Accusations Do Not Equal Proof: Remembering Horace de Vere Cole



   Lately I’ve been reading the words of many people who somehow have come to believe that a mere accusation constitutes proof of guilt. Capping it all is the truly bizarre statement from Law Prof. Anita Hill about the accused party bearing what she slyly calls “the burden of persuasion” – a statement that goes against the very core of our justice system: INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. Ms. Hill teaches law and doesn’t know that in America the ACCUSER has the goddamn burden of proof – not the accused? Wow. How bloody ignorant.
And so, spurred on Ms. Hill’s utterly loony, and dangerous, belief I find myself remembering one of the all-time great object lessons in justice…

   Horace de Vere Cole has gone down in history as the British “Master Pranksman” of his day. He famously pulled off many stunts, including the notorious Bunga Bunga/Dreadnaught hoax of 1910. In that caper, Cole managed to get himself and a group of friends aboard a British war ship while all wore preposterous “disguises” and claimed the status of foreign diplomats. Take a look at a picture from that incident: We see the very proper looking Cole, 29 years old, on the right in the top-hat:

   See that small bearded “guy” on the left? There we see Cole’s friend Virginia Stephen who would later achieve literary prominence as one of the most important of the modernist 20th-century authors: Virginia Woolf.

   Though Cole pulled off many stunts in his heyday – like winning a bet that he could shut down all traffic on Piccadilly (one of the widest streets in London) for a half hour – to me, Cole will live forever because of the creative way in which he gave a lesson in reality to a “law and order” crackpot. It happened in London in 1911…

   Cole had an old friend, at the time a newly minted 30 year-old conservative member of Parliament, named Oliver Locker-Lampson. Much to Cole’s annoyance, this man repeatedly barraged him with the inane, and frankly stupid, idea that people charged with a crime did not need a trial because… the police only arrest guilty people! So why, Locker-Lampson, believed, waste money and time on something as unnecessary as a trial? The police, Locker-Lampson simplistically insisted, just do not arrest innocent people. To Locker-Lampson, in a bravura feat of circular logic, the arrest itself constituted all the proof of guilt anyone needed. This attitude deeply rubbed Cole the wrong way, and no matter how Cole argued the point, Locker-Lampson would have none of it.

   So Cole hatched a plan… a plan the makes me think of this splendid quotation from Dr. Seuss: “Then he got an idea! An awful idea! THE GRINCH GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!” Across the gulf of time, I can almost see Cole smiling that lusciously wicked Grinch Grin…

   One afternoon, as Cole and Locker-Lampson completed a friendly luncheon date at a London restaurant, Cole “impulsively” challenged Locker-Lampson to a race on a London street; a short sprint outside the restaurant over to the next corner. To sweeten the deal, Cole agreed to give his friend a 10-yard head start. Locker-Lampson accepted the challenge and the two left the restaurant. Unknown to the MP, as the pair went outside, Cole slipped his gold pocket-watch into Locker-Lampson’s coat pocket.

   Once out on the street, the race began. Cole stood by in front of the restaurant as Locker-Lampson took his 10-yard head start, but rather than run at the appointed time, Cole began shouting at the top of his lungs: “Stop! Thief! That man stole my gold watch!”

   Before the flabbergasted MP knew what happened, a policeman grabbed him and placed him under arrest. Turning to Cole for aid provided Locker-Lampson scant comfort. Cole remained blissfully silent as his friend and he made the trip to the police station where the great champion of “law and order” vainly and loudly declared his innocence. Eventually, Cole ‘fesssed up and that settled the matter. In the minds of the police, they’d just endured yet another Horace de Vere Cole dido, such as London had so often experienced. And yet, this particular jaunt had meat on the bone. It imparted a strong lesson about rushing to judgment based on a simple allegation and one piece of possible “evidence”. One hopes that Cole’s friend learned that lesson.

  Today, sadly, many Americans – including the vaunted law Prof. Anita Hill and NYC Mayor de Blasio – have yet to learn this simple lesson in justice. And now we live in a nation clearly less James Madison and more Joe McCarthy; a world in which mere accusations – provided they fit one’s personal political prejudices – must be regarded as fact. If this travesty continues, America can look forward to a truly nasty ride over the next few years. History shows that in times such as this, a time of rampant fear, anger, and cowardice, things always get worse before they fade away. Until the next time. We always have a “next time” because of our national amnesia. The ghost of Joe McCarthy counts on it…

UPDATE: regarding the Kavanaugh claim, among the thousands of words I have read and heard, I note two words which nobody utters: “unsubstantiated allegation.” The crux of our system consists of what you can prove, not what you believe. Faith-Based justice went out with the Salem witch trials. Liking a person and agreeing with that person’s politics, or not, has absolutely nothing to do with justice. Thanks to Scott Ross for reminding me of this:

Hitchens Without Evidence

FURTHER UPDATE: December 10, 2018 – Big Bad EEEEEEVIL Justice Kavanaugh sides with Planned Parenthood. Article HERE
Kavanaugh Joins Liberals

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6 Responses to “Accusations Do Not Equal Proof: Remembering Horace de Vere Cole”

  1. scottross79 Says:

    Sharply perceptive and illuminating, as always. That it is so-called “liberals” who are the latter-day Locker-Lampsons insisting on conviction without evidence should not, I suppose, surprise us, especially after two years of their instigating a new Cold War based on lies. But it damn sure is dispiriting. (The “old” Cold War was of course also built largely on Western lies, but the number of alleged leftists who seem to think the Russians are STILL Communist is mind-numbing.)

  2. scottross79 Says:

    Christopher Hitchens: “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

  3. scottross79 Says:

    And it’s certainly never too late for Hitchens.

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