Life of John Boyle O'Reilly/Chapter 9
The Cruise of the Catalpa—The English Government Rejects the Petition of One Hundred and Forty Members of Parliament for the Pardon of the Soldier Convicts—John Devoy and John Breslin Plan their Rescue—Good Work of the Clan-na-Gael—The Dream of O'Reilly and Hathaway Fulfilled—The Catalpa Defies a British Gunboat, and Bears the Men in Safety to America.
JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY was now (1876), in his thirty-second year, happily blest with wife and children, entering on the sure road of literary fame and worldly prosperity. Under such conditions the shrewd man becomes conservative, the selfish man ungrateful, the weak man cowardly. But "the wise of Bohemia"—thank God—"are never shrewd." They do not become conservative, in the sense of abandoning the generous aspirations of their youth. Wiser he certainly grew with advancing years and responsibilities. He recognized, albeit with sufficient humility, that he stood as a representative of his countrymen in the eyes of a friendly but critical people. He perceived, also, and profited by, the mistakes of his ardent youth.
But he never used this clearer vision to see the errors of another with unkind eyes. He passed no harsh judgment on those who honestly differed with him as to the best method of righting the wrongs of his countrymen. He never faltered in comrade loyalty to the associates of his revolutionary days.
Six of those fellow rebels, less fortunate than himself, still wore the convict's garb, and toiled in the penal gangs of Western Australia.
Let it be set down to the credit of the Fenian cause, especially to that much abused body, the Clan-na-Gael, that half a score of years of change, discouragement, and defeat had not sufficed to make these forlorn men forgotten by their comrades. John Devoy, the whilom organizer of treason in the British army; John Breslin, the rescuer of James Stephens from Richmond Prison, and several other bold spirits on both sides of the Atlantic, remembered the men in bondage, held clandestine communication with them, and patiently awaited the chance of proving their devotion in the most practical way. O'Reilly was not a member of the Clan; but the Clan trusted him, as everybody did.
To him in due time came John Devoy with a scheme so audacious and romantic as to seem wildly impossible. Not only was the plan extravagant in its conception, but for its execution it needed the confidence and assistance of thousands of men belonging to a race who are said to be unable to keep a secret, and incapable of conspiring without betraying. Nevertheless, five thousand men of the Clan-na-Gael were taken into the confidence of the plotters. A large amount of money was needed, and it had to be raised by the contributions of these thousands. The plot was known to them for more than a twelvemonth, yet never a whisper of it reached any but friendly ears.
The plan, in brief, was to buy a ship, man her with hardy fellows who did not fear the consequences, and, sailing to Western Australia, rescue the life prisoners from their captivity. It meant, at the least calculation, an outlay of twenty thousand dollars, a voyage of thirty thousand miles, a forlorn hope, and a possible gibbet at the end.
O'Reilly proposed an amendment and it was adopted. It was to buy a whaling vessel, and send her ostensibly on a whaling cruise, thus averting the suspicion which would be sure to attach to a ship of any other description cruising in Western Australian waters. There was one man in all the world best fitted to give counsel and aid in such an enterprise, O'Reilly's old-time benefactor and friend. Captain Henry C. Hathaway, of New Bedford, Mass. He had retired from the perilous adventures of his youth, and, giving hostages to Fortune, had begun to receive the favors of Fortune in return; only his loyalty and courage had not changed with years. He entered into the plan with zeal, bringing to the council the best attributes of an American sailor, a warm heart and a cool head.
In the Pilot of May 27, 1876, appeared an editorial entitled, "Who are the Irish Political Prisoners?" It answered that, "There are seventeen Irishmen still in prison for the attempted revolution of '66 and '67. The leaders and organizers of that movement have been long at liberty, pardoned by the British Government. The men still confined were not leaders in the revolutionary movement, and the cruelty of their imprisonment was all the more inhuman when their subordinate position was considered. Thirteen of the seventeen prisoners were soldiers in the English army, and in a few months these men will have completed their tenth year in prison. The other four, Michael Davitt, John Wilson, Edward O'Meagher Condon, and Patrick Meledy, were civilians.
"Of the thirteen soldiers, ten were privates, one a corporal, and two color-sergeants. Five or six other soldiers were condemned but are now free—some by pardon, one by escape from Western Australia, and one by the hand of the great emancipator Death." The article goes on to say that among these soldiers were four especially distinguished. Color- Sergeant Charles Heapy McCarthy, a brave soldier who had served for thirteen years, and wore two medals for bravery in the Indian mutiny; Color-Sergeant Darragh, who was on the rolls for a commission for brave service during the Chinese war, and was a Protestant and an Orangeman; Corporal Thomas Chambers, confined in England, and Private James Wilson, in Western Australia, intellectually the best men of the military prisoners. Patrick Keating, of the Fifth Dragoons, had died in Western Australia.
One hundred and forty members of Parliament, including Mr. Bright, Mr. Plimsoll, Mr. Mundella, Mr. Pawcett, and many others of the ablest men of the House, presented a petition for the pardon of these men on the occasion of the Queen's accession to the title of Empress of India. It was rejected.
The next news of the unpardoned prisoners was contained in a cable message from London, dated June 6, 1876. "A dispatch from Melbourne, Australia, states that all the political prisoners confined in Western Australia have escaped on the American whale-ship Catalpa.
Commenting on this fact, the Pilot of June 17 said: "To one devoted man, more than to any other, the whole affair is creditable. He it was who, with the pitiful letters received from the prisoners in his hand, excited the sympathy of Irish conventions and individual men. The event proves the truth and devotedness of the man. We have asked him for permission to publish his name, but he will not allow us until the men are absolutely safe." That man was John Devoy.
Among Devoy's first confidants were John Kenneally and James McCarthy Fennell, two political prisoners who had been released in 1869. The Clan-na-Gael convention at Baltimore, in 1874, appointed as a committee to carry out the project, John Devoy, John W. Goff, Patrick Mahon, James Reynolds, and John C. Talbot. The dangerous role of active agent in the case was assigned to John Breslin, associated with whom was Thomas Desmond of San Francisco. The two sailed from that port for Sydney, New South Wales, September 13, 1875, arriving on October 16, and at once placing themselves in communication with friends of the prisoners. One of these was John King, another J. Edward Kelly, an ex-prisoner, who died afterward in Boston. Sympathizing miners in New Zealand, canvassed by the friends of King, contributed $4000, which proved very timely at an important crisis of the enterprise. Two other agents sent out by the revolutionary organization in Ireland also appeared on the scene. They were Denis F. McCarthy of Cork, Ireland, and John Walsh of Durham, England. They had $5000 capital with them, and were surprised and delighted on learning that a much more feasible scheme had been planned by the Americans. They volunteered their assistance and were assigned the duty of catting the telegraph wires after the escape should be effected. King was given the post of rear guard, to ride behind the rescued prisoners and notify them in case of pursuit. Breslin and Desmond, under the respective aliases of "Mr. Collins" and "Mr. Jones," arrived at Fremantle in November, 1875. They traveled, one first and the other second class, and did not appear to be acquainted with each other. Both men were well supplied with funds, and both showed good taste in horse flesh; regularly, once a week, or oftener, during the summer season, between November and April, hiring carriages and driving about the suburbs of the town. "Mr. Collins" appeared to be a capitalist, and interested himself in studying the resources of the country with a view to investment. The Governor of the place showed him the only lion in Fremantle, the great penal institution, which "Mr. Collins" visited more than once during his stay. During one of his visits, he conveyed a letter to the six political prisoners, and soon after met James Wilson, with whom he arranged the details of the escape. Wilson was to have his party ready on a certain day, with a pass to take them through the sentry lines, after achieving which they would find horses, weapons, and allies. The medium of communication was William Foley, ex-private of the Fifth Dragoon Guards. He had been found guilty of complicity in the Fenian movement and sent to Western Australia, where ill-treatment, insufficient food, and hard work shattered his strong constitution long before the expiration of his seven years' sentence. Just before the rescue was effected he was sent to England by his friends; thence he traveled to New York, where he died of his sufferings on the 1st of November following.
In the mean time the bark Catalpa, purchased by the Clan-na-Gael men, had sailed from New Bedford, the 29th of April, 1875. It was commanded by Captain Anthony, a native of Nantucket, and a cool, brave man. His first officer, Smith, was an American, of Scotch parentage; only one Irishman was among the crew, which was purposely selected by Captain Hathaway to consist of Malays, Kanakas, and Portuguese negroes, with one or two whites. It was necessary that the ship should present in every respect the appearance of a genuine whaler. Captain Anthony had a roving charter, "To go where I liked, stay as long as I pleased, and return home when I got ready. I was to be at Australia in the spring of 1876 to co-operate with Fenian agents for the release of six prisoners confined at Fremantle."
The Catalpa cruised for a year, capturing one whale in the North Atlantic, from which $11,000 were realized, and on the 1st of March, 1876, arrived at Bunbury, Western Australia. Captain Anthony's story is as terse as a log book: "We cleared at Teneriffe on the 10th of November for River La Platte and other places beyond the seas; did not go to the river, but sailed direct for Bunbury on the west coast of Australia, arriving the last of March. The day after arrival, received a telegram from Fremantle, signed J. Collins, as followed: 'Any news from New Bedford? When are you going to Fremantle.' I answered, 'No news from New Bedford; shall not go to Fremantle.'"
Two days later "Collins" came from Fremantle and took lodgings in the hotel at which Captain Anthony was staying. He was introduced to the latter, who invited him on board his ship. There Breslin and Anthony studied the chart of the coast and decided upon their plans. The next day the coasting steamer Georgette stopped at Bunbury on her way to Fremantle. Anthony and Breslin went as passengers; the former, as a fellow sailor, made acquaintance with the Captain of the Georgette, who gave him all the information he desired in regard to the course taken by vessels in those waters, the soundings, etc. On arriving at Fremantle they were surprised to find a British gunboat in the harbor, and decided to defer operations until her departure. Anthony remained at Fremantle five days, driving with Breslin over the twenty-three miles of road between that place and Rockingham, which was to be their point of departure. At Rockingham they planted stakes to mark the spot at which Anthony's whaleboat was to land in the night for the prisoners. Before parting they arranged a cipher code for telegraphing. "When the ship was ready for sea," continues Captain Anthony, "I telegraphed the fact to Collins, stating that I should leave the next day. The next day there was a fierce storm and I could not leave, but I thought I would get away in time to carry out the plans, and so did not communicate with Collins. The day following I found that I could not get away; attempted to telegraph to Collins, but it was Good Friday, and the telegraph offices were not open. Pound the female operator, who said that the office could not be opened unless it was a case of 'life or death.' Told her it was more important than either, and she decided to send the message. As good luck would have it, the office at Fremantle was open, and the dispatch was received. Saturday morning I telegraphed to Collins, 'I shall certainly leave Bunbury for the whaling ground to-morrow; I suppose you and your friends start for York on Monday morning.'
"York is a small village, and according to our cipher it was to mean Bunbury. 'Collins' telegraphed back 'I wish you flood luck; I wish you would strike oil; au revoir.'"
The Catalpa sailed on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday noon was thirty miles southwest of Rottennest lighthouse, when Captain Anthony, with six of his best men, started in his whaleboat for the shore. The boat was manned with a third mate, two Portuguese, two Malays, and a native of St. Helena. "None of them," says Captain Anthony, "knew my errand, nor did any one on board the ship except my mate, who was informed when the ship was six months out; told the boat's crew I was going to Fremantle for an anchor to supply the place of one that was broken in the gale at Bunbury. I kept it a secret from my boat's crew, for their own good, knowing that there was a great chance of our being caught, and feeling that in such a case their ignorance would clear them." (There is a good deal of unassuming chivalry in this last simple statement.)
The boat arrived at the Rockingham shore at eight o'clock Sunday evening. At daylight next morning they saw a party of five men working at a jetty about a quarter of a mile away.
"One of them came down and began questioning me; told him the same as I had told the men, that I was bound to Fremantle for an anchor to supply the place of one broken; had got so far and had stopped to rest. He did not appear satisfied, and intimated that we were deserters. Convinced him that we were not by showing him that I was master of the ship. On inquiry, I found that the men at work at the quay went there to load timber on the steamer Georgette, which was hourly expected to take it on board. Things now looked slightly squally; my boat's crew began to grow uneasy at remaining so long on shore without any apparent object. I told them to obey my orders and no harm would come to them. I told them, also, that when I gave the order to man the boat and pull off, they must do it in a hurry. This seemed to cause them more uneasiness than before; but it was now after ten o'clock, and I knew the men would be alongside soon."
Leaving Captain Anthony and his uneasy miscellaneous crew for the moment, we will let John Breslin take up his story. The following is his graphic narrative:
With regard to the method or plan of communication between the prisoners themselves, it may be well to state that their good conduct and length of imprisonment had entitled them to the rank of constable, which enabled them to communicate with each other with greater ease and freedom than the other prisoners. Wilson and Harrington worked in the same party at the construction of harbor works in Fremantle. Hogan was a painter by trade, and on the morning of the escape was employed painting the house of Mr. Fauntleroy, outside the prison walls. Cranston was employed in the stores, and as messenger occasionally. Darragh was clerk and attendant to the Church of England chaplain, and enjoyed considerable facilities for communicating with the other prisoners, and on the morning of the escape took Hassett with him to plant potatoes in the garden of Mr. Broomhole, the clerk of works for the convict department.
After breakfast on the morning of the 17th of April, all the political prisoners were engaged outside the prison wall. Cranston passed out as if going on a message, and, having overtaken the warder who was marching the working party in which Wilson and Harrington worked, showed him a key, and told him he had been sent to take Wilson and Harrington to move some furniture in the Governor's house, which was the nearest point to where they expected to meet me. The warder told Wilson and Harrington to go with Cranston, and they marched off. Darragh took Hassett, as if going to work, in the same direction, and was joined by Hogan, who made an excuse for temporary absence to the warder who had charge of him. Both parties met at the Rockingham road.I now drove on, letting King fall behind, and in half an hour was close behind Desmond. We held on without accident or incident until we reached the Rocking Hotel, when Somers, the proprietor, who knew me, called out to know what time the Georgette was expected to be at the timber jetty. I told him the Georgette was at the jetty in Fremantle when I left, but I did not know when she would be at Rockingham. At 10.30 a.m. we made the beach and got aboard the whale-boat. The men had been instructed to stow themselves in the smallest possible space., so as not to interfere with the men at the oars, and in a few moments all was ready and the word was given to shove off. Under the powerful strokes of the whalemen the boat had made two miles out to sea before the mounted police, who had promptly taken the alarm, had arrived at the spot to recover the horses and wagons used in the escape.
In the mean time the wind and sea had arisen, the boat's course was dead to windward, and the ship invisible below the horizon. Presently the wind changed a little and the crew hoisted a small sail. They soon sighted the ship and were fast overhauling her when a squall struck them, carrying away their mast and sail. They pulled wearily ahead for two hours longer; then set the jib on an oar. The heavily laden, boat continually shipped seas over the stern, keeping the men engaged in baling her out. So they worked all through the stormy night, hungry, tired, and soaking wet. At daylight they sighted the ship again and tried to signal her, but in vain. Fortunately for themselves, as it proved, their little boat was not visible in the waste of waters, for the Government steamer Georgette came presently out of Fremantle harbor, steering straight for the Catalpa. The men in the boat took in the small jib which they had hoisted and again resumed their work at the oars. The Georgette was seen to go out to the Catalpa, parley awhile with her, then steam in toward the shore, making a complete circuit around the boat without perceiving it.
Another enemy was also in sight, the coast-guard boat, which went out toward the Catalpa as the Georgette came back from her, thus intending to head off the fugitives wherever they might be. The men in the whaleboat again hoisted their little sail and made for the ship, which at last sighted and bore down toward them. As it did so, the coast-guard boat also discovered the boat and made sail in the hope of intercepting it. So close was the race that the Catalpa, reaching the boat first, did not wait for the passengers to swarm up the sides, but lowering the falls, grappled it fore and aft, and hoisted boat, men, and all on board.
Immediately Breslin and his men went below, where they armed themselves, with the full determination not to be taken alive. The coast-guard boat drew off after witnessing the escape and identifying several of the prisoners.
"We have not done with you yet," shouted the inspector of the water police, as Captain Anthony, turning to Breslin, said, "What now, Mr. Collins?" "Put to sea," was the answer, and the captain thundered out, "'Bout ship; put to sea."
At 6.30 on the following morning the Catalpa was overhauled by the Georgette, which fired a shot across her bows.
The captain of the Georgette spoke through his trumpet, "Heave to."
Captain Anthony answered, "What for? "
The steamer replied, "You have six Crown prisoners on board."
Anthony answered, "I have no prisoners here."
"May I come on board?" was the next question from the Georgette.
Anthony quickly sent back the answer, "No, sir."
"I see the prisoners on the deck," came from the steamer.
Captain Anthony ordered his men to stand up to show there were no prisoners there (the prisoners were at this time below).
Colonel Harvest, who was in command of the troops, then spoke to the Catalpa: "You are amenable to British laws. Heave to, or I'll blow your mast out."
"I know no British laws," said the captain of the whaler.
"I have telegraphed to your Government, and I find you are amenable to me," said Harvest.
Anthony replied, "I'm bound for sea; I cannot wait."
Colonel Harvest then shouted, "I'll give you fifteen minutes to surrender. May I come on board, sir? "
"No, sir!" said Anthony, so decidedly as not to be mistaken.
During the altercation between the bark and the steamer, "Collins" called the men, and said, "What had we better do, men?"
They replied resolutely, "Sink or swim, no surrender!"
The mate, Mr. Smith, then deliberately said, "By —— we'll sink under that flag before we'll give it up."
He got his rifles, whale lances, and harpoons ready, and also some heavy logs to sink any boat coming alongside; the whale-guns were loaded, and every man had fifty rounds of rifle and pistol cartridges, and stood ready.
After an interval Colonel Harvest again asked: "May we come on board?"
Then Anthony's clear voice again rang out, but louder than before, "No, sir!"
"Collins" observed by this time that the Georgette was following up the Catalpa and trying to hedge her in to the land. He communicated his suspicions to the captain, who cried out, "'Bout ship, keep off to sea."
The Catalpa's sails filled, and her bow was directed amidships of the Georgette. As she gathered way, the police boat, being in some danger of being cut in two, backed hastily out. Then, after following the Catalpa a short distance, she swung around slowly and went home to report the failure of a very vain attempt, that of beating an American in the national game of "bluff."
There was one incident of this daring enterprise which completed its dramatic intensity. The soldier convicts in Fremantle numbered one more than those who were rescued. That one was purposely left behind, because of an act of treachery which he had attempted against his fellows ten long years before. He was tried with the others, by court-martial, and found guilty of treason; but before his sentence received the approval of the Commander-in-Chief he had offered to divulge the names of certain of his comrades not yet arrested, though implicated in the Fenian conspiracy. His offer was not accepted. The Government punished him for his treason, and his comrades, half a score of years afterward, punished him more cruelly for the treason which he had contemplated against them.
There was also an interesting sequel to the affair. The city marshal of New Bedford, some time in August, received a formidable document bearing the following address:
On Public service Only.
Via San Francisco and Sidney.
The Officer in charge of Police Department,
United States of America.
The contents were as follows:
Chief Office, Perth, Western Australia,
April 18, 1876.
James Darragh, 9707, life sentence, 2d. March, 1866, aged 42, Fenian, absconded from Freemantle, 8.30 a. m., April 17, 1876.
Martin Hogan, 9767, sentence, life, August 21, 1866, aged 37, Fenian, absconded as above.
Michael Harrington, 9757, life sentence, July 7, 1866, 48 years, Fenian, absconded as above.
Thomas Hassett, 9758, life sentence, June 26, 1866, Fenian, absconded, etc.
Robert Cranston, 9702, life sentence, June 26, 1866, Fenian, absconded, etc.
James Wilson, 9915, life sentence, Aug. 20, 1866, age 40, absconded, etc.
N. B.—Martin Hogan's marks include the letter D on his left side; so do those of Michael Harrington, Thomas Hassett, and James Wilson. April 18, 1876.
Sir,—I beg to inform you that on the 17th instant the imperial convicts named in the margin absconded from the convict settlement at Freemantle, in this colony, and escaped from the colony in the American whaling bark Catalpa, G. Anthony master. This bark is from New Bedford, Massachusetts, U. S. A. The convicts were taken from the shore in a whaleboat belonging to the Catalpa, manned by Captain Anthony and six of the crew. The abettors were Collins, Jones, and Johnson.
I attach the description of each of the absconders, and have to request that you will be good enough to furnish me with any particulars you may be able to gather concerning them.
I have the honor to be, sir,
To the Officer in charge of the Police Department,
Now, the officer in charge of "Police Department, New Bedford, Massachusetts, U. S. A.," at this period was one Henry C. Hathaway, the same who had rescued John Boyle O'Reilly from captivity and who had helped to fit out the Catalpa. It is surmised that he did not show any undue zeal in aiding the Australian authorities to recover possession of the fugitives.
The Catalpa arrived at New York on Saturday, August 19. Five days later she came into the port of New Bedford, a great crowd assembling on the wharves to welcome her with cheers and booming of cannon. Next day a public reception was given to the heroes. John Boyle O' Reilly was the orator of the occasion. The following summary of his speech was published at the time. He said it was with no ordinary feelings that he was there. That he owed to New Bedford no ordinary debt, and would gladly have come a thousand miles to do honor to the New Bedford whalemen. Seven years of liberty and a happy home in a free country were his debt of gratitude, and when the close of his sentence came, in 1886, his debt to New Bedford might be grown too heavy to bear.
"They were there," he said, "to do honor and to show their gratitude to the man who had done a brave and wonderful deed. The self sacrifice and unfailing devotion of him who had taken his life in his hand and beached his whaleboat on the penal colony, defying its fearful laws, defying the gallows and the chain-gang, in order to keep faith with the men who had placed their trust in him—this is almost beyond belief in our selfish and commonplace time.
"There are sides to this question worth looking at. To Irishmen it was significant in manifold ways, one of which was that these men, being soldiers, could not be left in prison without demoralizing the Irishmen in the English army, who would not forget that their comrades had been forsaken and left to die in confinement when the civilian leaders of the movement had been set free. But the spirit that prompted their release was larger and nobler than this, and its beauty could be appreciated by all men, partaking as it did of the universal instinct of humanity to love their race and their native land.
"England said that the rescue was a lawless and disgraceful filibustering raid. Not so; if these men were criminals the rescue would be criminal, but they were political offenders against England, not against law, or order, or religion. They had lain in prison for ten years, with millions of their countrymen asking their release, imploring England, against their will to beg, to set these men at liberty. Had England done so it would have partially disarmed Ireland. A generous act by England would be reciprocated instantly by millions of the warmest hearts in the world. But she is blind as of old; blind, and arrogant, and cruel. She would not release the men; she scorned to give Ireland an answer. She called the prisoners cowardly criminals, not political offenders . . . .
"When the ship sailed and was a long time at sea, doubts and fears for the safety of the enterprise were sure to come, but Captain Hathaway said once and always, 'the man who engaged to do this will keep that engagement, or he wont come out of the penal colony.'"
After describing some of his experiences in the penal colony, Mr. O'Reilly pointed to the bronzed and worn face of Mr. Hassett, one of the rescued prisoners, and said: "Look at that man sitting there. Six years ago he escaped from his prison in the penal colony and fled into the bush, and lived there like a wild beast for a whole year, hunted from district to district, in a blind, but manful attempt to win his liberty. When England said the rescue was illegal, America could answer, as the Anti-Slavery men answered when they attacked the Constitution, as England herself answered in the cause of Poland: 'We have acted from a higher law than your written constitution and treaties—the law of God and humanity.' It was in obedience to this supreme law that Captain Anthony rescued the prisoners, and pointed his finger at the Stars and Stripes when the English vessel threatened to fire on his ship.
"The Irishman," concluded Mr. O'Reilly "who could forget what the Stars and Stripes have done for his countrymen, deserves that in the time of need that flag shall forget him."
In the Pilot he gave the following sketch of the daring leader of the Catalpa exploit:
JOHN J. BRESLIN-THE MAN OF TWO RESCUES.
Out of all the incidents of the so-called "Fenian Movement," the most brilliantly daring have been two rescues of prisoners—namely, that of the Chief Organizer, James Stephens, from Richmond Prison, Dublin, in 1865, and of the six military prisoners from Western Australia last April. These two rescues are in many ways remarkable. Unlike almost every other enterprise of Fenianism, they have been completely successful; and, when completed, have been commented on in the same way, as "well done." Every other attempt or proposal has fallen through or ended with loss. The rescue of Kelly and Deasy from the police van in Manchester was successful so far as the release of the prisoners went; but it was bought with the lives of Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien, and the nine years' misery of Condon. The proposed attack on Chester Castle was discovered and prevented by the English government. The seizure of the Pigeon House Fort, with its armory, at Dublin, never emerged from the stage of dreamland. The attempt to blow up Clerkenwell Prison, London, to release Rickard Burke, was a disastrous failure, by which nothing was accomplished, by which many suffered, the lives of several poor working people were sacrificed, and the wretched lodging-house homes of others destroyed.
But the rescue of James Stephens, even while the government was gloating over his capture, was as unexpected and thorough as if the man had vanished in smoke. No one suffered from it—at least from English law—no one was arrested; neither the government nor the public ever knew how or by whom it was accomplished. The man or men who did the work claimed no recompense either of money or notoriety. Two thousand pounds reward failed to elicit the slightest clew. The thing was cleverly, cleanly, bravely done, and those who knew of it knew how to keep the secret.
The recent rescue of the six military prisoners from the penal colony of West Australia was performed in a similar manner, as to daring, silence, and complete success. Looking back on it, no one can say that aught was forgotten or left to chance. With admirable deliberation every inch of the train was laid, every sporadic interest was attended to, and the eventful rescue was carried out to the prearranged letter with scientific precision. As in the escape of Stephens, no trail remained; no one left in the trap; no price paid in human life or suffering. It was a clean thing from beginning to end; it was "well done."
They have a resemblance, these two rescues, and so they ought to have—for the same mind planned and the same hands carried both to a conclusion.
In both these desperate undertakings, John Breslin was "the man in the gap." In both John Devoy was his careful, patient, forethoughtful fellow-worker. Such men are not paid in words,—they are of that mold that draw their reward from the inner consciousness of achievement. But there is a public good in upholding the deed of bravery, modesty, and devotion; there is the highest teaching in silent, manly purpose; and Mr. Breslin and Mr. Devoy must pardon us for criticising their work without their consent. John J. Breslin has lived in Boston for many years. A man of few words, of small acquaintance, earning his bread in unassuming ways—few knew, and to few were shown, the culture and refinement behind the modest exterior. In thought and appearance eminently a gentleman; in demeanor dignified and reserved; In observance, rather distrustful, as if disappointed in his ideal man; somewhat cynical, perhaps, and often stubbornly prejudiced and unjust; a lover of and a successful worker in literature,—such is an outline of a character that may indeed be called extraordinary,—of a man who, if he break down the barrier of reserve that has hitherto hedged him round, has it in his hands to win brilliant distinction in any public career he may select.The Irish nationalists, owners of the bark Catalpa, disposed of the vessel in a generous and highly creditable' way. Mr. John Devoy, of New York, and Mr. Reynolds of New Haven, Conn., in whose name the Catalpa was entered, visited New Bedford in February, 1877, and presented the vessel, as she stood, with her whaling inventory, to the three men who best deserved her, namely, John E. Richardson, the agent; George S. Anthony, the captain, and Henry C. Hathaway, the Chief of Police, whose fidelity and sagacity had so much to do with the success of the rescue. Devoy and Reynolds also settled with the crew on most liberal terms. The total expense of the expedition was about $25,000.