Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, 23rd November 1867
Fellow-countrymen — This is a strange kind of funeral procession in which we are engaged to-day. We are here, a vast multitude of men, women, and children in a very inclement season of the year, under rain and through mud. We are here escorting three empty hearses to the consecrated last resting place of those who die in the Lord (cheers). The three bodies that we would tenderly bear to the churchyard, and would bury in consecrated ground with all the solemn rites of religion, are not here. They are away in a foreign and hostile land, where they have been thrown into unconsecrated ground, branded by the triumphant hatred of our enemies as the vile remains of murderers.
Those three men whose memories we are here to-day to honour — Allen, O’Brien, and Larkin — they were not murderers. These men were pious men, virtuous men — they were men who feared God and loved their country. They sorrowed for the sorrows of the dear old native land of their love. They wished, if possible, to save her, and for that love and for that wish they were doomed to an ignominious death at the hands of the British hangman. It was as Irish patriots that these men were doomed to death. And it was as Irish patriots that they met their death. For these reasons, my countrymen, we here to-day have joined in this solemn procession to honour their memories. For that reason we say from our hearts, ‘May their souls rest in peace’. For that reason, my countrymen, we join in their last prayer, ‘God save Ireland’. The death of these three men was an act of English policy.
I say the death of these men was a legal murder, and that legal murder was an act of English policy —of the policy of that nation which through jealousy and hatred of our nation, destroyed by fraud and force our just government sixty-seven years ago. They have been sixty-seven sad years of insult and robbery — of impoverishment — of extermination — of suffering beyond what any other subject people but ours have ever endured from the malignity of foreign masters. Nearly through all these years the Irish people continued to pray for the restoration of their Irish national rule. They offered their forgiveness to England. They offered even their friendship to England if she would only give up her usurped power to tyrannise over us, and leave us to live in peace, and as honourable neighbours. But in vain. England felt herself strong enough to continue to insult and rob us, and she was too greedy and too insolent to cease from robbing and insulting us. Now it has come to pass as a consequence of that malignant policy pursued for so many long years — it has come to pass that the great body of the Irish people despair of obtaining peaceful restitution of our national rights.
And it has also come to pass that vast numbers of Irishmen, whom the oppression of English rule forbade to live by honest industry in their own country, have in America learned to become soldiers. And those Irish soldiers seem resolved to make war against England. And England is in a panic of rage and fear in consequence of this. And being in a panic about Fenianism, she hopes to strike terror into her Irish malcontents by a legal murder. England wanted to show that she was not afraid of Fenianism — And she has only shown that she is not afraid to do injustice in the face of Heaven and of man. Many a wicked statute she has framed—many a jury she has packed, in order to dispose of her Irish political offenders — but in the case of Allen, O’Brien, and Larkin, she has committed such an outrage on justice and decency as to make even many Englishmen stand aghast. I shall not detain you with entering into details with which you are all well acquainted as to the shameful scenes of the handcuffing of the untried prisoners — as to the shameful scenes of the trial up to the last moment, when the three men — our dearly beloved Irish brethren, were forced to give up their innocent lives as a sacrifice for the cause of Ireland; and, fellow-countrymen, these three humble Irishmen who represented Ireland on that sad occasion demeaned themselves as Christians, as patriots, modestly, courageously, piously, nobly.
We need not blush for them. They bore themselves all through with a courage worthy of the greatest heroes that ever obtained glory upon earth. They behaved through all the trying scenes I referred to with Christian patience — with resignation to the will of God — with modest, yet proud and firm adherence to principle. They showed their love to Ireland and their fear of God from the first to the last. It is vain for me to attempt to detain you with many words upon this matter. I will say this, that all who are here do not approve of the schemes for the relief of Ireland that these men were supposed to have contemplated; but all who love Ireland, all generous, Christian men, and women, and children of Ireland — all the children growing up to be men and women of Ireland — all those feel an intense sympathy, an intense love for the memories of these three men whom England has murdered in form of law by way of striking terror into her Irish subjects. Fellow-countrymen, it is idle almost for me to persist in addressing weak words of mine to you — for your presence here to-day — your demeanour all through — the solemn conduct of the vast multitude assembled directly under the terrorism of a hostile government — say more than the words of the greatest orator — more than the words of a Meagher could say for you.
You have behaved yourselves all through this day with most admirable spirit as good Irishmen and women — as good boys and girls of holy Ireland ought to be, and I am sure you will behave so to the end. This demonstration is mainly one of mourning for the fate of these three good Irishmen, but fellow-countrymen, and women, and boys, and girls, it is also one of protest and indignation against the conduct of our rulers. Your attendance here to-day is a sufficient protest. Your orderly behaviour — your good temper all through this wretched weather — your attendance here in such vast numbers for such a purpose — avowedly and in the face of the terrorism of the government, which falls most directly upon the metropolis — that is enough for protest. You in your multitudes, men, women, and children, have to-day made that protest. Your conduct has been admirable for patience, for good nature, for fine spirit, for solemn sense of that great duty you were resolved to do. You will return home with the same good order and inoffensiveness. You will join with me now in repeating the prayer of the three martyrs whom we mourn — ‘God save Ireland!’ And all of you, men, women, and boys and girls that are to be men and women of holy Ireland, will ever keep the sentiment of that prayer in your heart of hearts.