Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

Ventose, in the year 10 (22d February 1802). At length the last of the accomplices denounced by Couriol and Durochat, Rossi, otherwise Ferrari, or the Great Italian, whose real name was Beroldy, was discovered near Madrid, and given up at the request of the French government. Having been tried and sentenced to death at Versailles, he testified the utmost repentance, and went to execution, receiving religious attentions from Monsieur de Grandpré. After the execution, Monsieur de Grandpré stated to the president that he had been authorised by the criminal to confess the justice of his sentence. The same Monsieur Grandpré deposited with M. Destrumeau, a notary at Versailles, a declaration written and signed by Beroldy, otherwise Rossi, which was not to be published until six months after his death. The following is the tenor of this document, which is given, with all the particulars of this extraordinary case, in a memoir written by M. Daubenton, the Juge de Paix. 'I declare that the man named Lesurques is innocent; but this declaration, which I give to my confessor, is not to be published until six months after my death.'

Thus terminated this long judicial drama. Ferrari, otherwise Rossi, was the sixth executed as one of the authors or accomplices in the murder of the Lyon courier, besides Richard, who was condemned to the galleys for having received the stolen property, and for having concealed Couriol, and afterwards assisted him to fly. Yet it was most distinctly proved, in the course of the trials, that there were only five murderers. The one who, under the name of Laborde, had taken his place beside the courier, and the four horsemen who rode on the horses hired by Bernard, dined at Mongeron, and took coffee and played at billiards at Lieursaint.

The widow and family of Lesurques, relying on these facts, and supported by the declarations of Couriol and Durochat, the confessions of Rossi and Vidal, and the retractions of the witnesses in Dubosq's trial, applied for a revision of the sentence so far as concerned Lesurques, in order to obtain a rehabilitation (a judicial declaration of his innocence, and the restoration of his property), if he should be proved the victim of an awful judicial error.

The Citizen Daubenton devoted the latter part of his life, and the greater part of his fortune to the discovery of the truth.

In the conclusion of his memoir, he declared that, according to his conviction, there were sufficient grounds to induce the government to order a revision of Lesurques's sentence. He concluded his statement by saying, that the Calases, the Servens, and all the others for whom the justice of our sovereigns had ordered a like revision, had none of them had such strong presumptions in their favour as the unhappy Lesurques.

But the right of revision no longer existed in the French code. Under the Directory, the Consulate, and the Restoration, the applications of the widow and family of Lesurques were equally unsuccessful.

All that the family could obtain was the restoration, in the last two years of the reign of the elder Bourbons, of part of the property sequestrated according to the law in force at the time of Lesurques's execution.

Since the revolution of 1830, the Lesurques family have made more than one appeal to the legislature, but still in vain. The widow of Lesurques died in the month of October 1842. His eldest son fell fighting in the ranks of the French army. A son and daughter only remained, whom their mother, on her death-bed, adjured to continue the pious labour which she had commenced the day when her husband perished on the scaffold.*

CASES IN AMERICA. Mrs Child, in her work, Letters from New York (1843), advocating the abolition of capital punishments, gives a notice of two cases in which circumstantial evidence led to the execution of the wrong parties.

The testimony from all parts of the world is invariable and conclusive, that crime diminishes in proportion to the mildness of the laws. The real danger is in having laws on the statute-book at variance with universal instincts of the human heart, and thus tempting men to continual evasion. The evasion even of a bad law is attended with many mischievous results : its abolition is always safe. In looking at capital punishment in its practical bearings on the operation of justice, an observing mind is at once struck with the extreme uncertainty attending it. Another thought which forces itself upon the mind in consideration of this subject, is the danger of convicting the innocent. Murder is a crime which must of course be committed in secret, and therefore the proof must be mainly circumstantial. This kind of evidence is in its nature so precarious, that men have learned great timidity in trusting to it.

A few years ago a poor German came to New York, and took lodgings, where he was allowed to do his cooking in the same room with the family. The husband and wife lived in a perpetual quarrel. One day the German came into the kitchen with a clasp-knife and a pan of potatoes, and began to pare them for his dinner. The

* It is but right to state that some of the highest juridical authorities in France either deny that the condemnation of Lesurques was an error, or hold that, at all events, the case is far from being so clear as the advocates of his innocence would make it appear. President Zangiacomi, one of the most enlightened and conscientious members of the Court of Cassation, presented a Report on the case to the Council of State, which appeared in the Moniteur, August 7, 1822. From this Report it appears that, at the trial of Dubosq in the year 9, of the nine witnesses who had previously testified to having seen Lesurques in the company of the assassins, eight persisted in declaring that they had not been mistaken. Repeatedly confronted with Dubosg, they pointed out various differences between his appearance and that of Lesurques, on which they grounded their persistence. The voice of these eight unimpeachable esses ought, M. Zangiacomi thinks, to outweigh the declaration of the confessed murderers that Lesurques was not an accomplice. As to the circumstance of more persons being condemned and executed for the crime than were concerned in it, it is pointed out as remarkable that the accused themselves vary as to the exact number, making it either five or sıx; while, from the statements of two of the witnesses, it appears very probable that the assassins were seven in number,

[ocr errors]

quarrelsome couple were in a more violent altercation than usual ; but he sat with his back towards them, and being ignorant of their language, felt in no danger of being involved in their disputes. But the woman, with a sudden and unexpected movement, snatched the knife from his hand, and plunged it in her husband's heart. She had sufficient presence of mind to rush into the street and scream murder. The poor foreigner, in the meanwhile, seeing the wounded man reel, sprang forward to catch him in his arms, and drew out the knife. People from the street crowded in, and found him with the dying man in his arms, the knife in his hand, and blood upon his clothes. The wicked woman swore, in the most positive terms, that he had been fighting with her husband, and had stabbed him with a knife he always carried. The unfortunate German knew too little English to understand her accusation or to tell his own story. He was dragged off to prison, and the true state of the case was made known through an interpreter ; but it was not believed. Circumstantial evidence was exceedingly strong against the accused, and the real criminal swore unhesitatingly that she saw him commit the murder. He was executed, notwithstanding the most persevering efforts of his lawyer, John Anthon, Esq., whose convictions of the man's innocence were so painfully strong, that from that day to this he has refused to have any connection with a capital case. Some years after this tragic event the woman died, and on her death-bed confessed her agency in the diabolical transaction; but her poor victim could receive no benefit from this tardy repentance; society had wantonly thrown away its power to atone for the grievous wrong.

Many of my readers will doubtless recollect the tragical fate of Burton, in Missouri, on which a novel was founded, that still circulates in the libraries. A young lady, belonging to a genteel and very proud family in Missouri, was beloved by a young man named Burton ; but unfortunately her affections were fixed on another less worthy. He left her with a tarnished reputation. She was by nature energetic and high-spirited; her family were proud ; and she lived in the midst of a society which considered revenge a virtue, and named it honour. Misled by this false popular sentiment and her own excited feelings, she resolved to repay her lover's treachery with death. But she kept her secret so well

, that no one suspected her purpose, though she purchased pistols, and practised with them daily. Mr Burton gave evidence of his strong attachment by renewing his attentions when the world looked most coldly upon her. His generous kindness won her bleeding heart, but the softening influence of love did not lead her to forego the dreadful purpose she had formed. She watched for a favourable opportunity, and shot her betrayer when no one was near to witness the horrible deed. Some little incident excited the suspicion of Burton, and he induced her to confess to him the whole transaction. It was obvious enough that suspicion would naturally fasten upon him, the well

known lover of her who had been so deeply injured. He was arrested, but succeeded in persuading her that he was in no danger. Circumstantial evidence was fearfully against him, and he soon saw that his chance was doubtful; but with affectionate magnanimity he concealed this from her. He was convicted and condemned. A short time before the execution he endeavoured to cut his throat ; but his life was saved for the cruel purpose of taking_it away according to the cold-blooded barbarism of the law, Pale and wounded, he was hoisted to the gallows before the gaze of a Christian community.

The guilty cause of all this was almost frantic when she found that he had thus sacrificed himself to save her. She immediately published the whole history of her wrongs and her revenge. Her keen sense of wounded honour was in accordance with public sentiment, her wrongs excited indignation and compassion, and the knowledge that an innocent and magnanimous man had been so brutally treated, excited a general revulsion of popular feeling. No one wished for another victim, and she was left unpunished, save by the dreadful records of her memory.

[merged small][graphic]
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[graphic]

HE unhappy fate of this nobleman, united to a consideration of his youth, his amiable and gallant character, and the ancestral honours and vast estates which he forfeited with life by one rash act, renders him a kind of hero in popular sympathies. We are therefore induced to present a brief memoir of his life, in connection with the rebellion of 1715, trusting that, independently of the moral that may be drawn from it, it may aid in inspiring a taste for our national history.

He was the representative of an ancient Northumberland family named

Radcliffe, which, besides their own originally large possessions, had acquired by marriage an immense prbperty in the neighbourhood of Derwentwater Lake, in Cumberland. Throughout the troubles of the seventeenth century, they uniformly espoused the cause of royalty, as did many others of the Northumberland gentry, especially such as, like them, professed the Catholic religion. At length their attachment to the Stuart family was confirmed in an interesting manner by the marriage of the eldest son of Sir Francis Radcliffe to a natural daughter of King

No. 5.

« ForrigeFortsæt »