TOPICS OF THE WEEK - 19 NOVEMBER 1885

RIELíS execution, now a thing of the past, was from the first inevitable. He received a fair trial, and both at Regina and before the Privy Council everything that could be done was done on his behalf. There were no grounds on which mercy could interfere to stay the hand of Justice. The petitioners for a commutation of his sentence were moved to action by national sympathy. There were people who argued that Riel's life ought to be spared because he had French blood in his veins. If the doctrine were once accepted that a man's nationality, if of the right kind, may save him from the consequences of his crimes, society would soon be in a state of dissolution and neither property nor life would be secure. It is for his crime and not for his nationality that Riel has suffered. If an Englishman had done what he did, not one of his countrymen would have thought of asking for his reprieve on the ground of his nationality. The law knows no distinction of nationalities. If Jackson was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum instead of being hanged, the reason was that his insanity was not a matter of doubt; and if Riel had been in the same mental condition that Jackson was, he would, in spite of anything that had occurred in his previous career, have received the same treatment. The plea that Riel is insane does not negative the fact that he was well aware of what he was doing when he induced the Half-breeds to take up arms and incited the Indians to murder unoffending persons, priests as well as laymen. We are told, and the fact cannot be denied, that the Half-breeds had substantial grievances, which two Administrations had failed to redress; and the question is asked how far endurance was to go, and at what point resistance would become justifiable. As pleas in justification of the insurrection, the interrogations must fail. The grievances under which the Half-breeds were suffering were as nothing in comparison with the sufferings which they would have to undergo as the inevitable consequences of their measuring forces with the Government. The redress of the grievances would have come, if there had been no insurrection, in the same way and almost as soon as it did come. Before a shot was fired a commission to deal with the complaints of the Half-breeds had been decided upon. It is quite safe to say that the time had not come when a resort to arms was justifiable. One of the bishops of the North-West is credited with saying that Riel, dead or alive, would be a source of danger. That his name will be a name to conjure by may be true, in a certain sense. But the ignorant of one race only can be bewitched by the appeal, and as the full truth becomes known the force of the spell, gradually weakening, will at last be broken. Among the victims of Riel's own race in the North-West the sympathy that was once so active in his favour has turned to gall. In the Province of Quebec it is difficult to gauge the extent of the genuine feeling for him. Both parties are willing to utilize the hangmanís rope to serve their purposes: while one tries to climb upon it hand-over-hand to power, the other, put on the defensive, concludes that the best use that can be made of it is to bar out the enemy. The sympathies of the politicians are his own, and he is free to expend them as he will; and if the genuine article be wanting it can be counterfeited without incurring the penalties of forgery. Sympathy for Riel among Quebec politicians is both real and counterfeit. Neither party has a monopoly of the article. The game of politics played over a dead man's grave is not an edifying spectacle; but in proportion to the extent to which sympathy is simulated the dismal contest will be harmless. If Riel's execution were a judicial murder, there would be reason to fear the avenging spirit that would rise from his grave; but if ever sentence were just and execution warranted they were in Riel's case. If his life had been spared, the arm of justice would have been paralyzed: not one of the Indian murderers, who were his victims and his dupes, could have been hanged; the murdered men and women and the volunteers who were shot


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