Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/209

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES

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.