The following are a series of letters published by John Mitchel in the Irish Citizen, an Irish-American newspaper Mitchel edited in New York, and addressed to his friend John Martin, on his misgivings about Fenianism in both Ireland and the United States. The letters were republished by the Irish and British press.


From Irish Citizen, 22nd February, 1848.

New York, Feb. 14, 1868.

MY DEAR MARTIN,—It is hard to tell, where this letter will find you; probably in a Dublin gaol, expiating your ‘misdemeanour’ in leading a mourning procession to do honour to three Irishmen strangled in Manchester by the English enemy, and then and there, by open and advised speaking, deliberately declaring that those three strangled persons were good and brave men, and martyrs for their country—‘against the peace of our Lady the Queen,’ &c.

But wherever you may be, I feel impelled to write to you about this wonderful phenomena of ‘Fenianism.’ In the United States, Fenianism is all in confusion and disarray; so that the force of the great Irish element here is completely neutralized, and for any Irish purpose utterly unavailable. This is not because of the disunion about which so much lament is made, but because of the original vice of the organisation itself—it was established upon a wrong and false basis by that wretched Stephens; namely, upon the project of immediate insurrection in Ireland while England is at peace—that insurrection to be aided by forces and arms from this country, contrary to the laws of the United States. The project was in itself wild; and could only be made to look feasible by systematic delusion and imposture. Our people are credulous, enthusiastic, impatient, a tempting material for the charlatan.

Yet what a devoted and gallant people! No braver men, no truer Irishmen ever gave their lives for their country, than some of those who went last year and the year before to aid an insurrection in Ireland, deluded by false pretences. False pretences have been the main machinery of the organisation from the first: people in Ireland have been deluded by false representations of the power and resources of the Irish-American ‘nation’ here; and the Irish-Americans here have been grossly deceived as to the power and resources of the revolutionary element in Ireland. Yet it would not be true to say that our countrymen were deliberately cheating each other from the two opposite sides of the Atlantic. No; one man cheated them both, and created a system, and trained a school of delusion, which is only now beginning to be completely blown.

Nine years ago, to my knowledge, young men, settled in western cities, wound up their business, sold everything they had, and started for Ireland on the faith of assurances that the insurrection was to break out that year. And so it has been every year since; Mr. Stephens’ Fenian army in Ireland was for ever on the point of fighting the British army, and as our bold young men here have naturally been desirous to be counted in for that promised fight, the stream of Irish-Americans still continued setting towards Ireland, until after our great war the stream almost became a torrent. All these people were deceived by systematic falsehood about the ‘men at home.’

And the men at home were carefully taught to believe that here in America was a great powerful Irish nation with unlimited resources, and an army and navy both willing and able to give them important material aid in troops and arms, with the connivance, or even in spite, of the United States Government. So they prepared for immediate fight, and wondered that the American army was not yet landed. And in all this there was no empty bravado, on the part of the deluded people, at either side of the ocean. They were ready; they are always ready and eager;—they crave, they thirst and hunger, but for one chance of fighting that same British army. Thousands upon thousands of stalwart men now on this continent would give their last dollar freely if they could but make sure of seeing themselves face to face with Queen Victoria’s redcoats. Moreover it is quite true that there is here in America (not counting the people in Ireland at all) the material of a force, a force of soldiery, trained in the Federal and Confederate armies, strong enough to free Ireland—that is, to destroy the British Empire, which means the same thing. And not only the material; there is also the will, the zeal, the patriotic devotion; yet all that material, all that zeal and patriotism cannot begin to come near to the task of destroying the Empire. The force is great; but it is at one side of the Atlantic, and its ‘objective point’ is at another. And why not go, then, where its work lies already for it? Simply because the government of the country we reside in will not suffer that, and is able to hinder and bound to hinder that. In any force which would be at all worth counting, an expedition to Ireland would be morally and physically impossible; and the original vice and fraud of ‘Fenianism’ lay in telling credulous, innocent people that they could get the length of fighting at all while England is at peace; and in exhorting them to pour in their money under that false pretence.

To heighten and stimulate the delusion still more, the assumption was made that the Irish race on this continent is a nation, has a right to declare itself a Republic, to constitute a government, with Secretaries of State, Army, Navy, Government bonds, and so forth; and these grand pretensions and fine phrases were not without their effect upon an imaginative people like ours. But all this was excessively repugnant to the American people, or else ridiculous in their eyes. The Fenian Imperium in Imperio was an anomaly; and though the Americans very well knew it was powerless to effect its avowed purpose, and though they were fully resolved not to suffer it to complicate their relations with England, yet they felt it as an affront, and laughed at it as a farce. The American government has its hand firmly upon the whole movement, and has made use of it to hold up in terrorem before the eyes of England, by way of inducing her to be more compliant in the diplomatic discussions which are going on between London and Washington; just as a man holds a bull-dog by the collar, sure that he can let him slip against his enemy, or else drive him back to his kennel. Neither has the government by any means done with the Fenians in that capacity; it expects more of the same kind of service; and so deals very gently with them. It turned them back very tenderly and with great forbearance from their little Canadian raid has since restored to them certain arms and equipments which were captured upon that occasion; and has never prosecuted any of them—(for in fact these Irish have votes, and your politician must deal with them ‘as though he loved them.’) But the government most intimately knows all their proceedings; knows where it can lay its hands again upon the restored arms; has arranged with the Canadian government for a joint defence of that frontier; and in every seaport keeps so vigilant a guard that not even a single ship of considerable size, to say nothing of a fleet of transports, can possibly go out, or get ready to go out. So you see the trouble with these poor Fenians is not disunion—it is just utter impotence—impotence to do anything, arising from the nature of the case and the fundamental vice of the organisation.

But when, in addition to that original error, there came on them the curse of factious disunion—when in 1865 their society split up into parts, and these immediately began to vilify one another, then it became more clearly apparent that the movement in that form was wholly useless for any good purpose. Our good people here cry out for union, earnestly pray for union; and seem to think that if the two factions would only unite, the problem would be solved—Ireland would be liberated. Now it is certainly desirable that these factions should come to an end, and that the Irish element here should at least be harmonious: because then they would cease to abuse one another, through newspapers and resolutions of ‘circles;’—they would no longer afford to the Americans the amusement, to the English the deep gratification, of seeing them expending all their zeal and enthusiasm in tearing one another to pieces. But that would be all the good of ‘union.’ If these two ‘wings’ were united to-morrow (as they will not be), they would then be able to do nothing; able to take no single step in advance in the direction of their object. That ‘union’ would be only an agreement of the two ‘wings’ to help one another in doing nothing, instead of hindering one another to do nothing, as at present. They would then be more conspicuously doing nothing than even now. In short the whole concern has run up against a wall and cannot take one step farther.

This fatal impasse has been, I imagine, painfully apparent to the leaders of these two factions; I mean Mr. Roberts and Mr. Savage. They found themselves at the head of two distinct organisations, each striving to outvie and outbid the other in bold promises and professions, and the respective adherents of each eagerly, angrily demanding some speedy action, while they were sadly conscious that they could do nothing whatsoever, and the people, worn out by delay and disappointment, and disheartened by the long continuance of mean and senseless altercations, were rapidly falling away from them both. Those two ‘Presidents’ felt themselves in the position of two men holding each of them a wolf by the ears.

In this condition of affairs, you are aware that negotiations for union were held, with a very sincere desire, I believe, on the part of those two ‘Presidents,’ to effect that combination, and withdraw themselves from under the heavy responsibility that weighed upon them. A ‘basis of union’ was drawn up; and the two ‘Presidents,’ pursuant to that preliminary arrangement, came and offered to me the Presidency of the joint and united brotherhood. Why to me? I have had nothing to do with them or their organisation for two years; and very little before that time. I was not responsible for any of their doings or misdoings. I had not approved of any one of their enterprises, either on the side of Canada or on the side of Ireland. Whenever I had ventured to offered them any advice or give them any warning, it had been uniformly disregarded. I had, for example, warned them that the hints and intimations on the part of underlings of this government to the effect that their invasion of Canada would be winked at and permitted, were intended to cheat them, and that the government would be sure to turn upon them at the last moment and defeat any such invasion, as, indeed it was bound to do;—but they tried, nevertheless, to invade Canada. I had warned them against any attempt at insurrection in Ireland while England was at peace; but they persisted in making their attempt at insurrection in Ireland. I had begged of them not to place the government of their American organisation in the hands of Stephens,—but they did this very thing almost the moment he appeared. And now, when blunders, failures, and faction have brought their affairs to the lowest ebb, and the impatient and justly indignant people are insisting upon action, those leaders who are holding the wolf by the ears, politely invite me to take charge of the two wolves—of two packs of wolves; request me in the most complimentary manner to take and knit up the two ragged fag-ends of an organisation originally rotten, and now all tattered and torn, and to wear the patched-up thing as a robe of honour. Of course, I respectfully decline.

You are to recollect that the Presidency was tendered to me specifically under a written ‘Constitution’ which was to govern the organisation and govern me; and with a set of ‘Senators’ or ‘Councillors,’ who were to have the power of controlling all my action. Half of these councillors were to be furnished me from the faction which believes the salvation of Ireland to lie in Canada; the other half from the party which is always professing to aid the ‘men at home’ to complete ‘the Revolution’ which they pretend is already in progress of accomplishment there. If I had accepted the office, and had thereupon undertaken (as I certainly should have undertaken) to explode both of those delusions, and to bring the association within the bounds of reason, and of law,—then at once would have arisen a conflict; ‘constitutional’ questions would have raged around me; and a new division would have broken out immediately. Then, the instrument they call a constitution is in itself ridiculous; and I, being acutely sensitive to ridicule, would feel ashamed of occupying a position in which I should be expected to carry on the sham of a provisional government, and to commission ‘generals’ for an imaginary army. All this, even if it were not illegal, is still ludicrous. So I would have begun by abolishing that ‘Constitution,’ by dismissing all Secretaries of State, disbanding all ‘paid organisers,’ cancelling all pretended ‘commissions’ to officers, exhorting the circles everywhere to keep their money within their own power until there should arise an opportunity to use it with effect,—and exhorting the people to attach their military companies to the militia service of their respective States—and to wait. Then what a wild outcry! Treason!—abandoning our brothers!—British gold in his pocket!

Now, as for abandoning our brothers, those men in England, and in Ireland, who get up absurd and mischievous ‘scares,’ may be very brave and patriotic, but they are extremely unwise; and have no right to expect that they are to be encouraged in their folly by loud promises of assistance from this side, which promises cannot be realised to any greater extent than might enable them for a while longer to frighten and exasperate the middle classes of Englishmen, and of English-Irishmen; for they are not frightening the government at all, but highly gratifying the government, which, in fact, desires its middle classes to be frightened and enraged so as to supply it with good hanging juries and a ferocious public opinion, the true British craving for Irish blood. In truth, the British government is indebted to those desperadoes who make the ‘big scares’ and little riots; and ought to pay them in British gold. They form, it seems, one division of that Irish Republican Army which is serving under Mr. Savage’s section.

The other Wing itself is a shade more rational than this. It professes to make Canada its first object; and certainly a blow struck in Canada would seriously injure English prestige and English power, and would employ a large British force: also it must be said, that it looks much easier to carry an armed force across that frontier than across the Atlantic:—it looks much easier; yet is impossible: impossible, I mean, to bring over any force at all adequate to the service. Head Centres and Organisers can go, it is true, to Buffalo and Cleveland, within sight of the Canada shore, and can bluster and threaten, and talk of an army of one hundred thousand men, an army which exists in the air only; but all this while they know well that they cannot take one single step towards a serious invasion of Canada,—no more than their rivals can make the first beginning of an invasion of Ireland. Thus the trouble at either side is merely utter impotence. Having been directed in a wrong course, they find at last that they have come to an impossible barrier. Why not come back? What is the use of prancing and rearing there against that wall? Let them all come back to where they started from; and then there will be some chance of combining the powerful Irish element of this Republic, with rational aim and in a legitimate form.

I have much more to say upon this great subject; but must keep it for another letter, next week. I mean to print this: it will make me many enemies, amongst the old guard of Fenianism; especially amongst the paid ‘paid organisers.’ I cannot help it. Many may think it ungracious on my part—after the high compliment paid to me in the offer of the Presidency of the United Brotherhood, that I should thus attack the whole system. Yet that offer itself, and the confidence which it implies, make it incumbent on me to state plainly all my reasons for declining so great a trust. Men write to me every day, from various parts of the United States, and Territories, demanding that I should speak out, without reserve, and without respect of persons. ‘If our present course is not right,’ they say, ‘what is right?’ One correspondent says—‘It is not only your antecedents as an Irish nationalist, but your present position as conductor of a journal addressing itself to the Irish in America, that makes it your duty to speak out.’ I acknowledge the justice of the call.

One other letter, I hope, will be sufficient; to enable me to say all I have to say; and although it may wound a few good and true men; I have confidence enough in the good sense and straightforwardness of our countrymen, to make me feel that they will listen to reason, when plainly and kindly set forth.



From Irish Citizen, 29th February, 1868.

MY DEAR MARTIN—Just as I take up my pen to write to you a second letter touching ‘Fenianism,’ comes the dispatch announcing that the British Government has failed to convict you of your misdemeanour. Jury not packed close enough, I suppose. There was no difficulty in obtaining the condemnation of Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Pigott; and I cannot avoid the conclusion that her Majesty’s sheriff had his orders not to pack the jury upon your case—that must have caused the sheriff, under-sheriff, and clerks in the Crown Office to feel a very natural amazement. Not pack a jury of Orangemen and Englishmen to try a ‘political offender!’ One may imagine the disgust of the worthy sheriff at this immoral perversion of the functions of his office.

But if the government did, indeed, give you a fair trial, it was, of course, that they did not desire to convict. They wished to avoid the odium of shutting you up a second time in their jails, and upon such a charge; so they let you go for this time, with the indictment hanging over you, knowing they can at any time find a right sort of jury that will ‘do the Queen’s business;’ and hoping that the significant warning you have now received will render you very cautious for the future, how you attend the funeral of a man who was hanged.

But what think you now of the spirit of the British Government and British people towards Ireland? Was there ever a time within our memory when our enemy was more stiffly resolute to deny all that Ireland demands, and to stamp out every trace of national feeling in that island? And do you still hope (after the last speeches of Lord Stanley on one side and John Bright on the other) that the British nation, or any party in that nation, Conservative, Reforming, or Radical, will ever be brought even to consider the question of ‘Repeal of the Union,’ or that the people of Ireland will ever again be brought to take any interest in that agitation? I try to persuade myself that now at last you will be forced to the conclusion which I arrived at long ago—that to free Ireland you must stab the British Empire to the heart, and that the ‘Union’ must be severed by the sword alone.

I know that if you do come to this opinion, you will act upon it—that is to say, not that you will unfurl a ‘Sunburst,’ and run-a-muck, but that you use all your influence, which is deservedly large, in including the people of your country to throw completely behind them all thoughts of a peaceful solution of their difficulties, and quietly, steadily, patiently, to prepare (as far as they can, under the eyes of the police), for restoring to the last extremity when an opportunity arises, as arise it surely will.

And this brings me back to our Irish-American friends, and their two rival organisations. Right as they are on the main point—that the British Government must be overthrown by force, they are in sad confusion with respect to the mode of action, the place, the opportunity. Indeed, they cannot bear to hear talk of opportunity: brave men, they say, can make their own opportunity; and a people that aspires to take its place among the nations has always the power to assert that right by force. Just after the close of the successful war waged against the Confederate States, it was quite natural that in the flushed intoxication of triumph, and with many thousands of Irish soldiers and officers trained in camp, and eager to use their weapons and their skill against their hereditary foe;—it was very natural that an immense impetus should be given to the Fenian organisation, and that, under the exciting appeals of certain leaders, our highly impressionable people should be worked up to the point of resolving upon instant battle. There was also, at the same time, on apparently well grounded expectation that the United States having subdued the Confederacy, would take an early opportunity of requiting to England the humiliating affair of Mason and Slidell, and the ravages committed on American commerce by cruisers built and fitted out in British ports. The moment was exciting; and many who had up to that time held aloof from these organisations, then joined them.

I, myself, was one of these: but when the break-up occurred here, and when I could no longer tell to which ‘Whigs’ I belonged, I quietly withdrew myself from both. Many excellent Irishmen in the United States acted as I did.

In the mean time the two brotherhoods, or the two Irish Republics, each proceeded as confidently as ever to make some show of preparing for war; each of them would place itself in the position of a belligerent upon its own account; and as they had to outbid each other in loud vaunts, menases and promises, there was, of course, no scarcity of these. One thing there was which contributed most materially to lead them astray with regard to their true position. The Southern States, it was said, had rebelled, had at once been recognised by the world as a belligerent power, had a regular government, effected loans upon government, security, and had its army and navy. And if the Southern States, why not we, the ‘Irish nation’? In this process of reasoning they left out some essential considerations. When the Southern States went into the war they had full possession of all their own country, to begin with; they had regular State Governments in full operation, making laws and enforcing them; they had possession of all their own cities, rivers, railroads, with a fertile soil, factories, arsenals, armouries, cannon foundries; they had slaves to till their ground and feed the army; and these slaves were not a danger and weakness to them, but a strength and support; they had accomplished generals and naval commanders in their service; lastly, their people were very much more unanimous than Irishmen are, or are like to be. All these advantages with which the Southern States commenced their struggle for independence—all of them—are simply wanting to this ‘Irish nation’ in America, as well as to the Irish nation at home. Yet, with all these advantages to start with, and with their gallantry, unanimity, and resources, those Southern States were beaten, crushed, stamped out.

The moral of all this is, that as the Southern Confederacy was destroyed and drowned in its own blood because the Northern country, with much larger population and resources, being at peace with the rest of the world, was enabled to fling her whole unbroken mass of power upon the revolted country and press it to the dust, even so the Irish at home, if they should rise against the power of England, while England is untroubled by any other serious war, must necessarily be ground to powder; and that those who contemplate (as I do) a forcible separation from that Power, must wait for an opportunity, and make the best preparation for it that circumstances permit.

And now to define what is meant by an ‘opportunity’—the Abyssinian expedition is not one; neither would a new war against Russia, whether on the Danube or in India; but a general European war, in which England would be compelled to put forth all her strength, or a war between France alone, or, best of all, a war with the United States;—any of these three contingencies would supply the opportunity required, and the last would be the best, because it would set the Irish Americans at liberty to go across to Ireland as an organised army, with artillery and stores, instead of stealing over by twos and threes with phosphorous and ‘Fenian fire’ in their pockets. The views I have here expressed are beginning to prevail here; the vehement excitement that followed the war has passed away; very much, I am sorry to say, of the fine enthusiasm which then inspired our people here, has been used up and wasted, or deadened and discouraged by disappointment and delay, high-sounding promises broken and cherished organisations collapsing and splitting into fragments. But there is no fear whatever, of the intense patriotism which animates this race, or their deep sympathy with their kinsmen at home, or their heartfelt abhorrence of British government, undergoing any diminution. The element, the material, the spirit, which would suffice to furnish forth a fine liberating army, are still here, still eager to be let loose upon our enemies. Now, therefore, that the basis on which the whole fabric of Fenianism was built—namely, immediate war with England while England has her hands free, and in violation of the laws of the United States—has plainly given way, and the organisations which exist are at the end of their tether, and face to face with a manifest impossibility, there is hope that the people will feel the necessity for another and sounder system of preparation.

In a lecture which I lately delivered in Brooklyn, I indicated what would be, according to my judgment, the best method and groundwork for such new organisation;—namely, not only to keep in existence, but extend and strengthen, the actual local societies, as they stand;—to induce all the men of fighting age to join the militia service of their States;—to respect the laws, to give no cause of offence to the American people;—to keep such moneys as the local societies may choose to contribute, within local control, lodged in bank in the name of the trustees to be elected by the contributors;—to keep their societies, both for the sake of promoting real brotherly fellowship and of attaining any sound information, upon the relations between Ireland and England, between England and America, and between England and France; and in short trustworthy information, political, statistical, and otherwise, which would give the members a true idea of the task before them, and to save them from being deluded by the audacious assurances of a Stephens, or the nonsense of a George Francis Train. If they would be content to bring their movement strictly within the limits here described, to give up their excited and exciting hopes of instant action, to turn a deaf ear to all rhodomontade, and to await patiently the occasion which in the course of human events is certain to come;—then I should have good hopes indeed that such an attitude, on the part of such masses of England’s mortal enemies, all calmly waiting for the hour to strike her with effect, would of itself tell with fearful effect upon her policy and her position amongst the nations; would either drive her into a rash war to invite the danger, to meet it, and if possible destroy it;—or would so tie her hands and cow her heart that she would never more dare to resist any demand of any powerful nation; would pluck her by the beard, and France tread upon her feet, and the United States dictate to her on what terms she may remain an independent power. Either way, if she rushed into a war, or meanly submitted to insult to avoid it,—either way, her hour of doom would be near the stroke.

But I hear it is objected to my proposed system that it would not be keeping up that ‘excitement’ here which encourages the Irish in Ireland to continue their struggle. Just so: I object to excitement founded upon exaggeration and imposture: and I object to encouraging the Irish in Ireland to continue their driftless riots by holding out to them hopes which cannot be fulfilled. Besides, they are not engaged in any struggle at all in Ireland; and are doing nothing whatsoever that would not be better left undone.

I hear, too, that some say they are tired of waiting. Very likely; nobody can be more tired of waiting than I am. You also, as I conjecture, must be tired of that; some twenty years you have been waiting, six years of it in prisons or exile; and you would desire to see the whole question settled to-morrow. The O’Neills and O’Donnells were tired of waiting two hundred and fifty years ago; the Irish soldiers that went to France with Sarsfield longed for the hour of return; Tone was tired of waiting at Paris, and Rennes, and at Brest. In the long years of a tyranny which have pressed upon our native island for ages and ages, it is natural enough that each generation should eagerly see the end. Yet wait we must until time and chance give us an opportunity.

I know not whether these reflections of mine will have any considerable effect. So many of the Irish here have been fed with false excitements so long, that probably if some confident imposter were to mount a platform at Jones’ Wood, and tell them he was just going to fling the Sunburst to the winds, and hurl an irresistible force upon the columns of British redcoats,—and demand abundance of money for military stores,—they would cheer his brave words, and even pour in their money to fill his military chest. Still the numbers of those who could be so easily deluded are becoming less and less; experience is not all in vain; and the words of soberness and truth at last find their audience.



From the Irish Citizen, 25th April, 1868.

DEAR MARTIN—My two letters lately addressed to you have given, as I expected, some pain and disappointment to good and worthy Irishmen, who did not know the truth as well as you and I know it; and also to some who were so pleased with the flattering delusion that they did not wish to be rudely awakened from it. That there is a ‘Revolution’ now in progress in Ireland—that there is an Irish army here in the United States, able as well as willing to aid that Revolution, and that this month, or next month, or the month after, the Irish forces are about to engage and defeat the British army, after having given full notice of that intention, and when our enemy has nothing else to do than to attend to us—these were pleasing dreams; and nobody can wonder if many patriotic people are provoked at being roused out of them. But, after all, there is no use in dreams; for we are living in a world painfully real.

And of one thing you may be well assured: that the Irish national spirit on this continent, as well as in Ireland, suffers nothing by the collapse of that enormous sack of gas called Fenianism. On the contrary, whatever there was of genuine and earnest in the movement has been much stimulated and developed by the recent atrocity of the enemy’s government; by its prosecution of the press in Ireland for doing less than the London press is doing every day; by the bold vindications of national right made before the Queen’s judges by Sullivan, by yourself, and (better than all) by the gentle and gallant Mackey. All these things have been sinking into men’s hearts, and preparing our race for something far more perilous to English power than all the fanfaronade and sunburstery. The organisations of Irishmen which were actually in existence throughout the United States are still here, and I believe are extending and increasing; although now (at least in a great many cases) unconnected with either branch of the double-headed or double-winged central authority or authorities. The real available power of the vast Irish element on this continent, Fenian and non-Fenian (and the most intelligent and therefore strongest, part of it is, and always was, unconnected with that organisation), is becoming more formidable in the exact proportion in which humbug and delusion are purged away, and men understand the real basis on which the cause of Ireland must stand.

I have been looking out with anxiety to see the direction which the Irish mind on both sides of the Atlantic would take after the manifest failure of the ‘Fenian’ war, and necessary failure of every attempt to begin making any war at all in present circumstances. Many comments, as might have been expected, have been made upon my two former letters addressed to you; but I do not perceive that any commentator (whose opinion counts) has attempted to contradict my facts. They say, he does not know; he is outside all Circles. Or they say, all he says may be true, but he was not the man to say it; or he ought to have said it before; or he ought not to have said it just yet. Or they say, see how the English and the Orangemen praise them! He must be a bad Irishman. Well, when I found myself obliged to come out against all that nonsense, I was prepared for some reproval at the hands of patriotic Irishmen, and even prepared for some false praise on the part of Englishmen and Orangemen, a thing infinitely more provoking and humiliating. But I cannot help, for the present, either the one or the other.

Of Irishmen on your side of the Atlantic, I have seen the comment of three men worth counting. These are yourself, Dean O’Brien, of Limerick, and Father Lavelle. In your letter to the Dublin papers, I find that you do not at all controvert my views as to the impotence and futility of the actual system, but apply yourself to refute my assumption that British dominion must be destroyed by war and revolution, and to urge your own theory, that ‘Repeal of the Union’ can be extorted from England by peaceful agitation, sustained by the terror of that ‘great fact’ as you call that great sensation called Fenianism. It is true that in a later published letter you fairly admit and proclaim all that I had affirmed:—

‘The Fenian enterprises were wildly impracticable—unscrupulous delusions were employed to induce men of military knowledge to enter into those enterprises—dreadful suffering has been brought upon over a thousand Irish families in consequence of Fenianism.’

It is precisely the impracticable enterprises and unscrupulous delusions that I declared war against; feeling, as I did, that the first necessity for us, undertaking such an enterprise as is now before us (the overthrow of the British Empire) was to plant our feet on firm facts, and no longer to expose brave men and innocent families to destruction upon a mere blind impulse of sunburstery.

Doctor O’Brien, of Limerick, whom I respect as the author of the diocesan declaration in favour of legislative independence for his country, has also, I find, honoured me with some notice. He is one of those, apparently, who think I ought to have spoken out long ago—I quote from his letter (or speech, I know not which) as I find it extracted in the Irishman:

‘Mr. John Mitchel’s letter, on which you commented last Thursday, is a fair representation of our popular dispositions in Ireland—every one prepared for the struggle, if the chance presented itself of making head. As to the condition of active hostility or vengeance abroad, the thousands who await an opportunity, and who endeavour to make it, I suppose Mr. Mitchel is a sound authority. I regret, however, that he did not long ago give the world a knowledge of the ‘swindle’ and ‘absurdity’ and ‘wickedness’ of the official adventurers whom he appears to have known for years, and he might have saved some poor fellows from the scaffold, and many from the felon’s chains.’

Now, in the first place, where did Dean O’Brien find in my letters the charges of ‘swindle,’ ‘absurdity,’ and ‘wickedness?’ And if he did not find such words there, why does he mark them with quotation-marks? But, not waiting for an answer to this, I further ask Dean O’Brien—Was it my duty ‘long ago’ to go about proclaiming that a project with which I had no concern myself was a ‘swindle?’ When the organisation in America did me the honour—and it was an honour—to offer me the presidency, then, and not till then, did I feel myself authorised to state my views of the unsoundness of the whole system, and the delusions and exaggerations upon which it was based and carried forward. As for ‘swindle’ or ‘wickedness,’ I said nothing of all that. But Doctor O’Brien continues—still speaking of me—in this extraordinary manner:—

‘In 1862, when writing from Paris, his opinions did not appear nearly so strong on the subject of the ‘rottenness’ and rascality of the ‘Centres’ as they appear now; and his glorification of Stephens, whose treasurer he seemed to have been, and to whom he transmitted large sums of money, did, to my certain knowledge, deceive a great many in Ireland. I myself had a serious battle on my hands the whole of that year, 1863, with the shell of Fenianism—the ‘St. Patrick’s Brotherhood’—and I was very sorry to find that a gentleman to whom 1848 ought to have taught the necessity of prudence, gave them a helping hand against those who struggled for their good.’

As the Dean of Limerick has a ‘certain knowledge’ that I, in certain written letters from Paris, ‘glorified Stephens,’ and that this glorification ‘deceived a great many in Ireland,’ I suppose it is not unreasonable that I should ask him to point out the letters written from Paris, or from anywhere else, in which the said glorification is perpetrated. He must mean published letters, for otherwise the glorification could not have ‘deceived a great many in Ireland;’ so that he can surely lay his hand upon them, or at least indicate where they are to be found. In the mean time, pending his search for those documents, I state (setting my ‘certain knowledge’ against Dr. O’Brien’s) that I never even mentioned Mr. Stephens with common respect in any letter public or private.

And what are you to think of that Reverend or Right Reverend Dean who avers his certain knowledge that a certain man three thousand miles off deceived a great many in Ireland, and by letters glorifying Mr. James Stephens, when he cannot refer to the letters themselves, nor tell us where he saw them, nor who else saw them?

One thing is very plain to me, that the Dean of Limerick, though he is no Fenian—though he fought Fenianism in its shell—though he cannot contradict one syllable I have said of it, but rather confirms all—yet bears a grudge against me for letting the wind out of the bag. He thought it useful to have such a shape of terror looming in the background, while he is agitating his little ‘Repeal’—by way of frightening the British government, as it were;—poor, simple, and timorous British government!—as if the British government did not know better than you or I, or Doctor O’Brien, the exact measure, the height and the depth, of the Fenian sensation.

Father Lavelle’s comment, as I find it in a late published letter of his, is much more candid and straightforward, as I should have expected at the hands of the brave and generous priest of Partry, the chivalrous protector of his poor people, the terror and scourge of crowbar-brigadier-bishops—the learned, witty, and wise Patrick Lavelle, whom of all the priests in Ireland I have long loved the best (save one). He defends me against the damaging praise of Judge O’Hagan, and though the good Father himself does his best—like the rest of you—to make the most of this Fenianism as a political machinery, and is evidently displeased with me for disparaging the ‘great fact,’ still he will not stand by and hear a Queen’s judge treacherously commending me for what I never uttered nor thought. Says Father Lavelle:—

‘I am sure Mr. Mitchel will be rather astonished at finding himself quoted by Mr. Justice O’Hagan as opposed to any interference with foreign rule in his native land. Yet so it was in the judge’s address to Captain Mackey previous to the passing of sentence.

‘No doubt the learned judge misrepresented the veteran patriot; and what Mr. Mitchel meant as expediency, or rather inexpediency and imprudence—that of rushing uselessly into the lion’s mouth, he mistook for the assertion of principle and ‘the folly and guilt,’ as the phrase has gone, of at all contesting the right of England to keep rivetted the chains of Ireland.’

I thank Father Lavelle for doing me this justice; for it would indeed be too hard if I were now, at this day, really thought worthy of one word of sincere commendation from one of the Queen’s judges as having protested against all interference with foreign rule in my native land.

To resume the whole matter: no Irish nationalist need have the slightest apprehension of any cooling off, or diminution in the ardent, passionate desire and resolve of our Irish-American citizens to aid in the redemption of their original country and its complete liberation from British rule and British connection, whenever a feasible opportunity shall present itself. The Irish element on the continent, in sloughing off its contracting ‘shell’ of Fenianism, cannot but grow into something stronger, sounder, and far more formidable than ever. For that collapsed concern, with its high-sounding pretensions, its monstrous exaggerations and delusions, its factions and ‘disunions,’ its phantom army and its Flying-Dutchman navy, and its insolent denunciations of all who did not belong to it, kept at a distance the best nationalists in America, as well as the best in Ireland.

Amongst the Irish here there is no disunion at all, but a perfect and fraternal agreement, to act together, and with a will, whenever they see the chance. Fenians and non-Fenians indiscriminately will pour in their money, and will stake their lives upon any land or sea the moment they are called upon by those whom they can trust. In the meantime we beg to advertise the American government and the French government, that England is now and henceforth utterly powerless to resist any aggression, or to resent any affront. The day of her existence as a ‘first-rate Power’ is over in this world, I trust, forever.