(The Irish Felon, No. 4)

Since the present contest began it is eighteen years; and eighteen years makes a long period, and large portion in the lifetime of one generation. Since it began, youth has grown grey and manhood gone far to the grave. It must now at length, from sheer necessity, be brought to a quick determination, whether for or against us; or it must cease altogether and forever.

It can neither sustain us or be sustained any longer. And for myself I will say this, that I choose utter and eternal defeat rather than to have it last for even one year more.

As hitherto conducted, it has been the most disgraceful in character and results that a nation of men was ever engaged in. It has been withering all our hearts, and wasting out our very souls – sapping all our virtues, strengthening all our vices, and making new vices of its own.

It has gone far and well nigh succeeded in cowardizing a brave race and turning a nation of heroes into a nation of cravens. An age of the worst tyranny of England’s worst times would be better than another year of it. Human nature itself can bear such a burthen no longer, and is sickening and sinking under it fast, longing to relieve, and if possible to redeem itself.

I pronounce and record my own vote to have it end. If we be able to win, let us go in and win at once. If it be otherwise let us submit and surrender, and ask for the mercies and peace that tyranny grants to slaves.

There was force enough in this island to have brought this contest to a successful issue at any time. Not deficiency of force, but disunion, dishonesty, defect of courage, and faults of conduct, have prevented this; for the result of thorough and determined resistance could not possibly be doubtful for a single week.

Among the many causes that have been hitherto in combination to produce failure and defeat, the one which now demands especial notice is this – that every position occupied by the people has been surrendered as soon as assailed, and every movement abandoned when met by resistance.

This, in fact, has now come to be a fixed habit of action, counted and calculated on by our enemies; if, indeed, it be not natural to us rather than formed – a matter of melancholy doubt. Irishmen, apparently, are cowed and conquered at the very point where an Englishman only begin to be thoroughly roused, and to fight savagely; and more wanted, I fear, and better worth for us than a pike in every hand would be three drops of English blood in every heart – the bull-dog blood that will not sink, but soils the higher for every blow.

In the history of every successful struggle by a nation or a people, against foreign rule or domestic tyranny, one impulse and principle of action is read on every page. Wherever the force of the government was bent, there too, the people banded their force to meet it. The point of assault became the post of rally. No position was abandoned, no inch of ground was given.

The attack was the signal and summons, not of surrender, but of instant, obstinate, and stern resistance. This is the road to victory – the high road; the only road that can never lead astray; the road from which every diverging byeway leads to defeat; the road that reasons points out, and nature itself, and all the principles that reason acts on, and all the passions that nature owns.

This is the road, and a people who can be persuaded to persist in following any other were made to be beaten, trodden down and trampled on. Let men differ as they may about other principles, there is one that admits of no dispute, and can never be relinquished without relinquishing manhood and all its rights: the great first principle of – BLOW FOR BLOW; blow for blow in self-defence – no matters for why or wherefore, no matter for risk or result.

And now: –

The official authorities of the English government have assailed this journal and two others – the Nation and Tribunes – with the clear intent as declared by their acts, of crushing those journals, and smothering down the voice of the Irish people by naked force, violence and terror, not even disguised under forms of law, and in open violation of all those public and private rights of liberty, property and security, which they profess to defend, guard and guarantee.

Those rights we are firmly resolved on defending, and we appeal to the people of Ireland to aid us in their defence.

The Empire has declared to crush us, and we have determined to league in self-defence, and stand up to the Empire. I speak for the Nation, I speak for the Tribune, I speak for the FELON. We stand up in firm defence, and in full defiance.

We have determined to cease publication of the three journals named, and to establish another, or rather three others, the prospectus of which will be published in a few days.

But the means and resources at our command, or at the command of any small number of private individuals, would be altogether unequal to the contest we shall have to sustain; and we therefore request the immediate formation of a company, with a paid-up capital of at least £2,000 to be subscribed in shares of £1 each for the purpose of establishing the proposed journal, and for making the requisite arrangements for its conduct and management.

Unless this be done, and until it be done, I for one of many, shall continue mute on every other matter. One thing at a time, one thing alone, until it be finished; and here is what is first in order of importance, and necessity. If Ireland will forever, or for even one day longer, go on talking, determining, and declaring, without doing one thing practical that is proposed to her, I quit her service; and so, too, will many others beside.

We don’t choose to get ourselves transported, or what is worse, get ourselves laughed at, for mere idle words that spend themselves on empty space.

The general principles on which the proposed undertaking is to be founded are stated in a paper which I published in last week’s Felon, and out of which I now republish them. The specific rules and arrangements I have neither any reason, nor, of any course, any right to undertake stating. They must be determined by consideration and agreement of the joint proprietors themselves, at their first, or some subsequent meeting.

  1. The company ought to be as numerous as possible – to consist of, say, 400 to 1,200 proprietors.
  2. Every one and each of them, should be a known and firm supporter of the felon principles of this journal. Absolutely requisite this.
  3. The shares ought each be very low in amount: perhaps the price of each might be fixed at £1, £2 or £2 10s. Any proprietor may, perhaps, be allowed to take as many shares as he chooses, within certain limits.
  4. No share to be transferable, except to a party approved and accepted by a majority of the proprietors.
  5. Some one or other of the shareholders to be selected and appointed as a registered and responsible proprietor, with a salary.
  6. Four or five competent editors to be engaged or indeed a greater number if possible.
  7. Surplus profits of the paper, beyond a certain fixed sum (reserving or replacing proprietor’s capital) to be devoted to advancing the public objects for which it will have been established.
  8. Englishmen and Scotchmen to be admissible as proprietors; and one, at least of the editors to be an English Chartist, of known talent and honesty. He must, of course, be strictly felonious, and fully prepared to aid and abet, and assist in a “premature insurrection” within the next hundred years at farthest.

A committee is in course of formation, for the purpose of receiving applications and proposals from parties desirous of becoming shareholders. When formed the names will be published, together with the prospectus.