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

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