International Workingmen's Association 1869

Draft Resolution of the General Council on the Policy of the British Government towards the Irish Prisoners

Written: and Introduced by Marx on November 16, 1869;
Adopted: by the General Council on November 30, 1869;
First published: in Reynolds’s Newspaper, November 21, 1869.

This draft of a resolution was proposed by Marx at a General Council meeting on November 16, 1869 during the debate on the Irish question.

In the summer and autumn of 1869, Ireland was the scene of a widespread campaign for an amnesty of the imprisoned Fenians. The numerous meetings (in Limerick and other cities) sent petitions to the British demanding the release of the Irish revolutionaries. Gladstone, then head of the British Government, expressed his refusal to comply with these demands in his letters of October 18 and 23, 1869, to the prominent participants in the amnesty movement Helm O’shea and Isaac Butt (see The Times, October 23 and 21 1869). In England the second campaign in defence of the imprisoned Fenians was initiated and organised by General Council members. The General Council this question in October and November 1869. The British refusal to amnesty the Fenian prisoners resulted in a protest demonstration of nearly 200,000 workers in London oil October 24. Marx also attended the demonstration the description of it in the letter from Marx’s daughter Jenny to Ludwig Kugelmann on October 30. 1869.

On October 26 the General Council decided to draw up a resolution (an address to the English people in defence of the Irish prisoners) and set up a commission consisting of Marx, Lucraft, Jung and Eccarius to do so. However, on Marx’s proposal the question was given a wider context and on November 9 the General Council decided to discuss the British Government’s attitude towards the Irish prisoners and the English working class’s stand on the Irish question. Marx spoke twice during the discussion, and his draft resolution moved on November 16 was adopted unanimously by the General Council on November 30, with an amendment proposed by Odger, a reformist leader of the English trade unions, that the word “deliberately” in the first paragraph of the resolution be omitted.

The draft resolution has been preserved as a rough copy, in the form of Marx’s original letter to Engels of November 18, 1869, and as recorded by Eccarius in the Minutes of the General Council. The resolution was published in Reynolds’s Newspaper, No. 1006, November 21, Der Volksstaat, No. 17, November 27, L'Égalité, December 11 and 18, in L'1nternationale, December 12, 1869, and elsewhere.

In his work The Right of Nations to Self-Determination Lenin reproduces the text of the resolution in full.


that in his reply to the Irish demands for the release of the imprisoned Irish patriots — a reply contained in his letter to Mr. O’shea etc., etc. — Mr. Gladstone deliberately insults Irish Nation;

that he clogs political amnesty with conditions alike degrading to the victims of misgovernment and, the people they belong to;

that having, in the teeth of his responsible position, publicly and enthusiastically cheered on the American slave-holders’ Rebellion,[116] he now steps in to preach to the Irish people the doctrine of passive obedience;

that his whole proceedings with reference to the Irish Amnesty question are the true and genuine offspring of that “policy of conquest” by the fiery denunciation of which Mr. Gladstone ousted his Tory rivals from office[117];

that the General Council of theInternational Working Men’s Association” express their admiration of the spirited, firm and high-souled manner in which the Irish people carry on their Amnesty movement;

that these resolutions be communicated to all the branches of, and working men’s bodies connected with, the “International Working Men’s Association” in Europe and America.

116 In a speech made on October 7, 1862, in Newcastle, Gladstone (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) greeted the Confederacy of the Southern States in the person of its president Jefferson Davis, justifying the rebellion of the southern slake-owners against Lincoln’s lawful government. The speech was published in The Times, October 9, 1862. It was mentioned by speakers during the discussion in the General Council.

117 Gladstone’s Liberal Government succeeded the Tory Government, led by Disraeli, in December 1868. One of the demagogic slogans of the Liberals that brought them victory at the elections was Gladstone’s promise to solve the Irish question. At the height of the election struggle, the opposition in the House of Commons criticised Tory policy, in Ireland, comparing it with the policy of conquest of Britain herself pursued by William, Duke of Normandy, in the eleventh century (see The Times, April 4, 1868).