THE POLITICAL AND INTERNATIONAL ASPECT OF FENIANISM.
[Fnom OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.]
New York, June 15, 1866.
THE Fenian movement towards Canada or anywhither no longer attracts public attention. The inferior officers arrested by the United States authorities near the border are held to bail in sums of from 2,000 to 5,000 dollars each, but twelve of them at Ogdensburgh, on the St. Lawrence, as the Court before which they would be tried was to be held in a few days, chose to remain in custody. Severe punishment of these men, the severe punishment which their offence deserves, can hardly be expected. The feeling which was developed in this country during the rebellion by the course of the British Government and the majority of the govern- ing classes, is as widely spread and as bitter as ever ; and the Canadian experience of the St. Alban's raiders was not adapted to make that part of the British Empire an exception in regard to those feelings. It was a consciousness of duty, of what pertained to the honour and dignity of this country, a feeling that two wrongs can never make one right, which alone led the Government to the prompt suppression of the Fenian attempt at invasion, and which caused all decent folk out of the ranks of the professional dema- gogues to approve and sustain the Government. It was no parti- cular feeling of friendship toward the British Government, no special wish to maintain the power and influence of that Govern- ment in Canada, no consciousness that we owed the Canadians themselves any return for good feeling or neighbourly conduct. In regard to this matter, as in regard to some others, the nation has shown itself like that noble matron of whom it was said,
"She could be just in spite of love, And cherished hates she dwelt above."
To this sense of the requirements of duty and honour there is of course to be added a lively perception of the injustice of waging war against Canada by way of redressing the wrongs of Ireland at the hands of the British Government, and the absurdity and hopelessness of the attempt in that quarter. And there is also to be taken into consideration a feeling in regard to the sort of Irish who enter the Fenian Brotherhood, which was well expressed by the New York Times a few days ago in an article upon this sub- ject, from which I make the following extract :— " The British authorities have not only kept thoroughly well advised as to every movement of these invaders, but they know precisely the estimate we put upon their lives. They know that most of them are heroes of the stamp of those who bravely led the retreat at Bull Run, who helped to make up the great army of bounty-jumpers, who, when they cease to be stipendiaries of the War Department, usually draw their rations from the Commissioners of Corrections, who are the curse of American society, and a perpetual social and political scourge upon the American people. If two or three thousand of these vagabonds get within the clutches of General Napier, let us beg of him not to spare them on our account. The more the merrier. They would be lying and stealing here, if they were not raiding there."
This you may be sure is the estimation in which the great mass of our people hold the Fenians. I have kept my ears open to the comments of all sorts and conditions of men, daring the last fortnight, and I have not heard from a single person a word in defence, or even in palliation, of the invasion of Canada, or a single expression of good wishes for the success of the Fenian movement. One man I did hear break out in a railway car, "I'm opposed to the course of the Times and some of the other papers in denouncing this Fenian invasion of Canada ; and what does the Government go to hindering them for?" "Hullo," thought I, "here's my man at last, a Yankee sympathizer with the Fenians !" "For I was hoping," he went on, "that about 180,000 of them fellows would get across and never come back,—damn 'em !" The speech provoked a laugh of assent, and that is the extent of the sympathy that I have heard expressed (in English without a brogue) with Fenianisra. The course of Mr. Roberts, who calls himself Presi- dent—of the Irish Republic, I suppose—in assuming the airs of a martyr, and declaring his determination to persist in holding his duty to Ireland above his duty to the country of which he is by his own choice and act a citizen, is spoken of with indignation and contempt when it is noticed at all. Even the Herald flouts his mock dignity, his fustian proclamations, and the absurd incon- sistency of his Irish-American position. What is an "Irish- American ?" But the very people who would more gladly see Mr. Roberts and General Sweeny lead 180,000 Fenians for good and all across the St. Lawrence, than poor, tormented Pharaoh and the Egyptians saw the Israelites start with Moses and Aaron for the Red Sea, will not demand, will hardly approve, a severe punish- ment of those whom they have felt reluctantly compelled to detain within their borders. If the Canadian authorities, instead of derid- ing, as it appears they have done, to postpone the trial of the captured Fenians until the excitement produced by their irruption subsides, had shot them to death upon the spot as fast as they were taken, there would not have been heard a word of remonstrance or condemnation on this side the border, except from the lips of
Fenians, members of Congress, and active politicians. And this not on account of the feeling towards the Fenians of which I have just spoken, and which, by the way, they have again justified by riotous, thieving, and savagely bloody acts on their return from the border, but because of the view that we north of the Potomac take of such invasions as Mr. Roberts ordered and Generals Sweeny and O'Neil led. When, fourteen or fifteen years ago, Lopez's expedition landed in Cuba, although it was composei in a large measure of our own countrymen, although Lopez was a native Cuban, and although the object of the expedition was the libera- tion of Cuba itself from Spanish rule, and not to get a seaport whence to send out privateers to destroy Spanish commerce, and when under these circumstances the Captain-General ordered numbers of our misguided countrymen to be shot, we weke shocked, but we could neither remonstrate nor condemn. I was in Cuba at the time, and know that a gentleman of this city who was recommended to the Captain-General Concha by Calderon de Is Baca, then Minister here from Spain, had an interview with Concha, just after the fusils.ding, upon that subject. Another band was expected to effect a landing within a day or two, and when the Captain-General, who had granted two pardons, and other favours to prisoners at the request of this very gentleman,
said that if a second party landed they should every man be shot, their countryman had not one word to say. What could he say ?
As the law is, how long is Canada safe from invasion ? Only so long as the Government of this country protects its borders by military force. Must we be ready to boot and saddle and pay the piper whenever Roberta and his rabble of Fenians choose, " free and enlightened American citizens" as they are, to perform, in his words, their paramount duty to Ireland ? Well, some people may say, then let the United States pass laws against such plotting as this of the Fenians. Yes, but such laws among nations are always reciprocal. I do not say that the United States would agree to pass such laws if Great Britain and France would do the same, but certainly the former would not do so unless the latter did. There is a feeling that although these Fenian leaders have broken our laws, the execution of those laws is for the benefit of a Govern- ment that has, to put it mildly, the least possible claim upon us to take strong measures for its protection ; and therefore there is a disposition, notwithstanding an entire lack of sympathy with or even respect for the Fenians, to let all punishment be inflicted on the other side of the border, or in the words of a coarse adage which is heard in the mouths of coarse people, to "let the British Government skin its own skunks."
To this disposition, however, a moment's consideration of what has just been said will show that it would be erroneous to attri- bute certain proceedings in the House on Tuesday last—proceed-
ings to which I cannot refer without shame. The course of the Government, considered merely in its international aspect, was
just and honourable, nothing more. To have done less would have been to fail to observe its manifest obligations, and not only so, but to maintain its own dignity. Yet, looked upon from our point of view, it was more ; it was a sacrifice of party interest to principle. At a time when President Johnson and his supporters needed every vote they could command to maintain them in their position, he deliberately offended a faction which, to our sorrow, holds, or nearly holds, the balance of power, and did this, in the people's eyes, to protect a Government which at this time is in this country the most unpopular Government of the civilized world. Even those who are most leniently disposed towards the Fenians, saw with satisfaction the Government take this independent position. There is no fear whatever that the Committee on Foreign Relations will bring in a Bill for the repeal of the Neutrality Laws, or a reso- lution recommending that the Fenians shall be regarded as belli- gerents. The men who took this step would not have dared to present themselves to the country in their present attitude before the Government had taken its decided measures. But now that
those measures have been taken, and there is not the slightest chance, as every one knows, that they will be rescinded, these men try to hedge and keep themselves in place and their party in power. They call this political tactic, and it is of a piece with all political manceuvring of a party kind that comes under our observation. Politicians say that such manceuvres are necessary to ensure party success, and in the fact that they are so, or are so regarded, may be found one of the reasons why men of character and cultivation in this country eschew politics. Is this because the politics are "American," and the Government a democracy ? Was he a democrat or an " American " (he was a pretty good Yankee) who
wrote these lines ?—
" Get thee glass eyes, And, like a scurvy politician, seem To see the things thou seest not."
Have politicians become so .very different in the New England from what the wisest of our race found them in the Old? After all, Democracy has not made us monsters ; we are yet human. We who are not politicians set down these men, who so misrepre- .sent us in Congress, as mere mousers after popularity among the Irish, and rest assured, though not content, that except a few votes they will take nothing by their motion. The feeling of the country was represented in Mr. Hale's resolution, which was shut out by the much abused previous question, but which he managed to get before the House after the other had been referred :—
"Resolved,—That the honour and good faith of the United States imperatively demand a just and vigorous enforcement of the Neutrality Laws, and that this House will entertain no proposition looking to their repeal, revision, or violation." A YANKEE.