My Life in Two Hemispheres/Chapter 15

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CHAPTER IX


STRUGGLE WITH LORD CLARENDON FOR LIFE AND LIBERTY


Malice of the Government Press—Letters of an Irish Priest—Official notice to the Attorney-General and to the Sheriff against jury-packing—The Brothers Moran—"Creed of the Nation" suppressed—Determined to baffle and defeat the State prosecution—Policy of my counsel—Trenchant address to the Lord-Lieutenant against jury-packing—His reply dissected by the Irish Priest—Letter to Richard Sheil—Letter to T. B. Macaulay—Martin Burke and Mrs. Martin Burke—John Martin's opinion of my defence—My refusal to sanction Father Mathew's Defence Fund—The Irishman started as a pseudo-Nation—Tranquillity in Newgate—Letter from John O'Hagan to John Dillon on the condition and prospects of Ireland in 1849—Isaac Butt's design to enter Parliament—Meet Lalor for the first time—His policy—His release from prison—Subsequent letter from him—Letter from William Fagan on the intentions of Lord Clarendon.


I was the last of the State prisoners; the others had been snatched away one after another like the companions of Ulysses, and my turn was at hand. The situation was aggravated by the policy of the Government officials and the Government Press. I was greatly moved by the brutality of the Solicitor-General at Clonmel, and the official Press assailed me every week, and many times in the week, misrepresenting my character and policy with deliberate malice. A single paragraph from a letter of "The Irish Priest"[1] will help the reader to understand what I had to endure. Speaking of the Evening Post, the organ of the Irish Government, he said:—

"Three times a week these foul and fetid jaws were opened to vomit forth such abominable slanders as modest men could sometimes hardly read without a blush, and timid men out a shudder. If a convent were sacked in one place and its inmates violated; if a church were desecrated in another place; if in another a man's brains were dashed out or his throat cut; if anywhere some blasphemy uttered or some theory of organised plunder advanced—if there occurred an anti-social commotion among the canaille of the faubourgs or clubs of Paris, straightway these men, locked up in jail, were marked as the men who designed to introduce the same system and enact the same horrors in Ireland; straightway the Castle witch sent forth a direful howl and stretched out her long, brown, skinny arms to protect the altars and the homes of Irishmen from the demon assaults of Duffy and Meagher and the rest. The effect produced was really tremendous. The belief became very general among the readers of the Orange papers and the Evening Post that such must be the facts regarding the prisoners; they were stated so confidently, so circumstantially, so constantly."

One of the special lies that stung me floats still in my memory. Two young men named Moran were arrested for assaulting a policeman with a pistol and dagger, and the case was painted as one of shocking meanness and atrocity. It was immediately reported, at a safe distance, in the English papers, that they were well-known contributors to the Nation. By and by the "Morans of the Nation" became their ordinary title. I had never seen them, I had never heard of them, or from them, in my existence. They were as foreign to me as Prester John. How many of my jurors came into court believing them to be my colleagues and associates?

When these slanders were occupying every journal the Government could influence, my friends got the "Creed of the Nation" which was at this time an available brochure, sewed in among the advertisements attached to the Dublin University Magazine that it might vindicate the character of the Confederates among cultivated Unionists. It was merely setting up a finger post, but it was too much for the patience of the Castle. Colonel Browne, the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, ordered it to be torn out, and Mr. M'Glashan obeyed the order.

In the silence of my prison, meditating on the case, I was seized with the idea that there were two things I could do and ought to do. I might set my character fairly before all whom it concerned to understand it, and I might expose the base devices employed in the trials already held. Whispers continued to come to me of the peculiar enmity with which Lord Clarendon regarded me, and, meditating on the probable consequences I had to encounter, I suddenly determined to enlarge my design from a vindication of my character to a defence of my liberty and future life. Mr. Mitchel had warned the Viceroy that one of the two must be overthrown, and the stroke unhappily had fallen on the wrong one. The Confederates had frankly staked their lives in an attempt which the people did not support, and they necessarily failed. But was it not possible for me to do something rarer, to baffle and perhaps beat them in their dens of law, where juries were unblushingly packed and justice shamelessly parodied? I had been called the organiser of the party, and I resolved to strain every faculty to compass this work.

The story of my imprisonment and of the numerous indictments and trials which followed it, the protracted struggle and final defeat of the Government, have been told elsewhere in detail,[2] and I shall not repeat it here. But to preserve the continuity of the present narrative, I must fly through the principal events of that era, and fix their chronological relation to the story still untold. In the end I was the only prisoner not convicted (except Williams, let off by the connivance of the Crown Solicitor), and I now propose to make the reader understand how this marvellous result was brought about.

A consultation with my counsel was held in prison. The leader, Mr. Butt, to great rhetorical powers added a close familiarity with the law of State prosecutions, and a lively sympathy with the National- party, which now for the first time he avowed. The juniors were my friends, Sir Colman O'Loghlen and John O'Hagan, who bent their whole powers to second the leader.[3] The skill and assiduity of my counsel would count for much, but I felt that something more was necessary, for their skill and assiduity had not saved the prisoners already tried. I determined to carry the contest before the large court of popular opinion and to make it disagreeable and dangerous for the Executive to destroy me by the base methods they had employed against my colleagues. What I had to fear was a packed jury, that is, a jury composed of the political enemies of the prisoner. Up to the Solicitor-Generalship of Sir Michael O'Loghlen, a few years earlier, in political cases Catholics were universally excluded from juries, and with the Catholics those Protestants who were called liberal because they desired to abolish the penal practices which had outlived penal laws. O'Loghlen suspended the system, but in the O'Connell trial in 1844 Irish Tories revived it, and tried the Catholic chief of a Catholic nation by a jury and a court in which there was not a single Catholic. The Whig statesmen then in Opposition denounced this transaction unsparingly. Macaulay, who had the habit of laying his finger on the weak point, reminded the House of Commons that the law humanely provided that an alien must be tried by a mixed jury, half being foreigners, but an Irish Catholic in Ireland was tried by a jury composed exclusively of his opponents. The Catholic Bar in Ireland, which had become numerous, followed this lead, and held an aggregate meeting to denounce jury-packing, in which Richard Shiel took a leading part. It was less than four years since these things had happened, and the Whig orators were now Ministers of the Crown. The Irish barristers were its law officers, and credulous persons were confident that under such a régime political prisoners contending for changes in the Constitution would receive fair trial. But a fair trial was a phenomenon unknown in Ireland.

Mr. Martin, Mr. Williams, and Mr. O'Doherty were already tried, and every Catholic juror who took the Testament in his hand to be sworn, was ordered to stand aside by the Crown Solicitor, acting under the direction of the Attorney-General, Mr. Monahan. The old system, as it was administered in the darkest days of Protestant ascendancy, was revived by Catholic lawyers acting under the orders of Whig Ministers.[4]

It was plain to me that unless I could stop this practice the result was foredoomed. Rumours reached me through my counsel that my conviction was essential to the happiness of persons in authority, and that no stone, and no reversible coat, would be left unturned to obtain it. To defeat the jury-packers would revive the public spirit like a battle won in the field. My counsel were determined to exhaust the resources of the law in impeding and barring the prosecution wherever the Crown employed illegitimate methods, but the political part of the contest lay outside their domain, and to that I applied myself. This policy was beset with difficulties. To get the misfeasance of the Administration exposed seemed nearly impossible. The journals which had narrowly escaped prosecution were naturally the most timid and cautious, and as the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended the editors could be sent to prison at the pleasure of the Castle. Frederick Lucas in the Tablet, and "An Irish Priest" in the same journal, in letters of singular force and lucidity, enlightened opinion wherever the Tablet circulated, but there was silence in Dublin. Meditating on the difficulty in prison, I thought of a device which proved very successful. I drafted a notice to the Attorney-General, in which, after insisting on a prisoner's right to a fair trial, I recited in careful detail what had been done by his orders in the trials already held, and warned him that I should not consider a trial by a jury fabricated by the Castle the fair trial I was entitled to by law, but a manifestly foul trial, and a fraud on the administration of justice.

This paper, which carefully preserved the form usual in legal notices, and was studded with facts, was copied widely by the Press, and became familiar to journalists in both countries. I addressed a similar notice to the Sheriff who had framed the panels, specifying the Catholic and Liberal Protestant jurors whom he had omitted or postponed, pointing out the duty the law imposed upon him, and his shameful violation of it. The effect upon public opinion was considerable. Many Irish towns, among them my native town, spoke in the most decisive tone, demanding if this was the justice the Whigs desired to maintain in Ireland. The Irish electors in various English boroughs instructed their representatives to inquire whether they approved of the judicial system established in Ireland, and if not what they would do to control it? At last the smiling complacency of the Irish members was ruffled by so much clamour, and they sent a deputation to Lord Clarendon, then on a visit to London, to ascertain if the business could not be managed a little more decently, or at any rate a little more discreetly.

The Archbishop of Tuam suggested that the country should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion on these practices. A memorial to the Lord-Lieutenant was drawn up by the " Irish Priest," and revised by my counsel, which for unequivocal plain speaking resembled one of the trenchant addresses sent by the Corporation of London to George III. A single paragraph will sufficiently indicate its spirit:—

"Let your Excellency bear in mind that deeply at the root of the deadly hatred of English domination that festered in the hearts of the great mass of the Catholic population since that domination was first established over them, lies a feeling of utter distrust, and, in State Trials, of utter despair of an impartial administration of law"

In a brief time, in a country disheartened by famine and failure, it received more than forty thousand signatures, and the signatories included the men of foremost rank in the Church and in the professions. I advised that this address should be presented to the Lord- Lieutenant by a deputation whom he could not venture to treat with disrespect. This was done accordingly. Lord Clarendon read his reply with a manifest consciousness that he had a nation for an audience. It was elaborate and circumstantial, but absurdly fallacious. He had no control, he affirmed, over the Sheriff whose panel was assailed. Such a principle as excluding Catholics from juries had never once been propounded. If Catholics were set aside so also were Protestants, and more Protestants, he triumphantly added, than Catholics. The deputation were dumb from etiquette, but when these plausible propositions fell under the review of the "Irish Priest" they were pounded into dust. "He had no control over the Sheriff," but did he not select and appoint that officer, and was not the appointment transferred by Act of Parliament from the Dublin Corporation to the Viceroy precisely for purposes like these? Such a proposition as excluding Catholics had never been propounded. The complaint was not that it had been propounded, but that it had been practised at every single trial at Clonmel and Green Street. More Protestants than Catholics were set aside. "In the name of common sense (remarked the rigorous controversialist) what has this to do with the grievance complained of? Our grievance is that Protestants alone are thought fit to serve on juries. What matters it how many Protestants are excluded, if none but Protestants are included? 'The Attorney-General excluded more Protestants than Catholics.' Why, my lord, the objection was not that Catholics were excluded, but that all Catholics were excluded; that this was done systematically; that jury after jury was empannelled, and not one Catholic was allowed to remain on the jury."

Public opinion was now thoroughly roused, but it is possible that the policy of the Government was influenced at least in an equal degree by another and different stroke. Richard Sheil, whom I knew of old in Irish affairs, and who had been a leader of the movement against jury-packing in 1844, now held office in the Whig Government, and I determined to bring his professions and practice face to face. I wrote him this note:—

"I have just risen from re-reading your speech at the meeting in January, 1844, when all the Catholics were struck off the jury in the case of ' O'Connell and Other,' and I cannot resist the impulse of writing to you. Among these obscure and anonymous ' Others ' I, as you know, was one; and the day on which that speech was delivered I did not conceive it to be in the whole range of human probabilities that at a future trial I would have to apprehend a similar wrong from a Ministry of whom you were one. But so it stands. Mitch el, Martin, and O'Doherty, who have been already tried and convicted, were tried by juries on which there was not so much as one Catholic. And a similar one is predestined for me a week hence. Now, I am curious to know what you, Richard Sheil, the Catholic champion (of whom I have still certain boyish recollections not altogether effaced), think of this business? It will save you the embarrassment of weighing all the ingenious excuses for putting aside the particular Catholics in my case, which doubtless will be forthcoming at the proper time, if you consider the question now in the abstract, when the jury is not sworn, nor the panel so much as arrayed. For I forewarn you that it is determined to allow no Catholic on my jury—not one; no more than if John Keogh and all succeeding Catholic agitators had never existed. This is the fact we have to deal with in this nineteenth year after Emancipation.

"Perhaps a poor prisoner under the ban of the angry law has no right to trouble your repose with disagreeable questions. I trust, however, you will not think so; for I forewarn you that I promise myself an answer now or at some other time and place, when it will be still less agreeable to be questioned on this matter. Pack they my jury never so securely, you and I will meet again, where a thousand echoes will take up my question and repeat it in every tongue that has syllabled the name of Richard Sheil."

Mr. Macaulay, who was now a Cabinet Minister, had been emphatic against jury-packing four years earlier. The first volumes of his "History of England" were just published, in which he made execrable the jury-packing under James II. I thought it would be reasonable and pleasant to make the great Whig enemy of injustice compare what was done by Tories in England in the seventeenth century and by Whigs in Ireland five generations later. I enclosed the panel prepared for my trial, and bade him remark that it had practically the sanction and authority of the philosophical historian of the Jacobite era, who was also a Cabinet Minister. I was somewhat known to Mr. Macaulay; in 1843 he had done me the favour of sending me the three volumes of his essays with a friendly letter, and I might reasonably conclude that subsequent events had scarcely permitted me to vanish out of his memory. The panel contained this agreeable array of my peers and neighbours indifferently chosen:—

"The jeweller of the Lord- Lieutenant, the hairdresser of the Lord- Lieutenant, his Excellency's shoemaker, the chandler to the Chief Secretary, the bootmaker to the Commander of the Forces, the engineer to the Drainage Commissioners, the cutler, grocer, and purveyor to the Castle; the saddler and seedsman of a former Lord-Lieutenant, three Government contractors, a compositor in the College Printing Office, two vicars choral of St. Patrick's Cathedral, the auctioneer to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and the Consul of King Ernest of Hanover."

This model panel, which contained but twenty Catholics, who, by their position on it, were likely to be called upon before a jury was sworn, contained nevertheless eleven Englishmen or Scotchmen, and one Frenchman; and, though there were four thousand qualified persons from whom to select, it contained thirty jurors either challenged by the prisoner or set aside by the Crown on recent State trials.

There are critics, I make no doubt, who will consider these inquiries into the religion of jurors petty and sectarian; for is not a juror sworn to do his duty, whatever may be his creed? Quite so, but if the Stuarts had tried the seven bishops in Middlesex by a jury on which no Church of England Protestant was allowed to sit, or Balfour of Burleigh in Midlothian by a jury to which no Presbyterian was admitted, is it not reasonably probable that English history would have something to say on the subject?

These exposures made it discreditable and dangerous to array another jury on which there was no Catholic. A Catholic must be found, but the officials in the Sheriff's Office were confident they could find one who would do their work as submissively as an alderman of Skinner's Alley. Their choice fell on Martin Burke, the proprietor of an hotel frequented by the gentry, and a man long accustomed to consult their wishes. He was a Catholic by birth and practice, but he was what was called a prudent man—one who had never taken any part in Catholic agitation. I have described elsewhere[5] how I stubbornly resisted the advice of my friends and the decision of my counsel to object peremptorily to Mr. Burke when he was called, but I have not hitherto disclosed the grounds of my confidence in the suspected juror. The night before the trial Mrs. Burke called on my wife at Merton, and admonished her not to permit her husband to be objected to. "His daughter and myself," she said, "will take our seats in the gallery opposite him, and if the evidence enables an honest man to find a verdict of acquittal he need not return home if he goes against Mr. Duffy."

Mr. Burke was firm for an acquittal.[6]

It may be assumed that these exposures and this coup manqué made a recourse to the old system impossible and effectually secured my escape from conviction. They contributed largely to both these ends. But at least half my success was owing to Lord Clarendon's enmity and the illegitimate measures his law officers took to gratify it. I shall return to the theme presently, but I desire in the first place to pause for a moment on some transactions which occurred between my first trial and the final one.

John Martin, though a convict awaiting transportation in Richmond Bridewell, entered warmly into the spirit of this defence:—

"I was and am proud of your 'Notices.' I feel that the plan of defence adopted or permitted by the rest of us was not only wanting in provision for resisting the main body of the enemy's force—his jury-packers—but also wanting in moral dignity and suggestive of moral injury to our cause.

"Now, you may recollect, to my shame, that I have all along been talking mighty big about real constitution and real law, and yet I was too lazy and too cowardly to act in accordance with my own principles when I was to be put upon the country. But you, whom I used to scold for not fully agreeing in my doctrines about 'law' and 'constiution,' are taking the manlier, more citizen-like, and, may Heaven grant! the more effectual course of proceeding. … And though you know, Duffy, that I am so unfortunate as to differ from you on many points of policy, and upon at least one serious matter of personal feeling, I am proud to acknowledge in you, after glorious Davis, the father of the Irish National party and the chief writer of the party. But for the Nation, which your generous boldness and your fixedness of purpose and your able pen have maintained for the last six years as our standard and rallying point of patriotism, every one of us Confederates—even Mitchel—would have remained in dull, hopeless obscurity."

In the eighth month of my imprisonment, when my funds were nearly exhausted by a protracted contest with the Treasury, and no more funds could come in—as the Post Office sent all letters addressed to the editor of the Nation to the Castle, and prohibited my trustees from holding communication with me on the business of my personal property[7]—Father Mathew became apprehensive that I might be sacrificed for want of money to prolong my defence. This gracious friend, who had refrained from all participation in politics, communicated with a few persons of influence, and established a committee to collect a fund for this purpose. I first heard of this proposal by an announcement in the Press of a meeting of the committee at the Shelbourne Hotel. I did not doubt that the action was wise and generous in the abstract—many prisoners before and since have received such aid without discredit—but the management of the Repeal Funds created such distaste and even disgust with the manipulation of public money, that I was resolved I should never be the object of any pecuniary tribute whatever. I wrote to Father Mathew beseeching him not to proceed; his success, I assured him, would humiliate me. Enemies were free, if they thought fit, to affirm that I was an unprofitable servant of Ireland, they should never have any grounds for saying I was a mercenary one. Father Mathew reluctantly yielded to my wishes, and the project was dropped.

Public indignation took a form we little expected. A number of young men from the Dublin clubs were arrested for what was called the Crampton Court conspiracy—a plot to break open Newgate and set the political prisoners free.

As the New Year approached I read the amazing announcement that a new journal to be called the National, printed with the type and issued from the office of the Nation, and ostensibly owned by my late book-keeper, was about to appear. The design was that it should be regarded as my property, and should leap into the circulation won by the Nation. The projector and proprietor of this specious journal was Mr. Durham Dunlop, formerly editor of the Monitor, a Whig who probably had no deeper design than to make a little illegitimate profit. The book-keeper, Bernard Fulham, who since my imprisonment had been profuse in professions of devotion to his "dearly beloved friend and master,"[8] wanted employment, and fell cheerfully into the plot. The Government objected to the proposed title, but after some negotiations, in which Lord Clarendon granted an interview to Mr. Fulham, and doubtless ascertained the true state of the case, he permitted the journal to appear under the name of the Irishman. From the first issue it was sent to the agents and friends of the Nation, whose addresses Mr. Fulham copied from my books, and for a time was universally believed to be mine. On subsequent trial of the action, "Birch against Sir William Somerville," we discovered that one of the writers was Mr. Taylor, sub-editor of the World, a subsidised organ of Lord Clarendon, and that the editor was Mr. William Dunlop, who finally left the Irishman to write in a Conservative journal, the Daily Express. I sent from Newgate to the Irishman a denial of any connection or sympathy with the new paper, but it was not published; a paragraph was substituted declaring that I was not "the proprietor," which only confirmed the public belief that it was, at any rate, my organ. I caused a paragraph to be inserted in the Freeman's Journal, declaring that Mr. Gavan Duffy had "no connection whatever of any character with the Irishman, and had not any knowledge of its purpose, politics, managers, or any person or circumstance connected with it." But many of the readers of the new journal never saw this denial. Part of the disreputable game was to affect a deep interest in my fate, and articles and poems on this subject were common till I exposed the cheat, when the engine was promptly reversed. Finally Joseph Brenan and some of his associates, who had been club men, succeeded the original staff, and continued to manage it till Brenan had to fly to America for his connection with what is known as the Cappoquin Outbreak. After the revival of the Nation I explained the true state of the case, and the Irishman ended in the Insolvent Court.[9]

After the Clonmel trial visitors were excluded from Newgate, except my wife for an hour daily. No letters or papers were delivered. The only sound from the outer world that broke the solitude was the tramp of a sentinel outside my door. Books, however, were not taken away, or writing materials. This solitude struck the public imagination as appallingly desolate. But a friend who had been associated with me in the Nation understood the case better. "I envy you (he wrote) the profound tranquillity of a prison, to be alone after the stormy days of the Confederation, to have leisure for self-communion, certain that whatever may befall, it will find you prepared; that is surely peace and happiness." "Lost to virtue, lost to manly thought, lost to the nobler sallies of the soul, who thinks it solitude to be alone."

I have never, perhaps, passed periods of greater tranquillity than while I was a State prisoner. On the first occasion I was young (28 years of age) engaged in a generous struggle and suffering for it, and my leisure was devoted to study. On the second occasion, though a cause on which I had staked life and fortune was defeated, time had brought tranquillity. I had the sense of having done my duty, and the long, peaceful evenings spent in thought and lighted up with the hope of reviving the cause if I escaped conviction, have left a memory gentle and pensive, but by no means unpleasant.

Towards the close of my imprisonment it became evident that the country was beginning to regain heart. In after times John Dillon gave me a letter he received at this period from John O'Hagan, which assured him that whatever befell, the contest for Ireland would be soon renewed. It contains also some light on the question how our appeal to our friends in America for assistance in our enterprise fared:—


"Christmas, 1848.

"My Dear Dillon,—In the course of last July, just after the Ballingarry business, a gentleman came from New York, bringing with him M. O'F.'s watch as a token and money, £800 in notes and £200 in gold, for a certain purpose. As you and others were not to the fore he came to me and unfolded his purpose, without disclosing his name. I said the money was then utterly useless for that object, but that it would be most valuable as a fund for the defence of the political prisoners. He fully agreed that it ought to be dedicated to that end, but not conceiving that his commission authorised him to leave it for any purpose but one, he resolved to take it back with him, promising me, however, that when he arrived in America he would do his best to have the money remitted back here as a defence fund. Now, money is sadly wanted here to enable us to prosecute writs of error. Duffy is completely beggared, and the other men have little enough, and if then that £1,000 be still undisposed of, and you could get it remitted to R. O. G., or any one else here, it would be a Godsend for our poor friends.

"As to yourself, I saw the resolution of the American Bar admitting you, and was extremely gratified, and so was every one else. Of all the men implicated in the late affairs there was no one who excited more interest among friends and foes than you; no one for whose escape more joy was expressed. That you have a great career before you, and will not only be a happy man, but an eminent man in your new sphere I feel assured. Still you must keep your eye on Ireland. To serve her is your true mission.

"For us, I have still great hopes of this country, provided we succeed in saving Duffy. I cannot express how much I feel to depend on that. Let him be free to direct his labours to the reconstruction and proper direction of the Young I. party, and let Lucas come here to give a right bent to the priests, and we will be better before the wind than ever. We were very sanguine last week of succeeding in a plea in abatement in Duffy's case, but, contrary to all expectations, the judges (Perrin and Richards) decided against us. A demurrer is now being argued by Butt and O'Loghlen. A jury will not be sworn, I think, till Monday next. They have packed the panel infamously.—Ever my dear D., hoping to hear from you, your affectionate friend,

"John O'Hagan."


Isaac Butt thought the time was come when he might advantageously go into Parliament, and asked me to recommend him to a constituency, and to get O'Brien and Meagher to do the same. I was quite willing to do so if he made it possible by declaring himself a Nationalist. Meagher took the same ground. He wrote to me:—


"At the time Butt undertook my defence in the Sedition Case he assured me he would not have the slightest hesitation in avowing himself in favour of self-legislation; and I can't see why he should have changed his mind since then. Let him declare for the Constitution of '82, and no man was ever returned more triumphantly than he will be; the whole of Munster will be up for him, and he will be loved and worshipped by the people. In fact the tribuneship is vacant, and whoever had the genius and the boldness to step up to it, will win it amid the acclamations of the country. Butt has the genius—Heaven grant he may have the boldness!"

It was years before Butt acted on this counsel, but in the end he did what Meagher advised with all the results Meagher predicted.

Another evidence of growing confidence that all was not lost came from Samuel Ferguson. I take a single extract from a desultory and discursive diary written by fits and starts in prison:—

"I do not love to see visitors. Since Ballingarry there have not been half a dozen whom I would not willingly have avoided. Father Mathew was a signal exception; his sweet sympathetic disposition soothed my spirit. I was glad also to talk to Ferguson who came with Wilde the other day. He is persuaded that there will be a middle-class Protestant movement for some sort of legislature in Ireland, and that it will probably be successful."

Among the détenus transferred to Newgate was James Fintan Lalor, and as no restriction was placed on the intercourse of the political prisoners I took an early occasion of visiting him. This is the account of the visit in my diary:—

"I have seen Lalor for the first time in bed, poor fellow, with complicated maladies. Nature has been very unkind; he is almost a dwarf, near sighted, and with a face far from being winning or sympathetic. But he has a precious jewel in his head, which makes one speedily forget these drawbacks. His talk is original and vigorous, weighty with thought, and made bright and pleasant by a happy style. He is quite confident that this country, which was so recently appealed to in vain, is eager for an opportunity to fight, and may make a revolution before the end of 1850. His feeble frame is the vesture of an unconquerable soul, but he seems totally incapable of seeing facts which contradict his theory. He is without money, and though I have little enough it is the duty of one poor patriot to help another. Imprisonment is endangering his life, and I will move any one who can help to obtain his release, which ought not to be difficult, as he is only a Habeas Corpus prisoner. He has not forgiven John Mitchel for stealing his opinions and parading them as his own. He refused to write in the United Irishman, though Mitchel made various appeals to him, and when he came to write in the Felon he proceeded to condemn and reverse Mitchel's incredible policy of inciting a revolution without making any preparation for it. 'I was to blame,' he said, 'for not sending earlier to France and America, though Mitchel was proclaiming that it was a work of supererogation.' He spoke with appreciation of M'Gee, and said whenever the report of a Confederate meeting came down to Tinakill he read my speech first and M'Gee's second. I said I did not wonder at his reading M'Gee's eagerly, for it was generally the best—but why mine? 'Because,' he answered, 'I wanted to know what was going to be done, and I was sure to find it there.' He begged me to come back to him, which I shall certainly do."[10]

After Lalor's release from prison he wrote me this characteristic letter:—


"Dear Duffy,—I know and feel how heavily your own affairs must be pressing on your mind just now, yet I cannot help asking your advice and opinion as to how I ought to act under present circumstances, so far as you can give them, which I know can be but very imperfectly.

"I am urged by several parties, of different shades of green, to join them in a new movement. I can no longer delay giving an answer, one way or the other, and acting accordingly I must step out or stand by.

"There is a very general fermentation going on below the surface. The movement everywhere is running spontaneously into secret organisation, and I think natural tendency ought to be aided not interfered with.

"A new journal, conducting itself with prudence and propriety, would be indispensable to any new movement. Now, on this matter, I wish not to adopt any course that could interfere with your intended arrangements in the event of acquittal. Will you let me know your own personal views, wishes, and feelings, on the subject, as I wish to be guided by them?

"We ought to have but one journal, that is clear, and clear, too, that you should be at the head of it. Two journals would inevitably create two parties. Nothing could hinder that. But the immediate establishment of a weekly journal at least, if not of a morning one, is required.

"Now, why should I conceal it from you -- my own firm impression is that you need have little fear of being taken from Ireland, but I am greatly afraid they mean and will contrive to keep you in Richmond, with O'Brien and the others, for the next eight or ten or twelve months. For such a case you ought at least to be prepared and making provision. Is there anything to hinder you from being proprietor of a paper while there, or from writing its articles? I can see nothing—nothing, at least, that could not be got over. You could not superintend details, but you could write the more, there would be all the difference.

"Your funds may probably have failed, but I have reasons for hoping that funds may be furnished."


I had no confidence in conspiracy. I was resolutely determined to fall back upon the plan I had proposed to the Council of the Confederation—independent opposition and the gradual creation of confidence in a patriot party whom the country would trust and follow in any extremity. I had learned the story of the late abortive insurrection from its leaders; and I knew they had found no town or district ready to begin an insurrection, each of them having an insensate confidence that the struggle would break out somewhere else, and that we could bring an army into the open field who would hold their ground before artillery and cavalry was a dream. I did not make it a reproach to the country that they did not fight; they were broken by famine and disaster, and they saw nowhere what they had a right to see when such an appeal was made to them, men qualified from experience and discipline to handle an army. What had happened in Munster was no more than had happened in other countries. Nations have fits of paralysis, and even of baseness. When Charles Edward was at Derby his English partisans, who constituted the bulk of the gentry and clergy in half the counties of England, did not move a hand in his behalf, and it was just now confidently asserted that over thirty millions of Frenchmen would permit the Republic they had created to be strangled before their eyes. Lalor was a thoroughly honest and remarkably able man, but our paths distinctly separated. I told him he must fail and probably fail ignominiously, and that Ireland had failures enough. He took his own course, and many have since followed him in it, but unhappily without falsifying my predictions.

Before my last trial I was removed from Newgate to Richmond Penitentiary, where O'Brien, Meagher, and their associates were still confined, but I was not allowed to see or communicate with them. A happy accident gave me, however, an opportunity of spending a day with them. William Fagan, member for Cork city, wrote to one of my friends that an amnesty extending to all the political prisoners would be granted if I "offered securities for the future." I would offer no securities, and I was well assured that my friends would not purchase their safety at such a price, but it was proper that they should speak for themselves, and I showed Mr. Fagan's letter to the Governor of the prison, and asked that I might be allowed to visit O'Brien and the others. He consented, and we spent a pleasant day together disposing of the business in a contemptuous sentence. This was Mr. Fagan's letter:—


"Private and Confidential.

"My Dear Sir,—I have just returned from an interview of over an hour's duration with Lord Clarendon.

"My firm conviction is that if Mr. Duffy made any concession so as to give the Government a fair excuse to escape from the whole affair that an amnesty extending to all would be the result. Lord Clarendon did not say this in so many words; but he over and over repeated to me that the Government was not in a position to make any distinction between Mr. Duffy and the others in England and Ireland, Mr. Duffy having exhibited no desire on his own part for clemency, and not having made any concession. I am satisfied if Mr. Duffy offered securities for the future the thing would be done that is my conviction I may be mistaken. As for any feeling of a vindictive character, he over and over repudiated anything of the kind.—I am, my dear sir, yours very truly,

William Fagan.
6th April, 1849."


"Charlton S. Ralph, Esq."


The convicted prisoners in Richmond were, however, allowed a generous liberty of action, the prison being under municipal control. The following note from Meagher to one of his friends, M. R. O'Farrell, must be unique in the literature of détenus:—


"We are to have a little soirée here on Monday evening, and we warmly unite in requesting the pleasure of your company. We shall have something of a supper and a dance of course. The Governor has most kindly given us the use of his apartments, and desires me to intimate to all our friends his wish that they should ask at the hatch for the Governor.

"Richmond Prison, May 5, '49."


My determination to put the Government slanders to shame by reproducing my life and character such as they actually were was very successful. The venerable Bishop of Dromore, who had been my friend since the soirée at Newry so often referred to; Dr. Moriarty, the head of All Hallows Missionary College; George Petrie, and William Carleton, who stood at the head of Irishmen of letters; and, above all, the reformer of his age and country, Father Mathew, eagerly answered the call to speak of me as they knew me. The effect was decisive on the jury and the audience. I shall not recall their evidence which was generous beyond my merits, but I cannot refrain from publishing the letter in which Fathew Mathew acknowledged the call to be a witness:—


"Cork, 17th November, 1848.

"My Dear Mr. Duffy,—Though your letter is dated 'Newgate Prison,' I was delighted at receiving it. It was unnecessary to enter into any arrangements to induce me to be present at your trial. Neither time nor distance of place are of any importance to me when I have even a remote prospect of being of the slightest service to you.

"I shall, please God, be in Dublin before the end of this month, and shall be happy to receive any communication from you at the Imperial Hotel.

"It would be well if you could procure for me a copy of the Belfast Vindicator and Newry Examiner containing the report of that memorable party, the Newry Soirée. Believe me, with highest respect, your ever grateful and affectionate friend,

"Theobald Mathew."


The curious and instructive story still remains to be told how the foul strokes of the Irish Executive, like the fiends' bullets in the German opera, struck not the victim but his assailants. While all the facts were fresh in the public memory, in the memory of my enemies as well as of my friends. I narrated them in a letter to Lord Clarendon in the Nation, I can never tell the tale more briefly or more feelingly, and I reprint the letter in the next chapter, that no one who cares to know shall be ignorant how justice was administered in Ireland fifty years ago, and how malignant animosity "may o'erleap its selle and fall on t'other side."

  1. The Irish Priest was Dr. Murray, a Professor of Theology at Maynooth. I had known him since my residence in Belfast. He did not always approve of the policy of the Nation, but he never failed to be a loyal and steadfast personal friend. He was a powerful and accomplished writer, and a man of matchless civic courage.
  2. "Four Years of Irish History."
  3. My earliest friend, Thomas O'Hagan, Q.C., came to me in Newgate immediately after my arrest to say that a retainer had been sent him by the Government for the Green Street Trials, but that he had returned it, refusing to appear against me or any of my companions. Under the circumstances he could not hold a brief for me.
  4. The Attorney-General's antecedents must have made the task odious to him. He started in life with advanced opinions; at a Bar dinner where the Duke of Wellington's health was proposed, he turned down his glass to testify his hostility to a bad Irishman. He had been busy in '44 in the movement in reprobation of jury-packing. And now he was required to do all he had denounced as infamous. He was a man of considerable rough vigour, and acquainted with all the practices his position required mm to know. The Solicitor-General, who had been suddenly shoved upwards from the tail of the profession, and finally—

    "For some gracious service unexpressed,
     And by its wages only to be guessed"—

    created Solicitor-General, was a man without culture, professional knowledge, or the bearing of a gentleman.

  5. "Four Years of Irish History," chap. x.
  6. Mr. Burke proved not only a steadfast juror, but a constitutional student of uncommon force. Lord Brougham attacked him savagely in the House of Lords, and he replied in a letter vindicating the rights of a juror with notable knowledge, vigour, and courtesy. Cynical writers indeed suggested that Mr. Butt could not have done the work better. And perhaps he could not.
  7. "Dublin Castle, 25th September, 1848.

    "Sir,—I am directed by the Lord Lieutenant to acknowledge the receipt of the letter of the trustees to the estate of Mr. Charles G. Duffy of the 20th instant, and to inform you that their request cannot be complied with.—I am, sir, your obedient servant,

    "Thos. Redington.

    "Mr. James M'Donnell, 16, William Street."

  8. "August 9th, 1848.

    "My dearly beloved friend and Master,—Nothing but the interest of your family would induce me at this time to intrude on you the following, or any other question: What was the amount of money lent by you to Mr.———? May Almighty God guard and defend you is the prayer of your ever devoted Friend,

    "B. Fulham."

  9. It was on this journal that a man who came to a tragic end of an infamous career in recent times, Mr. Richard Pigott, the forger of the Parnell letters, had his first employment.
  10. "Lalor was detained for several months in Newgate, Dublin, where he conversed much with Mr. Duffy, for whom he seems to have conceived warm feelings of personal friendship. I have heard him speak in the strongest terms of Mr. Duffy's 'personal honor.' Mr. Duffy was anxious that Lalor should co-operate with him in a newspaper, in case they should be able to extricate themselves from the clutches of the Philistines. Lalor was not unwilling to accede to this suggestion, if only they could agree sufficiently in their views. He (Lalor) felt embittered against John Mitchel. He seldom praised him cordially; would even sometimes speak slightingly of him as 'a bold, clever fellow,' and accusing him of appropriating his ideas." "Recollections of Fintan Lalor." By T. C. Luby.

    Mr. Luby was one of the founders of the Fenian Society and one of its Executive Government.