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driving exactly in the direction of the body. I called to the postillion, but either he heard me not or the horses ran away; for the carriage proceeded with redoubled speed, and, soon after, I heard the crush of the wheels passing over the head of the unfortunate being in the road. hastened towards him to give every assistance in my power, but, alas, he had ceased to exist.
It was now between two and three o'clock, I removed the corpse to the road-side, and proceeded with all haste towards Colmar. I informed the officer on guard at the gate of the city, of the event which I had just witnessed; and we were preparing to return to the spot, where the disaster had taken place, when a person, covered with rags and tatters, entered the guard-house, and surrendered himself a prisoner, declaring, at the same time, that he had just as sassinated a man. I looked at this unhappy being; he was in the prime of life, about the middle size, but much emaciated. The extreme paleness of his face was still more conspicuous, from the jet black hair which nearly covered his forehead. His look was stedfast, and his countenance bore the character of profound melancholy, and fixed resignation. There was something in his whole appearance so unusual and so unlike guilt, that he inspired me with compassion, rather than with horror. I was present when he was brought before the authorities to be examined: he said his name was Joseph Ignatius Platz, a native of Switzerland; that he was on his return from Russia, where he had lived for several years in a situation little removed from slavery. Forsaken by the whole world, and reduced to the necessity of begging his bread, he had become weary of the wretched existence to which he was doomed, and had formed the resolution of committing some crime which should induce the laws of his country to relieve him from the burthen of life, which he was no longer able to sup
port. He said, that he had, on the preceding evening, on the road to Strasburg, near Colmar, between the hours of eleven and twelve, met a man uttering dreadful imprecations, that he had seized the stranger's stick and beat him over the head until he fell down dead, and that he was now come to deliver himself up to justice, to punish his atrocity aud rid him of a weary existence.
The spot this unhappy man described as the scene of his guilt, was precisely that on which I had found the lifeless body of the man who had been crushed by the Strasburg mail. I was also present at an inspection of the corpse of the murdered man, who was a Jew, named Heyman, well known in Colmar, where he had spent the day on the second of August; the murder was committed on the third. The surgeon who examined the body observed, that, according to my report, the head had been crushed by the wheel of a carriage, but whether his death was occasioned by that circumstance, or whether Heyman had ceased to live previous to that accident, it was almost impossible to decide. He was, however, of opinion, that, had he been dead any length of time, at the period of the wheel passing over his head, the effusion of blood would have been less abundant ; that some would have flowed through the apertures of the fractured bones; but that the large wound in the face would probably have been less liable to such copious bleeding.
This declaration enlightened immediately my mind; I hastened to the prison in which the wretched Platz was confined, and, by dint of persuasions and entreaties, I prevailed on the unfortunate man to acknowledge that he had not committed the murder of which he had accused himself. "You have extorted my secret from me," said he, looking stedfastly at me, "do not divulge it; do not take from me the hope of being soon in presence of my Judge, my Creator, iny God;" and he took
up a small prayer-book that he had laid down on a seat, on my entering, knelt down before an image of Christ, which he had fixed to the wall, and shedding a flood of tears, and striking his head against the walls of his cell, he began to read aloud the psalms of the dead.
I hastened to inform the magistrates of the confession which the unfortunate Platz had made; one of my friends was entrusted with his defence, and we succeeded, by our entreaties, in making him promise to tell the whole truth before the Court. "Then I am again to be condemned to live," said he bitterly; "why will you restore me to an existence that I abhor?" We tried to reconcile him to life. "You have not only exchanged the inhospitable climate of Russia," said his generous defender, "for the soft sky of France, but you have passed from the station of a slave, to that of a man. Will not this give you a claim to the assistauce and sympathy of your fellowmen? Many will succour you without your knowing the hand that supports you; many a generous heart will seek to bind you to existence by the tie of gratitude; and you will then bless the day that gave you for judges humane and noble-minded meu." Platz shook his head doubtingly, and we left him to prepare his defence.
The trial was fixed for the seventh of December. As a witness, I was obliged to be present; the Court was crowded, and, in the countenances of those present, there was more of pity than of that feeling of horror which crime generally inspires. Platz was brought to the bar of the accused; he bowed his head before the image of Christ placed over the President's chair; and, after making several times the sign of the cross, he sat down, and it was evident from the motion of his lips that he was praying.
"Platz," said the President, addressing the accused, "you stand charged with having committed a inurder."
Platz, (inclining his head,) replied, "God's will be done!"
The President continued-" You have several times declared that you were guilty of the crime."
Platz rejoined-"I have said so, it is true, but I am not guilty; my declaration was contrary to truth; I am indeed a sinner, a wicked man, but I have not committed this murder."
"Then," asked the President, "why did you accuse yourself?"
Never, perhaps, was man placed in so singular, nay, unprecedented, a situation, as that in which the counsel for the unfortunate Platz now found himself. "Can it," said he, addressing himself to the Jury with enthusiastic warmth, "can it, gentlemen, be for a moment asserted, that the accusation preferred against this unhappy man, is supported by any forcible testimony? Is there a strong mass of presumptive evi. dence, to bewilder your judgment and excite suspicions in your mind which it becomes me to remove? Who are the accusers at this awful tribunal? One, and one only, and that is the wretched Platz himself. His evidence alone supports the im peachment; be alone endeavours to baffle every effort of his defenders, and to devote himself to an ignomi nious, though welcome death. What witnesses appear against him?— None-the only testimony of his guilt is his own acknowledgment, and that is made under the influence of a morbid and melancholy state of mind. Numerous circumstances are in positive contradiction to this avow al, and contribute to render it in the highest degree improbable. When I reflect, (continued the counsel, in a tone of voice calculated to excite the most sympathetic emotion,) on a condemnation passed upon such proof or rather want of proof, I am naturally inclined to revert to those days, when a Judge pronounced sentence of death on the wretched criminal whose confession of guilt had been extort ed by the application of torture: yet even these unfortunate beings had
an advantage over my unhappy client; they could, by summoning all their energies to their aid, for a short period, resist the agonies of the wheel. But where is the mind endowed with sufficient fortitude to endure torture for a series of years? when each successive day brings with it a renewal of hopeless grief, with no diminution of suffering, no consolatory reflection to mitigate the pang. We are all aware, how the strongest mind must sink under such baneful influence; how enviable the repose of the tomb must then appear, and with what eagerness it would be sought. And are not the means pursued by this unhappy man the most likely to effect his purpose? I shudder when I call to your attention, that, if prisoners are condemned on their own confession alone, the hand of Justice must frequently become the instrument of suicide."
This discourse of my learned friend excited strong emotion in his auditors, many of whom were bathed in tears. Platz alone remained unshaken, and seemed to regret that he should still be compelled to endure life. When the President, however, re-commenced the examination, he threw himself on his knees, and began to pray. "What a lesson," said the eloquent magistrate, "would the present scene afford to those whose illiberal and selfish minds would deprive the lower classes of society of the benefits arising from the diffusion of knowledge: what a striking example of the evils of their doctrine! Ignorance perverts the most valuable precepts of morality, as well as the most sacred laws of religion, which forbid us to quit the post in which the Almighty has placed us, until it shall please him to relieve us; and, if any wretched being presumes to relinquish his life and his fate, how ever miserable, and rush unbidden into the presence of his Creator, he becomes liable to the just anger of his offended God. The unhappy pri
soner is not ignorant of this sacred law; his memory acknowledges it, but his reason is no guide in the fulfilment of it; deprived of the light of education, he is led astray by the errors of superstition. Thus, he acts in direct opposition to the very law that he considers most sacred; although armed with the most ferocious resolution against his own life, he dares not sacrifice it himself, lest he should provoke the anger of his heavenly Judge; he has, however, recourse to the dreadful expedient of compelling his fellow-creatures to inflict death upon him. To effect this, he has rendered himself guilty, either of an actual crime, or a wilful falsehood, and, should he appear in the presence of the Almighty, stained with the blood of his fellow-man, the judicial sentence will still leave some space between the commission of the deed and the hour of atonement; wherein he may endeavour by prayers and repentance to obtain the divine mercy. If, on the other hand, he has proclaimed himself guilty of an imaginary crime, he deceives himself even still more palpably. He thinks he has escaped perdition, because, by not being his own executioner, he has cast the guilt upon the judge, who, by means of his artifice, will have passed an unjust sentence upon him, which to you, gentlemen, as well as myself, would be a source of endless regret. With you, however, it rests, he continued, addressing the jury, to decide to which of these expedients the pri soner has had recourse."
After a short deliberation, the unfortunate prisoner Platz was acquit ted unanimously by the jury, and a subscription was immediately made for him among the members of the Bar. I watched him closely when the acquittal was pronounced; he clasped his hands, and raised his eyes to heaven; then he leaned his head upon the crucifix, and his gesture was that of perfect resignation.
tain, beside a range of white birch trees elegantly cut, I reached a wall of rock, which appeared to be an insurmountable barrier to further advancement, for it bore the inscription nec plus ultra, dated 1794. It was not till the year 1805, that there was discovered beneath this huge block of granite, the entrance to a cavern which served the Knights of Luxburg to mark their place of concealment.
Above the ruins of this proud tower, now rises a modest hermitage, roofed with thatch and surmounted by an expiatory cross. On this spot, which was once the scene of crime and boisterous mirth, nothing is now heard but those expressions of admiration and pleasure excited by the interesting scenes which crowd upon the eye of the spectator. The remains of the ancient walls of the castle are overspread with vegetation. The wild strawberry presents its scarlet fruit to the thirsty traveller, while a variety of sweet-smelling herbs and plants diffuse their fragrance over those banks of turf, which perhaps were once bedewed with the tears of misfortune.
On the left a path, edged with shrubs, leads, by the ascent of a few steps, to a garden which is so closely surrounded on every side with masses of granite, that neither its entrance nor its outlet is perceptible: the elder tree with its brilliant berries, which forms so picturesque an object in other parts of the mountains, flourishes here in remarkable luxuriance; while the lofty pine mingles its foliage with that of the service-tree and the birch. From between the fissures of the natural walls surrounding the garden, the light filaments of a few creeping plants here and there shoot out and cling to the granite. Banks planted with birch trees and bordered with exotics with which the mosses of these mountains seem fondly to commingle, afford an agreea