A common Sense Letter from "Justitia"

The following letter appeared in the Hamilton Spectator last evening: -

SIR, - It would seem the Globe has a mission to hunt down the men now in prison charged with the murder of the Donnellys. Yesterday a letter appeared in its columns which, to say the least of it, was very thin, and only too well exposed the Globe's self-imposed mission. Seldom in the annals of newspaper history have we seen a paper taking such an important position in reference to any outrage against the laws as has the Globe in this case; and the vehemence with which it demands a change of venue is of a very suspicious character. When any community ceases to be able to protect itself by law against robbery, murder and rapine, and reckless destruction of property, the most natural thing in the world is of that community to organize and use such means as will rid itself of the spoilers and murderers. The train of circumstances in Biddulph that led to the late homicides has no parallel in the history of Canada. Even by the Globe's own showing men were robbed in broad daylight, and threatened with immediate death if they dared to inform, their horses and cattle were disemboweled and ham strung; their barns and houses were burned; their crops were let rot in the field for fear of the Donnellys; and forsooth this train of villainy, this train of outrage, this train of bloodshed, must continue because these outlaws could so conduct their scoundrelisms as to defeat the ends of justice. For years these people have been lying on beds of torture, expecting night after night they would be burned up in their houses; for years the Donnellys have been the terror of the country as well as the Roman Line, and now the Globe will have it that the ends of justice cannot be served by trying these men in their own county. The Toronto Thunderer forgets that it impeaches the whole County of Middlesex, it forgets that none can better judge whether a homicide is justifiable than those who personally know the facts and circumstances, and that argument must be specifically weak and specious that would make it appear that a whole county is so debased, that, in fact, a whole community of counties are so utterly lost to right and justice that no honest verdict can in this case be had near the scene of bloodshed. Why does the Globe produce so many arguments in re change of venue? Why does it try to carry the trial hundreds of miles away? In all this there is a tacit admission of the old proverb " Vox populi, vox dei;" and were the whole matter not serious it would be amusing to view the unwonted anxiety of the Thunderer in taking exception to such a decision. In all this I fear there is the trail of a political serpent only too apparent, the ends of which even the Toronto Thunderer would shrink from owning. No doubt the Globe will rise in virtuous indignation and deny and repel the charge, but will hardly dent that it, with all its virtue and sense of justice, has taken under its wing one of the worst felons that ever disgraced Western Canada. "Take him up tenderly, touch him with care," has been its motto, while all its virtuous indignation and fiery invective have been hurled at the accused. It has eulogized the straight-forward evidence of the boy Connors, who, in the witness box, swore he (Connors) was a liar; it has published for effect the most improbable tales from the mouth of Bill Donnelly; it has nightly swaggered over these impromptu lies, and, in fact, has scandalously appeared in the case as judge and prosecuting attorney, knowing, as it did, that in all preliminary trials of such a character the prisoners cannot produce evidence in rebuttal, that it would even be dangerous for the defendants to show their hand, and, for-sooth, it plaintively shouts "Guilty! Guilty!" perhaps not in so many words, but with an intent that none can doubt. Is it true that the Globe is in this case fighting a party battle? It can hardly be hoped to get a reply from the Thunderer that can be depended upon, but others might investigate and unearth the cause of this bitter animus, and this process of hounding down men who, as a last resort - as per Globe - did enact a tragedy that has shocked Canada, but under a pressure and temptation that might have carried cooler heads with so strong a current, when law by its lax administration had only too certainly proved powerless to save their lives, their homes and their property from the incendiary and the dagger of the midnight assassin.


Source: Unknown, "The Biddulph Affair - A Common Sense Letter from "Justitia"," London Free Press, March 19, 1880.

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