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So Walter Harriman's childhood and early youth were passing. He had yet no thought of future prominence, was not conscious of superior merit or ability. No effort was made with a view to future eminence. No advice was sought, no conversation had, with such reference. It has been said of him that, “in those days, he was entirely without pretension or expectation, but was particularly noted for excessive modesty.” But while distrusting his own abilities, and suffering keenly from consequent embarrassment, he did not shrink from standing up to what was expected of him. He early began to train himself in public speaking and discussion, and, incidentally, in oratory — his forte, as yet undeveloped. His faculties were yielding to the natural bias. When fourteen or fifteen years old, he took a prominent part in a debating club that existed in his school district. He continued this practice of debate, subsequently, in clubs or lyceums, at Warner village, whose members were mostly men of mature years, - ministers, physicians, and others. During the club season of 1835-36, at meetings held once a week, all winter, he was appointed a speaker on every question. It is safe to say that the youth acquitted himself honorably in these encounters of speech and argument; that he was always respectful to his antagonists, especially to his seniors; and that his cause did not suffer in his hands.

From lyceum practice in discussion was early acquired the faculty of arguing a question in quite a creditable man

When fifteen years of age, Walter took part in what he was wont to call the “ famous Cat Trial.” It was at home. One brood of chickens after another had disappeared, and it was evident that they met their fate under the barn. Indications designated the cat - a large yellow one, weighing a dozen pounds - as the guilty party. The cat was arrested, and brought before the father of the family for trial. Walter appeared for the government, and his older brother, Benjamin F., for the cat. Testimony was patiently heard, pro and con, two or three of the younger boys being witnesses. The cat had been seen in close proximity



to the chickens, with the old hen making warlike demonstrations. Bits of chicken, — wings, legs, etc., — also had been seen in the cat's mouth. The testimony closed, and the arguments were made, that for the defense first. It was one of considerable merit, and, in substance, as follows:

“The law presumes every person innocent till proved guilty, and here is no proof whatever of the guilt of my client. Is this cat to be condemned on this slight and uncertain testimony ? What is the testimony ? Has any person seen the cat kill, injure, or chase a single chicken? Not at all. Nobody has even seen the cat among the chick

Some other cause for this slaughter must be found. Suppose the cat had wings and legs in its mouth (which I do not admit), is that proof of guilt? Why might not any honest cat, seeing these remnants scattered about, pick them up and make off with them? This, if true, is only circumstantial evidence, and weak at that. A cat that had the bodies of half-a-dozen chickens at one meal would have no occasion to be picking up tough legs and wings for dessert. The probability is that these witnesses are mistaken, and that they saw nothing of the kind in the cat's mouth.

“ This cat, of all others, is the last one to go prowling about for meat. There was never a day when her wants were not all supplied. She is no Lazarus, hanging around the rich man's table for a mere crumb, but is a well-fed, even a bountifully fed, animal. Besides, this is one of the most moral and conscientious cats that I ever saw, and one upon which no suspicion ever rested before. Neither man nor beast plunges headlong into crime all at once; and I ask the court to dismiss the charge, and set this noble, honest, and faithful cat at liberty."

Walter's argument for the prosecution was substantially as follows :

“It is not denied that the chickens, brood after brood, have disappeared. Something has destroyed them. I wish the counsel for the cat had at least suggested what might have done this; but he has not ventured on that ground. This cat has had the opportunity; has been seen near the chickens, in hidden places; has been discovered with remnants of their bodies in her mouth, and been observed fleeing, in guilt, before the angry demonstrations of the hen. Call the evidence circumstantial, if you will; it is not weak; it is conclusive.

“If a man robs a house, and some of the stolen goods are found on his person, no other proof of his guilt is wanted. This is sufficient. The case before the court is a similar one. The chickens have been killed and eaten by some hungry animal. Parts of their bodies have been found on this cat, and the presumption of her guilt amounts almost to a certainty. It matters not that this cat has been well fed. How many men go astray from all the attractions of home, wealth, and friends, 'lured by the meteor that dazzles but to blind!' The human heart is never at rest, and the cat's is not of a higher or nobler order.

"Perhaps neither man nor beast does plunge headlong into crime ; but how much crime may have been committed in secret, escaping detection, no one can know. This cat may have been guilty of much wrong-doing which has never come to light; and the killing of these poor chickens may be but the culmination of a life of crime. The chickens have been killed, and this destruction will go on till the prisoner at the bar is placed beyond the reach of temptation."

At the close of this argument the judgment of the court was promptly rendered in these words : “D-n 'er, she's guilty ; shoot her!” And the cat was shot, in accordance with the sentence; but innocent blood was shed. Destruction among the chickens continued, and it was finally found that skunks, lurking under the barn, were the guilty parties.

It is not easy to determine how much this little incident weakened the thoughtful boy's faith in evidence, or how much it may have had to do towards making the man an enemy to capital punishment. Not many years later, the hanging of the insane or half-idiotic boy, Abraham Prescott, at Hopkinton, with its unseemly precedent and attendant circumstances, shocked his feelings, and helped to intensify repugnance to the death-penalty. That the wretched boy had killed Mrs. Cochran, of Pembroke, in whose family he lived, was an admitted fact. But the mental condition of the respondent, his strange conduct before and after the deed, and the absence of any adequate motive, seemed to render tenable the position of the defense, that he was not responsible for his acts. That position the charge of Chief Justice Richardson, in the first trial, strongly tended to sustain. But the verdict, "guilty," was rendered at two trials, and the stolid, leaden-eyed boy was sentenced to be “hanged by the neck until dead.” A reprieve, granted by Governor Badger, on recommendation of the four judges who presided at the two trials, postponed the execution of the sentence from the 23d of December, 1835, to the 6th of the succeeding January. This humane action was taken with the intent that, should the Council consent, postponement might be had till the Legislature might have opportunity to consider the matter. But the Council refused to interfere. Popular feeling ran somewhat high, and on the day set, in the sentence, for the execution, a howling mob, disappointed of a ghastly spectacle by the reprieve, indulged in beastly demonstrations of violence about the jail, causing the death of the jailer's daughter, overcome in feeble health by terror. The term of the reprieve having expired, an immense throng of spectators, rushing in from all the region around, even from afar, on a disagreeable January day, had the morbid satisfaction of seeing their victim dangle from the gallows-tree. And so was fulfilled the law that seemed to Walter Harriman, and many others, as an inexpedient, cruel, and revengeful one, tending less to secure the public welfare, in the prevention of crime, than to demoralize the public mind, - one, in fact, but an unseemly relic of a civilization less enlightened than that of the nineteenth century.

Laboring upon the farm, enjoying healthy recreation, making the most of moderate school attendance, training himself in public speaking and debate, teaching (of which more anon), Walter was growing into promising manhood. Before reaching nineteen years, he was “small of his age;" but in mature manhood he was six feet two of stature, wellproportioned, and straight as a hickory pole. In personal appearance he was a marked man among the many. A fine head surmounted the commanding frame. The face of manly comeliness, with well-cut features, and clear eyes of grayish-brown beneath an ample shapely brow, was in expression strong but gentle, mild though firm. Nor did the countenance belie the character; for the latter was strength, softened and refined by geniality. Indeed, in achieving his life-success, sunny geniality was the efficient helpmeet of intense and resolute energy and enthusiastic sincerity in speech and action.

A genial, cheerful humor brightened with its warm glow his thought and speech. He was always ready to give or take a joke, and nobody ever enjoyed one more. His, too, was the genial faculty of the true gentleman to make every one “feel at home” in his presence. He was a keen, but kindly, observer of human nature; there was no cynicism in him. He enjoyed the “plain, unvarnished” talk of the "country folk," with its not infrequent store of wit or wisdom, while his retentive memory kept the material derived therefrom to be used in humorous anecdote, related always with point, and often in native tone and phrase.

In this connection may be mentioned his conversation with the “almanac man.” While attending Hopkinton Academy, he used frequently, when weary with study, to call at the shop of an old gentleman, and listen to his conversation. The gentleman made the almanac his study from the beginning to the end of the year; was thoroughly versed in the signs, the tides, the eclipses, the weather predictions, the equinoctial storms, the moon's changes, et cætera, and seldom talked on any subject but these. At one time, the “Line Storm" being under consideration,

1 From the age of 19 to 24, his weight was 180 pounds; from 25 to 55, in comparatively indifferent health, it averaged 15 pounds less, and, after 55, with improved health, 10 pounds more.

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