The McManus funeral tended very much to increase the strength of the Fenian movement. Men from Leinster, Ulster, Munster and Connaught met in Dublin who never met each other before. They talked of the old cause, and of the national spirit in their respective provinces, and each went back to his home, strengthened for more vigorous work. England's eyes were somewhat opened too, to the increasing danger to her rule in Ireland, and shaped herself accordingly. In the policy of government she is not blind to what passes before her eyes; she knows how averse to the interests of her rule it is to allow the people to come together and understand each other, and hence, those many Convention or anti-Convention laws that she passed for Ireland in her day. In the days of the United Irishmen, secret committees of the Houses of Lords and Commons were appointed to make inquiries into the state of Ireland. A committee of the Lords sat in 1793 and a joint committee of the Lords and Commons sat in 1897. They summoned before them every one they thought could give information, and everyone who refused to answer their questions was sent to jail.
On the 17th of May 1797, the English governors at Dublin Castle issued a proclamation in which they said: "Whereas, within this Kingdom a seditious and traitorous conspiracy, by a number of persons syling themselves United Irishmen exists, they have planned means of open violence, and formed secret arrangement for raising, arming, and paying a disciplined force and in furtherance of their purposes, have frequently assembled in great and unusual numbers, under the colorable pretext of planting or digging potatoes, attending funerals and the like" etc. "And we do strictly forewarn persons from meeting in any unusual numbers, under the plausible or colorable pretext as aforesaid, or any other whatsoever."
So, that while James Stephens, for his side of the house, saw the good and necessity of bringing his chief men together at the McManus funeral, the other side of the house, with all the experience of government they have on record, were pretty well able to give a good guess at what it all meant.
Not that England doesn't know what the mass of the Irish people are always discontented, disaffected and rebellious - and have reasons to be so - but that they would be organised into a body actively preparing for fight is what strikes terror to her heart. The Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood were so preparing, secretly preparing, but circumstances connected with the necessity of receiving a promised or expected assistance from America - that was not received - which circumstances I will show further on - developed things so, that the organisation soon became as much a public one as a private one. We were assailed publicly in many ways and by many parties, and we had to defend ourselves publicly and thus show ourselves to our enemies as well as to our friends.
***A little more of this tomorrow.