A Dead Man With Life In Him
It was difficult for O'Connell, even at an advanced period of his
professional career, to exhibit those powers as an advocate, which were
afterwards so finely developed; for the silk gown that encased inferior
merit gave a precedence to Protestant lawyers of even younger standing,
and he rarely had an opportunity of addressing a jury. This probably
induced him to cultivate with more ardor a talent for cross-examination,
which was unquestionably unrivalled, and which was displayed by him at a
very early period.
It exhibited itself very strongly in a trial on the Munster Circuit, in
which the question was, the validity of a will, by which property to
some amount was devised, and which the plaintiffs alleged was forged.
The subscribing witnesses swore that the deceased signed the will while
life was in him.
The evidence was going strong in favor of the will--at last O'Connell
undertook to cross-examine one of the witnesses. He shrewdly observed
that he was particular in swearing several times that life was in the
testator when the will was signed, and that he saw his hand sign it.
By virtue of your oath was he alive, said Mr. O'Connell.
By virtue of my oath, life was in him; and this the witness repeated
Now, continued O'Connell, with great solemnity, and assuming an air of
inspiration--I call on you, in presence of your Maker, before whom you
must one day be judged for the evidence you give here to-day, I solemnly
ask--and answer me at your peril--was it not a live fly that was in the
dead man's mouth when his hand was placed on the will?
'The witness fell instantaneously on his knees, and acknowledged it was
so, and that the fly was placed in the mouth of deceased to enable the
witnesses to swear that life was in him.
The intuitive quickness with which O'Connell conjectured the cause of
the fellow's always swearing that life was in him, obtained for him
the admiration of every one in Court, and very materially assisted in
securing his professional success.