The Press on the Armstrong Case

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The Press on the Armstrong Case

The Pall Mall Gazette (November 11, 1885)

The Times says:— “In the weighty words which he addressed to Mr. Stead, Mr. Justice Lopes touched the essential facts of the case in a manner which exactly approves itself to the public conscience. We are satisfied that the ends of justice would not have been served by the passing of any lighter sentence than has been passed. Nothing less than imprisonment would have been an adequate warning to fanatics of all kinds. On the charge not before the court—on the charge of having on insufficient evidence published statements of which no amount of evidence would have justified the publication—Mr. Stead has nothing to say, except to glory in having done it in a cause which he believes to be good. The zealot bows to the law, but is not the less a zealot. It is matter for rejoicing that a test case has shown that one of the gravest of the charges against the English populace— the charge of selling their children for infamous purposes—cannot be substantiated. And, in another direction, it is also matter for rejoicing that the law has sternly shown that all things are not permissible to those who believe themselves to be engaged in saving souls.”

The Standard says:— “As we read the address of the judge, in which Mr. Stead’s offence is made to stand out plainly in its almost cynical recklessness, divested of all moral disguises, the wonder grows that it should ever have been possible for a moment to conceal such atrocious proceedings under the mask of a holy purpose, or to enlist such infamies in the ostensible service of virtue. The mere recital of the abominations prompted and carried through by the principal defendant almost suggests a doubt whether anything short of monomania can have led to the idea that such a sacrifice of all that was right and true and virtuous in the lives of so many people was really demanded as the price to be paid for a victory over vice.”

The Morning Post freely confesses that “in our opinion, upon the evidence before the court, it would have been more consonant with the principles of justice to have awarded heavier sentences to Stead, Jarrett, and Jacques, without whose confessedly illegal intervention Eliza Armstrong would never have been brought to Mdme. Mourey [Mourez], than to that woman who, however reprehensible her conduct, did not do one-hundredth part of the injury to the child that was done by the other defendants.”

The Daily Chronicle says:— “We cannot and we do not refuse to credit Mr. Stead with the best of motives. He may be an enthusiast or a fanatic, but his enthusiasm or fanaticism was roused by the contemplation of the worst of crimes; and though it was directed into illegal channels it sought to accomplish a great good in the interest of society. We may hope that as the law has been thus vindicated it may be found practicable to temper justice with mercy. The exercise of the Queen’s prerogative for shortening the term of imprisonment would not establish a precedent.”