Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/193

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paired, as all lawyers learn by experience, through the emotions acting upon the reason, slowly, it may be, and unconsciously, so as to produce in time sincere but utterly untrue convictions in regard to facts of observation. The wish is so far the father to the thought that men, and especially women and children, reason themselves into an honest conviction that they have seen, or heard, or experienced, something directly opposite to that which they actually saw, or heard, or experienced, and this conviction becomes so organized in the brain that neither by their own efforts nor by the arguments of others can the deception ever be disclosed to them. How true this is of speculative beliefs all know; it is not so well known that it is true also of facts of observation and personal experience, thus vitiating most of human testimony. The wish secretly usurps the throne of the will, and, unknown to the subject, guides with a silent and resistless energy the course of thought in the brain. Every day our courts are forced to attend to the testimony of witnesses who are sure they are telling the truth in regard to what happened, although really they are telling what they wanted to happen. Even in science microscopists who are not yet full experts oftentimes see what they are looking for, and afterward believe they have seen what at the time they did not even profess to see. Herein is the psychology of gossip, which usually consists of a mountain of untruth, of fear, and hope, and jealousy, and anger, and love, and expectation, with a few grains of fact—the offerings of falsehood being oftentimes as honest as the offerings of truth.


Need of a Reconstruction of the Principles of Evidence.—The acceptance of the above facts and reasonings involves the necessity of reconstruction of the principles of evidence, as thus far taught by all our highest authorities in that department. Disagreeing widely on other and far less important departments, all schools, and languages, and ages—writers on law, on logic, on science—agree in accepting what is called the evidence of the senses, although, as we have seen, the senses of themselves can give us no evidence of anything whatsoever; and in this, likewise, there is passive if not active agreement—that the first qualification of a witness is honesty, and that the concurrence of testimony of large numbers is a solid basis for belief. Sir William Hamilton, with no suspicion of the nature or phenomena of trance as here described, quotes with earnest approval the following statement of Esser:

"When the trustworthiness of a witness or witnesses is unimpeachable, the very circumstance that the object is one in itself unusual and marvelous adds greater weight to the testimony; for this very circumstance would itself induce men of veracity and intelligence to accord a more attentive scrutiny to the fact, and secure from them a more accurate report of their observation."

In this single sentence all the errors of the world in regard to human testimony seem to be condensed—the placing of honesty in the