MF – 1865.09.30 – Fenianism in Ireland – #122 – F12250
Fenianism in Ireland.
When the Dublin morning papers of Saturday, Sept. 16th went to Press, the seizure of the Fenian newspaper and arrest of Fenians had not taken place, and consequently we are without an account of the particulars of these seizures, and of their effect upon the people. – The papers, however, generally anticipated that the Government were about to take action. – Many of them publish the most alarming rumours and letters from country gentlemen, who terror must have completely deprived of any little common sense they ever had.

From the Dublin Nation, which always strongly opposed the Fenian movement, and in consequence of such opposition earned the most bitter hostility of the Fenians, we take the following: –

Although letters of the “startling” class have continued to appear in the papers during the week on the subject of Fenianism, yet it was for some days pretty evident that the public and the editors were beginning to tire of the topic, and were anxiously on the look-out for something else wherewith to occupy their attention. Suddenly, however, the Fenian movement has again been pushed into the foremost place. An event of considerable significance in relation to it took place in Cork city on Thursday, an announcement of which was immediately telegraphed over the three kingdoms. On that day, acting on the invitation of Lord Fermoy, who is Lord Lieutenant of the county, no fewer than 150 magistrates of Cork assembled to take counsel with each other concerning the Fenian organisation, and to urge on the Government the adoption of such measures as the meeting might consider suitable to the emergency. Earls Bandon and Shannon, we are told, were present. The proceedings resulted in the unanimous adoption of a memorial to the Government, praying for an immediate [increase] in the police and military force of the county. It may be regarded as certain that it is in the belief of an actual need for such a step – the actual existence of danger to “law and order” – the magistrates have made this call on the Government for more bayonets. The suggestion of this proceeding seems to have come from the Earl of Bandon, who, several days ago at a meeting of the Cork Agricultural Society, spoke at some length on the subject, and, amongst other things in relation thereto, said –

He, before this, had hoped that some steps would have been taken to stop this mock attempt at rebellion, which, while its existence was, to a certain extent, doubtful, up to a recent period, was now an ascertained fact; but that had not been the case. He, however, hoped the Government would now take the matter seriously in hand. It was almost a matter of course the disaffectants and the movement with which they were concerned would be at once crushed; but not, he feared, without bloodshed. He thought some strong measures ought at once to be taken in the matter by the Government. He was sure the Lord Lieutenant would energetically act in the matter when called on; and he thought it their duty, considering the importance of the matter in the light he had represented, to the interests of the country, that they were entitled to urge on the Government the necessity of immediate steps in the matter.”

The Government, very probably, have not been waiting for the invitation of the Cork magistrates in this case. Still, the calls that are now being made on them will, we dare say, have the effect of quickening their action; and we may have to witness[ere] long a repetition of the scenes of 1848, so far as regards proclamations state prosecutions, and the display of military force throughout the country.

The liveliest contributions to this class of literature are now furnished by alarmed landed proprietors, these being the men who call themselves “the gentry” of Ireland. One of them writes to the Cork Examiner to suggest to his class that they should have their houses provided with hand-grenades to throw among the assailing parties when they come to do their work of slaughter and plunder! A correspondent of the Daily Express asks, “in the event of any sudden movement or rising amongst the deluded and ignorant people,” what protection could “the gentry” have, “whose houses would be the chief object of attack by the peasantry.” He asks again, “Can anything be more hideous than the idea of a savage Irish mob, insane with excitement and ignorant fury, surrounding and destroying the [defenceless] homes of country families living isolated and far from succour?” The scenes of the Indian mutiny might “not possibly,” he says, be equalled in Ireland during the coming year. The precautionary measure which this terrified gentleman recommends is, “to have troops or companies quartered in the chief town or towns of every county, instead of their remaining concentrated in one great force in Dublin. Not his plans, however, but rather those of Sir Hugh Rose, Commander of the Forces, are likely to be carried out in the matter. Another advises the calling out of “loyal corps,” ten in number, each to consist of 100 men, who would be “hostile to sedition and revolutionary proceedings.” This loyal citizen grows quite elated with the thought of the proud title which would belong to those men. “I think,” he says, “our citizens would be proud to designate themselves by the honourable title of ‘Member 600, Loyal Corps No. 4,’ or such other as their priority in application would entitle them to.” No doubt, some of “our citizens” would like the think very much, especially if they were allowed occasionally to wear uniform, and felt certain that they would never be asked to fight. The writer ought to recollect that the Government have steadily refused to permit the extension of the Volunteer system to Ireland; and his proposition would come suspiciously near to that manner of organization – in principle it would be almost the same. Those affrighted correspondents are not quite the sapient individuals they think themselves, and their proposed warlike preparations are likely to do them more harm than good. They are proclaiming that their class, above others, fears the people, and is disliked by them; and moreover, they add to any sense of injury the latter may entertain by those libelous assertions of a desire on their part for massacre and plunder.

MF – 1865.09.30 – The Journal – Fenianism in Ireland – #123 – F12250

The Journal was long dissatisfied because the FREEMAN would say so little about the Fenians, and now it pretends to be dissatisfied because the FREEMAN says so much, and it endeavours to find in an article in which we merely sought to explain to our readers why, in our opinion, those unexpected demonstrations have been made in Ireland, something or other, it can not tell what, that should awaken indignation, something in which the Journal finds “a gloating satisfaction at England’s peril palpable, &c., &c., &c.,” The Journal is sometimes rather dull and slow, but in this case it is wonderfully keen and quick, discovering in the FREEMAN’S article what neither the writer of the article nor any other man of ordinary intelligence could possibly discover. In our opinion the article shows that the FREEMAN does not believe England to be in any peril whatever from Fenianism. The Journal questions us: –

“The animus of the Freeman’s article is against the Government, and in favor of the Fenians. ‘The Government,’ urges the Freeman, ‘have suddenly chosen to treat as formidable those whom for two or three years past they have despised.’ And why should they not ‘choose’ to do so if they please? – The Freeman does not say that the Fenians are not formidable, but only that ‘for two or three years past,’ during which the Freeman never alluded to the Fenian movement except to pooh pooh its existence, they ‘despised’ the efforts of the Fenians. The Freeman charges upon the British Government the ‘suppression by military force, and without process of law, of a paper to which for some time allowed the utmost impunity, and the making of a number of arrests of parties whom in all probability they have long known to be Fenians.’ Why should they not do so? Would an earlier suppression of an inflammatory sheet, or earlier arrests of Fenian traitors have suited the Freeman better, or would it hamper a Government, bent on checking an insurrection, by laws applicable only to times of peace?”

We have not said or insinuated that the English Government should not choose to treat Fenianism as formidable. We merely stated that they have so chosen, as they had a perfect right to do when they pleased.

The FREEMAN has more than once said that Fenianism is not formidable. It does not believe the absurd sensation stories copied by the Journal from the New York Herald; such as that “fifty thousand soldiers of the American army who fought in the late war are now in Ireland,” &c. If this were true, Fenianism would indeed be formidable; but the British Government would never suffer an invasion such as that, which could not have been even attempted without exciting the attention of the whole world.

To the last question of the Journal we would say, that we regard the employment of military force as objectionable whenever it is not absolutely necessary. The suppression of copperhead newspapers in various towns of the United States by military force was, we believe, universally condemned by those in all other countries who love a government of law and prefer to see justice administered by the civil tribunals. The Dublin Fenian newspaper could have been dealt with in the ordinary way; and we believe the British Government would not in this case have had recourse to military force, had they not something more in view than the punishment of Fenians and the suppression of a newspaper. Perhaps when we know, if we ever do know, what that something is, we may find that the policy of the Government was wise and prudent, and that their action was fully justified by the circumstances.