Newgate — Travelling Toilet — Drive to the North Wall — “No Disturbance” — Hospitalities of the Shearwater — Capt. Hall of the Dragon — Not Basil Hall — Self-Interrogation — My Fellow-Felons — Spike Island — Edward Walsh — Order for removal to Bermuda The Scourge War Steamer — At Sea.

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

I had been in Newgate prison for a fortnight. An apparent trial had been enacted before twelve of the castle jurors in ordinary – much legal palaver, and a “conviction” (as if there were law, order, government, or justice in Ireland). Sentence had been pronounced, with much gravity, by that ancient Purple Brunswicker, Baron Lefroy – fourteen years’ transportation; and I had returned to my cell and taken leave of my wife and two poor boys. A few minutes after they had left me a gaoler came in with a suit of coarse grey clothes in his hand.

“You are to put on these,” said he, “directly.” I put them on directly.

A voice then shouted from the foot of the stairs, “Let him be removed in his own clothes”; so I was ordered to change again, which I did.

I asked to what place I was to be removed.

“Can’t tell,” said the man. “Make haste.”

There was a travelling bag of mine in the cell, containing a change of clothes; and I asked whether I might take it with me.

“No; make haste.”

“I am ready, then”; and I followed him down the stairs.

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

I was ordered to put my foot upon a stone seat that was by the wall; and a constable fastened one of the bolts upon my ankle. But the other people hurried him so much that he said quickly, “Here, take the other in your hand, and come along.”

I took it, and held up the chain which connected the two, to keep it from dragging along the pavement, as I followed through the hall of the prison (where a good many persons had gathered to see the vindication of the “law”) and so on to the outer door. I stood on the steps for one moment, and gazed round: the black police-omnibus – a strong force of the city constabulary occupying the street on either side; outside of them dark crowds of people, standing in perfect silence; parties of cavalry drawn up at the openings of the streets hard by. I walked down the steps; and amidst all the multitude the clanking of my chain was the loudest sound. The moment I stepped into the carriage the door was dashed to with a bang.

Someone shouted, “To the North Wall!” and instantly the horses set forward at a gallop. The dragoons, with drawn sabres, closed both in front and rear and on both sides; and in this style we dashed along, but not by the shortest, or the usual way to the North Wall, as I could see through a slit in the panel. The carriage was full of police-constables. Two of them, in plain clothes, seemed to have special charge of me, as they sat close by me, on right and left, one of them holding a pistol with a cap on the nipple. After a long and furious drive along the North Circular Road, I could perceive that we were coming near the river. The machine suddenly stopped, and I was ushered to the quay-wall between two ranks of carbineers, with naked swords. A Government steamer, the Shearwater, lay in the river, with steam up, and a large man-of-war’s boat, filled with men armed to the teeth, was alongside the wall. I descended the ladder with some difficulty, owing to the chain, took my seat beside a naval officer, who sat in the stern, and a dozen pulls brought us to the steamer’s side. A good many people who stood on the quay and in two or three vessels close by, looked on in silence. One man bade God bless me; a police-inspector roared out to him that he had better make no disturbance.

As soon as we came on board, the naval officer who had brought me off, a short, dark man of five-and-forty or thereabouts, conducted me to the cabin, ordered my fetters to be removed, called for sherry and water to be placed before us, and began to talk. He told me I was to be brought to Spike Island, a convict prison in Cork Harbour, in the first place; that he himself, however, was only going as far as Kingstown, where his own ship lay; that he was Captain Hall, of the Dragon steam-frigate; and that he dared to say I had heard of the unfortunate Nemesis.

“Then,” quoth I, “you are the Captain Hall who was in China lately, and wrote a book.”

He said he was, and seemed quite pleased. If he had a copy of his work there, he said he should be most happy to present it to me. Then he appeared apprehensive that I might confound him with Captain Basil Hall. So he told me that he was not Basil Hall, who in fact was dead; but that though not actually Basil Hall, he had sailed with Basil Hall, as a youngster, on board the Lyra.

“I presume,” he said, “you have read his voyage to the Loo Choo Islands.”

I said I had, and also another book of his which I liked far better: his “Account of the Chilean and Peruvian Revolutions,” and of that splendid fellow, San Martin.

Captain Hall laughed. “Your mind,” said he, “has been running upon revolutions.”

“Yes, very much — almost exclusively.”

“Ah, sir!” quoth he, “dangerous things, these revolutions.”

Whereto I replied, “You may say that.”

We were now near Kingstown Pier, and my friend, looking at his watch, said he should still in be in time for dinner; that he was to dine with the Lord Lieutenant; that he had been at a review in the Park this morning, and was suddenly ordered off to escort me with a boat’s crew from the Dragon; further, that he was sorry to have to perform such a service; and that he had been credibly informed my father was a very good man. I answered I know not what. He invited me to go with him upon deck, where his crew were preparing to man the boat; they were all dressed like seamen, but well armed.

I pointed to them, and asked, “Are those fellows marines?”

He looked at me with a peculiar smile — “Well, come now, they are marines.”

He was evidently amazed at my penetration in detecting marines without their uniform (I had asked the question in mere ignorance and absence of mind); “but,” he quickly added, “our marines are all seamen.”

“I suppose so,” quoth I.

Captain Hall, of the Dragon, now bade me good evening, saying he should just have time to dress for dinner. I wished him a good appetite, and he went off to his ship. No doubt he thought me an amazingly cool character; but God knoweth the heart.

There was a huge lump in my throat all the time of this bald chat, and my thoughts were far enough away from both Peru and Loo Choo. At Charlemont Bridge, in Dublin, this evening, there is a desolate house – my mother and sisters, who came up, to town to see me (for the last time in case of the worst) – five little children, very dear to me; none of them old enough to understand the cruel blow that has fallen on them this day, and above all – above all – my wife.[1]

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

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

Let me set it down: –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was invited to breakfast with the Lieutenants and surgeon. All very polite to me. One of them, whom I take to be the second lieutenant, is a fine young fellow, who has lately returned from the Pacific, after cruising there seven years, and is as brown as Queen Pomare. He is an Irishman, but far more familiar with the politics of Taiti and Hawaii, than with Irish affairs. About ten o’clock the land-fog rose, and far to the northward I could recognise the coast about Youghal, the opening of the Blackwater, and beyond these, faint and blue, the summits of Knockmeldown. We had kept a wide berth from the land all night, but were now making straight for Cork harbour. Soon it opened; within half-an-hour more we came to anchor opposite Cove, and within five hundred yards of Spike Island — a rueful looking place, where I could discern, crowning the hill, the long walls of the prison, and a battery commanding the harbour. A boat was instantly lowered and manned. My friends in plain clothes told me they would “take it on their own responsibility” (policemen have high responsibilities in Ireland) not to put me in irons as I went ashore. The Commander and first lieutenant buckled on their swords, and took their seats in the stern of the boat beside me.

We were rowed rapidly to the island, and as we walked up the approach we met an elderly, grave-looking gentlemen, who said, “Mr Mitchel, I presume!”

How on earth, thought I, did you know already that I was coming to you? – forgetting that Lord Clarendon, before I was “tried,” made sure of my conviction. However, I bowed, and then he turned and escorted us to his den, over a drawbridge, past several sentries, through several gratings, and at last into a small square court. At one side of this court a door opened into a large vaulted room, furnished with a bed, table, chair, and basin-stand, and I was told that I was in my cell. The two naval officers took their leave politely, saying they hoped to meet me under happier circumstances; and they seemed really sorry. I bowed and thanked them; and I was left alone. I found I had the range of the cell and the court before it, no prisoner being there but myself. Mr Grace, the Governor, came in to tell me I might write home if I chose, submitting the letter to him. I did write, telling where I was, and desiring a trunk to be sent to me with some clothes and a few books. Mr. Grace also offered to lend me books while I should stay. A turnkey, or guard in blue uniform, kept sauntering up and down the court, and sometimes lounged into the room. Asked him what he wanted. He told me he was not to leave until lock-up hour – thought this a great grievance, and wished for lock-up hour. It came at last: my door was shut, and for the first time I was quite alone.

And now – as this is to be a faithful record of whatsoever befalls me – I do confess, and will write down the confession, that I flung myself on the bed, and broke into a raging passion of tears – tears bitter and salt – tears of wrath, pity, regret, remorse – but not of base lamentation for my own fate. The thoughts and feelings that have so shaken me for this once, language was never made to describe; but if any austere censor could find it in his heart to vilipend my manhood therefor, 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 had 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, though 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.

30th. — My turnkey, who is desired never to leave me, I find to be a good, quiet sort of creature. He is some kind of Dissenter, hums psalm-tunes almost under his breath, and usually stays as far away from me as our bounds will allow him. There is a door in the high wall leading into another inclosure, and as I was taking a turn through my territory to-day, the turnkey was near that door, and he said to me in a low voice — “This way, sir, if you please”; he held the door open, I passed through, and immediately a tall, gentleman-like person, in black but rather over-worn clothes, came up to me and grasped both my hands with every demonstration of reverence. I knew his face, but could not at first remember who he was; he was Edward Walsh, author of “Mo Chraoibhin Chno,” and other sweet songs, and of some very musical translations from old Irish ballads. Tears stood in his eyes as he told me he had contrived to get an opportunity of seeing and shaking hands with me before I should leave Ireland. I asked him what he was doing at Spike Island, and he told me he had accepted the office of teacher to a school they keep here for small convicts — a very wretched office, indeed, and to a shy, sensitive creature, like Walsh, it must be dally torture. He stooped down and kissed my hands.

“Ah!” he said, “you are now the man in all Ireland most to be envied.”

I answered that I thought there might be room for difference of opinion about that; and then, after another kind word or two, being warned by my turnkey, I bade him farewell, and retreated into my own den. Poor Walsh! He has a family of young children; he seems broken in health and spirits. Ruin has been on his traces for years, and I think has him in the wind at last. There are more contented galley-slaves moiling at Spike than the schoolmaster. Perhaps this man does really envy me; and most assuredly I do not envy him.

31st. – The important Inspector came to me to-day, accompanied by Mr. Grace. He asked me if I had any complaint to make to him?

“None whatever,” I answered.

He hesitated a moment, and then said, “It has become my duty to inform you that Government have determined on sending you out of the country.”

“Indeed! How soon?”

“To-morrow morning.”

“May I ask to what part of the world?”

“Bermuda.”

“And by what conveyance?”

“A man-of-war, which has arrived to-day in the harbour.”

“Very good,” quoth I, and they left me.

Presently Mr. Grace returned, said he was glad to tell me matters did not promise to go so hard with me as he had expected — that he had a letter from the Castle, directing him to treat me quite differently from “a common convict,” to let me wear my own clothes, not to put me in irons, etc. Further, that he had been already on board the ship which was to carry me to Bermuda — the Scourge, a large war steamer; that he had seen the instructions which had been delivered to the commander before he left Portsmouth, and which bore that I was to be treated on the passage “as a person of education and a gentleman” — so it ran; and to have accommodations thereunto correspondent.

A person of education and a gentleman! And if such a person has indeed committed a felony, is he not just all the more felonious? If a person of education commit the real crime of endeavouring to subvert social order, to break down the sanction of law, and to destroy the Government under which he lives (supposing order, law, and government to exist), how does his education entitle him to indulgence above other felons? But possibly you begin to see, Gaffer John Bull, that I am no felon at all, and have committed no crime at all, notwithstanding your new “Act of Parliament,” in that case made and provided; and you think it impolitic, or else you are ashamed, to proceed to the uttermost rigour with me. Cowardly John! You ought either not to take up the vigorous policy at all, or else to carry it through with a high hand. This is child’s play. Positively I am either a felon or no felon; that is to say, either I am a felon, or you, John, are a felon.

Mr. Grace excuses himself for putting me into convict dress — says he had no instructions to the contrary at first, and did not know how they might feel towards me at the Castle; and so he was afraid to refuse when the Smithfield gaoler required to see me in felon array, that he might report it in Dublin. Curious that this should have happened twice. In Dublin also I had to put on the convict dress and strip it off again instantly. Come, my Lord Clarendon, either I am a felon or not a felon.

But perhaps they do this to vex and hurt me, not knowing how callous I am.

Wrote this evening to my wife, a cheerful letter, telling her everything that is pleasant in my situation, and how I am to be a gentleman, at least while on board the Scourge. But I fear now that her expected letter will not arrive before I sail, and then I may not hear for months anything that has befallen since I took leave of her in Newgate: what seizures have been made by the police; what she is going to do with the house in Dublin; where she means to live; how my children are. My wardrobe, too, is somewhat scanty, for a “gentleman,” seeing that they brought me away from Newgate in an old brown summer coat, old shoes, and a glazed cap; and the trunk I wrote for cannot come in time. Mr. Grace, however, has kindly taken the trouble of procuring for me at Cove a few changes of linen and other small indispensables. The surgeon of the establishment, a young man from the county Monaghan, came to request some autographs from me. It seems the women in Cove importuned him; so I indulged him, with half-a-dozen, and wish the sweet girls much joy with them.

Speaking of this surgeon, I must not forget to record that the first time he saw me he made most minute inquiries about my health; and when I told him I was in perfect health, and never had been better in all my life, he remarked that I looked rather delicate — perhaps I had been subject occasionally to some complaint? Told him I had — to asthma, now and then; but was at present quite free from it. He said that would do.

“Do what?”, I asked. Whereupon he told me that it might be necessary, in order to justify Mr. Grace in not setting me to work, to have a certificate from him that my health was rather delicate. All this passed on Monday last, and before Mr. Grace had received orders from the Castle not to use me as a convict.

I set down all these trifling particulars relating to my usage here because I foresee the worthy “Government” will have occasion to tell official falsehoods on the subject before all is over; otherwise, they are of no importance to me at all.

At five o’clock to-morrow morning a boat is to come ashore for me.

June 1st. –  It was on a raw, damp morning that I took my last look of Irish land. The first lieutenant of the Scourge, in full costume, with cocked hat and sword, came for me with a boat full of marines. The Scourge lay about a mile distant — a long, Iow rakish-looking steamer, with black hull and two funnels. In a few minutes I stepped on deck, and was presented to the captain, who was walking on the quarter-deck. He lifted his cap, and asked me to go below, and he would show me my quarter. The principal cabin is very handsome, divided into two rooms, of which the one farthest aft is to be occupied by me as a sleeping-cabin. It has couches, chairs, and a table, and is lighted by all the stem windows. During the day both rooms are to be open to me; and the captain said, that as he is obliged to consider me as a prisoner, there will be a marine always stationed on sentry at the foot of the companion-ladder; and that whenever I desire to go upon deck, which I may do when I please, I am to inform the sentry, who will summon a sergeant — that for the rest, he hoped his hours would suit me, when breakfast, dinner, and so forth, will be served in the chief cabin. He is a quiet, saturnine, bilious, thin man of about fifty, with a very low voice — not at all a bluff seaman, or a jolly tar, or the like; yet I dare say he is an excellent officer, and will execute his orders.

Mr. Grace had promised to go to Cove and inquire for my letter; and the vessel lay for an hour, waiting his return. He came and brought a letter. I snatched it eagerly, and found in it a small religious tract, which an unknown lady had sent me. No letter from home. Ten minutes after this we were steaming southward, at ten knots an hour. So my moorings are cut.

It rained dismally. The wind sung ruefully in shrouds and rigging; and huge grey rain-clouds darkened over shore and sea. We were out of sight of land almost as soon as the ship had cleared the headlands of the bay. I waved my hand north-east-by-north, then went below, and ate a tremendous breakfast.

So my moorings are cut. I am a banished man. And this is no mere relegatio, like Ovid’s, at Tomi; it is utter exsilium — interdiction of fire and water; the loss of citizenship, if citizenship I had; the brand of whatsoever ignominy law can inflict, if law there be. Be it so; I am content. There are no citizens in Ireland; there is no citizenship — no law. I cannot lose what I never had; for no Irishman has any rights at present. As for the disgrace of “felony,” that sits very easy upon me. To make me a felon needs an act of my own. No “Act of Parliament” can do it! and what ignominy London “law” can stain an Irishman withal, I am content to underlie till my dying hour. Be that disgrace on my head and on the heads of my children.

But for the thought of those children and their mother, and what temporary inconveniences they may suffer before arrangements can be made for their leaving Ireland — but for that I should absolutely feel jolly to-day. There is something independent in setting forth on a voyage of three thousand miles, with an old brown coat on my back, and a few shillings in my tricolor purse. The onus is not upon me. You Sovereign Lady, Queen Nice, have charge of me now; look you take good care of me. I am in your majesty’s hands at last; but you may find, O Queen! that I am too dear at the price you have paid, and are like to pay. I will cost you, most dread sovereign, rather more than my rations.

It has come on to blow hard this evening. Dined on four teaspoonfuls of arrowroot.

2nd. – Blowing still worse. Hoped fervently for a thorough-going storm. When one is at sea, one may as well have trial of all the sea can do. Steward came into my cabin; asked him if it was a storm. “No, sir; only half a gale of wind.” I cursed its halfness, and tried to sleep.

3rd. – Ship still pitching and rolling heavily; part of the bulwark, the steward told us, is stove in — still no storm. Went on deck. Storm or no storm, this Atlantic rears grand, mountainous waves. Porpoises tumbling — Storm-Petrel skimming. This bird is the Mother Carey’s Chicken or procellaria — but I scorn it. All these things, are they not written in the journal of any young lady sailing to India for a husband — or missionary, or “literary” (that is, book-spinning) naval officer, spinning as he goes, for a manufacturer in Paternoster Row?

Went over the Scourge, and surveyed her fore and aft. She is a fine ship. A long unbroken flush deck; one huge mortar, containing five tons of metal, close behind the mainmast — one “long gun” pointed over the bow — one brass field-piece mounted on a carriage in the stem — and four carronades. She is manned by 180 men and boys. The long gun is a tremendous instrument. The sergeant of marines who has charge of me, a very fat and good-humoured fellow who rolls in his waddle, as only a fat Englishman can roll, seems greatly attached to this gun. He saw me looking at it, and came over to show me all the conditions of it — how it traverses — how it is raised and lowered by a graduated scale for taking aim, and so forth.

“Ah! Sir,” said he, “she’s a clever piece — she’s just a clever piece,” he repeated, slapping her affectionately on the breech as he said it.

The men were called to drill by beat of drum, and here was a new thing to me; for it seems all the sailors, as well as marines on board a man-of-war are regularly drilled as soldiers. They were armed with musket and bayonet, cutlasses, boarding-pikes, and hatchets — altogether most formidable looking pirates. They were drilled by the principal gunner, and certainly know how to handle their arms; but the ship rolled so much that, as they were ranged along the deck, they had to balance themselves very cunningly, on toes and heels alternately; and sometimes seemed on the point of making an involuntary charge across the deck with fixed bayonets, pinning the gunner and half-a-dozen officers to the opposite bulwark.

The organiser and chief mover on board the Scourge is the first lieutenant. By the first word he addressed to me, I perceived he was a Derry or Tyrone Irishman — told him so, and found that I was right. He is a native of Tyrone; and he and I went to school in the same city, Derry, at the same time, more than twenty years ago, but not at the same school. For twenty-four years he has been in the navy, and is (the captain tells me), a most admirable officer; but seems to think he will never be anything but a lieutenant. He has not parliamentary connections, and is an Irishman.

Dined with the captain, whose name is Wingrove. After dinner, the saturnine man relaxed a little, and even grew cheerful. He thought I ought to be deeply impressed by my survey of his ship, and duly awed by a contemplation of the power and majesty of “England.” Yes, it is all very terrible and very grand. Captain, but if Irishmen had only the sense and spirit to take the management of their own concerns, you would want carriages for some of your guns: some of the gilding would be rubbed off your epaulettes, I apprehend. The herds and harvests that we send every year to England (getting neither money nor value for them) would build and man dozens of your spitfire Scourges, besides frigates, and line of battle ships, what may suffice. Wood, iron, hemp, gunpowder, would obey Irish hands as well as Carthaginian.

Captain Wingrove has good wine. He had just come from Madeira and Portugal, when he was ordered off to Bermuda, so that he has had opportunities. He is evidently curious about late events in Ireland, but does not like to ask me much about them. Said he understood there was a practice in Ireland, in the law courts there, called packing juries, and asked what it meant. I explained it to him; but it is clear that he hardly believes me: indeed, he listens to everything I say with a kind of quiet smile — and sometimes looks doubtfully at me, as if he thought me slightly insane, and expected me to break out in some strange manner.

7th. – The weather has been very beautiful and warm, for some days; but to-day it is rather foggy, to my sorrow, for we are passing through the Azores between Terceira and St. Michael’s, and cannot see them. They are most lovely islands, with fine mountains and livers, rich in grain and fruit. Portugal has these and Madeira yet; but perhaps the next war will give an excuse to the bullying pirates of Carthage to take the Azores for coal depots, or convict depots, and so create some situations to relieve the pressure of younger sons.

The officers of the ship seem desirous to make my voyage as little irksome to me as possible. Several of them have offered to lend me books — and though I had vowed to look on no book save sea and sky during the passage, I find I must have recourse to them. A sea voyage is a very tedious affair: the weather indeed is warm and serene, but I begin to be aweary of the sun: he is advancing fast to his summer solstice, and we are rushing to meet him at the rate of 180 miles per day. The pure profound blue of the ocean is most glorious to see. One whose navigation has been confined to crossing St. George’s Channel, with its short chopping waves and dull leaden colour, has never seen the sea.


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

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

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