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[255] until the offender, who was quite unused to making apologies, had given a full explanation. He always maintained that simple truth was the only shield a man should wear, denounced with the greatest scorn every thing that related to trickery or underhanded dealing, and always denied that any success was worthy of the name which was not the result of the highest principles


To lieutenant Charles H. Davis.

Boston, Jan. 3, 1843.
my dear Davis,—I have had a long conversation with Judge Story about the execution on board the ‘Somers.’ Perhaps his judgment would be of higher authority than that of any civilian in the country; and I know it will gratify you very much, and perhaps your friend. The Judge had not the least doubt that Mackenzie was justified in the alternative he took. He thought the circumstances would form a complete defence for a homicide on shore, in the view of an enlightened civil tribunal; à fortiori, they would at sea, on shipboard, and under the stern laws of war. The question here was presented in the trial of Selfridge; and the court there decided (your father was counsel) that it would be a sufficient defence for taking life, if the party had reasonable ground to fear for his own life. The law does not compel a person to stand still till he actually sees the blow descending which is to take his life. He may anticipate it; and his justification will be found in the circumstances which created a reasonable ground of fear for his life. I may add that Judge Prescott, one of the first authorities on a topic of legal interest, thinks Mackenzie's course entirely justifiable.

I have never thanked you for the Valdepeñas.1 I shared it with Prescott, who seemed very glad to get it.

Believe me ever, dear Davis,

Very sincerely yours,

P. S. If you care to mention Judge Story's opinion to Mackenzie, I can have no objections; but, considering his position, it is more proper to regard it as confidential.

To Dr. Francis Lieber.

Epiphany, Jan. 6, 1848.
dear Lieber,—I write you on my birthday; but I am of the ancient Thracian faith, and rather ask your tears than smiles.

1 A Spanish wine.

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