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and others followed, whose testimony, like hers, we have anticipated. Again and again was the plaintiff recognized, both as Salome and as the girl Mary, or Mary Bridget, who for twenty years and upward had been owned in slavery, first by John F. Miller, then by his mother, Mrs. Canby, and at length by the cabaret keeper Louis Belmonti. If the two persons were but one, then for twenty years at least she had lived a slave within five miles, and part of the time within two, of her kindred and of freedom. That the two persons were one it seemed scarcely possible to doubt. Not only did every one who remembered Salome on shipboard recognize the plaintiff as she, but others, who had quite forgotten her appearance then, recognized in her the strong family likeness of the Müllers. This likeness even witnesses for the defense had to admit. So, on Salome's side, testified Madame Koelhoffer, Madame Schultzheimer, and young Daniel Müller (Miller) from Mississippi. She was easily pointed out in the throng of the crowded court-room.
And then, as we have already said, there was another means of identification which it seemed ought alone to have carried with it overwhelming conviction. But this we still hold in reserve until we have heard the explanation of fered by John F. Miller both in court and at the same time in the daily press in reply to its utterances which were voicing the public sympathy for Salome.
It seems that John Fitz Miller was a citizen of New Orleans in high standing, a man of property, money, enterprises, and slaves. John Lawson Lewis, commanding-general of the State militia, testified in the case to Mr. Miller's generous and social disposition, his easy circumstances, his kindness to his eighty slaves, his habit of entertaining, and the exceptional fineness of his equipage. Another witness testified that complaints were sometimes made by Miller's neighbors of his too great indulgence of his slaves. Others, ladies as well as gentlemen, corroborated these good reports, and had even kinder and higher praises for his mother, Mrs. Canby. They stated with alacrity, not intending the slightest imputation against the gentleman's character, that he had other slaves even fairer of skin than this Mary Bridget, who nevertheless," when she was young," they said, "looked like a white girl." One thing they certainly made plain—that Mr. Miller had never taken the Müller family or any part of them to Attakapas or knowingly bought a redemptioner.
He accounted for his possession of the plaintiff thus: In August, 1822, one Anthony Williams, being or pretending to be a negrotrader and from Mobile, somehow came into contact with Mr. John Fitz Miller in New
Orleans. He represented that he had sold all his stock of slaves except one girl, Mary Bridget, ostensibly twelve years old, and must return at once to Mobile. He left this girl with Mr. Miller to be sold for him for his (Williams's) account under a formal power of attorney so to do, Mr. Miller handing him one hundred dollars as an advance on her prospective sale. In January, 1823, Williams had not yet been heard from, nor had the girl been sold; and on the 1st of February Mr. Miller sold her to his own mother, with whom he lived-in other words, to himself, as we shall see. In this sale her price was three hundred and fifty dollars and her age was still represented as about twelve. "From that time she remained in the house of my mother," wrote Miller to the newspapers, " as a domestic servant" until 1838, when "she was sold to Belmonti."
Mr. Miller's public statement was not as full and candid as it looked. How, if the girl was sold to Mrs. Canby, his mother-how is it that Belmonti bought her of Miller himself? The answer is that while Williams never reappeared, the girl, in February, 1835, "the girl Bridget," now the mother of three children, was with these children bought back again by that same Mr. Miller from the entirely passive Mrs. Canby, for the same three hundred and fifty dollars; the same price for the four which he had got, or had seemed to get, for the mother alone when she was but a child of twelve years. Thus had Mr. Miller become the owner of the woman, her two sons, and her daughter, had had her service for the keeping, and had never paid but one hundred dollars. This point he prudently overlooked in his public statement. Nor did he count it necessary to emphasize the further fact that when this slavemother was about twenty-eight years old and her little daughter had died, he sold her alone, away from her two half-grown sons, for ten times what he had paid for her, to be the bondwoman of the wifeless keeper of a dram-shop.
But these were not the only omissions. Why had Williams never come back either for the slave or for the proceeds of her sale? Mr. Miller omitted to state, what he knew well enough, that the girl was so evidently white that Williams could not get rid of her, even to him, by an open sale. When months and years passed without a word from Williams, the presumption was strong that Williams knew the girl was not of African tincture, at least within the definition of the law, and was content to count the provisional transfer to Miller equivalent to a sale.
Miller, then, was-heedless enough, let us call it to hold in African bondage for twenty years a woman who, his own witnesses testi
fied, had every appearance of being a white person, without ever having seen the shadow of a title for any one to own her, and with everything to indicate that there was none. Whether he had any better right to own the several other slaves whiter than this one whom those same witnesses of his were forward to state he owned and had owned, no one seems to have inquired. To such a state of moral torpor could slaveholding reduce the public mind. And indeed when we reflect that the whole business of slaveholding and slave buying and selling rested on a foundation of original kidnapping, it ought not to seem remarkable that this particular case should involve a lady noted for her good works and a gentleman who drove "the finest equipage in New Orleans." Few people anywhere in America looked upon such things forty-five years ago with the horror they deserved, and the few who did were despised alike by the godless and the godly.
One point, in view of current beliefs of today, compels attention. One of Miller's witnesses was being cross-examined. Being asked if, should he see the slave woman among white ladies, he would not think her white, he replied: "I cannot say. There are in New Orleans many white persons of dark complexion and many colored persons of light complexion." The question followed:
"What is there in the features of a colored person that designates them to be such ?"
"I cannot say. Persons who live in countries where there are many colored persons acquire an instinctive means of judging that cannot be well explained."
And yet neither this man's "instinct" nor that of any one else, either during the whole trial or during twenty years' previous knowledge of the plaintiff, was of the least value to determine whether this poor slave was entirely white or of mixed blood. It was more utterly worthless than her memory. For as to that she had, according to one of Miller's own witnesses, in her childhood confessed a remembrance of having been brought "across the lake"; but whether that had been from Germany, or only from Mobile, must be shown in another way. That way was very simple, and we hold it no longer in suspense.
THE CROWNING PROOF.
"IF ever our little Salome is found," Eva Kropp had been accustomed to say, "we shall know her by two hair moles about the size of a coffee-bean, one on the inside of each thigh, about midway up from the knee. Nobody can make those, or take them away without leaving the tell-tale scars." And lo! when Madame
Karl brought Mary Bridget to Frank Schuber's house, and Eva Schuber, who every day for weeks had bathed and dressed her godchild on the ship, took this stranger into another room apart and alone, there were the birthmarks of the lost Salome.
What incontestible evidence the friends of Salome were able to furnish that, as so many testified, these birth-marks were expected to be found before they were found, I do not see. It may have been in the one paper of the court that alone I failed to secure. Madame Karl died before the trial came on. But at any rate the point must have been made plain, for the defense never once called it in question; but, instead, called in question the genuineness of the marks found at last upon the white slave.
The verdict of science was demanded, and an order of the court issued to two noted physicians, one chosen by each side, to examine these marks and report "the nature, appearance, and cause of the same." The kindred of Salome chose Warren Stone, probably the greatest physician and surgeon in one that New Orleans has ever known. Mr. Grymes's client chose a creole gentleman almost equally famed, Dr. Armand Mercier.
Dr. Stone died many years ago; Dr. Mercier, if I remember aright, in 1885. When I called upon Dr. Mercier in his office in Girod street in the summer of 1883, to appeal to his remembrance of this long-forgotten matter, I found a very noble-looking, fair old gentleman whose abundant waving hair had gone all to a white silken floss with age. He sat at his desk in persistent silence with his strong blue eyes fixed steadfastly upon me while I slowly and carefully recounted the story. Two or three times I paused inquiringly; but he faintly shook his head in the negative, a slight frown of mental effort gathering for a moment between the eyes that never left mine. But suddenly he leaned forward and drew his breath as if to speak. I ceased, and he said:
"My sister, the wife of Pierre Soulé, refused to become the owner of that woman and her three children because they were so white!" He pressed me eagerly with an enlargement of his statement, and when he paused I said nothing or very little; for, sad to say, he had only made it perfectly plain that it was not the girl Mary Bridget whom he was recollecting, but another
He did finally, though dimly, call to mind. having served with Dr. Stone in such a matter as I had described. But later I was made independent of his powers of recollection, when the original documents of the court were laid before me. There was the certificate of the two physicians. And there, over their signatures," Mercier d.m.p." standing first, in a bold heavy hand
underscored by a single broad quill-stroke, was this "Conclusion."
"1. These marks ought to be considered as nævi materni.
"2. They are congenital; or, in other words, the person was born with them.
"3. There is no process by means of which artificial spots bearing all the character of the marks can be produced."
On the 11th of June the case of Sally Miller versus Louis Belmonti was called up again and the report of the medical experts received. Could anything be offered by Mr. Grymes and his associates to offset that? Yes; they had one last strong card, and now they played it.
It was, first, a certificate of baptism of a certain Mary's child John, offered in evidence to prove that this child was born at a time when Salome Müller, according to the testimony of her own kindred, was a year or two too young to become a mother; and secondly, the testimony of a free woman of color, that to her knowledge that Mary was this Bridget or Sally, and the child John this woman's eldest son Lafayette. And hereupon the court announced that on the morrow it would hear the argument of counsel.
Salome's counsel besought the court for a temporary postponement on two accounts: first, that her age might be known beyond a peradventure by procuring a copy of her own birth record from the official register of her native Langensoultz, and also to procure in New Orleans the testimony of one who was professionally present at the birth of her son, and who would swear that it occurred some years later than the date of the baptismal record just accepted as evidence.
"We are taken by surprise," exclaimed in effect Roselius and his coadjutors, "in the production of testimony by the opposing counsel openly at variance with earlier evidence accepted from them and on record. The act of the sale of this woman and her children from Sarah Canby to John Fitz Miller in 1835, her son Lafayette being therein described as but five years of age, fixes his birth by irresistible inference in 1830, in which year by the recorded testimony of her kindred Salome Müller was fifteen years old."
But the combined efforts of Roselius, Upton, and others were unavailing, and the newspapers of the following day reported: "This cause, continued from yesterday, came on again today, when, after hearing arguments of counsel, the court took the same under consideration." It must be a dull fancy that will not draw for itself the picture, when a fortnight later the
court-room is filled again to hear the word of judgment. It is near the end of the hot farsouthern June. The judge begins to read aloud. His hearers wait languidly through the prolonged recital of the history of the case. It is as we have given it here: no use has been made here of any testimony discredited in the judge's reasons for his decision. At length the evidence is summed up and every one attends to catch the next word, while every eye is on the white slave. The judge reads:
"The supposed identity is based upon two circumstances: first, a striking resemblance of plaintiff to the child above mentioned and to the family of that child. Second, two certain marks or moles on the inside of the thighs [one on each thigh], which marks are similar in the child and in the woman. This resemblance and these marks are proved by several witnesses. Are they sufficient to justify me in declaring the plaintiff to be identical with the German child in question? I answer this question in the negative."
What stir there was in the room when these words were heard the silent records lying before me do not tell, or whether all was silent while the judge read on; but by and by his words were these:
"I must admit that the relatives of the said family of redemptioners seem to be very firmly convinced of the identity which the plaintiff claims. . . . As, however, it is quite out of the question to take away a man's property upon grounds of this sort, I would suggest that the friends of the plaintiff, if honestly convinced of the justice of her pretensions, should make some effort to settle a l'aimable with the defendant, who has honestly and fairly paid his money for her. They would doubtless find him well disposed to part on reasonable terms with a slave from whom he can scarcely expect any service after what has passed. Judgment dismissing the suit with costs."
The white slave was still a slave. We are left to imagine the quiet air of dispatch with which as many of the counsel as were present gathered up any papers they may have had, exchanged a few murmurous words with their clients, and, hats in hand, hurried off and out to other business. Also the silent, slow dejection of Salome, Eva, Frank, and their neighbors and kin as they rose and left the hall where a man's property was more sacred than a woman's freedom. But the attorney had given them ground of hope. Application would be made for a new trial; and if this was refused, as it probably would be, then appeal would be made to the Supreme Court of the State.
So it happened. Only two days later the plaintiff, through one of her counsel, the brother of Frank Upton, applied for a new trial. She
stated that important evidence not earlier obtainable had come to light; that she could produce a witness to prove that John F. Miller had repeatedly said she was white; and that one of Miller's own late witnesses, his own brother-in-law, would make deposition of the fact, recollected only since he gave testimony, that the girl Bridget brought into Miller's household in 1822 was much darker than the plaintiff and died a few years afterwards. And this witness did actually make such deposition. In the six months through which the suit had dragged since Salome had made her first petition to the court and signed it with her mark she had learned to write. The application for a new trial is signed "Sally Müller."
The new trial was refused. Roselius took an appeal. The judge allowed it, but required the amount of Salome's bond to be doubled - this in face of his own characterization of her as "a slave from whom her master could scarcely expect any service." However, Frank Schuber doubled the bond and the case went up to the Supreme Court.
In that court no witnesses were likely to be examined. New testimony was not admissible; all testimony taken in the inferior courts" went up" by the request of either party as part of the record, and to it no addition could ordinarily be made. The case would be ready for argument almost at once.
BEFORE THE SUPERIOR JUDGES. ONCE more it was May, when in the populous but silent court-room the clerk announced the case of Miller versus Louis Belmonti, and John F. Miller, warrantor. Well-nigh a year had gone by since the appeal was taken. Two full years had passed since Madame Karl had found Salome in Belmonti's cabaret. It was now 1845; Grymes was still at the head of one group of counsel, and Roselius of the other. There again were Eva and Salome, looking like an elder and a younger sister. On the bench sat at the right two and at the left two superior judges, and between them in the middle the learned and aged historian of the State, Chief-Justice Martin.
The attorneys had known from the first that the final contest would be here, and had saved their forces for this; and when on the 19th of May the deep, rugged voice of Roselius resounded through the old Cabildo, a nine-days' contest of learning, eloquence, and legal tactics had begun. Roselius may have filed a brief, but I have sought it in vain, and his words in Salome's behalf are lost. Yet we know one part in the defense which he must have retained to himself; for Francis Upton was waiting in reserve to close the argument on the
last day of the trial, and so important a matter as this that we shall mention would hardly have been trusted in any but the strongest hands. It was this: Roselius, in the middle of his argument upon the evidence, proposed to read a certain certified copy of a registry of birth. Grymes and his colleagues instantly objected. It was their own best gun captured and turned upon them. They could not tolerate it. It was no part of the record, they stoutly maintained, and must not be introduced nor read nor commented upon. The point was vigorously argued on both sides; but when Roselius appealed to an earlier decision of the same court the bench decided that, as then, so now, "in suits for freedom, and in favorem libertatis, they would notice facts which come credibly before them, even though they be dehors the record." And so Roselius thundered it out. The consul for Baden at New Orleans had gone to Europe some time before, and was now newly returned. He had brought an official copy, from the records of the prefect of Salome's native village, of the registered date of her birth. This is what was now heard, and by it Salome and her friends knew to their joy, and Belmonti to his chagrin, that she was two years older than her kinsfolk had thought her to be.
Who followed Roselius is not known, but by and by men were bending the ear to the soft persuasive tones and finished subtleties of the polished and courted Grymes. He left, we are told, no point unguarded, no weapon unused, no vantage-ground unoccupied. The high social standing and reputation of his client were set forth at their best. Every slenderest discrepancy of statement between Salome's witnesses was ingeniously expanded. By learned citation and adroit appliance of the old Spanish laws concerning slaves, he sought to ward off as with a Toledo blade the heavy blows by which Roselius and his colleagues endeavored to lay upon the defendants the burden of proof which the lower court had laid upon Salome. He admitted generously the entire sincerity of Salome's kinspeople in believing plaintiff to be the lost child; but reminded the court of the credulity of ill-trained minds, the contagiousness of fanciful delusions, and especially of what he somehow found room to call the inflammable imagination of the German temperament. He appealed to history; to the scholarship of the bench; citing the stories of Martin Guerre, the Russian Demetrius, Perkin Warbeck, and all the other wonderful cases of mistaken or counterfeited identity. Thus he and his associates plead for the continuance in bondage of a woman whom their own fellow-citizens were willing to take into their houses after twenty years of degradation and infamy, make their
Gad words for Salcme and her kindred. I was but urey of Area ace, the
cleary ʼn savor of me planen. Eut suspense
The Surden of proof is upon -Persons of ccier-meaning of mixed lone md her heads. For hear what follows: But this sår om bringing dismay to Sainnoce is. Want is the color of the plaintiff?” -The first inry, so reads the chiefyet to be abborred by every right mind: be already in our day repudiated by law and lows-esteemed night enough then and there, And now mark the strange utterance that foltwo lines more, the decision of the lower court. warrantor Miller's denial and defense; and in daim and Belmont's denial; in another, the