150 years ago today, the Fenian Rising commenced.
Less than ten years after the founding of the Fenian Brotherhood in New York and the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Dublin, armed men assembled across Dublin and in other parts of the country. The insurrection is synonymous with Tallaght, where thousands of Fenians mobilised for action, but there were outbreaks of violence in other places too. At Stepaside and Glencullen, men led by the American Civil War veteran Patrick Lennon carried a green flag into battle emblazoned with the words ‘REMEMBER EMMET’.
The insurrection quickly collapsed; William Domville Handcock, a Tallaght landowner and Magistrate for County Dublin, wrote dismissively of “the Fenian Battle of Tallaght as it was called, though it was unworthy of the name.” Even some later separatists dismissed what occurred in 1867; Bulmer Hobson, the maverick IRB organiser who would do so much to revitalise the Fenian movement in the early 20th century, referred to the 1867 rebellion in his Bureau of Military History Witness Statement as “a pitiful demonstration.”
Despite its military failure, one interesting dimension of the rebellion was the Proclamation issued by the Fenian leadership, and delivered to the offices of The Times newspaper in London and other media outlets. To mark the anniversary of this historic event, we are reproducing it in full below.
It called for “absolute liberty of conscience, and complete separation of Church and State”, and appealed directly to English workers, encouraging them to take up arms and to “remember the starvation and degradation brought to your firesides by the oppression of labour.” In many ways, it is a document more radical than the much more celebrated Proclamation of Easter 1916.
Lastly, we wish to express our sadness at the passing this week of historian Shane Kenna, who had done so much in recent years to highlight the role and importance of the Fenian movement in Irish history. Shane was a talented writer, a wonderful tour guide and one of the nicest people in the small community of historians in Dublin. He was laid to rest yesterday in Tallaght, only one day short of the anniversary of the Fenian Rising there. We express our condolences to his family and friends, and we are grateful to have known him.
THE IRISH PEOPLE TO THE WORLD.
We have suffered centuries of outrage, enforced poverty, and bitter misery. Our rights and liberties have been trampled on by an alien aristocracy, who treating us as foes, usurped our lands, and drew away from our unfortunate country all material riches. The real owners of the soil were removed to make room for cattle, and driven across the ocean to seek the means of living, and the political rights denied to them at home, while our men of thought and action were condemned to loss of life and liberty. But we never lost the memory and hope of a national existence. We appealed in vain to the reason and sense of justice of the dominant powers.
Our mildest remonstrance’s were met with sneers and contempt. Our appeals to arms were always unsuccessful.
Today, having no honourable alternative left, we again appeal to force as our last resource. We accept the conditions of appeal, manfully deeming it better to die in the struggle for freedom than to continue an existence of utter serfdom.
All men are born with equal rights, and in associating to protect one another and share public burdens, justice demands that such associations should rest upon a basis which maintains equality instead of destroying it.
We therefore declare that, unable longer to endure the curse of Monarchical Government, we aim at founding a Republic based on universal suffrage, which shall secure to all the intrinsic value of their labour.
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.
We declare, also, in favour of absolute liberty of conscience, and complete separation of Church and State.
We appeal to the Highest Tribunal for evidence of the justness of our cause. History bears testimony to the integrity of our sufferings, and we declare, in the face of our brethren, that we intend no war against the people of England – 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.
Republicans of the entire world, our cause is your cause. Our enemy is your enemy. Let your hearts be with us. As for you, workmen of England, it is not only your hearts we wish, but your arms. Remember the starvation and degradation brought to your firesides by the oppression of labour. Remember the past, look well to the future, and avenge yourselves by giving liberty to your children in the coming struggle for human liberty.
Herewith we proclaim the Irish Republic.
THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT.