Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84



While Mr. Parnell was at this time acting more or less in the capacity of an independent member, the action of himself and those who worked with him was attracting, for a wonder, the favourable notice of those "Extremists" who had hitherto "stood afar off" from the base of Parliamentary agitation. The clever combination of Fenian advocacy and Ministerial opposition which he practised, began to produce an effect upon those whose sympathies where touched by the first, and whose hatred of Government was in a degree satisfied by the second. Butt's influence began to be undermined, curious talk began to be indulged in, there was a general shuffling of the dry bones, and anti-English spirits began to talk of something being "in the air."

There were, also, new influences being brought to bear on Irish politics at this time, for, as a result of the agitation in Parliament and Ireland on their behalf, the remaining Fenian prisoners who were still in custody, were set at liberty on tickets-of-leave. Their release took place on December 19th, 1877, and chief amongst them was Michael Davitt, who had been convicted on a charge of treason-felony, and had been sentenced to fifteen years' penal servitude. Mr. Parnell, quick to profit by the low murmurings and suggestive hints which came to him from the different elements of Irish disorder with which he had to do, resolved upon a bold stroke; and he quickly placed page 10 himself in line with the advanced men by breakfasting the released Fenians the morning of their arrival in Ireland at Morrison's Hotel. Dublin. This was a bold move for the Obstructionist Leader to take, for the men with whom he now allied himself had each a history, and that not a very satisfactory record. Davitt, the principal of them, had been proved to be in some prominent way connected with the doings of the Assassination Committee of the Fenian Society, whose Oath is as follows :—

"I hereby solemnly swear and make oath before the most high God, before whom I expect to be judged, that I will seek out and leave no means untried utterly to exterminate as enemies of Irish liberty, any persons who shall be guilty of perfidy, or of giving to our foes, the British authorities, any information which shall lead to the arrest or sentence of members of the I. R. B."

McCarthy, another of them, had been found guilty of swearing into the Fenian Brotherhood the soldiers of the Queen who were in the regiment of which he himself was a sergeant: and of being further connected with some hellish plot to poison the officers; and the remaining two somewhat insignificant prisoners, had equally unhappy records according to their positions.

Whether or not the plan of the new campaign, in which Messrs. Parnell and Davitt were to play such leading parts, was discussed in any detail at this first meeting or not, it is hard to say; but it is remarkable that Davitt allowed very little time to elapse before he took to active work in the way of developing the new departure. Davitt knew far better than Mr. Parnell how to work the "Extreme men, and he lost no time in putting himself in touch with them. His lengthened confinement placed him at a disadvantage, of course, as regards full knowledge of the condition of affairs then existing: but he quickly got over this difficulty, and put himself an courant with all matters of importance by a quickly-undertaken tour amongst the most important centres of revolutionary activity. Nor was he idle in other ways, for communication was immediately entered into by him with the Fenian leaders in America. America has always been the hotbed of Fenianism, or, perhaps it would be more proper to say of Irish revolutionary scheming. For scores of years it has been the "City of Refuge" for all those guilty of treasonable designs or practices against the British Government; while at the same time page 11 it is the home of all the "ne'er-do-weel's" of the Irish population; who either "leave their country for their country's good," or for other reasons of a less undesirable nature, emigrate to what will continue to be regarded by them, as the land of freedom and plenty. Therefore it is that Irishmen of the lower class, if they be not sworn to damage the British Government before arriving, are certainly not allowed to remain free from the shackles of secret societies for any length of time. It used to be a phrase of mockery and contempt in the lips of those opposed to Fenianism, that it was "the servant-girls of New York" provided the subscriptions wherewith the "war" was carried on against England; but experience has proved that far more dangerous elements have to be grappled with, when Irish-American Fenianism comes to receive attention.