Thursday, June 19, 2008

The following may seem silly but it is bases on an actual incident.

In the 1800's Chinese laborers were imported in large numbers to do tedious work on the expanding railroads and and the dangerous and demanding work in the mines.

The "Celestial" as they were referred to were the subject of scorn by the European workers not only for their strange dress and customs but for the fact they they worked harder and demanded less.

Individuals after working ten or twelve straight hours would tend their little plots of vegetables only to have cowboys demolish their crops by riding their horses over the maturing plants.

Those that panned the rivers for gold were subject to be beaten or murdered for the valuable dust.

There was a murder in Colfax, Washington, in those days. The Marshal needed a perp. Rather than doing a laborious investigation he arrested a young Chinese man who it was reported had walked through the area of the crime at one time or another.

Justice in those days was prompt. Some wanted to string him up immediately but the Marshal was a stickler for procedure so the man was dragged to the local bar which was quickly converted to a courtroom. A jury of good Americans was selected from the imbibers and impaneled.

When it was pointed out that the accused neither spoke nor understood English, someone was sent out to get Chan, the laundry man, who spoke passable pidgin English and was respected as a good "Chinaman".

The prosecution presented its case. It was time for the defense. The only witness for the defense was the testimony of the poor guy.

As he went to the stand, the impartial judge mused that since all Orientals lied in their dealings with Europeans he doubted if he could accept the testimony.

The laundry man assured him that Chinese were very superstitious and the custom in China was for the testifying person to cut the head off a live chicken, grab it by the feet and swing it around his head three times. To lie after that ritual was to endanger one's immortal soul.

Chan then began a long conversation in Chinese with his client in which he demanded that his instructions were to be followed without question. Your life depends on.

Wondering why he was doing it, the man took the offered knife and decapitated the chicken and began swinging it around his head. Heart still beating the chicken spewed gore over the clothing and faces of juror and spectator alike.

The laundry man then began translating a long story he was actually making up as he went along
confirming the fact that the accused had been attending a Chinese Benevolent Society meeting at the time of the crime. The other ten members of the board were waiting out in the street to confirm. Could they recess while he found ten more chickens?

No need! The acquittal decision was quick and unanimous.

The chicken was brought in. The young man was given a sharp knife.


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