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belts and long belts. Probably may perhaps be partially rectified, everything speculative which it but the ships themselves are too is possible to say, has already been short, too low in the water, and said on both sides, and nothing their lines are too hollow to admit can settle the controversy but the of high ocean speeds. The abovo actual test of war. The question are the characteristic vices of all before the naval architect is simply our cruisers, including the so-called the comparative value to a fighting belted cruisers. ship of powers of offence versus Perhaps one of the most emi. powers of defence. If you have nently successful vessels engaged more of the one, you must have in the manæuvres was the little less of the other, so you can take Rattlesnake. She maintained high your choice. You may either be speeds in all weathers, she was prepared to fight like Tweedledee never sick or sorry, and she did an: and Tweedledum, padded all over immense amount of work. It is with pillows and coal-scuttles, and said that her builders— Messrs then belabour each other harm- Laird Brothers, of Birkenheadlessly with poker and tongs; or were fined heavily by the Adyou may strip to the waist and miralty as a punishment for mak. fight with keen rapiers; or you ing her engines somewhat may strive for a compromise be- weight. It is to be hoped that tween the two conditions, remem- other contractors will follow the bering that every pillow and coal- example of the Messrs Laird, as scuttle you put on detracts from such a course must prove a double your activity and powers of attack, economy to the country. —and the case of armour on ships In spite of the more numerous is precisely similar.
cruisers of the “A” or defending The so-called “belted cruisers" fleet, the cruisers of the “B” of the Undaunted type-six of fleet claim to have captured which were engaged in the man- 179,589 tons of British shipping æuvres- may also be said to have during the fortnight that the war acquitted themselves fairly well as lasted. to speed, and as to their power of Some critics have remarked that fighting their powerful armament the naval manæuvres of this year in almost all weathers; though it have fallen rather flat, and failed must be remembered that, as ar- to excite any large amount of moured ships, they are a myth, for public interest. It should, how. they go to sea with every atom of ever, be remembered, that they are their armour under water, where not instituted for the purpose of the use of it is, at least, doubtful. affording a theatrical display to
Some of the older cruisers amuse and entertain the public, or acquitted themselves very well; to compete in any way with Maybut the newest type of all— viz., brick trials or Whitechapel murthe “M” class, consisting of five ders, but rather as a means of ships-must be pronounced failures, giving the most useful practice to They were designed to steam 19 the officers and seamen of the fleet, knots, and their captains say they in order that, when the day of can only do abo 15. Their trial comes, they may have some principal defect seems to be in reasonable prospect of being able to their boilers, which were made too defend successfully the dearest and light for the work. This defect most vital interests of the nation.
VURDER IY | DREAM.
NOTE TO SCENES PROU A SILENT WORLD,” NO. V. BY A PRISON
VISITOR. 'BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE,' AUGUST 1889.
TO THE EDITOR OF 'BLACKWOOD's MAGAZINE.'
Sir, -In an article appearing in • Blackwood's Magazine' for August, entitled "Scenes from a Silent World,” an account is given of a recent trial for murder, which (unintentionally, of course) gives a very erroneous idea of the case. The criminal's name is thinly disguised as “ James Wheeler," but it is quite impossible for any one acquainted with the actual tragedy to mistake the reference.
The theory suggested by the writer is, that the unhappy criminal, being by occupation a butcher's assistant, was asleep in bed with his wife whilst the latter was eating her supper. That she was using for that purposo
the knife which her husband used in his occupation as a butcher. That “sho put it down for a few minutes beside her, in such a position that it rested against the hand of the sleeping man." That " the touch of the instrument which he constantly used in the slaugh. ter of animals engendered in his brain the dream that he was engaged in his usual duties.” That he grasped it unconsciously, and with “one vague movement
gave a butcher's stroke” to the living creature beside him, “without awaking for a single moment." That the eldest child, sleeping on the floor, a boy " of fourteen or fifteen," was aroused by moans, and found his mother dying, leaning back upon the knife " as if she had fallen against it.” That he drew the knife away
from under her shoulder. That the unhappy man's conduct and language subsequently (I paraphrase here) wero consistent with, and indicative of, innocence.
My own knowledge of this remarkable trial is derived from personal presence and close attention during the whole of it; and it may be of interest to your readers—at any rate, to the writer of an article with the tone of which, in other respects, I have much sympathy—to hear a little more of the real details of this case.
In the first place, the singular and fanciful theory of a “ dreamcrime" (as the article styles it) was not the theory put forward at the trial on behalf of the prisoner. The defence was, that the woman must have put the knife behind her; that it stuck, blade upwards, jammed in the boards and bedding of the bedstead; and that she then accidentally fell or threw herself upon it. No other theory was suggested or hinted at, though the prisoner was defended hy as able and eloquent an advocate as can be found at the bar. Nor was it ever suggested that the knife "rested against the hand of the sleeping man.” There was not, indeed, a particle of evidence to support such a suggestion. Incident
be remarked that the ordinary occupation of the man was not that of a butcher, but of a workman at the gasworks. He did occasionally slaughter sheep as assistant to a butcher, using the fatal knife for that purpose ; but it may be remarked that the knife was (apparently) commonly used in the household for ordinary purposes. I should mysoli attach little importance to this distinction, if it were
• not now suggested that the mere "touch of the instrument which he constantly used . . . engendered in his brain the dream that he was engaged in his usual duties.” Such a suggestion does appear to me to want all the support which “constant use" and " usual duty” can
In the second place, the writer of the article assumes as undoubted facts, matters which were left in the gravest doubt. The eldest son (who was, by the way, sixteen years old, and not “fourteen or fifteen") did, no doubt, himself pull the fatal knife out of his mother's back; but he swore at the trial in the most positive way that he had not done so, and that he had never touched or seen the knife, or touched his mother at all. All that he said he had noticed was a little blood coming from the mouth. It was well known to the prosecution that this statement was untrue, but the rules of evidence prevented it from being shown to the jury that he had previously stated otherwise. It was not until after conviction and sentence that the unhappy lad actually telegraphed to the Home Office the statement that he himself had drawn the knife from the body of his mother. Under these circumstances, it is plain that the account given by this lad and the younger children of the awful event and its discovery can scarcely be accepted wholesale and implicitly. The avowed theory of the prosecution was that the children, as well as some of the neighbours, were engaged in an endeavour to conceal the true facts of the case. It may be mentioned, as bearing upon this theory, that a middle-aged woman was tried with the prisoner as being an accessory after the fact, was convicted, and was sentenced to five years' penal servitude. To this fact the article in question makes no reference. I have, I think, said enough to show that it must not be assumed in this case that the unhappy criminal was asleep all the evening-certainly not that he was asleep when his wife received her death-wound. It is a remarkable and significant fact that the youngest child—some nine years old—was sent out to purchase bread and cheese at ten o'clock that night necessarily within half an hour of the time of her mother's death, and probably less. It is a still moro remarkable fact that she stated to the woman from whom she bought the bread that her mother was "very ill.” This last fact never became known to the jury, because the little girl in the box said that her mother was quite well both when she went out and when she returned, and again the rules of evidence prevented her previous statement from being proved. It can hardly be suggested that these rules of evidence operated to the prisoner's prejudice.
With regard to the criminal's language and conduct immediately after his wife's death, space will not permit me to enter into detail. It is sufficient to say that it was relied on by the prosecution as strongly indicative of guilt, and that the writer of the article has been misinformed as to most of the particulars on which he lays stress, as I could easily satisfy him.
I will only add one word. The article speaks of the “ humane and gentle nature of the unhappy man.” It was proved in evidence that he had, only a few weeks before the awful event, thrown at his wife in a fit of passion the very knife by which she afterwards met her death, with such force that it stuck in the door out of which she was flying to escape his rage.
Let not my motiye in writing these lines be misunderstood. The wretched man is dead, and his unhappy children are not in a station of life where their feelings are likely to be affected by articles and letters in magazines. But it seems to me of the highest importance, especially at the present day, that the public should not be invited to believe in a miscarriage of justice by the propounding of a fanciful theory which has no foundation in fact. It seems to me even more important that the crroneous basis of this theory should be pointed out, because it is accompanied by scarcely concealed disapproval of the judge who tried the case, and fortified by a criticism of his summing-up which should not, I think, have been presented to the public on imperfect and hearsay information. Of those who followed the case from beginning to end, I much question if there was one who doubted that justice had been done, and done in the manner we have been taught to expect from an English jury and an English judge.-I ain, Sir, yours obediently,
TO THE EDITOR OP 'BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE.'
Sir, -I beg leave to reply to the letter signed “F.” which you have received, respecting the case of J. W. recorded by me in the instalment of “Scenes from a Silent World” which appeared in your August number. I would wish at the outset to express my sense of the courtesy and fairness manifested by your correspondent towards the writer, with whom he is at variance; but I must emphatically deny that he has any certain ground for his assertion that I “have given a very erroneous idea of the case.” It was one which, as he knows, was enveloped in mystery from first to last, and I had a perfect right to bring forward the solution of it most in accordance with the facts known to me. No motive for the supposed crime existed. No evidence of premeditation or of recent ill-feeling between husband and wife could be given ; and it was impossible that the man's suggested guilt could be proved excepting by his own confession, which was never obtained, in spite of the most strenuous efforts to wring it from him. I believe myself to be in possession of some aspects of the case not perhaps known or fully estimated by your correspondent; while I was perfectly acquainted with all the facts he enumerates, excepting the one circumstance of the little girl going out in the evening. I did not. allude to the false evidence of the neighbour Mrs N. which brought her to penal servitude, because I did not consider it to have any real boaring on the merits of the case. An ignorant woman of a low order of intelligence, accustomed to the habitual disregard of truth which unhappily obtains adong persons of her class, being anxious to prove the prisoner's innocence, simply sought to support it by lies—a very frequent occurrence in our courts of justice. As it huppens, in the third of my
“Scenes from a Silent World,” which appeared in your May num. ber, I speak in some detail of the common practice of perjury among witnesses in that rank of life.
“F.” considers me to have been mistaken in stating that J. W. was a man of gentle and humane nature. In reply, I quote as follows from a newspaper, very accurate in its details of the case : “A singular circumstance in connection with the case is the exceedingly large number
of persons who have confidently expressed their belief in the innocence of W., and this conviction was unanimously held by the fellow-workmen of the convict, who unite in bearing testimony to the gentle bearing of the unhappy man. He was, they say, remarkably kind and quiet, and was never known to act in a violent manner.” The fact that many weeks previously W., in a fit of drunken passion, flung a knife at his wife, is certainly no proof that he would deliberately murder her, considering the extreme frequency of such matrimonial occurrences in the households of the poor, enacted as often by the wives as by the husbands.
The important point in “F.’s” letter is, however, bis endeavour to disprove the dream theory, which I cannot admit to be in the slightest degree fanciful or incredible. That theory is founded on the accused man's own statements and demeanour; and, in the opinion of a person of most sound and sober judgment, who was in daily intercourse with the prisoner up to the hour of his death, it is the most reasonable explanation of the mystery. I was quite aware that it was not the theory of the defence, which was a matter of surprise and regret to me, but it may be accounted for by the fact that the circumstances in the prisoner's conduct which most powerfully suggested it, occurred during the period between the trial and the execution. This man, J. W., had a religious faith, and it was one of terror. He believed in a future judgment, and in a God Who had power to cast the impenitent sinner into hell, and Who was, therefore, more to be feared than those who could only kill the body. To that awful Judge he prayed continually in the condemned cell, that He would enable him to recollect what had occurred between the moment that he fell into a drunken sleep at seven o'clock, until he awoke after ten to find his wife dead at his side, with her half-eaten supper in her hand, To the incessant exhortations and entreaties addressed to him that he would confess the crime, he made the same unvarying answer—that his mind was a perfect blank as to that fatal period. He had not the faintest recollection of it in any shape or way.
If he did take action at all, of which he was perfectly unconscious, it was done in his sleep, presumably under the influence of a dream. The strongest proof that in this he was telling the truth came at the last moment of his life. W. was told that his hour was come ; the executioner entered and pinioned him ; he had, as it proved, precisely four minutes to live. The hangman, knowing the widespread belief in his innocence outside the prison, and the dangerous excitement it was causing, said to him, “If you have anything to say ? — say five words now, and nothing more.” The five words he wished to draw forth were, of course, “I did commit the murder.” Instead of thrse, the dying man answered that he could say nothing but what he had already told the chaplain—that he had no recollection whatever of the event. He knew when he said this that he was already in the very jaws of death, while in this world he had nothing to gain or to lose any more ; and he must have been a bolder man than J. W. was who could have plunged with a lie upon his lips into that dread eternity where he believed an endless punishment a waited crime.
“F." adverts to my brief remarks with regard to the judge, of whom it is by no means my place to speak critically or disrespectfully. I