Acts of violence have recently been committed in the neighbourhood of Armagh, and disclosures of the state of party feeling have taken place, to which the attention of the Irish government has been forcibly attracted. Pursuant to the direction of the chief secretary, an investigation has been held, at which Lord Gosford, lieutenant of the county, presided; and in the unhappy disorders which rendered this procedure necessary, as well as in the manner in which the enquiry was conducted, circumstances were brought to light which should rather quicken than abate the vigilance of government, and which demand, as matter of provincial history, a more permanent location than the memory of hearsay rumours, or even the columns of our public journals.
The instructions by which the investigation was to be guided, contained in the chief secretary's letter to Lord Gosford, indicate considerable knowledge of the state of things which demanded enquiry. His lordship was directed to enquire into the character and causes of the recent disorders, and the manifestations of party spirit and excitement; and to carry the investigation, if it were necessary, back to the time of the Armagh races, thus making it comprehend a period of not less than three months from the date at which it was ordered. Our readers will probably remember, that the excitement produced by outrages perpetrated at the time of those races, was alleged as a justification of the Armagh magistrates for their postponement of the county meeting. In the great Protestant movement which took place during the summer and close of the last year, Armagh was the third county which forwarded a requisition to the sheriff to convene a public meeting. The circumstances which rendered the attempt abortive, made it memorable. The high sheriff, Mr. Brownlow, declined acceding to the requisition; and the magistrates who had signed it, unwilling to incur a very solemn responsibility, contented themselves with publishing the resolutions which it was intended to have adopted, and entering a dignified and strong, although temperate, protest, against the sheriff's decision. No meeting was held in the county Armagh; and the disappointment of Protestants throughout Ireland assumed a tone of complaint and censure. On this, as on other subjects, the debates of the Conservative Society echoed the Protestant voice, and the unenterprising requisitionists were made the subject of earnest animadversion. On the occasion when their conduct was brought under discussion, Mr. O'Sullivan undertook to defend them, and grounded their justification on the impolicy, and, indeed, impropriety, of encountering the risque of a public meeting, while the minds of Protestants were excited by an angry remembrance of wrongs which they had recently suffered. He said that, so soon as he had been made aware of the nature of the outrages of which they complained, and the natural indignation with which they thought of them, he saw the perils to which an excited assembly would be exposed, and cordially concurred in the propriety of the decision, that the county meeting in Armagh should be postponed to a more convenient season.
The outrages which left so bitter remembrances behind, were of no common character. For the first time in the county of Armagh, the coldblooded brutality of the south and west had been manifested. In order that a Roman Catholic rider should win the race, his competitors were assailed with stones, and some severely injured. To ensure the success of aggression upon unoffending and unsuspecting Protestants, strangers had been called in, who, upon concerted signals, assaulted their separated and defenceless victims with merciless fury, and with results which were only not murder. These atrocities, at first, provoked a strong and general indignation, which soon became condensed into a passion for revenge, the more vehement that it had no ordinary incentive. "That a man should come by a broken head, or even in a fair fight be taken down by a leaden bullet, was all in the course of nature; but that next-door neighbours, men that one would go to the fair with, and fight or joke with, or be overtaken with in liquor, should bring down up-the-country rebels and betray a poor fellow, and he alone, and may be not overly himself, by reason of a drop too much, and point him out for these foreign fellows to murder him, it was not fair or handsome, and the Protestants of Armagh and Tyrone would not forget it." Complaints of this character, however unartificial the language in which they were expressed, indicated a sense of wrong, and a purpose of seeking redress, which it would have been well if those who were set in authority, had taken due precautions to correct and moderate.
The provocation, even as ministered at the Armagh races, was not yet full. The road connecting Armagh and Charlemont passes, for a space of about three miles, through a morass. Large masses of turf, on each side, provide convenient retreats for lyers-in-wait, and a hill, occupied by the houses of many Roman Catholics, at the point where the bog-road commences, serves to command it. Complaints of the insecurity of Protestant life on this unfriended causeway, became loud and frequent. Reports of brutal outrages were circulated through the country, and with them angry commentaries, "that the sound of a Protestant drum could offend the ears of public functionaries, whom cries from the friends of murdered victims could not quicken to do justice, and that enterprising officials who would provoke a base strife, and peril the lives of loyal men, rather than suffer an unfashionable emblem of civil and religious liberty to be displayed, could endure that the blood of Protestants should drench the public roads, and make no strenuous exertion to arrest the assassins, or protect the peaceable." There was one outrage in particular, by which public feeling was dreadfully shocked. A poor, inoffensive old man, who had never belonged to any of the parties into which the population of the North is, for the most part divided, who had passed through a quiet life without a reproach, and who was supposed, by his peaceful and neighbourly qualities, as he had gained a strong hold on the affections of the Protestants, to have disarmed the prejudices of all adversaries, was returning from Armagh on the road of ill-fame, at the period of the fatal races, when he was set upon and brutally beaten. He was accompanied by what would have been, in almost any other imaginable contingency, his sufficient protection. He was conveying his daughter home, a young person sixteen years of age, who had been for some time under medical care in the Infirmary of Armagh; but the struggles of a feeble old man - the agony of parental supplication, and the touching appeals of a young and helpless female were addressed to natures which could resist them.
"What to them then, was womanhood or ruth."
The father and the child were beaten, as it was supposed, to death, and with an ingenuity creditable to the devilish contrivers and perpetrators of the plot, the poor man's horse was lashed and goaded to overleap a drain at the side of the road, in order that, when, as it was natural to expect, the cart had been overturned and broken in the efforts of the beast to effect his liberation, accident or intoxication might be adduced to account for the condition of the mangled carcases which morning was to discover. Providentially the villains' design was frustrated. The vehicle was not overturned or broken, and the sufferers were found in a state of insensibility and conveyed to their home. The dying depositions of the father were taken on the following morning, and before measures could be devised for their arrest, the perpetrators of purposed murder, had absconded. After vibrating for eleven days between life and death, their poor victims manifested symptoms which the medical attendant conceived favourable, and when he had pronounced that there was hope of a recovery, some of the barbarians surrendered, or were made prisoners. As if they had been guilty of a common assault, they were, according to report, liberated on Ten Pounds' Bail. Public indignation had been fierce against the assassins. It became in its expressions more unmeasured against the magistrates who thus released them. The case here detailed, will be adverted to in the course of this narrative. It is what is called the case of the M'Whinneys.
The amount of bail required upon this occasion, was accounted by more than the humblest classes, culpably inadequate. The individuals who, generally, had power, and successfully exercised it, to repress popular murmurs, found themselves now deprived of their wonted authority. "What respect is there," the people would say, "for Protestants, or what fear is upon their enemies, if they may come upon a man and beat him just to the gasp of death, and when they put him past work, and make an example and a spectacle of him, for the rest of his days, if they leave any drain at all of cold life within him, they must pay ten pounds for their diversion." For all this, the vigilance of magistrates was not made more quick and keen, nor were the disturbed spirits laid, by which the ill-omened causeway was infested.
It would be tedious to follow out, in orderly detail, the various affronts and injuries by which the persecution of the Protestants was continued. It seems more suitable to the purpose of this narrative, to account for the new infusion of acrimony, and the new incentive to enterprise, which became manifest in the offences of the morass. These are no more than the unavoidable accessories to modern schemes for the improvement of the country. A new line of canal - the grand Ulster canal - is now in progress of being cut and formed. The great majority of the labourers were called in from a distance - from parts of Ireland where the king's writ rather halts than runs, and they brought with their Romish religion, all the intolerance with which the unresisted and undisputed barbarism of the south and west has invested it. The temper of these gentry may be known from the fact, that, because a poor mason incurred suspicion, by entering a Protestant church, he was so severely beaten as to have suffered grievous injury, and when there seemed a prospect that he might recover, the pious and meek spirit of his associates being still a little ruffled, he was again, even while the late magisterial inquest was pending, fiercely assailed, not, as before, with blunt weapons only - he was stabbed, and would have been stabbed to the heart, but that a plaister, which his former bruises rendered necessary, obstructed the knife of the assassin. The spirit which visitants of this temper and character introduced into the North, was not likely to be inactive, and had its natural manifestations in the brave and seasonable assaults from which many an unprotected Protestant had been a grievous sufferer.
At length, matters drew towards a crisis. The election for the borough of Armagh ended, in the defeat of the Conservative candidate, on the day on which Colonel Verner, the Protestant representative for the county, was returned and chaired. The defeated constituency of the borough, who had suffered some hard blows, and not a little mortification, during the three days of their struggle, now lent their voices to swell the chorus of their rural auxiliaries, and were by no means backward to accept any invitation which came in the form of a scoff or a cuff, and was to be responded to by a rough rejoinder. The beginnings of quarrel under so congenial circumstances, are far more readily found than they are accurately recorded. The Protestant party, it is believed, was the stronger, and the discredit of having broken the windows of several of their political adversaries is, therefore, with little hesitation, ascribed to them. The charge, however, of commencing the riot, remains yet unappropriated, and those who hastily brand it upon the Protestants, ought not to forget the delicacy and forbearance for which they gave them credit upon the occasion of the preceding election. At that time, Colonel Verner, who had in 1826, sustained a memorable struggle and defeat, was, for the first time, successful. At that time, also, the Radical candidate was borne in on mob suffrage, as representative for the borough. It is to the credit of this gentleman that he could understand and place reliance on the courtesy and good feeling of his opponents. He communicated his fears, that an invalid in his house, might be alarmed by the shouting of the multitude who were met to chair Colonel Verner, and it was only necessary to have it made known, that there was an invalid in the street through which they must pass, to ensure the silence of more than ten thousand men, enflamed with the enthusiasm of long looked for success, and walking by the door of, if not their most inveterate, the most eminent of their adversaries. On the late occasion, however, they had been subjected to a more irritating process - it would be rash, therefore, to pronounce too confidently of their perfect meekness and moderation.
The great body of the electors were certainly unconcerned in any act of outrage; but an excess was committed on the "road of evil repute," which, with some reason, has been ascribed to a few disorderly Protestants. This was the wrecking, as it is styled, of a house which had the disadvantageous reputation of being the haunt of all the disturbers of the peace, by whom Protestants had for some time back been waylaid in that neighbourhood. It was a public-house, kept by a pensioner, who had been repeatedly, but vainly warned against his late hours, and his disreputable company. Protestants of the humbler class had suffered worse consequences than the magistrate who was reputed to have given the friendly admonition; and they were, accordingly, accused of having conveyed their remonstrance in less ambiguous terms, of having, in short, been the authors of the devastation from which the house suffered in its doors and windows, and became a less comfortable, if not a less eligible, accommodation for those winter evening's ambuscades, which gave the Moy road a name and reputation of deeper dread, than if it lay through a haunted burial ground.
Whoever were the perpetrators of this outrage, it is clear that they were severely punished. It was sworn by a Roman Catholic witness, on the investigation, one who, with somewhat indecorous glee, made boast of the vengeance he had taken, that the wrecking party made an attack on the house of a second obnoxious individual, and were set upon and beaten, if not to death, to the heart's content of their victorious assailants. However, this vengeance was not enough; it was too limited, and too fairly earned. During the evening of this memorable Thursday, through the night, and into the following morning, large parties in arms, kept possession of the hills, and the bog, and the road. From time to time they fired on the peaceable passers-by; occasionally they sallied forth from their encampments, and dreadfully mangled any hapless Protestant who fell into their hands, and by their shots and shouts, and gathering signals, spread excitement and alarm over all parts of the country.
It was not wonderful that the individuals who escaped from such assaults, whether with or without wounds, and many were hurt sorely, should take fire from each other's recital of the perils he had encountered; and when, as the night of Friday drew on, reports became more frequent and various, of the manner and the multitudes in which enemies were collecting, and preparing for a general attack, it was most natural that Protestants should put themselves in array to meet the coming trial. No doubt, it is a humiliating truth, to learn, that two bodies of men, calling themselves the king's subjects, should be, as they were, on that night, prepared for murder; the Protestants drawn up outside the houses of the first village which their enemies had directly threatened, and the Roman Catholics having advanced from their district, marched half-way through the intervening morass, and stationed themselves within considerably less than gun-shot of the parties whom they menaced. The night wore tediously away. In the morning, reports of the numbers of Roman Catholics had had the effect of a gathering word upon the Protestants. A challenge had been haughtily conveyed to them. It was now their turn to advance. But when they arrived at the habitations of those whom they looked upon as the authors of all the disturbances, the enemy had fled. Some short time before they reached this position, an artillery-officer accosted them, remonstrated with them upon the unwise conduct they were adopting, and warned them of its probable consequences. They were not, however, to be shaken. They were in arms, they said, because they could not yield to blood-thirsty enemies; because great numbers of their friends, travelling peaceably to their homes, had been fired upon, and dreadfully beaten and wounded, and the enemies who had abused them so, were now in arms to do what further mischief was in their power. "Is it not a moving thing, captain," said one, "that there is no security for the life of a Protestant on this road ? - but we will make it free, or we will die for it."
While this party were stationed on the hill to which they had advanced, a considerable volume of smoke was seen ascending from the neighbourhood of their position, and it was soon ascertained that several houses, from which the inmates had fled - houses from which, it was reported, assaults had been made on the Protestants during the evening and night of Thursday, and from which challenges had issued; were in flames. The magistrates, and police, and military were now in motion. The artillery were drawn out, and had it not been providentially ordered, that, in the division of valour, the better part had been assigned to the individual highest in authority, and the refuse portion, only, thrown where it could do least mischief, there would have been a bloodier interlude provided for a constabulary report than has as yet made trial of the extent of Protestant endurance. The magistrate in authority, Mr. Olpherts, whatever errors he may have been betrayed into, deserves well of his country, for asserting, where the lives of men must otherwise have been wantonly sacrificed, his right to act with command, and for his rejecting with disdain the pernicious solicitations to employ brute force instead of reasoning and remonstrance. Mr. Olpherts consented to hold parley with men who, he knew, were not enemies. They said they were in force simply because the assemblage of their adversaries constrained them to be prepared, and that they would retire so soon as their opponents consented to be disembodied. What they required, it appeared, had already been effected, and, so soon as the result was made known to them, they retired peaceably and in good order, and withdrew, each man to his home.
Movements like this could not quickly and quietly subside. It was said and sworn, that individuals of much notoriety had gone through the Roman Catholic chapels summoning adherents for a nocturnal effort. On the night of this awful Sabbath, large bodies of men were seen moving rapidly on the Protestant village of Loughgall, but were anticipated by the activity of a gentleman who was in time to have an alarm given by the ringing of the church bell. The circle widened; the adjoining parish took up the signal, or rather, at the same time, separate and independant causes of alarm created an excitement in three adjacent parishes. Such was the condition of the people in the neighbourhood of Armagh - indeed within a circle of ten miles from that city - when the lord lieutenant of the county received the directions of the Irish government to institute an inquiry into the character and cause of the disorders.
It is matter of much regret, and of no little difficulty to explain or understand, that the direction, which was certainly the most remarkable part of the chief secretary's communication, should have been altogether disregarded. Lord Gosford, who had sent out notices to a few magistrates on Tuesday, January 27th, of his intention to hold a meeting on the following day, the 28th, acquainted them, when they had assembled, with the substance of the government directions - namely, that an inquiry was to be held into "the character and causes of the late disturbances, and that it was to extend back, if necessary, to the Armagh races, comprising thus an interval of not less than three months.
A brief sketch of the proceedings at the investigation will serve to show the circumstances under which this direction of government was neglected. It is idle to conceal or disguise the fact, that magistrates, as well as other men, are sensible to political predilections, and that in the court-house of Armagh, no less than in other places of assembly, gentlemen bear their character, if not their prejudices, into their deliberations. Assisting in the Armagh enquiry, there were Whigs, and Radicals, and Conservatives - Conservatives as high and decided as Orange, and some ambiguous as liberalism. It is perfectly certain that there must have been a rehearsal of evidence before the public investigation commenced. It is probable that Whigs and liberals assisted in this private performance; it is certain that the Conservatives did not. On the day when the investigation publicly commenced, it was evident that the character of each witness's testimony was known previously to his examination, and it became apparent that there could scarcely be an intention to conceal the fact, when, on a magistrate's having named a person who could give useful testimony, he was given to understand "that the evidence of that witness should lie over, as it was better to finish the case of one party first, and then go into the case of the Protestants as a rebutter." It would, however, be conveying a very erroneous impression, to insinuate that it was the object of any Conservative magistrates to screen delinquents, if they were Protestants. Their purpose was of a widely different nature. They had no wish to disguise the mustering of Protestants in arms, or to extenuate the excesses into which they had been betrayed. They desired only that the same justice should be done to their complaints as was in process of being done to the accusations brought against them, namely, that they should be inquired into. They felt, also, that they were taken at a disadvantage. They saw the magistrates who had been most conspicuous for their hostility to what was called the Orange party in the secrets of the prosecution which was now carrying on against them, and they learned that, of the known friends of the accused, some had received no notice of the trial; some had received their summonses only on the day preceding that of the investigation; and all, unacquainted as they were with the circumstances of the case, were left unassisted by that information which the Lieutenant of the county could readily have afforded, and of which it was evident a favoured few were in possession. Thus the investigation assumed more the character of a trial in which, it was supposed the members of the court were to divide into opposing parties, than of an inquest, in which all should unite, and give their aid to government in exploring, that they might remedy, the causes, latent and visible, of the disturbances which had furnished the occasion of their assembling. A short discussion, which took place on the second day, will render the constitution of the court more intelligible than pages of description.
It should be premised, that the examinations of the first day were of witnesses who gave testimony that they had been assaulted by parties of men not, as far as could be learned, connected with each other. One man swore that he had been assaulted by a party, among whom some shouted, as he said, "contrary expressions, concerning the Pope and holy water." One man swore that a party had attacked and shattered his house, and that while they broke his windows, and spilled his beer, and beat himself, they did not raise a cry nor utter a sound from which their religious or political principles could be collected. He was corroborated by an inmate of his house, an Orangeman, who caught some of the blows intended for the obnoxious master, who saw no badge, and heard no cry, and who swore that, to the best of his belief, it was not an Orange party by whom the house was wrecked. There were two grounds of suspicion against Protestants - they had assembled in large numbers in Armagh, and they had experienced sharp and frequent provocations. The outrages on the race-course and the Charlemont road, the murderous assault on the M'Whinneys, and the wrecking a Protestant's house, were set forth as proofs that the violences committed on the day of the election were acts of Protestant retaliation. When these excesses had been detailed and thus accounted for, it was pronounced by the magistrate to whom Lord Gosford had committed the conduct of the investigation that the evidence upon the offences of the first day was closed. "Can that be," it was asked, "while a number of persons are at this moment in court who were fired upon on Thursday evening, and many in attendance who have been severely wounded?" Then came the explanation, that such testimonies might be received as forming a Protestant case of justification, and that the Roman Catholic case must be first brought to an end.
Thus it was announced, with authority, that (let it be supposed, for the sake of simplicity) the investigation ordered by government was divided into two parts - one the case to be made against the Protestants, another their defence. The spirit in which the twofold inquiry was conducted can be learned from the discussion, to which this brief digression has been intended to act the prologue.
On Thursday, January 29, the second day of the investigation, before the examination of witnesses commenced, Lord Mandeville rose for the purpose of requesting information as to the manner in which the inquiry was to be conducted. He prefaced his request by adverting to the extreme shortness of the notice he had received that the investigation was to be held. Residing at a distance from Armagh, and having only recently returned from England, he was altogether unacquainted with the circumstances to be inquired into, and thought it would very much facilitate the object of the inquiry that he and the many magistrates who were similarly circumstanced should be assisted by information as to the witnesses summoned, and the general purport of the testimony expected from them: in particular, he begged to know whether care had been taken to summon any witnesses who were to give an account of the Armagh races, in which, it was stated in evidence, all the late evils had originated, and to which Sir H. Hardinge had especially directed their attention.
Lord Gosford: Not exactly so. The passage in Sir H. Hardinge's letter leaves it at our discretion. It is said, we should go back to the races only in the event of our thinking it necessary.
Lord Mandeville: But surely, there can be now no doubt of the necessity. It was sworn by various witnesses that such offences as were lately committed might have been acts of retaliation for former atrocities, particularly an outrage committed on a man named M'Whinney, who appears to have been beaten on the race night. The necessity is thus clearly made out. I am anxious to know whether, in the witnesses who are in attendance, provision has been made for it.
Lord Gosford: I am not acquainted with the witnesses to be produced, nor do I know what testimony they will offer. I have contented myself with directing, that individuals of whose names I had received lists should be summoned. The magistrates will, I am sure, sign a summons for any witness whom it may be thought desirable to produce; but as to the testimony which the witnesses summoned are expected to bear, or are likely to bear, it is a matter altogether unknown and uncertain.
Lord M.: It would seem from a decision made yesterday, that the general tenor at least of the evidence is known. It must be in the recollection of the court, that the proposal of a magistrate was negatived, because it interfered with what was called the case of one party. His proposal was to continue the evidence of acts of violence committed on Thursday; and because, in a great number of cases, unoffending Protestants were the objects of assault, it was rejected; on the ground that, first, the case of the Roman Catholics was to be gone through, and it was said, that that of the Protestants might then be considered as a rebutter. It is evident from this that there must have been some previous inquiry, from which the nature of the testimony in aid of the Roman Catholic case, has been ascertained.
Mr. Jones, stipendiary magistrate begged to correct an error into which Lord M. had been betrayed. The witnesses proposed by the Rev. Mr. Jones to be examined, were not rejected, but it was considered advisable to complete one set of cases.
Lord M.: I said postponed - and said so, without any thought of questioning the propriety of your decision. I said so merely to mark the circumstance, that the case is conducted as against, and for a party, and that there most have been some previous examination, from which the evidence to be given, has become known.
Lord G.: I consider no parties in the case.
Lord M.: I thought I was using your lordship's words - the case of one party.
Lord Charlemont: Certainly, to some extent, the purport of the testimony to be given is known. The witnesses are principally individuals who have suffered from acts of violence: according to the extent of injury they have received, the character of their testimony must be anticipated.
Lord M.: The sufferers have been of two classes. Protestants as well as Roman Catholics appear to have been the objects of violence in the late disturbances, and it has been sworn, that whatever excesses Protestants may recently have committed, were acts of retaliation for severe injuries previously inflicted on them. The object of my request is to ascertain whether there has been the same care and industry in seeking out, and bringing forward the sufferers of each party. I hear of a case to be made out as against a party. I am anxious to know whether, as this case is, evidently, known and provided with what is to be offered as its proof, there has been similar care to understand or to inquire into the strength of the other case; and it is with this view I have begged to know whether witnesses have been summoned to testimony of the offence committed at the races.
Here a desultory conversation commenced, from which little of any consequence could be collected - and the examination of witnesses was resumed.
The information which lord M. requested was denied him, and feeling that the lord lieutenant of the county had, in conducting the investigation, taken on himself the attendant responsibility, the magistrates, who had been desirous of a more ample inquiry, conceived that they had done their part, in having made out the necessity for its extension. However, from time to time, there was an unavoidable recurrence to the prime causes of disturbance. Many incidental allusions were made to the provocation which Protestants had received, and the subject to which the chief secretary had directed the attention of the lieutenant was thus frequently and forcibly brought before him. It seemed, indeed, impossible to avoid a full consideration of it, when Mr. Olpherts, the magistrate who had taken M'Whinney's dying deposition, having been summoned to give evidence as to the more recent disorders, pronounced them acts of retaliation for the former atrocity, and was called upon to give an account of the affair from which these bad consequences followed. The peril seemed imminent; but it was evaded. The court was cleared! and the explanation of the circumstances, in comparison with which all other subjects of the investigation were insignificant, was given in secret. For the exclusion of the public no one reason was assigned - and in the disclosures made, so little justification was found for what was, certainly, a suspicious secresy, that, on the re-admission of the public, the depositions of the magistrate were read in open court. What more, it may be asked, could be required? That they should be given with similar publicity; that the magistrates should be allowed to have, in the most critical part of their enquiry, the assistance which was ostentatiously indulged to them in the more insignificant. During the investigation of other topics, magistrates were permitted to receive suggestions from individuals, whose local knowledge enabled them to render any service. The extent to which the permission was conceded, may be judged from this, that a Roman Catholic witness, one, too, who made a savage boast of the sanguinary vengeance he had taken, was invited to sit at the right hand of Lord Gosford, and to put, through his lordship, any questions by which he thought suspicion of guilt might be fastened on a Protestant. It was a very unhappy decision, that assistance so freely given where it might favor the case, as it was called, of one party, should be, without the slightest pretence of reason, denied, just at the moment when the admitted cause of all disorder was brought under examination, and when, were there no other motive than a desire to quiet the jealousies of the people, even though the remainder of the inquiry, through all its tedious length, were in the dark, the boldest publicity should be courted. Indeed it might be said, that publicity had actually been challenged. Mr. Olpherts, as well as many other witnesses, had directly affirmed, that the outrage perpetrated on the M'Whinneys was the cause of all the recent disorders; and it was perfectly well known, that, in the judgment of the people at large, there was more to be complained of than the murderous assault. The insulting inadequacy of the amount of bail, furnished topics of perpetually recurring irritation. The report was, that persons who were murderers in intention, and almost in act, had been discharged on ten pound bail; that the sufferers from their violence, not having entered into recognizances, were left free to compound the felony for reward; that negotiations had thus been encouraged, some said, were invited, between the criminals and those who should be prosecutors; and that the temptation to receive the bribe having been allowed to act upon the cupidity and the fears of the sufferers for three months, it was not until the day before that on which the investigation commenced, M'Whinney, the father, was arrested, for the purpose of compelling him to enter into recognizances that he would prosecute. All these rumours may have been false; but the precaution of closing the court was not well calculated to discredit them. The public should have received proofs of their falsehood, or explanations, where the truth was misunderstood, and a sufficient assurance that cause should not again be afforded for similar dissatisfaction. This was not done; and the rumours respecting the irregularity in the manner and inadequacy in the amount of the bail, remain uncontradicted.
Another complaint advanced, it was said, by the Protestants, was, that on the road from Armagh to Charlemont they were subject to assaults whenever they were not in strength sufficient to resist. A witness who had been summoned to give evidence on the recent occurrences, mentioned, incidentally, the evil repute of the road, and the circumstance of his having been himself assaulted. He was cross-examined for the purpose of discrediting his allegations, required to explain why he had not given the matter greater publicity, and called upon to mention the names of any other individuals who had been assaulted. Immediately from various parts of the court replies were given, and individuals of most respectable station and character presented themselves, or were pointed out, as persons who had been sufferers. They were not examined. The witness declared that he had represented the state of the road to a magistrate at that moment on the bench, and to a nobleman also present; and further, that the noble lord assured him, that he would exert himself to have a police station established in a place where it was so necessary. Neither of the magistrates, peer or commoner, thought it proper to offer any contradiction. Until the astounding declaration of this witness, sustained by the spontaneous and manifold corroborations it received in court, had put them to silence, magistrates and constables continued to speak of their impressions, that this infested road was not subjected to graver perils than any other of the highways in the county.
The reader will remember another topic upon which it would have been desirable to ascertain the character of the provocation by which the Protestants were excited - a topic to which the attention of the court had been distinctly, but, it is to be regretted, vainly directed - the system of outrage by which the Armagh races were characterised. The subject was incidentally brought before the bench, in the evidence of Captain Henry, chief constable of police, and had the effect of giving rise to a discussion which finally terminated the investigation. Captain Henry, having mentioned the case of an individual who had been arrested, and from whom, on being searched, a pistol and ammunition was taken, said that the man was a Roman Catholic, and appeared to have a strong party to support him. He also stated, that the police were under the necessity of preparing to resist an attempt at rescue, and mentioned various circumstances from which it was concluded, that the party which supported this offender consisted exclusively of Roman Catholics. Against this conclusion, as too hasty, Mr. Jones, the stipendiary magistrate, protested; and on being reminded that, during the course of the investigation, evidence less convincing had been accepted to a similar effect, admitted the justice of the suggestion, but denied its applicability, inasmuch as the religious principles of opposing parties on a race-course, were not so readily ascertained as where the contention was of a less complicated character. It became, therefore, more obviously necessary to have direct evidence, by which the matter should be determined; and Lord Mandeville again urged upon the lord lieutenant of the county the importance of obtaining the requisite information. A report of the discussion which took place, so far as it was public, will best exhibit the spirit of the inquiry and the circumstances of the case.
Mr. Jones, stipendiary magistrate: It is true, we have received interior testimony in other parts of the case; but to discriminate parties on a race-course, fuller and more direct evidence is necessary.
Mr. Johnson: Has it ever been doubted that the outrages at the races were of a party character?
Lord Mandeville: Perhaps, my Lord, it would be better to have witnesses called who shall give direct testimony on this part of the case.
Lord Gosford: With what object?
Lord Mandeville: We are directed to do so. Sir Henry Hardinge's instructions are clear- the necessity for inquiring into the occurrences at the races has been made manifest, and I do not believe the proclamation*(see note at end) by which your lordship has invited witnesses is so expressed as to induce any to attend, except such as can give evidence of the recent offences.
Lord Gosford's reply could not be distinctly understood, so many voices were heard speaking at the same moment. When order was restored, Lord Mandeville spoke in continuation:- "Up to this hour we have been engaged in the inquiry into recent occurrences, and I must confess myself far from satisfied with the manner in which our investigation has proceeded. We have been occupied in examining with wearisome minuteness the particulars connected with recent occurrences, and we have altogether omitted inquiring into matters which the proceedings of the first day of the investigation showed to be of essential importance. It has been shown that all the late disorder, and the irritation which prevails has had its origin in the outrages committed at the races. From the information imperfectly obtained on the examination of witnesses summoned to give evidence of the late disturbances, there seems reason to apprehend, that there was something of an unusual character discernible in the offences which are said to have caused them. Beside all this, we have the express direction of the chief secretary that we should examine into the circumstances which occurred at or arose out of these Armagh races. I cannot see how we can, with any appearance of propriety, decline complying with his directions.
Lord Gosford: If we go back to the Armagh races, we must go back further. We have been now for six days, to the best of our abilities, occupied in this investigation, and although it does appear that outrages were committed at the time of the Armagh races, it is clear also that every thing which could be done by the civil power was done to punish the offenders. In the case of the M'Whinneys nothing certainly was left undone. Every stratagem, to use the expression of the magistrate, Mr. Olpherts, every stratagem which could be devised was employed to secure the guilty, and every means adopted to bring them to justice.
Lord Mandeville: I am not quite sure that that was so. To a certain extent the explanation of Mr. Olpherts was satisfactory, and to that extent I give him full praise for correct intention and zealous concern for his duties. The matters in which he could not give information were those which were by far the most important. He could not inform us what was the amount of bail on which the men charged with the outrage on M'Whinney were liberated. He could not inform us what arrangements were made on admitting the prisoners to bail. In truth, we are as yet in total ignorance whether the offence was one for which bail was admissible; or if it were, whether a due regard to law and justice was exhibited in the mode in which bail was taken. It is three months now since the outrage was committed. How comes it that, a very few days since, M'Whinney was brought in prisoner to Armagh? I should be glad to know on what day he was arrested.
Here Lord Mandeville was interrupted by several voices informing him that he had mistaken the name; that M'Whinney was not the guilty person, that he was the man who had been injured. His lordship, however, adhered to his question, and, after frequent repetitions, it was at length answered by Mr. Olpherts, who said he had arrested M'Whinney eight days before - that is, the day before that on which the investigation commenced.
Lord Mandeville: Can it be said that this is not a case in which further inquiry is necessary? A poor man is beaten almost to death; his assailants are charged with the assault, which it appears from the committal is set down as a capital felony, and we are now given to understand that the poor victim has been brought in here as a prisoner, and that the felons are at large. This surely demands a fuller explanation than we have as yet received.
Here again several voices were heard; the object of each speaker seeming to be to offer an explanation, of such circumstances as appeared to him most worthy of attention. The most remarkable dictum was that of the stipendiary magistrate Mr. Jones, who having spoken of the assault on M'Whinney, and the committal of offenders on a charge of felony, spoke of the change effected by the convalescence of the injured person. "The man recovers, and it becomes a case of common assault." This expression he subsequently seemed to correct by substituting for "common assault," the words " bailable offence."
Mr. Olpherts: It seems to me that in deciding on the propriety of taking bail and in fixing its amount, a wide distinction should be made between the case of those who are made prisoners and those who voluntarily surrender.
Lord Mandeville: That would very much depend on the time of the surrender. The cases would be very dissimilar of the man who should immediately surrender himself to justice, relying on the comparative freedom from guilt in his intentions, and of him who should hold himself aloof until he had ascertained that what was perhaps his intention had not fully succeeded. I would make a distinction between the case of the man who surrendered immediately on learning the injuries he had done, and of him who keeps out of the reach of justice until he has ascertained that the injuries have not proved fatal. I look upon this entire matter as demanding much ampler explanation. The outrage appears to have been one of unexampled cruelty. The sensation it produced throughout the country, after the evidence which has come before us, we are at no loss to understand. Surely it was a case in which every step ought to be carefully taken, and every security, provided by law, adopted, to obtain the ends of justice; and when the general rumour is, that the arrangements according to which bail was accepted, left it in the power of the parties to enter into accommodation, which should leave men of very evil dispositions at liberty, and when it is the admitted fact that these men are at liberty, and that, after a lapse of three months, and not until this investigation had been ordered, the injured M'Whinney was arrested and brought in here as a prisoner, surely it is not strange that I should declare myself dissatisfied, and should solicit fuller enquiry and, explanation.
Mr. Olpherts: I confess I was wrong in not compelling M'Whinney to enter into recognizances at the time when I took bail. I sent for him the other day for the purpose of binding him over. As to the amount of bail it is optional with the magistrates.
Lord Gosford: If the bail accepted were too small, we must couple its inadequacy with the laudable exertions made to arrest the offenders. Supposing magistrates to have committed an error in judgment, their activity fully proves that it was no more.
Lord Mandeville: It is best always to speak the plain truth, and to speak it fully and straightforward. We require more information on this subject than Mr. Olpherts seems able to afford us. I give him full credit for the best intentions, and feel persuaded that it was his desire to have the offenders brought to justice. But I believe, also, that others beside Mr. Olpherts are concerned. He appears to have duly attended at the wounded man's bed-side. He took his dying depositions, and they detailed a crime of great enormity. On these depositions a warrant was issued, and a committal signed for a capital felony. I do not believe that, in such a case, a single magistrate, if the offence be bailable at all, has power to take bail. Other magistrates took part in the affair, and I am strongly possessed with a persuasion, that, owing to their influence and exertions, those arrangements were made which ought to be for every reason the subject of a strict investigation."
Mr. Jones, stipendiary magistrate: Your lordship is quite correct. The committal was made out on the dying declaration. "Here there was an interruption from several voices, amidst which Mr. Olpherts could be heard, stating that Lord Mandeville had assumed the case on which be judged; but matters had now drawn to that state of excitement or confusion which was to be their close. The inconvenience of the open doors had been perceived, and the court was cleared and closed for the requisite freedom of discussion. After some hours, the public were admitted to be dismissed, the investigation was pronounced at an end, and the grievances from which such sorrows sprung, of the races, the recognizances, and the road, however they were huddled up during the hours of retreat, were permitted to remain unredressed and unexplored.
And now, perhaps, the reader will ask why the history of an investigation of so lame and impotent conclusion, "so begun, so finished," should be recorded at such length in our pages. Our defence is, that it seems to us far from being unprofitable; believing, as we do, that the indisposition to inquire into the grounds of complaint which Protestants allege, is, in itself, a substantive grievance, and believing, that to no inconsiderable extent, their case was made out even by the indifference, if not hostility, with which it was regarded. We receive from time to time rumours from the North, and we have long heard them with increasing apprehension. We regret to say that the proceedings at the late investigation, have not encouraged us to believe them false, and if they are true, we have no hesitation in affirming, that the most disturbed parts of Munster should not engage more earnestly the attention of the Irish government, than the circumstances of Armagh and Tyrone.
In his introductory address on opening the business of the investigation, Lord Gosford made use of the significant expression, that the people in general are well disposed to live at amity with each other, but that there was some secret influence by which they were irritated and led astray. There were some in the court who held a similar opinion, and who thought that half the time which was wasted on evidence of third-rate value, offered on matters of less than sixth-rate importance, might have been profitably dedicated to the task of exploring the new influences or agents for evil, of whose successful activity the noble lord complained.
The investigation led to no such discovery. Indeed, it added nothing to what was before notorious. It did not even set a suspicion on Protestants, that they were guilty of the offences which had been committed. The evidence did not in the slightest degree inculpate them. A house was wrecked, some houses were burnt. So much, having been perfectly well known before inquiry was ordered, has not been rendered uncertain by the investigation - but as to the parties by whom these offences were perpetrated, not a tittle of evidence was adduced which could aid in their detection. In one instance it was ascertained, that a house had been fired from within, which, but for a timely and close examination, would be set down as fired ab extra, and would have added one to the catalogue of Protestant transgressions. It was remarkable too, that witnesses who appeared to give evidence of the wrecking of the house which was the beginning of troubles, did not manifest any symptom of having suffered the slightest bodily injury. They were defenceless, in the power of the party who attacked the house, and they appeared to have come from them unhurt. If it were not refining too much to suggest, that injuries might have been done to property, for the purpose of furnishing a pretext for assembling, and a motive for the barbarous cruelties which were perpetrated on unresisting Protestants, there certainly was nothing in the evidence taken at the investigation to forbid the supposition. Indeed, it would scarcely be too much, to ascribe such sinister ingenuity to those secret agents, of whose pernicious practices, Lord Gosford spoke in reprobation.
But we do not ascribe to any such agency the offences which called for the late inquiry. Although there is no direct evidence to such a purport, our fear is, that some idle and disorderly Protestants were guilty of those criminal excesses. We believe that they were lawless - that their enemies were bloodthirsty. We will join with any who reprobate the violence into which Protestants may be enflamed - we will join with any in endeavours to restrain it; but we confess that we cannot have sympathy with those, who hoard their eloquence for the declamation by which only one party is smitten - who are loud, and vehement, and unceasing in their complaints, that Protestants, although they spared the individuals who came within their power, did not spare property, but who have no indignation to vent at the thought of peaceable, unresisting Protestants, overtaken by barbarians, who showed no mercy, and shot or beaten almost to death.
Still, while we reprobate in the strongest terms, any acts of lawlessness on the part of those whose usual boast it is that they would uphold law; while we the more strongly and mournfully deprecate such crime, on the part of those who profess to uphold the permanent ministration of religion - while, had we power, we would urge upon the Irish government, by all just means, to protect the king's subjects, to maintain law, and to trace out and bring to justice any by whom it is disturbed and violated - we would also endeavour to impress on all to whom power is given, that they acquire and extend a knowledge of the perils to which the Protestants of the North have been exposed, and guard against the fatal consequences which might follow from circumstances in which they were tempted beyond their power. They say that they have experienced sore and frequent trials, that they have been made the subject of severe and unequal laws, that they have been visited with undeserved and excessive punishments; they say that, without a cause, without a trial, they have suffered the penalties of guilt, and that those who have been encouraged by the supineness of government to do them wrong, have, from some undiscoverable cause, evaded the consequences of known transgression; they say that there was little care for their protection, little activity to trace out those who had injured them, and a most malicious scrutiny to discover any particular in which they could be proved offenders; they say that their friends, and the friends of justice, men of high honour and worth, have been, with a shameless disregard of all propriety, undeservedly stripped of power, and that their enemies, uneducated and obscure men, have been lifted out of the mire, to be capacitated for doing them disservice.
These statements may be true or false; but there is now ground for a new complaint, by which, to some extent, all preceding allegations are corroborated. It is this, that, at a time when such complaints were freely made, the Irish government directed the Lord Lieutenant of the county Armagh, to hold an investigation, which must become an inquiry into their truth, and the Lieutenant declined to prosecute the inconvenient inquiry.
* The following is a copy of the notice, from which it will appear that Lord Mandeville's remark was perfectly just:
"NOTICE.-COUNTY OF ARMAGH.
"Gosford, 26th January, 1835.
"Having received his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant's directions to hold an investigation into all the circumstances and occurrences connected with the late outrages near Charlemont, I hereby give notice, that I shall hold such investigation at the Court-house in Armagh, on Wednesday next, the 28th inst., at the hour of eleven o'clock in the forenoon, when the attendance on that day is requested of all or any persons who can give any information or representation respecting such outrages."
This was not a call upon "all or any persons" who could give information respecting the Races. Magistrates residing in Armagh could give such representation and could contradict, if it were false, the too general report, that a man who had gone about the race-course, pointing out Protestants to the tender mercies of the foreign assassins, was convicted, and fined ten shillings. This report should have received contradiction or explanation. Why was it disregarded?