John Mitchel - Famous Irish Fenian & Founder Of United Irishmen
A fearsome Irishman from Co. Derry, John Mitchell's name has been proudly adopted by many clubs and streets all over Ireland. After leaving his native Co. Derry, he came to Dublin to study law at Trinity College and whilst studying in the Metropolis, he chanced upon Thomas Davis and Charles Gavan Duffy, two prominent young Irelanders.
Mitchell was also prevailed upon to write a series of articles for ‘The Nation’ newspaper and when Corkman, Thomas Davis died, it fell to John Mitchell to succeed him as the chief writer.
The Repeal Association was close to Mitchel’s heart. He enrolled in 1843 but when the Movement advocated opposition to physical force to remedy national wrong doings, Mitchel felt his time was up and he resigned in 1846.
The resignation gave rise to the founding of the ‘Irish Confederation’ in 1847 by John Mitchel and some ex-colleagues of the Repel Association.
These men laid the blame for the Great Famine four square inside the doorstep of the British Government and John Mitchel, the extreme Irish rebel, sought only total separation from England and setting up of an Irish Republic.
The Derryman also advocated the non payment of excessive rent demands and the cessation of the export of home grown food by force. His singular views were not shared by many colleagues and he decided to abandon the Confederation and set up his own newspaper, the ‘United Irishman’.
His new publication was gainfully employed to proclaim an Irish revolution and he cited the French and Hungarian Revolutions as the ideal role models for Ireland to follow.
By 1848 John Mitchels former Confederation colleagues began to realise that their leader was indeed right and a rebellion was planned. The Government had their informers and ordered a round up of all leaders including John Mitchel.
Mitchel was tried, convicted and sentenced to transportation to Tasmania and in his prison cell he wrote the famous book ‘The Jail Journal’ which revealed the traumatic experiences of the voyage to Tasmania and his life afterwards.
In 1853 he made a gallant escape and forced his way to America and continued with his literary works. He became the subject of great criticism for his condemnation of negro slavery and joined the Fenian Association in America in 1865.
John Mitchel returned to Newry, Co. Down, in 1847, was elected M.P. for Tipperary as an abstentionist and died in 1875, aged sixty three years.