This is taken from an excerpt from the book The Felon’s Track, an account of the Young Irelander movement up until the 1848 rebellion by Michael Doheny
On the 16th of August, John Martin was placed at the bar, before the same judges. The instincts of the official, exasperated by defeat, exercised a keener vigilance in selecting a jury; and one was finally sworn that did not disappoint his sagacity. They found a verdict of guilty without hesitation; but recommended the prisoner to mercy, which in that case was a distinct contradiction of their oaths. The composition of the jury, and the character of the prosecution, will be best understood by a perusal of the subjoined speech. No higher proof could be given of his purity of purpose, elevation of sentiment, and goodness of heart. On the 19th of August he was called up to receive sentence. He stood in the spot hallowed by the footprints of Robert Emmet and John Mitchel; nor was the heart he brought to the same sacrifice less worthy than theirs. Upon his benevolent countenance or stout heart, the appliances of terror around him had no effect. He stood unmoved and unawed, in the glorious consciousness that he had fulfilled his duty to his friend and to his country.
When asked what he had to say why sentence should not be passed upon him, he replied:—
“MY LORDS: I have no imputation to cast upon the bench, neither have I anything of unfairness toward myself to charge the jury with. I think the judges desired to do their duty fairly, as upright judges and men, and that the twelve men who were put into the box, not to try, but to convict me, voted honestly according to their prejudices. I have no personal enmity against the sheriff, sub-sheriff, or any other gentleman connected with the arrangements of the jury panel, nor against the Attorney-General, or any other person engaged in the proceedings called my trial. But, my lords, I consider I have not yet been tried! There have been certain formalities carried on here for three days, but I have not been put upon my country, according to the constitution said to exist in Ireland!“Twelve of my countrymen, ‘indifferently chosen,’ have not been put into the jury-box to try me, but twelve men, who, I believe, have been selected by the parties who represent the crown, for the purpose of convicting, and not of trying me.
“Every person knows that what I have stated is the fact; and I would represent to the judges, most respectfully, that they, as honourable judges, and as upright citizens, ought to see that the administration of justice in this country is above suspicion. I have nothing more to say with regard to the trial; but I would be thankful to the court for permission to say a few words after sentence is passed.”
Chief Baron and Baron Pennefather: “No. We cannot hear anything from you after sentence is pronounced.”
“Then, my lords, permit me to say, that admitting the narrow and confined constitutional doctrines, which I have heard preached in this court, to be right, I am not guilty of the charge according to this Act! In the article of mine, on which the jury framed their verdict, which was written in prison, and published in the last number of my paper, what I desired to do was this, to advise and encourage my countrymen to keep their arms; because that is their inalienable right, which no Act of Parliament, no proclamation can take away from them. It is, I repeat, their inalienable right. I advised them to keep their arms; and further, I advised them to use their arms in their own defence against all assailants—even assailants that might come to attack them unconstitutionally and improperly, using the Queen’s name as their sanction.
“My object in all my proceeding has been simply to establish the independence of Ireland for the benefit of all the people of Ireland—noblemen, clergymen, judges, professional men—in fact, all Irishmen. I sought that object first, because I thought it was our right; because I thought, and think still, national independence was the right of the people of this country. And secondly, I admit, that being a man who loves retirement, I never would have engaged in politics did I not think it necessary to do all in my power to make an end of the horrible scenes the country presents—the pauperism, and starvation, and crime, and vice, and the hatred of all classes against each other. I thought there should be an end to that horrible system, which while it lasted, gave me no peace of mind, for I could not enjoy anything in my country, so long as I saw my countrymen forced to be vicious, forced to hate each other, and degraded to the level of paupers and brutes. This is the reason I engaged in politics.