Article from the New Zealand Celt, 21st February, 1868:
Demonstration of the Irish in Charleston.
(From Our Own Correspondent)
A numerously attended meeting was held at the Belle de Union Hotel, on Monday evening, 10th instant, for the purpose of forming a committee to raise funds for the widows, wives, and families of Allen, O'Brien, and Larkin, and the Irish state prisoners, and to express condemnation of the British Government in regard to the murderous executions of Allen, O'Brien, and Larkin.
Mr A. M'Carthy, having been voted to the chair, said - Gentlemen, you will allow me to testify my thorough appreciation of the objects for which the present meeting has been called. I am sure there are none amongst you who will not sympathise for those brave and patriotic men who laid down their lives for their fatherland. it now remains for you to testify your admiration for those martyrs to the cause of Irish liberty by subscribing liberally towards those who have thus been impoverished by the acts and oppressions of the English Government. He would now call on Mr. Cullen to move the first resolution.
Mr. C. Cullen said - Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, before reading the resolution, I beg leave to make a few remarks. This meeting has been convened, in the first place, to express sympathy for those brave men who have suffered for the cause of Irish independence, and to aid their wives and families; secondly, to express our views of the course adopted by the British Government towards Allen, O'Brien, and Larkin; thirdly, to form a committee to receive subscriptions at the present meeting, and all over the Charleston diggings, the same to be forwarded to the editor of the Nation or the Ladies' Committee in Dublin, as the meeting shall decide. I am quite sure there are none in this room, but sympathises with the object of this meeting. Great sympathy has been expressed in England towards the executed men - not by Irishmen alone, but also by Englishmen. It is now high time that we take immediate steps to show our thorough disapproval of the tyrannical and bloody course pursued by the English Government. (Hear, hear.) Gentlemen, did these men die as felons? No. (A voice: 'They were murdered.') Hear what Allen, that brave boy of nineteen, said: - 'If I die, I die not as a murderer, but as a martyr for Ireland.' The mother of this brave youth is reported to have said, 'That she would sooner see her boy on the scaffold than to see him standing beside Corrydon, the informer.' All honour is due to such a mother. Let us look at O'Brien, in his lonely cell, no friends or relatives to cheer him, but that Friend, the best that he or any other man can have sustained him through the trying ordeal. He had faced death on many a battle-field, and was not afraid now to meet it. He died as a Christian should - bravely and honourably and religiously, the victim of an unjust and tyrannical Government. in England large meetings have been held to sympathise with these brave and patriotic men. As many as 15,000 or 20,000 men had attended those meetings, and stigmatised the course pursued by the Government as bloodthirsty, cruel, and unjust. If those men had the courage to beard the lion in his den, although many thousand miles distant from the scene of the action, it is no less our duty to appreciate the mighty sacrifice made by those noble-minded men for the good of our country.. .. Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien met their doom bravely. Although an ignominious death was their fate, they died gloriously, proudly, and defiantly, and deserve the admiration and respect of every patriotic Irishman .. ..
The speaker (Mr. Cullen) drew attention also to the partiality shown by England towards the rebels of other nations. He said they always sympathised and aided them; but because those rescuers of Deasy and Kelly were Irishmen, and trying to aid in Ireland's freedom, the British Government thought they should be hanged, executed, and murdered! Gentlemen, I say, murdered. (Great applause.) ... Now, gentlemen, it may be said we are sowing the seed of dissension amongst the community of Charleston, but I say whoever makes such a statement, is guilty of a great falsehood. I say we are here not as sectaries, but a mixed body of cosmopolitan sympathizers, as the Hyde Park people were in London. No, gentlemen, we have not assembled here tonight for any such purpose, but here have we assembled to show to England and the world, and most particularly to suffering Ireland that there are Irish, English, and Scotch, 20,000 miles away who sympathize with her, and denounce the conduct of the British Government in those late executions. (Hear, hear.) I shall now, gentlemen, conclude and content myself by calling on all of you to arise and bestir yourselves to immediate action in aiding the cause of poor old Ireland. (Immense applause.)
Mr. T. Keenan in moving the second resolution, said: - We are called here for a just and noble object. As Irishmen we are bound to respond to this call - it is a duty which is due to our country and to humanity - it is a duty incumbent on all to hate oppression, resist tyranny, and to sympathize with, and relieve suffering; but with you, Irishmen, how much more imperative is that duty, when it is connected with a cause which is embalmed by the noblest blood of your countrymen. Irishmen, cherish that cause, hate oppression, and resist tyranny, for they reign over Ireland at the present time, and have sent many of her bravest sons to prison and to death. Talk of the great and equitable laws of England, the liberty of the subject, their trial by jury - they are high sounding titles signifying nothing. the laws cannot be equal or just which imposes a church and Government on Ireland opposed to the wishes of the people, opposed to their religious opinion and reason and common sense. The liberty of the subject is not safe when they can imprison at their pleasure, and keep men in jail till their health is impaired, without even the form of a trial. I say you would be as safe amongst the most barbarous tribes of Africa or under the sway of King Theodore of Abyssinia as you would be this day in Ireland. Their juries applied to political cases are but farce-like tragedies which end in imprisonment or death. We are called here tonight to express our sympathy with these sufferers of English injustice, but more especially with those three brave fellows who have laid down their lives for the cause of their country, and to condemn as base, brutal and bloody, the Government that condemns such men to a death fit only for a murderer of the blackest type, such as Burgess, Kelly, and Levy. But though they would brand them as murderers, and disgrace their memories, they have miserably failed in the attempt. They have only made their names glorious as three of the noblest and bravest patriots that ever suffered on a scaffold in the cause of liberty. To ask you for sympathy for those, I know, is needless, for I know that there is not an Irishman here worthy of the name that does not heartily sympathize with them. Ah yes! well I know your feelings, with many, it assumes a silent, determined hatred of British rule, and though you may not openly express it, yet your feelings are as true as those who suffered death for the cause. Alone in your tents in the midnight gloom, or in the silent woods with none present but God and your conscience, you clench your hand and wait only for the time to be revenged. Wait awhile. 'God is slow but just' are the words of our dead patriot - that is a prophecy from the grave - a prophecy bequeathed to Irishmen, and one which will surely be fulfilled, for God would not be just if a day of retribution did not follow. Yes, it will follow, and may the wrongs which Irishmen have suffered be revenged both soon and sudden. Take off your hats, gentlemen! Stand uncovered! I am about to mention three names which are sacred to you and to generations to come. Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien are dead. They were hanged, Irishmen - they were hanged by the common hangman for the cause of Ireland. May God rest their souls! They died for our country. It is theirs no longer; they are citizens of a brighter and a better kingdom; they have died the founders of freedom in the vanguard of liberty, and a noble example have they left to their countrymen. Fitzgerald was a lord; Lowe a soldier; and Emmett a scholar.
They died nobly in the same cause, but not more nobly than our last three heroes - the carpenter, the tailor, and the draper. They died as became the cause they represented, as Christians and patriots. All the sable engines of death were visible to their sight, and the train of thoughts they suggested; but in spite of all they bore themselves like men through the fearful trial. Ah! it must be a trying moment for men in the prime of youth and health, and guilty of no crime but serving their country too well, to meet death so willingly. 'Oh,' said our brave countrymen, 'However much I would like to live, I cannot regret dying for Ireland.' Surely they were brave men. Such are the men they would brand as murderers and assassins. What robbed death of its terrors, and the gallows of its shame and ignominy, but the conviction that their memories would not be disgraced but honoured and revered by their countrymen, and we are here tonight to pay our tribute of honour and respect to their memories. Yes; let us cherish their names in our hearts as martyrs who, could they inspire us with the same noble fortitude and heroic resolution, would teach us to defy England with all her power, persecution, and perjury, and be again,
'The land of song, the home of the free;
First flower of the earth, first gem of the sea.'
But our brave countrymen are gone to prison and to death. Sympathy with them will never bring them back to their dear friends and dearer country; it will not reck them in the prison or the grave, but they have friends who will suffer by this loss, and it is our duty to testify our respect to their memories, not merely by words, but by more tangible proofs, that we are sensible of the great sacrifice they have made for the cause of their country ...
Moved by the speaker, seconded by Mr. C. Molloy, and carried nem. con.:
'That this meeting strongly condemns the action taken by the British Government in executing the Manchester prisoners; and that we consider such an act as brutal tyranny which would not be perpetrated at the present time by even the most tyrannic and despotic government in Europe, except in England; and that we sincerely sympathise with all who have suffered for political offences in Ireland, more especially those three men who have died for the cause and liberty of Ireland.'
Mr. Hehir then moved, seconded by Mr. M'Carthy, and carried - 'That the minutes of this meeting, together with the names of those subscribing to this object, be published in the New Zealand Celt, the Dublin Nation, and the Irishman, and that all moneys collected by [sic] transmitted to the Ladies Committee in Dublin without delay.'
For publishing this and other similar articles, the Celt's proprietors, John Manning and Father William Larkin (no relation) were prosecuted for sedition. They eventually pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to one month's imprisonment. Those who actually made the speeches reported above were never charged.
(Source: The Lion and the Wolfhound: The Irish Rebellion on the New Zealand Goldfields, by David McGill. Grantham House, 1990).