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some doubt as to the day of the week on which it took place, and on cross-examination said: "These creatures insist upon it, it was Tuesday night, and I think it was Monday;" whereupon he was asked: "Is what you have told us what the spirits told you, or what you recollected without the spirits?" And he said: "No; the spirits assist me in speaking of the date, I thought it was Monday and they told me it was Christmas eve, Tuesday; but I was an eye-witness, an ocular witness to the fall to the ground." The question was reserved for the opinion of the court whether this witness was competent, and after a very elaborate discussion of the subject it was held that he was. Chief Justice Campbell said that he entertained no doubt that the rule laid down by Baron Parke, in an unreported case which had been referred to, was correct, that wherever a delusion of an insane character exists in any person who is called as a witness, it is for the judge to determine whether the person so called has a sufficient sense of religion in his mind and sufficient understanding of the nature of an oath, for the jury to decide what amount of credit they will give to his testimony.
"Various authorities," said the Chief Justice, "have been referred to, which lay down the law that a person non compos mentis is not an admissible witness. But in what sense is the expression non compos mentis employed? If a person be so to such an extent as not to understand the nature of an oath, he is not admissible. But a person subject to a considerable amount of insane delusion may yet be under the sanction of an oath and capable of giving very material evidence upon the subject-matter under consideration." And the Chief Justice added: "The proper test must always be, does the lunatic understand what he is saying, and does he understand the obligation of an oath? The lunatic may be examined himself, that his state of mind may be discovered, and witnesses may be adduced to show in what state of sanity or insanity he actually is; still, if he can stand the test proposed, the jury must determine all the rest." He also observed that in a lunatic asylum the patients are often the only witnesses of outrages upon themselves and others, and there would be impunity for offences committed in such places if the only per
sons who can give information are not to be heard. Baron Alderson, Justice Coleridge, Baron Platt, and Justice Talfourd agreed with the Chief Justice, the latter observing that, "If the proposition that a person suffering under an insane delusion cannot be a witness were maintained to the fullest extent, every man subject to the most innocent, unreal fancy would be excluded. Martin Luther believed that he had a personal conflict with the devil; Dr. Johnson was persuaded that he had heard his mother speak to him after death. In every case the judge must determine according to the circumstances and extent of the delusion. Unless judgment and discrimination be applied to each particular case, there may be the most disastrous consequences." This case is also found in the 2d of Denison and Pearce's Crown Cases, 254, where Lord Campbell is reported to have said that the rule contended for would have excluded the testimony of Socrates, for he had one spirit always proming him. The doctrine of this decision has not been overruled, that we are aware of, and it entirely disposes of the question raised here.
On the trial, a member of the Metropolitan police, who saw the deceased fall on the sidewalk and went to his assistance, was asked, after testifying to the accident, whether, while he was on his beat, other accidents had happened at that place. The court allowed the question against the objection of the city's counsel, for the purpose of showing the condition of the street, and the liability of other persons to fall there. The witness answered that he had seen persons stumble over there. He remembered sending home in a hack a woman who had fallen there, and had seen as many as five persons fall there.
The admission of this testimony is now urged as error, the point of the objection being that it tended to introduce collateral issues, and thus mislead the jury from the matter directly in controversy. Were such the case, the objection would be tenable; but no dispute was made as to these accidents, no question was raised as to the extent of the injuries received, no point was made upon them, no recovery was sought by reason of them, nor any increase of damages. They were proved simply as circumstances which, with other evidence, tended to show the dangerous character of the sidewalk in its un
guarded condition. The frequency of accidents at a particular place would seem to be good evidence of its dangerous character, at least, it is some evidence to that effect. Persons are not wont to seek such places, and do not willingly fall into them. Here the character of the place was one of the subjects of inquiry to which attention was called by the nature of the action and the pleadings, and the defendant should have been prepared to show its real character in the face of any proof bearing on that subject.
Besides this, as publicity was necessarily given to the accidents, they also tended to show that the dangerous character of the locality was brought to the attention of the city authorities.
In Quinlan v. City of Utica, 11 Hun, 217, which was before the Supreme Court of New York, in an action to recover damages for injuries sustained by the plaintiff through the neglect of the city to repair its sidewalk, he was allowed to show that while it was out of repair other persons had slipped and fallen on the walk where he was injured. It was objected that the testimony presented new issues which the defendant could not be prepared to meet; but the court said: "In one sense every item of testimony material to the main issue introduces a new issue; that is to say, it calls for a reply. In no other sense did the testimony in question make a new issue. Its only importance was that it bore upon the main issue, and all legitimate testimony bearing upon that issue, the defendant was required to be prepared for." This case was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of New York, all the judges concurring, except one, who was absent. 74 N. Y. 603.
In an action against the city of Chicago, to recover damages resulting from the death of a person who in the night stepped off an approach to a bridge while it was swinging around to enable a vessel to pass and was drowned, it being alleged that the accident happened by reason of the neglect of the city to supply sufficient lights to enable persons to avoid such dangers, the Supreme Court of Illinois held that it was competent for the plaintiff to prove that another person had, under the same circumstances, met with a similar accident. City of Chicago v. Powers, 42 Ill. 169. To the objection that the evidence was inadmissible, the court said: "The
action was based upon the negligence of the city in failing to keep the bridge properly lighted. If another person had met with a similar fate at the same place and from a like cause, it would tend to show a knowledge on the part of the city that there was inattention on the part of their agents having charge of the bridge, and that they had failed to provide proper means for the protection of persons crossing on the bridge. As it tended to prove this fact it was admissible; and if the appellants had desired to guard against its improper application by the jury, they should have asked an instruction limiting it to its legitimate purpose."
Other cases to the same general purport might be cited. See Augusta v. Hafers, 61 Ga. 48; House v. Metcalf, 27 Conn. 631; Calkins v. City of Hartford, 33 id. 57; Darling v. Westé moreland, 52 N. H. 401; Hill v. Portland & Rochester Railroad Co., 55 Me. 438; Kent v. Town of Lincoln, 32 Vt. 591; City of Delphi v. Lowery, 74 Ind. 520. The above, however, are sufficient to sustain the action of the court below in admitting the testimony to which objection was taken.
MCLAUGHLIN v. UNITED STATES.
1. Where a bill was filed in the Circuit Court by the District Attorney in the name of the United States, to vacate a patent for lands, but no objection touching his authority to bring the suit was made, and a duly certified copy of a letter whereby he was directed by the Attorney-General to institute the requisite proceedings was filed here, — Held, that the decree for the complainant will not be reversed on such an objection raised here for the first time.
2. The patent in question, bearing date May 31, 1870, and issued to a railroad company, in professed compliance with the terms and conditions of the grant made by the acts commonly known as the Pacific Railroad Acts, covers lands which, the bill alleges, contain valuable quicksilver and cinnabar deposits, and were known to be "mineral lands" when the grant was made and the patent issued. This court, being satisfied that the material allegations of the bill are true, that as early as 1863 and since cinnabar was mined upon the lands, and that at the time of the application for a patent their character was known to the defendant, the agent of the company, who now claims them under it, affirms the decree cancelling the patent and declaring his title to be null and void.
3. Quære, What extent of mineral, other than coal and iron, found in lands will exclude them from the said grant; and can the United States maintain a suit to set aside a patent, if, before it was issued, the lands therein men-tioned were not known to be mineral, and, if so, what are the rights of innocent purchasers from the patentee.
APPEAL from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of California.
The case is stated in the opinion of the court.
Mr. Henry Beard for the appellant.
Mr. Assistant Attorney-General Maury for the United States.
MR. JUSTICE MILLER delivered the opinion of the court. John M. Coghlan, District Attorney of the United States for the District of California, on behalf of the United States, brought in the court below the bill in this case against Charles McLaughlin and The Western Pacific Railroad Company, to set aside a patent of the United States, bearing date May 31, 1870, and conveying to the company the northeast quarter of section 29, township one north, range one east, of Mount Diabolo meridian.
This patent was made under the acts of Congress granting to the Union Pacific, Central Pacific, and Western Pacific Railroad Companies the alternate sections of public land within certain limits on each side of their respective roads, and authorizing the issue of patents for the same when the work should be done and the sections ascertained. There were except 1 out of this grant, among others, such sections or parts of sections as were mineral lands.
The bill alleges that the quarter-section in question is, and at the time of the grant was, mineral land, and as it was known to be such, the patent therefor was issued by inadvertence and mistake without authority of law.
The patent itself is not in the record as an exhibit, or as a part of the evidence. The railroad company, though made a defendant, was not served with the subpoena and did not appear. McLaughlin, the only defendant who appeared, defends as purchaser two degrees removed from the company. Instead of a general replication to his answer, the reply is an amendment to the original bill. A decree was rendered for the complainant, and he appealed.