Life of John Boyle O'Reilly/Chapter 17
Public Addresses—Author's Reading—The Irish Flag in New York—"Athletics and Manly Sport" Published—His Cruise in the Dismal Swamp—Interesting Letters to E. A. Moseley—Speech at the C. T. A. U. Banquet—Bayard, Chamberlain, and Sackville-West—Presidential Election—Poem on Crispus Attucks—Death of Corporal Chambers—Speech for the Heroes of Hull.
THERE was no trait of O'Reilly's character more gracious than the genuine delight which he felt in the discovery and recognition of any talent, literary or artistic, in a young neophyte. The delight was manifoldly enhanced when the candidate was one of his own race. He was one of the first to recognize and the most generous to encourage any aspirant for fame whose credentials bore the Gaelic stamp. More than half a score of poets and litterateurs in Boston alone, received their first welcome plaudits and substantial rewards from the kindly editor of the Pilot.
Toward the close of 1887 John Donoghue, a young sculptor, whom Oscar Wilde had "discovered" three or four years previously in Chicago, and who had successfully exhibited his works in the Paris salon, took up his residence in Boston. He exhibited three of his works in Boston in January, 1888, "The Young Sophokles," "The Hunting Nymph," and "The Boxer," this last being a statue from the life. His model was the famous pugilist, John L. Sullivan. O'Reilly wrote of it as follows:
But the latest work of John Donoghue is held by many—and certainly I am one of them—to be the greatest of the three. This is "The Boxer," which stands in the central carmine arch, filling the whole hall with its colossal strength, calmness and beauty. A beauty higher than that of the "Nymph," lovely as she is; more potent than that of "The Sophokles," with all his marvelous grace and eloquence. The others are imaginatively great; this is profoundly so. Not merely because it is an ambitious modernism, though this is much; nor that it is more or less a portrait of a world-renowned subject, which matters nothing for to-day, though it is likely to become a real value a hundred or a thousand years hence. But because it is, as all noble art must be, a symbol that is higher than a mere fact, or any thousand facts. It is absurd to say that this is a statue of Sullivan, the boxer, even though he posed for it. It is a hundred Sullivans in one. It is the essential meaning and expression of all such men as Sullivan. It is just what the great sculptor who conceived it calls it: "The Boxer," a personification of the power, will, grace, beauty, brutality, and majesty of the perfect pugilist of modern times.
It is a statue which, once seen, can never be forgotten. It is unlike all other statues in the world—as unlike the glorious "David" of Angelo as the "David" is unlike the "Discohulus" of the Athenian master.
One of the wonders of the exhibition is that the same man could produce all three statues. The "Nymph" no more resembles "The Boxer" than flowing water resembles ironstone. One illustrates the airy lightness of grace, peace, and freedom; the other the heavy purpose of violence, force, and domination. But as Nature is equally beautiful in every phase, so are these antipodal figures equal in beauty. The lilybends of the "Nymph," the lovely feet, hands, and throat, are not more beautiful of line or curve than the vast limits of the athlete. Standing at the farther end of the hall this may be clearly seen. At this distance the fell purpose of mouth and level eye is modified, and the dreadful threat of the brutal hands (the only brutal feature of the statue) is considerably lessened; but the grace of the muscular torso, the band-like muscles of neck, shoulders, and sides, and the wonderful modeling of the legs are seen with striking distinctness.
This statue stands for nineteenth century boxing for all time. There is no gloss of savagery in the dreadful hands and lowered frontal; but the truth is grandly told of the strength, quality, and physical perfection. It is the statue of a magnificent athlete, worthy of ancient Athens, and distinctly and proudly true of modern Boston.Strangers visiting Boston will ask for years to come: "Where is the statue of "The Boxer"? And should the city be fortunate enough and wise enough to keep this great work in immortal bronze in one of our halls or galleries, it is as sure to win international renown as the towering "Young David" in Florence.
Two Gladstonian envoys, Sir Thomas H. G. Esmonde and Mr. John Stuart, were given a public reception at the Hollis Street Theater, Boston, on the evening of January 29. O'Reilly, who was one of the speakers, said (I quote the reported synopsis of his speech):
An Author's Reading was given in aid of the Longfellow Memorial Fund at Saunder's Theater, Cambridge, Mass., on Monday evening, February 28. Among those who participated were Julia Ward Howe, Edward Everett Hale, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, William Winter, Louise Chandler Moulton, John Boyle O'Reilly, George Parsons Lathrop, Charles Follen Adams, and Charlotte Fiske Bates.
O'Reilly's appearance on the occasion was thus happily referred to in the Boston Transcript:
Something of a tempest in a teapot was stirred up in New York on St. Patrick's Day of this year, when Mayor Abram Hewitt refused to let the Irish flag be floated over City Hall, a courtesy which had been practiced for over ninety years. Mr. Hewitt had decorated the same building with bunting on the occasion of Queen Victoria's jubilee, as he had shown himself a pronounced Anglomaniac on many other occasions. The Irish-Americans, of course, did not claim as a right that which they had so long enjoyed as a courtesy. Mr. Hewitt's animus was unmistakable; but when a branch of the Irish National League in Dublin, Ireland, passed a resolution condemning the conduct of the New York Mayor, O'Reilly pronounced their action "a folly and an impertinence, also." He said:
Mayor Hewitt, sneaking into the office of the British Minister at Washington to explain why he had moved an anti-British resolution in Congress, proved himself to be an unreliable and unfriendly man, to be distrusted particularly by Irish- Americans.But when a resolution is passed in Ireland demanding that the Mayor of New York should hoist the Irish flag on the City Hall, as a right of "the Irish race throughout the world," we take sides with Mayor Hewitt; and we advise the Dublin branch of the National League that it has made a grave mistake that ought to be amended; and that the person who drafted the above resolution ought not to be trusted with the wording. of its withdrawal.
Mr. Hewitt failed of re-election, not because the Dublin National League had disapproved of his conduct, but because sensible Americans regarded him as a fidgety nuisance.
"In the month of May, 1888, two sunburned white men, in cedar canoes, turned at right angles from the broad waters of the Dismal Swamp Canal, and entered the dark and narrow channel, called the Feeder, that pierces the very heart of the swamp."
The two sunburned white men, thus mentioned by one of them, were Edward A. Moseley and John Boyle O' Reilly. It was their last canoeing trip together, and is picturesquely chronicled by O'Reilly's pen and Moseley's camera in the former's volume on "Athletics and Manly Sport," published in the same year by Ticknor & Co., Boston, and republished in a second edition, two years later, by the Pilot Publishing Co. It has a frontispiece portrait of Donoghue's statue, "The Boxer," and is dedicated:
TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT A LOVE FOR
INNOCENT SPORT, PLAYFUL EXERCISE,
AND ENJOYMENT OF NATURE,
IS A BLESSING INTENDED NOT ONLY FOR
THE YEARS OF BOYHOOD, BUT FOR
THE WHOLE LIFE OF A MAN.
In his introduction, recognizing the prejudice which exists against boxing, he quoted Bunyan's lines:
Some said, John, print it; others said, Not so;
Some said. It might do good; others said. No.
The book is a cyclopaedia of the history and evolution of pugilism, defending the exercise for its value as a developer of health and courage, and not extenuating the brutality, which too often accompanies the so-called "prize-fight." His directions concerning health and exercise have the advantage of being drawn from personal experience, for he was an "all-round" athlete, a fine boxer, a skilled and graceful fencer, and all but an amphibian in the water. Three short rules may be quoted at random, for their common sense quality:
The best exercise for a man, training for a boxing-match, is boxing; the next best is running.
The best exercise for a crew, training for a rowing-race, is rowing; the next best is running.
The best exercise for a man, training for a swimming-match, is swimming; the next best is running.
And so with other contests; running is not only second best, but is absolutely necessary in each, for running excels all exercises for developing "the wind."
Seventy pages of the book are devoted to a well-written and copiously illustrated article on "Ancient Irish Athletic Games, Exercises, and Weapons." But the part which will most interest the general reader is that, consisting of over two hundred pages, in which he narrates his canoeing trips on the Connecticut, the Susquehanna, the Delaware, and the Dismal Swamp. The shortsighted greed of man has prevented the reclamation of the Swamp. O'Reilly was a firm believer in the great resources of that region, now given over to the wild beast and the moccasin snake. He took pains on his return to make's its possibilities known to the world, and cherished hopes of living to see this rich, neglected Virginia tract converted into a beautiful, fertile, and healthful region.
His Dismal Swamp cruise was the last of the delightful outings that he was ever to enjoy. His companion and dear friend, Mr. Edward A. Moseley, of Washington, has kindly supplied me with some characteristic letters, written at this period, from which I take these interesting specimens:
The "Pilot," Boston, March 1, 1888
Get as much information as you can about the Swamp. I am with you. Always,
April 5, 1888;
Please let me know—are you going with me to the Dismal Swamp or not? I must make arrangements. I wrote you two weeks ago. Perhaps my letter has miscarried. Write, like a good old boy.
J. B. O'R
April 10, 1888.
I may have to ask you to start a week before the 7th of May; but I am trying to arrange it as I wrote last week. I have learned all about the Swamp. It is absolutely free from malaria. The water is wonderfully pure. Gen. Butler tells me it is the sweetest water in the country. We shall probably have to take a negro lad, who knows the Swamp, with us.
Be sure and have the camera in fine order, and lay in a complete stock of dry plates. The expense, dear Ned, must be more fairly divided this time. If you will send me word what plates to get, I will bring with me a hundred or more of the right kind. Don't delay; just write me the things to buy.
I will bring my gun; you get one also. Do you want any paddles, etc.? Find out at Norfolk, as early as you can, whether or not we can camp in the Swamp.
Good-by, dear old Mr. McGarvey.
J. B. O'R.
We will have a glorious time.
April 27, 1888.
I shall start on Saturday, May 5, arriving in Norfolk on Monday, 7th. I have got the plates (Seeds 5x8—four dozen). I shall bring your cushion along. Be sure and get long rubber boots, and better bring a gun—a light rifle if you can get it, as there are deer in the Swamp.
We want a reliable negro who knows the whole Swamp,—with a boat. If you are down there in time, look out for this fellow. Perhaps it would be well to go to the Swamp to get him. It is only an hour's ride there from Norfolk.
We will have a memorable time, old man.
Bring lots of good quinine. I will bring some also.
June 6, 1888.
If there be a map of the Dismal Swamp anywhere in Washington, please get it for our article. We need it badly.
Send me any other notes you may think of.
Send for the map at once. It must be engraved here.
J. B. O'R.
June 27, 1888.
.... Please see King and thank him for the antlers and maps (which I shall return safely in a week or two). Also ask him if he sent or instructed any one to send me a keg of wine. A keg of delicious wine came to me last week—no letter, no bill. I want to pay for it.
My article (four pages of Herald and Sun) will appear on Sunday, July 1—copious illustrations. I shall reproduce all the good plates in my book directly from the negatives. Send me everything you can about the Swamp.
My little Blanid has been very ill, dying almost, for two weeks. I could not write. I was up day and night. She is better now, thank God.
My love to you, dear Ned.
He enjoyed his trip through the Swamp amazingly, and was especially interested in its quaint human inhabitants, nearly all fugitive slaves or their descendants.
"His wonderful ability to place himself en rapport with all classes of men, and adapt himself to the capacity of others to understand him," writes his companion, Mr. Moseley, "was well illustrated in our Dismal Swamp trip, when the half-civilized blacks of that lonely region, many of whom had never been outside the dark recesses of the Swamp,—poor unfortunates, whose mentality was about as low as it is possible to imagine in a human being,—used to gather around our camp fire, and listen with bated breath while Boyle related to them, as only he could, the story of the wrongs and sufferings of Ireland, and told of the eight hundred years of oppression which yet had failed to destroy the Irish nationality and the Irish spirit and traditions; and so well did he present his theme, and so perfectly did he measure the language with which he clothed his eloquence by the rude intellectual standard of his audience, that he held them speechless and amazed at what was to them a wonderful romance."
The following clever parody on Moore's "Lake of the Dismal Swamp" went the rounds of the press apropos of O'Reilly's cruise:
He's off for a place rather cold and damp
For a soul so warm to woo;
He goes to explore the Dismal Swamp,
So weirdly sung by a poet-tramp
When the century was new.
And some sonorous song we soon may hear,
Or malarial lines may see,
For the Miasmatic Muse may bear
Some offspring meet for the laurel's wear,
Though derived from the cypress tree.
So the brakes among! Though the way is long
And no primrose path it be;
And what is there wrong in a plaintive song
For the juice of the grateful scuppernong
And the juniper jamboree?
No rill Heliconian to inspirate.
Nor fount of fair Castaly;
And the exhalations that exhalate
Are not the sort that invigorate
Or animate Poesie.
And yet to the fancy that sways supreme
These poetic, aesthetic souls
Here might haply seem Scamander's stream,
Or in rhapsodic dream where the waveless gleam
And my native Simois rolls.
O Pilot! there is a peril dread
Where the ignis fatuus lured,
And the wolf unfed and the copperhead
With the poisonous growth hung over head
Like a Damocletian sword!
But bon voyage, and no longer enlarge
On the terrors above defined.
We'll rout the band with Prospero's wand
And banish them (in our mind);
With carbolic hand disinfect the land
Nor leave a germ behind.
So in birchen boat, a bark of his own,
On that lake of somber hue.
Or on life's broad stream, wherever blown,
J. B. is quite able—so lave him alone —
To paddle his own canoe.
He received a more dainty compliment from far-away South America, about the same time. The charming love poem "Jacqueminots," has been set to music by two or three American composers. It had the honor of translation into the Spanish language by a Buenos Ayres author, who introduced it under the title "Yankee Poetry" as follows:
Poeias Yankee.—Un norte-americano residente en Buenos Aires ha traducido en verso espanol una composicion poetica publicada hace poco por uno de los diarios más acreditados y populares de los Estados Unidos: the Pilot de Boston. La circumstancia de haber side vertido á nuestro idioma por un extranjero, venciende diflcultades que fácilmente se adivinaii, unida al mérito relativo de la composicion, que lleva al pié un nombre ventajosamente conocido en el mundo literario norte-americano, nos induce á darle un lugar en nuestras columnas. Héla aquí:
[Traduccion del Ingles, por E. R.]
Yo no quiero, mi vida, con palabras
Manifestarle mi ansiedad de amores;
Pero deja que expresen lo que siento,
Con lenguaje de aromas, esas flores.
Que sus hojas purpureas te revelen
De mis deseos el prof undo arcano;
Que rueguen por sonrisas y por besos
Cual los campos por Uuvia en el verano.
Ah! mi querida, que tu faz trasluzca
El brillo de una tierna confesion;
Da a mis rosassiquiera una esperanza,
La esperanza que anhela el corazon.
Llevalas a tu seno, mi querida,
Despues que aspires su fragante olor;
Bebe en sue caliz mi pasion ardiente,
Su aroma es el perfume de mi amor.
Oh! mis rosas decidia, supplicantes,
Con lenguaje de aromas, sin alino,
Cuantos son los suspiros y las ausias
De un corazon sediento de carino.
Decidle, rosas, que en mi picho vense
Los lindos rasgos de su rostro impresos,
Que mis ojos la buscan, y mis labios
Estan pidiendo sus amantes besos.
The eighteenth annual convention of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union in America was held in Tremont Temple, Boston, on Wednesday and Thursday, August 1 and 2. Addresses were delivered by Rev. Father Thomas J. Conaty, of Worcester, Right Rev. Bishop Keane, rector of the American Catholic University, and other great temperance advocates. A banquet was given to the delegates by the Boston Arch-Diocesan Union, at the Waverly House, Charlestown, on the last evening of the convention. John Boyle O'Reilly responded for the press as follows:
To Americans of Irish extraction, particularly, your organization is a source of pride and pleasure, for those who are of Irish extraction or birth, and who are American citizens, know that your mission is necessarily largely directed to their people. Yet they come from no dissipated or immoral stock. They come from a country whose morals compare favorably with those of any country in the world.
Why it is that the slur of intemperance should be so constantly cast on the expatriated or emigrated Irish is a question of deep interest to men outside of your body. In the times of freedom, in their own country, they were never a drunken people. No missionary to Ireland has reported them as being a drunken or intemperate people, until comparatively recent times. And yet, because of their hospitable and warm-hearted natures, they may have been open to that charge.
But in the days of their freedom, when they made their mead, ale, and whisky, the Irish people were a sober people. When the Government took away from the people, and placed in the hands of distillers, the manufacture of these drinks, and imposed licenses upon it, the people got their drinks only when they went to the market, and at those times they took too much liquor. That was the real beginning of intemperance in Ireland. Intemperance went into Ireland with foreign rule and prohibition. The law of man sent intemperance among the Irish, and you are trying to take it out of them by a higher law than that of man—by the law of God.Again, when they came to this country with all their home ties broken, with no money in many instances, strangers in uncongenial communities, the desire of the Irish for fraternity, for meeting their kindred and friends when they could, furnished the great opportunity for the liquor seller; his saloon became the accustomed place of meeting. You will find (and I say it as an outsider who has given the subject some consideration) that the saloon-keeper among the Irish people in this country is nearly always an emigrant. There are very few Irish-Americans born in this country who have gone into the liquor trade. The people coming here from Ireland were unskilled. The thousands or tens of thousand industries which enter into the life of a prosperous nation were taken away from Ireland. The ship-building, the mining, the iron works, the carriage-building, the potteries, the mills, and the weaving, all those industries that Ireland had even up to one hundred years ago, were swept away and the manual skill of the people was deliberately stolen from them. They were left with no opportunities whatever of acquiring knowledge other than that which pertained to the servile work of tilling the land, while the land was held by strangers. In Ireland a man with seven sons had seven farm laborers in his house; in Boston, for instance, the same man would have seven sons at useful and perhaps different occupations. That is the reason why many of the men coming from Ireland, notwithstanding they were provident, thrifty and ambitious, were tempted to go into the liquor business as a means of acquiring money rapidly. That is one of the considerations which I think ought to be remembered by your organization as a reason for dealing leniently with men in that traffic. But I believe that of all the classes affected by it, the first to relieve itself from the influence of the saloon is going to be the Irish- American class, because of these two facts: That we are not drunkards; that we come from no degraded or immoral stock; and because we are learning all the manifold industries and means of making an honorable living which are open to us in our American business centers.
Secretary Bayard's novel attempt to settle the fisheries disputes between the United States and England, on the basis of giving the latter country all that she asked and something more, resulted in the appointment of a commission by the two governments. The commissioner selected to represent the British Government was Joseph Chamberlain, M.P. The reference to arbitration was made against the wishes of Congress, and of the people whose interests were most immediately concerned, the American fishermen. These facts alone would have been sufficient to endanger the success of the mission; the appointment of such a man as Chamberlain insured its failure. O'Reilly predicted: "When the farce is over, no doubt the Senate will quietly shelve Mr. Bayard's new treaty and that will be the end of the matter until the humiliating experiences of 1886 and 1887 are repeated in the season of 1888. After which the deluge, and a presidential election."
Whatever hope there might have been for the treaty was dispelled by Mr. Chamberlain himself, who, on the eve of his departure for the field of his mission, made a flippant and foolish speech, in which he insulted Irish-Americans and sneered at the people of Canada, whose interests he was supposed to champion. "A foreign commissioner," wrote O'Reilly, "who begins by wantonly offending twenty millions of sensitive, active Americans, may be let alone to work his own cure." To complete the offensiveness of his conduct, the commissioner was escorted by a bodyguard of detectives on landing in the United States, professing to fear personal violence from the Irish-Americans. "Mr. Chamberlain need have no fear for his life," said O'Reilly; "it is only the public or spiritual part of Mr. Chamberlain that excites aversion, and that he is surely killing himself. The bodily part can live on, carrying the suicidal corpse of his reputation as an example and a warning to other 'radical statesmen.' " Mr. Chamberlain was not killed, he was not even insulted. His advent would have been of very little importance, one way or another, save for the fact that it contributed materially to the killing of something infinitely more valuable than himself, a Democratic Administration.
In the heat and fury of the national election, an incident occurred which came very near turning the scales in favor of President Cleveland's re-election. The British Minister to Washington, Lord Sackville-West, received in September, from Pomona, Cal., a letter signed " Charles F. Murchison," which purported to be the inquiry of a naturalized British-American, asking the representative of the Government which he, the writer, had sworn to abjure, for instruction as to how he should vote in .the pending election. The letter was a forgery, but it achieved its end by entrapping the stupid Minister into replying as follows:
Beverly, Mass., September 13, 1888.
I am in receipt of your letter of the 4th inst. and beg to say that I fully appreciate the difficulty in which you find yourself in casting your vote. You are probably aware that any political party which openly favored the mother country at the present moment would lose popularity, and that the party in power is fully aware of this fact. The party, however, is, I believe, still desirous of maintaining friendly relations with Great Britain, and is still as desirous of settling all questions with Canada which have been unfortunately reopened since the rejection of the Treaty by the Republican majority in the Senate and by the President's message to which you allude. All allowances must, therefore, be made for the political situation as regards the Presidential election thus created. It is, however, impossible to predict the course which President Cleveland may pursue in the matter of retaliation should he be elected, but there is every reason to believe that, while upholding the position he has taken, he will manifest a spirit of conciliation in dealing with the question involved in his message. I inclose an article from the New York Times of August 22, and remain,
L. S. Sackville-West.
So astounding a breach of diplomatic courtesy could not be passed over. President Cleveland recognized at once the fatal importance of such an indorsement from the national enemy of America, and demanded the immediate recall of the indiscreet envoy. As the British Government delayed and temporized, Secretary Bayard, by direction of the President, wrote to Minister West notifying him:
The British lion roared. Lord Salisbury lost his temper and denounced the Administration which had so promptly "flipped out" a British Minister. The Tory papers commented on the "boorish rudeness of the American Government," the blame of which they laid on the Irish-Americans, especially naming two, O'Reilly and Collins.
The London Daily Chronicle clamored for war, saying:
The "man 0'Reilly," of whom Sir William Vernon Harcourt had never heard four years before, became very well known to the British Government through this incident. He became even better known when the Extradition Treaty, carefully amended so as to cover the cases of political offenders like himself, was kicked out of the United States Senate.
O'Reilly had supported the candidacy of Cleveland, but the President, handicapped by the unpopularity of some of his cabinet and diplomatic appointees, was defeated by a small majority.
The monument to Crispus Attucks was unveiled on Wednesday, November 14, dedicatory services being held in Faneuil Hall. Rev. A. Chamberlain read O'Reilly's poem, entitled, "Crispus Attucks, Negro Patriot—Killed in Boston, March 5, 1770," with its scathing indictment of the Tory:
Patrician, aristocrat, Tory—whatever his age or name.
To the people's rights and liberties, a traitor ever the same.
The natural crowd is a mob to him, their prayer a vulgar rhyme;
The free man's speech is sedition, and the patriot's deed a crime;
Whatever the race, the law, the land,—whatever the time or throne,—
The Tory is always a traitor to every class but his own.
Rev. J.R. Slattery, superior of negro missions in the South, wrote:
"Crispus Attucks" got me up to white heat: it will tell. "By the tea that is brewing still," is unrivaled. For years it has been my conviction that the South will eventually be ruled by the negroes, and for the reasons given by Mr. O'Reilly.
"There is never a legal sin but grows to the law's disaster;
The master shall drop the whip, and the slave shall enslave the master."
At the special request of the colored citizens of Boston, O'Reilly read the poem for them on Tuesday, December 18, at the colored church in Charles Street, prefacing it with a short speech, in which he said:
He had delivered a course of lectures in the Southwest in the preceding month, and saw with burning indignation the social ostracism to which colore, men were subjected in public places throughout various parts of that section, and came home more than ever an advocate of the oppressed black man.
Another delegation of Irish Nationalists came to America in October; they were Sir Thomas Henry Grattan Esmonde and Arthur O'Connor, members of Parliament. They were given an enthusiastic reception at the Boston Theater on the evening of October 9, Governor Ames presiding.
O'Reilly had not come prepared to address the meeting, but the repeated calls of the people drew out the following brief response, the allusion to General Paine being in connection with the victory of the latter' s yacht, Volunteer, in defense of the America's cup:
I had not thought of being called on, but I say to Sir Thomas Esmonde to-night that he might come to America, with all the men with titles in England, and they never would get such a reception as he will get from Boston to the Pacific. I saw in an English paper that he had gone away from his class for the association of common people. You are speaking (turning to Mr. Esmonde) in England to 30,000,000 people; in America you are speaking to 60,000,000 people. We have forty cities here bigger than any city but London in Great Britain. From the Gulf of Mexico to Canada and from Boston to the Pacific the blood of the people goes out to you, not because you are an aristocrat with an English title, but because you are an Irishman, a patriot, a gentleman with pluck, courage, and sacrificial strength in you. I ask you, sir, do you regret any class you have abandoned to come to the welcome of this pulsing, human, American-liberty-loving blood of the world, instead of a class?
Jolin Breslin, the gallant leader of the Catalpa rescue, died in New York on November 18. To the last hour of his life he remained a firm believer in revolution as the only true remedy for Ireland's wrongs. In his dying utterances the name of his country was constantly on his lips.
On December 2, O'Reilly's life-long friend and comrade in treason, imprisonment, and exile, Corporal Thomas Chambers, died at the Carney Hospital, Boston, a prematurely aged man, whose vitality. had been fatally undermined in the swamps of Dartmoor. "In his case, at least," wrote O'Reilly, "England's vengeance was complete; the rebel's life was turned into a torture, and his earthly career arrested by the deadly seeds of early decay." Chambers was set free when it was seen that he was no longer a danger to the empire. He had spent fourteen years in prison. About six months before his death O'Reilly had him placed in the Carney Hospital, where he received the tenderest care and attention. Of him he said:
O'Reilly forgot, or seldom mentioned, the indignities heaped on himself by his English jailers, but he never forgot nor forgave those endured by poor, light-hearted, long-suffering Chambers. While he lay, awaiting sentence, in Arbor Hill Prison, Dublin, in 1866, he wrote as follows concerning the first of those cruelties inflicted on his boyish fellow-rebel, in a letter (worth quoting at length) which he had smuggled out of prison, and addressed:
TO ALL THE DEAR ONES OUTSIDE.
Late in November, 1888, a furious tempest raged over Massachusetts Bay, and three vessels were driven ashore on the beach of Hull, where was O'Reilly's summer residence. Fifteen brave fishermen of the village put out through the boiling surf, and, laboring for half a day, rescued twenty-eight lives. The Hull Yacht Club gave a dinner at the Parker House, Boston, on December 22, having for its guests Mayor-elect Hart, John Boyle O'Reilly, Commodore B. W. Crowninshield, Captain Joshua James of the Hull life-saving crew, and Mr. Taylor Harrington. Speeches laudatory of the heroes were made, Commodore Rice especially eulogizing them as a type of "Anglo-Saxon courage." O'Reilly responding to the toast, "The Heroes of Hull," praised the English life-saving service and those of other European countries, but claimed the first place for that of the United States. "The Massachusetts Humane Society," he said, "has now five stations on Nantasket Beach, and every one of those stations is in charge of one brave and devoted man—one man who assisted at the saving of over 130 lives—the gallant man who is your guest this evening—Captain Joshua James. I do not know how to proceed when I come to speak of such a man—brave, simple, modest, unconscious of his heroism—who has again and again been rewarded and honored and medaled for deeds of extraordinary courage and self-sacrifice in the saving of life on the coast."
After graphically describing the latest exploit of Captain James and his crew, he said:
O'Reilly remembered his life-saving friends, a year later, when an opportunity arose of his being serviceable to one of the heroes. Thanks to his masterly presentation of the case, the following letter was favorably considered by the National Life-saving Service Department. It is addressed to Hon. Edward A. Moseley:
I shall be in Washington on the evening of November 9, at the Riggs House. I lecture for some charity next day, Sunday.
I want you to do me and the Hull public and humanity generally a great favor. (I am still living at Hull,—in the new house.) Captain Joshua James, the chief of the new United States life-savmg crew at Hull, has not yet appointed his men. He told me last night that he wanted a first-class man as No. 1 of the crew, and that the best man in Hull, and one of the ablest surfmen on the whole coast, Alonzo Mitchell, was a year over the official age. I know Alonzo Mitchell, and he is all he says—a brave, powerful, cool-headed, experienced surf man; and a younger man than you or I.
What I want you to do is to ask Mr. Kimball to allow Capt. James to appoint Alonzo Mitchell. Capt. James is otherwise hampered in the restrictions regarding relatives, for all our regular Hull fishermen are intermarried in the most extraordinary way. But this really ought to be allowed. It gives Capt. James as second the very best man in the town, his own selection, in whom he has complete confidence.
Will you kindly urge this on Mr. Kimball, and let me know the result?
And I am always affectionately yours,
John Boyle O'Reilly.
- Evidently a playful nickname of Mr. Moseley.