James Connolly


Our Mad Rulers

(30 December 1899)

From The Workers’ Republic, 30 December 1899.
Transcribed by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh for Red Banner, No.20.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

It is said that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first drive mad. To judge by the events accompanying the visit of the Colonial Secretary to Dublin [1] we might conclude that the governing classes of these countries have indeed come under this sentence of the gods. For, except as the acts of madmen, the conduct of the authorities of the city of Dublin during that visit is entirely inexplicable to the ordinary mind. The visit of Mr Chamberlain was, of course, primarily intended as a political demonstration having for its purpose to annul the effect which the anti-war demonstrations in Ireland might have had upon the mind of the world. To the Irish people, certainly, the idea of regarding Trinity as a focus of national thought would seem in the last degree preposterous, but the information on Irish affairs possessed by other nations is not so precise as to preclude the possibility of an honour conferred by a university in our capital city being confounded with a welcome by the city itself.

That there was such a danger, we believe; that the holding of two large, but possibly unreported, meetings of protest would not completely obviate the danger we also believe; that such a danger was averted, and due emphasis given to the fact that the people of Dublin are not willing slaves to the British governing class, or pliant accomplices in the infamies of the pirate Empire, we owe to the madness which seized upon our rulers and led them to suppress the right of public meeting in Dublin, and let loose their uniformed bullies upon a defenceless people.

At a time when the British flag has been stricken down in Africa, when its drilled and disciplined soldiery are flying before the conquering hosts of a nation of farmers, when its ablest generals are foiled in strategy by men they had affected to despise, when all over the world the enemies of the British Empire are speculating as to the weakest point at which it may be attacked, then, in her hour of greatest danger, the powers that be in Ireland hasten to show to the world that here, within a few hours sail of the shores of England, is a nation bitterly hostile to her rule, and only kept down by superior force.

This, we repeat, was the act of madmen. It accentuated the weakness of England and the hypocrisy of her rulers. When the same men who go to war on the pretext of securing political freedom for the populations of other states ruthlessly suppress the most elementary rights of citizenship in a country under their own rule, the last shred of justification for their war policy is torn to atoms, and the war itself stands revealed in its proper colours as a criminal aggression upon a free people. So much has the government performed, so much let the people note. All the elaborate machinery of the British Constitution, all its pretended political freedom and rights of citizenship, are ever at the mercy of the governing class of England, who, with the force of the military and the police at their backs, respect nothing – except force. It is an awkward lesson to teach the Irish working class today. The Irish working class, we say, because in every popular tumult of late years the propertied class have, by their silence, acquiesced beforehand in the actions of the government.

When the government proceeds to stifle political freedom let it consider well its action and what may result therefrom. There are at present but few soldiers in Ireland; the militia and the last of the reserves are about to be called out and sent to the front. Now, if those Irish working men were of a reflective turn of mind, and were to consider that the British soldiers are not nearly such good shots as the Boers, that therefore there is not nearly so much danger of death in fighting the British Army as in fighting the Boer Army and finally were they to come to the conclusion that it would be a safer, more judicious, and altogether more honourable course to stay in Ireland and fight their tyrants at home instead of risking life and losing honour by fighting for their tyrants abroad, and were they to be encouraged in their resolve by observing from the proceedings which accompanied Mr Chamberlain’s visit that peaceful means of agitation have no effect; if, we repeat, those Irish working men were to follow that chain of reasoning then that force which tyrants do heed – the last resort of people as well as kings – might suddenly appear in Ireland.

And who knows?



1. Joseph Chamberlain visited the city on 17-18 December to accept an honorary degree from Trinity College. Police baton-charged protestors against the Boer war, arrested Connolly, and smashed The Workers’ Republic’s printing press, forcing the paper to miss an issue.


Last updated on 27.3.2005