A History of Nova Scotia Page


Book #3: TOC
The Road To Being Canada
(1815-1867)
Chapter 46, The Fenian Brotherhood

The Fenian Brotherhood1 was an organization which originated in Ireland around the year 1857. The objective of this organization was to promote, it seems by any means, Ireland's independence of the British union.2 The Fenians were soon to establish themselves in the United States, particularly just after the American Civil War (1861–1865). There were those, and not just the Fenians, who thought that with the north having been victorious and who had a massive army fresh from the fields of battle, the time had arrived to take Canada away from the British and make it American territory. As for the Fenians, they would be happy, on any occasion, to give the British difficulties.

James M. Cameron:

"This later group [the thousands of Irishmen who had been in the America Civil War], in theory at least, represented a potentially fertile recruiting ground for fighting men to carry out the Fenian plan. The plan was ill-conceived and poorly arranged, it was mis-managed, and in the end it was total a failure, but the plan in execution caused an anti-American influence in the Canadian and Maritime Provinces which united regionally diversified interests into a cohesive whole. The Fenian affair was a major cause in promoting pro-confederate opinion in the four provinces, and indeed New Brunswick's people accepted the Confederation pact very largely because of the emotional effect from the Fenian antics."3
The threat that most maritimers felt did not materialize other than "small groups of Fenians crossed the St. Croix into New Brunswick. Their stays were very brief ..." As it turned out the reports of "Fenian activity and strength were grossly exaggerated in the American press."4 In fact, the Fenians embarrassed the American administration; they were not interested in compromising America's relationship with Britain. Indeed, the American army was sent to the Maine/New Brunswick border to dissuade any of the Finians that were to be found there.

NEXT: [Chapter 47, The British North American Act]

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Peter Landry