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Two Fenian Oaths

Two Fenian Oaths

1858, 1859

The revolutionary organization that eventually became known as the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood or IrishRevolutionary Brotherhood) was set up by James Stephens in Dublin in March 1858. Its original oath (the first one below) clearly identified it as a secret society; its members were later called Fenians. The movement was barely set on foot when in 1859 some of its members in the town and district of Skibbereen in west Cork were arrested and tried for participating in a secret conspiracy. Though the authorities dealt with these culprits leniently, the leaders of the organization decided to adopt a new form of oath (the second one below) allowing the Fenians to argue that their society was not secret.

SEE ALSO Fenian Movement and the Irish Republican Brotherhood; Politics: 1800 to 1921—Challenges to the Union; Stephens, James

I, A.B., do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will do my utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to make Ireland an independent democratic republic; that I will yield implicit obedience, in all things not contrary to the law of God, to the commands of my superior officers; and that I shall preserve inviolable secrecy regarding all the transactions of this secret society that may be confided to me. So help me God! Amen.

I, A.B., in the presence of Almighty God, do solemnly swear allegiance to the Irish Republic, now virtually established; and that I will do my very utmost, at every risk, while life lasts, to defend its independence and integrity; and, finally, that I will yield implicit obedience in all things, not contrary to the laws of God, to the commands of my superior officers. So help me God! Amen.

John O'Leary, Recollections of Fenians and Fenianism, 2 vols. (1896), vol. 1, pp. 120, 121.

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