That which demonstrates, makes clear, or ascertains the truth
of the very fact or point in issue, 3 Bl. Com. 367, or it is whatever is
exhibited to a court or jury, whether it be by matter of record, or
writing, or by the testimony of witnesses, in order to enable them to
pronounce with certainty, concerning the truth of any matter in dispute,
Bac. Ab. Evidence, in pr., or it is that which is legally submitted to a
jury, to enable them to decide upon the questions in dispute or issue, as
pointed out by the pleadings and distinguished from all comment or
argument. 1 Stark. Ev. 8. 2. Evidence may be considered with reference to,
1. The nature of the evidence. 2. The object of the evidence. 3. The
instruments of evidence. 4. The effect of evidence. 1. As to its nature,
evidence may be considered with reference to its being 1. Primary evidence.
2. Secondary evidence. 3. Positive. 4. Presumptive. 5. Hearsay. 6. Admissions.
4. - 1. Primary evidence. The law generally requires that the best
evidence the case admits of should be given, B. N. P. 293, 1 Stark. Ev.
102, 390, for example, when a written contract has been entered into, and
the object is to prove what it was, it is requisite to produce the original
writing if it is to be attained, and in that case no copy or other inferior
evidence will be received.
5. To this general rule there are several exceptions. 1. As it refers to
the quality rather than to the quantity of evidence, it is evident that the
fullest proof that every case admits of, is not requisite, if, therefore,
there are several eye-witnesses to a fact, it may be sufficiently proved by
one only. 2. It is not always requisite, when the matter to be proved has been
reduced to writing, that the writing should be produced, as, if the
narrative of a fact to be proved has been committed to writing, it may yet
be proved by parol evidence. A receipt for the payment of money, for
example, will not exclude parol evidence of payment. 14 Esp. R. 213, and
see 7 B. & C. 611, S. C. 14 E. C. L. R. 101, 1 Campb. R. 439, 3 B. & A.
566, 6 E. C. L. R. 377.
6. - 2. Secondary evidence. That species of proof which is admissible on
the loss of primary evidence, and which becomes by that event the best
evidence. 3 Yeates, Rep. 530.
7. It is a rule that the best evidence, or that proof which most
certainly exhibits the true state of facts to which it relates, shall be
required, and the law rejects secondary or inferior evidence, when it is
attempted to be substituted for evidence of a higher or superior nature.
This is a rule of policy, grounded upon a reasonable suspicion, that the
substitution of inferior for better evidence arises from sinister motives,
and an apprehension that the best evidence, if produced, would alter the
case to the prejudice of the party. This rule relates not to the measure
and quantity of evidence, but to its quality when compared with some other
evidence of superior degree. It is not necessary in point of law, to give
the fullest proof that every case may admit of. If, for example, there be
several eye witnesses to a fact, it may be proved by the testimony of one
8. When primary evidence cannot be had, then secondary evidence will be
admitted, because then it is the best. But before such evidence can be
allowed, it must be clearly made to appear that the superior evidence is
not to be had. The person who possesses it must be applied to, whether he
be a stranger or the opposite party, in the case of a stranger, a subpoena
and attachment, when proper, must be taken out and served, and, in the case
of a party, notice to produce such primary evidence must be proved before
the secondary evidence will be admitted. 7 Serg. & Rawle, 116, 6 Binn. 228,
4 Binn. R. 295, note, 6 Binn. R. 478, 7 East, R. 66, 8 East, R. 278 3 B. &
A. 296, S. C. 5 E. C. L. R. 291.
9. After proof of the due execution of the original, the contents should
be proved by a counterpart, if there be one, for this is the next best
evidence, and it seems that no evidence of a mere copy is admissible until
proof has been given that the counterpart cannot be produced. 6 T. R. 236.
If there be no counterpart, a copy may be proved in evidence. by any
witness who knows that it is a copy, from having compared it with the
original. Bull. N. P. 254, 1 Keb. 117, 6 Binn. R. 234, 2 Taunt. R. 52, 1
Campb. R. 469 8 Mass. R. 273. If there be no copy, the party may produce an
abstract, or even give parol evidence of the contents of a deed. 10 Mod. 8,
6 T. R. 556.
10. But it has been decided that there are no degrees in secondary
evidence: and when a party has laid the foundation for such evidence, he
may prove the contents of a deed by parol, although it appear that an
attested copy is in existence. 6 C. & P. 206, 8 Id. 389.
11. - 3. Positive or direct evidence is that which, if believed,
establishes the truth of a fact in issue, and does not arise from any
presumption. Evidence is direct and positive, when the very facts in
dispute are communicated by those who have the actual knowledge of them by
means of their senses. 1 Phil. Ev. 116 1 Stark. 19. In one sense, there is
but little direct or positive proof, or such proof as is acquired by means
of ones own sense, all other evidence is presumptive but, in common
acceptation, direct and positive evidence is that which is communicated by
one who has actual knowledge of the fact.
12. - 4. Presumptive evidence is that which is not direct, but where, on
the contrary, a fact which is not positively known, is presumed or inferred
from one or more other facts or circumstances which are known. Vide article
Presumption, and Rosc. Civ. Ev. 13, 1 Stark. Ev. 18.
13. - 5. Hearsay, is the evidence of those who relate, not what they know
themselves, but what they have heard from others.
14. Such mere recitals or assertions cannot be received in evidence, for
many reasons, but principally for the following: first, that the party
making such declarations is not on oath and, secondly, because the party
against whom it operates, has no opportunity of cross-examination. 1 Phil.
Ev. 185. See, for other reasons, 1 Stark. Ev. pt. 1, p. 44. The general
rule excluding hearsay evidence, does not apply to those declarations to
which the party is privy, or to admissions which he himself has made. See
15. Many facts, from their very nature, either absolutely, or usually
exclude direct evidence to prove them, being such as are either necessarily
or usually, imperceptible by the senses, and therefore incapable of the
ordinary means of proof. These are questions of pedigree or relationship,
character, prescription, custom, boundary, and the like, as also questions
which depend upon the exercise of particular skill and judgment. Such
facts, some from their nature, and others from their antiquity, do not
admit of the ordinary and direct means of proof by living witnesses, and,
consequently, resort must be had to the best means of proof which the
nature of the cases afford. See Boundary, Custom, Opinion, Pedigree,
16. - 6. Admissions are the declarations which a party by himself, or
those who act under his authority, make of the existence of certain facts.
17.- 2. The object of evidence is next to be considered. It is to
ascertain the truth between the parties. It has been discovered by
experience that this is done most certainly by the adoption of the
following rules, which are now binding as law: 1. The evidence must be
confined to the point in issue. 2. The substance of the issue must be
proved, but only the substance is required to be proved. 3. The affirmative
of the issue must be proved.
18. - 1. It is a general rule, both in civil and criminal cases, that the
evidence shall be confined to the point in issue. Justice and convenience
require the observance of this rule, particularly in criminal cases, for
when a prisoner is charged with an offence, it is of the utmost importance
to him that the facts laid before the jury should consist exclusively of
the transaction, which forms the subject of the indictment, and, which
alone he has come prepared to answer. 2 Russ. on Cr. 694, 1 Phil. Ev. 166.
19. To this general rule, there are several exceptions, and a variety of
cases which do not fall within the rule. 1. In general, evidence of
collateral facts is not admissible, but when such a fact is material to the
issue joined between the parties, it may be given in evidence, as, for
example, in order to prove that the acceptor of a bill knew the payee to be
a fictitious person, or that the drawer had general authority from him to
fill up bills with the name of a fictitious payee, evidence may be given to
show that he had accepted similar bills before they could, from their date,
have arrived from the place of date. 2 H. Bl. 288.
20. - 2. When special damage sustained by the plaintiff is not stated in
the declaration, it is Dot one of the points in issue, and therefore,
evidence of it cannot be received, yet a damage which is the necessary
result of the defendants breach of contract, may be proved,
notwithstanding it is not in the declaration. 11 Prices Reports, 19.
21. - 3. In general, evidence of the character of either party to a suit
is inadmissible, yet in some cases such evidence may be given. Vide article
22. - 4. When evidence incidentally applies to another person or thing
not included in the transaction in question, and with regard to whom or to
which it is inadmissible, yet if it bear upon the point in issue, it will
be re-ceived. 8 Bingh. Rep. 376, S. C. 21 Eng. C. L. R. 325 and see 1 Phil.
Ev. 158, 2 East, P. C. 1035, 2 Leach, 985, S. C. 1 New Rep. 92, Russ. & Ry.
C. C. 376, 2 Yeates, 114, 9 Conn. Rep. 47.
23. - 5. The acts of others, as in the case of conspirators, may be given
in evidence against the prisoner, when referable to the issue, but
confessions made by one of several conspirators after the offence has been
completed, and when the conspirators no longer act in concert) cannot be
received. Vide article Confession, and 10 Pick. 497, 2 Pet. Rep. 364, 2
Brec. R. 269, 3 Serg. & Rawle, 9, 1 Rawle, 362, 458, 2 Leighs R. 745, 2
Days Cas. 205, 3 Serg. & Rawle, 220, 3 Pick. 33, 4 Cranch, 75, 2 B. & A.
573-4 S. C. 5. E. C. L. R. 381.
24. - 6. In criminal cases, when the offence is a cumulative one,
consisting itself in the commission of a number of acts, evidence of those
acts is not only admissible, but essential to support the charge. On an
indictment against a defendant for a conspiracy, to cause himself, to be
believed a man of large property, for the purpose of defrauding tradesmen
after proof of a representation to one tradesman, evidence may therefore be
given of a representation to another tradesman at a different time. 1
Campb. Rep. 399, 2 Days Cas. 205, 1 John. R. 99, 4 Rogers Rec. 143, 2
Johns. Cas. 193.
25. - 7. To prove the guilty knowledge of a prisoner, with regard to the
transaction in question, evidence of other offences of the same kind,
committed by the prisoner, though not charged in the indictment, is
admissible against him. As in the case where a prisoner had passed a
counterfeit dollar, evidence that he had. other counterfeit dollars in his
possession is evidence to prove the guilty knowledge. 2 Const. R. 758, Id.
776, 1 Bailey, R. 300, 2 Leighs R. 745, 1 Wheelers Cr. Cas. 415, 3
Rogers Rec. 148, Russ. & Ry. 132, 1 Campb. Rep. 324, 5 Randolphs R. 701.
26. - 2. The substance of the issue joined between the parties must be
proved. 1 Phil. Ev. 190. Under this rule will be considered the quantity of
evidence required to support particular averments in the declaration or
27. And, first, of civil cases. 1. It is a fatal variance in a contract,
if it appear that a party who ought to have been joined as plaintiff has
been omitted. 1 Sauud. 291 b, n., 2 T. R. 282. But it is no variance to
omit a person who might have been joined as defendant, because the
non-joinder ought to have been pleaded in abatement. 1 Saund. 291 d, n. 2.
The consideration of the contract must be proved but it is not necessary
for the plaintiff to set out in his declaration, or prove on the trial, the
several parts of a contract consisting of distinct and collateral
provisions, it is sufficient to state so much of the contract as contains
the entire consideration of the act, and the entire act to be done in
virtue of such consideration, including the time, manner, and other
circumstances of its performance. 6 East, R. 568, 4 B. & A. 387, 6 E. C. L.
28. - Secondly. In criminal cases, it may be laid down, 1. That it is, in
general, sufficient to prove what constitutes an offence. It is enough to
prove so much of the indictment as shows that the defendant has committed a
substantive crime therein specified. 2 Campb. R. 585, 1 Harr. & John. 427.
If a man be indicted for robbery, he may be found guilty of larceny, and
not guilty of the robbery. 2 Hale, P. C. 302. The offence of which the
party is convicted, must, however, be of the same class with that of which
he is charged. 1 i Leach, 14, 2 Stra. 1133.
29. - 2. When the intent of the prisoner furnishes one of the ingredients
in the offence, and several intents are laid in the indictment, each of
which, together with the act done, constitutes an offence, it is sufficient
to prove one intent only. 3 Stark. R. 35, 14 E. C. L. R. 154, 163.
30. - 3. When a person or thing, necessary to be mentioned in an
indictment, is described with circumstances of greater particularity than
is requisite, yet those circumstances must be proved. 3 Rogers Rec. 77, 3
Days Cas. 283. For example, if a party be charged with stealing a black
horse, the evidence must correspond with the averment, although it was
unnecessary to make it. Roscoes Cr. Ev. 77 4 Ohio, 350.
31. - 4. The name of the prosecutor, or party injured, must be proved as
laid, and the rule is the same with reference to the name of a third person
introduced into the indictment, as. descriptive of some person or thing.
32. - 5. The affirmative of the issue must be proved. The general rule
with regard to the burthen of proving the issue, requires that the party
who asserts the, affirmative should prove it. But this rule ceases to
operate the moment the presumption of law is thrown into the other scale.
When the issue is on the legitimacy of a child therefore, it is incumbent
on the party asserting the illegitimacy to prove it. 2 Selw. N. P. 709.
Vide Onus Probandi, Presum 2 Gall. R. 485 and 1 McCord, 573.
33. - 3. The consideration of the instruments of evidence will be the
subject of this head. These consist of records, private writings, or
34. - 1. Records are to be proved by an exemplification, duly
authenticated, (Vide Authentication, in all cases where the issue is nul
tiel record. In other cases, an examined copy, duly proved, will, in
general, be evidence. Foreign laws as proved in the mode pointed out under
the article Foreign laws.
35. - 2. Private writings are proved by producing the attesting witness,
or in case of his death, absence, or other legal inability to testify, as
if, after attesting the paper, he becomes infamous, his handwriting may be
proved. When there is no witness to the instrument, it may be proved by the
evidence of the handwriting of the party, by a person who has seen him
write, or in a course of correspondence has become acquainted with his
hand. See Comparison of handwriting, and 5 Binn. R. 349, 10 Serg. & Rawle,
110, 11 Serg. & Rawle, 333 3 W. C. C. R. 31, 11 Serg. & Rawle, 347 6 Serg.
& Rawle, 12, 812, 1 Rawle, R. 223, 3 Rawle, R. 312, 1 Ashm. R. 8, 3 Penn.
36. Books of original entry, when duly proved, are prima facie evidence
of goods sold and delivered, and of work and labor done. Vide original
37. - 3. Proof by witnesses. The testimony of witnesses is called parol
evidence, or that which is given viva voce, as contra-distinguished from
that which is written or documentary. It is a general rule, that oral
evidence shall in no case be received as equivalent to, or as a substitute
for, a written instrument, where the latter is required by law, or to give
effect to a written instrument which is defective in any particular which
by law is essential to its validity, or to contradict, alter or vary a
written instrument, either appointed by law, or by the contract of the
parties, to be the appropriate and authentic memorial of the particular
facts it recites, for by doing so, oral testimony would be admitted to
usurp the place of evidence decidedly superior in degree. 1 Serg. & Rawle,
464, Id. 27, Addis. R. 361, 2 Dall. 172, 1 Yeates, 140, 1 Binn. 616, 3
Marsh. Ken. R. 333, 4 Bibb, R. 473, 1 Bibb, R. 271, 11 Mass. R. 30, 13
Mass. R. 443, 3 Conn. 9, 20 Johns. 49, 12 Johns. R. 77, 3 Camp. 57, 1 Esp.
C. 53, 1 M. & S. 21, Bunb. 175.
38. But parol evidence is admissible to defeat a written instrument, on
the ground of fraud, mistake, &c., or to apply it to its proper subject
matter, or, in some instances, as ancillary to such application, to explain
the meaning of doubtful terms, or to rebut presumptions arising
extrinsically. In these cases, the parol evidence does not usurp the place,
or arrogate the authority of, written evidence, but either shows that the
instrument ought not to be allowed to operate at all, or is essential in
order to give to the instrument its legal effect. 1 Murph. R. 426 4 Desaus.
R. 211, 1 Desaus. R. 345 1 Bay, R. 247, 1 Bibb, R. 271 11 Mass. R. 30, see
1 Pet. C. C. R. 85 1 Binn. R. 610, 3 Binn. R. 587: 3 Serg. Rawle, 340,
Poth. Obl. Pl. 4, c. 2.
39. - 4. The effect of evidence. Under this head will be considered, 1st.
The effect of judgments rendered in the United States, and of records
lawfully made in this country, and, 2d. The effect of foreign judgments and
40. - 1. As a general rule, a judgment rendered by a court of competent
jurisdiction, directly upon the point in issue, is a bar between the same
parties: 1 Phil. Ev. 242, and privies in blood, as an heir 3 Mod. 141, or
privies in estate 1 Ld. Raym. 730, B. N. P. 232, stand in the same
situation. as those they represent, the verdict and judgment may be used
for or against them, and is conclusive. Vide Res Judicata.
41. The Constitution of the United States, art. 4, s. 1, declares, that
"Full faith and credit shall be given, in each state, to the public acts,
records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And congress may,
by general laws, prescribe the manner in which Such acts, records and
proceedings, shall be proved, and the effect thereof." Vide article
Authentication and 7 Cranch, 481, 3 Wheat. R. 234 10 Wheat. R. 469, 17
Mass. R. 546, 9 Cranch, 192, 2 Yeates, 532, 7 Cranch, 408, 3 Bibbs R. 369,
5 Days R. 563, 2 Marsh. Kty. R. 293.
42. - 2. As to the effect of foreign laws, see article Foreign Laws. For
the force and effect of foreign judgments, see article Foreign Judgments.
Vide, generally, the Treatises on Evidence, of Gilbert, Phillips, Starkie,
Roscoe, Swift, Bentham, Macnally, Peake, Greenleaf, and Bouv. Inst. Index,
h. t., the various Digests, h. t.
Source: Bouviers Law Dictionary 1856 Edition
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