Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

IRISH DISTURBANCES.

257

their favour. The same is likewise the case in the United States.

“ In America (says M. de Tocqueville) the means which the authorities have at their disposal for the discovery of crimes, and the pursuit of criminals, are few. A state police does not exist ; passports are unknown. The criminal police of the United States cannot be compared to that of France ; the persons charged with the business of prosecution are not numerous; they have not always the initiative of prosecutions; the preliminary examinations are rapid and oral. Nevertheless, I doubt whether in any country crime so rarely escapes punishment. The reason is, that every one thinks himself interested in furnishing evidence of the crime, and in arresting the delinquent. During my stay in the United States, an instance occurred of the inhabitants of a county, where a great crime had been committed, spontaneously forming themselves into committees in order to apprehend the offender. In Europe a criminal is an unhappy being, who is struggling for his life against the ministers of justice, whilst the people are merely spectators of the conflict. In America he is looked upon as an enemy of mankind, and the whole human race is against him."

The mere unpopularity of the law in Ireland would not, however, suffice to prevent its execution ; it assists the Whiteboys in their undertaking, but only assists them. In order to accomplish their work, they direct a systematic intimidation, armed with the severest sanc

* La Démocratie en Amérique, tom. i. p. 159. M. de Tocqueville, in opposing Europe in general to the United States in this respect, evidently had in his mind the continental states, where an extensive policesystem exists. England, with regard to police, is in nearly the same circumstances as the United States, and the same co-operation of the public, in cases of crime, ordinarily exists. In the continental states, the police is sufficiently strong to apprehend criminals without assistance. The people, consequently, whether they sympathize or not with the law, are passive spectators.

[ocr errors]

tions against prosecutors and witnesses, of the same description as that which they employ against landjobbers. We will give copious illustrations of this point, as it is the keystone of the system, and as without it all their other exertions would be fruitless.

Speaking of the intimidation of witnesses, Woodward, Bishop of Cloyne, says, in relation to the year 1787 :

“ The effect of this is proved by the proceedings at the last assizes in Munster, where, after the multitudes of instances of breaking open houses, robbing the inhabitants of fire-arms, ammunition, and money; of incendiary letters; of maiming inoffensive and helpless persons, and other capital crimes, notoriously committed in every quarter of the province, by many different parties of men, each amounting to several hundreds ; so that the number of persons guilty of capital felonies must have amounted to thousands; only two persons were capitally convicted ; and not one in the extensive county of Cork, where the outrages were at least as flagrant and general

any other. The cause is obvious; witnesses did not dare to appear. And the repetition of like offences since the assizes, when all disputes about tithes were at an end for the current year; the continuance of assembling in numerous wellarmed bodies, and passing winter nights in levying money

and taking fire-arms forcibly and feloniously from the Protestants (a proceeding which now extends to the province of Leinster, within less than fifty miles of the capital), are proofs too pregnant of the effect of the impunity of their associates, and of their future intentions*."

M. Blacker, Esq. :

“In your experience at the bar, have you found that in ordinary trials under the common law there has been great difficulty

as in

* On the Present State of the Church of Ireland, p. 15. The hostility to informers showed itself very early in the proceedings of the Whiteboys. See above, p. 13.

in prisoners getting good characters from some witnesses or other?-I am afraid, in Ireland, it is too easy in all triais, before all tribunals, to get characters. There is a natural disposition in Irish people to save a prisoner, no matter who he is, or what he is charged with ; but it is a grievance which exists to a much greater extent under the Insurrection Act than before the ordinary tribunals; for there is not only that good nature which leads an Irishman to come forward in defence of a neighbour against the law, but there is an apprehension and dread in the minds of the witnesses, who frequently say upon the table that which in private even they admit is not true; but which they state they have been compelled to say upon their public examination.”—H. C., 1824, pp. 53, 54.

M. Barrington, Esq. :

“ Does this intimidation operate further, so as to check the administration of the law ?-It does ; they are threatened if they attempt to prosecute or give any information, and they swear them not to do so.”—H. C. 1832. No. 36.

Rev. Nicholas O'Connor :

“ How does it happen that these violences make so much progress; is it because the laws are not sufficient to put them down that they are not checked ?-I cannot account for it otherwise than by saying the people are afraid to give information; they bear with the injury for fear they should be murdered if they give information.

“ The dread of punishment for giving information prevails to such an extent as to render the laws inoperative?-Not entirely inoperative, because they have been executed in many instances.

“ But inoperative in the first instance, until the system gained a great height and has established itself generally ?Yes, it has established its empire over the whole county." -H. C., 1832, Nos. 3197-9.

M. Singleton, Esq. :* You have stated, in the early part of your evidence, you

have found, generally speaking, that the prosecutors upon all occasions almost were Protestants ; have you found that there was any reluctance on the part of Roman Catholics to prosecute ?-Yes, I have.

“ Do you consider that that reluctance proceeded from intimidation or from an indisposition to see the law properly executed ?-Both.

“Do you mean to convey to the Committee, that the Roman Catholics of the middle and higher orders are indisposed to the laws and government of the country?—The lower and middle classes are generally, but I should not take upon me to say the higher classes are.

“ In both the counties of Galway and Kerry have you found among the Roman Catholic farmers any indisposition to prosecute?—Not in the county of Kerry, but I have in the county of Galway and the Queen's County.

“Do you attribute that indisposition to any want of concord between the Catholic farmers and the constabulary establishment?-I attribute it more to intimidation.”—H. C., 1832, Nos. 4181-3. 4187–8.

Thomas Bermingham, Esq., Queen's County :

“ Are they not in that situation that they are obliged to connive at the nightly disturbances, and afraid to act or give information that other properties have been disturbed ?-I think they are afraid to give public information, but I say they are anxious to come and explain what is going on, and to assist as far as they can ; no men are more inclined; it is their own property which is at stake.

Are the well-affected farmers in the county of Galway afraid to come forward publicly and give information, and do they not know and connive at a great deal which they would give to a person they had confidence in, if they were not brought forward as public prosecutors, in a court ? Certainly, I think there is; I have known instances of that: if a man turns away his shepherd his flocks are left without one; there are the lambs to be attended to at particular seasons of the year, if he turns off a shepherd and appoints another. In

some places there is a combination going on, as much as to say, you shall not get rid of a servant who does not suit you; but I wish to remark that I have got a great deal of information in that way, which has enabled me to call together the gentlemen of the country to 'back their people, as I before described, and in that way you may bring the information you have got to bear, without the parties being known; you may unite and join several in putting that down, but above all the landlord, for if the landlord is not present he must have a representative who will expose these things; he must protect the tenantry and give them his advice. No doubt the landlord would have a great effect at all times by supporting the tenantry in this way, and putting an end to disturbances.”— H. C., 1832, Nos. 7196—7.

The following instance of unwillingness to prosecute (though ultimately overcome) is mentioned by Mr. Singleton :

A man of the name of Nolan, who I am informed is in the possession of land, and has property to the amount of nearly 300l. a year, his house was attacked on the night of the 12th of this month. (June, 1832.)

“ Was he a Protestant or Catholic ?-A Catholic; it was broken into, and when they entered it they commenced beating him most violently, and when his wife came to his assistance, they also struck her severely, and they were continuing with savage fury upon them till one of the party who was outside the house cried - No. 25!' the announcement of which caused the whole of the party to retreat. Mr. Nolan went to a county magistrate and related the whole of the transaction, and stated to him that he did not know the persons of any of the party. I received information of the outrage through the police. I summoned him to appear before me at Ballyline ; when he came before me his first word was, · Sir, I do not know the persons of the party ;' I told him, under the disturbed state of the country, I would not ask him to give me information against any individual, unless I bound myself to

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »