The Dock and the Scaffold

Part 1 out of 2


The Manchester Tragedy and the Cruise of the Jacknell



"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

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

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

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

"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

"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

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--


[Illustration: "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.

This was a startling event; it was a proceeding utterly without
precedent. Nothing but the most extraordinary circumstances could have
called it forth. The blunder of the jury must have been open, glaring,
painfully notorious, indeed, when such an astonishing course was
adopted by the whole staff of the English Press.

It was most embarrassing. For what had those newspaper reporters seen
or heard that the jurors had not seen and heard?--and yet the jurors
said Maguire was guilty. What had those reporters seen or heard that
the judges had not seen and heard?--and yet the judges said they
"fully concurred in the verdict of the jury." The reporters were not
sworn on the Evangelists of God to give a true deliverance--but the
jurors were. The reporters were not sworn to administer justice--were
not dressed in ermine--were not bound to be men of legal ability,
judicial calmness, wisdom, and impartiality--but the judges were. Yet
the unsworn reporters told the government Maguire was an innocent man;
while judge and jury told the government--_swore_ to it--that he was a
guilty murderer!

What was the government to do? Was it to act on the verdict of
newspaper reporters who had happened to be present at this trial,
and not on the verdict of the jury who had been solemnly sworn in the
case? Behind the reporters' verdict lay the huge sustaining power of
almost universal conviction, mysteriously felt and owned, though as
yet nowhere expressed. Everyone who had calmly and dispassionately
weighed the evidence, arrived at conclusions identical with those of
the Press jury, and utterly opposed to those of the sworn jury. The
ministers themselves--it was a terribly embarassing truth to own--felt
that the reporters were as surely right as the jurors were surely
wrong. But what were they to do? What a frightful imputation would
public admission of that fact cast upon the twelve sworn jurors--upon
the two judges? What a damning imputation on their judgment or their
impartiality! Was it to be admitted that newspaper reporters could
be right in a case so awful, where twelve sworn jurors and two judges
were wrong?

And then, look at the consequences. The five men were convicted
in the one verdict. There were not five separate verdicts, but
one indivisible verdict. If the (jurors') verdict were publicly
vitiated--if the government confessed or admitted that verdict to be
false--it was not one man, but five men, who were affected by it.
To be sure the reporters' jury, in _their_ verdict, did not include
Allen, O'Brien, Larkin, and Shore; but was it to be conveyed by
implication that omission from the reporters' verdict of acquittal was
more fatal to a man than inclusion in the verdict of guilty by a sworn
jury? Might not twenty, or thirty, or forty men, quite as intelligent
as the reporters, be soon forthcoming to testify as forcibly of Allen,
O'Brien, Larkin, and Shore, as the Press-men had testified of Maguire?
Was it only _reporters_ whose judgment could set aside the verdict of
sworn jurors, endorsed by ermined judges? But, in any event, the five
men were convicted by the one verdict. To cut that, loosed all--not
necessarily in law, perhaps, but inevitably as regarded public
conscience and universal judgment; for there was not in all the
records of English jurisprudence a precedent for executing men on a
verdict acknowledged to have been one of blunder or perjury. Clearly,
if the jurors were to be told by the government that, in a case
where life and death hung on the issue, they had been so blinded
by excitement, passion, or prejudice, that they declared to be a
guilty murderer a man whose innocence was patent even to unofficial
lookers-on in court, the moral value of such a verdict was
gone--ruined for ever; and to hang _anyone_ on such a verdict--_on
that identical verdict, thus blasted and abandoned_--would, it was
pointed out, be murder, for all its technical legality; neither more
nor less, morally, than cool, deliberate, cold-blooded murder.

Everybody saw this; but everyone in England saw also the awkward
difficulty of the case. For, to let Allen, O'Brien, Larkin, and
Shore go free of death, in the face of their admitted complicity in
the rescue, would baulk the national demand for vengeance. It was
necessary that some one should be executed. Here were men who, though
they almost certainly had had no hand in causing, even accidentally,
the death of Brett, dared to boast of their participation in the
affray in the course of which that lamentable event unhappily
occurred--that rescue which had so painfully wounded and humiliated
English national pride. If these men were saved from execution,
owing to any foolish scruples about hanging a possibly--nay,
probably--innocent man along with them, a shout of rage would
ascend from that virtuous nation amongst whom Charlotte Winsor, the
professional infant-murderess, walks a free woman, notwithstanding a
jury's verdict of wilful murder and a judge's sentence of death.

So, for a time it seemed that, notwithstanding the verdict of the
reporters, the government would act upon the verdict of the jury, and
assume it to be correct. No doubt Maguire might be innocent, but it
was his misfortune to be included in an indivisible verdict with other
men, who, though perhaps as guiltless as he of wilful murder, were
surely guilty of riot and rescue, aggravated by the utterance of the
most bitter reflections on the British Constitution, which all men
know to be the "envy of surrounding nations." If they were not guilty
of the crime laid against them on the trial, they were guilty of
something else--they had outraged British pride. It was necessary they
should die; and as Maguire's verdict was not separate from theirs, he
must die too, rather than that they should escape.

But after a while the idea gained ground in England that this would
be rather _too_ monstrous a proceeding. Maguire's utter innocence of
any participation whatsoever in the rescue was too notorious. The
character of the witnesses on whose evidence he was convicted became
known: some were thieves, pickpockets, or gaol-birds of some other
denomination; others were persons palpably confused by panic,
excitement, passion, or prejudice. True, these same witnesses were
those who likewise swore against Allen, Larkin, O'Brien and Shore.
Indeed, a greater number swore against Maguire than against some of
the others. Nevertheless, the overwhelming notoriety of the jury's
blunder or perjury, in at least his case, became daily more and more
an obstacle to his execution; and eventually, on the 21st of November,
it was announced that his conviction had been cancelled, by the only
means existing under the perfect laws of Great Britain--namely, a
"free _pardon_" for a crime never committed. The prison doors were
opened for Maguire; the sworn jurors were plainly told in effect
that their blunder or perjury had well-nigh done the murder of at
least one innocent man. The judges were in like manner told that
shorthand-writers had been more clear-headed or dispassionate to weigh
evidence and judge guilt than they. The indivisible verdict had been
openly proclaimed worthless.

The news was received with a sense of relief in Ireland, where the
wholesale recklessness of the swearing, and the transparent falseness
of the verdict had, from the first, created intense indignation and
resentment. Everyone knew and saw that, whatever might have been the
participation of those men in the rescue of Colonel Kelly, they had
not had a fair trial; nay, that their so-called trial was an outrage
on all law and justice; that witnesses, jurors and judges, were in the
full fierce heat of excitement, panic, and passion--much more ready
to swear evidence, to find verdicts, and to pass sentences against
innocent men than they themselves were, perhaps, conscious of while
labouring under such influences. The public and official recognition
of the falseness and injustice of the Manchester verdict was therefore
hailed with intense satisfaction.

Maguire was at once liberated; Allen, Larkin, Shore, and O'Brien
were still detained in custody. It was universally concluded that,
notwithstanding the abandonment by the Crown of the verdict on which
they had been sentenced, they, because of their admitted complicity
in the rescue, would be held to imprisonment--probably penal
servitude--for a term of years. Considerable astonishment was excited,
some days subsequently to Maguire's pardon, by a statement that, in
the case of the other prisoners included in the verdict, "the law
should take its course." No one credited this declaration for an
instant, and most persons felt that the Crown officials were indulging
in an indecent piece of mockery. Amidst this universal incredulity,
however--this disdainful and indignant disbelief--the prisoners'
solicitor, Mr. Roberts, vigilant and untiring to the last, took the
necessary steps to pray arrest of execution pending decision of the
serious law points raised on the trial. Some of the most eminent
counsel in England certified solemnly that these points were of the
gravest nature, and would, in their opinion, be fully established on
argument before the judges; in which event the conviction would be
legally quashed, independently of the substantial abandonment of it as
false and untenable by the Crown in Maguire's case.

The first idea of the merest possibility--the faintest chance--of
the remaining four men being executed on the vitiated verdict, arose
when it became known that the judges, or some of them, had informally
declared to the government (without waiting to hear any argument on
the subject) that the points raised by the prisoners' counsel were
not tenable, or were not of force. Mr. Roberts was officially informed
that the sentence would infallibly be carried out. By this time barely
a few days remained of the interval previous to the date fixed for
the execution, and the strangest sensations swayed the public mind in
Ireland. Even still, no one would seriously credit that men would be
put to death on a verdict notoriously false. Some persons who proposed
memorials to the Queen were met on all hands with the answer that it
was all "acting" on the part of the government; that, even though it
should be at the foot of the scaffold, the men would be reprieved;
that the government would not--_dare not_--take away human life on a
verdict already vitiated and abandoned as a perjury or blunder.

The day of doom approached; and now, as it came nearer and nearer,
a painful and sickening alternation of incredulity and horror surged
through every Irish heart. Meanwhile, the Press of England, on
both sides of the Channel, kept up a ceaseless cry for blood. The
government were told that to let these men off, innocent or guilty,
would be "weakness." They were called upon to be "firm"--that is, to
hang first, and reflect afterwards. As the 23rd of November drew near,
the opinion began to gain ground, even in England, that things had
been too hastily done--that the whole trial bore all the traces of
panic--and that, if a few weeks were given for alarm and passion
to calm down, not a voice would approve the Manchester verdict.
Perceiving this--perceiving that time or opportunity for reflection,
or for the subsidence of panic, would almost certainly snatch its prey
from vengeance--a deafening yell arose from the raving creatures of
blood-hunger, demanding that not a day, not an hour, not a second,
should be granted to the condemned.

Still the Irish people would not credit that, far towards the close of
the nineteenth century, an act so dreadful durst be done.

During all this time the condemned lay in Salford gaol, tortured by
the suspense inevitably created by Maguire's reprieve. Although every
effort was made by their friends to keep them from grasping at or
indulging in hope, the all-significant fact of that release seemed
to imperatively forbid the idea of their being executed on a verdict
whose falseness was thus confessed. The moment, however, that the
singular conduct of the judges in London defeated the application of
Mr. Roberts, they, one and all, resigned themselves to the worst;
and while their fellow-countrymen at home were still utterly and
scornfully incredulous on the subject, devoted their remaining hours
exclusively to spiritual preparation for death upon the scaffold.

It was now that each character "rushed to its index." It was
now--within the very shadow of death--in the most awful crisis that
can test the soul--that these men rose into the grandeur and sublimity
of true heroism. They looked death in the face with serene and
cheerful composure. So far from requiring consolation, it was they
who strove most earnestly to console the grieving friends they were
leaving behind; imploring of them to exhibit resignation to the will
of God, and assuring them that, ignominious as was death upon the
gallows, and terrible as was the idea of suffering such a fate
unjustly, it was "not hard to die" with a clear and tranquil
conscience, as they were dying, for the cause of native land.

It may be questioned whether the martyrology of any nation in history
can exhibit anything more noble, more edifying--more elevating and
inspiring--than the last hours of these doomed Irishmen. Their
every thought, their every utterance, was full of tenderness and
holiness--full of firmness and cheerful acceptance of God's will.
The farewell letters addressed by them to their relatives and
friends--from which we take a few--amply illustrate the truth of
the foregoing observations. Here is O'Brien's last letter to his

New Bailey Prison, Salford,

Nov. 14th, 1867.

My dear brother--I have been intending to write to you
for some time, but having seen a letter from a Mr. Moore,
addressed to the governor of this prison, and knowing from
that that you must be in a disagreeable state of suspense, I
may therefore let you know how I am at once. With reference
to the trial and all connected with it, it was unfair from
beginning to end; and if I should die in consequence it will
injure my murderers more than it will injure me. Why should I
fear to die, innocent as I am of the charge which a prejudiced
jury, assisted by perjured witnesses, found me guilty of? I
will do judge and jury the justice of saying they believed
me guilty of being--a citizen of the United States, a friend
to liberty, a hater of relentless cruelty, and therefore
no friend to the British government, as it exists in our
beautiful island. I must say, though much I would like to
live, that I cannot regret dying in the cause of Liberty and
Ireland. It has been made dear to me by the sufferings of its
people, by the martyrdom and exile of its best and noblest
sons. The priest, the scholar, the soldier, the saint, have
suffered and died, proudly, nobly: and why should I shrink
from death in a cause made holy and glorious by the numbers
of its martyrs and the heroism of its supporters, as well as
by its justice? You don't, and never shall, forget that Peter
O'Neill Crowley died only a short time since, in this cause.

"Far dearer the grave or the prison,
Illum'd by one patriot name,
Than the trophies of all who have risen
On liberty's ruins to fame."

I should feel ashamed of my manhood if I thought myself
capable of doing anything mean to save my life, to get out
of here, or for any other selfish purpose. Let no man think
a cause is lost because some suffer for it. It is only a
proof that those who suffer are in earnest, and should be an
incentive to others to be equally so--to do their duty with
firmness, justice, and disinterestedness. _I feel confident
of the ultimate success of the Irish cause, as I do of my
own existence._ God, in His great mercy and goodness, will
strengthen the arm of the patriot, and give him wisdom to
free his country. Let us hope that He, in His wisdom, is only
trying our patience. The greater its sufferings, the more
glorious will He make the future of our unfortunate country
and its people.

The shriek of the famine-stricken mother and the helpless
infant, as well as the centuries of misery, call to heaven
for vengeance. God is slow, but just! The blood of Tone,
Fitzgerald, Emmett, and others has been shed--how much good
has it done the tyrant and the robber? None. Smith O'Brien,
McManus, and Mitchel suffered for Ireland, yet not their
sufferings, nor those of O'Donovan (Bossa) and his companions,
deterred Burke, McAfferty, and their friends from doing their
duty. Neither shall the sufferings of my companions, nor mine,
hinder my countrymen from taking their part in the inevitable
struggle, but rather nerve their arms to strike. I would write
on this subject at greater length, but I hope that I have
written enough to show you that if a man dies for liberty, his
memory lives in the breasts of the good and virtuous. You will
also see that there is no necessity for my father, mother,
sisters or relations fretting about me. When I leave this
world it will be (with God's help) to go to a better, to join
the angels and saints of God, and sing His praises for all
eternity. I leave a world of suffering for one of eternal joy
and happiness. I have been to Holy Communion, and, please God,
intend going shortly again. I am sorry we cannot hear Mass;
the good priest is not allowed to say it in this prison.

Give my love to my father and mother, to Mary, Ellen, John
Phillips, Tim, Catherine, uncles, aunts, and cousins.


From your affectionate brother,

MICHAEL O'BRIEN (_alias_ William Gould).

The following is one of Allen's letters to his relatives, written the
day before his execution:--

Salford, New Bailey Prison, Nov. 23rd, 1867.


I suppose this is my last letter to you at this side of the
grave. Oh, dear uncle and aunt, if you reflect on it, it
is nothing. I am dying an honourable death: I am dying _for
Ireland_--dying for the land that gave me birth--dying for
the Island of Saints--and dying for liberty. Every generation
of our countrymen has suffered; and where is the Irish heart
could stand by unmoved? I should like to know what trouble,
what passion, what mischief could separate the true Irish
heart from its own native isle. Dear uncle and aunt, it is
sad to be parting you all, at my early age; but we must all
die some day or another. A few hours more and I will breathe
my last, and on English soil. Oh, that I could be buried in
Ireland! What a happiness it would be to all my friends, and
to myself--where my countrymen could kneel on my grave. I
cannot express what joy it afforded me, when I found Aunt
Sarah and you were admitted. Dear uncle, I am sure it was not
a very pleasant place I had to receive you and my aunt; but
we must put up with all trials until we depart this life. I am
sure it will grieve you very much to leave me in such a place,
on the evidence of such characters as the witnesses were that
swore my life away. But I forgive them, and may God forgive
them. I am dying, thank God! an Irishman and a Christian.
Give my love to all friends; same from your ever affectionate


Pray for us. Good bye, and remember me. Good bye, and may
heaven protect ye, is the last wish of your dying nephew,


Larkin was the only one of the condemned four who was married. There
were to weep his fall, besides his aged parents, a devoted wife
and three little children--all young; and it redounds rather to his
honour, that though flinching in nowise, lacking nought in courageous
firmness, home ties were painfully strong around his heart. With
him it was anguish indeed to part for ever the faithful wife and the
little ones who used to nestle in his bosom. Ah! he was never more to
feel those little arms twining round his neck--never more to see those
infant faces gazing into his own--never more to part the flaxen curls
over each unfurrowed brow! Henceforth they would look for his coming
and hearken for his footfall in vain! They would call upon him, and be
answered only by the convulsive sobs of their widowed mother. And who
would now fill his place for them, even as bread-winner? Mayhap, when
he lay in the grave, these cherished little ones, for whom he would
draw the life-blood from his heart, would feel the hunger-pangs of
orphanage in squalid misery and obscurity! But no. If such a thought
approached Larkin's heart, it was at once repelled. Assuredly, he
had more faith in his countrymen--more faith in the fidelity and
generosity of his race--than to believe they would suffer one of those
orphans to want loving, helping, guiding hands. As he himself said, he
was not, after all, leaving them fatherless; he was bequeathing them
to Ireland and to God.

And the Father of the Fatherless, even on the instant, raised up a
friend for them--sent an angel missioner of blessed comfort to give
poor Larkin, even on the brink of the grave, assurance that no pang of
poverty should ever wound those little ones thus awfully bereaved. One
day the confessor met the prisoners with beaming face, holding in his
hand a letter. It was from the Dowager Marchioness of Queensbury, to
the condemned Irishmen in Salford gaol, and ran as follows:--


It may be that those few lines may minister some consolation
to you on your approaching departure from this world. I send
you by the hands of a faithful messenger some help for your
wife, or wives, and children, in their approaching irreparable
loss, and with the assurance that so long as I live they shall
be cared for to the utmost of my power.

Mr. M'Donnell, the bearer of this for me, will bring me their
address, and the address of the priest who attends you.

It will also be a comfort for your precious souls, to know
that we remember you here at the altar of God. where the daily
remembrance of that all-glorious sacrifice on Calvary, for you
all, is not neglected.

We have daily Mass for you here; and if it be so that it
please the good God to permit you thus to be called to Himself
on Saturday morning, the precious body and blood of our Lord
and Saviour and our Friend will be presented for you before
God, at eight o'clock, on that day--that blood so precious,
that cleanses from all sin. May your last words and thoughts
be Jesus. Rest on Him, who is faithful, and willing and
all-powerful to save. Rest on Him, and on His sacrifice on
that Cross for you, instead of you, and hear Him say, "_To-day
thou shalt be with me in Paradise_." Yet will we remember your
souls constantly at the altar of God, after your departure, as
well as those whom you leave in life.

Farewell! and may Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, save
us all, and give you His last blessing upon earth, and an
eternal continuance of it in heaven.


This letter enclosed L100. On hearing it read, poor Larkin burst into
tears; the other prisoners also were deeply affected. Surely, never
was act more noble! Never was woman's sex more exalted--never was
woman's mission more beautifully exemplified, than by this glorious
act of bravery, tenderness, and generosity.

Two days before the fatal 23rd, the calm resignation which the
condemned by this time enjoyed was once more cruelly disturbed, and
almost destroyed. Once again the government came to fill their hearts
with the torturing hope, if not, indeed, the strong conviction, that
after all, even though it should be at the foot of the gallows, they
would one and all be reprieved. _Another man of the five included in
the vitiated verdict was reprieved_--Shore was to have his sentence

This second reprieve was the most refined and subtle torture to
men who had made up their minds for the worst, and who, by God's
strengthening gracs, had already become, as it were, dead to the
world. It rendered the execution of the remaining men almost an
impossibility. Maguire notoriously was innocent even of complicity
in the rescue--the verdict of the sworn jury, concurred in by the
"learned judge," to the contrary notwithstanding. But _Shore_ was
_avowedly a full participator in the rescue_. He was no more, no less,
guilty than Allen, Larkin, O'Brien. In the dock he proudly gloried in
the fact. What wonder if the hapless three, as yet unrespited, found
the wild hope of life surging irresistibly through heart and brain!

To the eternal honour of the artisans of London be it told, they
signalized themselves in this crisis by a humanity, a generosity, that
will not soon be forgotten by Irishmen. At several crowded meetings
they adopted memorials to the government, praying for the respite
of the condemned Irishmen--or rather, protesting against their
contemplated execution. These memorials were pressed with a devoted
zeal that showed how deeply the honest hearts of English working-men
were stirred; but the newspaper press--the "high class" press
especially--the enlightened "public instructors"--howled at, reviled,
and decried these demonstrations of humanity. The Queen's officials
treated the petitions and petitioners with corresponding contempt;
and an endeavour to approach the Sovereign herself, then at Windsor;
resulted in the contumelious rejection from the palace gate of the
petitioners, who were mobbed and hooted by the tradesmen and flunkeys
of the royal household!

In Ireland, however, as might be supposed, the respite of Shore was
accepted as settling the question: there would be no execution. On the
21st of November men heard, indeed, that troops were being poured into
Manchester, that the streets were being barricaded, that the public
buildings were strongly guarded, and that special constables were
being sworn in by thousands. All this was laughed at as absurd parade.
Ready as were Irishmen to credit England with revengeful severity,
there was, in their opinion, nevertheless, a limit even to that.
To hang Allen, O'Brien, and Larkin now, on the broken-down verdict,
would, it was judged, be a measure of outrage which even the fiercest
hater of England would frankly declare too great for her.

A few there were, however, who did not view the situation thus. They
read in the respite of Shore, _fear_; and they gloomily reflected that
justice or magnanimity towards the weak seldom characterizes those who
exhibit cowardice towards the strong. _Shore was an American._ By this
simple sentence a flood of light is thrown on the fact of respiting
him alone amongst the four men admittedly concerned in the rescue.
Shore was an American. He had a country to avenge him if legally
slaughtered on a vitiated verdict. To hang _him_ was dangerous; but
as for Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien, _they had no country_ (in the same
sense) to avenge them. America was strong, but Ireland was weak. If
it was deemed dangerous to sport with the life of the American, it was
deemed safe to be brutal and merciless towards the Irishmen. On these
the full arrear of British vengeance might be glutted.

But there were not many to discern, in the first flush of its
proclamation, this sinister aspect of Shore's respite. The news
reached Ireland on Friday, 22nd November, and was, as we have already
said, generally deemed conclusive evidence that the next day would
bring like news in reference to Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien.

Early next morning--Saturday, 23rd November, 1867--men poured into the
cities and towns of Ireland reached by telegraphic communication, to
learn "the news from Manchester." Language literally fails to convey
an idea of the horror--the stupefaction--that ensued when that news
was read:--

"_This morning, at eight o'clock, the three condemned Fenians, Allen,
Larkin, and O'Brien, were executed in front of Sulford Gaol._"

Men gasped in awe-struck horror--speech seemed denied them. Could it
be a dream, or was this a reality? Had men lived to see the day when
such a deed could be done? For the reason that incredulity had been
so strong before, wild, haggard horror now sat on every countenance,
and froze the life-blood in every heart. Irishmen had lain quiescent,
persuaded that in this seventh decade of the nineteenth century, some
humanizing influences would be found to sway that power that in the
past, at least, had ever been so merciless to Irish victims. But now!

In that dreadful hour the gulf between the two nations seemed widened
and deepened, until it gaped and yawned wide, deep, and dark as hell
itself. There was a scowl on every brow. Men went about--sullen,
moody, silent, morose--with clenched teeth and darkened faces,
terrible passions raging in their bosoms. For all knew that the
sacrifice of those three Irish patriots was a cold-blooded and
cowardly act of English policy, more than a judicial proceeding--an
act of English panic, cowardice, hate, and terror. All knew that
Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien would never have been hanged on the
evidence of those forsworn witnesses, and on the verdict of that jury
whose perjury or blunder was openly confessed and proclaimed, but for
the political aspirations and designs of which the rescue was judged
to be an illustration. Had their offence been non-political, they
would not have been held a day on such a verdict. They were put
to death for their political opinions. They were put to death for
political reasons. Their execution was meant to strike terror into
Irishmen daring to mutter of liberty. Had they been Americans, like
Shore, they would have been respited; but as they were Irishmen, they
were immolated.

The full story of how those patriots met their fate at the last
reached Ireland two days afterwards, and intensified a thousandfold
the national emotions. Men were alternately melted into tears
or maddened into passion as they read that sad chapter of Irish

Even before the respite of Shore the government had commenced the most
formidable military preparations in view of the bloody act of State
policy designed for the 23rd. Troops were hurried by rail to all
the English cities and towns where an "Irish element" existed; and
Manchester itself resembled a city besieged. The authorities called
for "special constables," and, partly attracted by the plenteous
supply of drink and free feeding;[1] and partly impelled by their
savage fury against the "Hirish" or the "Fenians,"--suddenly become
convertible terms with English writers and speakers--a motley mass
of several thousands, mainly belonging to the most degraded of the
population, were enrolled. All the streets in the neighbourhood of the
prison were closed against public traffic, were occupied by police or
"specials," and were crossed at close intervals by ponderous wooden
barriers. Positions commanding the space in front of the scaffold were
strategetically scanned, "strengthened," and occupied by military. The
scaffold was erected in a space or gap made in the upper part of the
outer or boundary wall of the prison in New Bailey-street. The masonry
was removed to the width necessary for the scaffold, which was then
projected over the street, at the outer side of the wall. It was
approached or ascended from the prison yard below, by a long wooden
stair or stepladder, close alongside the wall on the inside. Against
the wall on the inner side, on either hand of the scaffold, were
erected platforms within about four feet below the wall coping.
These platforms were filled with soldiers, "crouching down," as the
reporters described, "with the muzzles of their rifles just resting on
the top of the wall." The space in the street immediately beneath the
scaffold was railed off by a strong wooden barrier, and outside this
barrier were massed the thousands of police, special constables, and

[Footnote 1: The Manchester papers inform us that the specials were
plentifully fed with hot pork pies and beer _ad libitum_, which seemed
to have a powerful effect in bringing in volunteers from the lower

On Friday the doomed men took leave for the last time of the few
relatives allowed to see them. The parting of Larkin and his family
is described as one of the most agonizing scenes ever witnessed. Poor
Allen, although not quite twenty years of age, was engaged to a young
girl whom he loved, and who loved him, most devotedly. She was sternly
refused the sad consolation of bidding him farewell. In the evening
the prisoners occupied themselves for some time in writing letters,
and each of them drew up a "declaration," which they committed to the
chaplain. They then gave not another thought to this world. From that
moment until all was over, their whole thoughts were centred in the
solemn occupation of preparing to meet their Creator. In these last
hours Father Gadd, the prison chaplain, was assisted by the Very
Rev. Canon Cantwell and the Rev. Father Quick, whose attentions were
unremitting to the end. From the first the prisoners exhibited a deep,
fervid religious spirit, which could scarcely have been surpassed
among the earliest Christian martyrs. They received Holy Communion
every alternate morning, and spent the greater part of their time
in spiritual devotion. On Friday evening they were locked up for
the night at the usual hour,--about half-past six o'clock. In their
cells they spent a long interval in prayer and meditation--disturbed
ever and anon, alas! by the shouts of brutal laughter and boisterous
choruses of the mob already assembled outside the prison walls. At
length the fated three sought their dungeon pallets for the last
time. "Strange as it may appear," says one of the Manchester papers
chronicling the execution, "those three men, standing on the brink
of the grave, and about to suffer an ignominious death, _slept
as soundly_ as had been their wont." Very "strange," no doubt, it
appeared to those accustomed to see _criminals_ die; but no marvel to
those who know how innocent men, at peace with God and man, can mount
the scaffold, and offer their lives a sacrifice for the cause of

Far differently that night was spent by the thronging countrymen of
Broadhead, who came as to a holiday to see the "Fenians" die. Early
on the preceding evening crowds had taken up their places wherever the
occupying bodies of military, police, or specials did not prevent; and
the pictures drawn of their conduct by the newspaper reporters, one
and all, are inexpressibly revolting. It was the usual English crowd
assembled to enjoy an execution. They made the air resound with
laughter at obscene jokes, shouts, cries and repartees; and chorused
in thousands [beneath the gallows!] snatches of "comic" ballads and
pot-house songs, varied by verses of "Rule, Brittania" and "God save
the Queen," by way of exultation over the Irish. Once or twice, in
the early part of the night, the police had to remove the mob from the
portion of the prison nearest the condemned cells, as the shouts and
songs were painfully disturbing the hapless men engaged at that moment
preparing for eternity.

Saturday, the 23rd November, dawned misty, murky, dull, and cold over
Salford. During the first hours after the past midnight the weather
had been clear and frosty, and a heavy hoar covered the ground; but as
daylight approached, a thick mist or fog crept like a pallid pall over
the waking city.

The condemned were roused from sound and tranquil slumbers about a
quarter to five o'clock. Having dressed, they attended Mass, Rev.
Canon Cantwell, Rev. Mr. Gadd, and Rev. Mr. Quick officiating. They
heard this, their last Mass, with a fervour and solemnity which no
words could describe. The Holy Sacrifice having been offered, the
condemned and the three priests remained in prayer and spiritual
exercises until seven o'clock, when the prisoners partook of
breakfast. "The last preparations," says an English eye-witness,
"were then begun. At twelve minutes to eight o'clock the executioner,
Calcraft, and his assistant, were introduced into the cell in which
the prisoners were placed, and the process of pinioning their arms
was gone through. The priests stood by the side of the unhappy men,


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