Lord Granville's letter to Minister Lowell was as follows:
Foreign Office, January 27, 1885.
Sir: I referred to Her Majesty's Secretary for the Home Department the request which you made to me personally when calling at this office on the 9th inst., in favor of Boyle O'Reilly, one of the persons convicted for complicity in the Fenian Rebellion of 1866.
I have now the honor to acquaint you that a reply has been received from Sir W. V. Harcourt, in which he states that application had already been made from other quarters on behalf of O'Reilly, which had been refused, and, having regard to the circumstances of the case, he regrets that your request is one which cannot safely be granted.
I have the honor to be, etc.,
In February, 1885, Mr. T. Harrington, M.P., introduced a petition in the British Parliament asking amnesty for James Stephens and John Boyle O' Reilly. The petition was supported by Mr. Sexton in an able speech. He called attention to the fact that not only had every civilian, sentenced at the same time as O'Reilly, been released, but every military offender had also secured his liberty; that many civilians had been set free on condition they should never return to the Queen's Dominions, while similar conditions had not been imposed upon the military offenders. Whatever else might be alleged, he said, it could not be maintained that there was any moral distinction between the case of John Boyle O'Reilly and those members of the British army tried, convicted, and sentenced at the same time: