Random Quote #97 topic: bierce-devil, The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

TRIAL, n. A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the
blameless characters of judges, advocates and jurors. In order to
effect this purpose it is necessary to supply a contrast in the person
of one who is called the defendant, the prisoner, or the accused. If
the contrast is made sufficiently clear this person is made to undergo
such an affliction as will give the virtuous gentlemen a comfortable
sense of their immunity, added to that of their worth. In our day the
accused is usually a human being, or a socialist, but in mediaeval
times, animals, fishes, reptiles and insects were brought to trial. A
beast that had taken human life, or practiced sorcery, was duly
arrested, tried and, if condemned, put to death by the public
executioner. Insects ravaging grain fields, orchards or vineyards
were cited to appeal by counsel before a civil tribunal, and after
testimony, argument and condemnation, if they continued _in
contumaciam_ the matter was taken to a high ecclesiastical court,
where they were solemnly excommunicated and anathematized. In a
street of Toledo, some pigs that had wickedly run between the
viceroy's legs, upsetting him, were arrested on a warrant, tried and
punished. In Naples and ass was condemned to be burned at the stake,
but the sentence appears not to have been executed. D'Addosio relates
from the court records many trials of pigs, bulls, horses, cocks,
dogs, goats, etc., greatly, it is believed, to the betterment of their
conduct and morals. In 1451 a suit was brought against the leeches
infesting some ponds about Berne, and the Bishop of Lausanne,
instructed by the faculty of Heidelberg University, directed that some
of "the aquatic worms" be brought before the local magistracy. This
was done and the leeches, both present and absent, were ordered to
leave the places that they had infested within three days on pain of
incurring "the malediction of God." In the voluminous records of this
_cause celebre_ nothing is found to show whether the offenders braved
the punishment, or departed forthwith out of that inhospitable


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