A.M. Sullivan.

The Wearing of the Green online

. (page 10 of 10)
Online LibraryA.M. SullivanThe Wearing of the Green → online text (page 10 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

only, may the functions of justice be saved from being impaired. In
this case wrong had been done. Five men had been tried together upon
the same evidence, and convicted together upon that evidence, and
while one of the five was acknowledged by the crown to be innocent,
and the whole conviction was thus acknowledged to be wrong and
invalid, three of the five men were hanged upon that conviction. My
friend, Mr. Sullivan, in his eloquent and unanswerable speech of
yesterday, has so clearly demonstrated the facts of that unhappy and
disgraceful affair of Manchester, that I shall merely say of it that
I adopt every word he spoke upon the subject for mine, and to justify
the sentiment and purpose with which I engaged in the procession of
the 8th December. I say the persons responsible for that transanction
are fairly liable to the charge of acting so as to bring the
administration of justice into contempt, unless, gentlemen, you hold
those persons to be infallible and hold that thay can do no wrong.
But, gentlemen, the constitution does not say that the servants of
the crown can do no wrong. According to the constitution the
sovereign can do no wrong, but her servants may. In this case they
have done wrong. And, gentlemen, you cannot right that wrong, nor
save the administration of justice from the disreputation into which
such proceedings are calculated to bring it, by giving a verdict to
put my comrades and myself into jail for saying openly and peaceably
that we believe the administration of justice in that unhappy affair
did do wrong. But further, gentlemen, let us suppose that you twelve
jurors, as well as the servants of the crown who are prosecuting me,
and the two judges, consider me to be mistaken in my opinion upon
that judicial proceeding, yet you have no right under the
constitution to convict me of a misdemeanour for openly and peaceably
expressing my opinion. You have no such right; and as to the wisdom
of treating my differences of opinion and the peaceable expression of
it as a penal offence - and the wisdom of a political act ought to be
a serious question with all good and loyal citizens - consider that
the opinion you are invited by the crown prosecutors to pronounce to
be a penal offence is not mine alone, nor that of the five men herein
indicted, but is the opinion of all the 30,000 persons estimated by
the crown evidence to have taken part in the assembly of the 8th of
December; is the opinion besides of the 90,000 or 100,000 others who,
standing in the streets of this city, or at the open windows
overlooking the streets traversed by the procession that day,
manifested their sympathy with the objects of the procession; is the
opinion, as you are morally certain, of some millions of your Irish
fellow-subjects. By indicting me for the expression of that opinion
the public prosecutors virtually indict some millions of the Queen's
peaceable Irish subjects. It is only the convenience of this
court - which could not hold the millions in one batch of traversers,
and which would require daily sittings for several successive years
to go through the proper formalities for duly trying all those
millions; it is only the convenience of this court that can be
pretended to relieve the crown prosecutors from the duty of trying
and convicting all those millions if it is their duty to try and
convict me. The right principles of law do not allow the servants of
the crown to evade or neglect their duty of bringing to justice all
offenders against the law. I suppose these gentlemen may allege that
it is at their discretion what offenders against the law they will
prosecute. I deny that the principles of the law allow them, or allow
the Queen such discretion. The Queen, at her coronation services,
swears to do justice to all her subjects according to the law. The
Queen, certainly, has the right by the constitution to pardon any
offenders against the law. She has the prerogative of mercy. But
there can be no pardon, no mercy, till after an offence be proved in
due course of law by accusation of the alleged offenders before the
proper tribunals, followed by the plea of guilty or the jurors'
verdict of guilty. And to select one man or six men for trial,
condemnation, and punishment, out of, say, four millions who have
really participated in the same alleged wicked, malicious, seditious,
evil-disposed, and unlawful proceeding, is unfair to the six men, and
unfair to the other 3,999,994 men - is a dereliction of duty on the
part of the officers of the law, and is calculated to bring the
administration of justice into disrepute. Equal justice is what the
constitution demands. Under military authority an army may be
decimated, and a few men may properly be punished, while the rest are
left unpunished. But under a free constitution it is not so. Whoever
breaks the law must be made amenable to punishment, or equal justice
is not rendered to the subjects of the Queen. Is it not pertinent,
therefore, gentlemen, for me to say to you this is an unwise
proceeding which my prosecutors bid you to sanction by a verdict? I
have heard it asked by a lawyer addressing this court as a question
that must be answered in the negative - can you indict a whole nation?
If such a proceeding as this prosecution against the peaceable
procession of the 8th December receives the sanction of your verdict,
that question must be answered in the affirmative. It will need only
a crown prosecutor, an attorney-general, and a solicitor-general, two
judges, and twelve jurors, all of the one mind, while all the other
subjects of the Queen in Ireland are of a different mind, and the
five millions and a half of the Queen's subjects of Ireland outside
that circle of seventeen of her Majesty's subjects, may be indicted,
convicted, and consigned to penal imprisonment in due form of law - a
law as understood in political trials in Ireland. Gentlemen, I have
thus far endeavoured to argue from the common sense of mankind, with
which the principles of law must be in accord, that the peaceable
procession of the 8th of December - that peaceable demonstration of
the sentiment of millions of the Queen's subjects in Ireland - did not
violate any of the seven conditions of the learned judge to the grand
jury in defining what constitutes an illegal assembly at common law;
and I have also argued that the prosecution is unwise, and calculated
to excite discontent. Gentlemen, I shall now endeavour to show you
that the procession of the 8th of December did not violate the
statute entitled the Party Processions' Act. The learned judge in his
charge told the grand jury that under this act all processions are
illegal which carry weapons of offence, or which carry symbols
calculated to promote the animosity of some other class of her
Majesty's subjects. Applying the law to this case, his lordship
remarked that the processions of the 8th of December had something of
military array - that is, they went in regular order with a regular
step. But, gentlemen, there were no arms in that procession, there
were no symbols in that procession intended or calculated to provoke
animosity in any other class of the Queen's subjects, or in any human
creature. There were neither symbol, nor deed, or word intended to
provoke animosity, and as to the military array - is it not absurd to
attribute a warlike character to an unarmed and perfectly peaceful
assemblage, in which there were some thousands of women and children?
No offence was given or offered any human being. The authorities were
so assured of the peacefulness and inoffensiveness of the assemblage
that the police were withdrawn in a great measure from their ordinary
duties of preventing disorders. And as to the remark that the people
walked with a regular step, I need only say that was done for the
sake of order and decorum. It would be merely to doubt whether you
are men of common sense if I argued any further to satisfy you that
the procession did not violate the Party Processions' Act, such as it
is defined by the learned judge. The speech delivered on that
occasion is an important element in forming a judgment upon the
character and object of the procession. The speech declared the
procession to be a peaceable expression of the opinion of those who
composed it upon an important public transaction, an expression of
sorrow and indignation at an act of the ministers of the government.
It was a protest against that act - a protest which those who
disapproved of it were entitled by the constitution to make, and
which they made, peaceably and legitimately. Has not every individual
of the millions of the Queen's subjects the right to say so say
openly whether he approves or disapproves of any public act of the
Queen's ministers? Has not all the Queen's subjects the right to say
altogether if they can without disturbance of the Queen's peace? The
procession enabled many thousands to do that without the least
inconvenience or danger to themselves, and with no injury or offence
to their neighbours. To prohibit or punish peaceful, inoffensive,
orderly, and perfectly innocent processions upon pretence that they
are constructively unlawful, is unconstitutional tyranny. Was it done
because the ministers discovered that the terror of suspended habeas
corpus had not in this matter stifled public opinion? Of course, if
anything be prohibited by government, the people obey - of course I
obey. I would not have held the procession had I not understood that
it was permitted. But understanding that it was permitted, and so
believing that it might serve the people for a safe and useful
expression of their sentiment, I held the procession. I did not hold
the procession because I believed it to be illegal, but because I
believed it to be legal and understood it to be permitted. In this
country it is not law that must rule a loyal citizen's conduct, but
the caprice of the English ministers. For myself, I acknowledge that
I submit to such a system of government unwillingly, and with
constant hope for the restoration of the reign of law, but I do
submit. Why at first did the ministers of the crown permit an
expression of censure upon that judicial proceeding at Manchester by
a procession - why did they not warn her Majesty's subjects against
the danger of breaking the law? Was it not because they thought that
the terrors of the suspended habeas corpus would be enough to prevent
the people from coming openly forward at all to express their real
sentiments? Was it because they found that so vehement and so general
was the feeling of indignation at that unhappy transaction at
Manchester that they did venture to come openly forward - with perfect
peacefulness and most careful observance of the peace to express
their real sentiments - that the ministry proclaimed down the
procession, and now prosecute us in order to stifle public opinion?
Gentlemen of the jury, I have said enough to convince any twelve
reasonable men that there was nothing in my conduct in the matter of
that procession which you can declare on your oaths to be "malicious,
seditious, ill-disposed, and intended to disturb the peace and
tranquility of the realm." I shall trouble you no further, except by
asking you to listen to the summing up of this indictment, and, while
you listen to judge between me and the attorney-general. I shall read
you my words and his comment. Judge of us, Irish jurors, which of us
two are guilty: - "Let us, therefore, conclude this proceeding by
joining heartily, with hats off, in the prayer of those three men,
'God save Ireland.'" "Thereby," says the attorney-general in his
indictment, "meaning, and intending to excite hatred, dislike, and
animosity against her Majesty and the government, and bring into
contempt the administration of justice and the laws of this realm,
and cause strife and hatred between her Majesty's subjects in Ireland
and in England, and to excite discontent and disaffection against her
Majesty's government." Gentlemen, I have now done.

Mr. Martin sat down amidst loud and prolonged applause.

This splendid argument, close, searching, irresistible, gave the _coup
de grace_ to the crown case. The prisoners having called no evidence,
according to honourable custom having almost the force of law, the
prosecution was disentitled to any rejoinder. Nevertheless, the crown
put up its ablest speaker - a man far surpassing in attainments as a
lawyer and an orator both the Attorney and Solicitor-General - Mr. Ball,
Q.C., to press against the accused that technical right which honourable
usage reprehended as unfair! No doubt the crown authorities felt it was
not a moment in which they could afford to be squeamish or scrupulous.
The speeches of Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Martin had had a visible effect
upon the jury - had, in fact, made shreds of the crown case; and so Mr.
Ball was put up as the last hope of averting the "disaster" of a
failure. He spoke with his accustomed ability and dignity, and made a
powerful appeal in behalf of the crown. Then Mr. Justice Fitzgerald
proceeded to charge the jury, which he did in his own peculiarly calm,
precise, and perspicuous style. At the outset, referring to the protest
of the accused against the conduct of the crown in the jury challenges,
he administered a keen rebuke to the government officials. It was, he
said, no doubt the strict legal _right_ of the crown to act as it had
done; yet, considering that this was a case in which the accused was
accorded no corresponding privilege, the exercise of that right in such
a manner by the crown certainly was, in his, Mr. Justice Fitzgerald's
estimation, _a subject for grave objection_.

Here there was what the newspaper reporters call "sensation in court."
What! Had it come to this, that one of the chief institutions of the
land - a very pillar of the crown and government - namely, _jury-packing_,
was to be reflected upon from the bench itself. Monstrous!

The charge, though mild in language, was pretty sharp on the
"criminality" of such conduct as was _imputed_ to the accused, yet
certainly left some margin to the jury for the exercise of their opinion
upon "the law and the facts."

At two o'clock in the afternoon the jury retired to consider their
verdict, and as the judges at the same moment withdrew to their chamber,
the pent-up feelings of the crowded audience instantly found vent in
loud Babel-like expressions and interchange of comments on the charge,
and conjectures as to the result. "Waiting for the verdict" is a scene
that has often been described and painted. Everyone of course concluded
that half-an-hour would in any case elapse before the anxiously watched
jury-room door would open; but when the clock hands neared three,
suspense intense and painful became more and more visible in every
countenance. It seemed to be only now that men fully realized all that
was at stake, all that was in peril, on this trial! _A conviction in
this case rendered the national colour of Ireland for ever more an
illegal and forbidden emblem_! A conviction in this case would degrade
the symbol of nationality into a badge of faction! To every fevered
anxious mind at this moment rose the troubled memories of gloomy
times - the "dark and evil days" chronicled in that popular ballad, the
music and words of which now seemed to haunt the watchers in the
court: -

"Oh, Patrick, dear, and did you hear
The news that's going round?
The shamrock is by law forbid.
To grow on Irish ground.
No more St. Patrick's day we'll keep -
His colour can't be seen,
For there's a bloody law again
The Wearing of the Green."

But hark! There is a noise at the jury-room door! It opens - the jury
enter the box. A murmur, swelling to almost a roar, from the crowded
audience, is instantly followed by a deathlike stillness. The judges are
called; but by this time it is noticed that the foreman has not the
"issue-paper" ready to hand down; and a buzz goes round - "a question; a
question!" It is even so. The foreman asks: -

Whether, if they believed the speech of Mr. Martin to be in itself
seditious, should they come to the conclusion that the assemblage was

Mr. Justice Fitzgerald answers _in the negative_, and a thrill goes
through the audience. Nor is this all. One of the jurors declares there
is no chance whatever of their agreeing to a verdict! Almost a cheer
breaks out. The judge, however, declares they must retire again; which
the jury do, very reluctantly and doggedly; in a word, very unlike men
likely to "persuade one another."

When the judges again leave the bench for their chamber, the crowd in
court give way outright to joy. Every face is bright; every heart is
light; jokes go round, and there is great "chaff" of the crown
officials, and of the "polis," who, poor fellows, to tell the truth,
seem to be as glad as the gladdest in the throng. Five o'clock
arrives - half-past five - the jury must suavely be out soon now. At a
quarter to six they come; and for an instant the joke is hushed, and
cheeks suddenly grow pale with fear lest by any chance it might be evil
news. But the faces of the jurymen tell plainly "no verdict." The judges
again are seated. The usual questions in such cases: the usual answers.
"No hope whatever of an agreement." Then after a reference to the
Solicitor-General, who, in sepulchral tone, "supposes" there is "nothing
for it" but to discharge the jury, his lordship declares the jury

Like a volley there burst a wild cheer, a shout, that shook the
building! Again and again it was renewed; and, being caught up by the
crowd outside, sent the tidings of victory with electrical rapidity
through the city. Then there was a rush at Mr. Martin and Mr. Sullivan.
The former especially was clasped, embraced, and borne about by the
surging throng, wild with joy. It was with considerable difficulty any
of the traversers could get away, so demonstrative was the multitude in
the streets. Throughout the city the event was hailed with rejoicing,
and the names of the jurymen, "good and bad" were vowed to perpetual
benediction. For once, at least, justice had triumphed; or rather,
injustice had been baulked. For once, at least, the people had won the
day; and the British Government had received a signal overthrow in its
endeavour to proscribe -


* * * * *

For one of the actors in the above-described memorable scene, the
victory purchased but a few hours safety. Next morning Mr. A.M. Sullivan
was placed again at the bar to hear his sentence - that following upon
the first of the prosecutions hurled against him (the _press_
prosecution), on which he had been found guilty. Again the court was
crowded - this time with anxious faces, devoid of hope. It was a brief
scene. Mr. Justice Fitzgerald announced the sentence - six months in
Richmond Prison; and amidst a farewell demonstration that compelled the
business of the court to be temporarily suspended, the officials led
away in custody the only one of the prosecuted processionists who
expiated by punishment his sympathy with the fate of the Martyred Three
of Manchester.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10

Online LibraryA.M. SullivanThe Wearing of the Green → online text (page 10 of 10)