Nick Wilson, "Political Ecology and the Irish Potato Famine"

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rebellion. O'Brien, for example, refused to conduct covert actions, saying "I won't be a fugitive where my forefathers reigned…I will continue to appeal to the people, as I have been doing, until we gather enough support to enable us to take the field."46

Despite the fact that the Irish rebellion of 1848 had very little support in the countryside and was opposed by the Catholic church because of the rebellion's Protestant background, the leaders of the movement were convinced that they could raise the Catholic countryside to fight he government. Therefore, when the British government, convinced that a rebellion was imminent,47 suspended habeas corpus, the leaders of the Young Ireland rebellion sought to raise the countryside. Mitchel was thrown into prison, and O'Brien made unsuccessfully attempted to raise a peasant army. The movement collapsed under the pressure brought to bear upon it by British military response, lack of support from the Catholic Church, and a lack of arms and organization. But most of all, the movement failed because the very people whom Mitchel and O'Brien were attempting to ignite into open rebellion were starving.48 Indeed, "O'Brien and the Young Ireland leaders failed to grasp the effect of the famine. Starvation hardly seems to have entered into their calculations."49

If the rebellion of 1848 was a failure, it was doubly so, for it also served to frighten the British administration in Ireland and to alienate the sympathetic citizens of the rest of the United Kingdom. Ireland had experienced many rebellions, and the British secretary Lord Clarendon was described by an associate as "over-frightened" by the specter of one arising from the famine.50 Even though he could not muster more than 50 men in his attempt to mobilize the


46. Cited in Woodham-Smith, 356.
47. See Woodham-Smith, 347.
48. For a more detailed description of the failure of the rebellion of 1848, see Woodham-Smith, 350-360.
49. Woodham-Smith, 359.
50. Woodham-Smith, 349.
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