Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

History and Evaluation of the Fenian Manifesto

Info: 2892 words (12 pages) Essay
Published: 19th Oct 2021 in History

Reference this

The fenians were founded in 1858 as a militant organisation whose aim was the formation of an Irish Republic. What made the fenians different to the organisations such as United Irishmen and Young Irelanders, was that these organisations were both constitutional movements which only used rebellion as a last resort. From the outset the fenians was “a physical force movement”[1]. The fenians advocated armed revolution as the only means of securing a nation free from the rule of the British empire. The Fenian Proclamation of February 1867 was a call to arms for all Irish people. The fenians were advocating open revolution as “we appealed in vain to the reason and sense of justice of the dominant powers”.[2]  Armed struggle was the only way to achieve a nation free from British rule.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

The fenian movement had one specific aim which was independence and that aim was was to be achieved by force. This independence was to be attained by a blood sacrafice. It was better to die fighting an armed revolt than to live under British rule. The fenians believed that Ireland could not achieve independence through political means, that this could only be gained by rebellion “better to die in the struggle for freedom than to continue an existance of utter serfdom”[3]. The British government however would not allow this to happen, Ireland had to remain part of the empire as it was unthinkable to allow Irish independence. “ Ireland must be kept at all hazards; by persuasion if possible; if not, by force”.[4] As the fenians advocated armed rebellion to achieve freedom from British rule, the Britsh while using political means to keep Ireland within the empire would use their army to quell any rebellion in Ireland. Therefore the fenians appealed to the working classes to join their rebellion. They  petitioned all republicans to join their cause and “workmen of England, it is not only your hearts we wish, but also your arms”[5].  This is a socialist statement pleading for all working class people to join their cause. The fenians had no fight with the ordinary english man but tried to associate themselves with all working class people who could relate to being oppressed.

Membership of the fenians was made up of the lower middle class and the working class. “Not only was the leadership completely lay, but it came from a distinctly more plebian level than the leadership of any earlier movement”[6] . The manifesto was appealing to the vast majority of the population. The manifesto was also speaking to the diaspora of Irish people “the real owners of the soil were removed to make room for cattle, and driven across the ocean to seek the means of living”[7] . This was a call to arms of all Irish people wherever they may be and especially to the Irish living in America. People were to rise up against the wealthy landowners who were subjugating the majority of the Irish populace. “The soil of Ireland, at present in the possession of an oligarchy, belongs to us, the Irish people, and to us it must be restored”[8]. This represented a new departure for the fenians as prviously they had believed that independence must first be achieved before any issue with land ownership could be addressed. “However, the principle Irish economic crises of the period was in agriculture and primarily affected those who showed least interest in fenianism”[9]. This was meant to make Irish tenant farmers join the fenian cause and rise up against the oppresive lanlords who drained the land of its resources to the detriment of the ordinary Irish tenant farmer “our war is against the aristocratic locusts, whether English or Irish, who have eaten the verdure of our fields-against the aristocratic leeches who drain alike our fields and theirs”[10]. This language vividly described the landlords whether Irish or English as a plague draining the land of all it’s resources at the expense of the ordinary Irishman. Therefore the only course of action was to rise up against the lanlords and reclaim the land for the Irish people.

This call to arms spoke to Irish citizens the world over “ driven across the ocean”[11].  It spoke to the vast number of Irish now living in America who had emigrated since the famine. The civil war in America had come to an end in 1865 and the fenians were hoping to recruit Irish Americans who had gained valuable battlefield experience during this conflict. It “signalled to Irish American sympathizers that the liberation of their homeland was at hand”[12].  The fenias had long since been recruiting and fund raising in America for the time when rebellion would begin. “Large sums of money were sent from America by John O’Mahony, who also directed sympathetic veterns of the Civil War across the Atlantic”[13]. While the idea of support financial aid and manpower from America seemed like a good idea in reality it was much different. The “ Erin’s Hope , with a cargo of 5,000 stand arms and thirty-eight military men on board, was dispatched to Ireland”[14]. When this ship arrived in Ireland in May 1867 the rising had lond since been defeated. The insurrection was doomed to failure as the fenians whose ranks were made from ordinary Irish men were fighting against the professional British army. “Badly trained amateurs could not hope for success against professionally trained killers”[15]

However rising up against the British Empire wouls prove to be a difficult choice for the ordinary Irishman as the catholic church at the time did not lend it’s support  to the fenians. Archbishop Paul Cullen at this time “feared that the political instability occasioned by fenianism would also result in a destabilisation of religious sensibilities”[16] This showed that the church at this time believed that Fenian political objectives would not incorperate the ideals of the church should they come to power. This belief was proved to be true when the fenians realesed their manifesto in 1867, “we declare, also, in favour of absolute liberty of conscience, and complete seperation of Church and State”[17]. The fenians at this time were declaring a policy of secularism , which is a complete seperation of religious institutions and government institutions within the state. At this time Queen Victoria was the head of the Irish State but she was also the head of the Church of Ireland. The fenians were advocating a complete seperation of church and state. The catholic church however would not support the fenians choosing to work witin the empire “instead of disestablishing the Church of Ireland, proposed to establish the Catholic Church alongside it”[18]. The catholic church and in particular believed that the best way forward was through advancement within the empire. The fenians would use revolution to achieve their goals, they were in the majority catholic, but they used physical force and executed traitors, “ the stigma of condoning murder clung to fenianism, and in the minds of many people seemed to justify fully the attitude of the catholic clergy towards the fenians”[19]. This attitude of the public and the clergy to the fenians was to change however after the failed rising of 1867. During the rescue of fenian leader Colonel T.J. Kelly in Manchester on his way to a court appearance an unarmed police sergeant was shot and killed. Three fenians were arrested and hung for this crime. They were to become known as the Manchester Martyrs. This act by the British helped to change public opinion in Ireland. These hangings by the British portrayed the fenians “in a more traditional and comprehensible way as a conventional demonstration of Irish gallantry and patriotism, and of British repression and duplicity”[20].

The formation of an new Irish Republic was to be created by the fenians  “unable to endure the curse of Monarchical Government”[21]. Ireland had endured enough British oppression, it was time to revolt and that time had arrived. The manifesto was written to garner support for the ordinary Irish people, however this was not the first time the fenians had published an article to gather support. In 1863 Stephens decided to found The Irish People, this newspaper came in to existance in the hope of swaying public support to their cause. This however went against the idea of them originally being a secret organisation and was objected to by john O’Mahony “who objected to the organisation coming out into the open”[22]. This newspaper was formed to broaden the appeal of the fenians to every class of Irish society and not just to the lower classes. “Certaintly James Stephens did not intend to have his following confined to the lower ranks of Irish society. He canvassed support at every level”[23].As the fenians came more out into the open they became a much easier an organisation to infiltrate by spies for the crown, with it’s offices being raided in September 1865. “One of the chief vehicles of popular fenianism-was suppressed and its files scrutinized for evidence of illegality”[24]. While a newspaper was a good way to spread your beliefs and ideologies as a secret organisation it was prehaps not the most effective way to stay secret, especially if you were a militant organisation.

In conclusion the Fenian Manifesto of 1867 was a call to arms for all Irish people. It advocated an armed uprising against the occupying British government as a last resort. “We again appeal to force as our last resource”[25]. It appealed to all Irish citizens in Ireland and abroad. They were to take back the land that had been usurped by an a foreign force. The land of the Irish people had been taken by the landowners who had drawn “away from our unfortunate country all material riches”[26]. Irish people had be forced off their lands by the British empire and had wealthy landowners installed instead who were draining the country dry at the expense of the indigenous people. The time for revolution was at hand, no longer could Ireland endure British rule. “Unable longer to endure the curse of Monarchical Government, we aim at founding a Republic based on universal sufferage”[27]. They were looking forward to the creation of a new Irish state for all Irish people. This would have to be achieved throgh a blood sacrafice. There was no other way to achieve this Republic than through open armed revolution. Irish citizens would have to lay down their lives for this dream to become a reality. No longer could they continue to live under British rule. “It is better to die in the struggle for freedom than to continue an existence of utter serfdom”[28] . This proclamation which ended in total failure was not supported by the Irish people, however it “roused public opinion to extraordinary fervour”[29], with the execution of the Manchester Martyrs. This was to bear a striking resembelence to the 1916 Rising. The Rising of 1916 which was also not supported by the Irish populace also declared an Irish Republic. Both rebellions ended in utter failure and were met with contempt by the Irish public but it was the blood sacrafice which swayed popular support back to the fenians. With the execution of Irish nationalists by the British it ensured that these republicans would never be forgotten.

Reference List:

  • The Fenian Manifesto 1867
  • T.W. Moody The Fenian Movement, The Mercier Press Dublin and Cork 1968
  • Joseph Lee. The Modernisation Of Irish Society 1848-1918 Gill & Macmillan 2008
  • Alvin Jackson Ireland 1798-1998 War, Peace & Beyond Wiley-Blackwell 2010
  • R.V. Comerford Patriotism as Pastime: The Appeal of Fenianism in the Mid-1860’s Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 22, No. 87 March 1981
  • Oliver P. Rafferty The Catholic Church and Fenianism History Ireland Vol.16, No. 6 The Fenians 150th Anniversary Dec. 2008
  • L. Perry Curtis Jr. Moral and Physical Force: The Language of Violence in Irish Nationalism Journal of British Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2, April 1988

[1] T.W.Moody The Fenian Movement (p. 103) The Mercier Press Dublin and Cork 1968

[2] The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[3] The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[4] L. Perry Curtis Jr. Moral and Physical Force: The Language of Violence in Irish Nationalism Journal of British Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2, April 1988 (p.155)

[5]  The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[6]  Joseph Lee The Modernisation Of Irish Society 1848-1918 (p.58) Gill & Macmillan 2008

[7] The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[8]  The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[9] R.V. Comerford Patriotism as Pastime: The Appeal of Fenianism in the Mid-1860’s Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 22, No. 87 March 1981 (p.242)

[10] The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[11] The Fenian Manifesto

[12] Alvin Jackson Ireland 1798-1998 War, Peace & Beyond (p.97-98) Wiley- Blackwell 2010

[13] Alvin Jackson Ireland 1798-1998 War, Peace & Beyond (p.97) Wiley-Blackwell 2010

[14] T.W. Moody The Fenian Movement (p.34) The Mercier Press Dublin and Cork 1968

[15] Joseph Lee The Modernisation Of Irish Society 1848-1918 (p.60) Gill &Macmillan 2008

[16] Oliver P. Rafferty The Catholic Church and Fenianism History Ireland Vol.16, No. 6 The Fenians 150th Anniversary Dec. 2008 (p.31)

[17] The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[18]  Joseph Lee The Modernisation Of Irish Society 1848-1918 (p.49) Gill & Macmillan 2008

[19] T.W. Moody The Fenian Movement (p. 108-110) The Mercier Press Dublin and Cork 1968

[20] Alvin Jackson Ireland 1798-1998 War, Peace & Beyond (p.100-103) Wiley-Blackwell 2010

[21] The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[22] Joseph Lee The Modernisation Of Irish Society 1848-1918 (p.57) Gill & Macmillan 2008

[23] R.V. Comerford Patriotism as Pastime: The Appeal of Fenianism in the Mid-1860’s Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 22, No. 87 March 1981 (p.242)

[24] Alvin Jackson Ireland 1798-1998 War, Peace & Beyond (p.98) Wiley-Blackwell 2010

[25] The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[26] The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[27] The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[28] The Fenian Manifesto 1867

[29] Joseph Lee. The Modernisation Of Irish Society 1848-1918 (p.57) Gill & Macmillan 2008

 

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: