FENIANS, an Irish secret society np med from an ancient military organi zation of Ireland that became extinct in the 3d century. The Fenian society was formed in the United States probably in March, 1858, by the refugees who crossed the Atlantic after the unsuccess ful outbreak of 1848, and had for its ob ject the expulsion of the British Govern ment, or even the Saxons from Ireland, and the conversion of that island into an independent republic. Its originator di vided it into district clubs called circles, each with a president called a center; the whole organization being ruled over by a senate, over which a "head center" pre sided. Its members had to take an oath before being intrusted with its secrets. In January, 1864, they began to attract notice in Ireland, and the next year some of them were seized and imprisoned. Be tween 1865 and 1867 they made various outbreaks. In 1866 they captured a British vessel, and made a raid into Can ada, but were defeated by the volunteers and censured by President Johnson. In
1867 they unsuccessfully attempted an attack on Chester Castle in England, made other risings, and on Dec. 13 blew in the wall of Clerkenwell prison, killing and wounding a number of innocent people living in adjacent houses. A second Fenian raid into Canada took place in 1870, but was repelled by the militia. The basis for all the Fenian operations was America, where, in 1865, 600 Fenian representatives held a con gress. First and last, many Fenians were captured and imprisoned by the British Government, most of whom were after a time released. The organization seemed to become dormant about 1874, and vari ous persons who had been connected with it joined the "Invincibles," formed some years later for the purpose of assassinat ing government officers or others obnoxi ous to its members or its chiefs, but not much was known of this latter organiza tion until the murder of Lord Cavendish called attention to them.