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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had been in Newgate prison for
a fortnight. An apparent trial had
been enacted before twelve of the castle jurors in ordinary –
palaver, and a “conviction” (as if there were law, order, government or justice
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.
soon as we came on board, the
naval officer who had brought me off, a short, dark man of
thereabouts, conducted me to the cabin, ordered my fetters to be
called for sherry and water to be placed before us, and began to talk.
me I was to be brought to Spike Island, a convict prison in Cork
the first place; that he himself, however, was only going as far as
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
“Then,” quote I,
“you are the Captain Hall who was in
Hall, of the Dragon, now bade me
good evening, saying
he should just have time to dress for dinner. I wished him a good
he went off to his ship. No doubt he thought me an amazingly cool
but God knoweth the heart. There was a huge lump in my throat all the
this bald chat, and my thoughts were far enough away from both
will they do? What is to
become of them? By this time, undoubtedly, my office, my newspaper,
books, all that I had, are seized on by the Government burglar. And
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
and was needful. And, moreover, that sacrifice shall not have been made
vain. And I know my wife and little ones shall not want. He that
young ravens – but then, indeed, as I remember, young ravens
carrion-birds have been better fed in
all, for what was this
sacrifice been made? Why was it
needful? What did I hope to gain by this struggle with the
“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.
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
sloping softly from the Golden Spears, sends its bright river murmuring
sea. And I am on the first stage of my way, faring to what regions of
And may never, never - never
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.
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
followed up to their utter smash. I would soon have shown all
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 – that Ireland will become ungovernable to all Carthaginian governments; and, finally, that the struggle will become a republican one in the long run.
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!
am not afraid of either
cowardice or treachery on the part of our chiefest men. Meagher is
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,
a genuine Irishman himself, he cannot be brought to see that his
fellow-aristocrats are not Irish, but the irreconcilable enemies of
darkened over the sea, and the
stars came out; and the dark hills of Wicklow had shrouded themselves
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
now told me it was growing late, and that tea was ready below. Went
accordingly, and had an “aesthetic tea” with two
detectives. Asked my two
friends if they knew my destination. The knew nothing, they said; but
it probable I would not be removed from Spike Island; supposed that
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
is a good berth provided
for me here, and I am as sleepy as a tired ploughman. Good night, then,
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.
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
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
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.
what I find most interesting
of all in this paper is in the column headed “
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.
know very well that this whole
idea and scheme of mine wears a wonderfully feeble and silly aspect in
of statesmanlike revolutionists; they can see nothing more in it than a
of gentlemen agreeing to dash out their own brains, one after another,
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
stronger; that we should conspire and organise in
secret, keeping under the shelter of the law for the
that when plainly advising men to arm is made a
“transportable offence,” we
should no longer plainly advise, but exhort and influence them
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
At 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. 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.
all these appliances, both
for bodily health and mental dissipation, with liberty to write for,
receive any books I please from home (except political periodicals),
sufficient space to exercise in the fresh sea-air, with abundance of
and a constant supply of fresh water, and paper, and pens; with all
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
And why not? Major Bernadi lived forty years in Newgate; but then he
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
but then he had leave to correspond with all the learned men of Europe
astronomy; had the White Tower, I suppose, for an observatory; no
as to communicating with whom he pleased; and, I daresay, everything
about him. James the First of Scotland, indeed, was imprisoned eighteen
twenty years in
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.
I am now employed in carrying forward that undertaking, I trust to a
issue, if I kill myself, I not only desist from the whole enterprise,
far as in me lies, undo all I have done. Sometimes to suffer
manfully is the best thing man can do –
to be the most effectual action; and I do firmly believe that (unless
life has been one gross mistake from the first) I am this moment,
thousand miles off, active in
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
life been that I have never yet got much further than intending to
my domestic duties. But if it be the will of
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.
[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
of), and even during the day, while a tyrannical sun is blazing down
upon this arid land, there is a surprising dampness in the air, so that
standing in an uncovered vessel upon a shelf in the dry ship, soon runs
water. A southerly wind blows the whole summer, laden always with
without it there would certainly be no vegetation at
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
in utter darkness. Voici!
continues to act with vigour: certain Chartists have been holding
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.
will the philanthropic
viceroy deliberately pack a Castle jury for every one of these
again systematically exclude three parts of the citizens of
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.
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.
the state of public opinion in
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,
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
the question is, has British government in
I think British dominion has
been damaged, and heavily. Of course, the contrary will seem to be the
awhile. All bold newspapers being silenced and all leading men put
and key, there will be a lull in the matter of
“sedition” and “treason”;
Ministers will sanctimoniously congratulate the peaceably disposed
Cockney newspapers will crow most cheerily; and the Irish
Rebellion will be matter of merriment to all sleek
money-getting men in
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
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.
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
of thorns. I miss the high-flying language and gushing tenderness of
piteous poet – his Bedouin instep,
and his eye in elaborate fine frenzy rolling. What has become of him I
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
Carthaginian newspapers, I
find, are deeply distressed about this
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.  – 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
The Ego. – Not a rush. What then?
Doppelganger. – Then I am
forced to conclude that your anxiety for
the success of the
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
The Ego. – To say nothing of
Doppelganger.- And for the chance of getting
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
Doppelganger. – You speak as
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
The Ego. – No; I scorn to
answer that. But what mean you by
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
to the British nation is simply he who approves himself the bitterest
their government, and to all their institutions, in Church and State.
I claim to be, not an enemy, but a friend of
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
majority, no matter how grievously it may cry aloud for change, there
always many fat persons right well content with things as they are
– to wit,
those who thrive upon things as they are. Why, in
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
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
country with the interest in it.
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
British policy must drain the blood and suck the marrow of all the
can fasten its desperate claws upon: and by the very nature of a
sustaining itself on false credit, its exertions must grow more
exactions more ruthless day by day, until the mighty smash come. The
British Thing cannot now do without
any one of the usual sources of plunder. The
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,
through the stages of hungry brute-ferocity – passionless,
slavering idiocy, and dim awful unconsciousness, the shadow-haunted
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
perish in a nation by tame beggarly famine, or that fifty thousand fall
just war? Which is the more hideous evil – three seasons of
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
wilderness? If you have any doubt which is more horrible, look on
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
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
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
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
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
wrong at all? Do you perceive any difference even in point of
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
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
enough to stir up that sleeping passion. The vengeance I seek is the
my country’s wrong, which includes my own.
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.
and painfully I prepared
myself to go out; and have now basked in the sun for an hour on the
December days (though the nights be cold) are as bright and warm as
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.”
leaving the cell he
returned to say I should be sure to give Captain Elliot his proper
governor. I answered that I believed the gentleman was, out of all
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 ; 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
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
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
clearly what a portentous evil is this transportation system. Each
mess or ward, is a normal school of unspeakable iniquity: and young
come out, as many surely do, not utterly desperate and incurable
sure to become so very soon under such training. I hear enough to make
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
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
atrocity of his language and behaviour. Gambling is common, and for
four and five pounds being sometimes lost and won at a game of cards. A
them, it seems, are able to get money, partly by stealing, partly by
Those who work in the quarries and buildings earn threepence per day,
but one penny per day is given to spend: but there are tradesmen, and
sometimes work at their trades after hours; so that in one way or
contrive to carry on a considerable traffic with the Bermudians, who
communicate with them on the works in various ways. Many prisoners are
constantly about the ship as boatmen, servants, and the like; and they
ample opportunities to steal, of which they avail themselves to the
extent. If any of them were to discover a scruple about stealing, or
neglect to steal when he might, I find it would be resented as an
against the laws and usages of the commonwealth, and punished
short, evil is their recognised good – and the most loathsome
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
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, 1848
 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.
 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.
No – to
 I now think differently; the reason will appear in the sequel. – J.M.Return to top