Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Dogblog: dog justice

One of the items I purchased a few months ago at auction was (surprise!) a book. But this was no ordinary book -- it was, it now seems, a "my life in the law biz" collection of newspaper clippings for several months in AD 1914, predominantly from journals in the Indianapolis area.

What does this have to do with dogs?
I hear you cry.

Not much, I reply. Unless you go to about page 8, under Review July 28"15. There lies a tale of a dog... or more accurately, a lawsuit about a dog:

Senator West's Tribute to the Dog
Note. –Professional service will publish a series of interesting and choice examples of forensic oratory. The following eulogy is really a classic.

Some years ago, in one of the towns of northern Missouri, a citizen brought a damage suit for $200 against a neighbor who had killed his dog. Senator G. Vest appeared in the case as counsel for the plaintiff. The defendant was represented by Senator Francis M. Cockrell.

Senator Vest made the closing argu-ment to the jury. He spoke but few words, and these in a low voice and with little gesture. He made no reference to the law, the evidence, or the merits of the case, but confined his remarks to an eloquent and most remarkable tribute to the dog.

GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY: The best human friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps, when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-consid-ered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor [paper damage, one line illegible] may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. Te one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this world, the one that never deceives him, the one that never proves ungrateful and treacherous, is his dog.

A man's dog stands by him in prosper-ity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground where the wintry wind blows and the snow drifts fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer. He will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as con-stant in his love as the sun in its journeys through the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying, to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and when death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside may the noble dog he found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

It is said that, although the suit was for only $200, the verdict of the jury was for $500, and that some of the jurors wanted to hang the defendant.

–From Classics of the Bar, Vol II, Page 246

I can fully understand that response. After all, what sort of monster would want to bring harm to this lovely creature?

Don't forget to visit Modulator, for Friday Ark.

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