Dogs Best Tribute to Man's Best Friend Part 1

About the best tribute to man's best friend in history a court case to defend a dog.

THE BEST TRIBUTE TO MAN'S BEST FRIEND

On that fall day in 1870 when country lawyer George Graham Vest stood up in Judge Foster Wright's courtroom in Warrensburg, Mo., to defend a dog, few present could have imagined that what they were about to hear would become the most memorable tribute in modern history to man's best friend.

But 1st, the series of events that brought George Graham Vest into the courtroom as counsel on behalf of a dog's good name.

The canine in question was not an unknown mongrel. He was a foxhound named Old Drum, and around Johnson County he was held in high regard for his speed and dependability. Old Drum's proud owner was Charles Burden.

One summer's morning in 1870, Old Drum was found dead from a bullet wound on or near the property of Leonidas Hornsby, who was one of Burden's neighbors. Investigating the untimely death of his hunter, the distressed Burden decided that circumstantial evidence clearly indicated Hornsby had killed the dog.

Seeking some kind of redress for his loss, Burden went to the Justice of Peace Court in Warrensburg to file suit. Informed that $150 was the maximum amount for which he could sue in this kind of case, Burden immediately filed against Hornsby for that sum.

The case of Burden v. Hornsby was tried, and after a verdict was given for Hornsby, it was appealed, and then appealed again, until it reached the State Circuit Court for final judgment.

On the day of the last trial--a jury trial--Judge Wright presided. Considering that the issue was the value of one foxhound, a formidable array of legal talent had been assembled. Appearing upon behalf of the defendant, Hornsby, were 2 attorneys who would one day become national figures. One was Francis Cockrell, who would later be elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri, and the other was Thomas Crittenden, who would later become governor of Missouri. Appearing on behalf of Charles Burden and the deceased Old Drum was Col. Wells Blodgett, a well-known local attorney.

As the court convened, Colonel Blodgett felt the odds were against his client and his client's dog. The opposition had more manpower. The opposing lawyers had bigger reputations than his own. Even worse, Cockrell and Crittenden knew every member of the jury personally. The opposition exuded confidence.

Then, quite by accident, Colonel Blodgett learned that the only attorney in the area equal to the opposition in forensic skill happened to be in the courthouse that very afternoon. This was George Graham Vest, a onetime senator in the Confederacy who, 8 years hence, would be elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri and serve in the Senate as one of its leading debaters from 1879 to 1903. Vest, who practiced in nearby Sedalia, happened to be visiting the courthouse on another legal matter. Colonel Blodgett went to Vest at once and implored him to come aboard as special counsel. Apparently because the elements in the case appealed to him, or perhaps because he was a dog fancier, Vest consented to assist in the case.

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