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The proofs against her in respect of Darnley's murder, although not sufficient to convict her in a court of justice, are quite decisive of her guilt, when the question is propounded as one of historical evidence. Indeed it may be safely affirmed, that no disputed point of historical fact rests upon stronger evidence. The arguments to prove the letters genuine are not easily resisted. Mr. Hume's admirable summary of those arguments is nearly conclusive. The other concurring circumstances, as the statements of Bothwell's servants at their execution, are also very strong. But above everything, her own conduct both in obstructing all search after the murderers, and in immediately marrying their ringleader, seems to place her guilt beyond a doubt. Even this, however, is not all. She submitted the case to a solemn investigation, when she found that the effects of her infamy were fatal to her party, clouding over all her prospects of success, or even of deliverance; and as soon as the worst part of the charges against her were brought forward, and the most decisive evidences of her guilt adduced, the letters under her own hand, she did not meet the charge or even attempt to prove the writings forgeries, but sought shelter behind general protestations, and endeavoured to change the inquiry into a negociation, although distinctly warned that such a conduct of her case was flying from the trial to which she had submitted, and must prove quite demonstrative of her guilt.
On the whole, it is not going too far to close these remarks with Mr. Hume's observation, that there are three descriptions of men who must be considered beyond the reach of argument, and must be left to their prejudices—an English Whig, who asserts the reality of the Popish plot; an Irish Catholic, who denies the massacre in 1641; and a Scotch Jacobite, who maintains the innocence of Queen Mary.
It is, however, fit that a remark be added touching the error into which this justly celebrated historian has fallen, and which shows that he knew very little of what legal evidence is, how expertly soever he might deal with historical evidence After enumerating the proofs adduced at the trial of Mary's accession to the assassination part of Babington's plot, namely, copies taken in Walsingham's office of correspondence with Babington; the confessions of her two secretaries, without torture, but in her absence, and without confronting or cross-examination; Babington's confession, and the confession of Ballard and Savage, that Babington had shown them Mary's letters in cipher,—the historian adds, that, “ in the case of an ordinary criminal, this proof would be esteemed legal and even satisfactory, if not opposed by some other circumstances which shake the credit of the witnesses.” Nothing can betray greater ignorance of the very first principles of the law of evidence. The witnesses he speaks of do not even exist; there is nothing like a witness mentioned in his enumeration of proofs; and how any man of Mr. Hume's acuteness could fancy that what one person confesses behind a prisoner's back that he heard a third person say to that prisoner, or rather that this third person showed him ciphered letters not produced of that prisoner, could be anything like evidence to affect him, is truly astonishing, and shows how dangerous a thing it is for the artist most expert in his own line to pronounce an opinion on matters beyond it.
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