**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

by [?]

The last “statement,” it is reasonable to hope, has been made in the Beecher-Tilton case previous to the trial at law, and it is safe to say that it has left the public mind in as unsettled a state as ever before. People do not know what to believe, but they do not want to hear any more newspaper discussion by the principal actors. We are not going to attempt any analysis or summing-up of the case at present. It will be time enough to do that after the dramatis personae have undergone an examination in court, but we would again warn our readers against looking for any decisive result from the legal trial. The expectations on this point which some of the newspapers and a good many lawyers are encouraging are in the highest degree extravagant. The truth is that only a very small portion of the stuff contained in the various “statements” can, under the rules of evidence, be laid before the jury–not, we venture to assert, more than would fill half a newspaper column in all. What will be laid before the jury is, in the main, “questions of veracity” between three or four persons whose credit is already greatly shaken, or, in other words, the very kind of questions on which juries are most likely to disagree, even when the jurymen are entirely unprejudiced. In the present case they are sure to be prejudiced, and are sure to be governed, consciously or unconsciously, in reaching their conclusions by agencies wholly foreign to the matter in hand, and are thus very likely to disagree. There are very few men whose opinions about Mr. Beecher’s guilt or innocence are not influenced by their own religious and political beliefs, or by their social antecedents or surroundings. A curious and somewhat instructive illustration of the way in which a man’s fate in such cases as this may be affected by considerations having no sort of relation to the facts, is afforded by the attitude of the Western press toward the chief actors in the present scandal. It may be said, roughly, that while the press east of the Alleghanies has inclined in Beecher’s favor, the newspapers west of them have gone somewhat savagely and persistently against him, and have treated Tilton as a martyr. The cause of such a divergence of views, considering that both Tilton and Beecher are Eastern men, is of course somewhat obscure, but we have no doubt that it is due to a vague feeling prevalent in the West that Tilton’s cause is the democratic one–that is, the cause of the poor, friendless man against the rich and successful one–a feeling somewhat like that which in England enlisted the working-classes in London on the side of the Tichborne claimant, in defiance of all reason and evidence, as a poor devil fighting a hard battle with the high and mighty. One of the reporters of a Western paper which has made important contributions to the literature of the scandal, recently accounted for his support of Tilton by declaring that in standing by him he was “fighting the battle of the Bohemians against Capital.” Another Western paper, in analyzing the causes of the position taken by the leading New York papers on Beecher’s side, ascribed it to the social relations of the editors with him, believing that they met him frequently at dinners and breakfasts, and found him a jovial companion. All this would be laughable enough if it did not show the amount of covert peril–peril against which no precautions can be taken–to which every prominent man’s character is exposed. The moment he gets into a scrape of any kind he finds a host of persons whose enmity he never suspected clamoring to have him thrown to the beasts “on general grounds”–that is, in virtue of certain tests adopted by themselves, judged by which, apart from the facts of any particular accusation, a man of his kind is unquestionably a bad fellow. The accusation, in short, furnishes the occasion for destroying him, not necessarily the reason for it.