Era banner


Home | Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search

July 16, 1865



Probably the largest and most respectable audience that was ever seen in San Francisco on a similar occasion, met at the Police Court Boom, on Thursday last, to witness the proceedings in the examination of Mr. Mark Twain, one of the editors of the Bohemian, upon the charge of unlawfully and maliciously defrauding the editors and proprietors of this paper, by writing, and transmitting to them for publication, a communication purporting to come from the pen of the eminent S. Browne Jones, Esq., by means of which the proprietors of this paper were placed in a false position before the public, and ridicule brought upon S. Browne Jones, Esq., and other distinguished gentlemen of this community.

Mr. Mark Twain, who, upon giving bond, had been released from arrest, appeared with his usual unblushing effrontery, and bold-faced impudence, attended by his counsel U.S. District Attorney Delos Freshwater, - who, it is said, writes nearly all of the editorial matter of the Bohemian, as well as the News Note, and Philosophic Mining Press.

We do not know but that we ought to do the Bohemian people the justice to say that they are heartily ashamed of the conduct of Mr. Mark Twain, and have endeavored to induce us to drop the prosecution of this matter. Even Mr. Mark Twain himself has tried - in an indifferent way, it is true - to buy us off. We rejected his offer with scorn. We deemed it due our readers, as well as ourselves, that this matter should be thoroughly investigated and the evil doers be brought to justice.

Below we give a full report of the testimony elicited on the examination, taken down by one of our efficient corps of phonographic reporters.

The Prosecuting Attorney was assisted by Messrs. Hall McCannister, Samuel M. Williamson and John W. Dwindle, who had been retained in the case of Mr. S. Browne Jones, Esq.

Among the spectators, we observed the Hon. Schuyler Colfax and party, who, being personal friends of Mr. S. Browne Jones, Esq., took great interest in the proceedings.

S. Browne Jones, Esq., was the first witness called on the part of the prosecution, and testified as follows:

"Am devoted to literature. Have been in California about two weeks, only. Arrived on the steamship Sacramento. A few days after my arrival, I received a note from the Editors of the Golden Era, requesting me to write for that paper. The note read as follows - [published in full in our issue of July 2d. - EDS Era.] I was unwell at the time; confined to my apartments. While holding the offer under consideration, my friends, Conness and Pixley, called on me. Mentioned the matter to them. While Mr. Conness was reading the note, the defendant, Mark Twain, called. Know the defendant at the bar to be the same person who called. Identify him by his sanctimonious air; also the strawberry mark on his left eyelid. Mark on his nose is not a strawberry mark. Don't know the facts, but should think that resulted from drinking. The simon-pure strawberry marks are usually found under the left arm - some exceptions. Think defendant's true name is not Mark Twain. Have been told that it is one of many aliases. Can't say of my own knowledge.

"No one else was present at the time referred to, except Mr. Conness, Mr. Pixley, the defendant, and myself. No one else knew of the contents of the note.

"Defendant said he had overheard the contents of the letter. He wanted me to write for the Bohemian. Said he was editor of the paper."

On Cross Examination: - " 'Twas about eleven o'clock in the forenoon when Mr. Mark Twain called. I had never seen him before. I had not been drinking. Seldom drink anything stronger than raw brandy.

"The mark on defendant's left eyelid is a true strawberry mark. Know all about strawberry marks. Wrote a treatise on them once.

"When Edward Everett and I wrote for the New York Ledger, at $10,000.00 an article, we had frequent use for strawberry marks. Used them in historical characters. I made researches on the subject. Don't know of my own knowledge that defendant is addicted to drinking."

One of the Editors of the Golden Era was the next witness called. He testified that as soon as the arrival of Mr. S. Browne Jones, Esq., was announced, he addressed him the note before referred to. "Received a reply next evening. Did not read it until it was in type. Thought 'twas singular that Mr. Jones should write such a letter. The Era was just going to press. Didn't notice particularly the person who brought the manuscript to the Era office. 'Twas a boy. Think he is employed in the Bohemian office. Can't swear to it.

"Am familiar with Mark Twain's handwriting. It's very scrawly - very much like this (referring to manuscript in question). Can't swear that this is Mr. Mark Twain's writing.

"Defendant was at one time employed by the proprietors of the Era to compile and condense news items. Never trusted him with anything original, except obituary notices. He had a morbid desire to write such notices. He overdid the matter. Had to drop him. Defendant had three volumes of manuscript obituary notices. His object was, I believe, to have one ready for any emergency. The names of the deceased, as well as the dates, were left blank, ready to be filled in at a moment's notice."

Mr. Conness was then called, as witness for the prosecution. "Called on my friend S. Browne Jones, Esq., at Consequental Hotel, in this city and county (in reply to a question of Mr. Louderback's).

"Mr. Jones had just received a note from the editors of the Golden Era. Saw the note. Read it aloud. While I was reading, defendant came in. Defendant must have heard me read the note. There was no one else present except Mr. Pixley.

"Recognize the defendant as the same person who subsequently called on me and desired me to lend my name to a Petroleum stock operation. He offered me five hundred shares of stock to induce me to become a trustee. He said 'twas a big thing, could make lots of money if I would only go in. I refused to have anything to do with it. Defendant said that was 'played out,' for he knew I 'was on it.' Threatened to 'blow on me,' or something to that effect."

On Cross Examination: - "I might have drank with defendant. Don't remember. Don't make it a rule to drink every hour. Am a Senator. Hope to be re-elected. Low's chances for succeeding McDougall are not good. Low wouldn't do as I told him. Knew he'd slip up. I have nothing to do with the Alta newspaper. I appointed Perkins Postmaster. He does about as I direct; if he didn't, he'd lose his head. 'Tis not true that he edits the Bulletin.

"I have nothing to do with the Flag now. Did at one time. Wrote all the political articles. I paid for the use of the columns. They wanted more; so they oppose me now. The paper has no influence; has not, since I ceased writing for it. Would like to see my friend Pixley, or Sargent, succeed McDougall."

Mr. Pixley was then sworn.

Said he called with Mr. Conness on Mr. S. Browne Jones, Esq. Was anxious to obtain his support. He was before the people as candidate for the U.S. Senate. Hadn't a doubt but that he'd be elected. Mr. Jones thought that he ought not to interfere, as he had come to this coast so recently.

"While Mr. Conness and myself were at Mr. S. Browne Jones' apartments, defendant came in. Mr. Conness was reading a letter from the publishers of some literary paper, asking Mr. S. Browne Jones to write for them. Don't remember the name of the paper. Had my mind on other things. Was thinking of the Senatorship. Think the paper was the Golden Era; am not certain. Have written for that paper myself.

"Don't know much about defendant. He offered to come out for me in the Bohemian for a consideration. Among other things, I was to pay for his drinks at the Bank Exchange during the campaign. I paid the bill for one month. 'Twas very large. He had not come out for me according to promise, and I refused to pay more. That was about two months ago."

Cross-Examined: - "It is some time since I wrote anything for the Golden Era. The last contribution I made to that paper was a pastoral poem in thirty-nine stanzas of eight lines each, entitled 'Pixley and his Mule.' Would like to read it; 'twould not take long. Shall be pleased to send the court a copy with compliments of the author.

"At present I write the 'funny' articles in the News Note and Philosophical Mining Press, and also the communications in the Bulletin entitled, 'Personal Reminiscences of the War, by a California Lady.' Edited the Flag at one time. Never had a contract to supply dogs to Gridley's Hog Ranch. Am still a candidate for the U. S. Senate. Know I will be elected. Don't care to say how much I paid for the place."

The Prosecution here rested, and Defendant's Counsel called Mr. C. H. W. Inigo to testify to the good character of the defendant.

"Witness knew defendant. Had been associated with him on the Bohemian newspaper. Defendant had a good character as far as he knew. Was generous to a fault. Knew the latter fact of his own knowledge. On one occasion he borrowed my best cotton shirt to go to the opera, and had it sent to the laundry before he returned it; he also paid one half the bill.

"He can play draw poker equal to any man. Consider myself some at draw poker, but he can discount me every time. He won those sleeve buttons that he has on from me at draw poker. We are both interested in the Nicholson pavement. The defendant does not write the 'Answers to Correspondents' in the Bohemian. I write them myself - that is - the funny ones. Never wrote anything that wasn't funny."

At this stage of the proceedings, the Defendant's Counsel arose and said that after consultation, his client had concluded to withdraw his plea of not guilty, and would throw himself on the mercy of the Court. Whereupon the Court required the Defendant to appear for sentence on Saturday, July 15th.

On Saturday morning, the Court said it had carefully reviewed the evidence, and taking into consideration all the facts, and it being the first offense charged against the Defendant, and also taking into consideration Defendant's tender years, he had concluded to punish this first offense lightly - more so, perhaps, than it deserved - and admonished the Defendant to beware of a second departure from the paths of honor and rectitude. And then the Court proceeded to sentence him to forty-eight hours in the City Prison, on bread and water.

The Defendant seemed to have come to a sense of his position, for he shed tears profusely.

We hope this will be a lesson to him that will not have to be repeated.

S. Browne Jones

return to Golden Era index

Home | Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search