Fenian Rising

  • Created by: GCHIS
  • Created on: 14-11-19 15:29

Establishing of the Fenians

  • 17th March 1858 James Stephens established the Irish Republic Brotherhood (informally known as the Fenians)
  • Different to previous nationalist organisations as was specifically dedicated to creating an Irish Republic rather than simply repealing the Act of Union
  • Mostly made up of working men rather than the mix seen in previous organisations
  • Actively in favour of aggressive methods
  • Members had to swear an oath of membership and were organised into small cells. They only knew their immediate group in orer to prevent infiltration from spies and ensure the integrity of the group


  • Know what they want, plan set out to stop infiltration, more organised, less likely to get shut down


  • Lack of funds due to proletarianism, limited in scale - small cells, hard to actually stage rebellion
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Strategy and Demands


  • To wait for a foreign war or global crisis to distract the British government from Ireland. The British woul dhave to deploy troops elsewhere and remove troops from Ireland (like the 1857 Indian Mutiny)
  • This shows a level of maturity from the Irish Nationalists, not seen before.
  • They were willing to bide their time rather than rush into a revolution they were not able to sustain(like 1848)


  • Fair rent - meaning rent control: for the first time in the United Kingdom, fair rent would be decided by land courts, and not by the landlords
  • Free sale - meaning a tenant could sell the interest in his holding to an incoming tenant without landlord interference
  • Fixity of tenure - meaning that a tenant could not be evicted if he had paid the rent

(UK prime minister Gladstone pushed for the land reform system, but didn't go far enough)

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Strengths and Weaknesses in the 1860s


  • The IRB could recruit effectively
  • In 1864 there were 80,000 members
  • Growth in support meant a better chance of success
  • Strong in 1864/5 because of support and leader James Stephens


  • James Stephens was arraested and left Ireland - no organisational skills meant no management
  • Not enough weapons for fighters/rebels
  • Didn't listen to General Francis Millen and favoured an open engagement, which didn't work and resulted in quick defeat
  • Some leaders eg Godfrey Massey turned themselves in as government informants, which mean that infiltration didn't work
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The Rebellion

  • March 1867 the IRB attempted a rebellion after James Stephens was arrested as part of a government crackdown on conspirators. He managed to escape but fled Ireland and was not a part of the attempt
  • Without Stephens' organisational skills, the rising was badly planned and badly managed, much like 1848
  • Division within the leadership
  • Lack of resources - in Dublin only 1,500 weapons including pikes
  • Stephens replacement - Genreal Francis Millen - proposed a guerrilla style war as a way of managing lack of resources. He was ignored by commanders who opted for open battle, which led to quick defeat
  • Some leaders eg American officer Godfrey Massey turned themselves in as government informants
  • By April 1867 over 200 IRB prisoners were taken into custory and order restored
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After the Rebellion

  • After the rebellion many IRB members were trying to avoid arrest
  • Two principle leaders Thomas Kelly and Timothy Deasy fled to Britain in hope of restarting the rebellino among the Irish communities there - Industrial revolution meant Irish were in Britain
  • 11th September 1867 they were arrested for vagrancy after being found sleeping in a park in Manchester
  • 18th September they were transferred to prison. There was an attempy to free them during which a Manchester police officer Sergeant Brett was shot and killed (he was the first Manchester police office killed in the line of duty)
  • The investigation which followed the shooting found many Irishmen in Manchester and they were targeted
  • 3 of those men were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging - William Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O'Brien
  • 23 November 1867 they were executed before a crowd of over 8,000
  • 2,500 police officers were there to prevent a rescues attempt
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The Manchester Martyrs

  • These executions were an attempy to satisfy public demand in Britain and from the Irish protestant classes
  • The government also hoped that taking such harsh action would deter future attempts at rebellion
  • In the event all they did was create martyrs to the Irish cause, which held balue as nationalist propagands. Also, their deaths encouraged a harder attitude towards Britain and created the impression that the British government always acted harshly
  • Created dead heroes - better than living heroes, they are angelic figures that can no do wrong. Living heroes can still make mistakes
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