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1868]

MANCHESTER RESCUE

469

content of which Fenianism is the expression, and therefore palliation for the errors of Fenianism.” The statement, which now would hardly be contested, was declared to be a justification of treason. A protest was raised against the reception of so disloyal a petition, and only two members had the courage frankly to state that they agreed with its spirit-Mr. Bright, who presented it, and Mr. John Stuart Mill.1

The Habeas Corpus Act had already been suspended in February; it was again suspended for a further period in May. The summer passed in comparative quiet, and the readiness of juries to convict, and of judges to deal out the full measure of punishment, did much to set at rest the minds of Englishmen. Their passions and fears, however, were renewed by the Manchester rescue on September 18, and by an attempt on December 13 to release two Fenian prisoners by blowing down the outer wall of Clerkenwell Prison. The impression produced in Ireland by the Manchester incident has given it historical importance. While two Fenian leaders who had been captured in Manchester, Colonel Kelly and Captain Deasy, were being conveyed to the county gaol at Salford, the police van was stopped by a band of men, the prisoners were rescued, and during the struggle Sergeant Brett, the policeman in charge of the van, was shot dead.2 Some sixty persons were arrested. Twenty-six were eventually put on trial in batches, and a verdict on the charge of murder was obtained against the first five. One of them, Maguire, a soldier in the Royal Marines, was afterwards pardoned and restored to the service; it was obvious he had been convicted, as he himself said, “on a mistaken identity." Another, Condon (or Shore), was reprieved; there was no evidence that he had been armed during the affray, and he was an American citizen. It was strongly contended that

1 See Hansard, May 3, May 6, and June 14, 1867.

2 There is no ground for saying that Brett was deliberately shot. Shaw, a policeman who saw the shot fired, admitted in cross-examination that "it was his impression that Allen fired to knock the lock off" (Annual Register, 1867, p. 197).

all five had been wrongly convicted, and that in point of law the crime was not murder, but manslaughter; 1 but the judges who tried the case would not admit any doubt, and the Home Secretary declined to interfere. The sentence of death was accordingly carried out against three of the five, Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien (or Gould, the name under which he was tried). The execution caused a storm of indignation to sweep over Ireland. In Dublin a great funeral procession took place, one of the organisers being Mr. A. M. Sullivan, who had hitherto exerted all his influence against the Fenian movement. It added only fuel to the flame when Mr. Sullivan and others who had joined in the procession were put on trial for taking part in a seditious assembly. The jury disagreed; but Mr. Sullivan had already been convicted of publishing a seditious libel in his paper, the Weekly News, relating to the Manchester executions, and for this he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the profound impression which these events produced in Ireland. They have never been forgotten. The prayer with which Condon concluded his speech from the dock is the theme of the Irish national hymn, 'God save Ireland'; and their countrymen still speak of Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien as the Manchester martyrs.

By the beginning of 1868 the violent phase of Fenianism was nearly at an end. But the spirit of Fenianism remained, profoundly affecting Irishmen of all classes, and steadily increasing in strength. It is true that the actually enrolled Fenians were probably never very numerous, that they included few occupiers of land, and that, as the English press constantly pointed out, no Irishman of the position of

The question arose from a doubt whether Kelly and Deasy were in legal custody when the rescue took place; if they were not, it was argued that the crime of killing Brett in the act of rescuing them did not amount to murder. See the statement, signed by the counsel for the prisoners, which was submitted to Mr. Justice Blackburn and Mr. Justice Mellor, and the answer of the former, Times, November 21, 1867.

? Of 752 persons arrested under special powers up to December 1866, only 35 were farmers; of 265 arrested between Jannary 1, 1867, and January 31, 1868, only it were farmers (Hansard, February 21, 1867, and February 14, 1868).

1868]

STRENGTH OF FENIANISM

471

Lord Edward Fitzgerald or O'Connell or Smith O'Brien joined in the movement. Nevertheless the germs of Fenianism were everywhere. “ If the truth must be spoken," it was said in 1870, by one not given to exaggeration, “there are few Irishmen to be found at this moment (save those in place or seeking it) who have not hidden within their bosoms a soupçon of that which, in its concentrated form, constitutes the chief characteristic of Fenianism.”To such a pass had English Governments brought the country by their indifference to Irish grievances and their contempt of Irish opinion.

“ Irish Nationality in 1870,” by a Protestant Celt, 2nd edit. p. 39.

1

V

DISESTABLISHMENT

THE Fenian movement, and the widespread sympathy which it evoked, administered a rude shock to English optimism. To fair-minded men, who had clung as long as they could to the idea that the famine had swept away the causes of the Irish trouble, it became clear that disaffection so deep and general could not spring from mere wantonness of spirit, but must be due to the pressure of real grievances. There was still talk, it is true, of further and more zealous repression. In letters to the Times, the Government were urged to place Ireland under martial law. But teaching of a wiser and more temperate nature happily prevailed. “The Fenian movement," wrote Mr. Goldwin Smith on the day of the Manchester executions," is not religious, nor radically economical (though, no doubt, it has in it a socialistic element), but national; and the remedy for it must be one which cures national discontent. This is the great truth which the English people have to lay to heart.” “If there is anything sadder than the calamity itself," wrote Mr. Mill in 1868, referring to Fenianism, “it is the unmistakable sincerity and good faith with which numbers of Englishmen confess themselves incapable of comprehending it. They know not that the disaffection, which neither has nor needs any other motive than aversion to the rulers, is the climax to a long growth of disaffection, arising from causes that might have been removed." 2 Surely nobody can think it wonderful,” said Mr. John Morley in the same year, " that the Irish farmer and the Irish peasant associate the name of England ... with all that is miserable and oppressive.

1 “The Irish Question ” (1868), p. 5.

England and Ireland," p. 6.

"1

1865]

PARLIAMENTARY REFORM

473

And nobody can believe that England is fully alive to her duty as the imperial nation. The landlords harp continually on their right to do as they will with their own; and the alien clergy, in just the same strain, together with their confederates in this country, declare that their rights are in danger. I have never heard of either the one or the other saying a word of their duties. The idea of political duty is not known to them. And it is this fact which impresses an Irishman.” 1 Even Earl Russell, the last man to be carried away by any unpractical enthusiasm, was driven to acknowledge that the Irish tenant and the Irish Roman Catholic had grievances that should be redressed. “If, then," he said, "we can find a man with the brilliant oratory of Canning and the sterling honesty of Althorp, it is to such a man that the destiny of this country and the prospects of Ireland ought to be consigned. The University of Oxford, overflowing with bigotry, might indeed reject such a man, but I feel persuaded the great county of Lancaster would never fail him, nor would the country at large cease to celebrate his pure and immortal fame.”? The county of Lancaster did fail the man thus summoned to a great work; but the country at large went heartily with him in 1868 and 1869 in carrying out an even bolder policy than Earl Russell advised.

When Lord Palmerston died in October 1865, every one felt that, his restraining influence being gone, times of great political change were at hand. For the next three years the question of Parliamentary reform engrossed attention. Failing to carry their Bill, Earl Russell and Mr. Gladstone were succeeded in July 1866 by Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli, whose Reform Act of 1867 established the household franchise in boroughs. In the following year Scotland received a similar measure, while Ireland was put off with a reduction of the £8 rating franchise to £4. The field was now clear, and Ireland claimed and compelled the undivided attention of Parliament.

1 “ Ireland's Rights and England's Duties," lecture at Blackburn in 1868.

2 “A Letter to the Right Honourable Chichester Fortescue on the State of Ireland," p. 83.

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