By David Peel
As an injury lawyer, I know that lawyers everywhere are know besmirched with the unseemly TV ads that seem to trip over each other in a race to the bottom of respectability.
But lawyers have done and still do a lot of good. Abraham Lincoln was an attorney, as was Gandhi and Thurgood Marshall. Lawyers at their best harness the power of words and persuasion to move the hearer to truth.
Have you ever heard of George Graham Vest? Born in 1830, a lawyer as well as a politician, he served as a Missouri Congressman, and even a Confederate Congressman during the Civil War, and finally a US Senator. He is best known for his “a man’s best friend” closing arguments representing the family that owned a dog that was killed named “Old Drum.” Movies have been made about the trial, a monument stands to this day. Only a partial transcript of his words, spoken on October 18, 1869 remains. If you are a dog lover like me, slowly read and think on the truth of his words that day:
“Gentlemen of the jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful.
Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.
A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.”
The verdict went his way, and because this good lawyer spoke such truth, it resonates with us dog-lovers even now, some 144 years later.
Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, work place incidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.