I recently completed, for a client, a 93 page transcription (legal size pages....handwritten) of an 1810 murder trial. They were the defense attorney’s handwritten notes taken during the trial. It was very interesting and I found by the final page I had acquired my own judgment of the case. I think the defendant was “robbed”. It seems murder couldn’t be proved, but manslaughter could and his punishment was “burning an “M” on his left hand”. Better than the alternative.
The expressions by the witnesses, the defendant, and the attorney arguments, all had a flair and archaic ring to them. Phrases that are no longer in use today, but were used over 200 years ago connected with the jury.
When was the last time you used the word “rascal”?
The “fray” started due to a group of men, including the defendant, being “in consultation” on a log (and some say drinking others say “not a drop”.)
These "boys" must be "in consultation at the bar not on the log, but, you get the idea.
Descriptions were colorful, indeed.
Watching the dead body of A.; in hopes no doubt that some half uttered sound may escape his lifeless lips that praying can distort into the justification of his murderers. Can the deep caverns of hell vomit forth a monster more foul than this? A demon more irascible than him, who professing the religion of Christ, is yet the helpmate of thieves?
Within what bounds was his resentment ever curbed? Did he not hold the whole country in awe. Was he not the most impetuous. the most violent, the dangerous private citizen that ever lived in any country governed by law. Long had the most deadly animosity influenced his bosom against the family.
Strategy of the lawyer for the defendant
Were his motives like theirs? Are the sentiments which animate the bosom of a son when he interposes to save an aged father from danger & from death, to be classed with the feelings which urge the highwayman to his midnight assault upon the unsuspecting traveler?
Transcribing old script is often a challenge. You feel as though you are sailing along reading the text, words are familiar and then WHAM! you come across an ink blot, a torn edge, a difficult handwritten word, or just a word you never thought about using in that context. Of course, you then have Secretary Hand thrown into the difficulty and misspelled words.
With many of the manuscripts I transcribe, I begin to feel I know personally the characters involved. As with this murder case, I felt as though I had become a member of the Jury and frankly I think the defendant was innocent. But then, I wasn’t there.