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A Benevolent Judge

Anecdotes Home






The celebrated Anthony Domat, author of a treatise on
the civil laws, was promoted to the office of judge of the provincial court
of Clermont, in the territory of Auvergne, in the south of France. In this
court he presided, with general applause, for twenty-four years. One day a
poor widow brought an action against the Baron de Nairac, her landlord,
for turning her out of her mill, which was the poor creature's sole
dependence. M. Domat heard the cause, and finding by the evidence that she
had ignorantly broken a covenant in the lease which gave her landlord the
power of re-entry, he recommended mercy to the baron for a poor but honest
tenant, who had not wilfully transgressed, or done him any material injury.
Nairac being inexorable, the judge was compelled to pronounce an ejectment,
with the penalty mentioned in the lease and costs of suit; but he could not
pronounce the decree without tears. When an order of seizure, both of
person and effects was added, the poor widow exclaimed, "O merciful and
righteous God, be thou a friend to the widow and her helpless orphans!" and
immediately fainted away. The compassionate judge assisted in raising the
unfortunate woman, and after enquiring into her character, number of
children, and other circumstances, generously presented her with one
hundred louis d'ors, the amount of the damages and costs, which he
prevailed upon the baron to accept as a full compensation, and to let the
widow again enter upon her mill. The poor widow anxiously enquired of M.
Domat when he would require payment, that she might lay up accordingly.
"When my conscience (he replied) shall tell me that I have done an improper
act."





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