International Working Men’s Association

The Minute Book of the General Council
November 1867

Council Meeting
November 5

[The Minutes are in Eccarius’s hand on pp. 117-20 of the Minute Book]

Citizen Shaw in the chair.

The Minutes of the previous meeting were read and confirmed.

It was agreed to have a thousand copies of [the] Rules printed.

The Secretary was instructed to have the bill sent by Mr. George Potter, charging for more than double the number of Bee-Hives received, rectified.


A letter was read from Locle apologising for the delay caused in printing the Congress reports. It stated that the resolutions were ready and should be sent.

The Geneva papers had stated that the Council of the Reform League had passed a resolution in favour of Fenianism and that the government had commenced a prosecution against its authors.[226]

The college authorities of Locle had fallen out with Professor Guillaume; he [is] in danger of losing his place.

Lyons. The old branch had divided itself into two. The one party was in favour of taking an active part in political affairs, the other was of a different opinion. The writer considered Schettel a good soldier but not a general. Palix is secretary of the new branch. A third branch has formed itself at Lyons under the title of Independent Group. It desires to correspond directly with the Council and requires [the] Rules. They will send their contributions together with the other branches.

Rouen. A letter [was read] announcing that 60 new members had been admitted.

Marseilles. A letter [w as read] announcing a satisfactory increase, and the establishment of a bureau at Marseilles. Vasseur has been attacked by the clerical journals since his return from the Congress. Will send their contributions on the last day of the year.

Geneva. The Carpenters’ Society has amalgamated its benefit fund with the International Association, the same as the joiners. The plasterers have amalgamated their fund in like manner.

Chaux-de-Fonds. More groups of co-operative watchmakers have been formed under the auspices of the Association. Also a society of mainspring-makers. They will all pay contributions to the General Council.

The title of the third Lyonnese group gave rise to some conversation.

Citizen Jung was instructed to advise the adoption of a more neutral title.

Citizen Fox announced his intention to resign his American secretaryship to free his relation with the Bee-Hive. Had the Council possessed funds to pay him for his trouble it would have been better that his articles should have come from the Association. But as the Council could not pay, he must do it in the service of the Bee-Hive. He had some Council members on his side; his aim was to widen the platform of the Bee-Hive, and [he] must disregard the majority of the Council if it should be against him.

Citizen Jung said it was anything but handsome on Fox’s part to have availed himself of his position as American Secretary to obtain information and enter into relations and now to tell the Council: You are too poor to pay me, I go to the Bee-Hive.

Citizen Marx said we ought to have used more precaution in the first instance. We ought to have entered into an agreement about our reports. They now appeared inside amongst the miscellaneous news. Fox had only been attacked about one passage in the American Congress report. There was no other fault committed. We had nothing to do with Fox’s articles unless he wrote against us.

Citizen Shaw had never heard anybody blame Fox for writing for the Bee-Hive except the Congress report already mentioned which had done the Association some injury. Had the Council asked the Bee-Hive directors whether they would pay us for our reports, they might have done so. He was sorry for what had taken place.

Citizen Fox gave notice of the following motion:

That this Council directs its American Secretary to correspond with Mr. J. C. Wholly, President of the National Labour Union, Washington D.C., and to send him the weekly Bee-Hive, the bi-monthly Manchester Cooperator, and monthly Industrial Partnership Record, praying him in return therefor to send the Chicago Workingman’s Advocate and, any other working-class journals which are of a nature to give the General Council the information which it desires to have concerning the working-class cause in America.

The Council then adjourned.

Members present: Buckley, Dupont, Eccarius, Fox, Howell, Jung, Lessner, Mrs. Law, Marx, Maurice, Shaw, Stepney.


Council Meeting
November 12

[The Minutes are in Eccarius’s hand on p. 120 of the Minute Book]

Citizen Shaw in the chair.

The Minutes of the last meeting were read and confirmed.

The Secretary [Eccarius] read a letter from Mr. George Potter concerning the number of Bee-Hives, of the 14th and 21st of September, sent to the office of the Association.

The matter was left in the hands of the Secretary to deal with.

Fox’s letter. A long letter was read from P. Fox reaffirming his resignation as American Secretary and making some charges against the conduct of the chairman of the last meeting, the silent endorsement of the said conduct on the part of the Council members, and repudiating the statements made by Citizen Jung at that meeting.

Citizen Jung said that he had told Citizen Fox to his face what he had considered wrong and he ought to have replied then.

The members present were of opinion that what had taken place at the last meeting did not justify such a letter as that sent by Citizen Fox.

It was agreed to refer the matter to the Standing Committee.[227]

Citizen Jung stated that the working men of Geneva had held a mass meeting and adopted an address to the Italians calling upon them to rise en masse. A concert had also been given for :he benefit of the Garibaldi fund.[228]

The engravers of Geneva were announced to be on strike.

Several professors were making arrangements for the establishment of a free school in connection with the Association, where mathematics, geometry, and book-keeping should be taught.

Citizen Morgan proposed Mad. Huleck as a member of the Council.

Citizen Jung proposed and Citizen Lessner seconded that the Fenian question be discussed on Tuesday, November 19. Unanimously carried.[229]

Members present: Buckley, Dupont, Eccarius, Jung, Lafargue, Lessner, Maurice, Morgan, Shaw.

The first copy of the Congress Minutes[230] was received. Also three papers from Mr. Jessup in America: the Work[ing]man[’s] Advocate, Chicago, the Welcome Workman, Philadelphia, and the Pittsburgh Weekly Advocate.

Read and adopted on December 17.

H. Jung
G. Eccarius

Meeting of the Council and Members and Friends of The Association,
November 19

[The Minutes are in Eccarius’s hand on pp. 121-22 of the Minute Book]

Citizen Weston was unanimously elected to take the chair.

The Secretary [Eccarius] read the resolution from the Minutes of the previous Council meeting, fixing the order of the day for the 19th, lit] being the discussion of the Fenian question.

The Chairman said: I think the Council has acted wisely in determining the discussion of this question at this time, and I have no doubt that it will receive the attention it merits.

He then called upon Citizen Jung to open the discussion.

[Here a newspaper clipping is pasted into the Minute Book]

Mr. Jung said: When I proposed that this question should be discussed I thought an expression of opinion on the part of the Council of this Association was desirable. I am no abettor of physical force movement, but the Irish have no other means to make an impression. Many people seem to be frightened at the term “physical force” in this country, yet even English agitations are not free from its influence. The Reform League has accomplished much by way of moral force, but it was only under a threat that physical force might be resorted to on the occasion of the Hyde Park meetings[231] that the Government gave way. I should be sorry to find the working men of this country go wrong upon this question. They have been right upon every other. The Irish require more than simple reform. Some endeavours have been made to divert the attention of the work-people of this country with regard to the Fenians. While they are denounced as murderers, Garibaldi is held up as a great patriot; and have no lives been sacrificed in Garibaldi’s movement? The Irish have the same right to revolt as the Italians, and the Italians have not exhibited greater courage than the Irish. I may not agree with the particular way in which the Irish manifest their resistance, but they deserve to be free. (Loud cheers.)

Mr. Lessner said: Our Association is not confined to any particular nationality; we are of all nations, and the Irish question concerns us as much as any other. In the course of twenty years the Irish population has dwindled down from eight millions to five and a half millions, and this decline is in consequence of the British rule. No country can be prosperous with a declining population. Ireland declines at a rapid rate, and the Irish have a right to revolt against those who drive them out of their country; the English would do the same if any foreign power oppressed them in a similar manner. (Cheers.)

Mr. Dupont: The Council would be wanting in its duty if it remained indifferent to the Irish cause. What is Fenianism? Is it a sect or a party whose principles are opposed to ours? Certainly not. Fenianism is the vindication by an oppressed people of its right to social and political existence. The Fenian declarations leave no room for doubt in this respect. They affirm the republican form of government, liberty of conscience, no State religion, the produce of labour to the labourer, and the possession of the soil to the people. What people could abjure such principles? Only blindness and bad faith can support the contrary. We hear that those whom the English law is going to strike down for their devotedness to such a cause are exclaiming: “We are proud to die for our country and for republican principles.” Let us see of what value the reproaches are that are addressed to the Fenians by the English would-be liberators. Fenianism is not altogether wrong, they say, but why not employ the legal means of meetings and demonstrations by the aid of which we have gained our Reform Bill? I avow that it is hardly possible to restrain one’s indignation at hearing such arguments. What is the use of talking of legal means to a people reduced to the lowest state of misery from century to century by English oppression — to people who emigrate by thousands, to obtain bread, from all parts of the country? Is not this Irish emigration to America by millions the most eloquent legal protest? Having destroyed all — life and liberty — be not surprised that nothing should be found but hatred to the oppressor. Is it well for the English to talk of legality and justice to those who on the slightest suspicion of Fenianism are arrested and incarcerated, and subjected to physical and mental tortures[232] which leave the cruelties of King Bomba, [Ferdinand II] of whom the would-be liberators talked so much, far behind? A citizen of Manchester, whose domicile was invaded by constables, asked one of them to show his warrant. “Here is my warrant,” he replied, drawing a pistol from his pocket. This shows the conduct of the English Government towards the Irish. Without having right on their side, such conduct is enough to provoke and justify resistance. The English working men who blame the Fenians commit more than a fault, for the cause of both peoples is the same; they have the same enemy to defeat the territorial aristocracy and the capitalists. (Cheers.)

Mr. Morgan thought it was rather unfortunate that the Irish had chosen the name of Fenians, which many Englishmen considered synonymous with all that is bad. Had they simply called themselves Republicans, they would have shut up at once all those Englishmen who profess to be in favour of Republicanism. Englishmen as a rule did not look as favourably upon things in their own country as in other countries. They applauded insurrection abroad, but denounced it in Ireland. Deeds that would be considered as heroism if committed in France, in Italy, or in Poland, would be stigmatised as crimes in Ireland. The Irish had every reason to have recourse to physical force. Moral suasion had never been used towards them by the British Government; it had always applied to the robe and the musket. The English ought at least to look as favourably upon the Irish as upon the Italians. Were they treated in the same manner by a foreign power they would revolt sooner than the Irish. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. Lucraft said the question was not whether the Irish were justified in using physical force, but whether they could do any good by it. He thought they could not. He thought it rather strange that the Irish of London, for instance, had not made common cause with the English and Scotch in the reform agitation.

Mr. Weston thought the word Fenianism meant the heat produced by centuries of oppression, and the hatred engendered by it, which could not be cured by the concessions of reform which the English demanded for themselves. A government that had trampled upon the rights of a people could never be reached by moral suasion, but by physical force resistance. In England there was no need of bludgeons, but in Ireland moral force had not [had) fair play. The rescue of the Fenian prisoners at Manchester was an exact duplicate affair of the rescue that was now attempted by the British Government of the prisoners held in Abyssinia.[233] If killing was murder to rescue prisoners in Manchester, it was murder in Abyssinia; if it was wrong in one place it was wrong in the other. The crime of starving the Irish was far greater than the accidental killing of one man in trying to rescue the Fenian prisoners. He did not believe in the justice of the law. The laws were made and administered by hostile partisans, and there was a possibility of finding an innocent man guilty. He thought Ireland had been governed with more heartlessness than any other country, and he was glad that the Irish question had come uppermost. The democracy of the sister kingdoms must take the matter up and redress the wrong. (Loud cheers.)

Mr. William Parks said that the Irish in Ireland, in America, and in England were all of one opinion, they wanted Ireland for the Irish, and to govern themselves.

Citizen Jayet argued in a speech of some length that physical force resistance was a bounden duty for every people who was oppressed by tyrants, were they of home or foreign origin, and showed that this was laid down as a maxim in the constitution of the French Convention, of which Robespierre had been a leading member. [Jayet’s speech is recorded in handwriting]

Upon the proposition of Dr. Marx, the discussion was adjourned to Tuesday next. [The Standing Committee was instructed to draw up a memorial to the Home Secretary on behalf of the Fenian prisoners now under sentence of death at Manchester] [The newspaper clipping ends here]

Upon the proposition of Citizen Lucraft, it was agreed after some discussion, and the Standing Committee with the chairman of the meeting were instructed, to draw up a memorial to the Home Secretary concerning the Fenian prisoners under sentence of death at Manchester and present it to a special meeting of the Council for adoption on Wednesday, November 20.


Special Meeting
November 20. at the Office 16, Castle St., East W.

[The Minutes are in Eccarius’s hand on pp. 122-23 of the Minute Book]

Citizen Weston in the chair.

The following memorial proposed by the Standing Committee was unanimously adopted:

Memorial of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association[234]

To the Right Hon. Gathorne-Hardy, her Majesty’s Secretary of State.

The memorial of the undersigned, representing working men’s associations in all parts of Europe, showeth:

That the execution of the Irish prisoners condemned to death at Manchester will greatly impair the moral influence of England upon the European Continent. The execution of the four prisoners resting upon the same evidence and the same verdict which, by the free pardon of Maguire, have been officially declared, the one false, the other erroneous, will bear the stamp not of a judicial act, but of political revenge. But even if the verdict of the Manchester jury and the evidence it rests upon had not been tainted by the British Government itself, the latter would now have to choose between the blood-handed practices of old Europe and the magnanimous humanity of the young Transatlantic Republic.

The commutation of the sentence for which we pray will be an act not only of justice, but of political wisdom.

By order of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association,

Secretary for America
J. George Eccarius, Hon. Gen. Secretary

Citizen R. Shaw was appointed unanimously as American Secretary.

Members present: Eccarius, Dupont, Jung, Lafargue, Marx, Maurice, Shaw, Weston, Lessner.

H. Jung, Chairman
J. George Eccarius, Secretary

Read and adopted December 17.

Council Meeting
November 26

[The Minutes are in Eccarius’s hand on pp. 124-25 of the Minute Book]

Citizen Shaw in the chair.

Resumption of the debate on the Fenian question.

Citizen Marx stated that he would give up his parole in favour of Citizen Fox.

Citizen Fox, in [a] long speech, stated that the Irish under the leadership of D. O’Connell had been the originators of moral force agitation, but that the English Government had forced them to change their tactics; that in consequence of the absence of political life in this country, Fenianism had drifted into open hostility towards England; that Fenianism was the vindication of the Irish nationality in the face of the English, and that the Irish oligarchy, unlike the aristocracies of other countries, was anti-national. That the unsettled state of Ireland was a constant danger to the relations between England and America, and that Irish influence in the States was prejudicial to the British working men who emigrated to America, and that the Irish question also prevented England from taking her proper stand upon the Polish question. The English dominion over Ireland was as ruinous as the Austrian dominion over Italy. He concluded by moving [the following] resolution:

“That this meeting desires that a settled peace and amity between the British and the Irish nations should be substituted for the war of seven hundred years between Englishry and Irishry; and with a view to that end this meeting exhorts the friends of Irish nationality to bring their cause before the British people and advises the latter to accord an unprejudiced hearing to the arguments advanced on behalf of Ireland’s right to autonomy."[235]

Citizen Yarrow seconded the resolution and endorsed what Citizen Fox had stated regarding American affairs.

Citizen Cohn thought there was a difference between England [and] Austria. Ireland was on the road to America and might interfere with British commerce if it came into other hands.

After some conversation in which the Chairman, Citizens Marx, Eccarius, Weston, and Jung took part, it was agreed upon the proposition of Citizen Cohn that the resolution be referred to the Standing Committee.[236]

The meeting then adjourned.

[Members present: Eccarius, Jung, Mrs. Law, Lessner, Marx, Maurice, Shaw.]