Jail Journal

by

John Mitchel

John Mitchel

Extracts from the M.H Gill & Son edition, which states:

The present edition is reprinted from "The Citizen" - Mitchel's first New York newspaper - in which the "Jail Journal" was originally published, from January 14th, 1854, to August 19th, 1854. Save for some half-dozen verbal changes subsequently made by Mitchel, this Edition is an exact reproduction of the "Jail Journal" as it first appeared.


May 27th, 1848
May 28th, 1848
May 29th, 1848
June 21st, 1848
July 14th, 1848
July 20th, 1848
August 28th, 1848
November 7th, 1848
November 21st, 1848
November 22nd, 1848
November 23rd, 1848
December 3rd, 1848
January 16th, 1849
February 3rd, 1849

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May 27, 1848 -  On this day, about four o’clock in the afternoon, I, John Mitchel, was kidnapped, and carried off from Dublin, in chains, as a convicted “Felon.”

I had been in Newgate prison for a fortnight. An apparent trial had been enacted before twelve of the castle jurors in ordinary – much legal palaver, and a “conviction” (as if there were law, order, government or justice in Ireland). Sentence had been pronounced, with much gravity, by that ancient Purple Brunswicker, Baron Lefroy – fourteen years’ transportation; and I had returned to my cell and taken leave of my wife and two poor boys. A few minutes after they had left me a gaoler came in with a suit of coarse grey clothes in his hand. “You are to put on these,” said he, “directly.” I put them on directly. A voice then shouted from the foot of the stairs, “Let him be removed in his own clothes”; so I was ordered to change again, which I did. I asked to what place I was to be removed. “Can’t tell,” said the man. “Make haste.” There was a travelling bag of mine in the cell, containing a change of clothes; and I asked whether I might take it with me. “No; make haste.” “I am ready, then”; and I followed him down the stairs.

When we came into the small paved court, some constables and gaolers were standing there. One of them had in his hand a pair of iron fetters; and they all appeared in a hurry, as if they had some very critical neck-or-nothing business in hand; but they might as well have taken their time and done the business with their usual unconcerned and sullen dignity of demeanour.

I was ordered to put my foot upon a stone seat that was by the wall; and a constable fastened one of the bolts upon my ankle. But the other people hurried him so much that he said quickly, “Here, take the other in your hand, and come along.” I took it, and held up the chain which connected the two, to keep it from dragging along the pavement, as I followed through the hall of the prison (where a good many persons had gathered to see the vindication of the “law”) and so on to the outer door. I stood on the steps for one moment, and gazed round: the black police-omnibus – a strong force of the city constabulary occupying the street on either side; outside of them dark crowds of people, standing in perfect silence; parties of cavalry drawn up at the openings of the streets hard by. I walked down the steps; and amidst all that multitude the clanking of my chain was the loudest sound. The moment I stepped into the carriage the door was dashed to with a bang. Someone shouted, “To the North Wall!” and instantly the horses set forward at a gallop. The dragoons, with drawn sabres, closed both in front and rear and on both sides; and in this style we dashed along, but not by the shortest, or the usual way to the North Wall, as I could see through a slit in the panel. The carriage was full of police-constables. Two of them, in plain clothes, seemed to have special charge of me, as they sat close by me, on right and left, one of them holding a pistol with a cap on the nipple. After a long and furious drive along the North Circular road, I could perceive that we were coming near the river. The machine suddenly stopped, and I was ushered to the quay-wall between two ranks of carbineers, with naked swords. A Government steamer, the Shearwater, lay in the river, with steam up, and a large man-of-war’s boat, filled with men armed to the teeth, was alongside the wall. I descended the ladder with some difficulty, owing to the chain, took my seat beside a naval officer, who sat in the stern, and a dozen pulls brought us to the steamer’s side. A good many people who stood on the quay and in two or three vessels close by, looked on in silence. One man bade God bless me; a police-inspector roared out to him that he had better make no disturbance.

As soon as we came on board, the naval officer who had brought me off, a short, dark man of five-and-forty or thereabouts, conducted me to the cabin, ordered my fetters to be removed, called for sherry and water to be placed before us, and began to talk. He told me I was to be brought to Spike Island, a convict prison in Cork Harbour, for the first place; that he himself, however, was only going as far as Kingstown, where his own ship lay; that he was Captain Hall, of the Dragon steam-frigate; and that he dared to say I had heard of the unfortunate Nemesis. “Then,” quote I, “you are the Captain Hall who was in China lately, and wrote a book.” He said he was, and seemed quite pleased. If he had a copy of his work here, he said he should be most happy to present it to me. Then he appeared apprehensive that I might confound him with Captain Basil Hall. So he told me that he was not Basil Hall, who in fact was dead; but that though not actually Basil Hall, he had sailed with Basil Hall, as a youngster, on board the Lyra. “I presume,” he said, “you  have read his voyage to the Loo Choo Islands.” I said I had, and also another book of his which I liked far better: his “Account of the Chilean and Peruvian Revolutions,” and of that splendid fellow, San Martin. Captain Hall laughed. “Your mind,” said he, “has been running upon revolutions.” “Yes, very much – almost exclusively.” “Ah, sir!” quoth he, “dangerous things, these revolutions.” Whereto I replied, “You may say that.” We were now near Kingstown Pier, and my friend, looking at his watch, said he should still be in time for dinner; that he was to dine with the Lord Lieutenant; and that he had been at a review in the Park this morning, and was suddenly ordered off to escort me with a boat’s crew from the Dragon; further, that he was sorry to have to perform such a service; and that he had been credibly informed my father was a very good man. I answered I know not what. He invited me to go with him upon deck, where his crew were preparing to man the boat; they were all dressed like seamen, but well armed. I pointed to them, and asked, “Are those fellows marines?” He looked at me with a peculiar smile – “Well, come now, they are marines.” He was evidently amazed at my penetration in detecting marines without their uniform (I had asked the question in mere ignorance and absence of mind); “but,” he quickly added, “our marines are all seamen.” “I suppose so,” quoth I.

Captain Hall, of the Dragon, now bade me good evening, saying he should just have time to dress for dinner. I wished him a good appetite, and he went off to his ship. No doubt he thought me an amazingly cool character; but God knoweth the heart. There was a huge lump in my throat all the time of this bald chat, and my thoughts were far enough away from both Peru and Loo Choo. At Charlemont Bridge, in Dublin, this evening, there is a desolate house – my mother and sisters, who came up to town to see me (for the last time in case of the worst) – five little children, very dear to me; none of them old enough to understand the cruel blow that has fallen on them this day, and above all – above all – my wife.[1]

What will they do? What is to become of them? By this time, undoubtedly, my office, my newspaper, types, books, all that I had, are seized on by the Government burglar. And then they will have to accept that public “tribute” – the thought of which I abhor. And did I not know this? And, knowing it, did I not run all the risk? Yes; and I did well. The possible sacrifice indeed was terrible; but the enterprise was great, and was needful. And, moreover, that sacrifice shall not have been made in vain. And I know my wife and little ones shall not want. He that feedeth the young ravens – but then, indeed, as I remember, young ravens and other carrion-birds have been better fed in Ireland than the Christians, these latter years.

After all, for what was this sacrifice been made? Why was it needful? What did I hope to gain by this struggle with the enemy’s “Government,” if successful? What, if unsuccessful? What have I gained? Questions truly which it behoves me to ask and answer on this evening of my last day (it may be) of civil existence. Dublin City, with its bay and peasant villas – city of bellowing slaves – villas of genteel dastards – lies now behind us, and the sun has set behind the blue peaks of Wicklow, as we steam past Bray Head, where the Vale of Shanganagh, sloping softly from the Golden Spears, sends its bright river murmuring to the sea. And I am on the first stage of my way, faring to what regions of unknown horror? And may never, never -  never more, O, Ireland! – my mother and queen! – see vale, or hill, or murmuring stream of thine. And why? What is gained?

Let me set it down:-

First, then, I have compelled the enlightened “Government” – the Whig Government – after repeated warnings, challenges, taunts (so that everybody should know what I was about), compelled them publicly and notoriously to pack a jury, most strictly, in order to crush one man; and thus compelled them to prove that there is no “constitution” in Ireland at all; that the “Government” is not under, but above the Law; that trial by jury is a fraud: and that all Whig professions about conciliatory and impartial government in Ireland, were as false as the Father of Whiggery himself.

They dared not have given me a fair trial before my countrymen. If I had beaten them on that trial, it would have been a victory which I could have followed up to their utter smash. I would soon have shown all Ireland the way – not to drive a coach-and-six through, but to ride roughshod over their laws and them.

Second. – By demonstrating that there is no law or Constitution for us, I have put an end, one may hope, to “constitutional agitation,” and shamed the country out of “moral force” (in the O’Connellite sense). So, that delusion being put out of the way, there is a chance of my countrymen seeing, what is a solemn truth, that, for Ireland’s “grievances,” her famines, her party spirit, her packed juries, her exterminations, there is but one and all-sufficient remedy, the edge of the sword.

As God is above me, this is true. On the truth of it I have staked body and soul, and will abide the issue. Those who consider that all through O’Connell’s forty years of “agitation,” the people had been industriously taught by him and the priests to keep the peace, and abhor bloodshed, and also to “keep within the law” (thus falsely and fatally acknowledging the existence of government, and the validity of London law) will understand the difficulty of making any way in respect of this matter, and also the need there was to enforce the true doctrine openly, and so to break the canting spell.

Third. – I have shown the Catholics of Ireland that they are not yet emancipated, for all their Clare-elections; that they are deliberately, ostentatiously debarred from executing the common civic office of jurors in any case of public concernment – that is to say, that they are not citizens in their own land – that is to say, that they are slaves – for there is no middle term. They are ruled now, as ever, by the sword; if they go on quietly obeying this kind of rule, let them obey, and be hanged!

I do not know what they will do upon being made to learn this lesson. I only know what they ought to do. All Catholic judges, assistant-barristers, magistrates, and other functionaries, ought to resign their employments; all Catholic policemen ought to strip off their ignominious livery; all Catholic soldiers ought to desert – in one word, what the Catholics ought to do is tear up society from its roots, but they will be citizens in their own land. What they will do, for the present, is the reverse of all this. Some of the respectable Castle-Catholics will thank me little for bringing their degradation so prominently into public view; they think they are emancipated enough, and will curse me by their gods, if they have any. Heaven! where is the great heart of chief and tanist? How has the rich blood of O’Conor and O’Donnell Roe grown pale! Is this, the stateliest family of the Caucasian race, indeed, starved and kicked into incurable Helotism?

But young Catholics are growing up – even, I trust, in the Castle-going rank of life – who will shame their fathers, and do honour to their ancestors.

Fourth – I have made sure – for the thing is not going to stop here – that the breach between the Irish people and the Carthaginian government will be made henceforth wider and deeper than ever – that disaffection will grow and thrive – that Nice, Queen of Carthage, will not steer her yacht to Ireland this summer of 1848, as she graciously intended[2] – that Ireland will become ungovernable to all Carthaginian governments; and, finally, that the struggle will become a republican one in the long run.[3]

Now, if I have indeed done, or helped to do, or materially furthered and provided for the doing of these things – and if my zeal in this matter has not been born of greediness, or ambition, or vain-glory, shall I not say that I have done well? Shall I not go on my dark voyage with a stout heart – aye, and wear my fetters lightly, as garlands of flowers? I may not know, indeed, how the great game goes; newspapers will probably be wholly out of my reach. The cause may prosper soon and suddenly beyond all my hope – or may be shipwrecked by fools, or sold by traitors, for a time. I, myself (but that is no great matter), may be named patriot and martyr – Heaven help me! – or, contrariwise, may be “sung and proverbed for a fool in every street”; or, indeed, clean lost sight of within a month. And I, in some far latitude, perhaps under the Southern Constellations, will be unconsciously doing my daily convict-work. What would I not give, six months hence, for a bulletin from Reilly or Martin, to tell me how it goes!

I am not afraid of either cowardice or treachery on the part of our chiefest men. Meagher is eloquent and ardent – brave to act; brave, if need be, to suffer. I would that he took the trouble to think for himself. O’Brien is bold and high-minded, but capricious, unaccountable, intractable; also, he is an aristocrat born and bred, and, being a genuine Irishman himself, he cannot be brought to see that his fellow-aristocrats are not Irish, but the irreconcilable enemies of Ireland. Then who will dare to write or publish one word of bold truth? The Freeman will be tame and legal till the evil days are overpast. The Nation will be so busy giving “the party” a properly Girondesque character, and discriminating carefully between the wild Montagnards – to wit, me and the like of me – on the one hand, and the truly respectable Lafayette-Lamartinists, on the other, that he will be of little use in dealing with the substantial Irish affair that lies before him. Dillon – O’Gorman – good and brave men, but not sufficiently desperate. My chief trust is in Martin and Reilly; but then they will probably be the very first devoured by the Carthaginian sea-monster. God be with them all and direct them; and, above all, put some heart into the poor people!

It darkened over the sea, and the stars came out; and the dark hills of Wicklow had shrouded themselves in the night-fog before I moved from the shoreward gunwale of the quarter-deck. My two guardians, the police-constables in plain clothes, who had never left my side, now told me it was growing late, and that tea was ready below. Went down, accordingly, and had an “aesthetic tea” with two detectives. Asked my two friends if they knew my destination. The knew nothing, they said; but thought it probable I would not be removed from Spike Island; supposed that Government would just keep me there “till matters were a little quieted down,” and then let me go. Well, I think differently, my plain-coated, plain-witted friends. On Ireland, or anywhere near it, assuredly I will not be allowed to live. But where then? The Carthaginians have convict colonies everywhere: at Gibraltar, at Bermuda, in the Atlantic; at Norfolk Island, in the Pacific; besides Van Diemen’s Land, and the various settlements in New South Wales; for on British felony the sun never sets. To any one of these I may find myself steering within the next twenty-four hours. But be my prison where it will, I suppose there is a heaven above that place.

There is a good berth provided for me here, and I am as sleepy as a tired ploughman. Good night, then, Ireland, and Irish tumults, strugglings and vociferations, quackery, puffery, and endless talk! Good night, friends and enemies. And good night, my sweet wife and widow! – yet we shall meet again.


28th Sunday morning. A bright morning, but no land in sight. Found the United Irishman of yesterday in my cabin. The sixteenth and last number. Read all the articles. Good Martin! Brave Reilly! but you will be swallowed, my fine fellows. “Government” has adopted the vigorous policy.

Was invited to breakfast with the lieutenants and surgeon. All very polite to me. One of them, whom I take to be the second lieutenant, is a fine young fellow, who has lately returned from the Pacific, after cruising there seven years, and is as brown  as Queen Pomare. He is an Irishman, but far more familiar with the politics of Taiti and Hawaii, than with Irish affairs. About ten o’clock the land-fog rose, and far to the northward I could recognise the coast about Youghal, the opening of the Blackwater, and beyond these, faint and blue, the summits of Knockmeldown. We had kept a wide berth from the land all night, but were now making straight for Cork harbour. Soon it opened; within half an hour more we came to anchor opposite Cove, and within five hundred yards of Spike Island – a rueful looking place, where I could discern, crowning the hill, the long walls of the prison, and a battery commanding the harbour. A boat was instantly lowered and manned. My friends in plain clothes told me they would “take it on their own responsibility” (policemen have high responsibilities in Ireland) not to put me in irons as I went ashore. The Commander and first lieutenant buckled on their swords, and took their seats in the stern of the boat beside me. We were rowed rapidly to the island, and as we walked up the approach we met an elderly, grave-looking gentleman, who said, “Mr. Mitchel, I presume!” How on earth, thought I, did you know already that I was coming to you? – forgetting that Lord Clarendon, before I was “tried,” made sure of my conviction. However, I bowed, and then he turned and escorted us to his den, over a drawbridge, past several sentries, through several gratings, and at last into a small square court. At one side of this court a door opened into a large vaulted room, furnished with a bed, table, chair, and basin-stand, and I was told that I was in my cell. The two naval officers took their leave politely, saying they hoped to meet me under happier circumstances; and they seemed really sorry. I bowed and thanked them; and I was left alone. I found I had the range of the cell and the court before it, no prisoner being there but myself. Mr. Grace, the Governor, came in to tell me I might write home if I chose, submitting the letter to him. I did write, telling where I was, and desiring a trunk to be sent to me with some clothes and a few books. Mr. Grace also offered to lend me books while I should stay. A turnkey, or guard in blue uniform, kept sauntering up and down the court, and sometimes lounged into the room. Asked him what he wanted. He told me he was not to leave me until lock-up hour – thought this a great grievance, and wished for lock-up hour. It came at last: my door was shut, and for the first time I was quite alone.

And now – as this is to be a faithful record of whatsoever befalls me – I do confess, and will write down the confession, that I flung myself on the bed, and broke into a raging passion of tears – tears bitter and salt – tears of wrath, pity, regret, remorse – but not of base lamentation for my own fate. The thoughts and feelings that have so shaken me for this once, language was never made to describe; but if any austere censor could find it in his heart to vilipend my manhood therefor[sic], I would advise him to wait until he finds himself in a somewhat similar position. Believe me, O Stoic! if your soul were in my soul’s stead, I also could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you.

It is over, and finally over. In half-an-hour I rose, bathed my head in water, and walked a while up and down my room. I know that all weakness is past, and that I am ready for my fourteen years’ ordeal, and for whatsoever the same may bring me – toil, sickness, ignominy, death. Fate, thou art defied.


29th- In this court nothing is to be seen but the high walls and the blue sky. And beyond these walls I know is the beautiful bay lying in the bosom of its soft green hills. If they keep me here for many years I will forget what the fair, outer world is like. Gazing on grey stones, my eyes will grow stony.

After breakfast to-day Mr. Grace came into my cell with a turnkey. He had a suit of brown convict-clothes in his hand, and said it was an unpleasant duty he had to perform, but that I must put on those clothes. I obeyed without remark, and in a few minutes after this a fat, red man came in to look at me. This was the governor of Smithfield Prison in Dublin, who is about to return home, and who desires to be enabled to attest at headquarters that he has seen me in convict costume. To me the whole affair is totally indifferent.

Drew my chair to the door, sat down in the sun, and spent an hour or two in reading the “Merry Wives of Windsor.” Thank God for Shakespeare at any rate. Baron Lefroy cannot sentence Shakespeare to death, nor so much as mulct him for damages, although I am told he deserves it for defamation of character, in the case of Sir John Falstaff. The real Falstaff, or Fastolf, I am assured, was a very grave and valiant knight, and built himself the great castle of Caistor to dwell in; never drank sack in Eastcheap, nor made love in Windsor; was neither poor, fat, nor witty, like our Sir John, but was, in fact, as like to other good knights of the period as one shotten herring is like another shotten herring. Well; suppose all this to be what you call “true,” which, then, is the more real and substantial man? I hold that our Sir John is the authentic Sir John, and that your Fastolf was an impostor. Why, I have seen the man, and laughed with him a  hundred times; for though he is fat and groweth old, and his hair is grey, yet the fine old fellow will never die – in truth, he was born with a grey head and something of a round belly. And so he can take his sack still, witty himself, and the cause of wit in others even to this day. Oh! I have much to say in the behalf of that Falstaff.

While I sat in the sun, a large and important-looking gentleman came into the yard, who is, I understand, “Inspector”: four or five well-dressed young gentlemen were with him. They passed into my room, made a few muttered remarks to one another, and went out again, looking very sharply at me as they passed. I gazed at them abstractedly, as if I were looking through them, and thinking of something else. They came, I believe, only to see me. Very well: I wish them much comfort.


June 21st, 1848. Still on board the Scourge, Bermuda. -  Another steamer appeared to-day in the north-eastern channel – another of the great West India packets, two of which rendezvous here at Bermuda once a fortnight. Her deck was swarming with passengers, male and female, as she came to her moorings beside us. She left Southampton on the 2nd of June, and brings London papers up to that date. Our second lieutenant instantly boarded her as officer on guard, and brought back two or three papers; and as I had seen none later than the 26th May, I was glad to get a glance even at the Morning Post. The leading article is about “the convict Mitchel,” who is pronounced by that authority to be not only a convict but a scoundrel. What was more interesting to me, I found Sir George Grey’s reply to a question in Parliament, as to whether my sentence would be executed. “Her Majesty’s Government had sent instructions to Ireland, that the convict Mitchel’s sentence should be fully carried out.” Infinite and inscrutable is the stupidity of mortal man! – the question was put by Edmund Burke Roche, and was to this effect: Whether the Government would really carry out to the full extent “the unjust and disproportionate sentence” pronounced in my case? Blockhead! – the sentence was neither unjust nor disproportionate, if I had been tried and found guilty – the nature of the trial, not the severity of the sentence, is the thing calling for explanation and inquiry, and to that Edmund Burke made no allusion. Of course the Minister in his reply takes care to rebuke the questioner, and properly, too, for calling a sentence “regularly pronounced in due course of law” unjust and disproportionate. Can legislatorial helplessness sink any lower than this?

But what I find most interesting of all in this paper is in the column headed “Ireland” – to wit, the prospectus of the Irish Felon weekly newspaper, signed by Reilly and Martin, established to preach the doctrine of “Convict Mitchel,” and to extend and promote the sacred principle of Irish Felony. This is very good, and cannot end badly. It will force the Carthaginians upon more and more decided efforts of vigour – that is to say, more and more outrageous atrocities of lawless tyranny; it will compel all Lamartinesque politicians to become “felons,” or else say at once they meant no revolution; it will rouse attention to the struggle, and to the true meaning of the struggle; it will induce more and more of the people to get arms; it will strip British Whiggery bare of his treacherous, conciliatory, liberal lambs-wool, and show him gnashing his teeth like a ravening beast – for no brute is so ferocious as your frightened capitalist; it will silence all talk of “law,” and shiver to atoms the “last plank of the Constitution” – leaving Ireland as naked of all law and government (save the bayonet) as on the day when she first rose from the sea – as plainly and notoriously naked of law and government (save the bayonet) as she has been really and effectually these fifty years. At last she cannot but know that she is naked – pray God she be ashamed! – Then, if the Irish people will obey British bayonets, I say again, from my heart, let them obey and be hanged!

To be sure, Reilly and Martin will be seized without delay, their paper stopped, themselves “tried,” as the phrase is, and probably transported; for an insulted government cannot stand this. And Meagher, Duffy, O’Gorman, O’Brien, Dillon, some or all of them, may follow. No matter; better men have been starved to death by hundreds and thousands.

I know very well that this whole idea and scheme of mine wears a wonderfully feeble and silly aspect in the eyes of statesmanlike revolutionists; they can see nothing more in it than a number of gentlemen agreeing to dash out their own brains, one after another, against a granite fortress, with the notion that they are laying desperate siege to it. These statesmanlike politicians say to us that we should wait till we are stronger; that we should conspire and organise in secret, keeping under the shelter of the law for the present; that when plainly advising men to arm is made a “transportable offence,” we should no longer plainly advise, but exhort and influence them privately, until, etc., etc. Wait till your principles take root before you disseminate them, said a prudent adviser to me. But he who talks thus knows nothing of Ireland. In Ireland there can be no secrecy, so thick is it planted with Castle-spies. In Ireland you can never organise to any useful purpose so long as they are so miserably cowed by “law,” and see nobody willing to deny and defy this law. In Ireland no private influence can make men procure arms, because they have been taught for forty years to account arms not honourable and needful, but criminal and illegal; and if you spoke to them about arms in their own houses or fields, they would, perhaps, give you up at the nearest police-barrack as a “Ribbonman” – so they have been instructed, poor fellows, by priest and agitator. How, then, are we to get stronger by waiting? Are we not getting weaker, baser, more cowardly, more beggarly, the longer we wait? No; we must try the virtue of plain, outspoken, desperate truth for once. We must openly glorify arms, until young Irishmen burn to handle them, and try their temper; and this we must do in defiance of “law,” and the more diligently that London laws are expressly made against it. We must, in short, make final protest against this same “law” – deny that it is law; deny that there is any power in the London Parliament to make laws for us, and declare that as a just God ruleth in the earth we will obey such laws no longer. I think there will be found some virtue in this statesmanship of mine, if men still grow in Ireland; at any rate I know no better.

At four o’clock this evening – as I was informed by means of a note to Captain Wingrove from the admiral – a boat was to come off to the ship for me; therefore I made ready my portmanteau. Several of the officers, whose names I will not write here (but shall not forget), judging correctly that wherever I should be stowed away I should want books, and knowing that I had no opportunity of providing such things before my kidnapping, begged I would allow them to give me a few volumes out of their store. This was genuine kindliness of heart; and, as I have no quarrel with these gentlemen personally, I took from four of them, one book from each. I have never found it easy, on a sudden, to haughtily repel any attention offered out of pure goodwill. It is not in me. Yet I believe that if time for consideration had been given me, I would have refused the courtesy of these decent fellows! What! shall I – I, John Mitchel, accept presents, almost eleemosynary presents from officers of the Queen of England? But I am glad that I had no time for exasperating reflections. Four o’clock came, and two boats approached, straight from the dockyard, and pulled by men in the white blouses. The hulks, then! No sea-side cottages or cedarn valleys for me – à l’outrance, then, Gaffer Bull!

Three men came on board the Scourge. One, a tall elderly gentleman, in a blue naval coat, announced himself as superintendent of convicts; another was commander of one of the hulks; the third, a medical officer. Few words passed. Captain Wingrove took a receipt for my body (on which it became the property of the man in blue), and bade me farewell with good wishes. Two of the officers stood at the gangway; and, as I stepped forward to descend the ladder, shook me warmly by the hand. We were pulled straight for the innermost of the three hulks, and in a few minutes I found myself on the quarter-deck. The superintendent then informed me that I was, for the present, to wear my own attire, and not to be sent out upon the works. I nodded. He then asked, “Have you any money?” “A few shillings.” “Any credit in the colony?” “None.” He called the chief mate of the ship to him, and said: “Take Mitchel’s money, and place it to his credit.” The mate, a tall old man with grey hair, looked at me dubiously, as if he thought me a novel species of convict, and did not exactly know how to proceed. So I took out my tricolour purse – “There, friend,” I said, and emptied all I had into his hand. “Now,” said the superintendent, “you will find that nobody here has any disposition to add to the annoyances you must suffer – no severity of any kind will be used towards you, provided you are amendable to the rules of the place.” I nodded. “Especially,” he added, “it is my duty to tell you that you are to have no connection with public affairs, or politics, and are not to attempt to tamper with any of the prisoners on board.” I answered that I could hardly expect to be permitted here to take part in public affairs; and that I desired to have as little intercourse with the prisoners on board as possible.

The mate then said he would show me where I was to be lodged; I followed him down a ladder to the half-deck, and there, in the very centre of the ship, opening from a dark passage, appeared a sort of cavern, just a little higher and a little wider than a doghouse; it is, in fact, the very hole through which the main-mast formerly ran down into the ship, and would be quite dark but for two very small and dim bulls-eyes that are set into the deck above. I cannot stand quite erect under the great beams that used to hold the main-mast in its place; but half of my floor is raised to nine inches, and on that part I cannot stand at all. The whole area is about six feet square; and on the lower part I have a promenade of two steps (gradus), making one step (passus). When I entered, the cavern had, for furniture, one wooden stool. “Here’s your place,” said the mate. “Very well,” quoth I, sitting down upon the stool and, stretching out my feet to the corners of my apartment. So the mate and I looked at one another for a minute. “I suppose,” suggested I, “that I can have my portmanteau here?” He did not know yet, but would ask. He went away, and presently my portmanteau was sent to me, and a message with it, that if I wished to walk on deck or on the breakwater alongside, I might do so. Very glad to avail myself of the offer, as my dog house was intolerably close, I went up, and had a walk on the pier. Soon the “gangs” of prisoners began to come in from the works, and it was intimated to me that I had better retire. A hammock was then brought in my dog-hutch; and in order to make room for it, they had to swing it diagonally. A cup of milkless tea and a lump of bread were then brought me; and when I had despatched these, a piece of candle was left upon a narrow board or shelf projecting from the wall, and my door was locked. The light of the candle showed me a great many big brown cockroaches, nearly two inches long, running with incredible speed over the walls and floor, the sight of which almost turned me sick. I sat down upon my bench, and deliberately reviewed my position. They had not taken my books from me, nor my portmanteau. They had not even searched it, or me; nor taken this scribbling-book away, nor put me in any company with the convicts. This is all good; but to-morrow may show me more. And what is the worse it can show me? Why, to be arrayed in a linen blouse and trousers, with my name and number, and the queen’s arrow stamped thereon, and to be marched to the quarries with pick-axe or crow-bar in my hand. Very well; my health now, I thank God, is good; I have hands, like other men. I am covered with my own skin, and stand upon my own feet, being a plantigrade mammal, and also, happily, rather pachydermatous. Let to-morrow come, then. As for my dog-hutch, the mate muttered something, before he left me, about another and better place being made ready for me in a few days. And for these huge brown beasts crawling here, I presume they don’t bite; other people sleep amongst them, and why not I? A bath in the morning, off the pier, will wash the sordes of the dog-hutch from about me.

Here goes, then, for my first swing in a hammock – and I feel myself a freer man to-night than any Irishman living at large, tranquilly in his native land, making believe that he fancies himself a respectable member of society.


14th Making myself at home in my den here, so far as circumstances will admit. A cot, instead of a hammock, has been provided for me, and Dr. Hall has sent two or three other small matters of convenience; also, a good-natured man, named Black, who tells me he is commander of the Medway, the largest of these hulks, has lent me some books, and told me (taking care, however, to speak to me in presence of the “first mate”) that he has a great quantity of miscellaneous material in the nature of books, which he will be happy to lend me from time to time.

With all these appliances, both for bodily health and mental dissipation, with liberty to write for, and receive any books I please from home (except political periodicals), with sufficient space to exercise in the fresh sea-air, with abundance of good food, and a constant supply of fresh water, and paper, and pens; with all these furtherances, I have been considering whether it would be possible to live here for some indefinite number of years, or even for the whole fourteen, should nothing happen to cut them short. And why not? Major Bernadi lived forty years in Newgate; but then he had his wife and family always with him; and, except for the mere accident of locomotion, was as much in the world as anybody outside. The Earl of Northumberland lived fifteen years in the Tower in the time of James the First; but then he had leave to correspond with all the learned men of Europe about astronomy; had the White Tower, I suppose, for an observatory; no restrictions as to communicating with whom he pleased; and, I daresay, everything handsome about him. James the First of Scotland, indeed, was imprisoned eighteen or twenty years in Windsor Castle; but, to be sure, he had plenty of society, and a duchess to make love to, which would make a great difference. None of these cases is like mine. The Man in the Iron Mask is more to the purpose; he wore away all his weary days in close confinement. Delatude, also, the Bastile prisoner, ought to encourage me; he lived thirty-seven years in most rigorous imprisonment, and emerged (see the Duchess D’Abrantes) a fine hale old gentleman at last. I forget how long Tasso was kept in the mad-house; but Silvio Pellico was ten years in the Austrian dungeons. Bonnivard was six years in Chillon, a most uncomfortable place; and Raleigh thirteen years in the Tower of London. Who else? Balue, the founder of the great Evreux Cathedral, was kept by Louis XI, twelve years in a loathsome den; and I find, from the Book of Kings, that Jehoiachim, King of Judah, lay in a Babylonian dungeon thirty-seven years. I wish I had books and materials here to collect a hand-book of prison biography, for encouragement to myself if I should hereafter chance to need it. Fourteen years are a long time; yet they will assuredly pass. I have nothing to do but keep myself alive and wait.

Suicide I have duly considered and perpended, and deliberately decided against, for reasons which I will here set down in order, so that I may have them to refer to, if that method of solution become a question with me hereafter; for, alas I know that in fourteen years will be many a dreary day, many a weary night; and sickness and deadly tedium will fall heavily down upon my soul; and often the far-off end of my days of sorrow will be clean out of my sight for the thick clouds that will seem closing around me, veiling all my horizon in the blackness of darkness. Ah! long years in a lonely dungeon are no light thing to the stoutest heart – not to be laughed at by any means; not to be turned back or got rid of, or made to pass merrily as marriage-bells by any system of jesting, or moralising, or building up of sentences, philosophic or jocular, for one’s private edification or ghastly solitary laughter. And the way of escape will be always near me and often tempting; ‘tis but opening a door, but touching a spring, and the fardel of my life is cast down, and the black bars vanish from between me and yonder setting sun. Yet will I not lay hand upon my own life, for the reasons here following:-

First. Because I should, in such case, be a conspirator with Baron Lefroy, the Sheriff of Dublin, and the Ministers of England, against my own name and fame. Their parliament and their sheriff may nickname me “felon,” but if I, in despair, thereupon rush to my death, I will own myself a felon, indeed, and send my children scandalised to their graves,  as the children of a self-convicted criminal and despairing suicide.

Second. Because, having engaged in this undertaking with full knowledge that this imprisonment might, and probably would be, the end of it for me, suicide now would be a mean and cowardly confession that the consequence of my own acts, I find upon trial, to be more than I can bear.

Third. Because, whereas I am now employed in carrying forward that undertaking, I trust to a happy issue, if I kill myself, I not only desist from the whole enterprise, but, so far as in me lies, undo all I have done. Sometimes to suffer manfully is the best thing man can do – passiveness  may happen to be the most effectual action; and I do firmly believe that (unless my whole life has been one gross mistake from the first) I am this moment, though three thousand miles off, active in Ireland – not passive in Bermuda. The manner of my sham trial, the eager, fierce haste of the enemy to gag and ruin me, the open war waged against all constitutional and legal right in Ireland – all this will (or else the very devil is in them) sting the apathetic, shame the “constitutional,” and above all, rouse the young to a pitch of wrathful disaffection that cannot be come to good. While I am known to be living in vile sinks of felony – and through such means – especially if other and better man follow through the same means, the mind of the young Irish generation will not easily settle down and acquiesce in the sway of the foreign enemy. But if I die, I, for one, will soon be forgotten. There will be one stimulus the less to Ireland’s friends – one difficulty the less to her foes. And if I die by my own hand, I will be worse than forgotten – I will have confessed that England’s brute power is resistless, and therefore righteous – at any rate that I for my part, am a beaten man. It will be my last speech and dying declaration, imploring my countrymen to avoid the terrible fangs of British law – my pupils will hang their heads for shame; and, instead of an example, I shall have become a warning.

Fourth. Because my flesh creeps at the thought of the convict cemetery.

Fifth. Because I have much to live for – many duties but half-discharged or wholly neglected – young children brought into the world, and allowed to grow up hitherto, like an unweeded garden. For so busy has my life been that I have never yet got much further than intending to begin doing my domestic duties. But if it be the will of Providence to draw me alive out of this pit, I hope to do my children some good yet before I die.

Sixth. Because * * * *

For these six reasons I mean to live, and not die. It may be that two years, five years, or seven years, may bring me freedom; for the time is like to be eventful, and Carthaginian policy is surprisingly deep and inscrutable; but, at any rate, I will live on, and see it out, and even economise my health and strength, that I may not be turned out at forty-six years of age a decrepit old man, but may have some stamina and spirit left to begin the world upon over again.

My six reasons so set out in black-on-white, I find to be altogether sufficient. And well they are so; for the cool determination to maintain a mere animal or vegetable life in an ignominious den like this has need of good reasons to justify it. Suicide is not in itself a bad act, though in any given case it may be a very dark crime indeed. Pliny’s sad saying – that the choicest blessing of this life is the power to end it – may not be universally true; yet that same is a blessing; and if there be a settled desire of death, and no adequate reasons for living – that is, if it be not your clear duty to live, then it is your clear right to die. Only let every man beware of the mistakes in forming a judgment on the point: let him do nothing in haste, or out of impatience, spite, or passion: let me him give himself a fair trial – a rare thing under the sun – and if he find, on impartial inquest, that the burden of his life is heavier than he can bear, and that his death, or manner of his death, will injure no one – then let him calmly, and in all good humour, in no spirit of impious defiance of heaven or stupid scorn of mankind – let him, like good old Gloster,

Shake patiently his great affliction off.

But, having gone so far into this exhilarating tractate of self-murder, let me see if I can get to the root of the matter. There is an axiom of lawyers in all lands – and founded surely on sound ethics – that you may do what you will with your own, but so as not to hurt your neighbour. And what can be my own, if my own body be not? I will move it whither I please (unless somebody steals it from me and locks it up – as may sometimes happen) – or if I choose, I will keep it at rest, feed or physic it, pamper or starve it, or, if I like, riddle it with bullets, or drown it in the sea – but always provided nobody else is hurt by these proceedings. Locomotion, in like manner, is not in itself a crime – no more than suicide; yet one has not a right to exercise locomotive power by bolting from his place of abode, leaving his rent unpaid and his children starving.

It seems, then, that no man ought to leave engagements undischarged, or duties that he has implicitly or explicitly contracted to do, undone. Is this the key that opens the whole mystery?

Hardly the whole. I have heard people say, indeed, that in no case can one cast away life without deserting duty; for every man being born into a world of creatures like himself, all fitted for social life, and in need of one another’s help, and being endowed with faculties, wants, and sympathies accordingly – has claims (so they say) on all other men, and must reciprocally admit their claims on him – is bound, in short, to exercise those faculties, for the good of himself and others, to supply those wants and develop those sympathies and affections, and so become and continue, nolens volens, a good and useful member of society, until it shall please God Who made him to end his task. All this I deny. Nobody is obliged to “benefit his species”; the notion of a man being able to benefit his species, or bound to do it, if able, is a mere modern humbug – not more, as I calculate, than ninety or a hundred years old. Our duties to “society,” to “mankind,” and the like, begin and end with our personal engagements, express or implicit; if you violate none of these, you may go about your business without leave asked of mankind or society so far as they are concerned you are clear. In that case you need not search for reasons to justify your retreat; one’s own whim is reason enough; if you are of a bilious habit, and melancholy temperament, and fancy that you are tired seeing the sun rise every day, I know no cause why you should not thrust a sharp instrument into your dyspeptic stomach and let your disagreeable soul rush forth into the air; or, say that you love a woman who despises you, and being but young, fancy that you have done with life, and that your heart is broken, or “blighted” – or, if you like it better, “crushed” – and have no father or mother, brothers or sisters to be grieved, shocked or disgraced by you – why, then, paying first all your bills, yea, the very tailor’s, go by all means and take your lover’s leap. Mankind will go on without you; and for the lady, whose cruel heart you think to wring, she will be much pleased and flattered; your sad fate will have thrown a shade of romantic interest around her, and she will look more charming in it than ever. Bless your innocent heart, a dozen such scalps as yours at her war-belt will but heighten her rank and dignity in that savage tribe.

Yet this simple key, one may affirm, does not open the whole mystery; nor any key yet forged. I will only suggest, that there may be other considerations worthy a man’s thoughts (before he blows his brains out) besides his bare duties, debts to society, or engagements with other men, women, and children. Finding yourself here, a living man, may it not be worth your while (for remember it may be the only opportunity you will have for many an aeon) to stay and see what this life is, and what it is good for – to try what capacities of action and passion may be in this manhood wherewith you are thus mysteriously invested – how far it can look before and after – whether there be not matters worth seeing, doing, knowing, suffering even – consider, consider whether there may not be – I say not debts and duties – but privileges and high prerogatives vested in the very life and soul you are about to scatter to the elements, which will enable and entitle you, by faithful manly action, to lift up that despised human nature of yours, not only out of the Slough of Despond, where it now lies weltering, but above the empyrean and the stars – yea, powers whereby you may illumine what is dark in you, what is low raise and exalt, and so –

By due steps aspire

To lay your just hands on the golden key

That opes the palace of eternity

We know what we are, but not what we shall be; they say the owl was a baker’s naughty daughter; and I do verily believe that on the extent to which we purify and ennoble our own nature in life will depend the rank to be assigned each of us in the scale of God’s creatures at death. Therefore, on the whole, I say as Convict Socrates said: ανδριοτεον, as we are men, let us be men – as the Christian apostle said, “Quit you like men” – what is needful to be endured, endure it; what your hand findeth to do, do it; love, hate, work, and play, not envying, not oppressing, nor brooking oppression – above all, not lying (to yourself or others), and you will see good days before you die and after.

I am far from saying it is your duty to remain alive for all this – only your privilege. You are not obliged, but permitted; and you may throw away the privilege, and decline the trouble. But beware, lest on your next transmigration you find yourself looking out through the eyes of a baboon, or hearing with the ears of a jackass.

Reading over the above disquisition two hours after writing it, I find it consists of words mainly, or even echoes of words, with shadows and ghosts of meanings. Heaven be my witness, I know little of man’s life and its high destinies myself; and am often included to say there is nothing in it. All is vanity. Yet “look to the end of life.” Who can say all is vanity till he has tried it out? Thirty-three years have I walked the earth, and not idly nor with my eyes intentionally sealed. I have lived, and I have loved; and, up to the present date, cannot say that I find this world to be any great matter. But then, here is a new scene of it opening upon me; the hulks may teach me somewhat. I am resolute to wait and see.


[July] 20th.A month in Bermuda and there has not been one shower but a deavy [sic] dew at night (which it seems Prospero was aware of), and even during the day, while a tyrannical sun is blazing down vertically upon this arid land, there is a surprising dampness in the air, so that salt standing in an uncovered vessel upon a shelf in the dry ship, soon runs to water. A southerly wind blows the whole summer, laden always with water; and without it there would certainly be no vegetation at Bermuda. As it is, however, vegetation is very rich, and the fruit is delicious. Good people have sometimes got a melon or pine-apple smuggled in to me by methods to me unknown.

My window commands a view of the whole dock-yard with its buildings, also the barrack and parade-ground. The 42nd Regiment of Highlanders is stationed here, and just before sunset, every evening, they muster on an esplanade right opposite to me, and march up to their barracks with bagpipes playing “The Campbells are Coming,” or some kindred air. But upon the other side, upon the breakwater, which is also in part visible from my window, is another muster, sad to see: many hundreds of poor convicts marched in gangs, some of them in chains, to their work, in the quarries, or the new government buildings. They walk, as I fancy, with a drooping gait and carriage. Their eyes, it is said, are greatly injured by the glare of the white rocks, and many of them grow “moon-blind,” as they call it, so that they stumble over stones as they walk. There are always two or three of those belonging to this ship kept in irons for one fault or another, and the clank of chains is seldom out of my ears. Within the month, also, several of them have been savagely flogged; the other prisoners are all mustered to see this exhibition; and though I am never summoned to any muster, I can hear in my cabin every cut of the sounding lash, and the shrieks of the mangled wretches. I once asked the attendant who brings my meals what fault a man had committed who was flogged that morning. “For giving cheek, sir,” answered the man; which means, using insolent language; but when I hear the officers or guards speaking to them (as when walking in deck I often do), it is always in an imperious, insolent tone and manner, even in giving the commonest order; which might well exasperate sometimes the tamest drudge. No wonder the poor fellows are sometimes provoked to “give cheek.” Now, I am sentenced to the very same punishment with these convicts, yet here have I my “cabin,” my bookshelves, the attendance of a servant, wear my own clothes, go out and come in at my own times, am spoken to, not only without haughtiness, but with respect, and all because I am supposed to be (though I never said I was) a gentleman. See here the spirit of the British Constitution – a most polite Constitution! – a most genteel spirit! See of what fine porcelain clay your British gentleman must be made, when, even as a felon (for they are bound to pretend that they consider me a felon), the gentleman is not be allowed to mix with the swinish multitude. Your gentlemanly convict, even, must have deference and accommodations, and attendance and literary leisure; but in the hulk, as elsewhere, there is the hard word and the hard blow, and unremitting, ill-requited toil, and fetters for the limbs, and a scourge for the back of the poor.


[August] 28th. –I was right: news do leak, percolating through the strangest capillary tubes: a man cannot be sealed up hermetically in a hulk; and I am not to be fourteen years in utter darkness. Voici! Government continues to act with vigour: certain Chartists have been holding meetings in London to testify sympathy with me: whereupon the insulted Government clapped them up in jail and indicted them; the record of my conviction as a felon was produced by my friend Kemmis on their trial as part of the proof against them. Amongst others, Ernest Jones, an able man, a barrister, and editor of the Northern Star, has been convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for attending one of those meetings, and saying in his speech there, that I, J. M., would one day return to my country in triumph, and Lord John Russell and Lord Clarendon would be transported. Fine vigour this! But then possibly Mr. Jones and the rest have had fair play in respect of juries in London. Of this indeed I can find no distinct intelligence; but there is actually Law and a Government in their country. If the juries were not packed, they have nothing to complain of; if they were fairly tried by their countrymen and found guilty, why, they are guilty.

In Ireland, Meagher has been arrested at his father’s house and carried to Dublin. His crime is a speech at Rathkeale, and “sedition” only, not “felony;” therefore he is liberated on bail. But John Martin lies in Newgate charged with felony, committed in the Irish Felon – and where else should felony be found? Duffy is also in Newgate, for a like felony done in the Nation; Kevin O’Doherty, and R.D. Williams, who established another felonious newspaper immediately after my kidnapping, under the title of the Irish Tribune, are also committed for felony: and – still more vigorous vigour – the issue of the three papers, Nation, Felon, and Tribune, was stopped by the police, who even took them away from the newsmen on the streets: their offices were broken open, taken possession of and searched for felonious documents; and, in short, everything goes on in the genuine ’98 style. I like all this very well.

And poor Williams, with his fragile frame and sensitive poetic temperament – is he to be a martyr felon? And Martin! But perhaps Lord Clarendon may find these two amongst the stoutest he has yet to deal with.

Now will the philanthropic viceroy deliberately pack a Castle jury for every one of these criminals: and again systematically exclude three parts of the citizens of Dublin from the exercise of the commonest rights of good and lawful men? I think he will do it; at his peril he must do this atrocity. I told him he would have to do it, or else give up the government. He dares not give his prisoners a fair trial: “policy,” “statesmanship,” and the “force of circumstances,” will imperiously compel him to cheat these men, to work hideous injustice under colour of law, to tamper with the administration of justice, which it is his office to guard, to outrage Ireland, to lie to England, and to damn his own soul. Imperious force of circumstances. When will rulers conceive, in their benighted minds, that common honesty is the deepest policy, and that by far the cunningest statesmanship would be to do plain justice?

At any rate matters are now in train for plenty of excellent legal work in Ireland; they will know before all is over what fine laws and constitution they have there: the “law” will develop itself, and “Crown and Government” will get vindicated properly – jurors, also, one may hope, will learn their duty amidst all this (I mean the duty they will have to do so soon as trial by jury is restored) – the duty, namely, in all political prosecutions at the suit of the Queen of England, to find all persons not guilty. Nay, they must carry it further, and insist upon bringing in special verdicts in all such cases, finding, on their oath, that the respective prisoners at the bar have merited well of their country – that is, if they have really delivered a damaging blow to “government.”

Either it will come to this, or else the philanthropic viceroy must pack closer, and ever closer, every Commission; and transport and hang men on the verdicts of his own particular tradesmen, “by special appointment” jurors to the Lord Lieutenant – which in the end may work just as well.

Lord Fitzwilliam wants to “bring in a Bill” to pension the Catholic clergy, that is, bribe them to secure the peace of the country, while “government” is working its wicked will. Ministers appear to think the proposal too palpable and ostentatious in its corruptness at the present moment; so they are “not prepared to accede” just now. That small job is to stand over for a while.


Nov. 7th, 1848 - In my cell, "Dromedary" Hulk. - This evening, after dusk, as I sat at my window, looking drearily on the darkening waters, something was thrown from the door of my cell, and lighted at my feet. I heard a quick noiseless step leaving the door. Picking up the object, I found it to be a London paper. The Halifax mail has arrived – I long for the hour when my cell is to be locked, and carefully hide my treasure till then.

At last the chief mate has locked and bolted me up for the night. I light a candle, and with shaking hands spread forth my paper.

Smith O’Brien has been found guilty, and sentenced to be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution and hanged. The other trials pending.


21st.All the four – O’Brien, Meagher, M’Manus, O’Donoghue – sentenced to death. But the enlightened Spirit of the Age – the d---- take his enlightened cant! – is going to spare their lives, and only transport them for life. I have seen a part of Butt’s speech in defence of Meagher – bad. Also the few words spoken by poor Meagher after conviction; brave and noble words.

I have been sick, and unable to write. Why do I not open my mouth and curse the day I was born? Because – because I have a hope that will not leave my soul in darkness – a proud hope that Meagher and I together will stand side by side on some better day – that there is work for us yet to do – that I am not destined to perish on the white rocks of Bermuda – that the star of Thomas Meagher was never kindled to set in this Clonmel hurdle.

Of the state of public opinion in Ireland, and the spirit shown by the surviving organs thereof, I have but this indicium. The Freeman’s Journal, one number of which I have seen, ventures as a piece of incredible daring, to print some words used by Whiteside in his speech for the prisoners – words deprecatory of the packing of juries, or something of that sort. The editor ventures on no remarks of his own, and carefully quotes Whiteside’s words as “used by counsel.” Quite, quite down! Yet, on the whole, I do not much blame Gray for not flinging himself into the open pit. He was no way committed to this particular movement; and perhaps he is wise to let the storm blow past and keep his paper alive for quieter times.

Let me try if I can arrive at any reasonable estimate of the prospects of the great cause amidst all this ululu. Half-a-dozen gentlemen, or so, are “transported” (or suppose we had been impaled or broken on the wheel). This, we will say, is a loss to the half-dozen gentlemen and their friends. But the question is, has British government in Ireland been damaged by the collision, or otherwise? Has a breach been effected? If so, we who were in the front rank of the assault, have no right to complain that we only help to fill up a ditch with our bodies for other men to pass over. Let us thank God if there be men to pass.

And I think British dominion has been damaged, and heavily. Of course, the contrary will seem to be the fact for awhile. All bold newspapers being silenced and all leading men put under lock and key, there will be a lull in the matter of “sedition” and “treason”; Ministers will sanctimoniously congratulate the peaceably disposed community; Cockney newspapers will crow most cheerily; and the Irish Rebellion will be matter of merriment to all sleek money-getting men in England. But is Irish disaffection growing less deep or deadly all this while? Will the strong healthy appetite for our glorious treason just subside when Lord Clarendon chooses burglariously to enter and gut all seditious newspaper offices? Will Catholic householders, who know they are entitled to serve as jurors, paying the requisite taxes and having their names on the needful books, will they love the “government” any better than they did, when they find themselves publicly proscribed and excluded from the common rights and functions of citizenship? “And, I prithee, tell me how doest thou find the inclination of the people, especially of the younger sort?” Surely we have not been utterly losing our labour all these years past, with our Nations, and our Irish libraries, and ballads, and the rest of it. Boys have been growing up all these years; the national schools have not been idle. Within thousands of those “small curly heads” (celebrated by Reilly), thoughts have been kindled that Dr. Whately wots not of. Under many a thin poor little jacket, who can tell what a world of noble passion has been set aglow; what haughty aspirings for themselves and their ancient land; what infinite pity; what hot shame for the trampled country and the dishonoured name of their fathers; what honest, wistful rage? Ha! if the thoughtful fiery boy but live to be a man. What I mean to say is, in short, that there is now actually in Ireland, a sort of inchoate rudimentary public opinion independent of the Carthaginians on the one hand, and of the priests on the other. If I be right, or nearly right, in my estimate of the relative forces now extant in Ireland, Carthage will dearly rue her vigour of 1848.

For the persons on whom this vigour is exerted, it befalls happily that the chief men amongst them (not including myself) are of the highest, purest character. Acts of Parliament, verdicts of “guilty,” hulks, chains, hurdles, cannot blacken or disgrace these men. When persons calling themselves “government,” by conspiring with corrupt sheriffs and tampering with courts of justice, lay foul hands on such men, I believe that government cannot long survive its crime.

It is true there will be amongst the better-fed classes – of Catholics especially – a hideous display of meanness and servility on this occasion. I shall not wonder if corporations, bishops, Catholic assistant-barristers, and other notabilities publicly praise my Lord Clarendon for his “wise precautions,” and so forth. O’Connell’s son will zealously disclaim all connection with illegal persons, and profess anxiety to administer the poor dilapidated remnant of his hereditary “agitation,” as he calls it, in a strictly constitutional manner. All this is sad enough; yet, I say, the fact of a number of honourable and worthy men being oppressively and corruptly put out of the way by the English agents will assuredly bear good fruit in Ireland; the wholesome leaven will be working; “disaffection” will have received a new stimulus, motive and reason, and will be deepening and widening daily. Then the circumstance that half the transported felons are Protestant and half Catholic will surely help to convince the North (if anything can ever teach the blockhead North) that our cause is no sectarian cause. I rely much also on the exertions of the national school teachers to inculcate sound Irish doctrine dehors the class-books furnished to them by Dr. Whately. Very many of those teachers, I know, were fully bent, a year ago, on counteracting the influence of that old shovel-hatted Carthaginian who has so long ridden the national school system, like a shovel-hatted nightmare.

On the whole, then, we have:

First. – The British Government unmasked – driven fairly from its conciliatory position, and forced to show itself the ferocious monster it is.

Second. – All the generous sympathies and passions of the young and high-minded enlisted on behalf of the felons and their felony, and outraged and revolted by the atrocity of the enemy.

Third. – The strong appetite for national or seditious reading sharpened by Lord Clarendon’s press-censorship: so that the next pouring forth of sound doctrine will be as springs of water in a thirsty land.

Thus the breach is every way widened and deepened; arms are multiplied, notwithstanding proclamations and searches; a fund of treason and disaffection is laid up for future use; and it will burn into the heart of the country till it find vent. And so the “Irish difficulty” will grow and swell like a huge mountainous possibility. God prosper it!

Yes; we “convicts” may be very sure that of all our writing, speaking, acting and endeavouring, and of the labour we have laboured to do, what was true, just, faithful, will not perish or fail of its effect, but will stand and bear fruit, even though we may be lying in foreign graves, our bones mixed with the unclean dust of unspeakable rascaldom forever.

But what must our poor countrymen go through in the meantime? Alas! what further, deeper debasement of mind and body is yet before them while those English --- still have power to torture the land with their “laws?” What exterminations, what murders, what beggary and vice, what fearful flights of hunted wretches beyond sea to the four winds of heaven! How long! how long!


[Nov] 22nd.- Letter from my brother William, who is in New York: it seems if he had not left Ireland at once he would have been arrested under the Habeas-Corpus Suspension Act (which is the palladium of the British Constitution – the Habeas Corpus or the suspension of the Habeas Corpus?) Lord Clarendon is cramming the goals: but Dillon, Reilly, O’Gorman, and Doheny all seem to have escaped. Dillon is in New York – O’Gorman escaped in a small vessel to some port in Bretagne[4]. I cannot make out Reilly’s whereabouts; but wherever he is, the worthy fellow is not idle.

French Republic still standing, and, I think, likely to stand. The information that has penetrated to me through my bars is but fragmentary; not presenting me with the panorama in due sequence, but only a tableau here and there; yet, what I have seen is good. In June, some people, whom the English newspapers call the “Red Republicans” and Communists, attempted another Paris revolution, which, if successful, would have been itself a horrible affair, and at any rate might have been the death of the Republic; but they were swept from the streets with grape and canister – the only way of dealing with such unhappy creatures.

I cannot believe that all the party called Red Republicans are also Communists, though the English newspapers use the terms as synonymous – of course to cast odium on the thorough-going Republicans. I suspect that there is a numerous party of staunch Republicans who believe the Revolution is but half accomplished, which, indeed, may turn out to be the case. But then these ought to make no common cause with Socialists; Socialists are something worse than wild beasts.

But I can see no French papers; I am in British darkness.

Note, that the gentle Alphonse de Lamartine has somehow dropped out of the tableau of late. I miss his dignified figure, and lofty brow with its invisible crown of thorns. I miss the high-flying language and gushing tenderness of that piteous poet – his Bedouin instep, and his eye in elaborate fine frenzy rolling. What has become of him I cannot make out, nor the special cause of his dechèance. But it was natural, necessary and right: let Alphonse retire to the East again, and see visions of a Druse-Maronite empire – let him pour fourth [sic] his mysterious sorrows on Lebanon, and add with tears to the dews of Hermon. He had no call to the leading of a revolution, and was at best but what we seamen call a figure-head. The demission of Alphonse pleases me the better, as I predicted the same in the United Irishman within a month after the February revolution. So far, well; I have other political prophecies pending – fulfilment not due yet.

The Carthaginian newspapers, I find, are deeply distressed about this French Republic – mad that it yet lives. They are zealous in laying hold of and exaggerating all the inconveniences that cannot fail to grow out of the dislocation of interests and interruption of business occasioned by such a revolution; they are concerned about it chiefly for the sake of the French people, you may be sure; and one and all predict a speedy return to monarchy in the person of the young Bordeaux-Berri-Bourbon, if not of Louis Philippe himself. In truth, these newspaper-men are thoroughly frightened; or, rather, their owners or subsidisers, the aristocracy and credit-funding plutocracy of Carthage, are frightened at this near neighbourhood of liberty, and the danger of fund-confounding revolution; and so they all devote it from their hearts to the infernal gods.

Here is the mighty game of sixty years ago coming to be played again – to be played out perhaps this time; and the world is about to be a spectator of a most excellent piece of work. And am I, O my God! through all these crowded years of life, to sit panting here behind an iron grating, or to die an old hound’s death, and rot among Bermudian blattae! Infandum!


Jan. 16. [1849] Last night, as my double-goer and I – for I go double – sat in my cell smoking our pipe together, the awful shade took occasion to expostulate with me in the following terms;- “I do observe,” quoth he, “a singular change in you of late days; a shadow of gloom, and almost a tinge of atrocity, staining the serene empyrean of your soul; and, what is yet sadder, I behold in you what seems to be a sort of conscious obliquity of judgement and elaborate perversity of feeling, which is – that is, it appears to me – that is, if I read you aright – which is blacker than mere natural malignity.”

The Ego (puffing thick clouds). – Explain; your language is unusual.

Doppelganger. – Well, then, first; What is the meaning of all this fiery zeal of yours for the French Republic? I know well that you feel no antipathy to either a monarchical or an aristocratic government, as such; that, in fact, within your secret heart, you care very little about Republicanism in the abstract.

The Ego. – Not a rush. What then?

Doppelganger. – Then I am forced to conclude that your anxiety for the success of the French Republic springs from something else than zeal for the welfare of the human race.

The Ego. - A fig for the human race; to be sure it does.

Doppelganger. – Yes; it is born of no love for mankind, or even French mankind, but of pure hatred to England, and a diseased longing for blood and carnage. You think a republic cannot long stand in France without a European war, which would smash the credit-system, cut up commerce, and in all probability take India and Canada from the British Empire – to say nothing of Ireland.

The Ego. – To say nothing of Ireland? But what if I were thinking of Ireland all the time?

Doppelganger.- And for the chance of getting Ireland severed from Britain in the dreadful state melée, do you desire to see all Europe and America plunged in desperate war? For the chance of enkindling such a war, do you delight to see a great and generous people like the French, committing themselves and their children to a wild political experiment, which, as you know, is as like to breed misery as happiness to them and theirs?

The Ego – (Laying down pipe, and raising aloft an umbrageous pillar of smoke). – Now, listen to me, Herr Doppelganger. First, I care little, indeed, about Republicanism in the abstract; but the French Republic I watch in its growth with keen and loving interest. For Republicans, or Monarchism, in the abstract, is nothing – a government is a thing that governs concrete living men under absolute extant circumstances; and I regard aristocratic and monarchic institutions, how good soever in their day and place – how defensible soever “in the abstract,” as being for the Western nations of Europe worn out – that is to say, worn out for the present; and until we shall have advanced to them again, via barbarism, in the cyclical progress of the species. For England, for Ireland especially, I believe those institutions are far more than worn out – were worn out fifty  years ago, and have only been kept seemingly alive by the commercial world, and for purposes of traffic – to stave off the inevitable bankruptcy, smash, and alteration of the style and firm; but in so sustaining a fictitious credit, and pushing trade to such desperate lengths under it, those money-making people are likened unto the man who built his house upon the sand – the longer he has been able to shore it up (building additional storeys on it all the while) the greater will be the fall of it. Secondly, I hold that in all marches and counter-marches of the human race, France of right leads the van. Your Anglo-Saxon race worships only money, prays to no other god than money, would buy and sell the Holy Ghost for money, and believes that the world was created, is sustained, and governed, and will be saved by the only one true, immutable Almighty Pound Sterling. France recognises a higher national life, aspires for ever to a grander national destiny than mere trading. France mints the circulating medium of thoughts and noble passions, and sets up poor nations in business with capital of that stamp. Paris is the great moral metropolis of mankind. Thirdly, Mein Herr, the French have no right to stipulate for their own “happiness,” while they discharge this high public duty. Neither for man nor nation is happiness the end of living – least of all for those who utter new truths and lead in new paths. Let a nation act with all the energy of its national life – do with its might what its hand findeth to do – the truth it has got to utter speak it in thunder. Therein let it find its “happiness,” or nowhere.

Doppelganger. – You speak as if France were fighting the republican fight for all the world, and in advance of all the world. Apparently you forget America, and where France herself went to school to learn republicanism. At any rate, the United States were a republic before ever France was one.

The Ego. – And San Marino before the United States; but I was speaking of the great ancient nations of feudal Europe, and the struggle and travail that is appointed them before they can slough off the coil of their decrepit or dead aristocracies and heraldries, which have come to be humbugs – a struggle which the United States never knew, nor had need to make; for those British colonies in America, once the yoke of King George was broken, found themselves republics by necessity of the case; they had no material there whereout to form any other sort of government. The difficulty there would have been to get up a dynasty – to find the original parents out of whom to breed an hereditary aristocracy. In short, external circumstances and agencies, and mere necessity, made America Republican. But France – France, with all her circumstances, habits, traditions, tending the other way; ancient France, Mother of Chivalry, heritage of Charlemagne’s peers, environed by a whole world of monarchism, landlordism, and haughtiest gentility – tearing off the clinging curse, trampling it under foot, and fronting the naked swords of all raging Europe, while she stood forth in the simple might of manhood, uncrowned, unfrocked, untabarded, showing what, after all, men can do; then, after her own hero, in whom she trusted, lifted up his heel against her, when she was hacked and hewn almost to pieces by the knives of allied butchers, hag-ridden by the horrid ghost of a dynasty, and cheated by a “citizen king,” – cherishing still, deep in her glowing heart, the great idea, through long years, through agonies and sore travail, until the days are accomplished for the god-like birth – this, I apprehend, is another kind of phenomenon than the Declaration of Independence. And we ought to be thankful to the good God (you and I) that we live in the days when we may reasonably hope to see this noble work consummated, though it be in flames and blood.

Doppelganger. – You say nothing in answer to my charge, that all this enthusiasm of yours is mere hatred of England.

The Ego. – No; I scorn to answer that. But what mean you by England? – the English people, or the English Government? Do you mean those many millions of honest people who live in England, minding their own business, desiring no better than to enjoy, in peace and security the fruits of their own industry, and grievously devoured by taxes? Or do you mean the unholy alliance of land appropriators, and fund-men, and cotton-men, who devour them? Do you mean the British nation? or do you mean what Cobbett called the Thing?

Doppelganger.- By England I mean, of course, all her people, and all her institutions: tradesmen and nobles, Church and State, weavers, stockholders, pitmen, farmers, factories, funds, ships, Carlton clubs, Chartist conventions, Dissenting chapels, and Epsom races. I mean that.

The Ego. – You do? Then let me tell you it is a very unmeaning kind of lumping you make; I hold that now, and for fifty years back, the best friend to the British nation is simply he who approves himself the bitterest enemy to their government, and to all their institutions, in Church and State. And thus I claim to be, not an enemy, but a friend of England; for the British people are what I call England.

Doppelganger. -  Excluding, of course, those cruel capitalists, mill-owners, landlords; everybody, in short, who has anything?

The Ego. – Excluding nobody! But you are aware that in every possible condition of human society, no matter how intolerable to the great majority, no matter how grievously it may cry aloud for change, there are always many fat persons right well content with things as they are – to wit, those who thrive upon things as they are. Why, in Ireland, even, are many grave and well-dressed persons (I have seen them myself in Belfast, and even in Dublin, among the fed classes) – who say, Ireland is doing reasonably well, and likely to do well. Now, in speaking of Ireland and the Irish people, I do not exclude those persons: only set at naught their opinion, and set aside their particular interests in consideration of the vital general interest. Therefore, when I say that I would cut down and overthrow, root and branch, the whole government and social arrangements of England, I am entitled also to call myself a friend to the English people, to all the English people – yes, to the very money-men in Lombard Street, to the very dukes, the very bishops – I would make them all turn to some honest occupation.

Doppelganger. – Do you imagine capitalists eat their money, and so make away with it out of rerum natura? Or that land-proprietors devour and digest the entire produce of their estates? Or, in short, that the wealthy, be they ever so malignant, can use their riches otherwise than by employing the poor, and paying them for their labour? Or do you propose to enable all the poor to live without labour or wages?

The Ego. – I am not to learn from you first principles of political economy, taken out of Dr. Whately’s little primer. Perhaps you will next be urging that mill-owners are not, by nature, anthropophagous, and that landlords are not, by anatomical structure, hyaenas, but men. Let us suppose all those matters you have mentioned, just proved, admitted, put out of the way: they are nothing to the purpose. But the case is this – those you call capitalists are, as a body, swindlers – that is to say, the “commercial world” is trading on what it knows to be fictitious capital – keeping up a bankrupt firm by desperate shifts, partly out of mere terror at the thought of the coming crash, and partly because – what often happens in bankruptcy – those who are active in the business are making their private gains in the meantime out of the already dilapidated estate – and all this is but preparing for a heavier fall and wider-spreading ruin – the more undoubting confidence in the stability of the concern is felt by fools and pretended to by knaves, so much the greater number of innocent and ignorant people will have their homes desolated at last. Again, I say that fifty years ago the Crown and Realm of Britain was a bankrupt firm, and that the hollow credit system on which it has kept itself afloat is a gigantic piece of national swindling – which must end not in ruin merely, but in utter national disgrace also.

Doppelganger. – Ah! The nation is swindling itself then! I perceive you think England must be ruined by the national debt – that huge sum of money due by herself to herself.

The Ego. – Yes – due by England to herself; that is to say, due by the millions of tax-payers to the thousands who have interest enough to get themselves made tax-eaters – that is to say, due by the workers to the idlers – due by the poor to the rich – yet, incredible to tell, incurred and created at first by the idlers and the rich, to sustain a state of things which keeps them idle and rich. In short, over and above the eternal inequalities of condition in human society, which for ever doom the many to labour that the few may eat and sleep, over and above this, British policy has thrown an additional burden of eight hundred millions or so upon the working many – placed an item of that amount on the wrong side of the account – to make the workers, I suppose, work the better – to make them look sharp, and mind economy – lest they should wax fat and kick, possibly kick down the whole Thing.

Doppelganger. – But, after all, the main question as to this national debt is, whether the objects for which it was incurred were to the nation worth the money, or rather worth the inconvenience of owing the money and burdening the industry of the country with the interest in it. England was certainly saved from invasion – her vast commerce and manufactures –

The Ego. – Yes, England was saved from invasion; her institutions in Church and State, from ruin; her game-preserving aristocracy from abolition and the lamp-iron; her commerce and manufactures were kept going on a fictitious basis – and India, Canada, Ireland, were debarred of their freedom. These are the things for which the eight hundred millions were squandered – and instead of incurring a never-to-be-paid debt to avert all those sad events, I tell you that, to the English people, it had been worth many a million to effect them – every one – to the Irish people worth the best blood in their veins.

Doppelganger. – But why do you keep saying fictitious basis, fictitious capital? What is there fictitious in all this commerce? Does it not hold myriads of men employed? Does it not pay them in hard money every Saturday? Does it not keep their families in comfortable houses, and clothe and feed them as only the families of British artisans can pretend to be clothed and fed? Does it not enable them to save money and realise an independence for their old age?

The Ego. – How do they invest their savings? In buying land?

Doppelganger. – No; you know well that small properties of land are not a common commodity in the market. The soil of the British islands is not just yet cut up into little fee-farms: your revolution has to come yet.

The Ego. – How then do these hard-working men secure the money they have realised, as you tell me, for an independence in their old age?

Doppelganger. – Why, in the public funds – or, in the savings-banks, which invest it for them in the same funds. And I believe, when they wish to draw out their deposits, those banks generally pay them without demur.

The Ego. – They do – the insolvent State has not yet shut its doors. Yet I do affirm that these poor honest people are laying up their savings in a fund beyond the moon – they take debentures on the limbo of fools. Why, the last holders of these securities will all inevitably be robbed; that grand national swindle, which is called the “national credit” (and to keep up the “stability” of which all newspapers and organs of opinion are subsidised to express confidence, and to vaunt daily the infinite resources of the empire) – that national credit swindle will cheat them irremediably at last. There is no money, or other wealth, in those same funds: there is absolutely nothing to meet these poor people’s claims – nothing but confidence – and they are exchanging their hard earnings for draughts of east wind.

Doppelganger. – But how well, how wonderfully it works! Consider how many people live comfortably on the yearly produce of these same debentures, and bequeath them to their children, or exchange them for farms and merchandise – and never know that the notes are but drafts of Notus and Company upon Eurus and Sons. Consider the amount of gainful business actually done upon this great national credit – the vast interests that depend upon it. Why may it not go on and expand itself infinitely, or, at least, indefinitely?

The Ego. – Because, Because it is the inevitable fate of mere sublunary soap-bubbles to burst, when they are blown to a certain predestined bigness – because a lie, be it never so current, accepted, endorsed, and renewed many times, is quite sure (thank God!) to get protested at last. Is it not so written in the great book of noster Thomas? – Written also in the yet greater books of nature and history, with an iron pen? – “Great is Bankruptcy.”

Doppelganger. – Suppose all this is true – I, at least, cannot think, without pain, of the inevitable destruction of all this teeming life and healthy, glowing action. It is a bright and stirring scene.

The Ego. – But look well at the background of this fine scene; and lo! the reeky shanks and yellow chapless skulls of Skibbereen! – and the ghosts of starved Hindoos in dusky millions.

Doppelganger. – Surely these sore evils are not incurable – by wise administration, by enlightened legislation; the ghosts and skeletons are not an essential part of the picture; not necessary to the main action of the piece.

The Ego. – Absolutely necessary – nay, becoming more and more necessary every hour. To uphold the stability of the grand central fraud, British policy must drain the blood and suck the marrow of all the nations it can fasten its desperate claws upon: and by the very nature of a bankrupt concern sustaining itself on false credit, its exertions must grow more desperate, its exactions more ruthless day by day, until the mighty smash come. The great British Thing cannot now do without any one of the usual sources of plunder. The British Empire (that is, the imaginary Funds) could not now stand a week without India – could not breathe an hour without Ireland: the Thing has strained itself to such a pass that (being a sublunary soap-bubble, and not a crystalline celestial sphere), the smallest jag will let the wind out of it, and then it must ignominiously collapse. Or you may call this abomination a pyramid balancing itself upon its apex – one happy kick on any side will turn it upside down. For ever blessed be the toe of that boot which shall administer the glorious kick!

Doppelganger. -  And must every new order of things in the revolutions of eternity be brought about only through a fierce paroxysm of war? Let your mind dwell for a minute on the real horrors of war.

The Ego. – Let your mind dwell a moment on the horrors of peaceful and constitutional famine: it will need no effort of imagination, for you have seen the thing – and tell me which is better, to pine and whiten helplessly into cold clay, passing slowly, painfully through the stages of hungry brute-ferocity – passionless, drivelling, slavering idiocy, and dim awful unconsciousness, the shadow-haunted confines of life and death, or to pour out your full soul in all its pride and might with a hot torrent of red raging blood – triumphant defiance in your eye, and an appeal to heaven’s justice on your lips – animam exhalare opimam? Which? Nay, whether is it better that a thousand men perish in a nation by tame beggarly famine, or that fifty thousand fall in a just war? Which is the more hideous evil – three seasons of famine-slaughter in the midst of heaven’s abundance, at the point of foreign bayonets, with all its train of debasing diseases and more debasing vices, or a thirty years’ war to scourge the stranger from your soil, though it leave that soil a smoking wilderness? If you have any doubt which is more horrible, look on Ireland this day. “They that be slain with the sword,” saith Jeremiah the prophet, “are better than they that be slain with hunger; for these pine away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field.”

Doppelganger. – I cannot see the absolute necessity of either. These good people may not be mere idiots, after all, who look forward to the total cessation of war.

The Ego. –

Ου χαρ πψ τουτ εοτλ φιλου μακαρεοοι Φεολου

Φυλοπιδος ληςαλ πριυ κευ λυκος οιυ υμευαιοι

See Aristophanes. Let me also refer you to the Homeric verse –

Doppelganger. – Let me have none of your college quotations.

The Ego. – Then give me none of your confounded cant about cessation of war. Nature has laws. Because the Irish have been taught peaceful agitation in their slavery, therefore they have been swept by a plague of hunger worse than many years of bloody fighting. Because they would not fight, they have been made to rot off the face of the earth, that so they might learn at last how deadly a sin is patience and perseverance under a stranger’s yoke.

Doppelganger. – I hear you say so; but I want some reasons. Nature has laws; but you are not their infallible interpreter. Can you argue? Can you render a reason?

The Ego. – I never do. It is all assertion. I declaim vehemently; I dogmatise vigorously, but argue never. You have my thought. I don’t want you to agree with me; you can take it or leave it.

Doppelganger. – Satisfactory; but I find the Irish people draw quite a different moral lesson from late events. They are becoming, apparently more moral and constitutional than ever; and O’Connell’s son points to “Young Ireland,” hunted, chained, condemned, transported, and says: “Behold the fate of those who would have made us depart from the legal and peaceful doctrines of the Liberator!” And they hearken to him.

The Ego. – And do you read Ireland’s mind in the canting of O’Connell’s son? or in sullen silence of a gagged and disarmed people? Tell me not of O’Connell’s son. His father begat him in moral force, and in patience and perseverance did his mother conceive him. I swear to you there are blood and brain in Ireland yet, as the world one day shall know. God! let me live to see it. On that great day of the Lord, when the kindred and tongues and nations of the old earth shall give their banners to the wind, let this poor carcase have but breath and strength enough to stand under Ireland’s immortal Green!

Doppelganger. – Do you allude to the battle of Armageddon? I know you have been reading the Old Testament of late.

The Ego. – Yes. “Who is this that cometh from Edom: with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine vat? I have trodden the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger and trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in my heart.” Also an aspiration of Kind David haunts my memory when I think on Ireland and her wrongs: “That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and that the tongue of thy dogs may be red through the same.”

Doppelganger. – Anathema! What a grisly frame of mind!

The Ego. – Ah! the atmosphere of the world needs to be cleared by a wholesome tornado. The nimble air has grown obese and heavy; charged with azote and laden with the deleterious miasmata of all the cants that are canted. Tell me, do you believe, or rather understand, that these neighbouring West Indian islands would soon be uninhabitable to any living creature save caymans and unclean beasts, but for an occasional hurricane?

Doppelganger. – Very true; and I observe the analogy. But I do not understand that men in the West Indies get up hurricanes, or pray to heaven for hurricanes. Remember that God, in the hollow of whose hand is the cave of all the winds, sends forth His storms when He sees fit.

The Ego.  – And His wars also. The difference lies only in the secondary agencies whereby the Almighty works: when tornadoes are wanted to purify the material atmosphere, He musters and embattles the tropic air-currents from Cancer to Capricornus, be they moist, dry, dense, or rare, under their several cloud-banners; and at the blowing of the thunder-trumpet they rush blindly together, crashing calamitously through cane plantations, blowing the sails off sugar-mills, and desolating colonial banks – but when the moral tornado has to blow upon the earth – when wars and revolutions (the truest moral force) are needed to purify and vivify a comatose world, then Providence uses another kind of power – to wit, Man. For not more surely, not more absolutely are the winds enclosed in the hollow of the Almighty hand, than are the gusts and tempests of mortal passion, or even what we deem our coolest and best regulated resolves: and when strong indignation against oppression, when pity, and pride, and sacred wrath have grown transcendental in divine rage against falsehood and wrong, and arm for desperate battle against some hoary iniquity, then charge in the name of the Lord of Hosts!

Doppelganger. – But a mistake may occur. In your high-blazing transcendent fury you may chance to be fighting the devil’s fight.

The Ego. – Be that at the peril of every man who goeth up to the battle.

Doppelganger. – Enough, enough! I seem to smell the steam of carnage. I envy you not your bloody dreams. Though all this were as you argue –

The Ego. – I do not argue.

Doppelganger. – Well, as you harangue; yet one is not obliged to delight in the storm of human wrath and vengeance, any more than in the wasting tornado. Though it must be that this offence come, woe unto him by whom it cometh! Oh! pity and woe, if the same be his chosen mission, wherein his soul delights. In such gloating over thoughts of dying groans and hoof-trampled corpses, and garments rolled in blood, there is something ghastly, something morbid, monomaniacal – to you surely something unnatural, for you have always lived peaceably. And though we were very Manicheans, and believed that the principle of destruction, disorder, and darkness were for ever to maintain unextinguishable and infinite battle with the spirit of Order and of Good,  yet I cannot think he chooses the better part who enlists under the banner of Ahriman – who loves to destroy, and builds – creates – nothing.

The Ego. – Hearken once more, O Double-goer! Consider how this habitable earth, with all its rock-built mountains and flowery plains, is for ever growing and perishing in eternal birth and death – consider how the winds, and lightnings, and storms of rain and hail, and flooded rivers, and lashing seas are for ever cutting, mining, gnawing away, confringing, colliding and comminuting the hills and the shores, yea, and the sites of high-domed cities – until every mountain shall be brought low, and every capital city shall lie deep “at the bottom of the monstrous world,” where Helice and Buris, Sodom and Gomorrah lie now – this, I suppose, you call destruction – but consider further how the nether fires are daily and nightly forging, in the great central furnaces, new granite mountains, even out of that old worn rubbish; and new plains are spreading themselves forth in the deep sea, bearing harvests now only of tangled algae, but destined to wave with yellow corn; and currents of brine are hollowing out foul sunless troughs, choked with obscene slime, but one day to be fair river-valleys blushing with purple clusters. Now in all this wondrous procedure can you dare to pronounce that the winds, and the lightnings, which tear down, degrade, destroy, execute a more ignoble office than the volcanoes and subterranean deeps that upheave, renew, recreate? Are the nether fires holier than the upper fires? The waters that are above the firmament, do they hold of Ahriman, and the waters that are below the firmament, of Ormuzd? Do you take up a reproach against the lightnings for that they only shatter and shiver, but never construct! Or have you a quarrel with the winds because they fight against the churches and build them not! In all nature, spiritual and physical, do you not see that some powers and agents have it for their function to abolish and demolish and derange – other some to construct and set in order? But is not the destruction, then, as natural, as needful, as the construction? – Rather tell me, I pray you, which is construction – which destruction? This destruction is creation: Death is Birth and

“The quick spring like weeds out of the dead.”

Go to – the revolutionary Leveller is your only architect. Therefore take courage, all you that Jacobins be, and stand upon your rights, and do your appointed work with all your strength, let the canting fed classes rave and shriek as they will – where you see a respectable, fair-spoken Lie sitting in high places, feeding itself fat on human sacrifices – down with it, strip it naked, and pitch it to the demons: wherever you see a greedy tyranny (constitutional or other) grinding the faces of the poor, join battle with it on the spot – conspire, confederate, and combine against it, resting never till the huge mischief come down, though the whole “structure of society” come down along with it. Never you mind funds and stocks; if the price of the things called consols depend on lies and fraud, down with them too. Take no heed of “social disorganisation”; you cannot bring back chaos – never fear; no disorganisation in the world can be so complete but there will be a germ of new order in it: sansculottism, when she hath conceived, will bring forth venerable institutions. Never spare; work joyfully according to your nature and function; and when your work is effectually done, and it is time for the counter operations to begin, why, then, you can fall a-constructing, if you have a gift that way; if not, let others do their work, and take your rest, having discharged your duty. Courage, Jacobins! for ye, too, are ministers of heaven.

Doppelganger. – In one word, you wish me to believe that your desire to plunge your country into deluges of slaughter arises out of philosophical considerations altogether.

The Ego. – Entirely: I prescribe copious blood-letting upon strictly therapeutical principles.

Doppelganger.- And revenge upon England, for your own private wrong, has nothing to do with it.

The Ego. – Revenge! Private wrong! Tell me! are not my aims and desires now exactly what they were two years ago, before I had any private wrong at all? Do you perceive any difference even in point of intensity? In truth, as to the very conspirators who made me a “felon,” and locked me up here, I can feel no personal hostility against them: for, personally, I know them not – never saw Lord John Russell or Lord Clarendon; would not willingly hurt them if I could. I do believe myself incapable of desiring private vengeance; at least I have never yet suffered any private wrong atrocious enough to stir up that sleeping passion. The vengeance I seek is the righting of my country’s wrong, which includes my own. Ireland, indeed, needs vengeance; but this is public vengeance – public justice. Herein England is truly a great public criminal. England! all England, operating through her Government: through all her organised and effectual public opinion, press, platform, pulpit, parliament, has done, is doing, and means to do, grievous wrong to Ireland. She must be punished; that punishment will, as I believe, come upon her by and through Ireland; and so will Ireland be avenged. “Nations are chastised for their crimes in this world; they have no future state.” And never object that so the innocent children would be scourged for what the guilty fathers did; it is so for ever. A profligate father may go on sinning prosperously all his days, with high hand and heart, and die in triumphant iniquity; but his children are born to disease, poverty, misery of mind, body and estate. The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. Mysterious are the works and ways of God. Punishment of England, then, for the crimes of England – this righteous public vengeance I seek, and shall seek. Let but justice be done; let Ireland’s wrong be righted, and the wrong done to me and mine is more than avenged; for the whole is greater than its part. Now, Mein Herr, you have my theory of vengeance; and for such vengeance I do vehemently thirst and burn.

Doppelganger (musing). – He has a great deal of reason; I do begin to be of his opinion.

The Ego. – Yes; we generally come to be of one mind in the long run.  But it grows late, and we have talked long enough. Let us drink our rum-ration; and I will propose to you a national toast – (rising up and speaking solemnly) – “ARTERIAL DRAINAGE”

Doppelganger. – (with enthusiasm) – “Arterial Drainage!”

The Ego. – Good night.

Doppelganger. – Hark! I hear the first mate coming with his keys. Good night.

(Doppelganger flies out of the port-hole, between the bars. The Ego tumbles into bed).


[Nov] 23rd 1848 The laceration is finished. The gangs are sent out to their work after being mustered to witness the example: the troops who were drawn up on the pier have marched home to their barracks: quarter-masters and guards have washed the blood-gouts from their arms and faces, and arranged their dress again: the three torn carcases have been carried down half-dead to the several hospital-rooms. Though shut up in my cell all the time, I heard the horrid screams of one man plainly. After being lashed in the Medway, they had all been carried to this ship, with blankets thrown over their bloody backs: and the first of them, after receiving a dozen blows with miserable shrieks, grew weak and swooned; the scourging stopped for about ten minutes while the surgeon used means to revive him – and then he had the remainder of his allowance. He was then carried groaning out of this ship into the Coromandel, instantly stripped again, and cross scarified with other twenty lashes. The other two men took their punishment throughout in silence – but I heard one of them shout once fiercely to the quarter-master, “Don’t cut below the mark, d--- you!” I have been walking up and down my cell gnawing my tongue.

Not that I think it wrong to flog convicted felons when needful for preservation of discipline. But think of soldiers and sailors being liable to be beaten like hounds! Are high spirit and manly self-respect allowable feelings in soldiers and sailors? And can high spirit survive the canine punishment of scourging? In the Carthaginian service, indeed, those sentiments are not allowable; private soldiers and sailors and non-commissioned officers are not to consider themselves men, but machines.

But when even felons are getting mangled, I had rather, as a matter of personal taste, be out of hearing.


Dec 3rd Another red morning has dawned, and finds me sitting, bent down on my chair, with weary limbs and dizzy brain, worn out with another night’s long agony. It is the twelfth night since my head has pressed my pillow – Almighty God! – is the angel Sleep to visit me never more? All night, in darkness, I have wrestled with a strong fiend in this cell – other wrestling than Jacob’s at Penuel – and now, at sunrise, when I can breathe somewhat more freely, the sense of deadly weariness comes upon me heavily. My feet are cold as marble: my body and head bathed in sweat. I look at my image in the glass, and verily believe my mother would hardly know me: my eyes have the wild fearful stare that one may imagine in the eyes of a hard-hunted hare, couched and gasping in her form; a cold dew stands in beads upon my forehead; my cheeks are shrunk and livid; my fingers have become like bird’s claws; “and on mine eyelids is the shadow of death.” The Asthma demon has fled westward, keeping within the great shadow of the world – riding in darkness like Satan. Ah! he will put a girdle around the earth, and be with me again at set of sun. All tortured and weary wretches, all exiles, and captives, long for the night: and the ambrosial night brings them Lethean balm, and liberty, and home – for those few blessed hours they may have back their youth, and tread their native land, and see the sweet eyes of those who love them – And to me –

But this, after all, is an  unprofitable line of observation. If I once begin to write down my “grievances,” I will but think the more of them. And I am resolved not to listen to myself on that topic. Moreover, if the night was bad the morning is glorious, and is flooding the earth with heavenly splendour: the heavy sighing of the wet sea-wind had sunk, and the waves that dismally tumbled and plashed all night against the ship’s side are now but a gentle ripple, trembling in the warm sunshine. It is a deep calm.

Slowly and painfully I prepared myself to go out; and have now basked in the sun for an hour on the pier. These December days (though the nights be cold) are as bright and warm as July days in Ireland. No wretchedness, on this side despair, could resist the soothing power of such a sky and scene, such Favonian airs and blue gentle seas. Strains of soft music from the band of the flagship in the bay come floating on the still air; and the cedar-tufted Bermoothes, with their white cottages and dark groves, are like a dream of Elysian tropic islands where the Hesperian golden fruitage grows. Surely there is mercy in the heavens: there is hope for mortal men. I am strong; I am well. Soul and body are refreshed; and I can meet again, and conquer again, the demon that walketh in darkness.

Dr. Hall, the medical superintendent, came to see me to-day in the consequence of the continued reports made by the surgeon of this ship of my continued illness. In truth, for more than two months I have been almost constantly ill, and that to a degree which I had no idea of in all my life before, though an asthmatic patient of ten years’ standing. Dr. Hall told me plainly I could not expect to improve in health at all in this climate, especially in confinement – that Bermuda is notoriously and excessively unfriendly to asthmatic persons; and that I must grow worse until my frame breaks down altogether: in short, that if I be kept here much longer I must die.

“And is it,” I asked, “a settled part of the transportation system that an invalid is to be confined in that penal colony, of all others, which is most likely to kill him – I am sure the English have convict establishments in many other countries?”

“The Government,” said he, “never makes any distinction of that kind – I assure you many hundreds of men have died here, who need not have died if I could have had them removed to a more healthy climate.”

“Is there no escape for me, then?”

“Why, with respect to you, I do think something may be done. And in fact I have come to you to-day to urge it upon you to make the necessary exertion for that purpose. You must absolutely apply for your removal, or at least be taken out of this strict and solitary confinement.”

“But I have never,” I answered, “since they made a felon of me, asked for any kind of indulgence or mitigation. I was prepared for the worst the Government could do to me: and, live or die, I cannot make any appeal ad misericordiam.

“No,” said the Doctor, “but write to the governor informing him of your state of health; tell him I have announced to you that you cannot live under your present circumstances and refer to me for my report.”

“And why not tell him all this yourself? You know it.”

“I cannot. I cannot. The form must be complied with. I must not interfere officially, unless upon reference regularly made to me – and that can only be done when you bring the thing under the notice of the governor formally.”

“By my own autograph? – a petition, in short. Well, then, Dr. Hall, to you personally I am of course grateful for the kind feeling that makes you urge this point as you do. But I will never, by throwing myself on the mercy of the English Government, confess myself to be a felon. I will not belie my whole past life and present feelings. I will not eat dirt.”

The Doctor was now going to leave me, but came back from the door, up to where I sat, and laid his hand upon my shoulder. I saw that tears stood in the good old man’s eyes. “And are you going,” he said, “to let yourself be closed up here till you perish a convict, when by so slight an effort you could – as I am sure you could – procure not only your removal but probably your release? You are still young; you have a right to look forward to a long life yet with your family in freedom and honour. Write to the governor in some form – a simple letter will do; and I know he wishes to exert himself in this matter if it be brought before him so as to justify his interference. Take your pen now and write.”

“I will write something,” I said, “but not now. I will think of it, and try to make it possible for the governor and you to procure my removal, seeing my actual MS. is essential in that end.”

After leaving the cell he returned to say I should be sure to give Captain Elliot his proper title as governor. I answered that I believed the gentleman was, out of all doubt, governor of Bermuda, and that of course I would address him properly. So the Doctor left me.

If a man were in the hands of a gang of robbers – I mean mere ordinary unconstitutional highwaymen – and if he were cooped up in a close pestilential crib, the oubliette of their cavern, would he not call out for more air? – and would his so calling out amount to an admission that when they waylaid and robbed him they served him right – or an acknowledgement of their title to rob on that road? – I trow not.

I am not sentenced to death. If the pirates put me to death by this ingenious method, it would be well at least to let the proceeding be known abroad. Not that I think they really want to kill me [5]; and possibly they would even be glad of some excuse to extend “mercy” to me – the rascals! At all events I will take care to ask for no mitigation of my sentence, still less “pardon”; but demand only that I shall not be murdered by a slow process of torture. To-morrow I will do somewhat. Ah! if the life or death of this poor carcase only were at stake -


February 3rd.Between my cabin, and the place occupied by the convicts, are two wooden bulks, or walls, and a room or passage between those walls – yet when the men talk loud in quarrelling or argument, I often hear their abominable discourse. To-day I heard a long and angry dispute the subject and phraseology of which I shall not commemorate – but all that comes to my ears, or eyes, of the ways of life in this place, shows me more and more clearly what a portentous evil is this transportation system. Each hulk, each mess or ward, is a normal school of unspeakable iniquity: and young boys who come out, as many surely do, not utterly desperate and incurable villains, are sure to become so very soon under such training. I hear enough to make me aware that the established etiquette among them (for there is a peculiar good breeding for hulks as for drawing rooms) is to cram as much brutal obscenity and stupid blasphemy into their common speech as it will hold – and that a man is respected and influential among this messmates in direct proportion to the atrocity of his language and behaviour. Gambling is common, and for large sums, four and five pounds being sometimes lost and won at a game of cards. A few of them, it seems, are able to get money, partly by stealing, partly by traffic. Those who work in the quarries and buildings earn threepence per day, of which but one penny per day is given to spend: but there are tradesmen, and these sometimes work at their trades after hours; so that in one way or another they contrive to carry on a considerable traffic with the Bermudians, who communicate with them on the works in various ways. Many prisoners are employed constantly about the ship as boatmen, servants, and the like; and they have ample opportunities to steal, of which they avail themselves to the fullest extent. If any of them were to discover a scruple about stealing, or decline or neglect to steal when he might, I find it would be resented as an offence against the laws and usages of the commonwealth, and punished accordingly. In short, evil is their recognised good – and the most loathsome extremities of depravity in mind and body are their summum bonum. Think of a boy of twelve or fourteen years, who has been driven by want or induced by example to commit a theft, and sent to school at Bermuda for half his lifetime, in order to reform him! But what enrages me more than all is to think of the crowd of starved Irish, old and young, who have taken sheep or poultry to keep their perishing families alive in the Famine, sent out to Bermuda to live in a style of comfort they never knew before even in their dreams, and to be initiated into mysteries and profound depths of corruption that their mother tongue had no name for. About two months before my arrival here, came out a great shipload of Irish – the harvest of the Famine special commission – from twelve years of age up to sixty. They were all about three-quarters starved, and so miserably reduced by hunger and hardship, that they have been dying off very fast from dysentery. As to the behaviour of these poor creatures, I learn from the commander that they have no vice in them, are neither turbulent nor dishonest, nor given any trouble at all. “But,” adds the commander, “they will soon be as finished ruffians as the rest.” No doubt they will, poor fellows. He informs me that they were astonished, at first, at the luxuries provided for them – fresh beef three days in the week, and pork the other days, pea-soup, tea, excellent loaf-bread – things they had never seen before, except in shops, and which they no more knew how to use than Christophero Sly. Then they have liberty to write home as often as they like; and when they tell their half-starved friends how well a felon is fed, what can be more natural than that famished Honesty should be tempted to put itself in the way of being sent to so plentiful a country? This man tells me he has many prisoners in the Dromedary who have been here before, and not a few in their third term; that he has several fathers and sons together; and that it is not uncommon to find families who have hulked for three or four generations. Hulking, as a profession, is as yet confined to England – that it will become a more favourite line of business there, as the poverty of the English poor shall grow more inveterate, cannot be doubted. God’s mercy! is Ireland not to be torn out of the hands of these ameliorative British statesmen until they have brought this crowning curse upon her, too?

There are now about two thousand convicts at Bermuda – about a thousand at Spike Island; how many may be at Gibraltar and Australia, not to speak of the several depots for them in England, I know not; but on the whole there is an immense and rapidly growing convict community distributed in all these earthly hells, maintained in much comfort, with everything handsome about them, at the cost of the hard-working and ill-fed, and even harder working and worse-fed people of England, Scotland, and Ireland. That there is a limit to all this, one may easily see.

What to do, then, with all our robbers, burglars, and forgers? Why hang them, hang them. You have no right to make the honest people support the rogues, and support them better than they, the honest people, can support themselves. You have no right to set a premium upon villainy, and put burglars and rick-burners on a permanent endowment. It is not true to say that in Bermuda (for instance) the value of their own labour supports them, because that labour is employed upon most extravagant public works which government could not undertake at all without convict labour, and the wages come out of the taxes paid by the honest people; in short, they support themselves just as seamen on board a man-of-war support themselves, and do not earn their living half so hard. The taxes keep up the “convict service,” just as they keep up the navy and the excise men.

In criminal jurisprudence, as well as in many another thing, the nineteenth century is sadly retrogressive; and your Beccarias, and Howards, and Romillys are genuine apostles of barbarism – ultimately of cannibalism. “Reformation of the offenders” is not the reasonable object of criminal punishment, nor any part of the reasonable object, and though it were so, your jail and hulk system would be the surest way to defeat that object and make the casual offender an irreclaimable scourge of mankind. Jails ought to be places of discomfort, the “sanitary condition” of miscreants ought not to be better cared for than the honest, industrious people – and for “ventilation,” I would ventilate the rascals in front of the county jails at the end of a rope.

Trial of John Mitchel

Trial of John Mitchel, 1848


[1] Mitchel’s Dublin residence in 1848 was No 8 Ontario Terrace, Charlemont Bridge, Rathmines.

[2] But the next year Her Gracious Majesty did carry her beneficent intention into effect, and the debased nation set its neck under her feet in a paroxysm of fictitious “loyalty.” It is painful to relate, but it is the disgraceful fact. – J. M.

[3] All these reflections, inferences, and predictions, I give exactly as I wrote them down at the time. I stand to them all; though I know that many will say subsequent events have belied them. We shall yet see whether those subsequent events will not have events subsequent to them also, and belying them; the remotion of the negative is the position of the affirmative. – J. M.

[4] No – to Constantinople – J.M.

[5] I now think differently; the reason will appear in the sequel. – J.M.

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