MF – 1863.11.21 – Fenian Society – #97 – F12248
The Fenian Society or Brotherhood has been talked about and written about for a few weeks past. The English papers enquire what it is and what it means, and sometimes try to overwhelm it with ridicule. The American papers, indulging their taste for extravagance, sometimes tell big stories of its numbers, its strength and its intentions. The truth seems to be that it is a Society which, after a propagandism of some five or six years, now exists in nearly every city and town of the United States, and in many towns of the Confederacy, and has a great number of members in the ranks of the U. S. army. Its avowed object is the establishment of the absolute independence of Ireland by physical force, and it assumes that the time for making the attempt at liberation will be when England shall be involved in any great war – particularly if that be a war with the United States. The Society, which has grown very strong of late, and which now boasts of having a sufficient number of veteran Irish soldiers and skilled Irish officers to do its work, held a convention of the representatives of all its branch Societies in Chicago a few days ago for the avowed purpose of perfecting its organisation, so as to be ready for the opportunity which its leaders say will soon be found.

Whatever may be thought of the wisdom, the propriety, or the [feasability] of such a scheme for the regeneration of Ireland, it must be admitted that constitutional agitation has failed to elevate the condition of the people, and that the cessation of constitutional agitation has not been followed by any of the benefits which, according to English politicians and journalists, were to [ n] on the country when agitation ceased. If we are to judge it by its fruits, the Government of Ireland is one of the worst in Europe. In no other country are the majority of the people compelled to support a Church Establishment for the benefit of a small minority. No other country is so afflicted with the curse of Absentee and Alien Landlords. In no other country has the taxation been doubled within the last twenty years – nearly all the taxes being taken out of the country to be spent elsewhere – while during the same period the harvests have been deficient and the population has been diminishing. It is scarcely to be wondered at that when their country is suffering so frightfully, and its rulers persist in the same policy that has inflicted on it such sufferings, and admit that they are unable or unwilling to apply any remedy, so many Irish exiles think that a revolution is necessary, and are eager themselves to attempt it whenever such circumstances arise as may render the attempt not hopeless. Revolution is always a fearful, often a wicked thing, and the views of these Fenians may be visionary, their hopes may be baseless; some may think their intentions wicked and their schemes rash and wild; but those who approved of revolution in Tuscany and Parma must at least admit that the grievances which the Fenians would redress are [unparallelled] in their enormity, even if the means by which they would redress them should not meet with approval.

A late Dublin paper thus summarizes some official returns:

The statistics of agriculture and emigration which have been published, inform us that –

For the year 1863, as compared to 1862, there has been a total decrease in acreage under crops, amounting to 92,431 acres. But in 1862, as compared to 1861, there was a decrease in the acreage under crops amounting to138,841 acres. And in 1861, as compared to 1860, there was a decrease amounting to 81,373 acres. This shows a loss of acreage under cultivation in 1862, as compared with 1860, amounting to 312,645 acres. And between the year 1860 and 1857, there was a falling of 106,184 acres, making a total decrease between 1863 and 1857 of 418,829 acres.

Those figures are drawn from the official returns. Let the reader remember them. Over four hundred thousand acres gone out of cultivation in this country since the year 1857! The loss in money represented by these figures must be computed for each year separately, and the sums then added together. It will be found to be enormous. But it does not represent our whole loss, for in other sources of wealth we have been at the same time losing heavily.

In 1861, the loss of value in livestock, as compared with that of the previous year, was officially set down at £1,161,345. In 1862, as compared with 1861, it was £1,564,710. And in 1863, as compared with 1862, it was £1,227,041, making a total loss on live stock in three years, amounting to £3,953,096. If we calculate the loss back to 1859, we find it amounts to £5,370,713.

Then the loss of our population remains to be counted up. From March, 1851, up to the present time, our country has lost on emigration – as shown by Mr. Donnelly’s statistics, – 1,378,33 persons.

To these facts we may add our loss by the undue taxation which the British Government imposes on us. It amounts to about £3,000,000 annually.

To this again we have to add our dead loss by absentee rents and by payments for articles of British manufacture, which, were Ireland self-governed, would be produced at home, and this we may set down as, at the very lowest, £10,000,000 annually.

And we have still to recollect that, while the population and the wealth of Ireland are diminishing as above shown, the burden of taxation imposed on Ireland by England is being increased. In the year of the Union, the population of Ireland was nearly what it is at present – but Ireland now pays double the amount of taxation which she paid at that time. England, wealthy England, is having her taxation lightened by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; Ireland, impoverished Ireland, is having hers increased. A parliamentary return, recently published, shows that during some years past the taxes remitted in Great Britain [exceded] those imposed by £44,386,637, while the taxes imposed on Ireland [exceded] those remitted by £1,882,287.

These facts show a desperate condition of the country.[*]