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IN THB CASE
CONVICTED OF TREASON",
REPORT OF SIR ALEXANDER CAMPBELL,
PBINTBD BT MACLBAN, BOGBB k 00.. WELLINGTON £RrBBBI.
OiTAWAi 25 h November, 1885.
Memorandum rejecting the case of The Queen v. Biel^ prepared at the request of the
Ccmmitiee of the Privy Council
The case of Louis Biel, convicted and ezeonted for high treason, has excited
nnnsoal attention and interest, not merely in the Dominion of Canada bat beyond it8
limits. Here it has been made the sabjeot of party, religions, and national feeling
and discussion ; and elsewhere it has been regarded by some as a case in whichi for
the first time in this generation, what is assumed to have been a political crime only
has been punished with death.
The opponents of the Government have asserted that the rebellion was pro-
voked, if not justified, by their maladministration of the affairs of the North-West
Territories, and inattention to the jtist claims of the half-breeds.
With this question, which has been made one of party politics, it is not thought
becoming to deal here.
Upon such a charge, when made in a constitutional manner, the Government
will be responsible to the representatives of the people, and before them they will
be prepared to meet and disprove it.
Appeals to the anii^osities of race have been made in one of the Provinces with
momentary success. Should these prevail, the ftiture of the country must suffer .
Parliament will not meet for some time, and in the interval, unless some action is
taken to remove these animosities, they will gain ground, and it will become more
difficult to dispel belief in the grounds which are used to provoke them.
It is thought right, therefore, that the true facts of the case, and the considerations
which have influenced the Government, should be known, so that those who desire to
judge of their conduct impartially, may have the information which is essential for
that purpose. 7
It has been asserted that the trial was an unfair one, and before a tribunal not
legally constituted; that the crime beipg' one of rebellion and inspired by political
motives, the sentence, according to modern <!iustom and sentiment, should not have
been carried out; and that the prisoner's state of mind was such as to relieve him
from responsibility for his acts.
After the most anxious consideration'of each one of these grounds the Govern-
ment have felt it impossible to give effect to any of them, and have deemed it their
duty to let the law take its course.
I am now desired, in a matter of such grave importance and responsibility, to
place on record the considerations which have impelled them to this conclusion :
1. As to the jurisdiction of the court and the fairness of the trial.
It should be sufficient to say that the legality of the tribunal by which he was
tried has been affirmed by the Privy Council, the highest court in the Empire, and
has seemed to them so clear that the eminent counaeT who represented the prisoner
could not advance arguments against it, which were thougnt even to require an
It has been said that a jury composed of six onl^, and the absence of a grand
jury, are features so inconsistent with the rights of British subjects that the prisoner
had still ground of complaint ; but, as was pointed out in tJie Privy Council, the
same crime may be tried elsewhere in the British Bmpire, notably in India, without
any jury, either grand or petty, and this mode of trial has been sanctioned by the
It is to be observed also, that the offence was tried in the country in which it
was committed, under the law as it then existed and had existed for years, and that
this is a course of which no offender can fairly complain, while it is a right to which
every criminal is entitled.
Of the competency of the court, which had been affirmed by the foil court in
Manitoba, the Government saw no reason to entertain doabt ; bat having regard to
the exceptional character of the casCy the nsaal coarse was departed from in the
prisoner's favour, and a respite was granted, to enable him to apply to the ultimate
tribunal in England, and thus to take advantage to the very utmost of every right
which the law could afford to him.
The fairness of the trial has not been disputed by the prisoner's counsel, nor
challenged either before the Court of Appeal in Manitoba, or the Privy Council. It
has, on the contrary, been admitted, not tacitly alone by this omission, but expressly
and publicly. It may be well, however, to state shortly the facts, which show
how the duty which the Government fully acknowledged both to the public and
the prisoner has been fulfilled.
it was most desirable not only to ensure the impartial conduct of the trial, which
would have been done by the appointment of any barrister of known standing, but to
satisfy the public that this had been effected ; and in view of this the prosecution was
entrusted to two leading counsel in Ontario, known to be in sympathy with different
political parties. With them was associated a French advocate of standing and
ability in Quebec, and the personal presence and assistance of the Deputy Minister of
Justice was given to them throughout the proceedings.
The procedure adopted and the course taken at the trial, to be now shortly
stated, as it appears on the record, will show that every opportunity for the fullest
defence was afforded ; and it is needless to add, what is wml known and recognised,
that the prisoner was represented by counsel whose zeal and ability have made it
impossible to suggest that nis defence could in any hands have been more careftilly
or more ably conducted.
The charge was made against the prisoner on the 6th of July, 1885, and the
trial was then fixed to take place on the 20 ih of that month, of which the prisoner
was duly notified.
On the same day a copy of the charge, with a list of the jarors to be summoned
and of the witnesses to be called, was dxuy served upon him, the Crown waiving the
question whether this was a right which could be claimed, and desiring, as far as
possible, to afford every privilege which, under any circumstances or before any tri-
bunal, he could obtain, and which, consistently with the procedure otherwise pre-
scribed in the Territory, could be granted to him.
On the day named ^e prisoner, having been arraigned, put in a plea to the juris-
diction, to which the Crown at once demurred, and this question was then argued at
length. The grounds taken by the prisoner's counsel had been in effect decided un-
favorably to their contention by the Court of Queen's Bench in Manitoba in a recent
case, and the presiding judge held that it was therefore impossible for him to give
effect to them.
This decision having been announced, the prisoner, by his c*ounsel, then demurred
to the information, which was alleged to be insufficient in form, and this demurrer
having been argued, was also overruled.
. 'Hie prisoner then pleaded not guilty, and his counsel applied for an adjournment
until the next day, to enable them to prepare affidavits on which to apply for a further
postponement ot thp trial ] and, the Crown not objecting, the court adjourned.
On tiie following day, July the 2lBt, the prisoner's counsel read affidavits to the
effect that certain witnesses not then present were necessary for the defence, and
that medical experts on the question of insanity were required by them from the
Province of Quebec and from Toronto. They represented that the prisoner had not
had means to procure the attendance of these witnesses, and desired an adjournment
for a month, during which they would be able to obtain it.
In answer to this application, of which the Crown had had no notice until the
day previous, the Crown counsel pointed out that these medical witnesses, as well as
some others in the North- West Territories who were wanted, could all be got within
a week; and they offered, not only to consent to an adjournment for that time, but to
join with the prisoner's counsel in procuring their attendance, and to pay their
The coansel for the prisoner accepted this offer, which the presiding judge
said was a reasonable one, and the tnal was adjourned until the 28th. In the
meantime the witnesses were procured. They were present and were examined for
the prisoner, and their expenses were paid by the Crown, the medical gentlemen
being remunerated as experts at the same rate as those called for the prosecution.
The other grounds which had been urged for delay were not further pressed.
The court met on the 28th. No fhrther adjournment was asked for, and the
trial proceeded continuously until it was concluded on the Ist of August. The
exceptional privilege accorded to persons on trial for treason, of addressing the jury
after their counsel, was allowed to the prisoner and taken advantage of.
As to the general character of the tribunal, and the ample opportunity afforded
to the prisoner to make his full defence, it may be well to repeat here the observa^
tions of the learned Chief Justice of Manitoba in his judgment upon the appeal.
'^ A good deal," he remarked, <' has been said about the jury being composed
*^ of six only. There is no general law which says that a jury shall invariably consist of
" twelve, or of any particular number. In Manitoba, in civil cases, the jury is com-
'' posed of twelve, but nine can find a verdict. In the North- West Territories Act,
'' the Act itself declares that the jury shall consist of six, and this was the number
'* of the jury in this instance. Would the Stipendiary Magistrate have been justified
" in impannelling twelve, when the Statute directs him to impannel six only ? It
" was further complained that this power of life and death was too great to be
" entrusted to a Stipendiary Magistrate.
'' What are the safegufurds ?
^' The Stipendiary Magistrate must be a barrister of at least five years standing.
" There must be associated with him a Justice of the Peace and a jury of six. The
" court must be an open public court. The prisoner is allowed to make full answer
*' and defence by counsel. Section 77 permits him to appeal to the Court of Queen's
" Bench in Manitoba, when the evidence is produced, and he is again heard by
" counsel, and three judges re-consider his case. Again, the evidence taken by the
'* Stipendiary Magistrate, or that caused to be taken by him, must, before the sentence
^^ is carried into effect, be forwarded to the Minister of Justice ; and sub-section eight
" requires the Stipendiary Magistrate to postpone the execution from time to time,
" until such report is received, and the pleasure of the Governor thereon is commu-
''nicated to the Lieutenant-Governor. Thus, before sentence is carried out the
" prisoner is heard twice in court, through counsel, and his case must have been
" considered in Council, and the pleasure of the Gx)vernor thereon communicated to
'' the Lieutenant-Governor.
" It seems to me the law is not open to the charge of unduly or hastily con-
" fiding the power in the tribunals before which the prisoner has been heard. The
*^ sentence, when the prisoner appeals, cannot be carried into effect until his case
" has been three times heard, in the manner above stated . "
The evidence of the prisoner's guilt, both upon written documents signed by
himself and by other testimony, was so conclusive that it was not disputed by his
counsel. They contended, however, that he was not responsible for his acts, and
rested their defence upon the ground of insanity.
The case was left to the jury in a very full charge, and the law, as regards the
defence of insanity, clearly stated in a manner to which no exception was taken,
either at the trial or in the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba, or before the Privy
2. With regard to the sanity of the prisoner and his responsibility in law for his
acts, there has been much public discussion.
Here again it should be sufficient to point out that this defence was expressly
raised before the jury, the proper tribun^ for its decision ; that the propriety of
their unanimous verdict was challenged before the full court in Manitoba, when the
evidence was discussed at length and the verdict unanimously affirmed. Before the
Privy Council no attempt was made to dispute the correctness of this decision.
The learned Chief Justice of Manitoba says in his judgment: "I have carefully
^' read the evidence and it appears to me that the jury could not reasonably have
" oome to any other oonclosion than the verdict of gailty. There is not only evi-
'' dence to snpport the verdict, but it vastly preponderates."
And again : " I think the evidence upon the question of insanity shows that the
'* prisoner did know that he was acting illegally, and that he was responsible lor
Mr. Jastice Taylor's conclusion is :'< After a critical examination of the evidence,
" I find it impossible to come to any other conclusion than that at which the jury
" arrived. The appellant is, beyond all doubt, a man of inordinate vanity, excitable,
" irritable, and impatient of contradiction. He seems to have at times act^ in an
" extraordinary manner ; to have said many strange things, and to have entertained,
" or at least professed to entertain, absurd views on religious and political subjects.
*' But it all stx>ps far short of establishing such unsoundness of mind as would render
"him irresponsible, not accountable for his actions. His course of conduct indeed
" shows, in many ways, that the whole of his apparently extraordinary conduct, his
" claims to Divine inspiration and the prophetic character, was only part of a oun-
'' ningly devised scheme to gain, and hold, influence and power over the simple*
'^ minded people around him, and to secure personal immunity in the event of his
^' ever being called to account for his actions. He seems to have had in view, while
"professing to champion the interests of the MStis, the securing of pecuniary advan-
" tage for himself J'
And he adds, after reviewing the evidence : " Certainly the evidence entirely
" fails to relieve the appellant from responsibility for his conduct, if the rule laid
" down by the judges in reply to a question put to them by the House of Lords in
" MacNaghten^a case, 10 CL & Fin. 200, be the sound one."
Mr. Justice KiUam says : " I have read very carefully the report of the charge
" of the Magistrate, and it appears to have been so dearly put that the jury could
" have no doubt of their duty in case they thought the prisoner insane when he
" committed the acts in question. They could not have listened to that charge
" without understanding fuU;]^ that to bring in a verdict of guilty was to declare
" emphatically their disbelief in the insanity of the prisoner."
And a^in : "In my opinion, the evidence was such that the jury would not have
" been justified in any other verdict than that which they gave. * ^ * Ihesitate to add
** anything to the remarks of my brother Taylor upon the evidence on the question of
" insanity. I have read over very carefully all the evidence that was laid before the
" jury, and I could say nothing that would more fully express the opinions I have
" formed from its perusal than what is expressed by him. I agree with him also in
" saying that the prisoner has been ably and zealously defended, and that nothing
" that could assist bis case appears to have been left untouched."
The organization and direction of such a movement is in itself irreconcilable with
this defence ; and the admitted facts appear wholly to displace it. The prisoner, eight
months before this rebellion broke out, was living in the United States, where he had
become naturalized under their laws, and was occupied as a school teacher. He was
solicited to come, it is said, by a deputation of prominent men among the Frenck
half-breeds, who went to him from the North-West Territories, and, after a conference,
requested him to return with them, and assist in obtaining certain rights which they
claimed from the Dominion Government, and the redress of certain alleged griev-
ances. He arrived in the Territories in July, 18S4, and for a period of eight months was
actively engaged in discnsssing, both publicly and privately, the matters for which he
had come, addressing many public meetings upon them in a settlement composed of
about six hundred French and a larger number of English half-breeds, together with
others. The English half-breeds and other settlers observed his course, and saw
reason to fear the outbreak which followed; but the sugges' ion of insanity never
occurred, either to those who dreaded his influence in public matters over his race,
and would have been glad to counteract it, or to the many hundreds who unhappily
listened to him and were guided by his evil counsels to their ruin.
If, up to the eve of the resort to arms, his sanity was open to question, it is unac-
countable that no one, either among his followers or his opponents, should have called
public attention to it. If the Gk>vemment had then attempted to place him under
reetraint as a lanatic, it is believed that no one woald have been foand to justify their
aotion, and that those who now assert him to have been irresponsible would have
been lond and well warranted in their protest. It may be well also to call attention
to the obvious ioconsistency of those persons — not a few — ^who have ur^ed the
alleged mal-administration of the affairs of the Korth-West Territories Iby the
Government as a ground for interfering with the sentence^ without ceasing to
insist upon the plea of insanity. The prisoner cannot have been entitled to consider-
ation both as the patriotic representative of his race and an irresponsible lunatic.
It may be asked, too, if the leader was insane, upon what fair ground thoee who
were persuaded by and followed him could be held responsible ; and if not, who
could have been punished for crimes which so unquestionably called for it.
it has been urged, however, that his nature was excitable, and bis mental bal-
ance uncertain ; that as the agitation increased his natural disposition overcame him,
and that the* resort to violence was the result of over-wrought feeling, ending in
insanity, for which he cannot fairly be held accountable — that, in short, he was
overcome by events not foreseen or intended by him.
A simple statement of the facts will show that this view is wholly without
foundation ; that throughout he controlled and created the events, and was the
leader, not the follower; and that the resort to armed violence was designed and
carried out by him deliberately, and with a premeditation which leaves no room
whatever for this plea.
The first collision with the troops occurred at ]>uck Lake on the 26th of March,
On the 3rd of March previous the prisoner was at a meeting where there were
about sixty of his followers, nearly all armed. He spoke at that meeting, and said
that the police wanted to arrest him, " But these " he said, '* are the real police,"
pointing to those present. On the 5th he told Charles Nolin that he had decided to
induce she people to take up arms, and he had begun to speak to him of doing so as
early as December previous.
On the 17 th of March he said to Dr. O.Willoughby, sixty or seventy armed half-
breeds being present, that they intended to strike a blow to assert their rights ; and,
pointing to the men, << You see now I have my police. In one week that little
Glovernment police will Ve wiped out of existence." He added that the time had
come when he was to rule this country or perish in the attempt, and that the
rebellion of fifteen years ago (in which he had also been the leader) '' would not be
a patch upon this one"
To Mr. Lash, whom, on the 18th of March, at the head of his armed followers, he
arrested, he said that the rebellion had commenced, and they intended to fight until
the whole of the Saskatchewan Valley was in their hands ; that he had been waiting
fifteen years, and at last his opportunity had oome ; and that he would give the police
every opportunity to surrender, but if they did not do so there would be bloodshed.
On the same day he, with about fifty armed followers, came to the stores of the
witnesses Keir and Walters, and demanded the arms and ammunition, the removal
of which he superintended.
On the 20th, he said to Thomas McKay that this was Major Crozier's last oppor-
tunity of averting bloodshed, and that, unless he surrendered Fort Carleton, an attack
would be made that night.
On the 21st the prisoner sent a demand, written and signed by himself, to the
same Major Crozier, then in command of the Mounted Police at Fort Carleton,
demanding an unconditional surrender of the fort and of his force, and threatening a
war of extermination on refusal. This demand was not presented as written,
because his messenger who carried it, on conferring with Major Crozier's representa-
tive, saw that it would be peremptorily rejected.
On the 26th the prisoner, with a force of between three and four hundred armed
men, proceeded to attack the police and the volunteers, on their way from Fort
Carleton to Duck Lake, and he himself gave the command to fire, when nine men
It has been made a question which side fired first on this occasion, but Eiel's
own statement to Capi. Young was, that they were endeavoring to surround the
GoverDment force while Major Crozier was engaged in a parley with one of Biel's
people; and that it was part of his plan to capture the police force, or some high Grov-
ernment official, in order to compel negotiations, has been stated by him to the Bev.
Mr. Pitblado and to others, as well as to Gapt. Young.
From that time until the suppression of the rebellion by the taking of Batoohe,
on the 12th of May, he was the unquestioned leader of the movement. Being urged
by Mr. Astley, after the second engagement, which took place at Fish Greek, to allow
him to negotiate, he said to him, what he also repeated to the witness Boss, that
they must have another victory first, when they would be able to make better terms
with the Government; and. to the end he remained, not merely in the ostensible, but
in the actual control of the armed force, negotiating in that capacity with the com-
mander of the troops, and with an authority never doubted by those who, being his
prisoners, observed his conduct, or questioned by any one of those in arms under
It may be asserted with confidence that there never has been a rebellion more
completely dependent upon one man ; that had he at any moment so desired, it
would have come to an end ; and that had he been removed a day before the out-
break, it would, in all probability, never have occurred. A dispassionate perusal of
the whole evidence will leave no room for doubt upon this point, and that this was
his own opinion appears by his statement to Father Andrd, to be presently
Finally, under this head, as r^ards the mental state of the prisoner, after
his trial and before execution, careful enquiry was made into this question by
medical experts employed confidentially by the GK>vemmeDt for that purpose, and
nothing was elicited showing any change in his mental powers or casting any doubt
upon his perfect knowledge of his crime, or justifying the idea that he had not such
mental capacity as to know the nature and quality of the act for which he was
convicted, as to know that the act was wrong, and as to be able to control his own
3. It has been urged that the prisoner's crime was a political one, in^ired by
political motives alone ; that a rebellion prompted only for the redress of alleged
political grievances differs widely from an ordinary crime, and that, however eiTO-
neous may be the judgment of its leader, in endeavoring to redress the supposed
wrongs of others, he is entitled, at least, to be regarded as unselfish and as in his own
This ground has been most earnestly considered, but the Government has been
unable to recognize in the prisoner a political offender only, or to see that upon the
evidence there can be any doubt that his motives were mainly selfish. On the con-
trary, it seems plain that he was willing at any moment, for the sake of gain, to
desert his deluded followers, and to abandon his efforts for the redress of their alleged
grievances if, under cover of them, he could have obtained satisfaction for his own
personal money demands.
It is believed that many who have espoused his cause and desired to avert from
him the sentence which the law pronounced must have been ignorant of this
fact, or cannot duly have considereci its proper effect, for it seems incredible that
any one knowing it could regard the prisoner as entitled to the character of a patriot,
or adopt him as the representative of an honorable race.
It is to be remembered that the prisoner had left this country and gone to the
United States, where he had become an American citizen. He was brought here,
therefore, avowedly to represent the claims of others, although in his letter of accept-
ance to the delegates he mentioned his own grievances as enabling him to make
common cause with them. It is clear, however, from the evidence of Dr. Willoughby
and Mr. Astiey, that from the beginning his own demand, which he himself claimed
against the Government, was uppermost in his thoughts, and as early as December
he attempted to make a direct bargain with the Government for its satisfaction.
Father Andrd was a witness called on behalf of the prisoner, and there can
be no reason whatever to question the correctness of his statement. His evidence on
cross-examination by Mr. Casgrain was as follows : —
" Q. I believe in the month of December, 1884, you had an interview with Biel
" and Nolin, with regard to a certain 8am of money which the prisoner claimed from
'< the Federal Government ? "
" A. Not with Nolin. Nolin was not present at the interview? "
" Q, The prisoner was there ? "
" A, Yes."
" Q. Will yon please state what the prisoner asked of the Federal Government ?*'
<< A. I had two interviews with the prisoner on that sabject.'*
" Q. The prisoner claimed a certain indemnity from the Federal Government,
'* didn't he ? "
^'A. When the prisoner made his claim I was there with another gentleman,
'* and he asked from the Government $100,000. We thought that was exorbitant,
*' and the prisoner said ' Wait a little ; I will take at once $35,000 cash."'
'* Q. And on that condition the prisoner was to leave the country, if the Govern-
<' ment gave him the $35,000 ? "
'' A. Yes, that was the condition he put.*'
"Q. When was this?"
'< A. This was on the 23rd December, 1884."
" Q. There was also another interview between you and the prisoner ? "
" A. There has been about twenty interviews between us." '
*^ Q. He was always after you to ask you to use your influence with the Federal
'^ Government to obtain this indemnity ? "
'^ A. The first time he spoke of it was on the 12th December. Re had never
** spoken a word about it before, and on the 23rd of December ^^e spoke about it
" Q. He talked about it very frequently ? "
'' A. On these two occasions only."
'' Q. That was his great occupation ? "
" A Yes, at those times."
^' Q. Is it not true that the prisoner told you he himself was the half-breed ques-
*' tion ? "
*' A. He did not say so in express terms, but he conveyed that idea. He said :
*< ' If I am satisfied, the half-breeds will be.' I must explain this. This objection was
'' made to him, that even if the Government granted him the $35,000 the half-breed
** question would remain the same, and he said, in answer to that : ' If I am satisfied,
<< the half-breeds will be.' "
" Q. Is it not a lact he told you he would even accept a less sum than the
" A. Yes. He said : < Use all the influence yon can ; you may not get all that, but
** get all you can, and if you get less we will see.' "
This evidence confirms that of Charles Nolin, a very prominent half-breed, at
one time Minister of Agriculture in the Government of Manitoba, who had strongly
sympathised with fliel and the movement, until armed rebellion became imminent,
when he separated from him, and afterwards gave evidence for the Crown. This was
his testimony :
. *^ In the beginning of December, 1884, he began to show a desire to have money ;
** he spoke to me about it first, I think.
'* Q. How much did he say he wanted ? "
" A The first time he spoke of money I think he said he wanted $10,000 or
« $ 15,000."
" Q. From whom would he get the money ? "
" A. The first time he spoke about it he did not know any particular plan to get
'' it ; at the same time, he told me that he wanted to claim an indemnity from the
** Canadian Government. He said that the Canadian Government owed him about
** $100,000, and then the question arose who the persons were whom he would have
** to talk to the Government about the indemnity. Some time after that the prisoner
<< told me that he had an interview with Father Andr6, and that he had made peace
** with the Church ; that since his arrival in the country he had tried to separate the
" people from the clergy; that antil that time he was at open war almost with the
'' clergy. He said that he went to the eharoh with Father Andrd, and in the presence
" of another priest and the Blessed Sacrament he had made peace, and said that he
*' would never again do anything against the clergy. Father Andrd told him he
" would use his influence with the Government to obtain for him $35,000. He said
<< that he would be contented with $35,000 then, and that he would settle with the
'^ Government himself for the balance of the 9100,000. That agreement took place
'' at Prince Albert The agreement took place at St. Laurent, and then Father
« Andrd went back to his mission at Prince Albert."
'^ Q. Before December were there meetings at which Biel spoke, and at which you
" were present ?"
" A. Yea"
" Q. How many."
'' A. Till the 24th February. I assisted at seven meetings, to the best of my
'' Q. Did the prisoner tell you what he would do if the Government paid him the
" indemnity in question ? "
" A. Yes."
" Q. What did ho tell you ? "
'< As He said if he got the money he wanted from the Government, he said he
" would go wherever the Grovernment wished to send him. He had told that to
" Father Andr^. If he was an embarrassment to the Government by remaining in
'* the North- West he would even go to the Province of Quebec. He said also that
'' if he ^ot the money he would go to the United States and start a paper, and raise
" the other nationalities in the States. He said : ' Before the grass is that high in this
" country, you will see foreign armies in this country.' He said ' I will commence
'^ by destroying Manitoba, and then I will come and destroy the North-West and take
" possession of the North-West."'
Much has been made of the argument that the prisoner came here at the request
of others, but for which he would have remained away, and that being here he
desired to return to the United States, and would have done so were it not for the
urgency of those who had induced him to come. As to this, Charles Nolin swore as
*^ Q. Was there a meeting about that time, about the 8th or 24th of February ?"
'* A. A meeting ?"
" Q. At which the prisoner spoke ?"
"A. There was a meeting on the 24th of February, wheo tho prisoner wa)
<' Q. What took place at that meeting; did the prisoner say anything about his
*' departing for the United States ?"
" A. Yes."
" Q. What did the prisoner tell you about that ? "
'' A. He told me that it would be well to try and make it appear as if they
<< wanted to stop him goine to the States. Five or six persons were appointed to go
" among the people, and when Biel's going away was spoken about, the people were
'' to say ' No, No.' It was expected that Gagnon would be there, but he was not
'* there. Biel never had any intention of leaving the country."
»' Q. Who instructed the people to do that ?"
** A. Biel suggested that himself."
" Q. Was that put in practice ? "
" A. Yes."
The Counsel for the other half-breeds who pleaded guilty also stated in court
that Kiel had himself procured the request to him to come to this country; and
on two occasions in court these learned gentlemen most earnestly and indignantly
denounced the prisoner as one who had misled and deceived their clients, and to
whom all the misery and ruin which this unhappy rebellion had brought upon
them was to be attributed.
But if an unselfish desire could be credited to the prisoner to redress political
wrongs even by armed rebellion, it would at least have been necessary to disprove
the charge which lies against him, that in his own mind the claims of humanity had
no pl&ce, bat that he was prepared to carry oat his designs by bringing apon an
anonending people all the horrors of an Indian rising, with the outrages and atrocities
which, as he knew fall well, mast inevitably accompany it. That this cannot be
disproved, but that it is beyond all dispute true, the evidence makes plain;
From the beginning, even before Duck Lake, he was found in company with
Indians armed, and to the end he availed himself of their assistance.
In that engagement, the first occasion of bloodshed, according to the evidence of
the witnesses Astley, Boss and William Tompkins, the Indians composed a large
portion of his force — one-third, or thereabouts.
In a letter found in the camp of Poundmaker, an Indian Chief, in the prisoner's
handwriting, and signed by him, after describing in most exaggerated language
what is termed their victory at Dock Lake, it is said : '^ Praise Gbd for the success
*^ He has given us. Capture all the police you possibly can. Preserve their arms.
" Take Fort Battle, but save the provisions, munitions and arms. Send a detachment
" to us of at least one hundred men.*'
In a draft letter, also in his handwriting, and proved at the trial, addressed to
the French and English Mdtis from Battle Kiver to Fort Pitt, the following expres-
sions are found :-*-
" We will help you to take Fort Battle and Fort Pitt. ^ ^ m Try
" and have the news which we send to you conveyed as soon as possible to the Mdtis
'* and Indians of Fort Pitt. Tell them to be on their guard ; to prepare themselves
" for everything. * ♦ * Take with you the Indians ; gather them
" together everywhere. Take all the ammunition you can, in whatever stores they
** may be. Murmur, growl and threaten. Bouse up the Indians."
Other evidence to the same effect was given at the trial, and it may be added
that in the scouting reports and Orders in Council the active employment of Indiana
in carrying on hostilities clearly appears.
It coTud not be overlooked eitner, upon an application for executive clemency,
that upon the trials of One Arrow, Poundmaker, White Cap and other Indians, it waa
apparent that they were excited to the acts of rebellion by the prisuner and his emis-
saries. Many of these Indians so incited and acting with him from the commence-
ment were refugee Sioux from the United States, said to have been concerned in the
Minnesota massacre and the Custer affair, and therefore of a most dangerous class.
It is to the credit of the Indian chiefs that their influence was us^ to prevent
barbarity, but by individuals among them several cold-blooded, deliberate murders
were committed, for which the perpetrators now lie under sentence of death. These
crimes took place during the rebellion, and can be attributed only to the excitement
arising out of it.
4. Whether rebellion alone should be punished with death is a question upon which
opinions may differ. Treason will probably ever remain what it always has been
among civilized nations, the highest of all crimes ; but each conviction for that offence
must be treated and disposed of by the Executive Government upon its own merits,
and with a fall consideration of all the attendant circumstances. In this particular
instance, it was a second offence and, as on the first occasion, accompanied oy blood-
shed under the direct and immediate order of the prisoner, and by the atrocity of
attempting to incite an Indian warfare, the possible results of which the prisoner
could and did thoroughly appreciate. In deciding upon the application for tne com-
mutation of the sentence passed upon the prisoner me Government were obliged to
keep in view the need of exemplary and deterrent punishment for crime committed
in a country situated in regard to settlement and population as are the North* West
Territories; the isolation and defenceless position of the settlers already there ; the
horrors to which they would be exposed m the event of an Indian outbreak; the
effect upon intending settlers of any wealmess in t^e administration of the law ; and
the consequences which must follow in such a country if it came to be believed that
such crimes as Biel's could be committed, without incurring the extreme
penalty of the law, by any one who was either subject to delusions, or
<x>uld lead people to helieve that he was so subject. The crime of the
prisoner was no oonstmotive treason ; it was accompanied by mncli bloodshed,,
inflicted by bis own direct orders ; and the Grovemment bave felt, upon a ftill and
most earnest consideration of tbe case, that tbey would bave been unworthy of the
power with which they are entrusted by the whole people, and would have neglected
their plain duty to all classes, had they interfered with the due execution of a sentence
pronounced as the result of a just verdict, and sanctioned by a righteous law.
(^Minister oj Justice during the proceedings against BieL)