Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 41.djvu/341
Meanwhile (29 March) Mitchel had been sentenced to transportation. The confederate chiefs, who were fiercely denounced for their procrastination by some of their more violent followers, were thus compelled to take some decisive course. August was fixed as the date of a proposed insurrection, but no preparations were made, and O'Brien was still unable to abandon his delusive hope that support would be forthcoming from the Irish landed gentry. Meanwhile Lord Clarendon took immediate measures for the suppression of any disturbance, and Duffy, Martin, and others were arrested. O'Brien visited the south of Ireland for the purpose of organising that part of the country, and on his return to Dublin a war directory of five was appointed (21 July), consisting of Dillon, Meagher, O'Gorman, McGee, and Devin Reilly, O'Brien's name being omitted from the list by his own desire. On the following morning O'Brien started for Wexford in order to continue his tour of inspection. The same day the news reached Dublin that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act had been resolved on by the government, and Dillon, Meagher, and McGee joined O'Brien at Ballynakill. On hearing the news O'Brien agreed that they must fight, and at Enniscorthy (23 July) he announced his intention, though warned by the priest that the people were not prepared for war. Failing to raise Kilkenny, Carrick, or Cashel, O'Brien determined to fall back upon the rural districts, and on the 25th proceeded to Mullinahone, where the chapel bell was rung. A number of peasants armed with pikes answered his appeal, and some barricades were erected. There were, however, no provisions, and most of those who had joined the movement returned home on being told by O'Brien that they would have to procure food for themselves, ‘as he had no means of doing so, and did not mean to offer violence to any one's person or property’ (Fitzgerald, Personal Recollections of the Insurrection at Ballingarry, 1861, pp. 13–14). The succeeding three days were spent by O'Brien in endeavouring to gather adherents. On the 29th he attacked a body of police, numbering forty-six men, under the command of Sub-inspector Trant, who defended themselves in a house on Boulah Common, near Ballingarry. The scene of the encounter was known as widow McCormack's ‘cabbage garden.’ The attack failed, and the half-armed mob of disorganised peasants fled. With this pitiable incident the abortive insurrection terminated. O'Brien, for whose capture a reward of 500l. had been offered, successfully concealed himself from the police for several days. Tired of hiding, he determined to go straight home, and on 5 Aug. was arrested at the railway station at Thurles by Hulme, a guard in the employment of the railway company. O'Brien was sent by special train to Dublin the same day, and lodged in Kilmainham gaol. He was tried at Clonmel by a special commission, consisting of Lord chief-justice Blackburne, Lord chief-justice Doherty, and Mr. Justice Moore, on 28 Sept. 1848. He was defended by James Whiteside (afterwards lord chief-justice of the queen's bench) and Francis Alexander Fitzgerald (afterwards a baron of the exchequer). The trial lasted nine days, and on 7 Oct. he was found guilty of high treason, the verdict of the jury being accompanied by a unanimous recommendation that his life should be spared. On the 9th he was sentenced by Blackburne to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. The writ of error, which was subsequently brought on purely technical grounds, was decided against O'Brien on 16 Jan. 1849 by the Irish court of queen's bench, whose judgment was confirmed by the House of Lords on 11 May following (Clark and Finnelly, House of Lords Cases, 1851, ii. 465–96). On the motion of Lord John Russell the House of Commons on 18 May ordered the speaker to issue a writ for a new election for the county of Limerick ‘in the room of William Smith O'Brien, adjudged guilty of high treason’ (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. cv. 667–70). On the intimation to O'Brien that the queen had been advised to commute the sentence of death into transportation for life, he declared that he preferred death to transportation, and insisted that the government had no power to force him to accept the commutation of the sentence. Accordingly an ‘act to remove doubts concerning the transportation of offenders under judgment of death, to whom mercy may be extended in Ireland’ (12 & 13 Vict. c. 27), was rapidly passed through both houses, and received the royal assent on 26 June. On 29 July following O'Brien was sent on board the Swift from Kingstown to Tasmania. On reaching Hobart Town he refused a ticket-of-leave, which had been accepted by his companions in exile. He was accordingly confined on Maria Island, from which he made an ineffectual attempt to escape, and was subsequently removed to Port Arthur. Owing to ‘the statement made and repeated several times at long intervals by Lord Palmerston in the House of Com-
speech at the meeting of the Irish Confederation on the previous 15 March. He was defended by Isaac Butt, and the jury, being unable to agree, were discharged on the following morning without returning a verdict.