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May 21, 1838.
OFFICERS OF STATE, Pursuers.
MIN. HUMPHREYS OR ALEXANDER, Defender.
“ Edinburgh, November 28, 1837.—The Lords allow the productions now tendered to be lodged and seen, reserving all competent objections thereto.
(Signed) “ D. BOYLE, I.P.D."
“ December 19, 1837.- The Lords having heard this Note, allow a fac-simile of the documents therein referred to, to be made, under the direction and control of Mr Mark Napier, Advocate.
(Signed) “D. BOYLE, 1.P.D.” “ March 2, 1838. — The Lords having heard this Note, appoint Answers to the said Minute, to be lodged by the second Box-day of the ensuing vacation.
(Signed) “D. BOYLE, I.P. D.”
“ May 12, 1838. — The Lords prorogate the time for lodging the Answers to Defender's Minute for eight days from this date.
(Signed) “D. BOYLE, 1.P.D."
THE OFFICERS OF STATE, Pursuers.
MINUTE for ALEXANDER HUMPHREYS or
ALEXANDER, calling himself “ Earl of Stirling,” &c. Defender.
This action of reduction has been in Court since January, 1833.
On the 20th December, 1836, the Lord Ordinary pronounced an interlocutor, reducing two services of the defender, by which he proposes to take up the succession to a Scotch Earldom, and certain territories, comprising Canada and part of Nova Scotia.
The Lord Ordinary's interlocutor was accompanied by a long Note, setting forth the grounds of his Lordship's decision, and pointing out very minutely the steps of the defender's pedigree, which were not proved, and the defective nature and suspicious character of certain parts of the evidence.
The defender reclaimed against the Lord Ordinary's interlocutor on the 5th January, 1837.
The case was put to the roll for advising on the 31st May, 1837.
On the previous day, the 30th May, 1837, the defender lodged a note, stating that he had lately recovered certain family papers, which rendered it desirable to apply to other sources of confirmation, which are now opened to him, and craving time to make the requisite inquiries, and to strengthen his case, if possible, by farther evidence.
The defender obtained the delay he sought for, and afterwards a farther prorogation, till the first sederunt day of November, 1837.
At that time the defender obtained leave to put in a “minute, stating more fully the nature of the documents, the circumstances connected with their being discovered by him, and the points of evidence arising out of them.”
On the 27th November, the minute for the defender, and accompanying documents, were lodged ; and on the following day the Court " allowed the productions now tendered to be lodged and seen, reserving all competent objections thereto.”
The Court afterwards authorized a fac-simile of the documents to be made, under the direction and control of Mr Mark Napier.
It is now the duty of the pursuers to bring under the notice of the Court the minute of the defender of 26th November last, as containing an account of the documents lodged; the circumstances connected with their alleged discovery by the defender; and the points of evidence arising out of them.
These documents are said to be derived from two distinct sources, the one in England, the other in Paris.
Nov. 15, 1837.
Interlocutor, Nov. 28, 1837.
Dec. 19, 1837.
I. The first packet is connected with a remarkable history. It appears that Messrs De Porquet and Cooper, booksellers, received by the twopenny post a note, bearing to be written by a Mrs Innes Smyth, and enclosed in a packet which she requested should be instantly forwarded to the Earl of Stirling or any member of his family. This note was dated “ Hackney, April 19," and it mentioned that the writer had recently arrived in town from Staffordshire; but unfortunately, no more information is afforded by the defender, as to who this lady may be, or how she became the means of communicating the mysterious packet.
The packet thus communicated, was handed by the booksellers to a son of the defender, then in London, who did not suffer himself to be led away by any impatient and imprudent curiosity to inspect the mysterious enclosure, but used the precaution to keep it unopened, until he was enabled to break the seal in presence of a notary public, and another famous witness.
When so opened, the outer cover was found to consist of an anonymous note, stating, that the enclosed packet had been stolen from the house of Mr Humphreys, the father of the defendant it is presumed; that the theft was discovered after the death of the thief, by his relations, and that they having perused a published narrative of the defender's case, requested a lady going to London, the mysterious Mrs Innes Smyth of course, to leave the packet at his Lordship's booksellers. The note concludes with the following words :—“ His Lordship will perceive that the seals have never been broken. The family of the deceased, for obvious reasons, must remain unknown. They make this reparation, but cannot be expected to court disgrace and infamy.” This note is surrounded by a a lugubrious broad border of black, evidently in sign of mourning for the deceased, who had thus stolen a packet so carefully sealed, and had been too honourable to break the seals, or to pry into its contents.
The packet enclosed was a small case of parchment, marked on the outside, “ Some of my wife's family papers,' and sealed with three seals. It was considered too important to be opened even in presence of the notary and witness assisting, and it was accordingly, with all solemnity, opened in the presence of a proctor of Doctors Commons. Its contents form the first class of documents now tendered.
II. The French discovery is of a scarcely less singular
history. The defender sets forth, that, on the 12th of July, 1837, he received information of the existence of an old map of Canada, containing certain documents concerning his family, partly written, partly pasted on its back, from Mademoiselle Marie Anne Le Normand, whom he is pleased to style “ An authoress of some note, who keeps a library in Paris, and possesses a considerable collection of unpublished MSS.”
Mademoiselle Le Normand is undoubtedly a person some note,” since she turns out to be no other than the
person who acquired such questionable celebrity under the Empire, as a Sibyl and Diviner, mixed up in many of the intrigues of the Court of Napoleon, and the Empress Josephine. She
appears now to have fallen somewhat in station, though she still practises the arts of divination for hire.
The documents thus furnished are not traced by the defender to any higher source than that of Mademoiselle Le Normand. What they want, however, in extrinsic or historical evidence, is supplied by a profusion of attestations of their genuineness by persons of high contemporary celebrity.
These papers, the most important of which purport to be a private and confidential letter from a supposed ancestor of the defender, and a copy of an inscription on a tomb in Ireland, which cannot, upon any theory, be supposed to have interested any human being except the defender or the family with which he claims to be connected, and the succession to which did not open by the failure of the direct line till long after, are yet actually authenticated by the alleged holograph attestations of such persons as Flechier, Bishop of Nismes, and the illustrious Fenelon. They are farther dignified by a note which is gravely said to be in the hand-writing of Louis XV. a prince who is believed to have written only two words in his reign,-his own name Louis R. and the word “bon," as an approval of any document submitted to him. His disapproval was marked by a line deleting the proposal, to save the fatigue of further penmanship, which indeed he so carefully eschewed, that even his notes to his mistresses were written by a secretary.
It may perhaps be considered superfluous to say that these documents, coming from such opposite channels, united in filling up the chasms in the evidence of the defender's pedigree, and supplied-precisely the two links which were pointed out by the Lord Ordinary as wanting.
A difficulty had occurred in the defender's case from the pursuers having proved that a certain John Alexander, who was married to the daughter and heiress of Graham of Gartmore, and whose son the defender claimed as an ancestor, had no son by that marriage. The defender had not discovered nor alleged any other marriage : but in the argument at the bar, he took it for granted that John Alexander was twice married, as the only solution of the difficulty.
The present documents furnish the name of John Alexander's second wife, the date of the marriage, and all other necessary particulars.
The Lord Ordinary had set aside as inadmissible or improbative, an alleged copy of a tomb-stone inscription.
The same inscription, copied word for word, is among the documents furnished by Mademoiselle Le Normand, and it has the advantage of an attestation by an unknown W. C. Gordon, junr.
These extraordinary coincidences, and the singularity of such important evidence coming to light from two quarters, exactly in time to stay the advising of the action, require explanation.
It is unnecessary to point out how much importance attaches to the custody of documents, thus tendered in evidence more than a century after their apparent date. That is felt in all cases of this nature, and certainly not less forcibly felt, when, as in the present case, the documents appear recently to have passed through the hands of an unknown thief-his anonymous relatives---an undiscovered lady of Staffordshire--and a French juggling intriguante. In seeking for some information of their previous custody and history, the pursuers are met by difficulties at the outset, which only the defender can remove-not by the guarded statements of his law advisers, but by undergoing a full and searching personal examination.
The pursuers submit, that they might in strict law go to issue with the defender, on the admissibility of the documents he tenders. They do not, however, demand that they be withdrawn. On the contrary, they hold it of great importance, that they should be detained in the hands of the Court, and they submit, that it is not only necessary for the proper investigation of this important case, but also essential to the ends of justice, that the defender should be examined judicially, in the presence or under the authority of the Court, with regard to the whole circumstances of the alleged discovery of the documents tendered by him in evidence.