Text: George Lippard, “Literary and Political Police,” Quaker City (Philadelphia, PA), vol. 1, no. 1, December 30, 1848


Literary and Political Police.


THE POLICE OFFICE OF THE “QUAKER CITY,” was lately the scene of a series of very interesting case which we give below, in the words of our especial Reporter.

January 1, 1849 — Cases before Justice Poe, assisted by Captain of the Watch, Park Benjamin, Esq.

THE PRISONER at the bar, one J. T. Headley, was accused by George Lippard of a most serious offence especially serious, when we consider that the defendant sometimes wears a white cravat and passes for clergyman. The case was heard by Justice Poe, assisted by the Captain of the Watch, Park Benjamin, who brought the prisoner to the bar, and exhibited considerable signs of excitement, which can only be explained when we are informed, that he had jut placed one Lester in the lock-up, after a severe skirmish.

Justice Poe administered the oath, and the following testimony appeared in the case. Mr. Lippard (who made his statement with much excitement) had a horse which he had called “Warren,” and this Mr: Headley enticed away, and attempted to cover the theft by painting and scarifying him all over, so that the original owner could never know him again. It was a clear case against Headley, who, while the witness was giving his testimony, made an attempt to escape from the Police Office, exclaiming bitterly that it was not a horse that he had stolen but only a Spanish Mare.

He was sent below in charge of the Captain of the Watch, but the Prosecutor was forced to put up with the loss of his horse, for the poor animal had died of the injuries inflicted by said Headley.

The next case, was that of one N. P. WILLIS, whom a buxom dame, Mrs. English Language, accused of an assault and battery upon her person, with an attempt to deprive her of her honor. This was a most aggravated case. It appeared on examination that this Willis had persisted in his assaults, and been restrained in his unholy designs by no considerations of time or place. Justice Poe was justly severe with the prisoner. Willis, however, made an ingenious defence, calling one Sakrid Pomes — kind of oriental lady, with a prim puritanical face — to testify in his behalf. He was, however, remanded for further examination.

One MISTER GRISWOLD next appeared, in charge of Newspaper Press, Esq. — a gentleman of a singularly manifold appearance — who stated that said Griswold was of unsound mind, and unfit to be at large. He had manifested his lunacy by writing his name on the doors of our most respectable citizens, under the monomania that their dwellings belonged to him, the said Griswold. William Cullen Bryant, a witness of much respectability, being called upon the stand, testified that Griswold had annoyed him repeatedly in the manner aforementioned, not only writing his name on the. door, but frequently walking into the house itself, and hanging his hat in the entry. The evidence of Mr. Bryant was confirmed by a large number of respectable witnesses, such as Messrs. Longfellow, Dana, Pierpont, with several ladies, who seemed very indignant at the offender. Justice Poe said that in consideration of the prisoner's monomania, he would order him to be sent to the Hospital, where a series of shower-baths might possibly cool his brain, and cure him of this trick of writing his name on other people's doors.

RUSSELL LOWELL, a young man of ferocious aspect, accused of breaking the windows of several of our first people — among whom was Justice Poe himself — was held to bail for his future good behaviour. Bail was entered by one Putnam, who declared the whole affair was but a Fable.

A FOREIGN GENTLEMAN, travelling in the United States, on a tour of pleasure, preferred a charge against one Henry B. Hirst, of the most singular character. It appears this gentleman, whose name is Tennyson, had been on several occasions, personated by Mr. Hirst, who had assumed his name and apparel, and introduced himself in various circles as Mr. Alfred Tennyson, qualifying it with the word “American” prefixed to the name. While the case was being heard, a pale sickly gentleman appeared in the office, and stated that this same Hirst, had lured away his favorite child from his home, and dressed him in a fantastic and ridiculous style, [[.]] The gentleman was named Keats, and his boy, lured away by Hirst, was called Endymion, [[.]] Justice Poe, in the course of a severe rebuke which he administered to the prisoner, stated that in the course of fifteen years he had never witnessed a more agravated [[aggravated]] case. He ordered Hirst to stand committed until he had restored Endymion to his Father, and replaced the swearing apparel of Mr. Tennyson.

BUCHANAN READ, a pale, long-haired youth, appeared in court, with a Harp under his arm. He was accused by a number of other Minstrels of taking their bread out of their mouths; it appeared that he sang so sweetly that crowds followed him wherever he went, thus leaving his brother minstrels without a listener or a dinner. Justice Poe sternly asked the prisoner what he meant by such conduct, whereupon Read modestly replied that he sang because he was glad — that he couldn’t help it. And then he struck up a tune with his voice and Harp that even made the Captain of the Watch shed unwilling tears, while the justice himself had a great time of it, to control his emotion. The minstrels were so much affected that they withdrew their charge, and said that he might sing on, as it appeared that he could n’t help it. Read accordingly departed, still singing.

A MR. FORREST next appeared in the prisoner's box, under a series of charges. It appears that. this Forrest, who is something of a sporting character, and possessed of considerable wealth, had induced some twenty or thirty poor devils, to run on all fours, around his Race Course, under the promise of a dinner to the best runner by way of sweepstakes. The thirty complainants testified that they had run the race agreed upon, but that the dinner had not been given to any one of them. That said Forrest had played the fool with them, and after sharpening their appetites by such unusual exercise, had not even given them enough to treat all hands a mug of beer. Forrest, in his defence, summoned Mr. Miles, who testified that he had won the dinner, and eaten it, whereupon Justice Poe was about to discharge the prisoner, when it appeared on cross-examination that said Miles had only been presented with the third part of a dinner. Forrest was held to bail, on charge of obtaining Fun on False Pretences. There was another charge against him of having dared one Bill Macready out to fight, but eve could not hear the particulars of this case, on account of the noise made by the thirty complainants aforesaid.

MRS. FREE SOIL a very pretty lade, (formerly cher amie of John P. Hale, but now under the protection of one Martin Van Buren,) appeared in court, and stated that her bound servant had run away from her residence, and was skulking somewhere in bad company. On being further questioned), it appeared that her servant was named Horace Greeley, a very slovenly fellow, who had left a good mistress, and entered into articles, with a fighting character, somewhere up town, called Old Zack. While her statement was being put into writing, Old Zack himself appeared in court, having said Horace by the collar, and stating with such heat, that the fellow was only a trouble to him, and that he had attempted to cut up his Boxing Gloves, and turn them into mittens for his, the said Greeley's, fingers. Whereupon Justice Poe ordered Horace to return to his good Mistress again, who had treated him so kindly, upon which Horace said meekly that he was willing, and was very sorrow that some people could not understand him. Mrs. Free Soil was leaving the office with Horace in her train, when a noise was heard; and John (the son of old Martin her protector) was seen cuffing Greeley all over the floor, and swearing that his old Dad should not have such a fellow about the house, or he’d be ———. Greeley was rescued after much difficulty, when Justice Poe ordered him to be sent below the ground that be had been the cause of all this disturbance. Bail however was entered for his good behaviour by a respectable citizen named Burr — C. Chauncey Burr we believe — who took Greeley into his Omnibus, “The Nineteenth Century” — after which we came away.





[S:0 - QC, 1848] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Bookshelf - Literary and Political Police (George Lippard, 1848)