In 1861 in the midst of the War Between the States, The Octaroon, a play authored by Dion Boucicault, was performed in both London and in the United States. The central plot device in this play about race, murder and miscegenation, was a self-acting camera, a mechanism that took pictures all by itself -- a dumb witness, the perfect producer of evidence.
In this play, a murder has been committed, and an Indian has been blamed and risks being murdered himself by the mob's vigilante justice. As the jury calls for "Proof, proof," a photograph plate is found, sticking out a smashed camera that had been present at the moment of the murder. The plate reveals an image of one of the Indian's most vociferous accusers -- caught by the camer in the act of killing.
Scud: You! You slew him with that tomahawk; and as you stood over his body with the letter in your hand, you thought that no witness saw the deed, that no eye was on you -- but there was, Jacob M'Closky, there was. The eye of the Eternal was on you -- the blessed sun in heaven, that, looking down, struck upon this plate the image of the deed. Here you are, in the very attitude of your crime!
M'Closky: Tis False!
Scud: 'Tis true! the apparatus can't lie. Look there, jurymen. (Shows plate to jury.) Look there. O, you wanted evidence -- you called for proof -- Heaven has answered and convicted you.
M'Closky: What court of law would receive such evidence?
Ratts: Stop; thisone would.
Last Modified: Tuesday, 26-Feb-2008 14:47:52 EST