBABLE." He went on in the same way to prove the probability of
his client's gait having been changed, like that of other
sailors, by a life at sea; that his whole body had become heavier
and coarser from twenty years' hard work, and change of habits.
He here made Dr. B., the physician who had testified on this
subject, appear in a ridiculous light, by quoting some
unfortunately obscure remarks he had made under

"Then, as to his client's temper, he hoped it had improved with
age, but he thought that point had not been as clearly settled as
his best friends could wish; still, it was by no means IMPROBABLE
that it had improved under the salutary restraints of greater
intercourse with the world. Who has not known persons whose
tempers have become better under such circumstances? As to the
capacity of his client, that had also PROBABLY been roused into
greater activity by the same circumstances. Who has not heard of
striking instances in which boys have been pronounced stupid by
their masters and playfellows, and yet the same lads have
afterwards turned out even brilliant geniuses?" He mentioned
several instances of this kind. He went over the most striking
features of the whole case in this manner, but we are necessarily
compelled to abridge his remarks. "He accepted this ground of
probability fully and entirely; the conduct of his client had
been thought unnatural; he conceived that the very same stubborn,
morose disposition, which the defendants had laboured so hard to
fasten upon William Stanley, would account in the most PROBABLE
manner for all that had been unusual in the conduct of his
client. The same boy who at fifteen had so recklessly exchanged a
pleasant home and brilliant prospects for a sailor's hardships,
might very naturally have continued to feel and to act as the
plaintiff had done."

He then brought together all the points in favour of the sailor,
"The resemblance between the plaintiff and William Stanley had
been called trifling by the counsel for the defendants; he
considered it a remarkably strong resemblance, since it included
not only acknowledged personal likeness, but also similarity of
handwriting, of age, of occupation, the possession of documents
admitted to be authentic by the defendants themselves, with
knowledge of past events, persons, and places, such as would be
natural in William Stanley but quite beyond the reach of a common
stranger. He conceived that the great number of different points
in his client's favour was a far stronger ground for the truth of
his claim, than any one fact, however striking, standing alone.
He held that this mass of evidence, both positive and
circumstantial, could be accounted for in no other way at all
probable, than by admitting the identity of his client. He
conceived it also probable that any unprejudiced man would take
the same view of this case; a case singular in its first aspect,
though not more singular than hundreds of others on record, and
entirely within the bounds of possibility in every fact, while it
assumed greater probability the farther it was examined." He then
adverted to several points merely legal, and finally concluded by
a strong appeal in behalf of the plaintiff.

The judge rose to make his charge; it was strictly legal and
impartial, chiefly reminding the jury that they were to decide
entirely from the facts which had been placed before them; if
they thought the evidence to which they listened sufficient to
prove legally the identity of the plaintiff as William Stanley,
they must give a verdict in his favour; if they held that
evidence to be incomplete and insufficient, according to the
legal views which must be their guide, they must pronounce a
verdict in favour of the defendants: concluding with explaining
one or two legal points, and an injunction to weigh the whole
evidence impartially, the judge took his seat.

The jury rose; marshalled by constables and headed by their
foreman, they turned from the box and left the court-room to
consider their verdict.

Another cause was called. The parties interested, their friends,
and the crowd of curious spectators poured from the building,
discussing as they moved along the probable result, which could
scarcely be known until the next morning, for it was late on the
fourth night that the trial closed.


"Tout est perdu fors l'honneur!"
Francois I.

{"Tout est perdu fors l'honneur" = all is lost but honor
(French). Francis I of France (1494-1547), letter to his mother,
1525; by 1840 a proverbial expression}

HAZLEHURST'S friends, fully aware of the importance of the cause
to his interests, had followed the trial with great anxiety. Mrs.

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