The Macdermots of Ballycloran, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 30.

The Prisoner’s Defence.

Mr. O’Malley then rose, but before he began to cross-examine the witness, he addressed the judge.

“There’s a witness in court, my lord, whom I shall have to examine by and by on the defence, and I must request that he may be directed to absent himself during my examination of the witness now in the chair. It is material that he should not hear the answers which this witness may give, I mean Mr. Hyacinth Keegan, my lord, who is sitting beneath me.”

Keegan was sitting on the bench immediately under that of the barrister, among the attorneys employed in court. When he heard Mr. O’Malley’s request to the judge, he rose up on his one leg, and the judge having ordered him to leave the court, he hobbled out with the assistance of his crutch.

“Your name is Pat Brady, I think,” commenced Mr. O’Malley.

Pat did not reply.

“Why don’t you answer my question, sir?” said the counsellor angrily.

“Why I towld what my name war afore. Thim gintlemen up there knows it well enough, and yourself knows it; why’d I be saying it agin?”

“Well, my friend, I tell you to begin with, I shall ask you many questions you’ll find considerably more difficult to answer than that, and you’d better make up your mind to answer them; for I mean to get an answer to the questions I shall ask, and you’ll sit in that chair till you do answer them, unless you’re moved from it into gaol.”

“Fire away, sir; I’m very well where I am, and I’m thinking I can howld out agin the hunger longer nor yer honer.”

“Your name is Pat Brady?”

“It is.”

“Whose servant are you?”

“Whose servant?”

“Don’t you understand what I say? whose servant are you?”

“Faix thin, I don’t call myself a servant at all.”

“Who’s your master then?”

“Mr. Macdermot here was my masther afore this affair.”

“I didn’t ask who was your master; who is your master now?”

“Why, Mr. Keegan.”

“Mr. Hyacinth Keegan, that’s just gone out of court; he’s your master, eh?”

“He is.”

“And a very good master — isn’t he?”

“Betther, maybe, than yer honour’d be, and yet perhaps none of the best.”

“Answer my questions, sir; isn’t he a good master?”

“Faix, he is so.”

“How long have you been in his employment?”

“How long!”

“Yes, how long?”

“Why, I can’t jist say how long.”

“Have you been a year?”

“No.”

“Six months?”

“No.”

“Will you swear that you never were in Mr. Keegan’s pay before six months ago?”

“I will.”

“You never received any money from Mr. Keegan before six months ago?”

“I did not say that.”

“Why, if you received his money weren’t you in his pay?”

“No; maybe he gave me a Christmas-box or so; he’s very good to a poor boy like me in that way, is Mr. Keegan.”

“In whose employment were you six months ago?”

“In Mr. Macdermot’s; yourself knows that well enough.”

“And Mr. Macdermot and Mr. Keegan were great friends at that time; weren’t they?”

“Faix they were not; I never seed much frindship betwixt ’em.”

“Did you ever see any enmity between them — any quarrelling — or what you very properly call bad blood?”

“Indeed I did then.”

“I b’lieve Mr. Macdermot — that’s the prisoner — had great trust in you; hadn’t he?”

“I believe he had.”

“You knew all the affairs about the estate?”

“I b’lieve I did.”

“He told you all his troubles — all his money difficulties, didn’t he?”

“One way or other, I b’lieve I knew the most on ’em.”

“Particularly as to the money due on his father’s property, which Keegan had to receive; he used to talk to you confidentially about those things?”

“Well, and av he did?”

“But he did so; didn’t he?”

“Faix, but I don’t know what you’re afther; I b’lieve he towld me all about everything.”

“I believe he did indeed; and now I’ll tell you what I’m after. Mr. Macdermot, unfortunately believing you to be an honest man, told you all his plans and secrets, which you, in consideration of certain pay, which you call Christmas-boxes, sold to the man whom you knew to be your master’s enemy; isn’t that the fact now?”

“No, it a’nt.”

“Ah, but I say it is the fact; and now do you suppose any jury will believe a word you’ve said, after having shown yourself guilty of such treachery as that. Do you expect the jury to believe you?”

“‘Deed I do — every word; Lord bless you, they knows me.”

“Now, then, tell me. Can you recall any conversation between yourself and Mr. Keegan since the death of Captain Ussher, relative to this trial?”

“I can.”

“More than one, perhaps?”

“Oh, lor yes; twenty maybe.”

“Will you tell us any particulars you may remember of the last?”

A long conversation then ensued, but Mr. O’Malley could only elicit that Brady had, of his own accord, informed his master of all he knew on the subject, and that he had done so because he thought it right. He admitted, however, that Mr. Keegan had expressed a desire that the prisoner might be hung. A great many questions were then asked as to the present holding of Ballycloran, to which Brady answered, stating with tolerable accuracy the manner in which Larry at present lived on the property, and the hold which Keegan had upon it. He, moreover, stated that the house was in a very bad state of repair, and that most of the tenants who were left on the property were unable to pay their rent. He then, after much hesitation, owned that he had overheard what had taken place between Keegan and Thady in the avenue, on the day when the attorney had called at Ballycloran — that he had heard the name which Keegan had applied to Feemy, and that he had seen the manner in which Thady had been struck.

He was then asked whether he himself had not cautioned Thady against Ussher, telling him the reports that were going through the country as to Ussher’s treatment of his sister. This he denied, stating that it wasn’t probable that “the likes of him should go to speak to his masther about such things as that.” He was repeatedly questioned on this point, but Mr. O’Malley could not shake his evidence. Brady, however, owned that in talking to Thady about Ussher, he had called the latter “a black Protestant,” and that he had always spoken ill of him; “and now,” continued Mr. O’Malley, “I don’t wish to ask you any questions by answering which you will criminate yourself; but you have already said that you have been a visitor at Mrs. Mulready’s shop?”

“Oh yes, I’ve been there.”

“And you have been there when certain persons swore that before twelve months were passed, Captain Ussher should be under the sod?”

“Yes; I swear I heard thim words, and saw the boys take the oath.”

“But to the best of your belief the prisoner was never at this house when such an oath was taken?”

“Is it Mr. Thady? He was niver at mother Mulready’s at all.”

“But he met the party who had taken this oath at your sister’s wedding?”

“He did.”

“And the same subject was spoken of there; was it?”

“What subject?”

“The propriety of sodding Captain Ussher?”

“I don’t know about propriety.”

“Well, then, the advisability of doing so?”

“Oh, yer honer, I aint no scollard. I can’t make nothin’ of thim long words.”

“At any rate, they talked of sodding Captain Ussher at the wedding — didn’t they?”

“I niver said so.”

“Well, but did they?”

“Talk of sodding him! Faix I don’t know; I don’t think they said sodding.”

“Did they say killing?”

“I won’t say they did.”

“Or murdering?”

“No; they did not say nothin’ about murdher.”

“Oh; they did not say anything about murder — or doing for him? perhaps the prisoner and the other boys agreed to do for him?”

“Maybe they did — maybe you were there; only if so I disremember you; but thim’s not the words I swore to.”

“Well, they didn’t agree to sod him, or kill him, or murder him, or do for him; what was it they were to do for him?”

“They were to rid the counthry of him.”

“What — make the country too hot to hold him? eh, is that what you mean?”

“It don’t matter what I mean; that warn’t what they meant.”

“And how do you know what they meant?”

“Why, they meant to kill the man; you know that as well as I.”

“But I don’t know it — nor do I think it; nor what is more, do you think it; for you are sharp enough to know that where there are so many figurative terms in use to signify murder, it is not probable that had they, on this occasion, wished to signify murder, they would have used a phrase which every one knows expresses an intention to drive a man out of the country. Yes, sir, you know that not one of the party would have dared to propose to Mr. Macdermot to have a share in murder. You and they talked of murder at Mrs. Mulready’s, but you know that for your life you would not have dared to mention it before Mr. Macdermot. Now tell me how long was the prisoner at the wedding party?”

“Maybe three hours.”

“Was he sober when he came in?”

“He war.”

“Was he sober when he went out?”

“Sober when he went out?”

“Yes, sir; was he sober when he went out?”

“I don’t think he war — not to say sober.”

“Wasn’t he mad drunk?”

“Mad dhrunk?”

“Don’t repeat my words, sir; wasn’t he mad drunk?”

“Faix, that’s thrue for you, sir — they’re not worth repeating; no, he war not mad dhrunk.”

“Was he drunk? and mind, sir, you are on your oath — and there were many others present there who will prove whether you answer this question truly or falsely; was he drunk when he left the wedding party?”

“‘Deed then I don’t know; you can ask thim as war there besides me.”

“But I choose to ask you, and I choose that you should answer me; was he drunk?”

“Don’t I tell you that I don’t know?”

“On your oath you don’t know whether he was drunk or not?”

“He war screwed; divil a doubt of that; but thin, he could walk — I wouldn’t call him dhrunk.”

“Wasn’t he nearer being so than you’d seen him for many months?”

“Faix, he war. I didn’t see him so bad since Leitrim fair, two years back.”

“And now you say, that at the wedding, the prisoner promised in a day or two to meet the same boys at Mrs. Mulready’s, to settle their plans of ridding the country of Ussher?”

“Yes; about that and other things.”

“And the prisoner never kept that appointment?”

“No, Mr. Thady niver went there.”

“Did you ever say anything to him about not going there?”

“Oh, I did; we were discoursing about it.”

“And what did you say to him on the subject?”

“Why, I towld him av he guv the boys a promise, he oughts never to go back from his word.”

“That is to say, you endeavoured to persuade him to go?”

“By-dad, I don’t know about persuading; it warn’t for the likes of me to persuade him.”

“On your oath, sir, didn’t you endeavour to induce the prisoner to go to Mrs. Mulready’s?”

“I towld him he ought to be as good as his word.”

“Yes, you did; and you think he ought to have gone?”

“May be av he’d gone there, he’d never have stood here this day.”

“You wanted him to go to Mrs. Mulready’s, then?”

“Wanted! No, I didn’t want nothing about it.”

“You only asked him to go?”

“Jist as I towld you; I said av he guv the boys his word, as a man he shouldn’t go from it.”

“Did you say anything to him about Mr. Jonas Brown?”

“Jonas Brown?”

“Yes, Mr. Jonas Brown, the magistrate?”

“Faix, I don’t know. I can’t rightly say.”

“Think now, my man; when you were trying to persuade your master to go to the widow Mulready’s, did you mention Mr. Jonas Brown’s name?”

“D’ye think I do be counting my words that way; how am I to say all the names I mintioned four or five months back?”

“On your solemn oath don’t you remember mentioning that gentleman’s name to the prisoner with reference to his visit to Mrs. Mulready’s?”

“What, Jonas Brown’s name?”

“Yes.”

“Faix I may.”

“Don’t you know you did?”

“Faix I don’t.”

“Didn’t you threaten your master, that if he did not attend the meeting, some of the boys would swear against him, before Mr. Brown, for having joined the party and taken the oath at the wedding?”

“What av I did?”

“But did you?”

“Maybe I did — maybe I didn’t; I disremember thim little things.”

The cross-examination continued for a considerable time; but nothing further that was material could be drawn from Brady. He seemed even more unwilling to answer Mr. O’Malley, than he had been in replying to Mr. Allewinde, and at last he was sent off the table.

The next witness called was McGovery, who had been summoned on behalf of the prosecution. He was asked whether he had not suspected that some foul play was intended against Ussher, and he stated in what manner he had, in the first place, cautioned Ussher himself — then that he had told the same thing to Father John — and that after overhearing a portion of the conversation at Mrs. Mehan’s, he had gone to Father Cullen, for the purpose of informing him that he feared there was a conspiracy against Mr. Keegan. Little, however, could be learnt from him, for he owned that he had no substantial grounds for his suspicions in the first case, and that he had chiefly been led to fear an attack upon Ussher, from knowing his unpopularity and the bad character of many of the guests expected at the wedding. Mr. O’Laugher tried to make him say that the conversation at Mrs. Mehan’s had been confined to Keegan, and the threats which he had heard uttered against him; but McGovery would not say as much as this; he stated positively that he had never heard Ussher’s name mentioned, but that during a considerable portion of the evening he had been entirely unable to hear a word that the men said; he declared, however, positively that Thady was drunk when he left the room, and that it appeared to him that he, Thady, had taken very little part in the conversation before he was drunk.

When this witness went off the table, Mr. Allewinde declared that the case for the prosecution was finished — stating at the same time that he abstained from feelings of delicacy and respect from putting the prisoner’s sister into the witness box; and that he should trouble her with no questions unless she were placed there by the counsel for the defence.

Mr. O’Malley then rose to address the jury on behalf of the prisoner, and spoke to the following effect:—

“Gentlemen of the jury, it now becomes my duty to address to you such words as may best suit to point out to you the weakness of the evidence against the prisoner — to explain to you the different objects we had in our lengthened cross-examination of the witnesses — to inform you what we intend to prove on behalf of the prisoner from further witnesses — and, in fact, to put the case before you in a light, and point of view, differing as widely as I can make it do from that in which my learned friend has presented it to you. This you are aware is the general duty and constant object of a counsel endeavouring to obtain a verdict of acquittal from a jury. It is a duty in which long practice has made me familiar, if not skilful; and I never undertook that duty with the same assurance of its facility, as that which I now feel, after having heard the evidence which has been brought forward on the prosecution. I knew beforehand, as surely as one can trust to human knowledge, that the evidence would fail; but knowing the acute legal abilities of my learned friend, and the extraordinary avidity which exists among a large class of men for a verdict against the prisoner in this case — remembering, I say, these things, I did not expect such a total break down, such an exposure of weakness as that which has been just made before you. Were my object merely to rescue the prisoner from an ignominious death — had it been my mere duty on this occasion to obtain an acquittal, I should feel no hesitation in requesting his lordship at once to send the case before you, with such remarks as the evidence would call forth from him; and I should consider that I was only wasting the time of the court in pointing out to you the insufficiency of the evidence, in which each of you must perceive that nothing whatever is proved against the prisoner; but I have been employed with another object; and I must own to you that so great is my own personal anxiety — so terrible and so undeserved the present position of that unfortunate young man, and so essentially necessary is it for his future happiness, that I should effect my present object; — I must own to you, I say, for these reasons, that from the time when I first found myself standing in a crowded court to address a jury, up to the present moment, I have never felt so little self-confidence, or experienced so total a prostration of that assurance, which is a lawyer’s first requisite, as I do at present.

“I have said my object in addressing you is not merely that of obtaining an acquittal; and I said so because a mere acquittal will serve that unfortunate young man but little. Unless he can walk out of this court with such a verdict as, damning as it may be to others, will altogether cleanse his name from the stain of guilt in this matter; unless he can, not only save his neck from the halter, but also entirely clear his character from the gross charges which have been brought against him — he would as lief go back to the cell whence he has come, as return to his father’s house acquitted by the voice of law, but condemned by that of opinion.

“On this account I am debarred from many of the usual resources of counsel pleading for a prisoner; I am forbidden to make use of legal points in his favour; I am forbidden to effect an escape by the numerous weak points in the enemy’s plan of attack; I am desired to meet him face to face in the open field — to fight under no banner but that of truth, and not to strike my adversary below the belt. You are aware that this is a line of conduct as rare as it is difficult in a criminal court — when an advocate has to contend for his client against the law — where every possible means of success which legal ingenuity can devise is taken in the prosecution, and where you are accustomed to hear every legal technicality used in the defence.

“Had I not received instructions of so peculiar a nature, I should point out to the jury that no proof has been given direct or circumstantial, that the prisoner was the person by whose hands Ussher fell; instead of doing so I am to declare that he did, as he is supposed to have done, kill the deceased in the avenue of Ballycloran, by striking him twice with his stick. I am to justify that deed, and disprove the charge of his having entered into a conspiracy to murder the man, whom he did kill.

“The prisoner, you have been told, and are probably all aware, is above the rank of men whom you are mostly accustomed to see placed in that dock. He is the only son of a gentleman, living on his own small estate, and has for some years past acted as his father’s sole agent and manager.

“I must now tell you a few particulars respecting that estate; and though, of course, you cannot receive as evidence what I tell you, still this course will be necessary, as I shall thereby be enabled to explain to you my object in obtaining answers to certain questions which I have asked, or shall ask, the answers to which you will take as evidence.

“In the time of the prisoner’s grandfather, a house was built on this estate by a Mr. Flannelly, of this town, and the price of the building not having been paid, this man, the builder, obtained a mortgage on the estate for the amount of the debt. This is still due, though the house, as you have heard, is falling to the ground; and it has so been increased by interest not paid up and by legal charges, that it has completely embarrassed the present proprietor, who is even now unable to leave his house for fear of arrest. Mr. Keegan, whose name has often come before you in the evidence, and who, by and by, will be examined himself, is the son-in-law of this Mr. Flannelly, and owns, as I have no doubt I shall be able to prove to you, the whole interest in the estate of Ballycloran arising from this mortgage.

“The prisoner’s time, since he ceased to be a boy, has been employed in futile endeavours to satisfy the legal claims of this man; and I shall prove to you by most undoubtable evidence that his industry in this object has been unceasing, and that his conduct as a son and a brother has been beyond all praise. But he has failed — times have been against him — legal costs have so swelled the legal interest as to consume the whole rents — those rents he has been unable to collect, and his life has been one manful struggle against poverty and Mr. Keegan; — and I could not wish my worst foe two more inveterate enemies.

“Some few days before Ussher’s death — and now I am going to confine myself to that which I am in a position to prove — Mr. Keegan called on the Macdermots for the purpose of proposing certain terms for the adjustment of the debt, which were neither more nor less than that he should have the whole estate, paying a small weekly stipend for life to the prisoner’s father. The prisoner was willing to agree, providing some provision should be made for his sister; but the father indignantly spurned the offer, and turned Mr. Keegan out of the house in no very gentle manner. The prisoner followed him into the avenue — still wishing to come to some arrangement; but the attorney was so enraged at the conduct of the father, that instead of listening to the son, he began abusing the whole family, and, as you have heard, applied the most shameful epithet to the sister with which the tongue of a man can defile the name of a woman. He afterwards struck the prisoner, who was unarmed, heavily with his stick; and I have no hesitation in telling you, that that quarrel, in which no blame appears to have been attributable to the young man, placed him in that dock.

“Brady, the confidential servant of the prisoner, both saw and overheard what took place at this interview, as he has told you, and he afterwards — as he will not deny, though he will not confess it — incited his master, during the period of his natural irritation, to go down to the wedding party, to meet a number of his tenants who would be willing to assist him in revenging himself against his enemy Keegan, the attorney, if he would assist them against their enemy, Ussher, the Revenue officer. And here my client made the one false step — and the only one which I can trace to him — and committed that folly from which this bitter foe has thought to ruin him. Irritated by the blow — his ear still ringing with the infamous name applied to his loved sister — full of his father’s wrong, and his own hard condition, he consented to meet men whose object he knew was illegal; though what their plans were he was entirely ignorant.

“With reference to what took place at the wedding, I have, in the first place, to remark that from the character of this man Brady, I could confidently call upon you to reject every word of his evidence; and I shall presently show you in what respects and why you are bound to do so. But, in the present instance, I am satisfied to tell you that my client did attend that meeting. But mind, that was no illegal meeting — it was not secret; the door was not locked, nor even closed; it was a party of men met at the wedding of one of their own station. The woman to be married was a sister of the prisoner’s servant, and it was natural that he should be present. He directs me positively to tell you that he did attend that meeting; though I also tell you, with confidence, that he committed no crime in doing so, and his lordship will corroborate what I tell you.

“It was, however, a part of the plan organised against the prisoner that he should be induced to commit an illegal act, and he was, as you have heard, brought when drunk to promise that he would go down to Mrs. Mulready’s, to take upon himself illegal oaths and obligations.

“On the following day he was invited by this same Brady to come on a certain evening; but Macdermot was no longer drunk; he was no longer infuriated by the gross outrages he had received; and what did he do then? Did he go to Mrs. Mulready’s to settle the particulars of this murder which he is said to have premeditated? Did he join these outlaws of whom he is represented to have been the leader? Did he even send them an encouraging message — a word of fellowship? No! Even by the testimony of this man, now so anxious to hang his benefactor — this man, who by his own showing was at the same time in the pay of the prisoner and of his enemy Keegan — he indignantly repudiated the idea; he at once informed this wretch — equally a traitor to his confederates and to his master — that he would have nothing in common with them or their schemes; and although threatened with the vengeance of the party, and with the authority of a magistrate, steadily refused even to enter the house in which they were accustomed to assemble. Why, from what I can learn of the young man and of his daily habits, I do not conceive that there is one of yourselves who would not be as likely to join an illegal society as he would. Patient under poverty — industrious under accumulated sufferings — he has led a life which would not have disgraced a priest; he has been ever found sincere in his thoughts, moral in his conduct, and most unselfish in his actions. Is this the man to join a set of senseless rioters, furious at the imprisonment of their relatives, and anxious only to protect their illicit stills? And this is no empty praise. That what I have said of the prisoner is no more than is his due, will be proved to you by evidence which I defy you to doubt. Well, he did not go to Mrs. Mulready’s; but he did go to his friend and priest, Mr. Magrath; and not as a penitent to his confessor, but as a friend to a friend, told him exactly what had passed, lamented his indiscretion, and declared his determination never to put himself in the way of repeating it.

“Up to this time my chief object has been to show to you the enmity existing between Keegan and the prisoner — the object which the former had in view in ruining the prisoner, and that Brady was a paid spy employed to entrap him.

“I shall now come to the deed itself, and I shall afterwards refer to what absolutely did take place at the meeting at the wedding. I have told you that young Macdermot did kill the deceased. He struck him with the stick which has been shown to you in court, and as he was rising from the blow he struck him again; and no doubt the medical witness was right in his opinion that the second blow occasioned instant death.

“You are, however, aware that circumstances might exist which would justify any man in taking the life of another. If a man were violently to attack you, and you were to strike him on the head and kill him, you would be justified. If you were to kill a man in a fray, in fair defence of a third party, you would be justified. If you were to kill a man by a blow in the quarrel of a moment, you would not be guilty of murder. But I can fancy no case in which death, however much it may be lamented, can lay less of the murderer’s stain upon the hand that inflicts it, than one in which a brother interferes to rescue a sister from the violent grasp of a seducer. Such was precisely the case in the instance now before us. My learned friend on the other side has truly told you that Miss Macdermot, the prisoner’s sister, had consented to elope with Captain Ussher on the evening on which that man was killed. You have learnt, from evidence which you have no reason to doubt, that she had prepared to do so. In fact, you cannot doubt that she left the house of Ballycloran for that purpose; this has been proved — but there are circumstances beyond this on which it is essentially necessary that you should have evidence, and this evidence can only be given by the young lady herself. I shall therefore have to bring her before you. When my learned friend told you that he would not call upon her, nor question her unless placed in that chair by me, he forgot his usual candour, and assumed to himself credit for humanity to which he has no title. He himself has nothing to learn from her, as he will prove to you if he attempts to cross-examine her. Moreover, he was as fully aware as I am myself, that the prisoner must rely on her alone for anything like a true account of the affray.

“The brother and the sister are the only living witnesses of that scene. He has within him that high consciousness of innocence and rectitude of intention which has enabled him to bear his sufferings, his imprisonment, and the misery of his position, with a fortitude which I not only admire, but envy. But that can avail nothing with you; from the sister’s lips you must hear the only account which you can receive, and if we find that she has been unable to recall the dreadful circumstances of that night, that fact will bear me out in the history of the occurrence which I am now going to give you.”

Mr. O’Malley then gave as exact an account of the occurrence as he had been able to collect from Thady, from Feemy’s evidence before the coroner, and from such words as Mrs. McKeon had been able to extract from Feemy on the subject. He then continued,

“When the prisoner struck Ussher, he had come to the knowledge of what the burden was which this man was dragging, solely from the words which the man had used. Miss Macdermot was lying senseless in his arms, and, supporting her by her waist, he was forcing her down the avenue. The words he used were, ‘This is damned nonsense — you must come now.’ Then the brother perceived the fate to which this man was — not alluring — but forcing his sister. At that moment — and it was the only one in which the prisoner had to judge of the circumstances of the case — she was not in the act of eloping willingly; she had seen her brother’s form, and had refused, or been unable, to rise from the timber on which she was seated. She was forced from thence by this man, whose death protects him from the language in which his name would otherwise be mentioned. She fainted in his arms, and only came to her senses to find her lover dead, and her brother standing beside her, red with his blood. Yes; he had avenged her! — he had punished the ruffian for his barbarity towards her, and saved his sister from the ignominy to which Mr. Frederick Brown told you with so much flippancy that she had been doomed.

“If this was the young man’s conduct, was there anything in it that you can even blame? Which of you would have done otherwise? Which of you will tell me that in avenging the wrongs of a sister, or of a daughter, he would pause to measure the weight of his stick, or the number of his blows. Fancy each of you that you see the form of her you love best in the rough grasp of a violent seducer! Endeavour to bring home to yourselves the feelings to which such a sight would give rise within you! and then, if you can, find that young man guilty of murder, because his heart was warm to feel his sister’s wrongs and his hand was strong to avenge them.

“But you have been told that as the prisoner had met certain persons for the purpose of entering into a conspiracy of murdering Ussher — and that that fact would be proved to you — you are bound to consider that his coming across Ussher was not accidental, and that the manner in which he attacked that man whilst carrying off his sister was a part of his preconcerted plan. I first of all deny that any credible evidence, any evidence worthy of the slightest belief, has been brought before you to induce you to suppose that the prisoner had even joined any such conspiracy; instead of which you have strong circumstantial evidence that he had never done so.

“You have most of you, no doubt, heard, on various occasions, from different learned judges seated on that bench, that a crown approver’s evidence is to be taken with the greatest caution, and only to be believed in detail, when corroborated by other evidence or by circumstances. Now this man, Brady, on whose sole evidence you are desired to convict the prisoner, has shown himself an approver of the very worst description. You are aware that he was the prisoner’s servant; that he is now Mr. Keegan’s; that there has been long enmity between these men; that the former has been an oppressed debtor — the latter a most oppressive creditor. Mr. Keegan’s spirit towards the prisoner’s family you may learn from the scandalous and unwarrantable language which has been proved to you to have been used by him towards them. Mr. Keegan’s acerbity has been increased by the mutilation he has undergone, and which he conceives he owes to his interference with the Ballycloran property. This man and the witness Brady have, as you have heard, constantly been talking over this trial, and the attorney, it seems, has repeatedly expressed to his servant his ardent wish that the prisoner might be hung. This is his expressed eager desire; and then this new servant, but long-used spy, comes forward boldly to swear away the prisoner’s life! Why it would be ridiculing you to suppose you could believe him. Then look at the man’s character. He was a constant attendant at that scene of villany into which he vainly endeavoured to seduce the prisoner at Mrs. Mulready’s. It is plain enough that Ussher’s death was a constant theme of discourse at that haunt; it is plain enough that a project did exist there to accomplish his murder; and is it not plain enough that this man was one of the conspirators — one of the murderers? Would he have been admitted to their counsels — to their dangerous secrets — unless he had been an active participator in their plans? Would they have taken in his presence a solemn oath to put this unfortunate Revenue officer under the sod, unless he had joined in that oath? Of course they would not! And this is the man whom they expect you to believe with such confidence, that on his unsupported evidence you should condemn the prisoner! What I have said to you respecting this respectable witness, and his not less respectable master, will perhaps be made somewhat plainer to you when you shall have heard the evidence which I hope to extract from the latter. Now, as to the meeting at Mrs. Mehan’s, even were you to believe Brady, I maintain that nothing whatever has been proved against the prisoner. Brady states that at Mrs. Mulready’s certain men swore together that at a certain period Captain Ussher should be under the sod. This phrase brings to the mind of every one the conviction that they meant to express murder. The man could not be under the sod unless he were dead.

“But at the wedding, when young Macdermot was present, even by the showing of Brady himself, the men were afraid to use any such phrase. They implored their landlord’s assistance to help them to rid the country of him; to frighten him off; to make the place too hot to hold him. As I told that wretched reptile, whilst in the chair, they would have no more dared to propose a scheme of murder to young Macdermot, even in his drunkenness, than they would have to you or to me.

“Now as to the probability of the prisoner’s having been aware of his sister’s project for eloping, and having made use of that opportunity for the safe execution of a scheme of murder — and this perhaps is the most material point of all; for were there good grounds to suppose that he knew that this elopement was to take place — that he took no precautionary steps to prevent it — but that having this previous knowledge, he rushed out at the time, and killed the man, I should be very far from telling you that he was perfectly justified, as I do now. But I must positively maintain that you cannot come to such a conclusion. It has, to a degree, been proved to you, and will be so more clearly, that the prisoner had all along shown himself averse to the intimacy which existed between Ussher and his sister; it is therefore to be presumed that both of them took every means in their power to prevent the prisoner from learning their intention; and there is every reason to suppose they were successful.

“Two persons appear to have been told, as their services were required, both of whom have been examined before you — the servant girl and Mr. Frederick Brown. The former has sworn that she mentioned it to no one, and there is no reason to disbelieve her. The latter proved himself not so trustworthy. It seems that with that foolish flippancy which distinguishes him he told his friend’s secret to other friends of his as a good joke. But you must remember that Mr. Brown’s friends were not the prisoner’s friends — that they rather were in such different circles, that what was said in one, would be very little likely to find its way into the other; and above all, that those to whom Mr. Brown or his friends communicated it, would think that the brother was the last person who should be told of it. Again, had the prisoner known the projected elopement, and intended to make use of it for the perpetration of a preconcerted murder, would he — could he have acted as he did? Could he have waited for such an unexpected accident as his sister’s fainting before he drew near to his victim. His sister had walked down the avenue, and after waiting some time in the road, returned and sat down upon a fallen tree; it was whilst so seated that she heard the brother open the hall-door; had she, as she expected, met her lover at the hour appointed, they would have been far beyond the prisoner’s reach before he had left the house; — would he have allowed this to be the case, had it been his intention to take advantage of the opportunity? It is absurd to argue on such a point. It is unnecessary almost to call your attention to things which must so manifestly present themselves to you. The whole of this case has received additional weight and importance from official authority. It has been considered worthy of especial government interference. My learned friend has come express from the metropolis for the purpose of conducting it; — a rumour has been spread abroad that most conclusive evidence would be produced to prove that a prisoner from the better orders of society had joined, and headed one of those illegal bodies of men whose existence is supposed to be the cause of the troubles of this distracted country; and that he had, in unison with these schemes, committed a foul and deliberate murder; and my learned friend has not hesitated to tell you that it is essentially necessary to use the utmost extent of legal severity, that an end may be put to the agrarian outrages which are now becoming so frightfully prevalent in the country. Has anything been proved to warrant this official zeal — this government interference? No, nothing; not one iota; but still these paraphernalia of office, this more than ordinary anxiety to obtain a verdict, may have an effect upon your minds most prejudicial to my client. I have no doubt as to your actual verdict. I have no doubt that you will — nay, I know that you must — acquit that young man of murder. But I beseech you to remember that, though in the indictment he has been charged with murder only, he has been by the servant of government, by my learned friend on the other side, accused of other grievous crimes; and I implore you by your verdict, to purge his character of the stain which has been so unjustly attached to it, if you find, on examination of the evidence, no cause to suppose that he had been a participator in the councils of such societies. I beseech you to do him that justice, which can now only be done by the strong expression of your unanimous assurance of absolute innocence. I beseech you to reject from your minds those preconceived opinions so injurious to the prisoner, with which the present unfortunate state of your country may so naturally have influenced you, and to remember that it is your duty, as jurors, to confine yourself to the individual case before you; and that the doctrine laid down by my learned friend, that you should make an example in one case for the sake of prevention of crimes in others, is most unconstitutional, and would imply, that whilst the solemn oath you have taken is still vibrating in your ears, your object should be far wide from that for which you have been assembled — that of making a fair and true trial between your sovereign and the prisoner. I shall now call a few witnesses, and then leave the case, with confidence, in your hands.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/trollope/anthony/macdermots-of-ballycloran/chapter30.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43