Note – this story is running rampant around the web. I have done my best to do the homework on these 9. Yes, a couple of them did go on to do great things, but most of them had lives of hardship. The worst mark of disrespect I can show is to leave the false story online and ignore their struggles.
In the Young Irish disorders in Ireland in 1848, the following nine men were captured, tried and convicted of treason against Her Majesty the Queen, and were sentenced to death: Charles Gavan Duffy, William Smith O’Brien, John Mitchel, Patrick O’Donohue, Terence Bellew McManus, Richard O’Gorman, John Blake Dillon, Thomas Francis Meagher, and Thomas D’Arcy Magee.
Before passing sentence, the judge asked if there was anything that anyone wished to say. Meagher, speaking for all, said:
“My lord, this is our first offense, but not our last. If you will be easy with us this once, we promise, on our word as gentlemen, to try to do better next time. And next time — sure we won’t be fools to get caught.”
Thereupon the indignant judge sentenced them four of them to be hanged by the neck until dead and drawn and quartered. Passionate protests from all the world forced Queen Victoria to commute the sentence to transportation for life to far away wild Australia. Of the 9 Irishmen, 5 were exiled to Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land), three escaped to North America, and Charles Gavan Duffy went into self-imposed exile in Australia. In 1874, word reached the astounded Queen Victoria that Sir Charles Duffy, who had been elected Prime Minister of Victoria, Australia, was the same Charles Duffy who had been transported 25 years before. If this one man had done so well, what happened to the others?
- Thomas Francis Meagher
Originally sentenced to death but had sentence commuted to life in Tasmania.
Escaped and made his way to New York City.
Joined the US Army at the start of the Civil War and rose to Brigadier General.
Appointed acting governor of the Montana Territory.
- Terrence McManus
Originally sentenced to death, his sentence was commuted to life in Tasmania.
He escaped and made his way to San Francisco, California.
- Patrick O’Donoghue
Was sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to life in Tasmania
Published the first Irish Nationalist paper in Australia.
Suffered great hardship in Tasmania and escaped to San Francisco. He died 2 years later in poor circumstances in New York.
- Richard O’Gorman
Escaped prosecution in Ireland by escaping to New York.
Set up a law practice and was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court of New York.
- William Smith O’Brien
Sentenced to death, but had his sentence commuted to life in Tasmania.
Though he had been a politician and member of British Parliment, after his pardon, he never again was active in politics.
- Thomas D’Arcy McGee
Escaped trial by pretending to be a priest.
Moved to Montreal where he was elected the mayor and then to Canadian Parliment.
Became the Minister for Agriculture in Canada.
- John Mitchel
Sentenced to life in Tasmania for his part in the 1848 Irish Rebellion.
Escaped and made his way to San Francisco.
Set up several newspapers.
Returned to Ireland in 1875 where he ran for Parliment. He won – twice – but was not eligible to take the seat he fought so hard for because he was a convicted felon.
- John Blake Dillon
Avoided trial in Ireland by escaping to New York disguised a priest.
Became a lawyer and set up a practice in New York with Richard O’Gorman.
Returned to politics and was elected Westminster Parliment.