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generally speaking, the business is managed with so much art, that, ninety-nine tiines out of a hundred, the fraud remains undetected, and the creditors are cheated by the unprincipled debtor, who laughs at their anger and their ruin, and who frequently drives his gig, in splendour and triumph, through the streets, the very next day after he has sworn himself a pauper!--The consequences are such as may naturally be expected to flow from such causes: general dishonesty and universal distrust.
In 1794 the proceedings of the court at * * * were interrupted for four days on account of the chief justice's having a black eye, giving him by his wife. I had this anecdote from Joe THOMAS, and several other persons confirmed the fact, which was, indeed notorious.
At *** the chief judge was so drunk, that, having occasion to retire for a little while, he was led from the bench by two, constables, who supported him all the time, and afterwards led him back to his seat.-I had this from a gentleman, who was a witness of the scene, and on whose veracity I would stake my life.
• In the year 1795, a Mrs. ******, whose husband was a Judge, married, actually married, a hostler in Philadelphia. His honour the judge, who had taken up with another woman, and who had totally neglected his wife and one of his children, came to Philadelphia, on a visit, in 1798, when, having little to do, he stepped into jail for a few weeks, and took the benefit of the insolvent act. In jail he found the other husband of his wife, en
gaged in a similar amusement, and they actually both came before the court, and were white-washed together! The Judge, during the winter of 1800, happened one day, to be a spectator in the lobby of the senate of the United States, where he was so taken with the venerable appearance of the sena. tors, and felt such an irresistible desire to resemble them, that he stole one of their cloaks, which was taken from his back the next Sunday, just as he came out of a presbyterian meeting-house, at which the senator, whom he had robbed, unfortunately, chanced to make one of the congregation. These facts, horrid as they may seem, are notorious.
On Sheriffs, I could write a long chapter, but I have not room. They are, in most of the States, chosen by the people; and from the mode of their appointment, as well as every other circumstance, they necessarily become the tools of faction. Sheriff Will twice took the benefit of the insolvent act, during his shrievalty; Procter did the same thing once, during his shrievalty. THOMAS, the lawyer, one day shewed me the list of a jury, who were to try a cause, in which he was concerned. • Who do you think picked that jury ?” said he, “ I do not know," said I, “Why?" replied he, " It was l.”—It is notorious, that juries are thus packed, and that fraud and faction have poisoned the current of justice to the very fountain head.
I shall now, not for want of more matter, but for want of more time and room, wind up this string of anecdotes with some account of Judge Brackenbridge, who is, at this time (May, 1801) one of the justices of the supreme court of Pennsylvania, and who has, of course, an authority si
milar, and almost equal in the extent of its infius ence, to that of the justices of the King's Bench; in England.
This Bruckenridge was formerly à presbyteriari minister, and preached his trial-sermon; as they call it, in Arch-street Meeting-house, in the city of Philadelphia. He went to reside in the back counties of Pennsylvania, where he quitted the pulpit for the bar, and where; in the year 1794; he acted a conspicuous part in the whiskey insurrection, which cost the United States a million and a half of dollars to quell it. ...
Not having availed himself of the conditional amnesty, offered to the insurgents by General Washington, he was liable to be tried and hanged for his offence. He was brought down to Philadelphia, but, on condition of his becoming States' evidence against some of his accomplices; his pardon was promised him, and he was even suffered to remain at large in the city, where the trials were held. He' afterwards published a narrative of his conduct, in which he gives the following description of his situation, while in Philadelphia.
“ I was in the city some days before the sessioni “ of the court; and had found private lodgings. “ But the mistress of the house, who was a widow
lady, understanding who I was, expressed great
uneasiness. She took it for granted that I was to “ stand trial, and did not like the idea of having a “ man hanged out of the family. I prevailed upon “ her to suffer me to reinain at least, until I was " about to be put on my trial.
« Under the predicament in which I was, I did “ not think it prudent to attend the theatre, or to “ go to places of public resort. It would subject “ myself to the indignity of looks, if not words.
I attempted to amuse myself a little in the shops “ of booksellers; but even these were shy of me."
In the autumn of 1799, M'KEAN was elected Governor of Pennsylvania, in the room of MifFLIN. As he succeeded one so much like himself, so he was resolved to have a worthy successor on the bench, and, accordingly, he appointed Brackenridge to be a Judge of the Supreme Court.
For me to attempt to describe the character of this man would be a vain effort. It is absolutely impossible for any one to do justice to the picture : some idea of it may, however, be formed from the following article, which is faithfully copied from MR. WAYNE's paper, the Gazette of the United States, published at Philadelphia on the 12th of December, 1800. It will be seen, that Mr. WAYNE took the article from a paper published at Pittsburgh, the place near which the scene of action lay.
" From the PITTSBURGH GAZETTE. “ An Account of the late Mad Circuit of JUDGE BRACKENRIDGE through Washington County. .
“ IN July last Mr. Brackenridge desirous of displaying his new dignity of Judge among his old acquaintances, came over to Washington dressed with unusual neatness. Finding that no decent person of the place called to see hini, he walked through the town, accosted the people with studied courtesy as he passed the streets, in some instances advanced to the door of his former friends, but was received with marked coolness, and although not directly insulted, yet he found himself so much detested, that with all his insinuating civilities no person invited him into his house. Mortified beyond measure at this treatment, he returned to his tavern, called for brandy to cure his vexation, and after drinking hastily an unusual portion of that fiery liquor he rode away to Cannonsburgh.
66 Although evidently intoxicated when he alighted there, yet he went on drinking whiskey to great excess, and abusing the gentlemen of Washington. Sometimes he pretended to be asleep in his chair, and suddenly would start up with some incoherent exclamation, and then take another drink. After a while he said he had a fever, proceeding to strip himself naked, took a sheet and hung it over his shoulders, and walked before the door thus exposed. This soon collected a multitude of boys, to whom he addressed many pleasant things, affecting to talk and act like one of themselves-Presently he ordered water to be carried to the stable, and compelled a blacksmith's boy to throw several buckets of cold water upon him. The other boys, and even men, gathered round the stable, and diverted themselves with the whimsical figure of a naked Judge upon all fours among the horses, undergoing the operation of washing and rubbing. One lad said that he ought to be drenched also others said he was already drenched with whiskey. The merriment of these fellows offended the Judge. He ordered them away :--they refused to go.—He threatened to commit them; said he was a Judge of the Supreme Court:-and assured the blacksmith's boy that he would do something clever for him if he would stay by him, and try to prevail with the other boys to go home. Returning from the stable wrapped in the sheet he took more whiskey, and at intervals put on his clothes again.
“ Although altogether unfit for traveiling he resolved to set out for Pittsburgh, and with difficulty got upon his horse. By this time all Cannonsburgh had learned that the Judge was either drunk, or mad, or both, and there was a general laugh as he passed. Near the end of the village he saw several men together with sickles in their hands. Fancying them to be enemies he damned them to clear the