MF – 1865.10.26 – The Fenians – #124 – F12250
We have read carefully all the reports we could find of the sayings and doings of the Fenian Congress held last week at Philadelphia, in order, if possible, to form some opinion of their real strength, resources and objects, and we must confess that we are somewhat puzzled. The reporters describe the seven or eight hundred delegates who assembled as intelligent, thoughtful, respectable men, and assert that they were all in high spirits and hopeful, and that is about all. A Mr. Meehan, who had just returned from Ireland, is said to have reported that the [organisation] in that country is wide spread and perfect, and that the recent arrests have not disturbed or weakened it in the least; but it was very easy to say all this. It is also said that a loan is to be raised immediately in the United States by the issue of Bonds of the Irish Republic, but they must be very sanguine indeed who invest their money in such securities, which will be quite as [unsaleable] as the Bonds of the Mexican Republic, now about to be issued for Thirty Millions of Dollars. One of the most remarkable features of the Convention was the attendance of a large number of United States officers in uniform, the principal of whom is Major General Sweeny of the regular army. We are surprised also to see it stated that a Canadian delegation attended. The persons composing that delegation can hardly expect to escape arrest and punishment if they return to Canada, against the Government of which they certainly have little cause of complaint. The detectives who watched the proceedings as closely as possible probably knew all about the Canadians on the very day of their arrival in Philadelphia, and the Canadian Government, we presume, are quite prepared to do their duty.
The following brief telegram contains nearly all that is publicly known of the work of the Convention:
“NEW YORK, Oct. 21. – The Herald’s Philadelphia dispatch says it was evident yesterday that the Fenian Congress had decided upon some important measure from the glad faces and earnest hand shakings of the delegates. Funds are promised the movement in abundance. The members of the Congress are personally to subscribe $500,000.”
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 21. – In the Fenian Congress to-day the committees on government, constitution, military affairs and finance, reported, and the reports were taken up section by section for adoption. In the afternoon the President of the Congress announced that B. Dorrn, Killian, Esq., delegate from Missouri, who had procured the unconditional release of John Mitchel, was present. This announcement electrified the assemblage, and three cheers were given for President Johnson, three for the United States, three for Mr. Killian and three for John Mitchel. When the cheering had in some measure subsided, it was moved and seconded that the Secretaries of Congress prepare a resolution conveying the grateful thanks of this Congress to Mr. Killian for his efforts in bringing about the release of John Mitchel.
“In the evening, after some discussion, the reports of the committees, with some amendments, were adopted. An Irish banner was presented to the chairman by the Canadian delegates. The congress then adjourned until Monday morning. The session will continue until Wednesday.”
The American papers are now retorting, and with much effect, on the English press, which, during the rebellion, was so fond of lecturing the United States Government, inculcating clemency and a careful regard of the legal and constitutional rights of States and individuals, censuring the suppression of newspapers, arbitrary, arrests, &c., &c. Even the Boston Post, one of the mildest and best conducted papers in the Union, indulges in this sort of retaliation. It says:
“The English papers work up the Fenian movement to stupendous dimensions, considering how harmless they affect to think it. The old Spanish armada was not more dreaded, nor was the invasion by a French naval force more of a bugbear, to frighten men as well as children with, than the expected fleet of American vessels, laden with arms, paper money, and real troops, and coming with intent to upset the rule of the British Government in Ireland and shatter the very brittle United Kingdom into small pieces. Thus far, some four hundred arrests are reported to have been made. One man is seized for publishing a newspaper with a discoverable national tone to it. Another, because he was found with a pair of pistols on his person. A third, because he got a little tipsy and sang a jolly Irish song with allusions to ‘the Green’ in it. A fourth because he was reported to have said that it was the intention of the Fenians to murder all the gentry far and near, and have the country to themselves. And so on through the chapter.
“The charges preferred against the prisoners seem trivial enough. It is said that five have already been committed to take their trial for high treason. No doubt the British government would be happy to have the poor fellows converted, even of constructive treason, and to make an example of them for their alleged bloodthirstiness in loving their own country too well, and a second example of itself for a magnanimity which it preached with such pharisaic unction to us, when we were all but overwhelmed by a rebellion without a parallel in modern times. We judge so, from the expressions of the leading English journals, which advise that no dalliance with this new rebellious development be permitted, but that the ulcer be taken out with the knife, mercilessly and with a firm hand.
“Let the journals of London and the other leading cities say what they will, it cannot be concealed that all England is in a flame of excitement over the discovered ramifications of Fenianism in Ireland. Nor in Ireland only, for it is feared that the organization spreads its roots through such cities as Liverpool; and ‘mines unseen’ in the British army, a very large portion of which is composed of Irishmen. In Dublin, in Cork, in Kilkenny, everywhere over the surface of the [Green] Isle, the purpose [wh ] the profession of Fenianism conceals has [raised] its threatening head, – as the Government [ ] believes, – and by the aid of an armed [pol ] [ ] Government expects to cow and quell it, not merely into submission but out of existence.
“To read the English accounts, including all the little details of the summary arrests that have been made are still making, one would suppose the whole affair was but a harmless shindy of a number of idle and overgrown boys, who could by no possibility do harm if they would. If we accept this statement for the truth, it only excites us to laughter over the [senseless] panic into which a handful of roguish lads are able to plunge a great nation. If something more than such a statement is required in order to understand the matter, and it is indeed true – as why should it not be? – that there does exist a wide-spread and powerful organization of men, whose serious intent is to throw off the yoke of a hated Government and set up a free nationality of their own. – then England ought to be the last to utter a complaint, with the syllables of her advice to us about the Southern States still ringing in our ears. She ought rather to let poor Ireland go in peace sending along with her every imaginable blessing on her departure.”
This must be very annoying to those who, even up the present day, lecture the Government of the United States on its policy and conduct towards rebels. How much better it would have been if, when the Irish Government thought proper to suppress this foolish conspiracy, the existence of which was notorious from the first, it imitated what was most reprehensible in the American mode of dealing with rebels and copperheads.