HC Deb 07 April 1865 vol 178 cc890-1

said, in rising to ask the Question of which he had given notice, he would previously read a passage which occurred in the letter of The Times' correspondent on the previous day— So recently as the 11th of March, 1863, fifteen years after the ignominious collapse of Mr. Smith O'Brien's rebellion in the widow's cabbage-garden, it was stated in the official address of the Fenians 'that the Fenian Brotherhood was instituted some years previously as a secret society; that it had ceased to be secret; that its object was the invasion of Ireland by an armed force of at least 100,000 men; and that the Brotherhood had the secret countenance among others of W. II. Seward, the Secretary of State.' On the 6th of March, 1864, a report of the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Fenians at Chicago appeared in the Sunday Mercury, which circulates largely among the Irish in this city, which stated that 'the Committee had received letters of encouragement from hundreds of prominent men in the country, including the Postmaster General, Mr. Montgomery Blair, Secretary Seward, Governor Yates (of Illinois), Mr. Speaker Colfax (of the House of Representatives), Colonel Mulligan, and hundreds of officers in the army and navy of the United States.' On the 26th of December last a great meeting of the Fenians was held at Chicago, at which it was resolved, nem. con., that it was the duty of the American Government to declare immediate war against England,' and pledging the Chicago Circle of the Brotherhood to raise immediately 5,000 men, upon the sole condition of being ordered forward at the earliest possible moment and by the shortest route to meet the common enemy of Ireland and America. He would, therefore, ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the Foreign Office has received despatches or any information relative to statements lately published in this country to the effect that encouragement has been given by eminent political individuals in the United States to a confederacy of Fenians, designed to attack Canada, to invade Ireland, and to make war, when required, upon England?


said, in reply, that the attention of Her Majesty's Government had been called to meetings lately held by the Fenians in the United States, but there were only two facts mentioned which required official notice on the part of Her Majesty's Government. One was that a certain Colonel J. H. Gleason had obtained leave of absence from the Army of the Potomac for the purpose of attending a meeting; and the other was that the Attorney General of Louisiana was also present upon the same occasion, Mr. Seward's answer was that leave of absence had been granted to Colonel Gleason, though certainly not for the specific purpose of attending the meeting referred to. That officer simply obtained the leave of absence to which he was entitled. Mr. Seward further stated that the Attorney General of Louisiana was not responsible for his acts to the Government of the United States, but only to the particular State of which he was Attorney General.