Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward

No. 1495.]

Sir: In accordance with the directions contained in yonr dispatch No. 2105, I have written to Mr. West to apply for an official report of Captain Warren’s trial. By a letter received this morning from him, I learn that he has already received and forwarded an official copy of the indictment.

The solicitor of Colonel Nagle has applied to know whether the government of the United States will assume the expense of his defense on his trial at Sligo. He proposes to bring down what he calls a special bar from Dublin, which will naturally create very heavy charges. As there would be time to hear from the department, and I have great reluctance to assume the responsibility of large outlay of money for the government, I wrote to him that I would obtain your instructions. The assizes will probably be held in February.

I transmit herewith a copy of the London Times of this morning, containing a report of an attempt, made by certain parties supposed to be connected with the Fenian organization, to blow up the Clerkenwell [Page 45] prison wall, for the purpose of effecting the liberation of Colonels Burke and Casey. The former is the person about whom I wrote in my dispatch No. 1490, of the 7th instant. The object was not attained, but the incidental consequences to innocent persons have been fearful.

It is much to be apprehended that these repeated attempts may rouse a state of feeling in the English population which will not be satisfied with the slower processes of justice, and may in its turn wreak its vengenee upon wholly innocent parties. The government, fearful of such consequences in the great towns, has already prohibited all further demonstrations of the kind that took place in London and Dublin on the execution of the Manchester prisoners. It is tolerably clear that no such manifestation could be repeated here without danger to the public peace. The Orange feeling in the north of Ireland is also becoming very much exasperated.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

A crime of unexampled atrocity has been committed in the midst of London. We are not a sanguinary people, and acts of wholesale murder are rare in our annals. Till yesterday we could not have believed that there lived among us men capable of planning such a deed as has just spread destruction over a whole neighborhood. The infernal machines of 1800 and 1835 have been rivaled by the diabolical device of the Fenian conspirators. In order, as it is supposed, to rescue two of their accomplices who had been remanded by a magistrate and had been placed in the house of detention at Clerkenwell, it has entered into the minds of the rebels who are planning the overthrow of the Queen’s government in Ireland to destroy the wall of the prison at the moment the prisoners were taking exercise, and to carry them off through the gap which the explosion should create. So far as regards the effect of the powder, the experiment has been horribly successful. A vast breach has been made in the outer wall; not less than 60 feet have been blown away, and the precincts of the prison are incumbered with ruins. Never was the tremendous power of gunpowder more clearly shown. The gate of Ghuznee was blown open by a bag of powder hung to it by a nail; a barrel wheeled on a truck and simply placed on the pavement beside the prison wall has sufficed to crush and shatter everything that was exposed to the force of its explosion. All that is known at present is that yesterday, at about a quarter before four in the afternoon, some persons were seen to wheel a barrel into the thoroughfare called Corporation lane, one side of which for some distance is formed by the prison wall. According to one account a squib was stuck into the barrel, one of the men lighted it, and then the conspirators ran quickly up a court which leads out of the lane. In another moment the explosion followed. The wall heaved and shook, and then fell inwards with a single crash. Had Burke or Casey been taking exercise in the yard at the time, he might have had little cause to thank those who used so tremendous an instrument of rescue. But at this time the prisoners were within the prison itself, and as regards them the exploit of the conspirators has been without effect for good or evil. Not so with the unhappy inhabitants of the neighboring houses. Corporation lane is a commonplace street of small tenements, occupied by working people. The houses are neither new nor substantial; but if it were otherwise they could hardly have resisted the violence of the shock. As it is, the devastation has been beyond belief. The whole row opposite to the gap in the prison wall has been wrecked. The house immediately opposite was so completely crushed that there was no alternative but to pull down what remained of the tottering walls, and it is now only a heap of rubbish. On each side, the houses stand windowless and doorless, the cracked brickwork everywhere threatening the bystanders with a speedy collapse. A long way up the neighboring lanes and courts the glass is broken in the windows, the chimneys have been shaken down, the ceilings have been destroyed. In one case a wall seems to have been not only cracked, but forced out of the perpendicular by the violence of the shock. The perpetrators of this outrage did not miscalculate the potency of the weapon they used, This new gunpowder treason shows what power for mischief is in the hands of any determined ruffians whose fierce passions and seared consciences make them regardless of human life.

If the miscreants who have done this deed are capable of remorse, they may well be [Page 46] overcome by the thoughts of their day’s work. Burke and Casey are still safe in confinement. Nothing that their friends can do is now likely to deliver them from the necessity of answering for their actions at the bar of justice. The conspirators have to no purpose committed a crime which will bring down on themselves and their scheme the execration of the world. If one of them escapes, all that he will have to look back Upon is the slaughter of a number of innocent people, the burning and mangling of women and helpless infants, the destruction of poor men’s homes and poor men’s property. Some 40 persons are dead or wounded. We know not what number will have perished by the time these lines are read; but four or five were said to be dead last night, and others were in a most precarious state. It is, indeed, heart-rending to hear of little children four and five years old torn and mangled, to find youth and age involved in a common destruction. It is terrible to think that there are, no doubt, still among us others planning outrages equally dastardly and deadly, and that any day may bring some disastrous news. Our first thoughts, however, must be given to those who have been the victims of this plot. The chief sufferers are in the hospitals, and of course will receive all the care that their cases require. But the destruction of property has been large, and it is probable that several families have not only to mourn the loss or disablement of a member, but will be plunged into deep distress. They have a ciaim on the public, for they may be said to have suffered in a public cause. They are the victims of a conspiracy which, under the names of patriotism and liberty, has declared war on the government and society of these islands. In the Irish outbreak of last March, in the attack on the prison van at Manchester, in this traitorous enterprise at Clerkenwell, the Fenians have shown that they shrink not from bloodshed, even for a most inadequate end. Their object is now apparently to create a terror throughout the United Kingdom, and such is their unscrupulous ferocity that with a large class of the community they may so far succeed. If the country, however, can do nothing else, it can take care that those who actually suffer at the hands of these public enemies shall not want care in their sufferings and compensation for their losses.

As to the Fenian conspiracy itself, it must be evident that the time is past for clemency and forbearance. With traitors and assassins such as these there can be but one course. We desire to say nothing which may aggravate the bitterness of English feeling, or increase the indignation which will burst forth to-day in every part of the land. We feel that the Fenians have filled to the full the cup of wrath, and that in dealing with them public Opinion will need rather to be restrained than instigated. We would impress on our readers the duty of looking at these events with as much calmness as is consistent with human nature, of remembering that not every Irishman—nay, not even every processionist and every listener to seditious speeches—is a Fenian. The conspiracy to which these Clerkenwell assassins belong is probably directed by a few, and its active co-operators may be only some thousands in the whole kingdom. This leaven might, indeed, if left to itself, soon leaven the whole lump; and it is therefore necessary to remove it at once. But, while doing strict and stern justice on the guilty, we may separate them in our minds from the excitable and deluded. Ireland has suffered much at the hands of her self-constituted representatives, and never more than when she is made to appear before the world as the mother of assassins. It may be that this great crime will cure many who have taken the infection of Fenianism. At least let England show that, whatever may have to be done, she will allow neither fear nor anger to sway the balance of justice.


Yesterday afternoon an attempt was made to obtain the release of the Fenian prisoners Burke and Casey by blowing up with gunpowder the outer wall of the house of detention at Clerkenwell, in which they are at present confined while under remand, and it succeeded so far as to effect an enormous breach in the wall, about 60 feet wide at the top and lessening towards the ground. Unhappily, that was not the whole result. Upwards of 40 innocent people, men, women, and children of all ages, some of whom happened to be passing at the time, were injured more or less severely by this modern gunpowder plot, of whom one was killed on the spot, two have since died, and a fourth is not expected to survive the night. Thirty-six of the sufferers were removed to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where three died in the course of the evening, and six to the Royal Free Hospital in Gray’s-inn road. Three and four of the wounded were members of the same family, some were mere infants, and the husband of a woman who has since died of injuries she sustained lies in St. Bartholomew’s, shockingly bruised and prostrated. Others are missing. The living, on being taken to the hospital, received the prompt and humane attentions of Mr. Holden, one of the senior surgeons, Mr. Edward MeClean, the house surgeon, and, indeed, of the whole medical staff. The treasurer (Mr. Foster White) was also conspicuous for the aid he rendered in promoting the comfort of the poor sufferers.

The explosion, which sounded like a discharge of artillery, occurred at exactly a quarter to 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when there is still daylight in even these short days, [Page 47] and was heard for miles round. In the immediate neighborhood it produced the greatest consternation, for it blew down houses and shattered the windows of others in all directions. The windows of the; prison itself, of coarse glass more than a quarter of an inch thick, were to a large extent broken, and the side of the building immediately facing the outer wall in which the breach was made, and about 150 feet from it, bears the marks of the bricks which were hurled against it by the explosion. The wall surrounding the prison is about 25 feet high, 2 feet 3 inches thick at the bottom, and about 14 inches thick at the top.

The scene of the explosion is Corporation Row, which runs parallel with the prison wall on its northern side, and consisted of houses three stories high, some of them let out in tenements, and others used for various manufacturing purposes. A very circumstantial account of the transaction is given by an intelligent little boy named John Abbott, 13 years of age, who happened to be an eye-witness, and who now lies at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, but happily not much injured. The boy lived with his parents at 5 Corporation lane, and we cannot, perhaps, do better than give his statement in his own words:

About a quarter to 4 o’clock, he says, he was standing at Mr. Young’s door, No. 5, when he saw a large barrel close to the wall of the prison, and a man leave the barrel and cross the road. Shortly afterwards the man returned with a long squib in each hand. One of these he gave to some boys who were playing in the street, and the other he thrust into the barrel. One of the boys was smoking, and he handed the man a light, which the man applied to the squib. The man staid a short time, until he saw the squib begin to burn, and then he ran away. A policeman ran alter him, and when the policeman arrived opposite No. 5 “the thing went off.” The boy saw no more after that, as he himself was covered with bricks and mortar. The man, he says, was dressed something like a gentleman. He had on a brown overcoat and black hat, and had light hair and whiskers. He should know him again if he saw him. There was a white cloth over the barrel, which was black, and when the man returned with the squib he partly uncovered the barrel, but did not wholly remove the cloth. There were several men and women in the street at the time, and children playing. Three little boys were standing near the barrel all the time. Some of the people ran after the man who lighted the squib.

Mrs. Holder, a widow, living at 4 Corporation lane, and now in St. Bartholomew’s, says, about half past 3 a man knocked at her door, and, upon her son answering, the man asked to be allowed to go to the top story of the house to be enabled to see his cousin and speak to him when exercising in the yard of the house of detention. His application was refused, and he went away. About 10 minutes afterwards the explosion occurred. It is understood that her son will be able to identify the man.

Two men and a woman are now in custody charged with being implicated in the crime. One of the men gives the name of Timothy Desmond, and describes himself as 46 years of age, and a tailor by trade; the other, Jeremiah Allen, is 36, and a bootmaker. The woman, whose name is Ann Justice, is about 30 years of age. Late last night she made a determined attempt to strangle herself in a cell in which she was confined in the house of detention, but it was frustrated. She has been in the frequent habit of visiting the prisoner Casey while he has been confined there.

It is understood that on Thursday evening Mr. Henry Pownall, the chairman of the county magistrates, in consequence of information he had received paid a visit to the prison, and directed the governor, Captain Codd, not to exercise the prisoners in the ordinary way yesterday either as to time or places The wall which has been blown down inclosed a large open space in which the prisoners were accustomed to take exercise. The governor, therefore, had them exercised between 9 and 10 yesterday morning, instead of the usual time, which was between 3 and half-past 4 in the afternoon, and to this precaution it is probably owing that the diabolical attempt of yesterday was unsuccessful. The governor is also understood to have put himself in communication with the public authorities, and they had undertaken to keep a large body of the force outside the walls, perambulating the immediate neighborhood of the prison. That, we believe, was not a special precaution, for it is said to have been observed during the time the man Groves was under remand on suspicion of being concerned in the murder of the bandsman. Six warders from the house of correction were sent to the prison on Thursday to act as a night guard, but the governor, not thinking they were necessary, dispensed with their services, and called in the aid of six or eight of his own warders as an additional force during the night. Shortly before the explosion the prisoner Burke appeared very excited, and went often to the window of his cell. Three men and a woman are said to have been concerned in the explosion. A policeman, who was on special duty in plain clothes at the time, rushed forward and tried to seize one of them, but was stunned for the moment by the force of the explosion and lost his feet. On rising he secured one of the men, and the woman was apprehended shortly afterwards. One of the three men who made his escape is supposed to have been the one who fired the train; but all these are matters to be elicited and explained in evidence.

[Page 48]

In the course of yesterday a policeman on duty outside the prison had his suspicions so strongly aroused by seeing the woman Justice and a man frequently conversing together, that he communicated with one of the prison authorities, who in consequence made arrangements for giving an alarm if it should become necessary. During the day a warder on duty inside had his attention directed to a man at a window in the upper part of a house in Woodbridge street overlooking the prison yard. He went to bring another warder, and on their return the man had vanished, but was shortly afterwards seen talking to the woman Justice near the entrance to the prison, and to the man who had been seen loitering with her. The latter man wore a white apron, and had the appearance of a shoemaker; and that description applies exactly to one of the two now in custody. Later in the day the warder had his attention called to the same window in the opposite house in Woodbridge street, overlooking the prison yard, and there he saw a woman leaning out, and several men inside the room. He distinctly counted five men, but there seemed to him to be more, and they were all looking anxiously in the direction of the place where the explosion occurred almost immediately afterwards.

All the houses in Corporation lane overlooking the prison yard are more or less damaged by the concussion, and two or three of them so seriously in front of the part of the wall where the breach was made that members of the fire brigade, under the direction of Captain Shaw, were pulling them down last night in anticipation of their falling by their own weight. About 500 of the metropolitan police were on duty keeping off the crowd and preserving order, and 100 of the Fusileer Guards, under the command of Colonel Moncrief, Captain Gosling, Lieutenant Moray, and Lieutenant Inigo Jones, were posted as a guard inside the prison throughout the night. Many of the county magistrates were also in attendance, including Mr. Pownall the chairman; Lord Ranelagh, Mr. Northall Laurie, Mr. Henry White, Mr. Bodkin, Mr. Fish Pownall, and Mr. Frederick Pownall, the county surveyor. The police on duty were under the command of Captain Labalmondiere, from their headquarters in Scotland yard, Throughout the whole evening great excitement prevailed in the neighborhood. The two men and the woman who have been apprehended were, until late last night, kept in the house of detention, as being the nearest to the place where they were arrested, but not being in the legal custody of the governor preparations were being made for their removal to another prison.

The occasion served to bring into strong light the incalculable value of such an institution as St. Bartholomew’s Hospital on a great public calamity. The poor sufferers, many of them rendered homeless for the time, were conveyed thither with as little delay as possible, and many anxious relatives crowded its doors during the evening to hear some tidings respecting them. According to Mr. Holden, the senior surgeon on duty, the effect of the concussion in most cases had been to produce a severe shock to the nervous system and great prostration. The chief injuries were about the head, including severe wounds, with fractured bones of the face in several instances. The hands of a boy about 11 years old were so frightfully wounded that all his fingers except two, and both his thumbs, had to be removed. A woman, who had sustained a severe fracture, was to all appearance on the point of death on her admission, but she rallied a little afterwards, and later in the evening her condition inspired hope. A girl named Anne Cross, eight years old, had her left knee fearfully lacerated. She was on her way home with a jug of milk for which her mother had sent her when she was injured by the explosion.

In the course of the evening Mr. Foster White, the treasurer of St. Bartholomew’s, forwarded a telegram to the Prince of Wales, the president of the hospital, informing his royal highness of the preparations which had been made there for the reception and treatment of the sufferers.

The dead at St. Bartholomew’s hospital are William Clutton, a woman named Hutchinson, (whose husband, 38, is in a very precarious state,) and a female child named Abbott, about eight years old. Her mother, Maria Abbott, is also a patient.

The following are the in-patients: John Abbott, 13, No. 5 Corporation lane; two children, Charles and Martha Perry, 4 and 5 years respectively; Caleb Beckett, 28; John Harvey, 48; William Abbott, 11; William Kitchener, 55; John Walker and Thomas Wheeler; Thomas Hutchinson, 38; Ann Cross, 8; Maria Giles, 39; Margaret Mosely; Sarah Hartley, 41; Thomas Hartley, 8; and two other boys name Hartley, all of the same family; Harriet Thompson; a baby, (unclaimed;) Elizabeth Williams; Elizabeth Holder, 56; Elizabeth Hodgkinson, Maria Abbott, and a child not known; Elizabeth Thompson, Mary Ann Chittlebird, Anna Maria Abbott, another Elizabeth Thompson, 48; Mary Ann Miles, (old;) Martha Evans, 67; Ann Bennett, 67; and Mary Ann Young.

At the Free Hospital, Gray’s-inn lane, are Anna Maria Thompson, 4; Anna Roberts, 30; Arthur Abbott, 4, and Minnie Abbott, 4; Humphrey Evans, 66; and a boy two years and a half old, calling himself Tommy. One of the six was not expected to live.