Page images

in the latter period is very satisfactory as compared with the


The only subject connected with the action of the Administration on crime, that remains to be disposed of, is Ribbonism or Ribandism. In moving the commission of inquiry which evoked this evidence, Lord Roden had insisted, with great emphasis, on the magnitude, systemisation, and treasonable objects of the Riband conspiracy in Ireland. He said —“The subject to which he would now call the attention of their lordships is that of a conspiracy in Ireland --a conspiracy systematic, organised, and secret, and which is directed


* Mr Drummond's handling of criminal statistics shows the value of scientific education as a preliminary training for political and social inquiries. The present writer was led, in 1856, to examine somewhat strictly the statistics which are commonly relied on as indicating the variations from time to time in the amount of crime. The results he arrived at will be found briefly stated in the article Law (Section on Jurisprudence) in the 8th edition of the “Encyclopædia Britannica.” A more elaborate exposition of these results will be found in a paper, also by the present writer, on “Scottish Criminal Statistics,” p. 384 of the “Transactions of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, 1863.” When these papers were written, the author was unacquainted with Mr Drummond's examination of the Irish criminal statistics in his evidence before the Roden Committee. He now finds that in almost everything he had to say on the subject he had been anticipated by Mr Drummond. The statistics adduced before the Roden Committee fill upwards of 200 folio pages. They exhibit, as all criminal statistics ought to do, in order to be capable of interpretation, the whole of the agencies for repressing crime, their force (numerically), and the conditions of their efficiency from year


year of the period embraced in the inquiry. The Irish criminal statistics, which as now issued under the superintendence of Dr Hancock, are the only criminal statistics worth anything issued in the United Kingdom, had thus early assumed a shape in which the figures might give some indication whether crime was advancing or receding.


against the life and property of all who will not join it, and support the treasonable objects which its members have in view. The poor farmers, however anxious for peace and quiet they may be, yet, if they refuse to join this conspiracy, are visited at night, beaten, maltreated, and exposed to the greatest cruelties.

The objects and ultimate aim of the conspiracy are exactly the same as those of the Precursor Association, viz., separation from England, in which is involved the annihilation of the Protestant faith!” His lordship, at the same time, represented crime in Ireland as having attained a height unprecedented even in that country.

It has already been seen how improbable was his lordship's account of Ribandism, and how false was his statement as to crime in Ireland. We can contrast Mr Drummond's views founded on all the facts, with those of Earl Roden formed in ignorance or disregard of them. So far, it was true that the habit of secret combinations for illegal purposes belonged to the Irishhad become a second nature to them. There were Riband societies, though there was no general bond between them. In many districts, what was called Ribandism nowise differed in its effects from the Whiteboyism of the earlier times. Combinations of the miserable evicted tenants against the evicting landlords, or against the tenants who came to occupy the lands of which they had been dispossessed, were formed wherever evictions were being carried out, even in districts where there was not the smallest ground for suspecting the existence of Ribandism, properly so called. So, in districts where the Protestant and Catholic populations were mixed, and more particularly where they were evenly balanced, there was a permanent con

racy on each side against the other, the parties being


His ex

respectively designated Orangemen and Ribbonmen or Ribandmen. But these confederacies had no political objects, and were generally of social rather than political significance. Of the Riband societies, properly so called, organised with secret oaths and pass-words, Drummond's view, founded on a careful study of every fact known about them, was, as we have seen, that they were simply organisations, headed mostly by publicans, for swindling the common people out of their money. But, of course, it may be remarked that the capacity of the people for being swindled in this way implied popular discontentment, and readiness for insurrection on an opportunity presenting itself.

The Government had been specially charged with dereliction of duty in regard to these societies—a charge which Mr Drummond was resolved to rebut. amination on this point commenced on the fourth day of his appearance before the committee, and was continued for four days. On the question being put, "To what extent has the system of Ribandism come to your knowledge ?” he said, “I have with me every case of Ribandism that has come under the notice of the Government since 1835, and I should wish to mention, that if any suspicion exists on the mind of any member of the committee that the Government has neglected to take every possible precaution, or to make every possible exertion to put down the societies distinguished by the name of Ribandism, I would beg permission to go, step by step, through every single report submitted to Government, in order to show the proceedings taken

After consultation, and a number of genural questions regarding the course taken by the

ent, it was resolved to hear him on the details on that had arisen. With admirable clear

[ocr errors]

ness and mastery of his subject, he then laid the cases and the whole actings of Government in connection with them before the committee, standing the fire of questions from the enemies of the Government with great calmness, and answering them with great ability. A single extract from the evidence may be given to illustrate the character of the Government proceedings :

“I mentioned that the first case of Ribandism that came to the knowledge of the Government was that of a man who was apprehended in Dublin in 1835; but he appeared to be connected with Sligo, and not with Dublin. The first Dublin case occurred in 1837-I mean that was the first time a man was arrested with papers. It was known that there were two associations that were constantly engaged in fighting with one another—the Northerns or Widgeons, and the Billy Welters; but what their objects were, or whether they had any political objects in view, no precise information could be obtained. The magistrates seemed to regard them as two factions, whose main objects seemed to be to fight with one another. Previous to the establishment of the new police they were a constant source of violent disturbance in the city. In March 1837 a report was received, with the information of a man detailing the existence of an illegal body, styled the 'Sons of Irish Freedom,' who were stated to be in the habit of meeting in publichouses in the city, and to be composed of the labouring and working classes, to the number of 1500, sworn on their admission to keep down all Protestants, beat Orangemen, upset the King, &c. [On this information the law officers advised no proceedings to be taken.] The next case occurred in September 1837. It is merely the detail of a combination assault, as such assaults were called at the time. The parties committed an outrage and disappeared, and the police being very inadequate, no trace of them could be discovered. These assaults had grown to such a frightful extent about that time, that a public meeting was called in Dublin, the Lord Mayor presiding, upon a requisition set on foot, I think, by Mr O'Connell, who denounced at that meeting both the combinations of the trades

T 2

and the combinations of the Billy Welters and the Widgeons. Mr O'Connell made a communication to the Government at that time, that he had received information that a person had important intelligence to give respecting those societies. I saw that person, and he made a stipulation that he should not be required to communicate with any police magistrates. I was to see him alone, in secret, and at night. He came to me accordingly by appointment, and detailed much of that information which has subsequently been given by the police commissioners respecting those two societies. He told me of several outrages which he said were concocted at their meetings. I urged him, seeing that those outrages were committed almost daily, and as he belonged to one of the societies, to give me, as a test of the accuracy of his statements, information previous to the commission of an outrage, that the police might be able to arrest the offenders in the"act. From that time to this, however, he has never given such information in any one instance, nor has any other among the many informants known to the Government given information which would enable the constabulary to take measures for the prevention of crime. I had a communication from Lord Morpeth, who was at that time in England. Parliament met in November 1837, and Mr O'Connell, who had taken a very leading part in denouncing these secret and illegal societies, waited on Lord Morpeth in London, and told him he had heard of another person who was prepared to give information. Lord Morpeth wrote to me in these words : ‘O'Connell has just been with me, and brought me the enclosed. I need not talk of its importance. will call on you. Protection, personal and pecuniary, is what he wants to be guaranteed to him. I am sure you will be sparing of no effort to fathom and blow up this business. It is quite clear that the man is not exaggerating it for the purpose of magnifying his own merits.' I continued to see this man from day to day without any result whatever. His information was a mere statement of the names of persons alleged by him to be members of these associations. At that time there were outrages committed against Mr Guinness. I was in constant communication with this informer concerning

« PreviousContinue »