There are two or three reasons peculiar to this case why I shall find it unnecessary to occupy your time at such length as is usual in trials of this description; it will not be necessary to go over the evidence in detail for a reason we seldom find in cases of this kind. As a general rule it is necessary for the representative of the Crown at the conclusion of the case to go over the evidence in detail and compare the different statements which are frequently contradictory. But in this case, gentlemen, there is no contradiction, there is no dispute, there is not a single witness whose word has been doubted, there is not a single fact proved on the part of the Crown which anybody has been called to contradict, and it stands therefore as an admission, and an admission made by counsel for the defense that the case as presented has been made out beyond all question there can be no doubt about that either on the documentary evidence or the evidence of the witnesses. What I have to do, therefore, in the first place, is to address myself to the only defense which has in reality been set up here, and I have next to show you, because I think it right to show you, that every single allegation of my learned friend's statement made to you in the opening of the case has been proved to the very letter.
I must say before I proceed farther that I felt it hardly consistent with our position as counsel for the Crown to listen to a portion of the address of my learned friend Mr. Greenshields and to a portion of the address of my learned friend Mr. Fitzpatrick without a protest, but I listened in silence for two reasons: In the first place we have been anxious throughout this case to give to them every possible latitude, every possible privilege, every possible opportunity of placing their case fully and fairly, not only as we thought that the law might authorize them to do, but as they in their judgment might desire to do before you who are to judge of it; and in the next place when I reflected for a moment of the utter inconsistency of the defense which was set up, I thought I might listen to it in silence without neglecting any part of my duty. What my learned friend's address a mounted to was practically this: They told you in fact that this rebellion was justifiable. My learned friend, Mr. Greenshields, told you that the men responsible for the blood that was shed were the people who had refused the petitions of the half-breeds made under the direction and guidance of the prisoner at the bar.
In the next breath he told you that this rebellion was directed and carried on by an irresponsible lunatic.
If the only thing, gentlemen, that can be charged against the persons at the head of affairs, is that they hesitated to accede to the request presented to them through the hands and by the direction of a person whom my learned friends tell you is insane, surely they may be excused for their hesitation.
When my learned friend, Mr. Greenshields, told you that the name of this prisoner would go down to posterity as that of a man who was justified in the action he has taken, he had to tell you in the next breath that he honored and praised the men who risked their lives to put down the rebellion. Gentlemen, is not that the very height of inconsistency? Are you to be told as sensible men that all credit and respect is due to those brave and loyal men who shed their blood and lost their lives to put down this rebellion, and at the same time that that man who organized this rebellion and who is responsible for it is to go down to posterity with an honored name, and as a victim of the wrongs of his country?
My learned friends must make their choice between their defenses. They cannot claim for their client what is called a niche in the temple of fame and at the same time assert that he is entitled to a place in a lunatic asylum. I understand perfectly well the defense of insanity; I understand perfectly the defense of patriotism, but I am utterly unable to understand how you can be told in one breath a man is a noble patriot and to be told in the next breath that every guiding motive of his actions, every controlling influence which he is bound by his very nature to give heed to, is that of overweening vanity, a selfish sense of his own importance and an utter disregard to everything but his own insane power. There must be either one defense or the other in this case.
Unfortunately it becomes my duty to show to you, that the case which the Crown believes it has made out is, that this prisoner at the bar is neither a patriot nor a lunatic.
But before I proceed further as to that, I would ask you in all seriousness, as sensible men: do you believe that a defense of insanity could have any conceivable or possible applicability to a case of this description?
I have here a book which is supposed to contain a record of every case, at least of every reported case, in which the defense of insanity has been set up, and I see my learned friends have the same book before them too. And one thing is certain, that among those cases there never has been a case in the least like this.
Now, gentlemen, just remember what you are told and what you are asked to believe: The half-breeds of this district number, I understand, some 600 or 700. I am speaking entirely of the French half-breeds. I believe the English half-breeds are more numerous than that.
In July I884, the French half-breeds, believing that the prisoner at the bar was a person in whose judgment, whose advice, whose discretion they could trust and rely upon, sought him out in the place where he was then living with a view of getting him to manage for them their affairs, and to represent their grievances, and to endeavor to obtain for them those rights and that justice which they believed to be theirs.
They sent men, I suppose, in whom they had confidence to ask the prisoner to come for that purpose. They, in their intercourse with him, discovered nothing wrong in his mind, no unsoundness in his reason. The prisoner came here. He remained here from July 1884, till March 1885, and during all that time he was before the public; he addressed, I think we have been told, seven meetings, and there were, I suppose, many more in which he also participated.
There was in the district a population of at least 2,000 altogether, for there were six or seven hundred French half-breeds and the English half-breeds outnumbered them. There can be no question, I say, that the prisoner at the bar addressed on public affairs at least two thousand people.
During that time was there ever a whisper of his insanity heard? Have you had one single soul who heard him during that time, one single person of the community among which he lived, and which believed in him; have you heard, I say, one single suspicion from any of them that the prisoner was insane?
The next thing we find in regard to these men is that under the guidance of the prisoner they embark in an enterprise full of danger and gravity. They place their lives and property under his control and direction, and trusting in his judgment they risk both in obedience to his advice, and we have not heard from anyone of them that during all that time there was the smallest suspicion he was affected with any unsoundness of mind whatever.
Now, gentlemen, am I speaking reason or am I not speaking reason? Unless all reason and common sense has been banished from the land is it possible that a defense of insanity can be set up in the case of a person of that description? If so, I should like to know what protection there is for society, I should like to know how crimes are to be put down. I should like to know more; I should like to know if the prisoner at the bar is not in law to be held responsible for this crime, who is responsible? He was followed by some six or seven hundred misled and misguided men. Are we to be told that the prisoner at the bar was insane but that his followers were sane? Is there any escape from the one inevitable conclusion either that the prisoner at the bar was perfectly sane and sound in mind or that all the half-breed population of the Saskatchewan were insane. You must have it either one way or the other.
What in reality is the defense set up here; what in reality is the defense which you, as sensible men, are asked to find by your verdict? You are asked to find that six or seven hundred men may getup an armed rebellion with its consequent loss of life, its loss of property, that murder and arson and pillage may be committed by that band of armed men, and we are to be told they are all irresponsible lunatics.
It is my duty to put these facts to you plainly and strongly, because it is our duty to protect society, and all that I can say is that if such a folly as finding this man insane is possible in this country, you say in effect to men who desire to come here to live, that there is no sufficient protection by law for either life or property or liberty.
Are you prepared to say that? Because that is the single issue placed before you by the counsel for the Crown; disguise it as you like; speak of it as you like, that is the simple result and the plain consequence.
Can you say with any reason that a man who has lived among his fellow-men for eighteen months, probably the most prominent man in the district, that he can live for that length of time without his unsoundness of mind being found out, if his mind is unsound? Can you say that this prisoner can, by any application of law, administered by reasonable men, be held to be irresponsible for his actions? And if he is irresponsible are you to say, or are you not to say to all the men who followed him in his crime 'it was your duty, it was your business, living as you did so long with the prisoner, to know more about this man's unsoundness of mind,' and his insanity; it was your duty to know more about him than such witnesses as Capt. Young and General Middleton, who have seen him just lately, who can discover nothing unsound about him. Are you to tell these men it was their duty to discover his unsoundness of mind and not to follow him because he was a lunatic? If not then no one is responsible for this rebellion.
Now, with regard to the evidence which it is necessary for me to refer to in this defense. I will first speak for a moment of the scientific evidence.
Medical men have it as their duty to investigate and discover every kind and every degree of unsoundness of mind; that is a duty which they take upon themselves, that is a duty which, I believe, they are pursuing with increasing devotion and success as years goon, but what medical men occasionally call unsoundness of mind and what may be insanity in law are two different things entirely; it is for the law to say what degree of unsoundness of mind will enable a man to escape punishment for his acts; it is for medical men to describe the different degrees of unsoundness of mind which may be made to yield to medical treatment.
Now, in this case there is one absolutely conclusive fact proved, about which there can be no dispute, which is a complete answer to the defense of insanity. There is no question and no dispute of one thing, that the very essence of an insane impulse is that it is impervious to reason. The impulse of the insane man is such that you do not reason him into it and therefore you cannot reason him out of it. The moment you find the impulse which possesses a man yielding to reason, force or any motive, that moment that ceases to be an insane delusion. We hear of poor creatures in asylums who suppose themselves to be possessed of all the wealth of the world. Do you suppose if you went to one of them and offered him $I00 in exchange for all the wealth he imagined himself possessed of, and if he accepted that, that you would have a lunatic before you? You might have an imposter, but the lunacy is at an end. Or if you go to the poor creature who thinks herself to be a queen and offer her $I00 to give up her throne, and you find her willing to do so, you will no more discover a lunatic here than in the case I have just referred to. The most well known form of mania is what is called homicidal mania. That is a mania of which there are always instances in our asylums. The one idea, the one feeling and thought that possesses the man, is a desire to take human life, and that has more than once been set up as a defense to murder. Do you suppose if you find a man who had been paid $I,000 to commit a murder, or who says he would not commit a murder unless he got $1,000, and who then sets up as a defense this homicidal mania, do you think any jury would listen to him for a moment?
Now, what are the facts here? We are told that this man's controlling mania was a sense of his own importance and power; that he was so possessed with over-weening vanity and insane ambition that the one thing which he was unable to resist, which in his own mind justified all crimes, and was an atonement for all guilt, was his own sense of greatness and position and his own power. Well, gentlemen, is it not a fact that he expressly said that if he could get a certain sum of money he would give up this power and this ambition and go away. Now, my learned friend, Mr. Fitzpatrick, has said to you all that can be said upon that head. He says he made that offer through Nolin, that what he desired to do with the money was to go to a foreign country and work out some schemes of conquest there. Gentlemen, did he say that to Father Andre, or to Mr. Jackson? Am I right or am I wrong in suggesting to you that the prisoner at the bar was capable of adopting his arguments, his convictions to the men with whom he had to reason? He tells Nolin that he wished the money to go to a foreign country and work out his schemes, and why? Because he was one of his own people, one whom he believed to be in sympathy with his own schemes. Did he tell Father Andre anything of the kind? When he wanted Father Andre to get this money for him what was it he said to him? He said, if I get the $35,000 I will go, I will leave the country. Did he tell Father Andre he was going on any absurd schemes of conquest, that he was going to return with his army and devastate Manitoba? No, gentlemen, that was not said, and the reason why it was not said was because he knew it would ruin all his chances with Father Andre.
And in the same way he reasoned with Mr. Jackson. Jackson is an Englishman, and the prisoner knew if he had told Jackson any of these absurd ideas it would have had no influence whatever with him. Well, gentlemen, we do not find that he did communicate those ideas to him. Now, then, what does this evidence show you so far as that is concerned? Does it show to you he was a man who controlled his mania and used it for his own purpose? If so, there is no mania about it; and if in any way that impulse was under his control then that very moment it ceased to be insanity. Now, gentlemen, is there any doubt in the facts of this case, that what I have told you is the truth, you have to judge for yourself; I am expressing no opinion. I am simply placing before you these simple facts. I am pointing out to you in the first place this so-called insanity had no such control on him that he was not perfectly willing to drop his insane theories for a sum of money, and secondly, when he desired to get that money the arguments which he used were adapted to the character and position of the person whom he wished to influence by them. There are other features in his character and conduct, but you must remember all I am here to discuss is what was his conduct and what was his character, what were his actions and what were his motives during this rebellion. There are, I say, other features connected with the prisoner's conduct which I think ought to be submitted to you to show that his mind was strong and clear, that he was not merely a man of strong mind but unusually long-headed, that he was a man who calculated his schemes and drew his plans with shrewdness, and was controlled by no insane impulse.
In the first place do you think his treatment with regard to the rising of the Indians is a piece of insanity? Do you think that the manner in which he addressed them to rise? Do you think the communications which he sent them were suited to their purpose, were adapted to answer the object he had in view? Or do you think you can discover in anyone of these communications the insane ravings of an unsound mind? I shall come to this on another branch of the case in a few minutes.
Do you think when he told Mr. Lash what he intended to do with him, that he might release the other prisoners, but he would not release him because he was a Government official, do you think that was a piece of insanity?
Do you think the manner in which he conceived this campaign, do you think the mode in which he was to carry it out, do you think these were proofs of any insanity? I would ask you, gentlemen, if he is to be declared insane in the conduct of this whole undertaking, who is to escape the charge of insanity and who is to be punished when a plea of insanity is set up?
The only peculiarity in this case is that some eight or nine years ago the prisoner was in a lunatic asylum, and I cannot help saying that the evidence we have had here on that subject was to my mind unsatisfactory. I should like to have known how, and under what circumstances, the prisoner was placed in that asylum, under an assumed name. I should like to know who were responsible for his being placed there. I should like to have seen the register and records which are kept in every asylum from week to week, and I should like to have seen not only why he was received into that asylum, but how he came to be discharged. All these things they have not thought it necessary to bring before you. I have in one respect to correct my learned friend, Mr. Fitzpatrick, who stated that Dr Roy was brought here on the part of the Crown. He was not brought hereon the part of the Crown. You have heard how Dr Roy came to be brought here. My learned friend stated at the opening of this case that they had not their evidence, that they desired to obtain certain witnesses, and the Crown said, if you desire to obtain witnesses we will use our own influence in procuring them, that is to say we will join you in telegrams to any witnesses whom you want to come here and we will pay their expenses, but Dr Roy was not in any sense called as a witness for the Crown. The crown concurred with my learned friends in calling him here because they believed it subservient to the cause of justice to do all in their power to give my learned friends every right assistance in getting the evidence which they believed to be necessary for their case.
I have nothing more to say in that respect except this: It has been said by learned judges over and over again that insanity is not a question which is only decided by experts. Any man of intelligence and sense, and ordinary capacity is said to be a perfectly good witness, and in many respects as capable to decide on cases of insanity as medical experts can be. A man like Captain Young, who was asked what experience he had with regard to insanity, and who answered, 'I think I should know if I had been living eight days with a lunatic' the evidence of that man is just as good and strong in law, and to many minds would be considered stronger than the evidence of medical experts, because as a rule they have better opportunities of observation. The medical experts have none of them had any opportunity of observing the prisoner at the bar and his state of mind at the only time when his state of mind is in question, at the time when his crimes were planned and carried out. Our witnesses are men who saw him at that very time and who observed his demeanor, who had much better opportunities of observing him.
Now, gentlemen, if a man's mind is weak, if a man's mind is likely to give way, I ask you when is it more likely to give way? (If the one thing that possessed this man's mind was his ambition and vanity, and a sense of his own power and importance.) I should like to know, I say, when his mind was more likely to give way than when all his schemes collapsed, all his ambition was frustrated and he found himself helpless in the hands of his opponents? And that was the time we had the opportunity of observing his demeanor. Did he then show any signs of unsoundness of mind? Can you fancy any stronger test of a man's unsoundness of mind, anything more likely to cause an inherent weakness to become apparent? Every scheme in life which he may be supposed to have formed, every hope he had cherished, every desire he had wished to see gratified, all these were dashed to the ground, and do we see he then showed any signs of insanity, or any evidence of that excitement under which he is supposed to be laboring? Or do we, from the beginning to the end, until this whole thing had failed, and until his guilt or innocence became the question, do we ever find the defense of insanity hinted at or suspected by any human being who came in contact with him?
Gentlemen, as to latent insanity, all I can say is this: There are cases
of latent insanity; human nature is always fallible, but if it be possible
in any civilized community for a man to go through the career which the
prisoner at the bar has had, for a man to exercise all that influence over
his fellow-creatures which he has exercised, and if sensible men are then
to be told that during that time he was practically irresponsible, then
all I can say is that there is no safety for society can be no safety for
society at all. If we are to be told that these six or seven hundred men
who entrusted themselves to his guidance were all a band of lunatics, following
a lunatic leader, and that they are not responsible for murder, pillage,
throughout this country, then all we can say is that it is not a country for human beings to live in.
You may give every consideration you desire to the arguments of my learned friend, give them the fullest consideration, give them every consideration which by any possibility you in the exercise of your reason can think them entitled to, but, gentlemen, it is my duty to ask you not to forget the other aspect of the case, not with any degree of feeling or emphasis, but to place it before you as a fact you must consider upon the evidence.
I have little more to say upon the question of insanity, except so far as it is connected with the other branches of the case. My learned friend, Mr. Fitzpatrick, closing with an eloquent description of a free land, with which many of us are familiar with, uses these words: That it is a land where a man may speak the thing he will, what seems to him right.
Gentlemen, I wish the prisoner at the bar had confined himself to speaking what he thought to be right. It is not for what he spoke that he is in this situation; it is entirely for the acts he did, and the crimes he committed that throws upon us the painful duty of trying him here. If he had only considered this was a free land and a land where free speech will always get a man his rights, there would have been no difficulty or trouble in the matter. It was just because he was not contented with constitutional agitation, just because he desired to carryon armed rebellion, to have his own way, just because he was not contented with that constitutional agitation which others are satisfied to follow; it was for this reason that he occupies the unhappy position in which he finds himself to-day. Gentlemen, my learned friend in opening this case to you, opened it as I thought, strongly, clearly and emphatically, but if there is one duty more incumbent on the counsel for the Crown than another it is to say nothing to a jury which they are not prepared to support in evidence, it is to make no statement which may possibly influence their mind, which the evidence will not carry out.
Now, gentlemen, let us see whether those few important and material features in this case to which my learned friend called your attention have or have not been proved beyond all doubt or suspicion.
In the first place my learned friend, Mr. Fitzpatrick, has represented to you; I cannot say he has represented it, but he has argued to you, that this is a case in which the prisoner started with no intention, with no expectation or desire for anything beyond constitutional agitation, that he was, as it were, overtaken by the situation, that the situation got beyond him. Gentlemen, does the evidence afford even the shadow of a foundation for such a statement. You will remember it was on the 26th of March before hostilities of any kind broke out. Now, what does the evidence show in that respect? You will remember in the first place, according to the evidence of Nolin, he spoke of taking up arms as long ago as December. Very severe attacks have been made upon the character and evidence of Nolin. I will only say this, that in so far as Mr. Nolin's evidence is concerned, in one of the most important features it was corroborated to the letter by Father Andre. And I will say this further for him, that as far as the constitutional agitation was concerned, he sympathized with it and went along with it until unconstitutional means were employed, when he declined to go any further with the prisoner in his criminal course, in consequence of which he was tried for his life but escaped. Is Nolin to be censured for that course he took? He was wrong, I believe, to accept the leadership of the prisoner at the bar under any circumstances, but he was perfectly right and he did the duty of a loyal citizen in seceding altogether when unconstitutional means were employed, and he further did the duty of a loyal citizen when he placed in the hands of the Crown such information as he could afford.
On the 3rd of March the prisoner at the bar is accompanied by sixty armed half-breeds to the Halcro settlement, and there he made use of the expression, 'They talk to us about the police, but here are our police,' pointing to the armed men. The next thing we find is that on the 5th of March and on the 6th, he told Nolin that he had decided to take up arms, that that was his view of the proper course. We hear Nolin dissented from that, and we hear that they disagreed. (And you must remember that they are isolated people and their ways are not in some respects our ways.) They agreed I say that it was better to have a novena or nine days' prayer in order to avert the trouble and agitation which was in the settlement. Riel, the prisoner, seems to have said it was too long a time, but the novena was carried against him.
Gentlemen, if in all he had done he was sincere and truthful, would not the prisoner at the bar heartily have joined in that prayer? What would his conduct have been? Would he not have attended this nine days' prayer and earnestly addressed his thoughts to avert from this country the bloodshed which he foresaw was coming upon it? What did he do? That novena was appointed at his suggestion to begin on the 9th of March and end on the 19th, and what was his course in the meantime? If Nolin's evidence is to be believed the prisoner did what he could to prevent the people from going to the church where these prayers were being said; and we find that before the 19th of March came under his direction and guidance armed rebellion had broken out, and Nolin was taken prisoner and in custody in his hands.
Well, gentlemen, it may be painful but we must test religion by its fruits, and I must ask you what is your opinion on that question, which has been proved beyond all doubt, whether these ways were our ways or the ways of others. I ask you if the prisoner had been sincere would he not have joined heartily in that attempt to avert the disaster which was coming upon the country in the same manner as all his fellow men desired and hoped to avert it, and would he have precipitated the disturbance as he did before these days of prayer were over? Now these are the facts; it is for you to draw your conclusion as to what is a fair inference from them.
But however you may view that, the next thing we find is that on the 18th and 19th, a week before hostilities broke out, and on the 18th more especially, speaking to Dr Willoughby, he told him that in one week from that day the police would be wiped out of existence. He told Dr Willoughby he would let him know who would do the killing in this country. He said: 'You know Louis Riel's history.'Well, gentlemen, I am content to drop the history of Louis Riel. I am content it should be buried in oblivion, and I shall say nothing more to you about that. He told him the last rebellion would be nothing to this one. He said the time had now come when he was to rule this country or perish in the attempt. Well, gentlemen, is that the talk of a man whom the situation has overwhelmed, or the talk of a man who was the creature of circumstances?
The next thing we find is that on the 18th pillage and robbery is committed on inoffensive citizens. We find two stores are robbed, Walters' & Baker's and another, Kerr's. We find both these stores looted and pillaged. We find the prisoner coming to the nearest of these stores and demanding arms and ammunition. Can we fancy anything more premeditated and designed'! We find the preparations made for war just as patiently and quietly as they are in the case of two nations who have declared war against each other. On the 18th he told Mr. Lash that the rebellion had commenced and that they intended to fight until the whole Saskatchewan valley was in their hands. He told him on the 26th he had sent an armed body to capture the Lieutenant Governor, that he had waited fifteen years and at last his opportunity had arrived.
The witness Tompkins tells you that, being arrested on the 19th of April, he heard the prisoner at the bar address his followers in these words: 'What is Carlton; what is Prince Albert? March on my brave army!'
We find on the 21st he took the most deliberate step which could be taken, not in words but in writing. This which I have in my hand is a document in the prisoner's own handwriting. On the 21st he addresses Major Crozier, then commandant of the Mounted Police at Carlton, this summons: 'The Councillors of the provisional government of the Saskatchewan have the honor to communicate to you the following conditions of surrender: You will be required to give up completely the situation which the Canadian Government have placed you in at Carlton and Battleford, together with all Government properties. In case of nonacceptance we intend to attack you when tomorrow, the Lord's Day, is over, and to commence without delay a war of extermination upon all those who have shown them selves hostile to Our rights.'
Can you fancy anything more deliberate, or more prepared, any thing carried out with more plain intention and preparation? You will remember, gentlemen, that that was five days even then before open hostilities had broken out. It was not, therefore, one day or one week; it was not one week or two weeks, but it was at least a period of three weeks, during which armed rebellion was in the contemplation and intention of this prisoner. We do not see men armed without an object; we don't hear incendiary speeches addressed to armed men without a purpose, and we certainly don't find summonses to surrender to those who are appointed to guard the public peace, and threaten them with a war of extermination, unless those who address those summonses are fully prepared to go into the rebellion which they contemplate. Well, then gentlemen, on the 21st that letter was addressed to Major Crozier. There was no want of fair warning, and everything was done on the part of the authorities to try if it might not be possible to arrest this prisoner and his misguided followers in their criminal course.
Major Crozier took what was probably the most judicious course, in spreading far and wide proclamations that if those who had begun this movement would only go peaceably back to their homes they should be let off, and their leaders only be required to answer for it. The prisoner and his followers must have been aware of that, and they had that opportunity of withdrawing from the course upon which they had entered.
The next thing we find is that open hostilities break out and blood is shed. Now, gentlemen, how did that come to happen? What were these men doing, the police and volunteers of Prince Albert what were they doing, when they were attacked by an armed band and many of them slain? They were simply discharging the duty of true and loyal citizens, in endeavoring to protect property and to keep the peace. I ask you what crimes these unfortunate men had committed whose bodies were left on the battlefield that day: just the crime of being loyal and brave subjects.
Gentlemen, if we are to speak of religion, I must confess I never heard religion so used as we have heard it to-day. It was said by two or three, I forget how many witnesses, that the prisoner declared to them, that he said to his followers: In the name of God the Father, fire, and three men are laid out, it may be dead; in the name of God the Son, fire; in the name of the Holy Ghost, fire, and nine bodies are left on the field, and the prisoner returns to do what? To lament the loss of life? No, gentlemen, to rouse the cheers of his soldiers and thank God for his victory, and praise them for their shooting.
Now, when we talk of humanity we must look to facts. We have no right to shirk duties that are incumbent upon us, and it is our duty to bring before you plainly all those facts, which are undeniable, and to ask you to draw from them what you consider to be the fair and proper inference. We have heard of humanity, and credit has been claimed for humanity. You remember what the prisoner said to two witnesses after Fish Creek, where more blood was shed that being then urged to make peace, he said: 'No, we must yet have another fight, and then our terms will be better.' Well, gentlemen, human life is sacred, and the position of the prisoner is a terrible one, but when we are asked for sympathy for a person in his position, those only can ask us to respect the sacredness of human life who respect it themselves. Has there been any respect for human life in this rebel lion, or any humanity shown? Has there been any reason or justification for the criminal acts which have been committed? These are questions which each one of you must ask himself, and which you must decide according to the evidence laid before you?
Well, gentlemen, we have the evidence to show that this rebellion was designed contrived, premeditated and prepared, that it was carried out with deliberation and intention, that it was the result of no sudden impulse, that it was no outburst of passion, but it was clearly, calmly, and deliberately opened and carried out.
Then the next thing we find, or the next feature which I must call your attention to, is that which my learned friend has argued. We say this was not a rebellion got up and carried out from mistaken motives of patriotism, but that the leader was actuated by selfish motives. You have heard the evidence of Astley, who tells you that at the battle of Batoche the prisoner wanted him to go and see the general and contrive some means by which he could be introduced to him, that he might then explain to him that he was the founder of this new religion, and that the councillors were responsible for the war, and he said to Astley, 'you know I have never borne arms.' Astley points to the contrary, that he had borne arms. Now, if he did say that, was that the act of an honest man, a brave man, or a true man? Was it right in him as an honest and a brave man to get it represented not that he but his followers were responsible for the rebellion, and that his share in the business was religious only?
You have further the evidence of Astley, who tells you that in his conversation with the prisoner at Batoche the principal thing in the prisoner's mind seemed to be his own grievances. Jackson tells you the same story, and Nolin confirms it and so does Father Andre.
My learned friend also stated to you that wherever we find there was a question of leniency and extreme measures the prisoner's voice was always for the latter. His treatment of McKay, does that bear out this assertion or not? McKay went with great self risk, and incurred great danger, to the enemy's camp, among a band of armed men, saying that he did not come as a spy, but as one of Her Majesty's soldiers, and he came to warn them against their criminal measures. I cannot forbear in passing here to mention that it is well for this country that we had among us men like Mr. McKay and one or two others. If it hadn't been for the praiseworthy conduct of Mr. McKay before the rebels many others would have flocked to the rebellion, and which then would have had greater chances of success. You remember the charge made against Mr. McKay, and you remember the manner in which it was met, and you remember the expressions with which it was accompanied. It is well, I say, we had in the country men like McKay, men who deserve so well of their country.
It is well, too, we have had in this country a man whose conduct, I think, entitles him to all credit. I refer to Mr. Astley; for it is to my mind by no means clear that the gallantry of the troops would have rescued the prisoners at Batoche if it had not been for his conduct there. Gentlemen, when he got to the camp of General Middleton his own life was safe, and it was the act of a brave man that Astley, after he had saved himself, did not hesitate again to risk his own life in his praiseworthy desire to serve the cause of humanity.
Gentlemen, what do we find with regard to the treatment of Mr. McKay? He was tried for his life because he had attempted to teach reason and sense to his fellow half-breeds. We find the prisoner at the bar brought the charge against him, and said it was his blood they wanted, and McKay having spoken for himself that Champagne got up and said: 'We want no blood here; we want only our rights,' and the prisoner then left the room and went away.
Are you satisfied if it hadn't been for Champagne McKay would be where he is to-day? Are you satisfied that the evidence bears out fully that feature of the case to which my learned friend called your attention?
Well, gentlemen, there is but one more feature to which I must call your attention. My learned friend, Mr. Fitzpatrick, has said that the prisoner and those who were responsible for the rebellion, can not be fairly accused of any attempt to incite the Indians, of any attempt to induce them to take up arms. Gentlemen, is there any foundation for that statement of my learned friend that there is no proof that the documents we find in his handwriting were ever made use of?
Do you think, gentlemen, that men at a time of that sort would write out statements which they do not entertain? Do you think they put in writing and sign with their own names plans which they don't intend to carry out, or do you think that these words which I find in that document, No. 112, in the handwriting of the prisoner, signed by himself, and in which I find these expressions, are without intent:
'Take all the ammunition you can in whatever store they may be; murmur, growl and threaten; raise up the Indians; do all you can to put the police in an impossible position.'
Do you think the letters to Poundmaker, found in his camp, which it is shown was sent to him by a half-breed, in Riel's own handwriting, telling him of the victory over the police at Duck Lake, and thanking God for their success: 'If it is possible, and you have not yet taken Battleford , destroy it; take all the provisions and come to us; your number is such that you can send us a detachment of forty or fifty men.' Do you think that that, sent as it was to an Indian chief, was not intended to raise him to take up arms and go on the warpath and assist in this rebellion?
My learned friend, Mr. Fitzpatrick, must have forgotten what is due to a prisoner when he charged those who were acting for the Crown with some warmth for not having called Poundmaker to prove the receipt of that document. He was good enough at the same time to say that those who were conducting the case for the Crown were persons who understood fair play. It was because we did understand fair play, because it would have been improper to have called Poundmaker to swear to that, that we did not call him. If we had attempted to put Poundmaker in the box to prove the receipt of this document we should have been asking Poundmaker to declare on his oath his own complicity in this rebellion and Poundmaker would have to say to us 'I decline to answer your questions,' and any judge would have said to those who acted for the Crown, 'gentlemen, you had no business to put a man in that position.' Now that is our answer on the part of the Crown to the charge that we didn't call the prisoners to prove their own guilt out of their own mouth. It was because we respect the law, because we wanted fair play that we didn't attempt to call anyone here except the one person who is free from any charge of complicity in this rebellion, and who was bound to prove the taking of that letter to Poundmaker.
Well, gentlemen, I think I have almost done; but it is right to say to you these few words: When we hear rebellion as we do hear it, sometimes lightly spoken of, when we read rebellion sometimes lightly written about, do these people, gentlemen, who speak of armed rebellion as a thing to be spoken of in that way, do they think what it means? Not what it may mean, but what it must mean; not what it may mean in theory but what we know it by sad experience it is in fact.
Armed rebellion means the sacrifice of innocent lives, it means the loss of fathers, brothers, sisters, parents, the destruction of many homes, and still more the lifelong bitter desolation of many human hearts, and gentlemen, we must not allow ourselves for one moment to speak lightly of anything which necessarily involves these terrible consequences.
If this scheme had succeeded, gentlemen, if these Indians had been roused, can any man with a human heart contemplate without a shudder the atrocities, the cruelties which would have overspread this land. Those who are guilty of this rebellion and those who have not a proper excuse, have taken the step upon their own heads, and they must suffer the punishment which the law from all time, and which the law for the last five centuries has declared to be the punishment of the crime of treason.
Now, gentlemen, the Crown in this case has a double duty to perform. In the first place, to see that the prisoner has had every impartiality and fair play and every consideration which it was in their power to give him, and which the law afforded him. Let there be no mistake about that. If this fair play has not been granted, if this trial has not been impartial, if we have omitted any part of our duty, all I can say is that the prisoner's life has been in our hands quite as much as in the hands of the learned gentlemen for the defense.
But, gentlemen, we have another duty to perform; we have the cause of public justice entrusted to our hands; we have the duty of seeing that the cause of public justice is properly served, that justice is done.
I will leave this case with confidence in your hands.
The Crown asks only what is just, and the Crown believes justice will
be done. That is all the public and all the community have ever asked,
and to that the public and the community are fully entitled and that they
believe they will receive.