(The Irish Felon, No. 2)
The Felon has not been established for the mere purpose of speculating, or theorising, or teaching, but for that of acting, too. We feel the fact that it was the absence of anything like effective action that has made every Irish movement, hitherto, a ridiculous, as well as a melancholy, failure – a matter of mirth to our enemies, and of mockery to every people but ourselves.
A meeting that spreads over miles – an association that covers the island – a movement that continues through years – may each alike be just as much a mere speculator, theorist, and talker as any one individual man. And such has been the Irish Repeal movements up to this day. What was Conciliation Hall? What was Tara? A million of men stood there. What did they do? Speculated, spouted, cheered, resolved, declared, petitioned, and adjourned.
We have resolved, therefore, not alone to advise others to act, but to assist them, to the utmost measure of our means, and the best of our ability; and to adopt ourselves the most extensive and vigorous action which public support will enable us to take and maintain.
The amount of support which we could rely on as effective must be tendered us on a clear statement and full view of our principles, objects, and intended course of proceedings. All support otherwise obtained would, in effect, be obtained under false pretences; would be altogether unsound and fictitious; and would fail us when resorted to.
We will not voluntarily deceive the public in the smallest particular, and we earnestly hope that no portion of the public will say or do aught that would tend to deceive us. We fear that public meetings in Ireland have not unfrequently applauded sentiments, and voted resolutions over night which they were utterly unprepared to act upon in the morning.
But no people have a right to cheer men on to the foot of the breach, or the foot of the scaffold, and then desert them. Neither, on the other hand, ought any man leave the great mass, and general mind of the country, too far behind him. The very foremost banner should never be too far forward. In advance, but not miles nor months in advance – a stride before his regiment, a day before his people – this is a leader’s place.
We hold the present existing government of this island, and all existing rights of property in our soil, to be mere usurpation and tyranny, and to be null and void as of moral effect; and our purpose is to abolish them utterly, or lose our lives in the attempt. The right founded on conquest and affirmed by laws made by the conqueror themselves, we regard as no other than the right of the robber on a larger scale.
We owe no obedience to laws enacted by another nation without our assent; nor respect to assumed rights of property which are starving and exterminating our people. The present salvation and future security of this country require that the English government should at once be abolished, and the English garrison of landlords instantly expelled. Necessity demands it – the great necessity of self-defence. Self-defence – self-protection – it is the first law of nature, the first duty of man.
We refuse all appeal to the English Parliament to abolish itself. We will not appeal against the robber to the robber’s den, nor against the landlord to a Parliament of landlords. We advise the people to organize, and arm at once, in their own defence. We mean to assist them, and to set example by organizing and arming ourselves.
Such is a brief statement in outline of our principles and purposes. It leaves the principles undefended, the purposes undeveloped, all objections unanswered, all details unexplained – and details are frequently as important as principles or purposes; but these omissions are matter of mere necessity for the present.
It remains to state our intended course of proceeding, so far as may be necessary to expedient. We have determined to set about creating, as speedily as possible a military organization, of which the Felon office shall be the centre and citadel.
As our first step of proceeding we are now founding a club which, it is intended, shall consist of one, two, or more persons, from each parish throughout Ireland, who are to be in immediate connection and correspondence with this Office.
The number of members is not intended to be limited by any positive rule. But every person is not to be admissible. Certain qualifications will be required.
And as a matter of common course no man will offer himself, or be accepted as a member, unless he holds our principles, and unless he be prepared to arm, and fight in support of them when called upon.
But this will not be enough, else a common labourer unable to read or write would be eligible. Such, however is not the principle on which we are forming this Club.
But every man is eligible and acceptable any one talent or other, or any one qualification, which would fit and enable him to be of service in any civil, military, or literary capacity, and who is willing to devote that talent or qualification to the service of his country for the next six months. It is not the common labour, but the skilled labour, we desire to engage and organize in this club.
But zeal ranks with us as the very chief, and is, of itself alone, a sufficient qualification.
Anyone who is qualified to form, or lead, a company, or a section of pikemen – or who is willing to head a forlorn hope – or who is able to address a public meeting, or who is competent to write a paragraph fit to appear in print – any and every such person will be gladly received as a member, and welcomed as a friend and comrade.
In one word, our object is to gather together a number of men, competent to lead in cases of necessity, and a staff of contributors competent to take the conducting of this journal, if its present conductors should be removed by death or exile. We would be very desirous to name it the Felon Club, but several local clubs have already adopted that name. We think they might resign it in our favour.
A prospectus and set of rules are in preparation, which we may publish when completed.
But without waiting for such publication, we earnestly request every man in Ireland who desires to enrol himself with us as a colleague, and comrade, and as a member of the Felon Club, will signify his wish by letter, addressed to the provisional secretary, Mr. Joseph Brennan, Felon office, 12 Trinity Street.
Until we have obtained at least 500 members we are resolved not to make another step in advance. If Ireland have not enough of confidence in us, or of heroism within herself, to furnish at least one member from each parish, we may just as well pull down our banner at once, furl it up in a corner, and fling it in the dust.