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children were sold as white slaves to West Indian planters; and their
gallant struggles for the king, their sympathy for the royalist
cause, was actually denounced by the English Fenians as "sedition,"
"rebellion," "lawlessness," "sympathy with crime." Ah, gentlemen, the
evils thus planted in our midst will survive, and work their
influence; yet some men wonder that English law is held in
"disesteem" in Ireland. Time went on, gentlemen; time went on.
Another James sat on the throne; and again English Protestant
Fenianism conspired for the overthrow of their sovereign. They
invited "foreign emissaries" to come over from Holland and Sweden, to
begin the revolution for them. They drove their legitimate king from
the throne - never more to return. How did the Irish act in that hour?
Alas! Ever too loyal - ever only too ready to stand by the throne and
laws if only treated with justice or kindliness - they took the field
for the king, not against him. He landed on our shores; and had the
English Fenians rested content with rebelling themselves, and allowed
us to remain loyal as we desired to be, we might now be a
neighbouring but friendly and independent kingdom under the ancient
Stuart line. King James came here and opened his Irish parliament in
person. Oh, who will say in that brief hour at least the Irish nation
was not reconciled to the throne and laws? King, parliament, and
people, were blended in one element of enthusiasm, joy, and hope, the
first time for ages Ireland had known such a joy. Yes -

We, too, had our day - it was brief, it is ended -
When a King dwelt among us - no strange King - but OURS.
When the shout of a people delivered ascended,
And shook the green banner that hung on yon towers,
We saw it like leaves in the summer-time shiver;
We read the gold legend that blazoned it o'er -
"To-day - now or never; to-day and for ever" -
Oh, God! have we seen it to see it no more!

(Applause in court). Once more the Irish people bled and sacrificed
for their loyalty to the throne and laws. Once more confiscation
devastated the land, and the blood of the loyal and true was poured
like rain. The English Fenians and the foreign emissaries triumphed,
aided by the brave Protestant rebels of Ulster. King William came to
the throne - a prince whose character is greatly misunderstood in
Ireland: a brave, courageous soldier, and a tolerant man, could he
have had his way. The Irish who had fought and lost, submitted on
terms, and had law even now been just or tolerant, it was open to the
revolutionary _regime_ to have made the Irish good subjects. But what
took place? The penal code came, in all its horror to fill the Irish
heart with hatred and resistance. I will read for you what a
Protestant historian - a man of learning and ability - who is now
listening to me in this court - has written of that code. I quote
"Godkin's History," published by Cassell of London: -

"The eighteenth century," says Mr. Godkin, "was the era of
persecution, in which the law did the work of the sword more
effectually and more safely. Then was established a code framed
with almost diabolical ingenuity to extinguish natural
affection - to foster perfidy and hypocrisy - to petrify
conscience - to perpetuate brutal ignorance - to facilitate the
work of tyranny - by rendering the vices of slavery inherent and
natural in the Irish character, and to make Protestantism almost
irredeemably odious as the monstrous incarnation of all moral

Gentlemen, in that fell spirit English law addressed itself to a
dreadful purpose here in Ireland; and, mark you, that code prevailed
down to our own time; down to this very generation. "Law" called on
the son to sell his father; called on the flock to betray the pastor.
"Law" forbade us to educate - forbid us to worship God in the faith of
our fathers. "Law" made us outcasts - scourged us, trampled us,
plundered us - do you marvel that, amongst the Irish people, law has
been held in "disesteem?" Do you think this feeling arises from
"sympathy with assassination or murder?" Yet, if we had been let
alone, I doubt not that time would have fused the conquerors and the
conquered, here in Ireland, as elsewhere. Even while the millions of
the people were kept outside the constitution, the spirit of
nationality began to appear; and under its blessed influence
toleration touched the heart of the Irish-born Protestant. Yes - thank
God - thank God, for the sake of our poor country, where sectarian
bitterness has wrought such wrong - it was an Irish Protestant
Parliament that struck off the first link of the penal chain. And lo!
once more, for a bright brief day, Irish national sentiment was in
warm sympathy and heartfelt accord with the laws. "Eighty-two" came.
Irish Protestant patriotism, backed by the hearty sympathy of the
Catholic millions, raised up Ireland to a proud and glorious
position; lifted our country from the ground, where she lay prostrate
under the sword of England - but what do I say? This is "sedition." It
has this week been decreed sedition to picture Ireland thus.[C] Well,
then, they rescued her from what I will call the loving embrace of
her dear sister Britannia, and enthroned her in her rightful place, a
queen among the nations. Had the brightness of that era been
prolonged - picture it, think of it - what a country would ours be now?
Think of it! And contrast what we are with what we might be! Compare
a population filled with burning memories - disaffected, sullen,
hostile, vengeful - with a people loyal, devoted, happy, contented;
and England, too, all the happier, the more secure, the more great
and free. But sad is the story. Our independent national legislature
was torn from us by means, the iniquity of which, even among English
writers, is now proclaimed and execrated. By fraud and by force that
outrage on law, on right, and justice, was consummated. In speaking
thus I speak "sedition." No one can write the facts of Irish history,
without committing sedition. Yet every writer and speaker now will
tell you that the overthrow of our national constitution, sixty-seven
years ago, was an iniquitous and revolting scheme. But do you, then,
marvel that the laws imposed on us by the power that perpetrated that
deed are not revered, loved, and respected? Do you believe that that
want of respect arises from the "seditions" of men like my
fellow-traversers and myself? Is it wonderful to see estrangement
between a people and laws imposed on them by the over-ruling
influence of another nation? Look at the lessons - unhappy
lessons - taught our people by that London legislature where their own
will is overborne. Concessions refused and resisted as long as they
durst be withheld; and when granted at all, granted only after
passion has been aroused and the whole nation been embittered. The
Irish people sought Emancipation. Their great leader was dogged at
every step by hostile government proclamations and crown
prosecutions. Coercion act over coercion act was rained upon us; yet
O'Connell triumphed. But how and in what spirit was Emancipation
granted? Ah there never was a speech more pregnant with mischief,
with sedition, with revolutionary teaching - never words tended more
to bring law and government into contempt - than the words of the
English premier when he declared Emancipation must, sorely against
his will, be granted if England would not face a civil war. That was
a bad lesson to teach Irishmen. Worse still was taught them.
O'Connell, the great constitutional leader, a man with whom loyalty
and respect for the laws was a fundamental principle of action, led
the people towards further liberation - the liberation, not of a
creed, but a nation. What did he seek? To bring once more the laws
and the national will into accord; to reconcile the people and the
laws by restoring the constitution of queen, lords, and commons. How
was he met by the government? By the nourish of the sword; by the
drawn sabre and the shotted gun, in the market place and the highway.
"Law" finally grasped him as a conspirator, and a picked jury gave
the crown then, as now, such verdict as was required. The venerable
apostle of constitutional doctrines was consigned to prison, while a
sorrowing - aye, a maddened nation, wept for him outside. Do you
marvel that they held in "disesteem" the law and government that
acted thus? Do you marvel that to-day, in Ireland, as in every
century of all those through which I have traced this state of
things, the people and the law scowl upon each other? Gentlemen, do
not misunderstand the purport of my argument. It is not for the
purpose - it would be censurable - of merely opening the wounds of the
past that I have gone back upon history somewhat farther than the
solicitor-general found it advantageous to go. I have done it to
demonstrate that there is a truer reason than that alleged by the
crown in this case for the state of war - for unhappily that is what
it is - which prevails between the people of Ireland and the laws
under which they now live. And now apply all this to the present
case, and judge you my guilt - judge you the guilt of those whose
crime, indeed, is that they do not love and respect law and
government as they are now administered in Ireland. Gentlemen, the
present prosecution arises directly out of what is known as the
Manchester tragedy. The solicitor-general gave you his version, his
fanciful sketch of that sad affair; but it will be my duty to give
you the true facts, which differ considerably from the crown story.
The solicitor-general began with telling us about "the broad summer's
sun of the 18th September" (laughter). Gentlemen, it seems very clear
that the summer goes far into the year for those who enjoy the sweets
of office; nay, I am sure it is summer "all the year round" with the
solicitor-general while the present ministry remain in. A goodly
golden harvest he and his colleagues are making in this summer of
prosecutions; and they seem very well inclined to get up enough of
them (laughter). Well, gentlemen, I'm not complaining of that, but I
will tell you who complain loudly - the "outs," with whom it is
midwinter, while the solicitor-general and his friends are enjoying
this summer (renewed laughter). Well, gentlemen, some time last
September two prominent leaders of the Fenian movement - alleged to be
so at least - named Kelly and Deasy, were arrested in Manchester. In
Manchester there is a considerable Irish population, and amongst them
it was known those men had sympathisers. They were brought up at the
police court - and now, gentlemen, pray attentively mark this. The
Irish executive that morning telegraphed to the Manchester
authorities a strong warning of an attempted rescue. The Manchester
police had full notice - how did they treat the timely warning sent
from Dublin; a warning which, if heeded, would have averted all this
sad and terrible business which followed upon that day? Gentlemen,
the Manchester police authorities scoffed at the warning. They
derided it as a "Hirish" alarm. What! The idea of low "Hirish" hodmen
or labourers rescuing prisoners from them, the valiant and the brave!
Why, gentlemen, the Seth Bromleys of the "force" in Manchester waxed
hilarious and derisive over the idea. They would not ask even a
truncheon to put to flight even a thousand of those despised
"Hirish;" and so, despite specific warning from Dublin, the van
containing the two Fenian leaders, guarded by eleven police officers,
set out from the police office to the jail. Now, gentlemen, I charge
on the stolid vain gloriousness in the first instance, and the
contemptible pusilanimity in the second instance, of the Manchester
police - the valiant Seth Bromleys - all that followed. On the skirts
of the city the van was attacked by some eighteen Irish youths,
having three revolvers - three revolvers, gentlemen, and no
more - amongst them. The valour of the Manchester eleven vanished at
the sight of those three revolvers - some of them, it seems, loaded
with blank cartridge! The Seth Bromleys took to their heels. They
abandoned the van. Now, gentlemen, do not understand me to call those
policemen cowards. It is hard to blame an unarmed man who runs away
from a pointed revolver, which, whether loaded or unloaded, is a
powerful persuasion to - depart. But I do say that I believe in my
soul that if that had occurred here in Dublin, eleven men of our
metropolitan police whould have taken those three revolvers or
perished in the attempt (applause). Oh, if eleven Irish policemen had
run away like that from a few poor English lads with barely three
revolvers, how the press of England would yell in fierce
denunciation - why, they would trample to scorn the name of
Irishman - (applause in the court, which the officials vainly tried to
silence). [Footnote C: For publishing an illustration in the _Weekly
News_ thus picturing England's policy of coercion, Mr. Sullivan had
been found guilty of seditious libel on the previous trial.]

Mr. Justice Fitzgerald - If these interruptions continue, the parties
so offending must be removed.

Mr. Sullivan - I am sorry, my lord, for the interruption; though not
sorry the people should endorse my estimate of the police. Well,
gentlemen, the van was abandoned by its valiant guard; but there
remained inside one brave and faithful fellow, Brett by name. I am
now giving you the facts as I in my conscience and soul believe they
occurred - and as millions of my countrymen - aye, and thousands of
Englishmen, too - solemnly believe them to have occurred, though they
differ in one item widely from the crown version. Brett refused to
give up the key of the van, which he held; and the attacking party
commenced various endeavours to break it open. At length one of them
called out to fire a pistol into the lock, and thus burst it open.
The unfortunate Brett at that moment was looking through the keyhole,
endeavouring to get a view of the inexplicable scene outside, when he
received the bullet and fell dead. Gentlemen, that may be the true,
or it may be the mistaken version. You may hold to the other, or you
may hold to this. But whether I be mistaken therein, or otherwise, I
say here, as I would say if I stood now before my Eternal Judge on
the Last Day, I solemnly believe the mournful episode to have
happened thus - I solemnly believe that the man Brett was shot by
accident, and not by design. But even suppose your view differs
sincerely from mine, will you, can you, hold that I, thus
conscientiously persuaded, sympathise with murder, because I
sympathise with men hanged for that which I contend was accident, and
not murder? That is exactly the issue in this case. Well, the rescued
Fenian leaders got away; and then, when all was over - when the danger
was passed - valour tremendous returned to the fleet of foot
Manchester police. Oh, but they wreaked their vengeance that night
on the houses of the poor Irish in Manchester! By a savage razzia
they soon filled the jails with our poor countrymen seized on
suspicion. And then broke forth all over England that shout of anger
and passion which none of us will ever forget. The national pride had
been sorely wounded; the national power had been openly and
humiliatingly defied; the national fury was aroused. On all sides
resounded the hoarse shout for vengeance, swift and strong. Then was
seen a sight the most shameful of its kind that this century has
exhibited - a sight at thought of which Englishmen yet will hang their
heads for shame, and which the English historian will chronicle with
reddened check - those poor and humble Irish youths led into the
Manchester dock in chains! In chains! Yes; iron fetters festering
wrist and ankle! Oh, gentlemen, it was a fearful sight; for no one
can pretend that in the heart of powerful England there could be
danger those poor Irish youths would overcome the authorities and
capture Manchester. For what, then, were those chains put on untried
prisoners? Gentlemen, it was at this point exactly that Irish
sympathy came to the side of those prisoners. It was when we saw them
thus used, and saw that, innocent or guilty, they would be
immolated - sacrificed to glut the passion of the hour - that our
feelings rose high and strong in their behalf. Even in England there
were men - noble-hearted Englishmen, for England is never without such
men - who saw that if tried in the midst of this national frenzy,
those victims would be sacrificed; and accordingly efforts were made
for a postponement of the trial. But the roar of passion carried its
way. Not even till the ordinary assizes would the trial be postponed.
A special commission was sped to do the work while Manchester jurors
were in a white heat of panic, indignation, and fury. Then came the
trial, which was just what might be expected. Witnesses swore ahead
without compunction, and jurors believed them without hesitation.
Five men arraigned together as principals - Allen, Larkin, O'Brien,
Shore, and Maguire - were found guilty, and the judge concerning in
the verdict, were sentenced to death. Five men - not three men,
gentlemen - five men in the one verdict, not five separate verdicts.
Five men by the same evidence and the same jury in the same verdict.
Was that a just verdict? The case of the crown here to-day is that it
was - that it is "sedition" to impeach that verdict. A copy of that
conviction is handed in here as evidence to convict me of sedition
for charging as I do that that was a wrong verdict, a bad verdict, a
rotten and a false verdict. But what is the fact? That her Majesty's
ministers themselves admit and proclaim that it was a wrong verdict,
a false verdict. The very evening those men were sentenced, thirty
newspaper reporters sent up to the Home Secretary a petition
protesting that - the evidence of the witnesses and the verdict of the
jury notwithstanding - there was at least one innocent man thus marked
for execution. The government felt that the reporters were right and
the jurors wrong. They pardoned Maguire as an innocent man - that
same Maguire whose legal conviction is here put in as evidence that
he and four others were truly murderers, to sympathise with whom is
to commit sedition - nay, "to glorify the cause of murder." Well,
after that, our minds were easy. We considered it out of the question
any man would be hanged on a verdict thus ruined, blasted, and
abandoned; and believing those men innocent of murder, though guilty
of another most serious legal crime - rescue with violence, and
incidental, though not intentional loss of life - we rejoiced that a
terrible mistake was, as we thought, averted. But now arose in
redoubled fury the savage cry for blood. In vain good men, noble and
humane men, in England tried to save the national honour by breasting
this horrible outburst of passion. They were overborne. Petitioners
for mercy were mobbed and hooted in the streets. We saw all this - we
saw all this; and think you it did not sink into our hearts? Fancy if
you can our feelings when we heard that yet another man out of five
was respited - ah, he was an American, gentlemen - an American, not an
Irishman - but that the three Irishmen, Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien,
were to die - were to be put to death on a verdict and on evidence
that would not hang a dog in England! We refused to the last to
credit it; and thus incredulous, deemed it idle to make any effort to
save their lives. But it was true; it was deadly true. And then,
gentlemen, the doomed three appeared in a new character. Then they
rose into the dignity and heroism of martyrs. The manner in which
they bore themselves through the dreadful ordeal ennobled them for
ever It was then we all learned to love and revere them as patriots
and Christians. Oh, gentlemen, it is only at this point I feel my
difficulty in addressing you whose religious faith is not that which
is mine. For it is only Catholics who can understand the emotions
aroused in Catholic hearts by conduct such as theirs in that dreadful
hour. Catholics alone can understand how the last solemn declarations
of such men, after receiving the last sacraments of the Church, and
about to meet their Great Judge face to face, can outweigh the
reckless evidence of Manchester thieves and pickpockets. Yes; in that
hour they told us they were innocent, but were ready to die; and we
believed them. We believe them still. Aye, do we! They did not go to
meet their God with a falsehood on their lips. On that night before
their execution, oh, what a scene! What a picture did England present
at the foot of the Manchester scaffold! The brutal populace thronged
thither in tens of thousands. They danced; they sang; they
blasphemed; they chorused "Rule Britannia," and "God save the Queen,"
by way of taunt and defiance of the men whose death agonies they had
come to see! Their shouts and brutal cries disturbed the doomed
victims inside the prison as in their cells they prepared in prayer
and meditation to meet their Creator and their God. Twice the police
had to remove the crowd from around that wing of the prison; so that
our poor brothers might in peace go through their last preparations
for eternity, undisturbed by the yells of the multitude outside. Oh,
gentlemen, gentlemen - that scene! That scene in the grey cold
morning when those innocent men were led out to die - to die an
ignominious death before that wolfish mob! With blood on fire - with
bursting hearts - we read the dreadful story here in Ireland. We knew
that these men would never have been thus sacrificed had not their
offence been political, and had it not been that in their own way
they represented the old struggle of the Irish race. We felt that if
time had but been permitted for English passion to cool down, English
good feeling and right justice would have prevailed; and they never
would have been put to death on such a verdict. All this we felt, yet
we were silent till we heard the press that had hounded those men to
death falsely declaring that our silence was acquiescence in the deed
that consigned them to murderers' graves. Of this I have personal
knowledge, that, here in Dublin at least, nothing was done or
intended, until the _Evening Mail_ declared that popular feeling
which had had ample time to declare itself, if it felt otherwise,
quite recognised the justice of the execution. Then we resolved to
make answer. Then Ireland made answer. For what monarch, the loftiest
in the world, would such demonstrations be made, the voluntary
offerings of a people's grief! Think you it was "sympathy for murder"
called us forth, or caused the priests of the Catholic Church to
drape their churches? It is a libel to utter the base charge. No, no.
With the acts of those men at that rescue we had nought to say. Of
their innocence of murder we were convinced. Their patriotic
feelings, their religious devotion, we saw proved in the noble, the
edifying manner of their death. We believed them to have been
unjustly sacrificed in a moment of national passion; and we resolved
to rescue their memory from the foul stains of their maligners, and
make it a proud one for ever with Irishmen. Sympathy with murder,
indeed! What I am about to say will be believed; for I think I have
shown no fear of consequences in standing by my acts and
principles - I say for myself, and for the priests and people of
Ireland, who are affected by this case, that sooner would we burn our
right hands to cinders than express, directly or indirectly, sympathy
with murder; and that our sympathy for Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien is

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Online LibraryA.M. SullivanThe Wearing of the Green → online text (page 8 of 10)