Events Leading Up to the Easter Rising and the Irish Rebellion of 1916
The most audacious and yet the most inspiring rebellion in modern history — that of a handful of Irish patriots to wrest control of Ireland from Great Britain and set up a Republic — astonished the world when launched in April, 1916.
Before it was finally suppressed by the British Army of Occupation, a third part of the city of Dublin had been destroyed by fire, and hundreds of lives immolated on the altar of liberty.
The provocation to rebellion was supplied by a conspiracy entered into by a small coterie of Scotch-Irish Tories in Ulster, then virtually in control of the British Government, to nullify two successive acts of Parliament granting Home Rule in Ireland; their treasonable action in permitting the Ulster Volunteers to retain their arms while disarming the Irish Volunteers in the south of Ireland, and finally their attempt to coerce the defrauded Irish majority into bearing arms in defense of Great Britain, with no assurance of freedom and justice as their reward.
The great majority of the Irish people, having despaired of achieving Home Rule by constitutional methods, in view of the perfidious policy of the British Tories and the immunity granted the Ulster Volunteers for their treasonable defiance of Great Britain, at last resolved to die bravely as rebels rather than be disarmed and conscripted into the British Army by a nation that had held them in subjection for 700 years.
Causes of the Rebellion
In the broad historical view, the Irish rebellion of 1916 was the ultimate protest of four-fifths of the people of Ireland against the further exploitation of a subjugated race by the rapacious Tories of Great Britain, coupled with the desire of this unconquered nation to realize their ideal of complete independence under a democratic form of government. The issue was complicated by the frenzied resistance of a small minority of the Scotch Irish, living in Ulster, who had sworn to defeat Home Rule, even if it were necessary to fight the British Empire in the effort
Just prior to the outbreak of the World War, and after the British Parliament had placed a Home Rule law upon the statute books, these fanatical Ulsterites organized an army of 100,000 volunteers, equipped with 50,000 rifles which they boasted had been supplied by Germany.
The Volunteers were drilled daily in various cities, defying the British authorities openly, but due to the extraordinary influence of Sir Edward Carson, Andrew Bonar Law, Lord Arthur Balfour and other Tories, they escaped punishment for their seditious acts and treasonable utterances. They were even rewarded for their treason, the leaders among the Ulsterites being vested for a time with the virtual control of the British Empire.
Ireland Once the " School House of Europe " In order to comprehend the Irish question imall its complex details it is necessary briefly to recall a part of the glorious early history of Ireland, from the days when the "Isle of Saints" was the school-house of Northern Europe, and its colleges and schools gave learning and light to the Irish missionaries who converted and civilized each in turn the painted savage Saxons of England, the Picts of Scotland, the Gauls of France and the Goths and Teutons of Germany.
Under the tutelage of the Druid priests, Ireland or Scotia, already had advanced to a state of culture far beyond that of the other inhabitants of the British Isles. With the conversion of pagan Ireland to Christianity by St. Patrick in the fifth century, a marvelous era of education began. Colleges, seminaries and schools sprang up like magic all over the island. St. Patrick himself founded 365 churches and schools, ordaining 450 bishops and thousands of priests. Missionary priests from Scotia (Ireland) journeyed to England and Pictland (Scotland), where the still savage Saxons and Picts were instructed in the rudiments of education and of religion.
From there the Irish priests crossed the channel into France and Germany, bringing the light of learning and of Christianity to the Gauls, the Goths and the Teutons. From the fifth to the seventh century, Ireland was famous as the cradle of education for Northern Europe. To Ireland were sent most of the princes and sons of the royal and noble houses of Europe to acquire an education. Here were the leading colleges, schools, teachers of Europe. A prince without an Irish education was a rarity. In general culture, too, Ireland naturally surpassed her neighbors of the British Isles, who were vastly slower in emerging from the stage of barbarism.
Ireland Comes Under the Saxon Heel
The Saxon heel was first implanted on the neck of Ireland in 1171, during the reign of Henry II, when the Earl of Pembroke, surnamed Strongbow, conquered the southern provinces and was acknowledged as sovereign by all the petty chiefs. It has been alleged, upon "evidence" found to be spurious, that King Henry II invaded Ireland with the authorization of Pope Adrian IV, himself an Englishman, for the ostensible purpose of bringing the "rebellious Irish" under "submission" to Rome.
In support of their contention, the Anglo- Saxons produced a document purporting to be a copy of the original decretal issued by Pope Adrian IV, authorizing the ignorant Saxon King to invade enlightened Ireland.
But inasmuch as the alleged decretal lacked the papal signature, and because a search of the Vatican archives has failed to reveal the original decretal, it is the unanimous opinion of impartial scholars and historians that the document in question is a brazen forgery.
If additional evidence were needed to refute the Saxon canard, which curiously persists to this day, it could be supplied by the plain inferences drawn from the English history of the period. Recollect that it was by instigation of this same King Henry II that the saintly Thomas a'Becket was foully murdered before his altar in the Cathedral of Canterbury. For that atrocious crime, King Henry II of England was excommunicated by Pope Adrian IV. Furthermore, the ban of excommunication was still in effect at the time the Saxons were subjugating Ireland.
Therefore, beyond all doubt, Henry II was an outcast from the Catholic Church and a bitter enemy of the reigning Pope, at the very time he is supposed to have been authorized by that Pope to invade Ireland and bring the loyal Irish Catholics under "submission" to Rome.
Surely it must affront the candid mind to be asked to give credence to the theory that an excommunicated King, his hands imbrued in the blood of a prince of the Church, and while still resting under the papal ban, was chosen as the instrument of the same Pope that cast him out of the fold, to visit chastisement on a race whose loyalty to that church has ever been proverbial.
Even if the absurd contention be allowed that the excommunicated King and murderer was in fact sent as a "missionary" into Ireland, still the Saxons are not justified in remaining longer in Ireland, for instead of bringing the Irish people under "submission to Rome," as they allege they were commissioned so to do, King Henry II and his successors ever since, have been ceaselessly though uselessly employed in undermining the faith of the Irish Catholics and separating them from Rome. In strict logic, therefore, since they not only have failed to carry out their alleged pact with Pope Adrian, but contrariwise have violated its express terms, the Saxons are no longer morally justified in remaining in Ireland.
Dispossessing the Irish
So IT appears that the Saxons, by brut force, succeeded in subjugating the greater part of Ireland some 750 years ago, and have held the Irish nation enslaved ever since. After the conquest, various attempts were made to plant colonies of English and Scots in Ireland, but without marked success until in 1608, the entire northern province of Ulster was confiscated and parceled out if lots of 1,000 to 2,000 acres each among a new set of alien colonists, composed chiefly of Scottish planters. In addition, large sections of the province were allotted to various London corporations and individuals
It was stipulated, as a condition of owner ship, that all those planters should belong to the Protestant faith, that they should follow English or Scottish customs, and should employ no Irish in any capacity. Then was ushered in the era of the terrible persecutions of the Irish by their alien masters continuing through the centuries.
Gradually the Irish recovered many of their civic rights. In 1783, when England was fighting the American colonies, the Irish were granted a Parliament and Ireland prospered amazingly, her ports being filled with ships and her commerce extending through the seven seas. But when England was once again out of danger, she contrived, by shame less bribery as Gladstone described it, to deprive the Irish of their Parliament and their liberties and Ireland in 1800 was united to England, without the consent of the people.
The Tories in England and in Ulster, after despoiling the Irish of their homes and acres have ever since kept the people in subjection, have done their utmost to fan the flames of religious animosity, have destroyed many of her industries and have laid upon the people the heavy burden of unjust taxation.
United Irishmen Organize
There was a large Protestant faction in Ireland, however, that united with the Catholics in their struggle for freedom. Among the earliest of the Protestant leaders were Thomas Addis Emmett, Wolf Tone and John Mitchell, who aimed at a reunion of all parties for the securing of the common rights of all Irishmen.
The movement to create a democracy in Ireland — "a government of the people, by the people and for the people" — was begun in 1790, when Theodore Wolf Tone, the Protestant secretary of a committee dedicated to the task of redressing Catholic grievances, founded the Society of United Irishmen. He designed to include all classes and all religions in the ranks of the new society whose immediate purpose was to reform the Parliament and effect the removal of religious grievances.
The Protestant people of Ulster, excepting the Tory leaders, joined hands with the Catholics of the South in this new effort to secure this liberty. The French Revolution was then in progress, and in 1796 the French Government agreed to aid the Irish rebels. Pursuant to this promise, a fleet of French ships, commanded by General Hoche, sailed from Brest with 15,000 men and 45,000 rifles, but was dispersed by a storm.
In July, 1797, a Dutch Army under De Winter set sail for Ireland pledged to render aid to the Irish rebels, but they were defeated by the British at Camperdown. Following this defeat, the Irish were disarmed, and a reign of terror ensued. There were wholesale arrests and many thousands of Irish patriots were sold into slavery in the West Indies. An English Army, numbering 110,000 men, occupied Ireland, using repressive measures to quench the ardor of the rebels. Nevertheless, a rebellion followed, led by Wolf Tone, but this was quickly suppressed. Tone committed suicide in prison.
Emmett and O'Connell
IN 1803, Dr. Robert Emmett led the Irish in another revolt, but this, too, was suppressed and Emmett was hanged. Daniel O'Connell, a brilliant young lawyer, elected to Parliament in 1828, gradually wrung from the British certain concessions, but failed in his efforts to repeal the act of Union. At the height of his parliamentary career, the dreadful famine of 1846-47 occurred, when half the population of Ireland perished or emigrated to America. An uprising of the Young Irishmen took place in 1848, but this also proved abortive.
The Fenian Movement
The next struggle for independence for Ireland was better known as the Fenians' uprising. Many officers and soldiers of the British Army secretly joined this organization, and after our Civil War, thousands of American soldiers of Irish ancestry also united with the movement. The Fenian threat won many concessions for Ireland, but as a momentous force Fenianism was practically shattered in 1867, following an unsuccessful invasion of Canada by the American branch of the order.
The Home Rule Movement
A "Home Rule" movement was launched in 1870, by a group of business and professional men in Dublin, who agitated for an assembly in Ireland subservient to the Parliament of Great Britain. Nine years later the Land League was organized by Michael Davitt, having for its object the restoration of Irish farm land to the Irish people and the destruction of alien landlordism. These two movements were merged under the leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell.
Two Home Rule bills were introduced by Gladstone in 1886. The first was defeated by a narrow majority in the House of Commons, the second was passed by the House of Commons, but was vetoed by the House of Lords in 1893. Meanwhile, land reforms had been won. In 1881 the Irish tenants' Charter of Freedom was granted, guaranteeing the Irish farmer the ownership of all the improvements he made on his farm. Land courts were established to fix fair rents for farms and a limited scheme of land purchase was also put in operation.
The Land Purchase Bill
Reaction came with the defeat of the second Home Rule Bill. Parnell was dead; there was a split in the parliamentary party, and the cause of Irish self-government ceased to be a living issue in the House of Commons. But the drive toward the ownership of the land still continued. At length, in 1903, a conservative British Government passed the Land Purchase Bill, enabling the tenant farmers of Ireland to purchase their farms on a plan of installment payments, extending1 over a long term of years. Under the operation of this act, much of the land of Ireland has passed to the tenants.
A system of local government was also set up in Ireland through popularly elected County and District Councils. The Congested District's Board was created to assist the people in the most impoverished districts of the West and South. In 1900 the Department of Agriculture and Industries was organized. Finally, in 1909, a national university was established in Dublin.
Birth of the Sinn Fein Movement
In 1893 a new movement was launched in Ireland by the intellectual leaders of the race, whose earliest spokesman was Dr. Douglas Hyde, a Protestant, who urged the restoration of the Gaelic language and the reconstruction of Irish life. "Ireland for the Irish" was their motto. Conceiving themselves as "nation builders," they urged the necessity for de-Anglicising Ireland. While the people were waiting for some form of self-government, everything vital and distinctive in Ireland's intellectual and spiritual life was being corrupted or destroyed. "You cannot make a nation of half-and-half," they declared. "Where people are half Irish and half English, there is only a province, not a nation. Make them wholly Irish—in speech, in thought, in mental direction, and then you will have a nation with a worthy civilization."
A real movement for the development of a national culture began. The revival of Irish industries first was inaugurated. On the intellectual plane, the movement signalized itself by a creative effort that aroused interest in Europe and America. There was a new outburst of Irish literature in the English language, in which W. B. Yeats, George Russell and Standish O'Grady took a leading part.
The Irish parliamentary party in the British House of Commons, meanwhile, had been reunited under the leadership of John Redmond, but against the power of the English Tories it could work but little headway. The young intellectuals, numbering many college professors, physicians, editors and other professional men, contended that Irish emancipation could not be gained by the agitations of an Irish Party in the British Parliament. Rather should Irishmen insist upon the withdrawal of their representatives from Parliament, and strive to govern Ireland through a provisional government.
Nationalists, they argued, should resort to arbitration courts and not to law courts established by British authority. Agricultural cooperation should be developed so that Ireland might become independent economically. In brief the policy was "Ireland for the Irish," with every Irish Nationalist working for national protection. The Gaelic phrase, "Sinn Fein," ("Ourselves") with its insistence upon Irish initiative and self-reliance, independent of English control, became the slogan of the movement.
England Promises Home Rule
An English liberal party meantime had gained the ascendancy and a measure of self-government was offered to Ireland, but this was rejected because of the inadequacy of its administrative and financial proposals. A genuine Home Rule Bill was then introduced and circumstances seemed favorable to its passage. To a greater extent than at any time in her history, England had been liberalized and democratized. Unfortunately, the Tory party, represented by the decadent House of Lords and a small but powerful coterie of office holders and manufacturers in Ulster, fought the proposal as inimical to their business interests in Ireland. Yet at that very time, in the nine counties of Ulster, the Home Rulers had a majority of one in the Parliamentary representation.
The English Lords encouraged the minority among the Ulster Irishmen in their opposition to Home Rule. The threat was made that, on passage of the Home Rule bill, a provisional government would be set up in Ulster and civil war follow. To give reality to this threat, a body of Ulster Volunteers was organized in 1913 and armed under the inspiration of Sir Edward Carson. Openly defying the British Government they broke forth in treasonable speeches, declaring that if the British Parliament should pass a Home Rule Bill they would resist its operation by force of arms.
Leading Tories like A. Bonar Law, Lord Arthur Balfour, Sir Frederick Smith and several British generals promised the Ulster forces support and immunity in event of their rebellion. The arms used by this band of traitors were supplied from Germany. In this emergency, Edmond MacNeill, professor of history in the National University, urged the formation of a body of Irish Volunteers to safeguard the constitution that represented the will of the democracy of Great Britain and Ireland, as expressed by the British Parliament. The Irish Volunteers was organized in November, 1913, at a public meeting in Dublin. Previously an "Irish Citizens Army" had been organized in the South of Ireland.
The Tory party in England, which had encouraged the Ulsterites to arm themselves, now placed an embargo on all arms, making it difficult for the Irish Volunteers to prepare themselves for the civil war that seemed to be impending. Meanwhile the Ulster Volunteers were holding daily drills in and about Belfast, and yelling defiance at the British Government without molestation.
The "Curragh Camp Mutiny"
IN March, 1914, a group of British military officers, headed by General Sir John French, declared that if sent to disarm these Ulster Volunteers who were uttering treason against Britain, they would disobey orders. This "Curragh Camp Mutiny," as it was called, resulted in bringing thousands of recruits into the ranks of the Irish Volunteers. These Volunteers stood for the constitutional idea, that any measure passed by the Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland, representing the will of the British and Irish nations, must become law and operative.
Furthermore, they held that there should be no partition of Ireland, that no part of Ulster should be erected into a non-Irish state, but that there should be one Irish state only and with a single executive.
The "Bachelor's Walk" Massacre
Another crisis came in June, 1914. The Ulster Volunteers had smuggled a cargo of arms into Larne, a northern seaport, and the British Government made no attempt at interference. But when, a month later, the Irish Volunteers in the South landed a cargo of rifles at Howth, and were conveying the arms to Dublin by automobile transport, a force of British soldiers demanded the arms but were refused, nor did the soldiers attempt to seize them.
As the soldiers were marching through the streets of Dublin they were hooted by hoodlums, and some stones were thrown at them at a place called "Bachelor's Walk." The troops opened fire on the crowd, killing several men and women. This massacre aroused passionate resentment throughout Ireland, and accounted for the subsequent loss of accord between the Irish people and their Parliamentary representatives, the determination of the Irish Volunteers to hold their arms at all costs and the production of a state of alarm and exasperation amongst the people.
The Tories Again Show Their Hands
Ireland was therefore swept into the World War with a memory of citizens killed by British soldiers and a sense of unfair discrimination between Nationalist and Ulster Volunteers. Yet when John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary forces, made a speech in the House of Commons, proffering Ireland's full support to the Allies, the nation applauded his act. It was promised and believed that England would at least render tardy justice to Ireland. But to the dismay of the Irish Nationalists, the anti-national propaganda was kept up in England. Lord Arthur Balfour, a Scot, insistently demanded that the Home Rule Bill be dropped at once.
A. Bonar Law, another Scot, made vehement speeches against the Home Rule Bill. John Redmond, meanwhile, had offered the services of the Irish Volunteers to the British Government as a defence force on condition that they were equipped and kept within the country. But the English Tories, while willing to arm the Ulster Volunteers, refused permission to the Irish Volunteers. Mr. Redmond then asked that all Irish regíments fighting England's battles be allowed to display their national colors, but this request was also refused.
Home Rule Bill Held Up
On September 20, 1914, the British Parliament enacted the Irish Home Rule Bill, but the measure was not to be put into effect until an amending bill had been passed. The Tories had proposed that the Ulster Unionists collaborate in the framing of the bill of amendments. John Redmond at once began a tour through Ireland urging the Volunteers to enlist. They reminded him that their chief concern was the putting in effect a Home Rule measure, and until that had been done their place was in Ireland and not in Europe fighting to save tyrannous Britain.
A split occurred in the ranks of the Volunteers. The great majority, standing behind Mr. Redmond, became known as the National Volunteers. Some 10,000 or more rallied around Prof. MacNeill, calling themselves the Irish Volunteers. Apart from these divided forces there was a Citizen's Army, with its own leaders. Thus there were three centers of militant opposition.
Coalition Cabinet Formed
A new crisis presently occurred. The government that had passed the Home Rule measure was voted out of office and a coalition cabinet took its place, with Lord Arthur Balfour, Sir Edward Carson and A. Bonar Law, all three of them abettors of treason in the recent Ulster uprising, at the helm of state.
The Irish Volunteers now felt that the cause of Irish liberty had been betrayed, for Balfour had been a lifelong opponent of Home Rule, while Bonar Law had declared in a speech at Dublin in November, 1913: "I have said on behalf of the party that if the Government attempts to coerce Ulster before they have received the sanction of the electors, Ulster will do well to resist them and we will support resistance to the end." Sir Edward Carson, the Chief of the General Staff of the forces opposed to Home Rule, had taken an oath to resist the establishment of a Home Rule Government, and Irish Nationalists felt that he would not have taken office unless he had obtained some assurance that the Home Rule Bill would not be made operative in his time.
Conscription and Wholesale Arrests
Ireland was now in a state of great alarm. Parliament had passed a conscription bill applicable to England and efforts were being made to extend the provisions of the act to cover Irish enlistments. Wholesale arrests for trivial offences were being made. The emigration of Irish people to America was forbidden. The burden of taxation had continuously increased and was well nigh insupportable. It was rumored that the food supply of Ireland was to be seized and sent to Europe, leaving the Irish to face the horrors of famine. In this crisis, the National Volunteers went over in droves to the Irish Volunteers, resolved to defend their homes with their lives. Public meetings were held all over Ireland to protest against overtaxation and the deportation of arrested men. On April 19th, a document was read to the Dublin Corporation in which it appeared that the leaders of the Irish Volunteers, Citizen Army, Sinn Fein Council and Gaelic League, together with other persons, were to be placed under arrest and certain buildings occupied on an order from the military commander. Fearing the suppression of their long struggle for independence, the Irish patriots decided upon an uprising. A parade was arranged that would be the prelude to an insurrection.
Vote Against Insurrection
There were left to the Irish patriots three courses of action : they had first, the option of disbanding voluntarily and giving up their arms, thereby facing the certainty of being conscripted into the British Army; secondly, they could submit to being disarmed by order of the British Government with a like result; or, finally, they could fight for freedom on their own soil. Only three weeks before, at a secret meeting of the Revolutionists held in Dublin, a resolution in favor of immediate insurrection was defeated by a single vote, cast by the chairman, Prof. Edmond MacNeill.
But since that meeting, the situation in Ireland had reached a crisis. Under the Defense of the Realms Act, Irishmen were being deported in great numbers without being allowed to offer a defense, while other men and women were arrested and kept in jail without trial. Meanwhile, positive information had reached the Revolutionists of the intention of the British Government to disarm the Irish Volunteers, while permitting Redmond's National Volunteers and Carson's traitorous Ulster Volunteers to retain their arms.
Warning Against Conscription
The Revolutionists thereupon issued a proclamation, warning the Government that the Volunteers "cannot submit to be disarmed, and that the raiding for arms and the attempted arming of men, therefore, in the natural course of things, can only be met by resistance and bloodshed." The Government met this situation by seizing a number of liberal Irish newspapers. Coincidently, John Redmond, in a speech in Galway, affirmed that unless Ireland enlisted at least 1,000 men weekly, the Government would repudiate its Home Rule agreement.
At the same time a proposal was made that Ireland should be taxed to pay one-sixth of the expenses of the War. A storm of protests greeted this proposal from all parts of Ireland. Even the Dublin Corporation adopted a resolution declaring that the Council "viewed with alarm the proposed enormous increase in taxation as contrary to both the Act of Union and the Home Rule Act."
German Ship, Bringing 20,000 Rifles, is Sunk
The Revolutionists meanwhile, following the lead of the Ulsterites, had been negotiating with Germany for a supply of arms. The vessel Aud was chartered for the purpose, and was loaded with 20,000 rifles, 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition and 15 machine guns. Flying a neutral flag and disguised as a merchant vessel, the Aud left Germany on April 12, 1916, bound for Ireland. Accompanying the Aud was a German submarine, in which Sir Roger Casement, Captain Robert Monteith and Private Daniel Bailey had taken passage. The submarine, however, put in at Heligoland for repairs, which kept her there several days, while the Aud continued on her way through the British blockade.
On the third day a British destroyer hove in sight and fired a shot at the Aud to compel her to heave to, but night had fallen and the German boat escaped in the darkness. A day later, the German boat passed a British submarine but went by unchallenged. On the evening of April 19, 1916, the Aud arrived off the Kerry coast of Ireland, her destination, and awaited the coming of dawn. Early the next morning, a British cruiser suddenly appeared and fired a shell over the Aud. Seeing that capture was inevitable, and preferring to sink his vessel, the commander raised the German flag to the masthead and ordered the vessel blown up. With a thunderous rumble, followed by a sheet of flame, the Aud sank with all her crew, carrying with her the hopes of the Irish Revolutionists.
Sir Roger Casement's Arrest
Late the same night the submarine carrying Sir Roger Casement and his two companions was lying submerged a mile off the Kerry coast. On Friday, April 21, 1916, having approached as close to shore as she could, a collapsible boat was let down from her side and Sir Roger's party rowed ashore. The landing was observed by a fisherman named John McCarthy, who sent word to the police. Meanwhile Sir Roger and his companions had proceeded inland three miles to a cottage, where they were met by a committee of Revolutionists. To them Casement intrusted a message to Professor Edmond MacNeill, the Revolutionaiy leader, advising him that no help need be expected from Germany and urging him, for the sake of Ireland, to prevent any uprising at this time. Casement was arrested an hour later.
The Call to Arms
The Irish Volunteers, meantime, upon learning that arrangements had been made to disarm them, had resolved upon an uprising to take place on Easter Monday. The call had already been issued before Casement's arrest. In general, the plans called for simultaneous uprisings throughout Ireland. In Dublin, where the British troops were quartered, it was expected there would be difficulties encountered, but in most of the country districts, which were defended only by small bands of soldiers, the seizure of the towns was confidently expected. After capturing the country towns, the Revolutionists were expected to march to Dublin and oppose their united forces to the British Army.
The Fatal Countermand
The carefully laid plans of the Revolutionists were upset by the action of Professor Edmond MacNeill of Dublin University, a leader of the Volunteers from the beginning and the pilot who had steered the organization through some very stormy seas. Upon receipt of Sir Roger Casement's message, begging him to prevent an uprising, Professor MacNeill resolved to countermand the orders issued from headquarters calling the Volunteers to arms on Easter Monday. He knew that all plans had been made for revolution, that everything was in readiness and that the Volunteers were to declare an Irish Republic within 48 hours. To be effective, an order calling off the Easter "maneuvers" had been inserted in the newspapers of the following day. A hurried call was issued to members of the Volunteer Committee and late that evening a conference was held in the house of Professor MacNeill.
At the same time another conference was called of those who had drawn up the Irish Declaration of Independence, and who were determined to fight at all hazards, even with their bare hands. The conference at MacNeill's house broke up early Saturday morning without reaching a decision. Nevertheless, the last edition of the Dublin Evening Herald of Saturday contained a notice, signed "MacNeill, Chief of Staff," countermanding the orders for the "maneuvers." At the same time, to make assurance doubly sure, telegraphic messages were sent broadcast to every parish priest in Ireland, asking them to make similar announcements in their pulpits.
This was the fatal act that broke the back of the Irish Rebellion. As we shall see later, when the Dublin uprising occurred, the "maneuvers" were not being held in the country at large and the suppression of the incipient revolt was made easily possible.
In an effort to thwart informers and, indeed, the Volunteers' own leadership, Pearse issued orders in early April for three days of "parades and manoeuvres" by the Volunteers for Easter Sunday (which he had the authority to do, as Director of Organization). The idea was that the republicans within the organization (particularly IRB members) would know exactly what this meant, while men such as MacNeill and the British authorities in Dublin Castle would take it at face value. However, MacNeill got wind of what was afoot and threatened to "do everything possible short of phoning Dublin Castle" to prevent the rising.