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had now to say why judgment of death and execution thereon, should not be awarded against him according to law?" Upon this Mr. Curran rose, and addressed some arguments to the Court in arrest of judgment. A legal discussion of considerable length ensued. The condition of Mr. Jackson was all this while becoming worse. Mr. Curran proposed that he should be remanded, as he was in a state of body that rendered any communication between him and his counsel impracticable. Lord Clonmel thought it lenity to the prisoner to dispose of the question as speedily as possible. The windows of the Court were thrown open to relieve him, and the discussion was renewed; but the fatal group of death tokens were now collecting fast around him; he was evidently in the final agony. At length, while Mr. Ponsonby, who followed Mr. Curran, was urging further reasons for arresting the judgment, their client sunk in the dock.*
The conclusion of the scene is given as follows in the reported trial.
Lord Clonmel—“ If the prisoner is in a state of insensibility, it is impossible that I can pronounce the judgment of the Court upon
hiin." Mr. Thomas Kinsley, who was in the jury box, said he would go down to him; he accordingly went into the dock, and in a short time informed the Court that the prisoner was certainly dying.
By order of the court, Mr. Kinsley was sworn.
* As soon as the cause of Mr. Jackson's death was ascertained, a report prevailed that his counsel had been previously in the secret, and that their motion in arrest of judgment was made for the sole purpose of giving their client time to expire before sentence could be passed upon him : but for the assertion of this fact, which, i: true, would have placed them in as strange and awful a situation as can well be imagined, there was no foundation. So little prepared were they for such an event, that neither of his assigned counsel (Messrs. Curran and Ponsonby) appeared in court until a considerable time after the prisoner had been brought up. It was Mr. M.Nally, who had been one of his assistant counsel upon the trial, and who found him in the condition above described, that first became acquainted with the fact of his having taken poison; and he, at the request of the unfortunate prisoner, rose as amicus curiæ, for the purpose of occupying the court till the others should arrive and make their intended motion. It was probably from this circum stance that the report originated.-0
Lord Clonmel—" Are you in any profession ?"
Lord Clonmel —"Can you speak with certainty of the state of the prisoner ?"
Mr. Kinsley—“I can ; I think him verging to eternity.”
Lord Clonmel—“Do you think him capable of hearing his judgment ?"
Mr. Kinsley—“I do not think he can.”
Lord Clonmel—“Then he must be taken away ; take care that in sending him away no mischief be done. Let him be remanded until further orders; and I believe it as much for his advantage as for all yours to adjourn."
The Sheriff informed the Court that the prisoner was dead.
Lord Clonmel —“Let an inquisition, and a respectable one, be held on the body. You should carefully inquire by what means he died."
The Court then adjourned, and the body of the deceased remained in the dock, unmoved from the position in which he had expired, until the following day, when an inquest was held. A large quantity of metallic poison was found in his stomach. The preceding day, a little before he was brought up to Court, the gaoler having visited his room, found him with his wife, much agitated, and vomiting violently; he had just taken, he said, some tea, which disagreed with him ; so that there remained no doubt that the unfortunate prisoner, to save himself and his family the shame of an ignominious execution, had anticipated the punishment of the laws by taking poison.
The following sentences, in his own handwriting, were found
in his pocket.
“ Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me, for I am desolate and afflicted."
“ The troubles of my heart are enlarged; oh, bring thou me out of
distresses." " Look upon my affliction and my pain, and forgive all sins.”
“Oh! keep my soul and deliver me. Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in thee.”
Independent of this awful scene, the trial of Jackson was a memorable event. It was the first trial for high treason which had occurred in that Court for upwards of a century. As a matter of legal and of constitutional interest, it established a precedent of the most vital (Englishmen would say, of the most fatal) importance to a community having any pretension to freedom. Against the authority of Coke, and the reasoning of Blackstone, and against the positive reprobation of the principle by the English legislature, it was solemnly decided in Jackson's case, that in Ireland one witness was sufficient to convict a prisoner upon a charge of high treason—" that the breath which cannot even taint the character of a man in England, shall in Ireland blow him from the earth."* This decision has ever since been recognised and acted upon, to the admiration of that class of politicians (and they have abounded in Ireland) who contend that in every malady of the State, blood should be plentifully drawn; and to the honest indignation of men of equal capacity and integrity, who consider that, without reason or necessity, it establishes an odious distinction, involving in it a disdain of what English men boast as a precious privilege, alluring accusations upon the subject, and conferring security and omnipotence upon the informer.
It is a little singular to observe, in the State Trials that followed, the effects of such a law, and to what a class of witnesses it familiarized the Irish Courts of Justice. From the event it would appear, that there was as much prophecy, as of constitutional zeal, in Mr. Curran's efforts to prevent its establishment, and afterwards to produce its repeal. To say nothing but
* Mr. Curran's defence of Jackson.-O.
+ Two days after Jackson's conviction, Mr. Curran moved in the House of Commons for leave to bring in a bill for amending the law of Ireland in cases of high treason, and assimilating it with that of England.
The Attorney-General earnestly intreated of the mover to postpone the introduction
of a few of those cases in which he acted as couusel, the facts of Jackson, Weldon, M'Cann, Byrne, Bond, the Sheareses, Finney, rested almost entirely upon the credibility of a single witness. All of these, except the last, were convicted ; and that they were involved in the projects, for which they were tried and suffered, is now a matter of historical notoriety. Few, it is hoped, will maintain the dangerous principle, that the subject should have the inducement of impunity to conspire against
of this bill, lest it might throw a character of illegality upon Jackson's conviction. He believed that the present difference in the law of the two countries (as to the number of witnesses required) did not arise from casual omission, but from serious deliberation ; it was (he thought) rather necessary to strengthen the Crown against the popular crime, than to strengthen the criminal against the Crown.
Mr. Curran differed, and considered the rock on which criminal law generally split was its excessive severity. For the reason first assigned, however, he agreed to postpone the bill; but foreseeing its inevitable failure, he never brought it forward again.
In England, by different statutes regulating trials for high treason, two witnesses are required. (Algernon Sydney's attainder, as is well known, was reversed, because, among other reasons, there had been but one legal witness to any act of treason.) When those statutes were enacted in Ireland, the clauses requiring two witnesses were omitted, Upon Jackson's trial, therefore, the question was, what had been the old common law of England. Lord Coke lays it down, that by that law one witness was never sufficient. Judge Foster, differing from him, gives it as his, and as the general opinion, that two were not required by the common law. Of the same opinion is Sergeant Hawkins. These (according to the report of Jackson's trial) were the only authorities referred to by Lord Clonmel in deciding the point. For the contrariety of opinions upon this subject, see the proceedings in Sir J. Fenwick's case, State Trials.
It cannot be too much lamented, that in such an important particular the law of the two countries should thus differ. The principle cannot be right in both. Inferior regulations may vary, but the laws that provide for the safety of the State and the security of the subject are not local ordinances; they are general laws, and should be founded on the principles which are to be derived from an experience of the operation of human passions, and of the value of human testimony. In Ireland, it has been said, that from the state of society, the Crown demanded addicional security ; but the same argument applies as strongly the other way; for if any community is in such a state of demoralization that its members are found violating their oaths, and indulging their passions by frequent acts of treason, is it not equally clear that they will not refrain from doing the same by frequent acts of perjured evidence? Whoever will submit to the “penance" of reading the English or Irish State Trials, will soon perceive that treason and perjury are always cotemporary crimes, and that the dangers of the Crown and of the subject are at every period are reciprocal and commensurate. Certainly, as the laws at present stand, either the English subject enjoys too many privileges, or the Irish too few; but that the former is not the case long experience has now incontestably established.-C.
the State--such a doctrine would bring instant ruin upon any society; but every friend to constitutional law will distinguish between the evidence that precedes a conviction and that which follows; he will remember that the forms of trial, and the legality of evidence, have not been established for the solitary purpose of punishing the guilty; that their most precious use is for the security of innocence; and that if, forejudging the real offender, we too hastily deprive him of a single privilege of defence, we establish a perilous rule that survives the occasion and extends beyond it, and of which those who never offended may hereafter be the victims. If the trials of the individuals just named be considered with reference to this view, they will be found to contain matter of important reflection. We may not feel justified in lamenting their personal fate—in giving to their memories “ the traitorous humanity and the rebel tear," yet we cannot but be shocked at the characters of the persons by whose evidence they were carried off. These were all of them men of blighted reputation. It was not merely that they had been accomplices in the crimes which they came to denounce; and that, finding the speculation dangerous and unprofitable, they endeavoured to retrieve their credit and circumstances, by setting up as “loyal apostates." Deeper far was, if not their legal offence, their moral depravity. Dreadful were the confessions of guilt, of dishonour, and irreligion extorted from these wretches. If their direct examination produced a list of the prisoners' crimes, as regularly did their cross-examination elicit a darker catalogue of their own. In the progress of their career, from participation to discovery, all the tender charities of life were abused-every sacred tie rent asunder. The agent, by the semblance of fidelity, extracted the secret of his client and his friend, and betrayed him !* The spy resorted to the habitation of his victim, and, while sharing his hospitality,
* Jackson's Trial.