Baltimore Evening Sun (16 October 1911): 6.


“I ain’t no lawyer,” said the tall man, encountering the ambulance chaser on the Courthouse sidewalk, “but it seems to me that some of them judges and clerks is in bad.” “Well,” said the ambulance chaser, “if you think they are in bad, you needn’t say nothing about it, being no lawyer.” “What do you mean?” “I mean you don’t know no more law than a car conductor.”

The tall man looked unconvinced and belligerent. “Do you stand here and tell me,” he demanded, “that Al Owens ain’t got the goods on then wops?” “Goods?” repeated the ambulance chaser, scornfully. “What goods? I ain’t seen no goods on nobody. If you say that they done it, I listen to you, but if you say it can be put on ’em I make a laugh at you. Believe me, Mr. Coxey, in all my experience at the bar I never seen no easier cases. I wisht I had a few of ’em. All I would do would be to keep the boys from confessin’—and then let nature take its course. No jury wouldn’t never convict on no such evidence. It would be a crime.”

“A crime?” exclaimed the tall man. “How would it be a crime?” “Because you can’t jail a man for his mistakes. All them men done was to make mistakes. The law don’t say what a mistake is. It don’t say how big a mistake has got to be to be too big. All it says is that a mistake don’t count. If I ask you to have a drink, and you call for a short beer, and the barkeeper gives you prussic acid by mistake, they don’t hang the barkeeper. That’s what you call a mistake. The law don’t suppose that every barkeeper ought to be a doctor. And in the same way it don’t suppose every election judge ought to be a mathematician. Most of them ginks is tin-heads. You can’t expect no tin-head to count up to more than 20 without beginnin’ to make mistakes. And the higher up he counts the more mistakes he makes. When he gets high enough he don’t make nothin’ else but misiakes. So there you have it.”

“I foller you,” said the tall man somewhat dizzily, “but the point I don’t ketch is this: How do you account for the fact that all of them mistakes was in the same direction? If they had just made mistakes, sort of loose-like, first this way and then that way, I wouldn’t say a word. But every darn mistake was the game kind of a mistake. What do you make of that?”

“Oh, as for that,” replied the ambulance chaser loftily, “as for that, I fear we get over your head. When you come to that, you come to what you call psychology.” “The devil you do!” said the tall man. “Yes, sir,” continued the ambulance chaser, “you come to psychology—and when you come to psychology, let me tell you, you have come to something red hot. Do you remember the talk about brainstorms in the Thaw case? Well, all of that was psychology. And do you remember the Hains case? Chock-a-block with psychology! If it hadn’t been for psychology, Harry Thaw would have went to the chair. As it is, he sets in a bughouse, with a piano in his room, reading the New York Journal. That’s what psychology can do for a man when he gets on to its curves. But you have to know how to use it. It won’t stand no monkeying.”

“It seems to me,” said the tall man, “that I have heard of it, but where at I don’t remember.” “You’ll hear more of it in future,” replied the ambulance chaser. “It’s just coming in. Us lawyers are just learning how to manage it. I am studying it up. There’ll be a lot of money in it when it gets going.”

The tall man, for a moment, was lost in thought. Then he fixed the ambulance chaser with his fishy eye, and framed a question. “But what I want to know,’ he said, in sharp staccato tones, “is what this psychology business has got to do with them judges and clerks. How does it mix in with them mistakes they made? That’s what I asked you, and that’s what you ain’t answered me.” The ambulance chaser was undismayed. Indeed, the chance to display his learning further gave him genuine pleasure. “The thing,” he began, “couldn’t be no easier. I can explain it to you in a few words. Suppose, for instance, you are handing money to your wife. Suppose you give her $12 a week. Suppose you do it every week for a year running. Well, in the course of that year you are bound to make mistakes. Now and then you count the money wrong. But how?” “What do you mean—how?” “How do you count the money. wrong? In what way? Do you give her too much? Not by a d—— sight! Do you give her less? Of course you do. And that’s what they call psychology. A man’s psychology pushes him always in one direction. When he makes a mistake he makes it that way. It’s his psychology working on him. If he didn’t have no psychology he would scatter. But because he has got a psychology he don’t scatter. Some call it instinct; us lawyers call it psychology. Do you grab me?”

The tall man stood silent and it soaked in. “I feel,” he began after a moment, “that I tumble. I sort of gather your ideer. What you mean is that them ginks wanted to put through Hughes, and so, when they began to make mistakes, their psychology began rooting for Hughes—and pulled ’em with it.” “Exactly,” replied the ambulance chaser. “You ketch the ideer exactly. When a man does things on purpose his psychology don’t cut no ice. But when be begins to wabble, as you may say, then his psychology begins to break into the same. And it always pushes him the way he would push himself if he was doing the pushing. Hence the brainstorm. Hence them mistakes. Hence the money you hold out on your wife. When a man had a brainstorm he don’t go killing somebody he likes. Not at all. The man he kills is the man he don’t like. And vice versa.”

“But what is the difference,” asked the tall man, innocently, “whether you do it or your psychology does it?” “The difference,” replied the ambulance chaser, “is in the verdict. There I go over your head. It’s a technical point of law. Us lawyers understand it.”

The tall man was once more lost in thought. Finally he spoke up. “But suppose them juries begin pulling some psychology, too?” “What do you mean?” asked the ambulance chaser. “Suppose they jail the ginks?” The ambulance chaser swept aside the awful supposition. “The law,” he announced, grandly, “don’t allow no juries to monkey with no psychology.”