TOPICS OF THE WEEK - 6 AUGUST 1885

WHEN Riel's counsel put forward the plea of insanity they practically admitted that there was no other defence. Other defence, in truth, there was none. But the plea of insanity was desperate. No man would commit a crime if he were wise or had a well-balanced mind; and it seems that Riel was a victim of that extravagant egotism which, apart from disease or lesion of the brain, is perhaps the most common source of madness. But to those who knew him best he was so far from appearing insane that they sent for him expressly to lead them in a most difficult and dangerous enterprise, placed themselves under his guidance, and apparently trusted and obeyed him to the end. His plan of defence and his negotiations with the Indians for their aid prove, to say the least, that he was in full possession of his faculties. On what the recommendation to mercy was founded, the jury did not state. The judge intimated that no attention could be paid to it, and it is to be presumed that he spoke from his knowledge of the mind of the Government. Riel had before experienced the clemency of the nation, though it was extended to him in an irregular way; and as a resident in the States he could have no share in the wrongs of the Half-breeds, or in any excuse for rebellion which those wrongs might afford. Worst of all, he, who knows as well as any one can what the ways of Indians are, deliberately let loose those savages upon Canadian homes. It is true that rebellion does not excite the same abhorrence as mean or mercenary murder; yet there is nothing which society has so much interest in preventing, and prevention is the main object of punishment. The word treason ought surely to be blotted out of the


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