To the honorable members of the United States Congress in session assembled:

The humble petition of John Warren, now a “convict” in Kilmainham jail, county Dublin, Ireland:

Gentlemen: I, a citizen of the United States by adoption, respectfully submit the following: I am an Irishman by birth; by adoption an American citizen. Partly in pursuit of my avocation as a member of the American press, and on private business, to see old friends and relations, I arrived in Ireland in the latter end of May, 1867. Immediately after landing, on the 1st of June, I was arrested, cast into a dungeon, and kept closely confined in silence and solitude for nearly five months, without any charge having been preferred against me and without obtaining a hearing of any kind. On the 10th of October I was summarily ordered before a magistrate, and evidence sworn against me by a witness classed and known as an informer. I was committed on his evidence, indicted on the 25th of October, tried, and I stand now a convicted and sentenced felon for fifteen years’ penal servitude on the uncorroborated testimony of the notorious and infamous perjurer and informer Corydon, who swore he knew me to belong to the Fenian confederacy in America in the year 1863. The indictment charged me with the overt act of the 5th of March in the county of Dublin, Ireland, although the Crown lawyers admit I was not bodily present, but was then in the city of New York. The British law claims me to be a British subject, ignores my United States citizenship, and consequently your right to confer it. The Crown lawyers further hold all members of the so-called Fenian confederation guilty of the overt act of the 5th of March in the county of Dublin, Ireland. Corydon swears I was a member of the above-named confederation in America in 1863. England, claiming me as her subject, consequently indicts, arraigns, tries, convicts, and sentences me for an act committed in Ireland when I was in the city of New York, United States of America, and I am this moment a first-class convict in a British bastile, clothed in a suit of convict gray.

Gentlemen, my case is very plain. The English law under which I am claimed, as quoted by the judges who sat in my case, reads: “A British subject who removes to France or America owes the same allegiance to the Queen there as at home, twenty years hence as well as now. For it is a principle of universal law that the natural-born subject of one prince cannot by any act of his own, no, not by swearing allegiance to another, put off or discharge his natural allegiance to the former, for his natural allegiance was intrinsic and primitive and antecedent to the other, and cannot be divested without the concurrent act of that prince to whom it was due.” Gentlemen, this law existed when the United States, on my forswearing all allegiance to all “foreign princes and potentates, more especially the Queen of England,” conferred on me the rights of citizenship. If America acknowledged that law, she has perpetrated on me the most unjust, the most fraudulent injury. If she did not acknowledge it then, why does she now? England has, by indicting, arraigning, trying, convicting, and sentencing me on the uncorroborated evidence of a perjured informer for an act claimed to have been committed in America, which act as represented was being a member of an Irish national organization in the United States of America in 1863, ignored my previous citizenship, the right of the United States to confer it, and consequently has defiantly enforced this law, and the government of the United States, as represented by Mr. Johnson, Mr. Seward, and Mr. Adams, apparently coincide in this enforcement. If not, why were not some steps taken to deter action till your honorable body had an opportunity of adjudicating on so important a question? I ask you, gentlemen, as I lie to-night in my lonely dungeon, cut away from mother, wife, sisters, children, and friends, immured in a living tomb now for the last six months, what feeling must I have towards my government as represented in this matter? Why should it permit for an hour a citizen to stand convicted of treason-felony in Ireland on the ground of his being a member of an Irish national organization in America, and that, too, on the evidence of a perjured spy and informer? Which of the two governments up to the present is to me the more treacherous: the government which invites me to renounce all former allegiance whatsoever, confers upon me the full rights (on paper) of American citizenship, affixes its official seal to the act, and extracts a fee for so doing, and, when this citizenship is contemptuously and defiantly repudiated by the government whose allegiance I renounced, tolerates and abandons me to my fate, or the government from which I expect nothing, my natural enemy, the enemy of every aspirant for freedom, the enemy of my very existence, of the existence of my race, and of my adopted country?

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Observe to what an extent run the claims of the British government. England claims, in the enforcement of what she calls a right, that several millions of the citizens of the United States are her subjects, and defiantly in proof of this has convicted me, with others, to the doom of penal servitude, after coquetting with Mr. Johnson, Mr. Seward, and Mr. Adams for five months about my release, for an occurrence which took place in Ireland when I was in America; thereby enforcing her claim on my allegiance to the letter. I cannot but admire England’s independence. Has the chivalry of America departed? And yet, gentlemen, England goes still further in her claims. I find there is yet another of her laws which even claims the children and grandchildren of British subjects born in America as subjects. An eminent commentator on this law says: “But by several more modern statutes these restrictions are still further taken off, so that all children born out of the King’s ligeance, whose fathers or grandfathers by the father’s side were natural-born subjects, are now deemed to be natural subjects themselves to all intents and purposes, unless their said ancestors were attainted beyond the seas for high treason.”

I admit that England does not presume to enforce this last-quoted statute at present, but should she be permitted to enforce the first with impunity, the assertion or non-assertion of the other will be with her a question of policy, not of principle, and she may at any time claim half the population of the United States as her subjects. Now, gentlemen, as I have before mentioned, my case is plain. I have quoted the law under which as a British subject I stand convicted for “treason-felony” on the evidence of a spy and perjured informer, and for being a member of an Irish national organization in America, as sworn, in 1863. You know also, gentlemen, the rights guaranteed to me by the Constitution of the United States and the naturalization laws. Am I under those laws a citizen of the United States and entitled to her full protection, or am I under the English statutes a British subject and amenable to English laws in America? I will state, gentlemen, in conclusion, that even as a British subject I have violated no British law. My name is connected with an alleged expedition, but there is not one iota of corroborative evidence to identify me in connection with it, as your honorable body may have learned from the published evidence long before you received this communication; and even if it did exist, the very evidence produced, purchased and perjured as it was, proved that if a hostile design ever existed it was abandoned, and that the parties were thrown on the shore by stress of weather and starvation. The only case they have established against me was that I landed in Ireland from a fishing boat, which fishing boat took me off a vessel out at sea. No documents, no arms; I attempted no disguise; had no connection with any person or persons in Ireland.

I again, gentlemen, repeat that I am suffering in an English bastile the most excruciating, degrading, and servile tortures, for no other proven offense, before my God, than that the paid informer Corydon swore that he knew me in America to belong to an Irish national organization in America.

Gentlemen, in the name of our common country, in the name of freedom, in the name of God, I ask of you to take hold of this matter vigorously, and compel England to expunge from her law-books every presumption bearing on the rights of the American citizen. If she does not do it, wipe her from the face of the earth, and God will bless you.