Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Message for December

Love Guides the Whole Design

In March 1871, Pennsylvania officers for the Irish Catholic benevolent order known as the “Ancient Order of Hibernians” (AOH) filed their order's corporate charter—complete with constitution and by-laws—with the state legislature in Harrisburg.

Like so much of this tantalizing history, the origins of the 1871 Pennsylvania AOH charter—including the question of who authored its beautiful language—remain unknown. No information regarding the drafting of this document has yet been published.

But all of the dozens of AOH men arrested for alleged “Molly Maguire” crimes—and all 21 men executed on gallows in five counties over a period of two and a half years—belonged to the AOH benevolent order. All of these Irish Catholic men received copies of the AOH constitution and by-laws on their initiation into the order.

John Kehoe, AOH delegate for Schuylkill County during the mid-1870s, oversaw the printing of these documents at the Herald newspaper office in Shenandoah. Kehoe also likely oversaw the distribution of these documents to AOH divisions throughout Pennsylvania’s hard coal region.

Most, if not all, of the men prosecuted as Pennsylvania’s “Molly Maguires” had in their possession at some time a booklet that included the language given here.

Below is the preamble from the AOH constitution, chartered on March 10, 1871, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.


Constitution and By-Laws of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Instituted, March 10, 1871.
Chartered, March 10, 1871.
Adopted, March 11, 1871.

Preamble. The members of this Order do declare that the intent and purpose of the Order is to promote Friendship, Unity, and True Christian Charity among its members, by raising or supporting a stock or fund of money for maintaining the aged, sick, blind, and infirm members, and for no other purpose whatever.

These laws though human,
Spring from Love Divine,
Love laid the scheme—
Love guides the whole design.

Vile is the man
Who will evade these laws,
Or taste the sweets
Without sufficient cause.

Introduction. The Motto of this Order is “Friendship, Unity, and True Christian Charity.”

Unity, in unity together for mutual support in sickness and distress.
Friendship, in assisting each other to the best of our power.
True Christian Charity, by doing to each other, and all the world, as we would wish they should do unto us.

Brethren: It is beyond all doubt that the Supreme Being has placed man in a state of dependence and need of mutual support from his fellow man. Neither can the greatest monarch on earth exist without friendship and society. Therefore, the Supreme Being has implanted in our natures tender sympathies and most humane feeling towards our fellow creatures in distress, and all the happiness that human nature is capable of enjoying must flow and terminate in the love of God and our fellow creatures. So we, the members of this Order, do agree to assist each other, and conform to the following rules …


Thanks to all readers of the John Kehoe blog over the past year, and warm wishes for the coming year.

Anne Flaherty


Coming January 2 – The Extraordinary Career of District Attorney Siewers—Part 1 of 4: A Little Bacchanalian Episode

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Justice Trembling in the Balance

Part 4 of 4: All the Machinery of the Pinkerton Agency

Attorney William Foyle of Towanda used all his persuasive power in December 1878 to convince Pennsylvania Governor John Hartranft to re-open the case of John Kehoe. Against all odds—including false rumors of his death—Kehoe’s wife Mary Ann had located a witness who could testify on her husband’s behalf.

“The witness is worthy of credit,” Foyle told Hartanft of witness Patrick McHugh’s deposition.

Foyle related that McHugh identified himself as collector of taxes for Carbon County's Banks Township at the time of the Langdon killing. McHugh "went over to Audenried the night of the affair, saw Jack Kehoe at William’s Tavern at the time the killing occurred or within five minutes of the time the alarm was given, and afterwards saw him running to the scene of the murder.”


The Philadelphia Times picked up the case and questioned McHugh’s testimony. Foyle again wrote to Hartranft. The attorney’s frustration streamed through his second letter to Pennsylvania’s governor.

“I shall not doubt the integrity of witness McHugh until some reasonable proof is given that he has sworn falsely produced in some other form than newspaper ‘squibs’ for which no one claims responsibility,” Foyle told Hartranft.

“[A]s I understand it from pamphlets sent me some time since with the compliments of Franklin B Gowen containing the trial of Munly [sic] … it took the Commonwealth aided by that astute lawyer and with all the machinery of Pinkertons Detective agency about fourteen years to obtain the evidence to establish the guilt of Kehoe meager as it was … is it too much to ask that Kehoe should have at least two years to look up evidence to prove his innocence?”

The attorney concluded with a plea: “Asking your pardon for having trespassed so much upon you and with no other apology than a desire to advance the cause of justice and truth in behalf of a condemned man whose life is now trembling in the balance.”

The New York Times reported the subsequent hearing called to discuss McHugh’s testimony. Kehoe’s attorney, Samuel Garrett, made a strenuous effort. Garrett sought to convince the board, through use of a map of the murder scene, of Kehoe’s movements on the night of Langdon’s killing.

“He had expected to bring the map and accompanying documents with him from Pottsville this morning, but they were found to be missing from the court records when he went to get them,” The Times reported. But nothing prevented Garrett from telling the pardon board that from 1876 to 1877 "there was not a fair trial in Schuylkill County; that the jury wheel did not contain the names of four Irishmen.”

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Internal Affairs and pardon board member General William McCandless, a powerful Democratic state operative, summarily dismissed Garrett’s efforts. “‘If this man Kehoe is not guilty of murder in the first degree, he is guilty of nothing, and I have not changed my opinion as to his guilt,’” McCandless told Garrett. The general told a reporter: “‘We have refused to reopen the case. That’s how the matter stands. Kehoe will swing.’”


A carefully rigged Board of Pardons. A false statement regarding the death of a defense witness. Important documents placed in evidence during Kehoe’s trial for murder, gone missing from the file.

When it came to procuring a signed death warrant for John Kehoe, it seems nothing was left to chance.


Coming December 15 - A Message for December: Love Guides the Whole Design

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Justice Trembling in the Balance

Part 3 of 4: The Witness is Worthy of Credit

While John Kehoe “languished in durance vile” in Pottsville Prison for two and a half years, the witness who could prove his innocence lived 90 miles away from Kehoe’s hometown. For General Charles Albright, the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company attorney who served as a special prosecutor during the “Molly Maguire” trials—dressed in full Civil War regalia—had circulated the false rumor that Patrick McHugh was dead.

“His brother died in 1874 & Gen’l Albright supposing it to be the witness conveyed a strong impression to the friends of Kehoe,” Towanda attorney William Foyle told Pennsylvania’s Governor John Hartranft ten days before Kehoe’s scheduled execution. “The General was acquainted with the witness and his impressions were incorrect in regard to his death.”

Albright’s incorrect “strong impression” allowed valuable time to slip by, while editors, attorneys and politicians wrangled over the signing of Kehoe’s death warrant.


“McHugh is shure [sic] Jack Kehoe was not present at the murder of Langdon. McHugh is a man of good character and I believe truthful in every respect,” Foyle told Hartranft urgently. “His affidavit is not trumped up to meet the emergency but in my judgment is entitled to great weight in the final disposition of the case. The witness can produce certificates of character without any trouble.”

Foyle stated Kehoe's case to Hartranft plainly: “I drew the affidavit at the request of Mrs. Kehoe who came into my office yesterday and have no further connection with the case and no interest in it except to see that justice is done. I know this new evidence will withstand the utmost scrutiny and will vindicate your action ... and must satisfy even the Philadelphia Times which is craving for Jack Kehoe’s blood innocent or guilty. It makes no difference to me pecuniarily or otherwise whether Jack Kehoe is hung or not, but it does make a difference to all of us and especially to you Governor as chief executive of the State whether an innocent man shall be hanged in the face of the discovered evidence establishing his innocence.”

“Kehoe’s wife left for Pottsville last night to place the affidavit in the hands of his counsel,” Foyle advised Hartranft, “and I suppose you will be furnished with a certified copy very soon of the affidavit. My object in addressing you is to assure you and the other members of the Court that this affidavit is reliable, and McHugh the witness is worthy of credit. As to myself I am well known to all the people of my county and would not attempt to misrepresent the case in any respect.”


Coming December 8 - Part 4 of 4: All the Machinery of the Pinkerton Agency