Defense (or Defence) Summation in the Louis Riel Trial



May it please your Honors, gentlemen of the jury:

In the month of March last, towards the end of that month, a cry of alarm spread throughout the country, which was flashed with the rapidity of lightning all throughout the Dominion of Canada. A rebellion was supposed to exist in this section of the Dominion. It was said that the country was placed in peril. Men from the north and from the south, and from the east and from the west, men rose and rallied around the flag of their country ready to do or die. Clerks left the stools of their countinghouses, mechanics left their shops, and all stood ready to do or die in defence of their country. In this peaceable, law-abiding country the hum of industry to a certain extent ceased and it was superseded by the tread of armed men, and the sounds and strains of martial music. Men came, as I said, from all parts of the Dominion to this section of the country. War, to a certain extent, prevailed for a short time. Cut-Knife Hill, Fish Creek, Batoche - all those battles were fought - and as a result we find to-day the prisoner at the bar now stands indicted for high treason.

We find him now indicted for treason, for an offence, not one of those ordinary criminal offences for which men are generally arraigned before the tribunals of their country, but we find him arraigned for an offence which is peculiarly an offence against the Government. As during the so-called rebellion all the forces of the State were put in motion to suppress it, so today all the machinery of the law is put in motion for the purpose of reaching this man, the prisoner at the bar. We have, as in case of the so-called rebellion, forces taken by the Government from all sections of the country. We find them appealing to all those learned and eminent in our profession. We find men brought here from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, for the purpose of vindicating the cause of the Government. Gentlemen, allow me to say it, even in their presence the Government has exercised a wise discretion in their choice. On the other hand, the flint-locks of the rebels at Batoche, these weak arms that they then had are presented to you to-day by the flint-lock counsel who are now acting for the prisoner.

You now see, gentlemen, arrayed on one side all the forces of the Government, and on the other side all the weakness of the rebels at Batoche. You now see the storm raging furiously around this man's head. You now see the waves rising ready to engulf him, but, gentlemen, if we have but the flint-locks of Batoche in our hands, if we have nothing else at our disposal but our weak talents, when I look around me I see a silver lining to the cloud, and the storm which is rising so furiously around this man, and that silver lining I see there before me in you, good men and true. I say, gentlemen, that, notwithstanding this man may be weak, and notwithstanding that the Government has arrayed all its talents against him, I see in that the semblance of an English jury, this one grand right that you shall say to the Government, thus far shalt thou go and no further; thou shalt not touch one single hair of this man's head except in justice and in fair play, and not one single hair of his head shall you allow to be touched unless it is in accordance with the well understood principles of law and of justice, and of equity, and especially of fair play. Gentlemen, as I said when I opened this case, what I now have before me is but a shred of that proud institution known as a British jury. What I now see before me is but a shred of it, but even a shred of that jury is sufficient to save a man, when that shred is woven by such material as that that I now see before me. You have but the shred of a jury, but it is sufficient, I trust, in this case, to see that justice is done.

In this case you have heard a very brilliant statement made of a case for the prosecution. You have seen, gentlemen of the jury, the learned counsel who opened the case for the Crown state to you all the events which he intended to prove. You have seen in his handsand he is truly master of the art-- you have seen how in his hands the wounds of our citizen soldiers who died at Duck Lake and at Fish Creek - how they were made to do the duty for the Crown. You have seen how their bloody corpses were made to do duty for the Crown. You have seen how their bloody corpses were appealed to, how the blood-stained snow was brought to your presence - all that has been done.

First, gentlemen, we must limit ourselves to a plain statement of the facts and ask you to bear in mind but two things. In the first place, to what extent, and how was this rebellion carried on as it has been described here? What proof has been given before you by the Crown of the overt acts of treason laid at the door of this man. And secondly, to what extent is he responsible for those acts?

I know, gentlemen, that it would be extremely right for me now here to say a word of praise for those citizen soldiers who at the call of duty left their homes and firesides and came here to fight a battle for what they thought was right - I know, gentlemen, that it would be right for me to say a word about them, but I know, gentlemen, that all I can say can never be equal to the task which I see imposed upon myself, for I know that the names of Fish Creek and of Batoche and of Cut Knife Hill shall be inscribed in letters of gold on the annals of the history of our country. I know that the names of those men who died in those battles shall be written on something more durable than marble or stone, that they shall be engraved on the hearts of their grateful countrymen; but, gentlemen, in the face of all this, is it possible that no voice shall be heard, no voice shall be heard to say a word in favor of the vanquished? Is it possible that in a country like this, that all men shall cringe to power, that all men shall be on the side of victory, and that no voice shall be heard to plead the cause of the vanquished? Shall we resemble the Romans of old after the fight of the gladiators and say, victory to the victors, life to the victors and death to the vanquished? No, gentlemen, I know that such shall not be the case here, and I know that when I plead for those unfortunate men, for those men who died on the side of the rebels at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Batoche - I know that I plead for good men and brave, men who died fighting for what they thought was right; men who died for what they thought was fair and just, and if they were misguided, they were none the less brave men and men looked upon as our fellow citizens and to have done honor to our common country.

Now, gentlemen, it is probably right for me to say here that no one of any nationality, of any creed, whatever may be the source whence he derives the blood in his veins, can justify the rebellion, but it may, at the same time, be proper for me to say, to draw your attention to the fact that criminal folly and neglect would have gone unpunished had there been no resistance. It is right for me to say, gentlemen, that the Government of Canada had wholly failed in its duty towards these North-West Territories - and here I may as well remark that, while I speak of the Government, I speak not with the eye of a politician; when I speak of the Government, all parties are identical and the same in my eyes - I say that the Government of Canada wholly failed in its duty towards these North-West Territories, and I say, gentlemen, that it is a maxim of political economy that the faults of those whom we have placed in authority necessarily injuriously affect ourselves, and it is thus that we are made the guardians of each other's rights. The fact that the Government and the people placed in authority have committed faults towards the North-West to a large extent do not justify the rebellion; but, gentlemen, if there had been no rebellion, if there had been no resistance, is there anyone of you that can say to-day, is there anyone of you that can place his hand on his conscience and honestly say that the evils under which this country has complained would have been remedied? I know, gentlemen, that it is not right to preach treason, and it is no part of my duty to do it. I know that it is probable some of the doctrines may be looked upon as socialistic, but I say that the plant of liberty requires the nourishment of blood ccasionally. I say, gentlemen, look at the pages of history of our country, look at the pages of the history of England, and tell me if there are in all those bright annals any that shine brighter than those that were  written by Cromwell at the time of the revolution? Tell me, gentlemen, if the liberties which Britons enjoy to-day were bought too dearly, even with the life blood of a king? I say that they were not.

Let us now look at the position of this country. We find that this country originally was the exclusive property of the Indians. We find that this country, in the wise decree of Providence, had been originally left to them. Then we find, gentlemen, that this country, being entirely in their possession, the Provinces of Canada now were settled by people from the other side. We find these people animated with that desire which necessarily actuates all these descendants of Englishmen and Frenchmen that desire to go and conquer and see  worlds unknown, that those people spread out over those fertile regions and came in contact with the Indians and formed alliances with them, and became part and parcel of themselves- an act of union between the English and French settlers in Canada and the Indian aborigines of this part of the country; and we have that race now known as the Metis. We have the Indians in possession, and then we find the Government of Canada and England coming here, and how do they treat the Indians? Do we find the Government treating them with buckshot and with cannon ball? No. Guided by that humane policy that has always been an essential attribute of England, we find treaties being made with the Indians. We find their rights acknowledged, and we find arrangements being made with -them whereby certain rights are secured to them, and in return they give up portions of the country to the English. Then we find the Indians travelling towards the land of the setting sun. We find the Indian leaving the land that has been formerly his, and hunting ground, and receding in the face of the onward march of civilization. We find the Indian, as he says himself, leaving his happy hunting grounds, and, as a poet has already said, saying to the bones of his forefathers as they lie beneath the sod, rise up, march on with us toward the land of the setting sun, where we also shall set at some day not now far distant.

Then, gentlemen, as I tell you, we have the half-breeds. We have the half-breeds who by their blood represent and form the distinctive characteristic of union between the Indian and the white man. We have the half-breed, the result of the union between the Indian, the representative of savagery, and the white man, the representative of civilization. We have therefore, gentlemen, this bond of union between civilization and the Indian, and I say gentlemen, that that bond of union represented by the Metis has been one of the greatest factors in the civilization of the Indian. I say that this bond of union which is represented by the Metis has done more for the North-West country than anything that has ever been done for it heretofore.

Why is it that this country has not been the scene of so many Indian wars as we have seen ravaging the United States? Why is it that this country here as to its Indian policy, has been such a great success? Why is it that the Indian policy of our Government has been so successful? It is purely and simply because of the fact that the half-breed always stood between the Indian and his fellow white man. The half-breed was the distinctive characteristic intermediary between the two. And gentlemen, it is impossible for us to find any better illustration of that principle than has been afforded us by this last unfortunate war. In the whole of this war, what do we find? When we find the savage instincts of the Indians roused, when we find them roused up ready to do and commit acts of the utmost brutality, what do we find standing between him and his fell designs? Where do we find the man that is brave enough and plucky enough to say thus far shalt thou go and no farther? You have found it in the case of the half-breeds. You have found the half-breed always standing between the Indians and the white men. You have found the half-breed standing between the Indian and the white man. You have found the half-breed standing between the Indians and Mrs. Delaney and Mrs. Gowanlock. You have found the half-breed standing between the Indians and the priests. You have found the half-breed - in the case of those very prisoners brought here -you have always found the half-breed standing between the white man and the Indians, and always on the side of civilization and the side of mercy, and always on the side of humanity.

Now, gentlemen, what rights those men have had by virtue of their Indian origin, what rights those men have acquired by virtue of the services which they rendered to the Government, how were those rights respected?

It is not necessary for me to go any further than simply to put the question: And what was the condition of affairs in this country at the time, at the beginning of this constitutional agitation? We find, gentlemen, that those men after being deprived of their means of subsistence by reason of the fact that the chase would no longer furnish them support, the support they had previously obtained from it - we find those men, gentlemen, turning their attention to pastoral pursuits and giving their attention to agriculture. We find those men entering into possession of those small portions of land, a very small portion of God's inheritance, of that inheritance which had been given to their Indian ancestors. We find them entering into possession of those lands, and imbued with the ideas which their forefathers had given to them, they settle on those lands, they endeavor to cultivate them, they endeavor to make a home for themselves.

After they had been in possession of those lands, we find certain grievances crop up, certain difficulties arise between the Government and themselves, and then what next? Then they begin to think if they can find in the annals of history any people who have ever occupied the same position as themselves. They begin with the limited knowledge which they have, to ask themselves whether or not they can find a comparison, they can find a people situated as they were, so as to see how those people acted, and how they obtained a redress of their rights. Their sphere is limited, those ignorant half-breeds of the Saskatchewan had not, as you and probably a great many others here have, travelled through Europe, across the waters and gone into the United States, and gone around the world, with enlarged ideas - the sphere of their knowledge was limited, but they looked around themselves, and the first thing they saw was Manitoba. The first thing they saw was Manitoba, and they said to themselves, why, here in Manitoba, the people were situated as we are, they had about the same rights, the same privileges as we had before Canada came into their country, and they said to themselves, why, with those rights, what resulted?

What position are they in today? What is the difference between their position and ours? They said their position is entirely different from ours, as entirely asked, and from there he comes up to join this movement - he does not hesitate. He does not, before he leaves there, stipulate that he shall be paid for his services. He does not tell those men: You want me to leave my country; you want me to leave this home that I have made for myself and you want to bring me back there in the hands of enemies, to a certain extent. He does not stipulate for a payment. He says: No, you are my brethren; the same blood that runs through my veins runs through yours, and any services that I may be able to give you are free to command, and he went with them.

Then he comes into the country, and when he is there how does he act? He takes part in this movement; he assists his fellow men in their agitation; he attends at all the meetings; he gives his views on the political situation, and then, gentlemen, we are told at a sudden moment a break takes place. Then, you will be told by the Crown, there is the transition from constitutional agitation to open armed rebellion, and I have no doubt that some beautiful theories will be expounded to you on the art of constitutional agitations. You will be told probably, in very eloquent terms, that the British constitution is elastic enough to enable men to obtain the redress of all their rights, to obtain the redress of all their rights by means of constitutional political agitation.

I say, gentlemen, all that is very true, and all that may appear to you as very forcible argument; but there is one thing you must remember when it is said to you - there is one thing I beg of you to remember when my voice shall have ceased to be heard by you, and that is that when they talk of constitutional agitation in England, when they talk of the representative institutions of England, when they tell you what might be done in England and in Canada, you must remember that the North-West Territories cannot come in under that rule; you must remember that constitutional agitation, as understood by those books as represented to you by the officers of the Crown, is perfect when the people are makers of their laws; when the people elect their representatives and send them to the body politic - if you were represented in Parliament, if you had Parliament and have a voice in the affairs of the administration of rights, if you had grievances, and you had people to represent you in Parliament, what would you have to do? You would agitate, you would constitutionally agitate. You would politically agitate. You would have your representative in the House of Parliament come among you, and you would say, we have those grievances, we insist on those grievances being redressed, and you are there at Ottawa in the Federal Parliament for the purpose of having those grievances redressed, you are there for the purpose of expressing to those people who are down in Ottawa, what our views are and how we want the law administered, in so far as we are concerned. That would be constitutional agitation. That would be perfect agitation. That would be a perfect answer to any argument that I might have advanced on constitutional agitation; but when you are in the North-West Territories very nearly 2,000 miles away from those who make the laws under which you are governed - very nearly 2,000 miles away from the people who make the laws for you, and in the making of which laws you have no voice, over which you have no control, in which representative institutions you have no one to represent you - here you have those Metis, gentlemen of the jury, you have those unfortunate Metis of the Saskatchewan 2,000 miles away from Ottawa, 2,000 miles away from this representative House of Parliament and without one single representative either constitutional or otherwise to represent them, without one single voice to be raised in their favor.

You have the fact that those men have been in this territory, and that this country has been in the hands of the Dominion of Canada for the last fourteen or fifteen years, you have that fact and you have the fact that during all that time those men have not been able to get one single representative, not been able to take any part direct or indirect in the management of their affairs, of their own affairs or the affairs of their country. Now, where is the constitutional agitation? How can you be told on those facts that those men could constitutionally act? Could you be told that on those facts they could have endeavored to obtain a redress of their wrongs by this constitutional agitation? I say, gentlemen of the jury, the situations are entirely different, that which was constitutional agitation in England cannot be considered as constitutional agitation here and what is considered constitutional agitation in Canada, in any other part of the Dominion of Canada, cannot be considered as applying to the North-West Territories, for the situations are entirely different.

You have seen, gentlemen, from the evidence adduced before you, how Mr Riel acted throughout the whole of this movement. You have seen he took part in the different political meetings that were held, and what his conduct was during that time. You have I been told of this meeting at Nolin's - you have been told of this meeting at Prince Albert - you have been told how at the meeting at Nolin's this man in the month of January last stood up, and in terms, the very essence of loyalty, proposed the health of Her Majesty the Queen. You have been told how at Prince Albert, at a meeting held there, this man said, let us agitate, let us agitate by constitutional means. We must obtain the redress of our wrongs during five years, but if we do not obtain it at the end of five years, we will agitate for five years more, and probably at the end of ten our voices shall have been able to pierce from the Saskatchewan Valley down to the House at Ottawa; but, gentlemen, at a given moment, in the beginning of March, as I said when I opened, an appeal to arms took place, and here I confess I tread on dangerous ground.

Either this man is the lunatic that we his counsel have tried to make him, or he is an entirely sane man in the full possession of all his mental faculties, and was responsible in the eyes of God and man for everything that he has done. If he is a lunatic, we, in the exercise of a sound discretion, have done right to endeavor to prove it. If he is a sane man, what humiliation have we passed upon that man, we his counsel endeavoring, despite his orders, despite his desire, despite his instructions, to make him out a fool. If he is a sane man, gentlemen  of the jury, if he is the sane man that the Crown will endeavor to represent him, are there any redeeming features in his character and in his conduct of this rebellion? Are there any redeeming features in what he has done in connection with it which necessarily appeal to the sympathies and to the judgment? Here we find this man taking part in this, acting in concert with a naturally excitable population, acting with them in entire sympathy with the movement which began long before he came into the country or had anything to do with it. At a given moment. if he is a sane man - that movement, like all other popular movements, got ahead of him, got beyond his control. Then, gentlemen, did he after fanning the flame, did he after fomenting the trouble, like some others, turn his back on the men whom he had put into the trouble and into the difficulty? Did he like some of the men who stood in that box - did he after fomenting the discord, after inciting those unfortunate men to rebellion, after placing their necks in the halter - did he stand back or stand from under and endeavor to save himself? Did he play the part of the coward or the traitor? Did he play the part of the sycophant who comes and kneels at the feet of the Government, endeavoring to seek a victim amongst his friends and relations? Did he, gentlemen of the jury, with all this magnanimity which has been represented to stand on other heads, with all this glory, has been endeavored to be put on the heads of other people? Did he fly and leave women and children to be massacred? and did he fly from the hands of justice, or did he stand his ground like a man, and did he come before the representatives of Her Majesty and say, if any is to suffer, let me suffer; if anyone is to be punished, let me be punished; if any victim is to be found, I am the victim that is to go upon the scaffold; and I fought for liberty, and if liberty is not worth fighting for, it is not worth having?

Gentlemen, you will be told men have been brought into that box and endeavors have been made to excite the public mind with enthusiasm about certain soldiers who acted throughout this rebellion; a man has been brought into that box to come here and tell you how he took part in that agitation, to tell you how he fanned the flame as I said and how afterwards, sycophantic like, he bent his knees and adored the rising sun. You have been told throughout this country that this person and that person who took part in the rebellion was a hero, that they were all heroes but this unfortunate man; but when the time comes to show the true spirit of the hero, did this man run away? Did this man endeavor to seek safety in flight or did he come, as General Middleton said himself, in the box, and deliver himself up freely and voluntarily ready to bear the consequences of his acts?

But, gentlemen, I have stated those facts to you simply to show you that no matter how you look at the character of Louis Riel, there are to be found in it redeeming features; but, gentlemen, I still maintain that it was a wise movement on our part, that we were justified by the facts, that our views have been borne out by the evidence, and that we were bound in our instructions as representing this man to say that he is entirely insane and irresponsible for his acts, and will now proceed to examine that branch of the case.

Here it may be well for me to remind you somewhat of the history of this man's life. You know, gentlemen, that he is himself a half-breed. You know that he is himself a descendant of those Indians of whom the poet has said that their untutored minds see God in the clouds and hear His voice in the winds. You know, gentlemen, that a descendant of those Indians is endowed with that mysticism which forms an essential element of their religious character. He has descended from the Indians and one of those Metis of whom I spoke to you a moment ago. He lived in this country for a considerable period of time and took part - as matter of history, I might state this to you - in the Manitoba movement in 1870. As a result of that movement the unfortunate man was afflicted with a disease of the mind and so far did it go that it became necessary to keep him in a lunatic asylum. You know that we find here proved that he was in a lunatic asylum from the year 1876 to 1878. That is a fact about which there can be no dispute. It now becomes necessary for us to see whether or not this man is suffering from any form of mental disease which is known to the books and known to authors who have treated on this subject. We have stated that this man was suffering from that form of disease known as megalomania. It is not necessary for me to tell you more than that the characteristic symptom of this disease is an insane, an extraordinary love of power and extraordinary development of ambition, a man that is acting under the insane delusion that he is either a great poet or a god or a king or that he is in direct communication with the Holy Ghost; and it may be well for me here to remind you that I do not speak here of my own authority.

I tell you here that from books, the most reputed authorities on this subject, one of the distinguishing characteristics of this disease is that the man might reason perfectly and give perfect reasons for all that he does and justify it in every respect, subject always to the insane delusion. They are naturally irritable, excitable, and will not suffer that they can be contradicted in any respect. Let us now see, gentlemen, whether, under the evidence that has been brought here before you, we find proof of the existence of those symptoms which are described as characteristic of the malady which we contend this man is suffering from; and, in the first place, it may be well, perhaps, before I enter upon that branch of the case in detail, to remind you that in all cases of crime, it is essential, I might almost say, for the jury to enable them to arrive at a proper conclusion, to examine into the motive, the determining motive which can have brought a man to commit a crime. You take a case of murder, you always see in a case of murder, if you find a man accused of murder, you naturally ask yourself well what can have been the determining cause, the motive which can have guided that man in the commission of the crime? Was it jealousy, was it desire of gain, was it hatred, was it passion? There is some motive, there is some moving, guiding motive which must necessarily be account for.

Now, gentlemen, bearing that fact in mind, you know that human depravity has not gone so far that a man will commit a crime of mere wantonness, without any motive, without any object whatever in view? Now here, what object could Louis Riel have in this rebellion? What motive could he have in view. If you are told that this was a vain, ambitious man, and the object this man had in view when he did all those things was his desire for gain, his desire for power, and you say the man was sane, that the man was perfectly sane; let us examine together how it is possible to consistently say that this man, if he was sane, could have ever thought to obtain the object of his ambition, the wealth which he is supposed to have desired, by adopting the means which they pretend he did adopt. Here is a man in the valley of the Saskatchewan in the midst of a tribe of men, in the midst of a people who were devoutedly attached to their church, a people who were not armed, who did not have any power to obtain any of the essential attributes, any of the things requisite to enable them to levy war. You have this man who is represented to you by the witnesses who come into the box and who expect you to believe them; this deep, designing, cunning man; you have this man who is gifted with extraordinary powers that one of the witnesses, who is an extremely intelligent man, said, that he was afraid to risk himself against him; you have this man who is represented to you as a villain of the first water, a deep, designing rascal, with intelligence of the very highest calibre; you have this man represented to you as going coolly to work for the purpose of obtaining his ambition by enrolling four or five hundred poor unfortunate Metis, with flintlocks, with guns, with limited ammunition, and, as General Middleton said, attacking the whole power of the Dominion of Canada, with a power of Britain behind her back.

Now you have this deep, designing man - remember you have this man here with wonderful intellect, this man here with a wonderful judgment, actually undertaking to effect the purpose of obliging Canada to grant him his requests. You have this man here, this deep, designing, cunning man, this man with wonderful intellect, expecting to succeed in forcing the Dominion of Canada, backed by England, to accede to his demand with four or five hundred Metis at his back. You have in addition to that this cunning man, this man with full knowledge of the character of his fellow-men, of the Metis; this man with full knowledge of the fact that those men were devout, most devout; that they were men attached to their religion; you have this man told that he endeavored to succeed in his purposes and to effect his object by directly assailing those beliefs, that creed which those men had been taught as they were children, which those men loved, which those men adored, which those men had been taught as they were children and which had grown up and formed an essential part of their natures; you are told, gentlemen, that this man, this deep, designing, cunning man, would have adopted that method to achieve his object.

Oh, gentlemen, I think I could show you how a deep, designing man would have achieved his object better than this under those circumstances; I think I can show you how much more easy, if Riel is the man he is represented to be by the Crown, how he could this. Here is this man brought into the country, this man who had succeeded in Manitoba who had the whole force of the Metis at his back, who had behind him not only the French half-breeds, but also the English half-brreds, you see this man coming into the country, who is the embodiment in person of those deprived of their rights and their privileges, and you see this man doing what? What did he do? What did the ordinary common dictates of reason tell him to do? What did ordinary common sense tell him to do? Why did he not do as he said he wanted to do at Prince Albert, lie low and continue on fomenting this movement, and continue on guiding this movement, and is it possible to expect that in the course of time the North-West is not going to have its rights? Is it possible to tell me that the North-West Territories shall not form essentially and really a part of the Dominion of Canada as it now forms part of it nominally? Is it possible that there is no future for the North-West Territories? Is it possible that some day the North-West Territories shall not play a part in this Dominion?

If ever a day arrives, and I think every man of you in the box hopes it will arrive very soon, if ever that day arrives where would Louis Riel be, what would have become of him? Would there have been any position in this country to which this man might not have aspired? Would there have been any position in this country which that man might not legitimately hope to obtain? Had he simply exercised the ordinary dictates of prudence and caution and common sense, all he had to do was to stay with the Metis and remain in possession of their confidence and then necessarily, of absolute necessity, would he some day have acquired, have arrived at the highest pinnacle of his ambition, whatever it might have been. And, gentlemen, is that not much more reasonable, would that not be the way a reasonable man would have acted? Would that not be the way a reasonable man should have acted? Would that not be the way that you or I or any other man of common sense would have acted?

Now, gentlemen, so far as religion is concerned, you were told this man took advantage of the religious nature of the half-breeds. He understood thoroughly their nature, he understood thoroughly their character, and he knew full well that by playing upon their religious notions that by playing upon their religion, he would necessarily achieve his purpose. If he understood so well their religious character, if he knew what their religious character was why did he not side with the priests? Why did he not ascertain what their desire was? If to help him. He knew the priests wanted to help him. He knew, gentlemen, that the priests could not be an obstacle in his way. The priests could not have any ambition outside of ministering to the wants of their parishioners. The priests could not have any ambition to represent this country in any political position. The priests could not otherwise than be mere stepping stones for him to rise into power. If he understood the character of his fellowmen as a deep, designing, cunning man would have understood them, had he understood the character of the Metis as to their devoted religious character as that man of superior intellect, as he is represented to be, would have understood them, would he have taken such steps as are proved here to have alienated from him the sympathies of the half-breeds? And there is the point given in evidence, about which there can be no dispute, a matter of fact about which there can be no dispute, which it is impossible to controvert; and I may as well tell you here that I should have begun probably by that, that in all that I say I speak under the direction of the court. I speak under the direction of the distinguished magistrate who presides over this trial, and if any statements of fact are made by me which are not entirely correct, I beg of him, as a duty towards you and towards myself, to correct me.

After having said so much, I now proceed to tell you that if this man was the deep, designing, cunning rascal that he is represented to be, this man of superior intellect, he would have understood the remind you of it. You remember that he said he wanted that money for the purpose of enabling him to carry out his mission, and he wanted to go to the United States to found a newspaper, as he said, and with that newspaper to rouse up the foreign nations to enable him to come in here and take possession of the country. Now, in that fact alone is evidence of his insane delusions, there is evidence that there is the manner which is characteristic of this delusion, of this malady, and which enables men to reason properly and to achieve the object which they have in view, always subject to their insane delusions.

I told you yesterday, I had occasion to put it before to you, that those men subject to this malady can reason perfectly, and as Dr Clarke said, subject always to their delusions. He reasoned perfectly. He says: 'I want to get this money, I want it to help me in my object and I want to attain that object and I know that I can attain it, and I necessarily will attain it.' That is the only interpretation which can be put on it, and that is the only interpretation which can reasonably be put on that demand of $35,000. Then, gentlemen, you have the evidence of the insanity given to you by Dr Clarke, and by the clergyman and several of the Crown witnesses, whose names I do not want to repeat, and I do not want to detain you any unnecessary length of time; but, gentlemen, I do not think it necessary for me to extend, to go in at any length into this evidence further than to say Dr Roy proved this man was in his asylum in the year 1878; and here I may as well draw your attention to the fact that this witness is a man who has been for some fifteen years in constant study of mental diseases. I may as well draw your attention to the fact that this man came 2,000 miles here at the request of the Crown as well as of the defence for the purpose of giving evidence in this case. I may as well draw your attention to the fact that this man is a foreigner and an alien at least in language to us. He is a man, gentlemen, who possesses the characteristic politeness of his race, a man who is possessed of the characteristic politeness of the French race, and who comes here into the box prepared to make himself agreeable to all, and being so, as you saw yesterday, he endeavored, being at a difficulty, to give his evidence in such a manner as it could be thoroughly understood by you. I do not want to refer any more to his evidence.

You now have Dr Clarke, who was examined afterwards. He gave you his experience. He has told you what he knows about asylums. He was examined in his own language, and he had that advantage over Dr Roy. You heard his evidence as he gave it. You heard that he was not very closely cross-examined. I noticed that he was not very closely cross-examined, and he gave his evidence and told you what he thought about this man's mind. Now, what interest had Dr Roy and Dr Oarke in coming here for the purpose of deceiving you, gentlemen? What interest have either of those men got in coming here 2,000 miles to step in that box in this great public case when they know that every word they say will be spread broadcast through Canada and the United States? What interest have those men got in coming here and perjuring themselves? What interest have those men got in coming here and saying anything that is not true? You have heard the evidence given by these men. You have seen them. You are sufficient judges of human nature to be able to say whether or not those men are telling the truth. In addition, gentlemen, you have heard the remark made by Dr Clarke that struck me as being peculiarly applicable to this case. You have heard the remark which was made by him, when he said that this man, if this man was sane, he took very insane methods to arrive at his objects, when he began by making the remark of the very purpose which he had in view, by means of which he showed if he was perfectly sane. For instance, he gave to you the illustration, he illustrated his remarks by referring to his religion, and he said that necessarily if he was sane his religious duties would tend to alienate the sympathies of the half-breeds.

Now, gentlemen, on the other hand, you have the evidence of those priests, you have the evidence of the Crown witnesses. Of course, it is not for me to say anything about the witnesses that were brought here before you. You have seen them. It is for you to judge of their characters. It does not properly behoove me, a man occupying my position, to praise any person. All that I can say is, so far as I have been able to judge, all the witnesses that were examined here in the examination-in-chief acted like men who appeared to me brought here on behalf of the Crown who wanted to tell the truth, men who really astonished me. I was really astonished when I heard about the perils which some of those men had met, I was really filled with admiration for their bravery and their courage, and I know, gentlemen, that no number of men, no men who have confronted difficulties that those men have confronted, no men who have gone through perils and the risk those men have gone through is a liar or a coward. Therefore, gentlemen, I know that those gentlemen who were examined for the Crown tell the truth. I know that, as far as they could, they gave their evidence to the best of their ability, and, gentlemen, I know also that those men, with the exception of one, who has branded himself for all time, were foreigners and strangers to this man, but, with true instincts of British justice, they did what they could do to get fair play, and they gave him no thrust in the back. I cannot say anything for the other one.

So far as our witnesses are concerned, gentlemen, so far as our witnesses are concerned, I think I can say as much for them. I think our witnesses told honestly all they could to tell the truth. Then you have those two priests brought into the box, who tell you their impressions, who tell you that, in so far as their knowledge of this man went, they could not call him anything else than a fool; that as far as they could go, as far as their knowledge went - and they were a little guarded in their statement - they said they could not think of him otherwise than as a fool, and they have been in positions to judge of him. They had daily intercourse with him from the month of July last up to month of March; they had been able to follow him day by day, step by step, to follow him in his movements, to see how easy the movement increased, when the agitation continued, and when he was carried away by the violence of his passions when, from one day to another, how quickly, swiftly the agitation stepped into armed rebellion, because you will remember there was no transition.

Now, gentlemen, in the face of this, you have the evidence of the Crown and that evidence is given to you by men, who to the best of their skill and ability come here and tell you what they know - and no one can be expected to tell you anything that he does not know. For instance, if a man has not read French books, he cannot tell you what is in them; but gentlemen, you must remember this fact, that those men come here and tell you they have a very limited knowledge of this man, that their intercourse with him has been extremely limited, and they will tell you, what? Not that he is sound, they will not on their oath undertake to swear positively this man is not of unsound mind, but they will tell you, gentlemen, that all they can tell you is that they have not been able to discover any symptoms of insanity. You all know, gentlemen, the story of my countryman who was being tried for murder, an Irishman, like myself, being tried for murder, and two witnesses pretended to swear positively that they had seen him do the deed, that they saw him commit the murder: Well, my countryman turns round and says, is that all the evidence you have got? The Crown says yes. Well, he says I can get eighty men who will swear that they did not see me do it. That is about the way it is in this case. We have men who swear positively to the unsoundness of this man's mind, and we have a great many more who say they did not see any traces of insanity, they can find no traces of insanity.

Now, gentlemen, with all due deference and respect for the great skill and ability of the Crown witnesses, which skill and ability I do not intend to contest, I mean to say that they are men of extraordinary pretensions, and that their pretensions are quite equal to their extraordinary abilities; but, gentlemen, with all due deference and respect, I have heard also other men, very eminent men, equally eminent with the Crown witnesses, I have heard of a man called Erskine who is well known as the greatest lawyer the bar of England has ever produced, who was Lord Chancellor of England, and I can tell you, gentlemen, that there was a case came up in England, a case of James Hadfield, of whom you have probably heard, indicted for treason, for having shot one of the Georges, in the Hay Market Theatre. The case was identical with the present one, and in that case the plea of his insanity was set up. Erskine, in that case states his experience in another case in which a man had been confined in the Hawkestone Asylum in England and had been discharged as cured. After his discharge he took an action of damages against the authorities in the asylum who had kept him there, saying that he had been confined as a lunatic when he was of perfectly sound mind. At the trial, Erskine, who appeared for the authorities of the asylum, had the man in the box and cross-examined in every possible way and manner so as to endeavor to show that the authorities were perfectly justified in what they had done and that the man was a lunatic. He kept him there for twenty-four hours and examined him persistently during twenty-four hours, and during the whole of that time he could not discover that he was insane, and the only way they got on to it, was that this man was in his belief Jesus Christ, and acted under that insane delusion. He was perfectly rational, perfectly reasonable on all other subjects, but the very moment they touched that subject that he was Jesus Christ, of course the man was off his feet and there was an end to it, and at the end of the day after Mr Erskine had given the man up the doctor came and said that that was his belief, and when they got him on to that the case was at an end.

Then I know, gentlemen, another case which is also told about another man who believed that he corresponded with a princess in cherry juice, that he had been confined in a tower and the princess used to sail along a river which ran at the foot of the tower, and when she would pass he used to throw down letters to her, and she would receive them, and he labored under that insane delusion that he was in love with the princess, and he was confined in an asylum. In this case it was Lord Chief Justice Mansfield about whom you have heard, who acted. They examined the man a whole day and never could discover his insanity until by fortuitous events he brought out that this was his particular malady, and when they discovered that there was an end to it. Now I know what the Crown will tell you. They will say yes, but there was one vulnerable point in those men, and when that vulnerable point was touched, then of course the whole game was up and the insanity became apparent, and that no such thing as that has been made to appear in this case; but in that last case I spoke to you about, after the case was dismissed, after it had been made apparent that the man was insane, of course the action was dismissed, and then as he had gone through two different obstructions on his way to the asylum, he took a new case out and had the authorities of the asylum tried the second time for the offence that he pretended that they  had committed towards him, and of course, then you see the difficulty that cropped up. In the first place of course it was known, and they endeavored to cross-examine this man and endeavored by every means in their power to get him into some craze that he had exhibited in the first case in order to show his insanity.

Well, gentlemen, it is narrated in the books and laid down here, that they examined that man for days and days and never could get him to talk about his insanity, never could discover any traces of insanity, notwithstanding they knew the particular delusion existing - the particular delusion under which he labored, and it became so apparent, he went so far that it was utterly impossible for them to arrive at it, and they had to take the depositions given in the previous case. Been found in the council chamber.

What proof have we got here now that these documents were ever used for any purpose whatsoever, or for the purposes which have been ascribed to this man? What proof have we got that those documents were issued, and that an appeal was made to those savage hordes to rise in their fury for the purpose of exterminating the whites? What proof have you got before you that any such things was done? What proof have you got before you to justify such an appeal as was made to you? You have got but one single act, you have got the proof of a letter which was sent to Poundmaker, you have got a proof that a letter was found in Poundmaker's camp, and what proof have you got of that? Do you not think that it is rather a strange proceeding that this letter should have been found in Poundmaker's camp, that this letter should have been found in the possession of Poundmaker who is now, gentlemen of the jury, as is well known, a prisoner in the hands of the Crown, that this letter should have been sent to him for the purpose of inciting the devilish passions as an Indian, and to say that no proof has been brought before you that that letter was read to Poundmaker, excepting a bystander who says that he heard something or other of the kind being said to him. The man who read the letter to him is not produced; and why is Poundmaker not here and put into that box and examined as a witness? Why was Poundmaker not produced here by the Crown and examined as a witness to prove that he got this letter, that he read it and that he understood it, understood the purport of it? Why were Big Bear and the other Indians to whom this man is supposed to have written not brought here? They are within a stone's throw of this very building, they are here under the control of the Crown, and if this man is guilty of the savagery of which he is accused, if this man is the contemptible bad rascal that he is represented to you to be by the Crown, why is it not proved? Why is it not proved so that we may all understand the position that we occupy so that we may all know the true inwardness and character of this man? Why make the statements and not prove them? Why are those Indians not produced? You know, gentlemen, that special provision exists for the examination of men like that? Special provisions exists for their swearing, and special provisions exist in the laws of this country providing that even if a man does said what they thought was true. They gave you their opinions. I leave you to appreciate the value of those opinions in view of the facts that I have stated to you.

Now, gentlemen, I say that the conduct of Louis Riel throughout the whole if this affair is entirely inconsistent with any idea of sanity, but is entirely consistent with his insanity. As I said to you a moment ago in speaking at the opening of this case, the fact of his delivering himself up is one of the characteristics of a man suffering from the insanity from which he is suffering, because he cannot appreciate the danger in which he is placed. It is impossible for him to appreciate the danger in which he places himself, and he never sees that there is any possibility that any harm can happen to him. If that man was perfectly sane, gentlemen, if that man was perfectly sane in doing as he did do, then you have to say whether or not, as I said before, there are not some redeeming features about this man's character, in the heroic act which he did in delivering himself up to Middleton.

On the other hand if he is insane, as I contend he is, you see then the proof, for any man of ordinary prudence knows that this man could have escaped and could have evaded the officers of the law and the soldiers. Notwithstanding all that, he comes and gives himself over to General Middleton and is prepared to take the consequences, no matter what they are. I say that that is one of the characteristics of his malady, that that is one of the proofs of his insanity and that is one of the characteristics which are laid down in all the books, as being characteristic of the disease of those men who believe themselves to be in constant intercourse with God, because they think God is always around them, that He is constantly taking care of them and that no harm of any kind can befall them. Now, gentlemen, in the opening of this case, a great deal was said to you about letters which were written to the Indians, a great deal has been said to you about the attempt made by this man to raise up savage warfare in this country, and to deluge the whole country with blood, letting forth the savage hosts upon your wives and children and upon all the inhabitants of this country.

Now, gentlemen, after having said that, will you tell me what proof you have had of it. After having produced before you documents enumerable, as having, and I say the proof has not been brought here, that the best proof of that would have been either from the man who brought this letter to Poundmaker - and his abscence has not been accounted for - or Poundmaker himself, to show that he got such a letter. He could identify the appearance of the letter at all events, and no such proof as that has been given. I say, gentlemen of the jury, if that proof could have been given, it would have been given, because you know and I know, that no more eminent men in their profession could be found throughout Canada than the men who act for the Crown in this case - no more eminent right-minded or fairer men in Canada could be found than they are, and I know if they could have made that proof they would have made it, and I know it is because they could not make it that they did not do it, for you have seen that no stone has been left unturned by them in this case. I do not say that they have exceeded their duty, but I know, gentlemen, they have neglected nothing, and if they have neglected that, they had a reason for it -- it was because they could not do it. You see, gentlemen, this letter is brought to you, this savage appeal that is made to these men to spread themselves all over the country, and spill the blood of those innocent people, this appeal is made to those men: all you do, do it for the love of God under the protection of Jesus Christ, and the Virgin, St Joseph and St Jean Baptiste. Be assured faith works miracles. That is the letter which contains this appeal that has been made so much of and by which the public mind of this country has been so terribly excited against this man.

Now, gentlemen, my task is at an end. I know I leave this case safely in your hands. This man, gentlemen, the prisoner at the bar, is an alien in race and an alien in religion, so far as you and I are concerned. This man, gentleman, so far as you are concerned entirely in both, and so far as I am concerned in one; this man, gentleman, as I have stated to you is in your hands, without the provisions of an ordinary trial by jury as understood elsewhere. This man is in your hands without the provisions which the humane laws of England have made for people like him in Manitoba, and in the Province of Quebec, where he would have the right to have one-half people of his own nationality. But, gentlemen, I do not complain of that. I do not complain.

I tell this man with confidence that justice will be done him, and I know that when I go home to my country, and when I am asked as to what has taken place here, when I am asked about this country, I will safely be able to say that this is the land, gentlemen, that free men till, that sober suited freedom choose, this is the land that where first with friends or foes a man speak the thing he will, I will tell them that I have come here a stranger myself in a strange place; I will tell them that I have come here to plead the cause of an alien in race and an alien in religion; I will tell them that I spoke to British subjects, that I appealed to British jurors, and that I knew full well that the principles of English liberty have always found a safe resting place in the hearts of English jurors.

I know, gentlemen, that right will be done. I know you will do him justice, and that this man shall not be sent to the gallows by you, and that you shall not weave the cord that shall hang and hang him high in the face of all the world, a poor confirmed lunatic; a victim, gentlemen, of oppression or the victim of fanaticism.

  Louis Riel Trial Homepage