Character

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CHARACTER, evidence. The opinion generally entertained of a person derived from the common re 'port of the people who are acquainted with him. 3 Serg. & R. 336; 3 Mass. 192; 3 Esp. C. 236.
     2. There are three classes of cases on which the moral character and conduct of a person in society may be used in proof before a jury, each resting upon particular and distinct grounds. Such evidence is admissible, 1st. To afford a presumption that a particular party has not been guilty of a criminal act. 2d. To affect the damages in particular cases, where their amount depends on the character and conduct of any individual; and, 3d. To impeach or confirm the veracity of a witness.
     3.-1. Where the guilt of an accused party is doubtful, and the character of the supposed agent is involved in the question, a presumption of innocence arises from his former conduct in society, as evidenced by his general character, since it is not probable that a person of known probity and humanity, would commit a dishonest or outrageous act in the particular instance. Such presumptions, however, are so remote from fact, and it is frequently so difficult to estimate a person's real character, that they are entitled to little weight, except in doubtful cases. Since the law considers a presumption of this nature to be admissible, it is in principle admissible 'Whenever a reasonable presumption arises from it, as to the fact in question; in practice it is admitted whenever the character of the party is involved in the issue. See 2 St. Tr. 1038 1 Coxes Rep. 424; 5 Serg. & R. 352 3 Bibb, R. 195; 2 Bibb, R. 286; 5 Day, R. 260; 5 Esp. C. 13; 3 Camp. C. 519; 1 Camp. C. 460; Str. R. 925. Tha. Cr. Cas. 230; 5 Port. 382.
     4.-2. In some instances evidence in disparagement of character is admissible, not in order to prove or disprove the commission of a particular fact, but with a view to damages. In actions for criminal conversation with the plaintiff's wife, evidence may be given of the wife's general bad character, for want of chastity, and even of particular acts of adultery committed by her, previous to her intercourse with the defendant. B. N. P. 27, 296; 12 Mod. 232; 3 Esp. C. 236. See 5 Munf. 10. In actions for slander and libel, when the defendant has not justified, evidence of the plaintiff's bad character has also been admitted. 3 Camp. C. 251; 1 M. & S. 284; 2 Esp. C. 720; 2 Nott & M'Cord, 511; 1 Nott & M'Cord, 268; and see 11 Johns. R. 38; 1 Root, R. 449; 1 Johns. R. 46; 6 Penna. St. Rep. 170. The ground of admitting such evidence is, that a person of disparaged fame is not entitled to the same measure of damages with one whose character is unblemished. When, however, the defendant justifies the slander, it seems to be doubtful whether the evidence of reports as to the conduct and character of the plaintiff can be received. See 1 M. & S. 286, n (a) 3 Mass. R. 553 1 Pick. R. 19. When evidence is admitted touching the general character of a party, it is manifest that it is to be confined to matters in reference to the nature of the, charge against him. 2 Wend. 352.
     5.-3. The party against whom a witness is called, may disprove the fact& stated by him, or may examine other witnesses as to his general character; but they will not be allowed to speak of particular facts or parts of his conduct. B. N. P. 296. For example, evidence of the general character of a prosecutrix for a rape, may be given, as that she was a street walker; but evidence of specific acts of criminality cannot be admitted. 3 Carr. & P. 589. The regular mode is to inquire whether the witness under examination has the means of knowing the former witness general character, and whether from such knowledge he would believe, him on his oath. 4 St. Tr. 693; 4 Esp. C. 102. In answer to such evidence against character, the other party may cross-examine the witness as to his means of knowledge, and the grounds of his opinion; or he may attack such witness general character, and by fresh evidence support the character of his own. 2 Stark. C. 151; Id. 241; St. Ev. pt. 4, 1753 to 1758; 1 Phil. Ev. 229. A party cannot give evidence to confirm the good character of a witness, unless his general character has been impugned by his antagonist. 9 Watts, R. 124. See, in general, as to character, Phil. Ev. Index, tit. Character; Stark. Ev. pl. 4, 364 Swift's Ev. 140 to 144 5 Ohio R. 227; Greenl. Ev. Sec. 54; 3 Hill, R. 178 Bouv. Inst. Index, h.t.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in classic literature ?
Now character determines men's qualities, but it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse.
It aims largely to interest and delight, to throw over life a pleasing glamor; it generally deals with love or heroic adventure; and it generally locates its scenes and characters in distant times and places, where it can work unhampered by our consciousness of the humdrum actualities of our daily experience.
Whether the preservation of my father's house in Moscow, or the glory of the Russian arms, or the prosperity of the Petersburg and other universities, or the freedom of Poland or the greatness of Russia, or the balance of power in Europe, or a certain kind of European culture called "progress" appear to me to be good or bad, I must admit that besides these things the action of every historic character has other more general purposes inaccessible to me.
It has been my aim to make the character of "Magdalen," which personifies this struggle, a pathetic character even in its perversity and its error; and I have tried hard to attain this result by the least obtrusive and the least artificial of all means -- by a resolute adherence throughout to the truth as it is in Nature.
They have all, long since, given place to other buildings of a more pretending character. There is also some liberty taken with the truth in the description of the principal dwelling; the real building had no
If the plan of the convention, therefore, be found to depart from the republican character, its advocates must abandon it as no longer defensible.
Amelia is a character more difficult to be well represented than even Agatha.
Thus in a succession of characters Plato represents the successive stages of morality, beginning with the Athenian gentleman of the olden time, who is followed by the practical man of that day regulating his life by proverbs and saws; to him succeeds the wild generalization of the Sophists, and lastly come the young disciples of the great teacher, who know the sophistical arguments but will not be convinced by them, and desire to go deeper into the nature of things.
livia, with its geographical sub-species, only two or three other species of rock-pigeons are known; and these have not any of the characters of the domestic breeds.
For, in truth, that quiet method of evolution, which she pursues undismayed to the end, requires a certain lengthiness; and the reader's reward will be in a secure sense that he has been in intercourse with no mere flighty remnants, but with typical forms, of character, firmly and fully conceived.
But besides the dishonour which is thus cast on one of the most useful as well as entertaining of all kinds of writing, there is just reason to apprehend, that by encouraging such authors we shall propagate much dishonour of another kind; I mean to the characters of many good and valuable members of society; for the dullest writers, no more than the dullest companions, are always inoffensive.
To a commonplace man of limited intellect, for instance, nothing is simpler than to imagine himself an original character, and to revel in that belief without the slightest misgiving.