The demonization of capitalism too came to be associated with religious affiliation, and as a result the religions of Protestantism and Catholicism became to be seen as in incompatible conflict with on-another, fueling conflicts such as the Fenian rebellion.

A major influence to this rebellion was a fundamental rejection of the implications which followed the concept of the ‘protestant work ethic,’ a term coined in 1905 by Max Weber to describe the widely held and religiously affiliated belief that hard work, discipline, and thrift through religion are the keys to success, happiness, and salvation, and that good things come to those who work for them, and by implication that bad things befell those who did not share these characteristics.

This concept was also majorly influential in helping form what is known as the ‘just world hypothesis.’ While not formerly named until the early 1960s by Melvin Lerner, the just world hypothesis proposes that the universe is just, motivated to doll out reward and punishment as deserved. This belief, while not formerly named and discussed in such terms until well after, was a fundamental moral motivator during this time, and was highly influential in shaping common perceptions, influencing greatly the demonization of the new capitalist-based economy, as well as the shift from an agrarian, subsistence-based farm culture, to a capitalist-based economy which relied on the production of factory work.

So, while the Fenians may have been fighting for their religious freedom and autonomy in Ireland, they were also in many ways responding to the adverse conditions in Ireland during this time, rather than the relatively much better conditions seen in Canada during this period.

Thus, when May talks about the ‘great friend’ of her mother’s family, the Irish politician D’Arcy McGee, who was murdered by the Fenians for his disapproval of their actions, it is not a great surprise that a successful Canadian politician would admonish the actions of the Fenians, having little reason to see any affirmation of their complaints in Canada.


Henry, A.M., This is NOT a Fairy Tale, Owen Sound, 1983, parts 1 & 2.

Lerner, M. J., & Miller, D. T. (1978). Just world research and the attribution process: Looking back and ahead. Psychological Bulletin, 85(5), 1030–1051.

Radforth, Ian. “Collective Rights, Liberal Discourse, and Public Order: The Clash over Catholic Processions in Mid-Victorian Toronto.” Canadian Historical Review 95, no. 4 (December 2014): 511-544.

Weber, Max (2003) [First published 1905]. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Translated by Parsons, Talcott. New York: Dover.