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movement, and it soon proved to be formidable to a degree which not many even then suspected.
The Fenian movement differed from nearly all previous movements of the same kind in Ireland, in the fact that it arose and grew into strength without the patronage or the help of any of those who might be called the natural leaders of the people. In 1798 and in 1848 the rebellion bore unmistakably what may be called the “ follow-my-leader" character. Some men of great ability, or strength of purpose, or high position, or all attributes combined, made themselves leaders, and the others followed. In 1798 the rising had the impulse of almost intolerable personal as well as national grievance; but it is doubtful whether any formidable and organized movement might have been made but for the leadership of such men as Wolfe, Tone and Lord Edward Fitzgerald. In 1848 there were such impulses as the traditional leadership of Smith O'Brien, the indomitable purpose of Mitchel, and the impassioned eloquence of Meagher. But Fenianism seemed to have sprung out of the very soil of Ireland itself. Its leaders were not men of high position, or distinguished name, or proved ability. They were not of aristocratic birth; they were not orators; they were not powerful writers. It was not the impulse of the American Civil War that engendered Fenianism, although that war had great influence on the manner in which Fenianism shaped its course. Fenianism had been in existence, in fact, although it had not got its peculiar name, long before the American war created a new race of Irishmenthe Irish-American soldiers-to turn their energies and their military inclination to a new purpose.
Agitation in the form of secret association had never ceased in Ireland. One result of prosecutions for seditious speaking and writing in Ireland is invariably the encouragement of secret combination. Whether it be right or wrong, necessary or unnecessary, to prosecute for seditious speak
ing or writing in Ireland, is not a matter with which we have to concern ourselves when we make this statement. We state a fact which cannot be controverted. It is assuredly a fact to be taken into the gravest consideration by those who are intrusted with the maintenance of order. It ought at least to impress them with a sense of the necessity for being cautious huw they run the risk of government prosecutions for mere indiscretions of pen or tongue. “When popular discontents are abroad,” said Curran, condemning the policy of the Irish administration of his day, “ a wise government would put them into a hive of glass; you hid them.” The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, in consequence of the 1848 movement, led, as a matter of course, to secret association. Before the trials of the Irish leaders were well over in that year, a secret association was formed by a large number of young Irishmen in cities and towns. It was got up by young men of good character and education; it spread from town to town; it was conducted with the most absolute secrecy; it had no informer in its ranks. It had its oath of fidelity and its regular leaders, its nightly meetings, and even to a limited and cautious extent its nightly drillings. It was a failure because in the nature of things it could not be anything else. The young men had not arms enough anywhere to render them formidable in any one place; and the necessity of carrying on their communications with different towns in profound secrecy, and by roundabout ways of communication, made a prompt con. certed action impossible. After two or three attempts to arrange for a simultaneous rising had failed, or had ended only in little abortive and isolated ebullitions, the young men became discouraged. Some of the leaders went to France, some to the United States, some actually to Eng land, and the association melted away. That was the happiest end it could possibly have had. Concerted action would only have meant the useless waste of a few scores or
hundreds of brave young lives. Some years after this the “ Phænix” clubs began to be formed in Ireland. They were for the most part associations of the peasant class, and were on that account, perhaps, the more formidable and earnest; for the secret association of which we have already spoken was mainly the creation of young men of a certain culture who felt ashamed and disappointed that the Young Ireland movement should have ended without a more gallant display of arms. The Phoenix clubs led to some of the ordinary prosecutions and convictions, and that was all. Up to that time it did not seem to have entered into the mind of any official English statesman that such things might possibly be a consequence and not a cause. It was thought enough to put them down and punish them when they came. It was accounted an offence against law and order hardly less Aagrant than that of the secret agitators themselves to ask whether, perhaps, there was not some real cause for all this agitation, with which serious statesmanship could easily deal if it only took a little honest thought and trouble. After the Phoenix associations came the Fenians. “ This is a serious business now," said a clever English literary man when he heard of the Fenian organization “the Irish have got hold of a good name this time; the Fenians will last.” The Fenians are said to have been the ancient Irish militia. In Scott's “ Antiquary," Hector M'Intyre, jealous for the honor and the genuineness of Ossian's songs of Selma, recites a part of one in which Ossian asks St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, whether he ventures to compare his psalms " to the tales of the bare-armed Fenians." There can be no doubt that the tales of the bare-armed Fenians were passing from mouth to mouth of the Celts in Ireland and the highlanders of Scotland, from a time long before that at which any soothsayer or second-sighted sage could have dreamed of the landing of Strongbow and the perfidy of the wife oi Breffni, There was an air ot Celtic antiquity and of mystery
about the name of Fenian which merited the artistic ap. proval given to it by the impartial English writer whose observation has just been quoted. The Fenian agitation began about 1858, and it came to perfection about the mid. dle of the American Civil War. It was ingeniously arranged on a system by which all authority converged toward one centre, and those farthest away from the seat of direction knew proportionately less and less about the nature of the plans. They had to obey instructions only, and it was hoped that by this means weak or doubtful men would not have it in their power prematurely to reveal, to betray, or to thwart the purposes of their leaders. A convention was held in America, and the Fenian Association was resolved into a regular organized institution. A provisional government was established in the neighborhood of Union Square, New York, with all the array and the mechanism of an actual working administration. Soon after this there began to be frequent visitations of mysterious strangers to Ireland.
The emigration of the Irish to America had introduced an entirely new element into political calculations. One of the men of 1848, who took refuge in the United States at first, and who afterwards went to Canada and became very inAuential there, wrote home from New York to say that “we have the long arm of the lever here.” There was much truth in this view of the state of things. The Irish grew rapidly in numbers and in strength all over the United States. The constitutional system adopted there enabled them almost at once to become citizens of the republic, They availed themselves of this privilege almost universally, The American political system, whatever may be thought of its various merits or defects, is peculiarly adopted to fill the populations with a quick interest in politics. There undoubtedly certain classes among the wealthier who are so engrossed in money-making and in business as to have little time left to trouble themselves about politics ; and there are
many who, out of genuine or affected distaste for noisy controversy and the crowd, hold aloof deliberately from all political organizations. But the working part of the community, especially in the cities, are almost invariably politicians. Every election, every political trial of strength, has its practical beginning at the primary meetings of the electors of each place. These meetings are attended largely, one might almost say mainly, by the humbler classes of voters. From the primary meeting to the fall elections, and from the ordinary fall elections to the choice of the President, the system is so adjusted as to take the humblest voter along with it. The Irish working-man, who had never probably had any chance of giving a vote in his own country, found himself in the United States a person of political power, whose vote was courted by the leaders of different parties, and whose sentiments were flattered by the wire-pullers of opposing factions. He was not slow to appreciate the value of this influence in its bearing on that political question which in all the sincerity of his American citizenship was still the dearest to his heart-the condition of Ireland. In the United States—we do not say in Canada-the differences between Irishmen of different religions and factions have not much interfered with their views on purely Irish questions. Dislike of England, or at least of English gov ernnments, prevails among many Irishmen from the northern provinces settled in the United States, who assuredly, if they had remained at home, would have brought up their children in devotion to English rule and the traditions of the House of Orange. But of course, the vast, the overwhelming majority of the Irish in America is made up of men who have come from the provinces of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, and whose anti-English sentiments have only become stronger and stronger in proportion to the length of time and distance that divided them from their old home. If it were to be distinctly declared that every Irish