THE DOCK AND THE SCAFFOLD
The Manchester Tragedy and the Cruise of the Jacknell
"GOD SAVE IRELAND."
"Far dearer the grave or the prison Illum'd by one patriot's name, Than the trophies of all who have risen On liberty's ruins to fame."
The 23rd day of November, 1867, witnessed a strange and memorable scene in the great English city of Manchester. Long ere the grey winter's morning struggled in through the crisp frosty air—long ere the first gleam of the coming day dulled the glare of the flaming gas jets, the streets of the Lancashire capital were all astir with bustling crowds, and the silence of the night was broken by the ceaseless footfalls and the voices of hurrying throngs. Through the long, dim streets, and past the tall rows of silent houses, the full tide of life eddied and poured in rapid current; stout burghers, closely muffled and staff in hand; children grown prematurely old, with the hard marks of vice already branded on their features; young girls with flaunting ribbons and bold, flushed faces; pale-faced operatives, and strong men whose brawny limbs told of the Titanic labours of the foundry; the clerk from his desk; the shopkeeper from his store; the withered crone, and the careless navvy, swayed and struggled through the living mass; and with them trooped the legions of want, and vice, and ignorance, that burrow and fester in the foetid lanes and purlieus of the large British cities: from the dark alleys where misery and degradation for ever dwell, and from reeking cellars and nameless haunts, where the twin demons of alcohol and crime rule supreme; from the gin-palace, and the beer-shop, and the midnight haunts of the tramp and the burglar, they came in all their repulsiveness and debasement, with the rags of wretchedness upon their backs, and the cries of profanity and obscenity upon their lips. Forward they rushed in a surging flood through many a street and byway, until where the narrowing thoroughfares open into the space surrounding the New Bailey Prison, in that suburb of the great city known as the Borough of Salford, they found their further progress arrested. Between them and the massive prison walls rose piles of heavy barricading, and the intervening space was black with a dense body of men, all of whom faced the gloomy building beyond, and each of whom carried a special constable's baton in his hand. The long railway bridge running close by was occupied by a detachment of infantry, and from the parapet of the frowning walls the muzzle of cannon, trained on the space below, might be dimly discerned in the darkness. But the crowd paid little attention to these extraordinary appearances; their eyes were riveted on the black projection which jutted from the prison wall, and which, shrouded in dark drapery, loomed with ghastly significance through the haze. Rising above the scaffold, which replaced a portion of the prison wall, the outlines of a gibbet were descried; and from the cross-beam there hung three ropes, terminating in nooses, just perceptible above the upper edge of the curtain which extended thence to the ground. The grim excrescence seemed to possess a horrible fascination for the multitude. Those in position to see it best stirred not from their post, but faced the fatal cross-tree, the motionless ropes, the empty platform, with an untiring, insatiable gaze, that seemed pregnant with some terrible meaning, while the mob behind them struggled, and pushed, and raved, and fought; and the haggard hundreds of gaunt, diseased, stricken wretches, that vainly contested with the stronger types of ruffianism for a place, loaded the air with their blasphemies and imprecations. The day broke slowly and doubtfully upon the scene; a dense yellow, murky fog floated round the spot, wrapping in its opaque folds the hideous gallows and the frowning mass of masonry behind. An hour passed, and then a hoarse murmur swelled upwards from the glistening rows of upturned faces. The platform was no longer empty; three pinioned men, with white caps drawn closely over their faces, were standing upon the drop. For a moment the crowd was awed into stillness; for a moment the responses, "Christ, have mercy on us," "Christ, have mercy on us," were heard from the lips of the doomed men, towards whom the sea of faces were turned. Then came a dull crash, and the mob swayed backwards for an instant. The drop had fallen, and the victims were struggling in the throes of a horrible death. The ropes jerked and swayed with the convulsive movements of the dying men. A minute later, and the vibrations ceased—the end had come, the swaying limbs fell rigid and stark, and the souls of the strangled men had floated upwards from the cursed spot—up from the hateful crowd and the sin-laden atmosphere—to the throne of the God who made them.
So perished, in the bloom of manhood, and the flower of their strength, three gallant sons of Ireland—so passed away the last of the martyred band whose blood has sanctified the cause of Irish freedom. Far from the friends whom they loved, far from the land for which they suffered, with the scarlet-clad hirelings of England around them, and watched by the wolfish eyes of a brutal mob, who thirsted to see them die, the dauntless patriots, who, in our own day, have rivalled the heroism and shared the fate of Tone, Emmett, and Fitzgerald, looked their last upon the world. No prayer was breathed for their parting souls—no eye was moistened with regret amongst the multitude that stretched away in compact bodies from the foot of the gallows; the ribald laugh and the blasphemous oath united with their dying breath; and, callously as the Roman mob from the blood-stained amphitheatre, the English masses turned homewards from the fatal spot. But they did not fall unhonoured or unwept. In the churches of the faithful in that same city, the sobs of mournful lamentation were mingled with the solemn prayers for their eternal rest, and, from thousands of wailing women and stricken-hearted men, the prayers for mercy, peace, and pardon, for the souls of MICHAEL O'BRIEN, WILLIAM PHILIP ALLEN, and MICHAEL LARKIN, rose upwards to the avenging God. Still less were they forgotten at home. Throughout the Irish land, from Antrim's rocky coast to the foam-beaten headlands of Cork, the hearts of their countrymen were convulsed with passionate grief and indignation, and, blended with the sharp cry of agony that broke from the nation's lips, came the murmurs of defiant hatred, and the pledges of a bitter vengeance. Never, for generations, had the minds of the Irish people been more profoundly agitated—never had they writhed in such bitterness and agony of soul. With knitted brows and burning cheeks, the tidings of the bloody deed were listened to. The names of the martyred men were upon every lip, and the story of their heroism and tragic death was read with throbbing pulse and kindling eyes by every fireside in the land. It is to assist in perpetuating that story, and in recording for future generations the narrative which tells of how Allen, O'Brien, and Larkin died, that this narrative is written, and few outside the nation whose hands are red with their blood, will deny that at least so much recognition is due to their courage, their patriotism, and their fidelity. In Ireland we know it will be welcomed; amongst a people by whom chivalry and patriotism are honoured, a story so touching and so enobling will not be despised; and the race which guards with reverence and devotion the memories of Tone, and Emmett, and the Shearses, will not soon surrender to oblivion the memory of the three true-hearted patriots, who, heedless of the scowling mob, unawed by the hangman's grasp, died bravely that Saturday morning at Manchester, for the good old cause of Ireland.
Early before daybreak on the morning of November 11th, 1867, the policemen on duty in Oak-street, Manchester, noticed four broad-shouldered, muscular men loitering in a suspicious manner about the shop of a clothes dealer in the neighbourhood. Some remarks dropped by one of the party reaching the ears of the policemen, strengthened their impression that an illegal enterprise was on foot, and the arrest of the supposed burglars was resolved on. A struggle ensued, during which two of the suspects succeeded in escaping, but the remaining pair, after offering a determined resistance, were overpowered and carried off to the police station. The prisoners, who, on being searched, were found to possess loaded revolvers on their persons, gave their names as Martin Williams and John Whyte, and were charged under the Vagrancy Act before one of the city magistrates. They declared themselves American citizens, and claimed their discharge. Williams said he was a bookbinder out of work; Whyte described himself as a hatter, living on the means brought with him from America. The magistrate was about disposing summarily of the case, by sentencing the men to a few days' imprisonment, when a detective officer applied for a remand, on the ground that he had reason to believe the prisoners were connected with the Fenian conspiracy. The application was granted, and before many hours had elapsed it was ascertained that Martin Williams was no other than Colonel Thomas J. Kelly, one of the most prominent of the (O'Mahony-Stephens) Fenian leaders, and that John Whyte was a brother officer and co-conspirator, known to the circles of the Fenian Brotherhood as Captain Deasey.
Of the men who had thus fallen into the clutches of the British government the public had already heard much, and one of them was widely known for the persistency with which he laboured as an organiser of Fenianism, and the daring and skill which he exhibited in the pursuit of his dangerous undertaking. Long before the escape of James Stephens from Richmond Bridewell startled the government from its visions of security, and swelled the breasts of their disaffected subjects in Ireland with rekindled hopes, Colonel Kelly was known in the Fenian ranks as an intimate associate of the revolutionary chief. When the arrest at Fairfield-house deprived the organization of its crafty leader, Kelly was elected to the vacant post, and he threw himself into the work with all the reckless energy of his nature. If he could not be said to possess the mental ability or administrative capacity essential to the office, he was at least gifted with a variety of other qualifications well calculated to recommend him to popularity amongst the desperate men with whom he was associated. Nor did he prove altogether unworthy of the confidence reposed in him. It is now pretty well known that the successful plot for the liberation of James Stephens was executed under the personal supervision of Colonel Kelly, and that he was one of the group of friends who grasped the hand of the Head Centre within the gates of Eichmond Prison on that night in November, '65, when the doors of his dungeon were thrown open. Kelly fled with Stephens to Paris, and thence to America, where he remained attached to the section of the Brotherhood which recognised the authority and obeyed the mandates of the "C.O.I.R." But the time came when even Colonel Kelly and his party discovered that Stephens was unworthy of their confidence. The chief whom they had so long trusted, and whose oath to fight on Irish soil before January, '67, they had seen so unblushingly violated, was deposed by the last section of his adherents, and Colonel Kelly was elected "Deputy Central Organiser of the Irish Republic," on the distinct understanding that he was to follow out the policy which Stephens had shrunk from pursuing. Kelly accepted the post, and devoted himself earnestly to the work. In America he met with comparatively little co-operation; the bulk of the Irish Nationalists in that country had long ranged themselves under the leadership of Colonel W.R. Roberts, an Irish gentleman of character and integrity, who became the President of the reconstituted organization; and the plans and promises of "the Chatham-street wing," as the branch of the brotherhood which ratified Colonel Kelly's election was termed, were regarded, for the most part, with suspicion and disfavour. But from Ireland there came evidences of a different state of feeling. Breathless envoys arrived almost weekly in New York, declaring that the Fenian Brotherhood in Ireland were burning for the fray—that they awaited the landing of Colonel Kelly with feverish impatience—that it would be impossible to restrain them much longer from fighting—and that the arrival of the military leaders, whom America was expected to supply, would be the signal for a general uprising. Encouraged by representations like these, Colonel Kelly and a chosen body of Irish-American officers departed for Ireland in January, and set themselves, on their arrival in the old country, to arrange the plans of the impending outbreak. How their labours eventuated, and how the Fenian insurrection of March, '67, resulted, it is unnecessary to explain; it is enough for our purpose to state that for several months after that ill-starred movement was crushed, Colonel Kelly continued to reside in Dublin, moving about with an absence of disguise and a disregard for concealment which astonished his confederates, but which, perhaps, contributed in no slight degree to the success with which he eluded the efforts directed towards his capture. At length the Fenian organization in Ireland began to pass through the same changes that had given it new leaders and fresh vitality in America. The members of the organization at home began to long for union with the Irish Nationalists who formed the branch of the confederacy regenerated under Colonel Roberts; and Kelly, who, for various reasons, was unwilling to accept the new regime, saw his adherents dwindle away, until at length he found himself all but discarded by the Fenian circles in Dublin. Then he crossed over to Manchester, where he arrived but a few weeks previous to the date of his accidental arrest in Oak-street.
The arrest of Colonel Kelly and his aide-de-camp, as the English papers soon learned to describe Deasey, was hailed by the government with the deepest satisfaction. For years they had seen their hosts of spies, detectives, and informers foiled and outwitted by this daring conspirator, whose position in the Fenian ranks they perfectly understood; they had seen their traps evaded, their bribes spurned, and their plans defeated at every turn; they knew, too, that Kelly's success in escaping capture was filling his associates with pride and exultation; and now at last they found the man whose apprehension they so anxiously desired a captive in their grasp. On the other hand, the arrests in Oak-street were felt to be a crushing blow to a failing cause by the Fenian circles in Manchester. They saw that Kelly's capture would dishearten every section of the organization; they knew that the broad meaning of the occurrence was, that another Irish rebel had fallen into the clutches of the British government, and was about to be added to the long list of their political victims. It was felt by the Irish in Manchester, that to abandon the prisoners helplessly to their fate would be regarded as an act of submission to the laws which rendered patriotism a crime, and as an acceptance of the policy which left Ireland trampled, bleeding, and impoverished. There were hot spirits amongst the Irish colony that dwelt in the great industrial capital, which revolted from such a conclusion, and there were warm, impulsive hearts which swelled with a firm resolution to change the triumph of their British adversaries into disappointment and consternation. The time has not yet come when anything like a description of the midnight meetings and secret councils which followed the arrest of Colonel Kelly in Manchester can be written; enough may be gathered, however, from the result, to show that the plans of the conspirators were cleverly conceived and ably digested.
On Wednesday, September 18th, Colonel Kelly and his companion were a second time placed in the dock of the Manchester Police Office. There is reason to believe that means had previously been found of acquainting them with the plans of their friends outside, but this hypothesis is not necessary to explain the coolness and sang froid with which they listened to the proceedings before the magistrate. Hardly had the prisoners been put forward, when the Chief Inspector of the Manchester Detective Force interposed. They were both, he said, connected with the Fenian rising, and warrants were out against them for treason-felony. "Williams," he added, with a triumphant air, "is Colonel Kelly, and Whyte, his confederate, is Captain Deasey." He asked that they might again be remanded, an application which was immediately granted. The prisoners, who imperturbably bowed to the detective, as he identified them, smilingly quitted the dock, and were given in charge to Police Sergeant Charles Brett, whose duty it was to convey them to the borough gaol.
The van used for the conveyance of prisoners between the police office and the gaol was one of the ordinary long black boxes on wheels, dimly lit by a grating in the door and a couple of ventilators in the roof. It was divided interiorly into a row of small cells at either side, and a passage running the length of the van between; and the practice was, to lock each prisoner into a separate cell, Brett sitting in charge on a seat in the passage, near the door. The van was driven by a policeman; another usually sat beside the driver on the box; the whole escort thus consisting of three men, carrying no other arms than their staves; but it was felt that on the present occasion a stronger escort might be necessary. The magistrates well knew that Kelly and Deasey had numerous sympathisers amongst the Irish residents in Manchester, and their apprehensions were quickened by the receipt of a telegram from Dublin Castle, and another from the Home Office in London, warning them that a plot was on foot for the liberation of the prisoners. The magistrates doubted the truth of the information, but they took precautions, nevertheless, for the frustration of any such enterprise. Kelly and Deasey were both handcuffed, and locked in separate compartments of the van; and, instead of three policemen, not less than twelve were entrusted with its defence. Of this body, five sat on the box-seat, two were stationed on the step behind, four followed the van in a cab, and one (Sergeant Brett) sat within the van, the keys of which were handed in to him through the grating, after the door had been locked by one of the policemen outside. There were, in all, six persons in the van: one of these was a boy, aged twelve, who was being conveyed to a reformatory; three were women convicted of misdemeanours; and the two Irish-Americans completed the number. Only the last-mentioned pair were handcuffed, and they were the only persons whom the constables thought necessary to lock up, the compartments in which the other persons sat being left open.
At half-past three o'clock the van drove off, closely followed by the cab containing the balance of the escort. Its route lay through some of the principal streets, then through the suburbs on the south side, into the borough of Salford, where the county gaol is situated. In all about two miles had to be traversed, and of this distance the first half was accomplished without anything calculated to excite suspicion being observed; but there was mischief brewing, for all that, and the crisis was close at hand. Just as the van passed under the railway arch that spans the Hyde-road at Bellevue, a point midway between the city police office and the Salford gaol, the driver was suddenly startled by the apparition of a man standing in the middle of the road with a pistol aimed at his head, and immediately the astonished policeman heard himself called upon, in a loud, sharp voice, to "pull up." At the spot where this unwelcome interruption occurred there are but few houses; brick-fields and clay-pits stretch away at either side, and the neighbourhood is thinly inhabited. But its comparative quiet now gave way to a scene of bustle and excitement so strange that it seems to have almost paralysed the spectators with amazement. The peremptory command levelled at the driver of the van was hardly uttered, when a body of men, numbering about thirty, swarmed over the wall which lined the road, and, surrounding the van, began to take effectual measures for stopping it. The majority of them were well-dressed men, of powerful appearance; a few carried pistols or revolvers in their hands, and all seemed to act in accordance with a preconcerted plan. The first impulse of the policemen in front appears to have been to drive through the crowd, but a shot, aimed in the direction of his head brought the driver tumbling from his seat, terror-stricken but unhurt; and almost at the same time, the further progress of the van was effectually prevented by shooting one of the horses through the neck. A scene of indescribable panic and confusion ensued; the policemen scrambled hastily to the ground, and betook themselves to flight almost without a thought of resistance. Those in the cab behind got out, not to resist the attack, but to help in running away; and in a few minutes the strangers, whose object had by this time become perfectly apparent, were undisputed masters of the situation. Pickaxes, hatchets, hammers, and crow-bars were instantly produced, and the van was besieged by a score stout pairs of arms, under the blows from which its sides groaned, and the door cracked and splintered. Some clambered upon the roof, and attempted to smash it in with heavy stones; others tried to force an opening through the side; while the door was sturdily belaboured by another division of the band. Seeing the Fenians, as they at once considered them, thus busily engaged, the policemen, who had in the first instance retreated to a safe distance, and who were now reinforced by a large mob attracted to the spot by the report of firearms, advanced towards the van, with the intention of offering some resistance; but the storming party immediately met them with a counter-movement. Whilst the attempt to smash through the van was continued without pause, a ring was formed round the men thus engaged, by their confederates, who, pointing their pistols at the advancing crowd, warned them, as they valued their lives, to keep off. Gaining courage from their rapidly-swelling numbers, the mob, however, continued to close in round the van, whereupon several shots were discharged by the Fenians, which had the effect of making the Englishmen again fall back in confusion. It is certain that these shots were discharged for no other purpose than that of frightening the crowd; one of them did take effect in the heel of a bystander, but in every other case the shots were fired high over the heads of the crowd. While this had been passing around the van, a more tragic scene was passing inside it. From the moment the report of the first shot reached him, Sergeant Brett seems to have divined the nature and object of the attack. "My God! its these Fenians," he exclaimed. The noise of the blows showered on the roof and sides of the van was increased by the shrieks of the female prisoners, who rushed frantically into the passage, and made the van resound with their wailings. In the midst of the tumult a face appeared at the grating, and Brett heard himself summoned to give up the keys. The assailants had discovered where they were kept, and resolved on obtaining them as the speediest way of effecting their purpose. "Give up the keys, or they will shoot you," exclaimed the women; but Brett refused. The next instant he fell heavily backwards, with the hot blood welling from a bullet-wound in the head. A shot fired into the key-hole, for the purpose of blowing the lock to pieces, had taken effect in his temple. The terror-stricken women lifted him up, screaming "he's killed." As they did so, the voice which had been heard before called out to them through the ventilator to give up the keys. One of the women then took them from the pocket of the dying policeman, and handed them out through the trap. The door was at once unlocked, the terrified women rushed out, and Brett, weltering in blood, rolled out heavily upon the road. Then a pale-faced young man, wearing a light overcoat, a blue tie, and a tall brown hat, who had been noticed taking a prominent part in the affray, entered the van, and unlocked the compartments in which Kelly and Deasey were confined. A hasty greeting passed between them, and then the trio hurriedly joined the band outside. "I told you, Kelly, I would die before I parted with you," cried the young man who had unlocked the doors; then, seizing Kelly by the arm, he helped him across the road, and over the wall, into the brick-fields beyond. Here he was taken charge of by others of the party, who hurried with him across the country, while a similar office was performed for Deasey, who, like Colonel Kelly, found himself hampered to some extent by the handcuffs on his wrists. The main body of those who had shared in the assault occupied themselves with preventing the fugitives from being pursued; and not until Kelly, Deasy, and their conductors had passed far out of sight, did they think of consulting their own safety. At length, when further resistance to the mob seemed useless and impossible, they broke and fled, some of them occasionally checking the pursuit by turning round and presenting pistols at those who followed. Many of the fugitives escaped, but several others were surrounded and overtaken by the mob. And now the "chivalry" of the English nature came out in its real colours. No sooner did the cowardly set, whom the sight of a revolver kept at bay while Kelly was being liberated, find themselves with some of the Irish party in their power, than they set themselves to beat them with savage ferocity. The young fellow who had opened the van door, and who had been overtaken by the mob, was knocked down by a blow of a brick, and then brutally kicked and stoned, the only Englishman who ventured to cry shame being himself assaulted for his display of humanity. Several others were similarly ill-treated; and not until the blood spouted out from the bruised and mangled bodies of the prostrate men, did the valiant Englishmen consider they had sufficiently tortured their helpless prisoners. Meanwhile, large reinforcements appeared on the spot; police and military were despatched in eager haste in pursuit of the fugitives; the telegraph was called into requisition, and a description of the liberated Fenians flashed to the neighbouring towns; the whole detective force of Manchester was placed on their trail, and in the course of a few hours thirty-two Irishmen were in custody, charged with having assisted in the attack on the van. But of Kelly or Deasey no trace was ever discovered; they were seen to enter a cottage not far from the Hyde-road, and leave it with their hands unfettered, but all attempts to trace their movements beyond this utterly failed. While the authorities in Manchester were excitedly discussing the means to be adopted in view of the extraordinary event, Brett lay expiring in the hospital to which he had been conveyed. He never recovered consciousness after receiving the wound, and he died in less than two hours after the fatal shot had been fired.
Darkness had closed in around Manchester before the startling occurrence that had taken place in their midst became known to the majority of its inhabitants. Swiftly the tidings flew throughout the big city, till the whisper in which the rumour was first breathed swelled into a roar of astonishment and rage. Leaving their houses and leaving their work, the people rushed into the streets, and trooped towards the newspaper offices for information. The rescue of Colonel Kelly and death of Sergeant Brett were described in thousands of conflicting narratives, until the facts almost disappeared beneath the mass of inventions and exaggerations, the creations of excitement and panic, with which they were overloaded. Meanwhile, the police, maddened by resentment and agitation, struck out wildly and blindly at the Irish. They might not be able to recapture the escaped Fenian leaders, but they could load the gaols with their countrymen and co-religionists; they might not be able to apprehend the liberators of Colonel Kelly and Captain Deasey, but they could glut their fury on members of the same nationality; and this they did most effectually. The whole night long the raid upon the Irish quarter in Manchester was continued; houses were broken into, and their occupants dragged off to prison, and flung into cells, chained as though they were raging beasts. Mere Irish were set upon in the streets, in the shops, in their homes, and hurried off to prison as if the very existence of the empire depended on their being subjected to every kind of brutal violence and indignity. The yell for vengeance filled the air; the cry for Irish blood arose upon the night-air like a demoniacal chorus; and before morning broke their fury was to some extent appeased by the knowledge that sixty of the proscribed race—sixty of the hated Irish—were lying chained within the prison cells of Manchester.
Fifteen minutes was the time occupied in setting Kelly free—only fifteen minutes—but during that short space of time an act was accomplished which shook the whole British Empire to its foundation. From the conspiracy to which this daring deed was traceable the English people had already received many startling surprises. The liberation of James Stephens and the short-lived insurrection that filled the snow-capped hills with hardy fugitives, six months before, had both occasioned deep excitement in England; but nothing that Fenianism had yet accomplished acted in the same bewildering manner on the English mind. In the heart of one of their largest cities, in the broad daylight, openly and undisguisedly, a band of Irishmen had appeared in arms against the Queen's authority, and set the power and resources of the law at defiance. They had rescued a co-conspirator from the grasp of the government, and slain an officer of the law in the pursuit of their object. Within a few minutes' walk of barracks and military depots,—in sight of the royal ensign that waved over hundreds of her Majesty's defenders, a prison van had been stopped and broken open, and its defenders shot at and put to flight. Never had the English people heard of so audacious a proceeding—never did they feel more insulted. From every corner of the land the cry swelled, up for vengeance fierce and prompt. Victims there should be; blood—Irish blood—the people would have; nor were they willing to wait long for it. It might be that, falling in hot haste, the sword of Justice might strike the innocent, and not the guilty; it might be that, in the thirst for vengeance, the restraints of humanity would be forgotten; but the English nature, now thoroughly aroused, cared little for such considerations. It was Irishmen who had defied and trampled on their power; the whole Irish people approved of the act; and it mattered little who the objects of their fury might be, provided they belonged to the detested race. The prisoners, huddled together in the Manchester prisons, with chains round their limbs, might not be the liberators of Colonel Kelly—the slayers of Brett might not be amongst them; but they were Irishmen, at any rate, and so they would answer the purpose. Short shrift was the cry. The ordinary forms of law, the maxims of the Constitution, the rules of judicial procedure, the proprieties of social order and civilization, might be outraged and discarded, but speedy vengeance should, at all hazards, be obtained: the hangman could not wait for his fee, nor the people for their carnival of blood; and so it was settled that, instead of being tried at the ordinary Commission, in December, a Special Commission should be issued on the spot for the trial of the accused.
On Thursday, the 25th of October, the prisoners were brought up for committal, before Mr. Fowler, R.M., and a bench of brother magistrates. Some of the Irishmen arrested in the first instance had been discharged—not that no one could be found to swear against them (a difficulty which never seems to have arisen in these cases) but that the number of witnesses who could swear to their innocence was so great, that an attempt to press for convictions in their cases would be pertain to jeopardize the whole proceedings. The following is a list of the prisoners put forward, the names being, as afterwards appeared, in many cases fictitious:—
William O'Mara Allen, Edward Shore, Henry Wilson, William Gould, Michael Larkin, Patrick Kelly, Charles Moorhouse, John Brennan, John Bacon, William Martin, John F. Nugent, James Sherry, Robert McWilliams, Michael Maguire, Thomas Maguire, Michael Morris, Michael Bryan, Michael Corcoran, Thomas Ryan, John Carroll, John Cleeson, Michael Kennedy, John Morris, Patrick Kelly, Hugh Foley, Patrick Coffey, Thomas Kelly, and Thomas Scally.
It forms no part of our purpose to follow out the history of the proceedings in the Manchester court on the 25th of September and the following days: but there are some circumstances in connection with that investigation which it would be impossible to pass over without comment. It was on this occasion that the extraordinary sight of men being tried in chains was witnessed, and that the representatives of the English Crown came to sit in judgment on men still innocent in the eyes of the law, yet manacled like convicted felons. With the blistering irons clasped tight round their wrists the Irish prisoners stood forward, that justice—such justice as tortures men first and tries them afterwards—might be administered to them. "The police considered the precaution necessary," urged the magistrate, in reply to the scathing denunciations of the unprecedented outrage which fell from the lips of Mr. Ernest Jones, one of the prisoners' counsel. The police considered it necessary, though within the courthouse no friend of the accused could dare to show his face—though the whole building bristled with military and with policemen, with their revolvers ostentatiously displayed;—necessary, though every approach to the courthouse was held by an armed guard, and though every soldier in the whole city was standing to arms;—necessary there, in the heart of an English city, with a dense population thirsting for the blood of the accused, and when the danger seemed to be, not that they might escape from custody—a flight to the moon would be equally practicable—but that they might be butchered in cold blood by the angry English mob that scowled on them from the galleries of the court house, and howled round the building in which they stood. In vain did Mr. Jones protest, in scornful words, against the brutal indignity—in vain did he appeal to the spirit of British justice, to ancient precedent and modern practice—in vain did he inveigh against a proceeding which forbad the intercourse necessary between him and his clients—and in vain did he point out that the prisoners in the dock were guiltless and innocent men according to the theory of the law. No arguments, no expostulations would change the magistrate's decision. Amidst the applause of the cowardly set that represented the British public within the courthouse, he insisted that the handcuffs should remain on; and then Mr. Jones, taking the only course left to a man of spirit under the circumstances, threw down his brief and indignantly quitted the desecrated justice hall. Fearing the consequences of leaving the prisoners utterly undefended, Mr. Cottingham, the junior counsel for the defence, refrained from following Mr. Jones's example, but he, too, protested loudly, boldly, and indignantly against the cowardly outrage, worthy of the worst days of the French monarchy, which his clients were being subjected to. The whole investigation was in keeping with the spirit evinced by the bench. The witnesses seemed to come for the special purpose of swearing point-blank against the hapless men in the dock, no matter at what cost to truth, and to take a fiendish pleasure in assisting in securing their condemnation. One of the witnesses was sure "the whole lot of them wanted to murder everyone who had any property;" another assured his interrogator in the dock that "he would go to see him hanged;" and a third had no hesitation in acknowledging the attractions which the reward offered by the government possessed for his mind. Men and women, young and old, all seemed to be possessed of but the one idea—to secure as much of the blood-money as possible, and to do their best to bring the hated Irish to the gallows. Of course, an investigation, under these circumstances, could have but one ending, and no one was surprised to learn, at its conclusion, that the whole of the resolute body of stern-faced men, who, manacled and suffering, confronted their malignant accusers, had been committed to stand their trial in hot haste, for the crime of "wilful murder."
Of the men thus dealt with there are four with whose fate this narrative is closely connected, and whose names are destined to be long remembered in Ireland. They have won for themselves, by their courage, constancy, and patriotism, a fame that will never die; and through all future time they will rank beside the dauntless spirits that in days of darkness and disaster perished for the sacred cause of Ireland. Great men, learned men, prominent men they were not—they were poor, they were humble, they were unknown; they had no claim to the reputation of the warrior, the scholar, or the statesman; but they laboured, as they believed, for the redemption of their country from bondage; they risked their lives in a chivalrous attempt to rescue from captivity two men whom they regarded as innocent patriots, and when the forfeit was claimed, they bore themselves with the unwavering courage and single-heartedness of Christian heroes. Their short and simple annals are easily written, but their names are graven on the Irish heart, and their names and actions will be cherished in Ireland when the monumental piles that mark the resting-places of the wealthy and the proud have returned, like the bodies laid beneath them, to dust.
William Philip Allen was born near the town of Tipperary, in April, 1848. Before he was quite three years old his parents removed to Bandon, County Cork, where the father, who professed the Protestant religion, received the appointment of bridewell-keeper. As young Allen grew up, he evinced a remarkable aptitude for the acquirement of knowledge, and his studious habits were well known to his playmates and companions. He was a regular attendant at the local training-school for the education of teachers for the Protestant schools of the parish, but he also received instruction at the morning and evening schools conducted under Catholic auspices, in the same town. He was not a wild boy, but he was quick and impulsive,—ready to resent a wrong, but equally ready to forgive one; and his natural independence of spirit and manly disposition rendered him a favourite with all his acquaintances. The influence and example of his father did not prevent him from casting a wistful eye towards the ancient faith. His mother, a good pious Catholic, whose warmest aspiration was to see her children in the fold of the true church, encouraged this disposition by all the means in her power, and the result of her pious care shortly became apparent. A mission, opened in the town by some Catholic order of priests, completed the good work, which the prayers and the example of an affectionate mother had commenced; and young Allen, after regularly attending the religious services and exercises of the mission, became so much Impressed with the truth of the lectures and sermons he had listened to, that he formally renounced the alien religion, and was received by the respected parish priest of the town into the bosom of the Catholic Church. His only sister followed his example, while his brothers, four in number, remained in the Protestant communion. The subject of our sketch was apprenticed to a respectable master carpenter and timber merchant in Bandon, but circumstances highly creditable to the young convert induced the severance of the connection before his period of apprenticeship was expired, and we next find him working at his trade in Cork, where he remained for some six months, after which he returned to Bandon. He next crossed over to Manchester, at the request of some near relatives living there. Subsequently he spent a few weeks in Dublin, where he worked as builder's clerk; and finally he revisited Manchester, where he had made himself numerous friends. It was in the summer of '67 that Allen last journeyed to Manchester. He was then little more than nineteen years old, but there is reason to believe that he had long before become connected with the Fenian conspiracy. In his ardent temperament the seeds of patriotism took deep and firm root, and the dangers of the enterprise to which the Fenians were committed served only to give it a fresh claim upon his enthusiastic nature. When Colonel Kelly quitted Dublin, and took up his quarters in Manchester, Allen was one of his most trusted and intimate associates; and when the prison door grated behind the Fenian leader, it was Allen who roused his countrymen to the task of effecting his liberation. Allen had by this time grown into a comely young man of prepossessing appearance; he was a little over the middle height, well shaped, without presenting the appearance of unusual strength, and was always seen neatly and respectably dressed. His face was pale, and wore a thoughtful expression, his features, when in repose, wearing an appearance of pensiveness approaching to melancholy. His eyes were small, the eyelids slightly marked; a mass of dark hair clustered gracefully over a broad pale forehead, while the absence of any beard gave him a peculiarly boyish appearance. Gentle and docile in his calmer moments, when roused to action he was all fire and energy. We have seen how he bore himself during the attack on the prison van, for he it was whom so many witnesses identified as the pale-faced young fellow who led the attack, and whose prophetic assurance that he would die for him, greeted Colonel Kelly on regaining his freedom. During the magisterial investigation he bore himself firmly, proudly, and, as the English papers would have it, defiantly. His glance never quailed during the trying ordeal. The marks of the brutality of his cowardly captors were still upon him, and the galling irons that bound his hands cut into his wrists; but Allen never winced for a moment, and he listened to the evidence of the sordid crew, who came to barter away his young life, with resolute mien. The triumph was with him. Out of the jaws of death he had rescued the leader whose freedom he considered essential to the success of a patriotic undertaking, and he was satisfied to pay the cost of the venture. He had set his foot upon the ploughshare, and would not shrink from the ordeal which he had challenged.
Amongst the crowd of manacled men committed for trial by the Manchester magistrates, not one presented a finer or more impressive exterior than Michael O'Brien, set down in the list above given as Michael Gould. Standing in the dock, he seemed the impersonation of vigorous manhood. Frank, fearless, and resolute, with courage and truth imprinted on every feature, he presented to the eye a perfect type of the brave soldier. He was tall and well-proportioned, and his broad shoulders and well-developed limbs told of physical strength in keeping with the firmness reflected in his face. His gaze, when it rested on the unfriendly countenances before him, was firm and undrooping, but a kindly light lit his hazel eyes, and his features relaxed into a sympathising and encouraging expression, as often as he glanced at Allen, who stood behind him, or bent his gaxe upon any of his other fellow-prisoners. O'Brien was born, near Ballymacoda, County Cork, the birthplace of the ill-fated and heroic Peter Crowley. His father rented a large farm in the same parish, but the blight of the bad laws which are the curse of Ireland fell upon him, and in the year 1856, the O'Briens were flung upon the world dispossessed of lands and home, though they owed no man a penny at the time. Michael O'Brien was apprenticed to a draper in Youghal, and earned, during the period of his apprenticeship, the respect and esteem of all who knew him. He was quiet and gentlemanly in manners, and his character for morality and good conduct was irreproachable. Having served out his time in Youghal, he went to Cork, and he spent some time as an assistant in one of the leading drapery establishments of that city. He afterwards emigrated to America, where some of his relatives were comfortably settled. Like many of the bravest of his fellow-countrymen, the outbreak of the civil war kindled a military ardour within his bosom, and O'Brien found himself unable to resist the attractions which the soldier's career possessed for him. His record throughout the war was highly honourable; his bravery and good conduct won him speedy promotion, and long before the termination of the conflict, he had risen to the rank of lieutenant. When his regiment was disbanded he recrossed the Atlantic, and returned to Cork, where he again obtained employment as assistant in one of the large commercial establishments. Here he remained until the night before the Fenian rising, when he suddenly disappeared, and all further trace was lost of him, until arrested for participation in the attack upon the prison van in Manchester.
Close by his side in the dock stood Michael Larkin, an intelligent-looking man, older looking than most of his fellow-prisoners. The following are a few facts relating to his humble history:—
"He was," writes a correspondent who knew him, "a native of the parish of Lusmagh, in the south-western corner of the King's County, where for many generations his ancestors have been residents on the Cloghan Castle estate (then in the possession of the O'Moore family), and where several of his relatives still reside; and was grandson to James Quirke, a well-to-do farmer, who was flogged and transported in '98 for complicity in the rebellion of that time, and whose name, in this part of the country, is remembered with pleasure and affection for his indomitable courage and perseverance in resisting the repeated allurements held out by the corrupt minions of the crown to induce him to become a traitor to his companions and his country. But all their importunities were vain; Quirke steadily persevered in the principles of his gallant leader, Robert Emmett. Larkin's father was a respectable tradesman, carrying on his business for many years in his native parish; he removed to Parsonstown, where he contrived to impart to his son Michael, a good English education, and then taught him his own profession. When Michael had attained a thorough knowledge of his business, he was employed till '58 at Parsonstown; he then went to England to improve his condition, and after some time he married, and continued to work on industriously at his business till May, '67, when he visited his native country to receive the last benediction of his dying father. He again returned to England with his wife and family, to resume his employment. After some time he was arrested for assisting to release two of his fellow-countrymen from bondage. I cannot attempt to enumerate the many good qualities of the deceased patriot: the paternal affection, exhibited from the earliest age; the mildness and affability of manner, good temper, affectionate and inoffensive disposition; his sobriety and good moral conduct—endeared him to all who had the pleasure and honour of his acquaintance. Throughout his whole life he was remarkable for his 'love of country,' and expressions of sincere regret for the miserable condition of many of his countrymen were ever on his lips. He was, in the true sense of the idea, a good son, an affectionate husband and father, and a sincere friend."
On Monday, October 28th, the three Irishmen whose lives we have glanced at were placed at the bar of the Manchester Assize Court, and formally placed on their trial for wilful murder. With them were arraigned Thomas Maguire, a private belonging to the Royal Marines, who was on furlough in Liverpool at the time of Kelly's liberation, and who was arrested merely because he happened to be an Irishman, and who, though perfectly innocent of the whole transaction, had been sworn against by numerous witnesses as a ringleader in the attack; and Edward O'Meagher Condon (alias Shore), a fine-looking Irish-American, a citizen of the State of Ohio, against whom, like his four companions, true bills had been found by the Grand Jury. It would take long to describe the paroxysms of excitement, panic, and agitation that raged in the English mind within the period that intervened between the committal of the prisoners and the date at which we are now arrived. Nothing was heard of but the Fenians; nothing was talked of but the diabolical plots and murderous designs they were said to be preparing. The Queen was to be shot at; Balmoral was to be burned down; the armouries had been attacked; the barracks were undermined; the gas works were to be exploded, the Bank blown up, the water poisoned. Nothing was too infernal or too wicked for the Fenians, and every hour brought some addition to the monstrous stock of canards. North and south, east and west, the English people were in a ferment of anxious alarm; and everywhere Fenianism was cursed as an unholy thing to be cut from society as an ulcerous sore—to be banned and loathed as a pestilence—a foul creation with murder in its glare, and the torch of the incendiary burning in its gory hand. Under these circumstances, there was little chance that an unprejudiced jury could be empanelled for the trial of the Irish prisoners; and their counsel, seeing the danger, sought to avent it by a motion for the postponement of the trials. The Home Secretary was memorialed on the subject, and the application was renewed before the judges in court, but the efforts to obtain justice were fruitless. The blood of the British lion was up; with bloodshot eyes and bristling mane he stood awaiting his prey, and there was danger in trifling with his rage. Even Special commissicns were voted slow, and a cry arose for martial law, Lynch law, or any law that would give the blood of the victims without hindrance or delay. So the appeal for time was spurned; the government was deaf to all remonstrance; British bloodthirstiness carried the day, and the trials proceeded without interruption.
We have not patience to rehearse calmly the story of these trials, which will long remain the reproach of British lawyers. We shall not probe the motives which led to the appointment of two such men as Justice Mellor and Justice Blackburne as Judges of the Commission, but history will be at no loss to connect the selection with their peculiar character on the bench. Nor shall we analyze the speeches of the Attorney-General and his colleagues, in which the passions and prejudices of the jury were so dexterously appealed to. The character of the evidence demands more study. The witnesses consisted of the policemen present at the attack, the prisoners who were locked with Kelly and Deasey in the van, and the bystanders who saw the affray or assisted in stoning the prisoners before and after they were captured. They swore with the utmost composure against the four prisoners. Allen was identified as one of the leaders, and he it was whom most of the witnesses declared to have fired through the door. On this point, indeed, as on many others, there was confusion and contradiction in the evidence: some of the witnesses were sure it was O'Brien fired through the door; others were inclined to assign the leading part to Condon; but before the trial had gone far, it seemed to be understood that Allen was the man to whom the death of Brett was to be attributed, and that the business of the witnesses was to connect the other prisoners as closely as possible with his act. On one point nearly all of the witnesses were agreed—whoever there might be any doubt about, there could be none concerning Maguire. Seven witnesses swore positively to having seen him assisting in breaking open the van, and some of them even repeated the words which they said he addressed to them while thus engaged. On the evening of Friday, November 1st, the trials terminated. It was past five o'clock when Judge Mellor concluded his charge. The court was densely crowded, and every eye was strained to mark the effect of the judge's words upon the countenances of the prisoners; but they, poor fellows, quailed not as they heard the words which they knew would shortly be followed by a verdict consigning them to the scaffold. Throughout the long trial their courage had never flagged, their spirits had never failed them for an instant. Maguire, who had no real connection with the other four, and who knew that the charge against him was a baseless concoction, did, indeed, betray traces of anxiety and bewilderment as the trial progressed; but Allen, O'Brien, Larkin, and Condon went through the frightful ordeal with a heroic display of courage to which even the most malignant of their enemies have paid tribute.
The judge has done, and now the jury turned from the box "to consider their verdict." An hour and twenty minutes they remained absent; then their returning tread was heard. The prisoners turned their eyes upwards; Maguire looked towards them, half hopefully half appealingly; from Allen's glance nothing but defiance could be read; Larkin fixed his gaze on the foreman, who held the fatal record in his hand, with calm resolution; while a quiet smile played round O'Brien's lips, as he turned to hear the expected words.
"Guilty!" The word is snatched up from the lips of the foreman of the jury, and whispered through the court. They were all "guilty." So said the jury; and a murmur of applause came rolling back in response to the verdict. "Guilty!" A few there were in that court upon whom the fatal words fell with the bitterness of death, but the Englishmen who filled the crowded gallery and passages exulted at the sound: the vengeance which they longed for was at hand.
The murmur died away; the sobs that rose from the dark recesses where a few stricken-hearted women had been permitted to stand were stifled; and then, amidst breathless silence, the voice of the Crown Clerk was heard demanding "if the prisoners had anything to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced on them."
The first to respond was Allen. A slight flush reddened his cheeks, and his eyes lit up with the fire of enthusiasm and determination, as, advancing to the front of the dock, he confronted the Court, and spoke in resolute tones as follows:—
"My Lords and Gentlemen—It is not my intention to occupy much of your time in answering your question. Your question is one that can be easily asked, but requires an answer which I am ignorant of. Abler and more eloquent men could not answer it. Where were the men who have stood in the dock—Burke, Emmett, and others, who have stood in the dock in defence of their country? When the question was put, what was their answer? Their answer was null and void. How, with your permission, I will review a portion of the evidence that has been brought against me."
Here Mr. Justice Blackburne interrupted. "It was too late," he said, "to criticise the evidence, and the Court had neither the right nor the power to alter or review it. If," he added, "you have any reason to give why, either upon technical or moral grounds, the sentence should not be passed upon you, we will hear it, but it is too late for you to review the evidence to show that it was wrong."
"Cannot that be done in the morning, Sir," asked Allen, who felt in his heart how easily the evidence on which he had been convicted might be torn to shreds. But the Judge said not. "No one," he said, "could alter or review the evidence in any way after the verdict had been passed by the jury. We can only" he said in conclusion, "take the verdict as right; and the only question for you is, why judgment should not follow."
Thus restricted in the scope of his observations, the young felon proceeded to deliver the following patriotic and spirited address:—
"No man in this court regrets the death of Sergeant Brett more than I do, and I positively say, in the presence of the Almighty and ever-living God, that I am innocent, aye, as innocent as any man in this court. I don't say this for the sake of mercy: I want no mercy—I'll have no mercy. I'll die, as many thousands have died, for the sake of their beloved land, and in defence of it. I will die proudly and triumphantly in defence of republican principles and the liberty of an oppressed and enslaved people. Is it possible we are asked why sentence should not be passed upon us, on the evidence of prostitutes off the streets of Manchester, fellows out of work, convicted felons—aye, an Irishman sentenced to be hung when an English dog would have got off. I say positively and defiantly, justice has not been done me since I was arrested. If justice had been done me, I would not have been handcuffed at the preliminary investigation in Bridge-street; and in this court justice has not been done me in any shape or form. I was brought up here, and all the prisoners by my side were allowed to wear overcoats, and I was told to take mine off. What is the principle of that? There was something in that principle, and I say positively that justice has not been done me. As for the other prisoners, they can speak for themselves with regard to that matter. And now with regard to the way I have been identified. I have to say that my clothes were kept for four hours by the policemen in Fairfield-station, and shown to parties to identify me as being one of the perpetrators of this outrage on Hyde-road. Also in Albert-station there was a handkerchief kept on my head the whole night so that I could be identified the next morning in the corridor by the witnesses. I was ordered to leave on the handkerchief for the purpose that the witnesses could more plainly see I was one of the parties who committed the outrage. As for myself, I feel the righteousness of my every art with regard to what I have done in defence of my country I fear not. I am fearless—fearless of the punishment that can be inflicted on me; and with that, my lords, I have done. (After a moment's pause)—I beg to be excused. One remark more. I return Mr. Seymour and Mr. Jones my sincere and heartfelt thanks for their able eloquence and advocacy on my part in this affair. I wish also to return to Mr. Roberts the very same. My name, sir, might be wished to be, known. It is not William O'Meara Allen. My name is William Philip Allen. I was born and reared in Bandon, in the county of Cork, and from that place I take my name; and I am proud of my country, and proud of my parentage. My lords, I have done."
A sign of mingled applause and admiration rose faintly on the air, as the gallant young Irishman, inclining his head slightly to the Court, retired to make way at the front, of the bar for one of his companions in misfortune. But his chivalrous bearing and noble words woke no response within the prejudice-hardened hearts of the majority of his auditors; they felt that the fearless words of the fearless youth would overbear all that his accusers had uttered, and that the world would read in them the condemnation, of the government and of the people whose power he so bravely defied.
Michael Larkin spoke next. He looked a shade paler than on the first day of the trial, but no want of resolution was expressed in his firm-set face. He gazed with an unquailing glance round the faces eagerly bent forward to catch his words, and then spoke in distinct tones as follows:—
"I have only got a word or two to say concerning Serjeant Brett. As my friend here said, no one could regret the man's death as much as I do. With regard to the charge of pistols and revolvers, and my using them, I call my God as a witness that I neither used pistols, revolvers, nor any instrument on that day that would deprive the life of a child, let alone a man. Nor did I go there on purpose to take life away. Certainly, my lords, I do not want to deny that I did go to give aid and assistance to those two noble heroes that were confined in that van—Kelly and Deasey. I did go to do as much as lay in my power to extricate them out of their bondage; but I did not go to take life, nor, my lords did anyone else. It is a misfortune there was life taken, but if it was taken it was not done intentionally, and the man who has taken life we have not got him. I was at the scene of action, when there were over, I dare say, 150 people standing by there when I was. I am very sorry I have to say, my lord, but I thought I had some respectable people to come up as witnesses against me; but I am sorry to say as my friend said. I will make no more remarks concerning that. All I have to say, my lords and gentlemen, is that so far as my trial went and the way it was conducted, I believe I have got a fair trial. So far as my noble counsel went, they done their utmost in the protection of my life; likewise, my worthy solicitor, Mr. Roberts, has done his best; but I believe as the old saying is a true one, what is decreed a man in the page of life he has to fulfil, either on the gallows, drowning, a fair death in bed, or on the battlefield. So I look to the mercy of God. May God forgive all who have sworn my life away. As I am a dying man, I forgive them from the bottom of my heart. God forgive them."
As Larkin ceased speaking, O'Brien, who stood to the right of him, moved slightly in advance, and intimated by a slight inclination to the Court his intention of addressing them. His stalwart form seemed to dilate with proud defiance and scorn as he faced the ermine-clad dignitaries who were about to consign, him to the gibbet. He spoke with emphasis, and in tones which seemed to borrow a something of the fire and spirit of his words. He said:—
"I shall commence by saying that every witness who has sworn anything against me has sworn falsely. I have not had a stone in my possession since I was a boy. I had no pistol in my possession on the day when it is alleged this outrage was committed. You call it an outrage, I don't. I say further, my name is Michael O'Brien. I was born in the county of Cork, and have the honour to be a fellow-parishioner of Peter O'Neal Crowley, who was fighting against the British troops at Mitchelstown last March, and who fell fighting against British tyranny in Ireland. I am a citizen of the United States of America, and if Charles Francis Adams had done his duty towards me, as he ought to do in this country, I would not be in this dock answering your questions now. Mr. Adams did not come though I wrote to him. He did not come to see if I could not find evidence to disprove the charge, which I positively could, if he had taken the trouble of sending or coming to see what I could do. I hope the American people will notice that part of the business. [The prisoner here commenced reading from a paper he held in his hand.] The right of man is freedom. The great God has endowed him with affections that he may use, not smother them, and a world that may be enjoyed. Once a man is satisfied he is doing right, and attempts to do anything with that conviction, he must be willing to face all the consequences. Ireland, with its beautiful scenery, its delightful climate, its rich and productive lands, is capable of supporting more than treble its population in ease and comfort. Yet no man, except a paid official of the British government, can say there is a shadow of liberty, that there is a spark of glad life amongst its plundered and persecuted inhabitants. It is to be hoped that its imbecile and tyrannical rulers will be for ever driven from her soil, amidst the execration of the world. How beautifully the aristocrats of England moralise on the despotism of the rulers of Italy and Dahomey—in the case of Naples with what indignation did they speak of the ruin of families by the detention of its head or some loved member in a prison. Who have not heard their condemnations of the tyranny that would compel honourable and good men to spend their useful lives in hopeless banishment."
The taunt went home to the hearts of his accusers, and, writhing under the lash thus boldly applied, Judge Blackburne hastened, to intervene. Unable to stay, on legal grounds, the torrent of scathing invective by which O'Brien was driving the blood from the cheeks of his British listeners, the judge resorted to a device which Mr. Justice Keogh had practised very adroitly, and with much success, at various of the State trials in Ireland. He appealed to the prisoner, "entirely for his own sake," to cease his remarks. "The only possible effect of your observations." he said, "must be to tell against you with those who have to consider the sentence. I advise you to say nothing more of that sort. I do so entirely for your own sake." But O'Brien was not the man to be cowed into submission by this artful representation. Possibly he discerned the motive of the interruption, and estimated at its true value the disinterestedness of Judge Blackburne's "advice." Mr. Ernest Jones in vain used his influence to accomplish the judge's object. O'Brien spurned the treacherous bait, and resolutely proceeded:—
"They cannot find words to express their horror of the cruelties of the King of Dahomey because he sacrificed 2,000 human beings yearly, but why don't those persons who pretend such virtuous indignation at the misgovernment of other countries look at home, and see if greater crimes than those they charge against other governments are not committed by themselves or by their sanction. Let them look at London, and see the thousands that want bread there, while those aristocrats are rioting in luxuries and crimes. Look to Ireland; see the hundreds of thousands of its people in misery and want. See the virtuous, beautiful, and industrious women who only a few years ago—aye, and yet—are obliged to look at their children dying for want of food. Look at what is called the majesty of the law on one side, and the long deep misery of a noble people on the other. Which are the young men of Ireland to respect—the law that murders or banishes their people, or the means to resist relentless tyranny and ending their miseries for ever under a home government? I need not answer that question here. I trust the Irish people will answer it to their satisfaction soon. I am not astonished at my conviction. The government of this country have the power of convicting any person. They appoint the judge; they choose the jury; and by means of what they call patronage (which is the means of corruption) they have the power of making the laws to suit their purposes. I am confident that my blood will rise a hundredfold against the tyrants who think proper to commit such an outrage. In the first place, I say I was identified improperly, by having chains on my hands and feet at the time of identification, and thus the witnesses who have sworn to my throwing stones and firing a pistol have sworn to what is false, for I was, as those ladies said, at the jail gates. I thank my counsel for their able defence, and also Mr. Roberts, for his attention to my case."
Edward Maguire spoke next. He might well have felt bewildered at the situation in which he found himself, but he spoke earnestly and collectedly, nevertheless. He had had an experience of British law which, if not without precedent, was still extraordinary enough to create amazement. He knew that he had never been a Fenian; he knew that he never saw Colonel Kelly—never heard of him until arrested for assisting in his liberation; he knew that while the van was being attacked at Bellevue, he was sitting in his own home, miles away; and he knew that he had never in his life placed his foot in the scene of the rescue; yet there he found himself convicted by regular process of law, of the murder of Constable Brett. He had seen witness after witness enter the box, and deliberately swear they saw him take a prominent part in the rescue. He saw policemen and civilians coolly identify him as a ringleader in the affair; he had heard the Crown lawyers weave round him the subtle meshes of their logic; and now he found himself pronounced guilty by the jury, in the teeth of the overwhelming array of unimpeachable evidence brought forward in his defence. What "the safeguards of the Constitution" mean—what "the bulwark of English freedom," and "the Palladium of British freedom" are worth, when Englishmen fill the jury-box and an Irishman stands in the dock, Maguire had had a fair opportunity of judging. Had he been reflectively inclined, he might, too, have found himself compelled to adopt a rather low estimate of the credibility of English witnesses, when they get an opportunity of swearing away an Irishman's life. An impetuous man might have been goaded by the circumstances into cursing the atrocious system under which "justice" had been administered to him, and calling down the vengeance of Heaven on the whole nation from which the perjured wretches who swore away his life had been drawn. But Maguire acted more discreetly; he began, indeed, by declaring that all the witnesses who swore against him were perjurers—by vehemently protesting that the case, as regarded him, was one of mistaken identity; but he shortly took surer ground, by referring to his services in the navy, and talking of his unfailing loyalty to "his Queen and his country." He went through the record of his services as a marine; appealed to the character he had obtained from his commanding officers, in confirmation of his words: and concluded by solemnly protesting his perfect innocence of the charge on which he had been convicted.
While Maguire's impressive words were still ringing in the ears of his conscience-stricken accusers, Edward O'Meagher Condon commenced to speak. He was evidently more of an orator than either of those who had preceded him, and he spoke with remarkable fluency, grace, and vigour. The subjoined is a correct report of his spirited and able address:—
"My Lords—this has come upon me somewhat by surprise. It appeared to me rather strange that upon any amount of evidence, which of course was false, a man could have been convicted of wilfully murdering others he never saw or heard of before he was put in prison. I do not care to detain your lordships, but I cannot help remarking that Mr. Shaw, who has come now to gloat upon his victims, alter having sworn away their lives—that man has sworn what is altogether false; and there are contradictions in the depositions which have not been brought before your lordships' notice. I suppose the depositions being imperfect, there was no necessity for it. As to Mr. Batty, he swore at his first examination before the magistrates that a large stone fell on me, a stone which Mr. Roberts said at the time would have killed an elephant. But not the slightest mark was found on my head; and if I was to go round the country, and him with me, as exhibiting the stone having fallen on me, and him as the man who would swear to it, I do not know which would be looked for with the most earnestness. However, it has been accepted by the jury. Now he says he only thinks so. There is another matter to consider. I have been sworn to, I believe, by some of the witnesses who have also sworn to others, though some of them can prove they were in another city altogether—in Liverpool. Others have an overwhelming alibi, and I should by right have been tried with them; but I suppose your lordships cannot help that. We have, for instance, Thomas, the policeman, who swore to another prisoner. He identified him on a certain day, and the prisoner was not arrested for two days afterwards. As for Thomas, I do not presume that any jury could have believed him. He had heard of the blood-money, and of course was prepared to bid pretty high for it. My alibi has not been strong, and unfortunately I was not strong in pocket, and was not able to produce more testimony to prove where I was at exactly that time. With regard to the unfortunate man who has lost his life, I sympathize with him and his family as deeply as your lordships or the jury, or anyone in the court. I deeply regret the unfortunate occurrence, but I am as perfectly innocent of his blood as any man. I never had the slightest intention of taking life. I have done nothing at all in connection with that man, and I do not desire to be accused of a murder which I have not committed. With regard to another matter, my learned counsel has, no doubt for the best, expressed some opinions on these matters and the misgovernment to which my country has been subjected. I am firmly convinced there is prejudice in the minds of the people, and it has been increased and excited by the newspapers, or by some of them, and to a certain extent has influenced the minds of the jury to convict the men standing in this dock, on a charge of which—a learned gentleman remarked a few nights since—they would be acquitted if they had been charged with murdering an old woman for the sake of the money in her pocket, but a political offence of this kind they could not. Now, sir, with regard to the opinions I hold on national matters—with regard to those men who have been released from that van, in which, unfortunately, life was lost, I am of opinion that certainly to some extent there was an excess. Perhaps it was unthought, but if those men had been in other countries, occupying other positions—if Jefferson Davis had been released in a northern city, there would have been a cry of applause throughout all England. If Garibaldi, who I saw before I was shut out from the world had been arrested, was released, or something of that kind had taken place, they would have applauded the bravery of the act. If the captives of King Theodore had been released, that too would have been applauded. But, as it happened to be in England, of course it is an awful thing, while yet in Ireland murders are perpetrated on unoffending men, as in the case of the riots in Waterford, where an unoffending man was murdered, and no one was punished for it. I do not desire to detain your lordships. I can only say that I leave this world without a stain on my conscience that I have been wilfully guilty of anything in connexion with the death of Sergeant Brett. I am totally guiltless. I leave this world without malice to anyone. I do not accuse the jury, but I believe they were prejudiced. I don't accuse them of wilfully wishing to convict, but prejudice has induced them to convict when they otherwise would not have done. With reference to the witnesses, every one of them has sworn falsely. I never threw a stone or fired a pistol; I was never at the place, as they have said; it is all totally false. But as I have to go before my God. I forgive them. They will be able to meet me, some day, before that God who is to judge us all, and then they and the people in this Court, and everyone, will know who tells the truth. Had I committed anything against the Crown of England, I would have scorned myself had I attempted to deny it; but with regard to those men, they have sworn what is altogether false. Had I been an Englishman, and arrested near the scene of that disturbance, I would have been brought as a witness to identify them; but being an Irishman, it was supposed my sympathy was with them, and on suspicion of that sympathy I was arrested, and in consequence of the arrest, and the rewards which were offered, I was identified. It could not be otherwise. As I said before, my opinions on national matters do not at all relate to the case before your lordships. We have been found guilty, and, as a matter of course we accept our death as gracefully as possible. We are not afraid to die—at least I am not."
"Nor I," "Nor I," "Nor I," swelled up from the lips of his companions, and then, with a proud smile, Condon continued:—
"I have no sin or stain upon me; and I leave this world at peace with all. With regard to the other prisoners who are to be tried afterwards, I hope our blood at least will satisfy the cravings for it. I hope our blood will be enough, and that those men who I honestly believe are guiltless of the blood of that man—that the other batches will get a fair, free, and a more impartial trial. We view matters in a different light from what the jury do. We have been imprisoned, and have not had the advantage of understanding exactly to what this excitement has led. I can only hope and pray that this prejudice will disappear—that my poor country will right herself some day, and that her people, so far from being looked upon with scorn and aversion, will receive what they are entitled to, the respect not only of the civilized world, but of Englishmen. I, too, am an American citizen, and on English territory I have committed no crime which makes me amenable to the crown of England. I have done nothing; and, as a matter of course, I did expect protection—as this gentleman (pointing to Allen) has said, the protection of the ambassador of my government. I am a citizen of the State of Ohio; but I am sorry to say my name is not Shore. My name is Edward O'Meagher Condon. I belong to Ohio, and there are loving hearts there that will be sorry for this. I have nothing but my best wishes to send them, and my best feelings, and assure them I can die as a Christian and an Irishman; and that I am not ashamed or afraid of anything I have done, or the consequences, before God or man. They would be ashamed of me if I was in the slightest degree a coward, or concealed my opinions. The unfortunate divisions of our countrymen in America, have, to a certain extent, neutralized the efforts that we have made either in one direction or another for the liberation of our country. All these things have been thwarted, and as a matter of course we must only submit to our fate. I only trust again, that those who are to be tried after us, will have a fair trial, and that our blood will satisfy the craving which I understand exists. You will soon send us before God, and I am perfectly prepared to go. I have nothing to regret, or to retract, or take back. I can only say, GOD SAVE IRELAND."
Again were the voices of his companions raised in unison. "God save Ireland!" they cried defiantly, in chorus. "God save Ireland!" The cry rung through the packed justice-hall, and fell on the ears of its blood-thirsty occupants like the voice of an accusing angel. "God save Ireland," they said; and then the brave-hearted fellows gazed fiercely around the hostile gathering, as if daring them to interfere with the prayer. "God save Ireland!"—from the few broken-hearted relatives who listened to the patriots' prayer the responsive "Amen" was breathed back, and the dauntless young Irishman continued:—
"I wish to add a word or two. There is nothing in the close of my political career which I regret. I don't know of one act which could bring the blush of shame to my face, or make me afraid to meet my God or fellow-man. I would be most happy, and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to die on the field for my country in defence of her liberty. As it is, I cannot die on the field, but I can die on the scaffold, I hope, as a soldier, a man, and a Christian."
And now the last was spoken. As true Irishmen and as true patriots they had borne themselves. No trace of flinching did they give for their enemies to gloat over—no sign of weakness which could take from the effect of their deathless words. With bold front and steady mien they stood forward to listen to the fatal decree their judges were ready to pronounce. The judges produced the black caps, with which they had come provided, and then Justice Mellor proceeded to pass sentence. No person, he said, who had witnessed the proceedings could doubt the propriety of the verdict, which, he insisted, was the result of "a full, patient, and impartial investigation." He made no distinction. "I am perfectly convinced," he said, "that all of you had resolved, at any risk, and by any amount of dangerous violence and outrage, to accomplish your object; and that, in fact, Charles Brett was murdered because it was essential to the completion of your common design that he should be." The stereotyped words of exhortation to repentance followed, and then the judge concluded:—
"The sentence is that you, and each of you, be taken hence to the place whence you came, and thence to a place of execution, and that you be there hanged by the neck until you shall be dead, and that your bodies be afterwards buried within the precincts of the prison wherein you were last confined after your respective convictions; and may God, in His infinite mercy, have mercy upon you."
With quiet composure the doomed men heard the words. They warmly shook hands with their counsel, thanked them for their exertions, and then, looking towards the spot where their weeping friends were seated, they turned to leave the dock. "God be with you, Irishmen and Irishwomen!" they cried and, as they disappeared from the court, their final adieu was heard in the same prayer that had swelled upwards to heaven from them before—
"GOD SAVE IRELAND!"
Scarcely had the Manchester courthouse ceased to echo those voices from the dock, when the glaring falseness of the verdict became the theme of comment amongst even the most thoroughgoing Englishmen who had been present throughout the trial.
Without more ado, down sate some thirty or forty reporters, who, as representatives of the English metropolitan and provincial press, had attended the Commission, and addressed a memorial to the Home Secretary, stating that they had been long accustomed to attend at trials on capital charges; that they had extensive experience of such cases, from personal observation of prisoners in the dock and witnesses on the table; and that they were solemnly convinced, the swearing of the witnesses and the verdict of the jury to the contrary notwithstanding, that the man Maguire had neither hand, act, nor part in the crime for which he had been sentenced to death. The following is the petition referred to:—
We, the undersigned members of the metropolitan and provincial Press, having had long experience in courts of justice, and full opportunity of observing the demeanour of prisoners and witnesses in cases of criminal procedure, beg humbly to submit that, having heard the evidence adduced before the Special Commission, on the capital charge preferred against Thomas Maguire, private in the Royal Marines, we conscientiously believe that the said Thomas Maguire is innocent of the crime of which he has been convicted, and that his conviction has resulted from mistaken identity. We, therefore, pray that you will be pleased to advise her Majesty to grant her most gracious pardon to the said Thomas Maguire.