Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/294

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Mr. Harrington had included O'Reilly's name with that of Stephens in the petition for amnesty, at the request of the Drogheda National League, but when that body, through its executive, communicated the fact of its petition to O'Reilly in the previous December, he had at once telegraphed back, "Kindly withdraw my name."

The debate in the House of Commons attracted much attention on both sides of the ocean. Sir William Vernon Harcourt's reference to his escape as a crime of prison breach, seems to have furnished the very flimsy foundation for a slander which, in keeping with its character, did not find voice until the subject of it was dead; it was that in escaping from the penal settlement as he did, O'Reilly broke his "parole." Searching inquiry has failed to discover anybody willing to stand sponsor to the lie; but the nameless and fatherless foundling was received on terms of social equality by some in whom envy or prejudice outweighed respect for the dead. They did not stop to inquire into the inherent absurdity of the statement that a criminal convict, for that was O'Reilly's status in the eyes of the British law, would have been likely to be put upon his word of honor, not to effect his escape. Such a preposterous charge should be sufficiently answered by the negative evidence that there is no corroborative testimony supporting it. Happily, however, there are those living who, of all men, are best qualified to speak positively on the question. They are honorable men whose word will not be doubted by men of honor; men of the other kind it is not necessary to address. In reply to a direct question on the subject. Captain Henry C. Hathaway, of New Bedford, Mass., the rescuer of O'Reilly, writes:

New Bedford, November 11, 1890.

Dear Friend Roche:

Yours at hand and noted, and in answer will state that the people who are talking against my dear old departed friend, John Boyle O'Reilly, were either strangers to him, or else through jealousy or cowardice seek for means to destroy the reputation of a man against whom, while living, they could not or did not dare to utter such a