MF – 1865.09.28 – Fenianism in Ireland – #121 – F12250
It is not easy to understand the news brought from Ireland by the Cuba. Fenianism has been talked there for some time by men of little or no influence, and has been written by the managers of a newspaper which could not attract much attention from any quarter. A few weeks ago the Cork Constitution and other papers of the same class, which delight in representing the country as always in want of more soldiers and police, and take pleasure or find profit in inventing alarming stories or exaggerating trifles, had tales, as wonderful as those told by the St. John Journal, of great gatherings for midnight drill and of many other indications that a new rebellion was at hand. It was said that the channel fleet, or a portion of it, was sent to the Irish coast, and that additional regiments were ordered across the channel, and those acquainted with the state of parties in Ireland were probably satisfied that the Constitution and its allies had accomplished all they sought. The Irish ports would all rejoice in the rather unwonted visit of the fleet, and the garrison towns would again be gay with redcoats, and the Fenians would be forgotten. But the Cuba brings the startling intelligence that the Government have suddenly chosen to treat as formidable those whom for two or three years past they have despised, or that for some reason not yet divulged, they have deemed it politic to make a demonstration, to suppress by military force, and without process of law, a paper to which for some they have allowed the utmost impunity, and to make a great number of arrests of parties whom in all probability they have long known as Fenians.

On Tuesday we received a copy of the Philadelphia Universe, a paper which professes to be friendly to the Fenians. In that we saw it seriously announced that a rebellion had begun in Ireland, and all friends of Ireland were called upon to give instant aid to the rebels. This we regarded as merely such rant as that paper often indulges in; but now, with the Cuba’s news before us, we incline to attach more importance to it, and to conclude that, by a strange coincidence, the leaders of the Fenians and the Bright Government both determined at the same time, though for very different purposes, to make a demonstration. The Fenians cannot seriously intend as insurrection now, when England, at peace with the world, has her immense power ready to crush it almost as soon as it raised its head. They cannot be such utter fools and madmen, even though they may themselves hold the doctrine that rebellion in Ireland is in the abstract lawful. Perhaps they wish to make a more solemn protest against English rule than any that can otherwise be made. Perhaps they find it expedient to exasperate the Irish in the States and induce them to subscribe more freely. Perhaps the object is to remind England that if she quarrels with the United States, she would have to do battle on land as well as at sea – in Europe as well as in America.

On the other hand, England cannot so suddenly have conceived any fears of an insurrection so wholly improbable. Perhaps she has concluded that it is impolitic to leave Mr. Seward any longer in possession of so powerful a diplomatic weapon, and that by showing the Fenians themselves the utter hopelessness of their cause, she would extinguish this new organization of Irish discontent. Perhaps she has come to the conclusion that Fenianism will not die a natural death: that moral influences are not sufficient to overcome it, and that it is better to crush now, when she has leisure, an enemy which at another time may be formidable. The probability seems to be, that for this extraordinary and unexpected demonstration of force and vigor, the cause must be sought outside of Fenianism.