Risings the Heir to Risings, 1848-1867

From The Historic Case for Irish Independence by Darrell Figgis

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38. The result was inevitable. The tragedy of the bondage in which the nation was held, and the intellectual recovery of its greatness and some-time sovereignty, met to awake another rising for freedom.

The Young Irelanders had formed the Irish Confederation, and now they prepared for an appeal to arms. The Government replied by arresting John Mitchell, and in doing so they struck down the only man who could have translated determination into a sufficiently resolute act. The others had great abilities, but they had not the quality of will to make a forceful rising. Yet the people were willing to follow wherever they might be led. As their leaders were arrested, they flocked about them, desirous to release them; but the leaders were not willing that blood should be shed on their behalf, and thus the rising of 1848 proved abortive. The English Sovereign wrote regretfully: "There are ample means of crushing the rebellion in Ireland, and I think it now likely to go off without any contest, which people (and I think with right) rather regret. The Irish should receive a good lesson or they will begin again." Failure though it was, the attempt proved that the blood and the intellect of the nation must assuredly find itself in rebellion while the nation lay in captivity, and it passed the tradition onward. There were others to accept it. They proceeded, however, on other lines. They made long and careful preparation. Their conception was simple and intensive. They did not merely repudiate a foreign despotism; they conceived an Irish Republic as existent, and swore an oath of allegiance to that, and to that alone. On that basis a Brotherhood was created in a close organisation that included every parish.

Men were enrolled, not only in Ireland, but in England and America. The Government became aware of it, and introduced spies into it, with the result that some of its leaders were arrested, and others had to fly. But the Brotherhood was now indestructible, and continued its work. The emigrants in America provided it with money only too willingly, for from dawn to sundown they thought of England with implacable hatred. From America came the name of Fenians, drawn from old history. Farmers drew aside from the war for the land to join the Brotherhood. In the towns all classes joined. Then in 1867 the nation arose again. The Government had been well-informed by its army of spies, and was prepared. It crushed the rising, and filled its jails in England with Irishmen. Yet it did not break the Brotherhood. If it were felony to strive for the freedom of Ireland, the title of such felony ranked more highly in the estimation of the nation than the greatest eminence. The Brotherhood continued, and continues, and both within and without its ranks men took, and take, their oath of fidelity to the Sovereignty of Ireland, and avow no other sovereignty whatever.

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