August 1863 was a typically hot and atypically tiresome wartime summer month. Shut away for several weeks in the fetid quarter sessions courtroom, the grand jurors lost their patience and began quarreling with each other, the district attorney, and the judges. The issue was whether the aldermen or the private parties were more to blame for the flood of exasperatingly petty cases with which the jurors were presented, preventing them from escaping the oppressive atmosphere of Independence Square. Although they had little use for either group, most of the two dozen grand jurors were inclined to blame the aldermen, believing that they had the power to keep cases out of court. So spirited was the discussion that, when the grand jurors issued their written presentment, they included their complaints. In one passage, replete with Dickensian images, the foreman provided illustrations that "will serve for as many hundreds":
Mrs. Fightall's little boy Mike, aged 4, pushes Mrs. Fireup's little girl Sally, aged 5, into the gutter, for not giving him any of her peanuts, in doing which Sallies clothes were soiled, whereupon Mrs. Fireup rushes to Alderman Graball, who, upon the receipt of $1, forthwith issues a warrant upon the oath of the mother, who did not see the circumstances, but has only heard the child say so, as she knows the little puss would not tell an untruth. Mrs. Fightall is arrested, arraigned and required to give bail at once, failing to find which, it is suggested that he, Mr. Graball, can prevail upon Mr. Alwaysdry to go her bail, provided she brings a cross-action, which will compel Mrs. Fireup to either withdraw her suit or settle the case, all of which will cost her but $1, which she pays over, and these two cases are finally submitted for the consideration of 24 citizens, and these two neighbors of long standing are made inveterate foes, whereas, by one kind word from the magistrate, their friendship might have been the more firmly cemented.
Biddy McGab, in washing her pave, lets some water run over the side of Chloe Curlwool, who, in consequence, calls Biddy pretty hard names, not relishing which, Biddy, in turn, gives Chloe a push with her mop, and she under an impulse of a moment hastes off to Squire Niggerfip, the "culled pussen's frien'" and procures a warrant at half