Page images

“As the magistrates referred to the result of the last assizes, his Excellency deemed it proper to inquire particularly into what occurred on that occasion, in reference to that class of cases with respect to which intimidation, if it had at all existed, would have been most likely to operate, and his Excellency called for such information as would enable him to compare the result of the trials which then took place with those for similar offences at former assizes in the same county. The following table shows the result :

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

“ It thus appears that at the last assizes the proportion of convictions to acquittals was precisely the same as at the summer assizes of 1834 and 1836, the convictions and acquittals being exactly equal in number, and that the result was nearly similar at the spring assizes of 1836, and at the spring and summer assizes of 1837. It further appears that, while at the spring assizes of 1834 the proportion of convictions to acquittals was as 11 to 7, the proportion was diminished to an equality at the summer assizes of the same year; and that, while at the spring assizes of 18:36 the proportion of convictions to acquittals was as 18 to 7, they were at the next assizes again exactly equal.

“It appears also that, while at the last summer assizes the juries disagreed in two cases of homicide, one instance only of such disagreement occurred at the spring assizes of this year.

“Results varying so considerably within very short intervals of time lead naturally to the conclusion that in Tipperary, as in other places, the issue of trials in convictions and acquittals is produced, not by the increased or diminished virtue or infirmity of jurors, but by those varying, complex, and often accidental causes, against which no vigilance can guard, and which operate in every country and in every condition of society.

“ His Excellency finds, on referring to the two northern circuits, that the proportion of acquittals to convictions in cases of homicide has been considerably greater within the same period.

“ His Excellency has also obtained a return of the several juries at the last assizes of Tipperary, and he finds that the great majority of the jurors resided in towns, chiefly in Clonmel, and therefore were not likely to be influenced by apprehensions of danger to person or property; and further, on examining the list, it has been found that, of the 100 jurors who constituted the juries in the several cases of homicide, 52 served both on convicting and acquitting juries, 30 on convicting juries only, and 18 only on acquitting juries.

“His Excellency also felt it his duty to refer the statement of the memorialists to the judge who presided at the last assizes, and his Excellency has received a reply from that learned person, of which the following is an extract :

«. It did not appear to me there existed any grounds, either of fact or inference, for apprehending that the juries were intimidated; on the contrary, I considered they discharged their duties free from any bias arising from personal apprehension, or any other cause; and with regard to their verdicts, they uniformly received and acted upon the legal character of the crime as laid down by the Court, at the same time exercising their own judgments, as in their exclusive province, upon the credit to which they considered the witnesses were entitled.'

“ With such facts and evidence before him, his Excellency is wholly at a loss to understand on what grounds the memorialists have asserted that the juries at the late assizes acted under terrible intimidation.' His Excellency cannot but think that, in putting forth a statement, unsustained by proof, so deeply affecting the administration of justice, and so seriously impugning the acts of men who appear to have faithfully and fearlessly discharged their responsible duties, according to their oaths, the memorialists have been influenced rather by the excitement prevailing at the time of their meeting, and naturally produced by horror at the atrocious crime just then perpetrated, than by that due and calm consideration which such a subject requires, and which, under other circumstances, they would doubtless have given to it.

“ The magistrates suggest a remedy for the supposed intimidation, in a recurrence to what they term “the old and wholesome practice of challenging.' As the evil appears to have no existence, his Excellency might have deemed it unnecessary to advert to that part of the memorial ; but, as it would seem that the present course of proceeding with regard to challenging on the part of the Crown is not perfectly understood by the memorialists, and as it is important that it should be generally known, his Excellency thinks it right to explain to them what the actual directions are by which the Crown prosecutors are governed in this respect.

"The privilege of setting aside jurors has not been abandoned, as the memorialists seem to think; but the exercise of it is strictly confined to cases in which those concerned in the conducting of Crown prosecutions can upon their responsibility say that just grounds of objection exist to any individual called on the jury; the direction of the law officers of the Crown being express, that no man shall be objected to merely on the ground of his religion or his politics. His Excellency entirely concurs in the wisdom and justice of that course, and he has not heard of a single fact that would lead him to conclude that the ends of justice would be advanced by the adoption of any other practice.

“His Excellency has no reason for believing that the recurrence from time to time of serious outrages in the county of Tipperary is justly to be ascribed to the existing state of the law, or the manner in which it is administered.

“ The Government has been at all times ready to afford the

utmost aid in its power to suppress disturbance and crime; and its efforts have been successful, so far as regards open violations of the law. Faction fights and riots at fairs, which were generally of a very ferocious character, and the fruitful source of much subsequent crime, have been to a very great degree suppressed, though heretofore most commonly suffered to pass unchecked and unpunished; but there are certain classes of crime, originating in other causes, which are much more difficult of repression. The utmost exertion of vigilance and precaution cannot always effectually guard against them; and it becomes of importance to consider the causes which have led to a state of society so much to be deplored, with view to ascertain whether any corrective means are in the immediate power of the Government or the Legislature. When the character of the great majority of serious outrages occurring in many parts of Ireland, though unhappily most frequent in Tipperary, is considered, it is impossible to doubt that the causes from which they mainly spring are connected with the tenure and occupation of land. But his Excellency feels that it would be quite beyond the limits, and not consistent with the character of a communication of this nature, either to enter into an examination of the lamentably destitute condition of a cottier tenantry, possessing no adequate means of continuous support, or to advert in detail to the objects for which the formation of such a class was originally either permitted or directly encouraged. If from political changes, or the improvements in modern husbandry, these objects are not any longer to be attained by the continuance of such a state of things, his Excellency conceives that it may become matter of serious question whether the proprietors of the soil are not in many instances attempting too rapidly to retrace their steps, when he finds the fact to be, from returns furnished by the Clerk of the Peace for Tipperary, that the number of ejectments in 1837 is not less than double the number in 1833. The deficiency of a demand for labour, and the want, as yet, of any legal provision against utter destitution, leave this humble class, when ejected, without any certain protection against actual starvation. Hence the wholesale expulsion of cottier


tenants is unfortunately found with the great body of the people to enlist the strongest feelings—those of self-preservation—on the side even of guilt, in vindication of what they falsely assume to be their rights; and hence a sympathy for persons charged with crimes supposed to have arisen from those causes is still found a lamentable exception to that increased general respect for the laws which has of late years been remarked with satisfaction by those concerned in the administration of justice.

Property has its duties as well as its rights; to the neglect of those duties in times past is mainly to be ascribed that diseased state of society in which such crimes take their rise; and it is not in the enactment or enforcement of statutes of extraordinary severity, but chiefly in the better and more faithful performance of those duties, and the more enlightened and humane exercise of those rights, that a permanent remedy for such disorders is to be sought.

“Whatever a Government can do to protect the rights which the law has conferred, and to suppress violence and crime, from whatever cause arising, his Excellency, as head of the Executive, will direct and enforce; but his Excellency firmly believes that the end so earnestly to be desired will be more speedily and effectually attained by the vigorous administration of the ordinary laws than by the adoption of any more vigorous measures. The experience of the past confirms and justifies that belief. When it was reported last November that a spirit of intimidation and violence had manifested itself in the barony of Clanwilliam and certain portions of the adjoining baronies, his Excellency, after duly weighing the representations of the magistrates, who on that occasion urged that the country should be proclaimed, came to the conclusion that the ordinary powers of the law would be found sufficient to meet the exigency.

“He directed the constabulary to be strengthened, military detachments to patrol the district, and stipendiary magistrates to superintend their proceedings ; several persons were arrested, and have either been brought to trial at the last assizes, or are now awaiting their trial at the next.

“In the course of a short time it was reported that the

« PreviousContinue »