And the world listened; Daniel Webster: Knapp murder trial
Gentleman sleep quietly in your bed after this murder as before. Is it not a case for reward for me to commit all the united efforts of course to find out of hand of the murderous conspirators Mycroft and to bring them to a bar of justice and law. This is. Extraordinary. How to detect and to punish if. Daniel Webster spoke and the world listen.
And there were listening programs and created them. These programs are produced by radio station the University of Wisconsin under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Corporation the National Association of educational broadcasting consultant for the series is Frederick W. Habermann chairman of the department of speech at the University of Wisconsin. Here is Professor Habermann. This is the story of a murder trial and as such is unique in our series of broadcasts and unique to in some respects of law and courtroom history. If Daniel Webster had not been the prosecuting attorney Webster with his gigantic reputation his brilliant intellect and masterful skill of oratory if Webster had not loomed so magnificently and overwhelmingly in the courtroom this murder trial in Salem Massachusetts might have gone down into oblivion like many another of
those days over a century ago. But Webster was there and that made all the difference. It began on a spring morning in April when a captain of White was found murdered in his bed. He was a prominent citizen 82 years old living alone in a big house on Essex Street. Someone entered that house clubbed him stabbed him and escaped with nothing more it seems than the old sea captain's outdated will and testament. Salem was in an uproar the day after the funeral handbills were in the streets announcing a public meeting at the town hall that night to lay plans for catching the murderer. Two thousand people came in a committee of vigilance was formed. The men of this committee carried on the hunt for the killers without any help from detectives or the operators of the law such as we rely on today rumors and suspicions about the excitement spread to Boston and throughout New England I really don't. I'm not this unlike the days of the witches you had last year a senior such as you
Rod Listen to this. I heard tell the old captain had a sea chest a chest full of gold he kept in his bedroom. That's what they was after but not a thing was still whoever Twas never took a blessed thing will mark my words the killer he'll strike again. Once they taste blood you know they just got to go on and on killing and Robin. Now my men he's got the carpenter to our house this very moment and we are having the doors bolted the new fastening is put to the Windows will my John he says he'll sleep with his cutlass under his pillow nights he says scares me to death. What's a body doing its breaking out. Whatever first the captain murdered now I hear there was a robbery last night at the edge of town so I heard the NAF boys the way I heard it say they was attacked on their way to the farm. You mean the maps live on Essex Street near the murder. That's right two of them attacked the oldest board Joe and the youngster. What's his name have Frank they call him Anybody hurt. But then there was a driver the baggage wagon told the same story he was jumped by again and when I say somebody has got to do something and I was saying to Reverend Coleman just the other day
I said Well Reverend you all the best men they've got on that vigilance committee I said you've just got to do something and you know what he said no one else or he wasn't the word so much as the way he said it and the look on his face Firstly it was one of those I did between the shoulder blades you know they're scratching. He just looked and he said ma'am there's more here than meets the eye and the Goshen be reckoned with. They've got a clue I most certainly do reckon and mark my words will be our hanging in Salem yet or the Reverend Coleman ain't the man I think he is. Coleman was every inch the man she thought he was. The other committeemen were no less determined. And at last the case broke wide open and the jail doors clanged shopped on for men of Salem. Two men with a crown and shield Brothers Dick and George. Sons of a prominent Salem family but both were young men who had sold too many wild oats. It wasn't hard for the town to believe that they were troublemakers in this affair. And too with the now
brothers these naps were tied close to the victim and to the will was distributed his wealth. Joe Knapp the eldest had married the niece of Captain White's and Frank was a stalwart lad of 19 devoted to his brother. Joe knew that the captain had cut the knees from his will. It is said that he thought that the fortune would come to the knees of both the captain and the will were destroyed when all four young men were friends one or all of them planned the murder. Probably one of them alone committed it. So the town gossips figured while waiting for the final. Then one day Dick Crowninshield talked to a lawyer in his cell. What I want to know Mister is how they're going to try this. Well on the evidence one of you will be the principal in the case. Rest of you accessories. So logic you mean me I'm I'm the one they say did it I know I saw it on the principal. What if
convicted then what. Well and they might try to convict one of the others whose principal in the second degree probably Frank Knapp. I do believe they could do it not if they don't get me. My brother in the Napa boys they got a chance. All right that's all I want to know mister. That's all I want to know. Thank you very much. They found Dick Crowninshield at 2 o'clock that afternoon hanging from the grating of his cell window. His death to save his brother in the map boys people said was absolute proof that he was the killer. When the trial opened the judges and the jury heard an indictment charging that Captain Whyte was murdered by Richard Crowninshield who took his own life to escape trial. And therefore Frank Knapp was charged as principal being present and aiding and abetting. While his brother Joe and George Crowninshield were accessories before the act but not present. Frank Knapp pleaded not guilty and his trial began.
And now all Salem was in the street for the courthouse hundreds jammed in the trial chamber itself even crowding the jury box and reporters from miles around sweated out the hot July day as a parade of witnesses took the stand. They wanted not only a glimpse of a man on trial for murder but also on here for all of the great Daniel Webster himself. Pacing the floor in front of the witness. Daniel Webster was the prosecutor though technically only an aide to the attorney general and he attempts to hang the noose around Frank Knapp's neck. Townspeople young and old are eager to help him. One is a young teenager. He's been late in the farmhand until naps fall and he's a key witness to prove that there was a conspiracy a plan to murder. It's Daniel Webster who gently leads him through his testimony. Webster fresh from a son of the United States from his triumphant speech of March the 7th which fired the Senate with his words liberty and union
now and forever wound and inseparable these last phrases are still echoing in Salem is the great Daniel Webster helps the farm boy tell his story about his murder. Webster goes over the wall and sat by the side of the gate to take a little peek Isn't that silly. And while you were sitting there you heard men talking on the other side of the book. Isn't that right. And you looked around through the slats of the gate and saw the two men brothers and what will they say by the way. Well Joan map he said when you see Dick and Frank Knapp said I saw him this morning Joe said when is he going to kill the man. Frank said I don't know. Joe said if you don't kill him soon I will pay him and then turned back and I didn't hear it anymore. Did you tell this to the men from the committee.
When they brought you to ask you about it you know Mr. Webster I didn't remember that then but I'll come back to my mind about two days later. Thank you Ben. Next witness. And now Reverend Coleman has his day. He the friend of the family the excitable investigator has a confession from Joe now brother of the accuser. The committee has seen it. They've given it to the newspapers. Everybody knows about it. But this confession of Joe's can't be used as evidence against Frank. Since the law for bids one man. To confess away the life or liberty of another unless he does so in open court. And Joel Knapp has refused to testify in court against his brother. Even though the attorney general has offered him a deal. He can escape prosecution himself if he will testify. But Joe Stansbury he wants me.
Can the reverend gentleman swing the case on his own word. I went to Frank's sale and told him. Well Frank your brother Joseph has determined to make a confession and wants your consent. I don't know precisely what the prisoner's answer was I don't know if the precise words but the fact was he thought it not fair that Jews should have the advantage of making a confession since the murder was done for his benefit. And then Frank said these are his words he said. I told Joel when he planned it that it was a silly business and would only get us into difficulty. Then I tried to reconcile him to Joe's confession and it seemed to me best that Frank be the one to stand trial since he might have a chance of pardon he being young and likely to have been led astray by his elder brother whereas Joe would scarcely have a chance of pardon if he were tried and condemned what was leading up to a confession by Frank Knapp.
It would not be voluntary. It would be a confession and reduce carbon objects. You may continue Mr. Webster. Encouraged Frank to confess nothing more than has been stated Mr. Webster did not tell you why under certain objects. What Frank said every been given hope apart is not evidence. I'd be glad to put it this way. Soon after the visit of Frank's cell I found the club under the North steps of the church in Howard Street. The Reverend Coleman produced a heavy clop about two feet long and with what looked like a heavy lump of lead fitted into the large jam. This is one of the murder weapons the club was under this section. This question intends to incriminate the
prisoner by confessing his love of the club was her. This is using your FAQ to bring in a confessional train going to do for the fun. This is an argument for lawyers not laymen. But it is clear that Webster was bringing out Coleman story in such a way that Frank Knapp will seem to have come fast or agreed to his brothers confessing with the hope of obtaining part is this legal. Now Mr. Webster continue this conversation in the press release was anything said by Frank Knapp to the time of the murder. I may ask the prisoner about that and his answer was between 10 and 11 o'clock. He told me. Crowninshield alone was in the house. I asked him if he was at home that night. He said he went home afterwards. After what the courts must
draw that inference. Coleman has done his best and it's his word alone. Will the jury believe him. The trial goes on through the hot July day. Witnesses report they heard the suspects plotting the murder that they saw suspicious men in the streets near the victim's house that at last the case goes to the jury. But after 25 hours behind closed doors the jury gives up. It can't reach a verdict in the court dismisses the next day a new trial begins with the same witnesses for the most part. But now there's a fever in the streets of Salem. Everybody knows what everybody said in the first trial and this time there's to be no certainty. If a man hasn't made up his mind for sure that he saw Frank Knapp on the street that night he's just helping a killer go free.
I saw a post directly opposite my shop I had a fairly good view of him from this area Brown Street. He had on a frock coat. This man what is the prison there that yes or from what I saw that and others that saw him I have no doubt he is the man. This is Stephen Merrick storekeeper at the first trial Mr. Merrick had several doubts about whom he saw. The next witness Mr. John so this is a young cashier at the bank at the grand jury hearing he told of seeing a man in Brown Street that night but said nothing about his being frank now. At the first trial he said he thought it was Frank now and that he had acted suspicious. This dude is so quick. You saw a man walk steps and thought it was a prank. I passed him three times on the steps. It is face the
judge is Frank Knapp from his general appearance. Well I want to mention it to my wife who I'd seen a person on the rope line that it was Frank Knapp. Mr. Brace saw him too. We talked about it later. Mr. Bray tells us with no doubts about how a second man joined the first and then bones disappear he adds that they look so suspicious he wondered if they were grave robbers going to steal bodies from the cemetery to sell to the medical staff. Mr. Bray is a member of the Vigilance Committee. Told Zachariah ward for the start. This young man could give Frank Knapp an alibi at the first trial he said that he and other friends were with Frank at an oyster shop the night of the murder. You stated that the first drug you spent
six with the prisoner Are you positive it was like well it was in April. It's my impression that it was the night of the murder. Can you swear you saw Frank the night of the murder. No sir I cannot swear it. Why golf is the same story we heard in the first trial but there's been a tightening up all down the line. Now Daniel Webster sums up the crowd presses closer to the dark railing cranks the room is jammed to the wall. Everyone is determined to be within earshot of Daniel Webster's final plea. To the jury this is a most extraordinary case and a judgment without an enemy in the world. In his own house and in his own he's made the victim of a butcher a murderer the deed was
executed with self-possession and steadiness equal to the wickedness with which it was like had fallen on the victim. The assassin enters through a window already prepared. He winds up the stairs and reaches the door of the changing the face of the innocent sleeper from the murderer and then the moon resting on the gray locks of his aged temple. The killer where to strike the fatal blow is given and the victim passes without a struggle from the repose of sleep to the repose of death. It is the assassin's purpose to make a stronger work and replies let the doctor know it was probably a risk life had been destroyed by the blow of the plot. He feels the pulse and that's a fate it's a big no longer but
he's done retracing the steps to the window passes out through as he came into it and this case no iron has seen him even know here has heard the secret. He's old and he's safe. The gentleman that was a great night for me to take such a secret can be safely nowhere creation of God has neither know of no corner where the guilty can be so it can say it is. The Secret which the murderer possesses comes to possess him. It has become easy to master. If you break it down to discourage it conquers the one with suspicions from without begin to embarrass him and the next circumstanced one would handle him. For a true secret struggles of the worst book it must be
confessed. You will be confessed there is no refuge from confession but suicide and suicide is a feisty defense counsel say that they might safely submitted to Richard Crowninshield was the perpetrator of this murder. But how could they safely admit that he does not tell the both of them that brothers were conspirators in mass murder. What then was this conspiracy. Joseph not desirous of destroying the will and of taking the life of the PCs hired to roughing it who with the aid of other Ruffins was to enter the house and murder victim in his own bag. We have heard Benjamin lightning testify to the part he heard Joe and Frank not talk behind the wall of the farm. You made up this conversation. When did you see Dick and this morning. When is he going to kill the old man.
I don't know tell me. If we don't do it soon I won't pay here. This is extraordinary. Still this does not prove it is not true no. It is extraordinary that you would throw out a man should be called upon a man in the country to decide this case. No one could have foretold this three weeks ago and had Benjamin late wit enough to invent this conversation. There is nothing so extraordinary in the matter as it would have been for this country boy to invent this story. I shall now proceed on the supposition that it is broke. There was a conspiracy to murder Captain Whatley and that the prisoner was party to it. The second inquiry is why is the prisoner present at the murder aiding and abetting it
about 10:30. Personally seen sitting on the rope walk steps wrapped in a cloak. He drops his head went past to avoid being known. Shortly after two persons are seen to meet in the street and you know her in a manner to converse for a short time then to separate and run off. Now it's very much a gentleman is slain with a need for a hundred feet of this creek. Mr. Merrick a cautious witness says he thinks the prisoner at the bar is a person. This witness is as honest as yourselves. It is said he is no more confident than at the first trial. And he says he believes it was the man. This is my opinion and this is proper for him to give Mr. Strauss which swears all of a man who can swear
he took the person's will be frank Nappi told his wife so and she swears he did so tell her at the time. Are these witnesses drool. Are they were they going to leave. I know procedure and couldn't do the testimony of Reverend Coleman who is Mr. Coleman is an intelligent accurate and cautious witness a gentleman of higher and well known character as a clergyman highly respectable. He has given you a plain narrative. He is not contradicted by anything in the case is not Mr. Coleman's testimony credible natural and proper. Form I remember one of these must be admitted to turning state's witness Mr. Coleman went to the prison and
went to Joseph for the first time to learn the facts of the tragedy. Then he went to Frank Salem and desiring to check these facts with Frank put his questions to him and got the answers which Drew they are because truth always think this that the murder took place between 10 and 11 that she was alone in the house that he Frank went home afterwards that the club was deposited upon the steps of the meeting house and that the dagger was melted down in the factory. Gentlemen I look around the evidence of Mr. Goldman is highly important. Not as bringing into the case new facts but as confirming other evidence he went from the purest and best of motives to visit Joseph and that it is incredible that he can be false and that he is seeking the prisoner's life through false swearing if he is Drew it is incredible that the prisoner can be
innocent. Your whole concern should be doing your duty and leave consequences to take care of themselves. Your duty to the public as well as to the prisoner at the bar Your duty is plain straightforward with consciences satisfied with the discharge of duty. No consequences can harm you if the prisoner's guilt has been shown and proved beyond all reasonable doubt you will convict you. If such a reasonable doubt of guilt still remain you will acquit your other judges of the whole case. It is omnipresent like a deity. If we take to ourselves the whims of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea performed in order to violate it is still with us for
our happiness or misery. All Rob Legations are with us in this life will be with us head explodes and we shall still find ourselves surrounded by the consciousness of beauty wherever it has been violated and to console us. So far as God may have given us the grace to perform. Before sundown after this speech the jury came in with a verdict of guilty Frank Knapp's last words before sentencing. I have only to say that I am innocent of the charge alleged against me. His brother Joe was tried as accessory to the crime before the same judges and with the same attorneys to the case. Both brothers were hanged by the neck until they were dead. Thanks to the skill of Daniel Webster legal critics have often sifted the evidence in this case and the way the law was handled. No one has
ever doubted the complicity of the crown and shields on the naps in a plot to kill old Captain White. Yet one eminent jurist 60 years after the trial said that the conviction was a case of judicial murder. He was referring to the idea of trying Frank as a principle to the admission of the confession to the evidence of his being on Brown Street at the time the murder was committed. He didn't mention another odd circumstance that Webster received the fee of a thousand dollars from a relative of Captain White while acting as a prosecutor for the state. Webster threw his massive powers into this case delivering a speech of startling effect. Did he go beyond the evidence. Did he take advantage of loopholes in the law of that time. It is difficult to decide.
- And the world listened
- Producing Organization
- University of Wisconsin
- WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- On Daniel Webster and the trial of Frank Knapp for the murder of Captain White of Salem.
- This series presents dramatizations of famous speeches.
- Media type
Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Speaker: Haberman, Frederick W. (Frederick William), 1908-1995
Writer: Stanley, J. Helen
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-5-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “And the world listened; Daniel Webster: Knapp murder trial,” 1959-02-22, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 26, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-nv99b37k.
- MLA: “And the world listened; Daniel Webster: Knapp murder trial.” 1959-02-22. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 26, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-nv99b37k>.
- APA: And the world listened; Daniel Webster: Knapp murder trial. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-nv99b37k