Category Archives: IUC, Revisted

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Dinner guests

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“We were five at table … “
–William Henry Hurlbert

Rolleston

In late June 1888, Hurlbert sat down for dinner with four other men who made their mark on Irish history to greater and lesser degrees. T. W. Rolleston, a writer and editor whom Hurlbert described as “an uncompromising Protestant Home Ruler,” hosted the evening meal at his home in Delgany, County Wickow.

Also gathered around the table:

  • John O’Leary, the “Fenian patriot … whose name is held in honor for his courage and his honesty for all who know anything of the story of Ireland in our times,” according to the American.

    Sigerson

  • Dr. George Sigerson, a physician, scientist, supporter of the Irish literary revival, and “an authority on the complicated question of Irish Land Tenures,” Hurlbert wrote.
  • John F. Taylor, “a leading barrister of Dublin, an ally on the Land Question of Mr. Davitt, and an outspoken Repealer of the Union of 1800,” as well as a journalist and friend of Alice Stopford Green.

Hurlbert admitted that he “had long wished to meet” O’Leary, especially since 1886, when the Fenian sent him “one of the most thoughtful and well-considered papers I have ever read on the possibilities and impossibilities of Home Rule for Ireland.”

The American devoted several pages to O’Leary’s biography, from his Tipperary birth to his early nationalist activity with the Young Ireland movement at Trinity College Dublin in the “battle summer, 1848,” and his 1865 arrest and trial for treason felony.

O’Leary

O’Leary’s speech from the dock “made a profound impression upon the public mind in America,” Hurlbert wrote. “It was the speech not of a conspirator, but of a patriot.” The convicted Fenian spent five years in an English prison and 15 years exiled in Paris and America.

Of the contemporary agrarian agitation, Hurlbert reported that O’Leary “has so far preserved an attitude of neutrality.” Later accounts suggest O’Leary was more hostile to the Land League and its activities.

Historian Owen McGee noted that O’Leary made clear that he opposed the Irish Republican Brotherhood becoming directly, or indirectly, engaged in agrarian violence. If so, “he would immediately resign from the [IRB] movement in protest; an action, it might be noted, that he never felt it necessary to take.”

O’Leary, while still exiled, met with Charles Stewart Parnell as the Land  War was getting started in 1879, but he balked at becoming engaged in the effort. He generally frowned on the constitutional nationalist efforts of Parnell and other Irish M.P.s to secure Home Rule.

At the dinner, Hurlbert quoted O’Leary as saying:

What certain Parnellites object to in Mr. Rolleston, and in Mr. Taylor, and in me, is that we can’t go out gathering grapes of thorns or figs of thistles. Some of them expect to found an Irish republic on robbery, and to administer it by falsehood. We don’t.”

Hurlbert

The passage appeared on page 291 of Vol. 2 of Ireland Under Coercion. In the later consolidated edition of the book, page 389, the three identifying pronouns were removed from the quote and the attribution changed to “one of the [dinner] company.” This was due to O’Leary’s complaint to Hurlbert in a 9 September 1888, letter, included in the appendix of the consolidated edition.

“I am giving more bother about what you make me say in your book than the thing is probably worth,” O’Leary wrote. He continued:

Most certainly I do not expect to found anything on robbery, or administer anything by falsehood, but I do not in the least believe that the National League [Parnellites] either expects or desires to found an Irish republic at all! Neither do I believe that the Leaguers will long retain the admiration of such small measure of Home Rule, as I now believe we are going to get. My fault with the present people is not that they are looking, or mean to look, for too much, but that they may be induced … to be content with too little.

Home Rule never happened in Parnell’s or O’Leary’s lifetimes, which ended in 1891 and 1907, respectively. A year after the dinner party, O’Leary’s “means were considerably reduced by the fall in the value of his houses in Tipperary, brought about by the Plan of Campaign movement—which he never ceased to condemn,” The Times of London said in its obituary.

As for Rolleston, he edited Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland in 1888, including his contribution of a poem about O’Leary. Hurlbert wrote about the collection in his book.

Rolleston soon moved to Killiney, closer to Dublin city, where he “was part of almost every vital ‘happening’ of the literary and cultural revival scene,” the Independent reported in a 2016 story. But he “was written out of popular Irish history because his views piqued the nationalist rump of the literati.”

Rolleston’s former house in Killiney, Co Dublin.

NOTES: From pages 383-390, and 466-67 (Appendix) of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American.  … “He would immediately resign…” From page 79-80 of The IRB: The Irish Republican Brotherhood from the Land League to Sinn Fein, by Owen McGee, Four Couts Press, Dublin, 2005.  … “His means were reduced…” from The Times‘ of London obituary of O’Leary, 18 March, 1907, page 6.

NEXT: Irish America

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Uncrowned king

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“Mr. Parnell and the National League are really nothing but the mask of Mr. Davitt and the Land League.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Parnell

Hurlbert disagreed Michael Davitt’s agrarian agitation, but he respected the activist, whom he interviewed. The American reporter had nothing but contempt for Charles Steward Parnell, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, whom he had observed for a decade, but does not appear to have met.

Davitt and Parnell were each involved in the Irish National Land League, which was was outlawed in 1882 and replaced by the similarly-named Irish National League. To Hurlbert, Davitt was more authentic and reasonable, while Parnell had “one voice for New York and Cincinnati, and another for Westminster.”

This should not have surprised Hurlbert. Political leaders frequently vary their messages for foreign and domestic consumption, and often carefully calculate their rhetoric even within constituencies.

Hurlbert was editor of the New York World when Parnell arrived in the city on New Year’s Day, 1880, as the Land War heated in Ireland. Over the next three months, Parnell made a 62-city tour of the United States and Canada that raised over $300,000 in tenant relief. It was considered so successful that supporter Timothy Healy proclaimed Parnell the “uncrowned king” of Ireland as they sailed home. The nickname held.

In his 1888 book, Hurlbert tried to recast Parnell’s visit. He suggested the M.P.’s first U.S. interview “made on the whole an unfavorable impression in America.” Further, it was only because Davitt  and leaders of Irish organizations in America “came to the rescue” that Parnell achieved any success, including his “off day” visit to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Reception display

“His tour, however, on the whole, harmed more than it helped the new Irish movement on my side of the Atlantic,” Hurlbert wrote.

Ely M. Janis has noted Parnell’s visit “especially rankled several important American newspaper editors,” though the historian did not name Hurlbert. “Several commentators noted Parnell’s subdued style in public meetings and believed him unable to stir Irish Americans to action,” Janis continued, but his rhetorical skills improved during the tour and he helped make the Land League a success in the years to come as he emerged “as the dominant Irish leader of his generation.”

Daniel Crofts, Hurlbert’s biographer, wrote that his subject “failed to recognize the astuteness of the great Irish leader or to recognize Parnell’s claim on the Irish heart.” Hurlbert saw Parnell and Henry George “as dangerous subversives who stood ready to undermine both property and political order.”

Curiously, Hurlbert never mentioned the “Parnellism and Crime” series published by The Times of London a year before his trip to Ireland. The series implicated Parnell in the Phoenix Park murders of 1882. As he traveled during the first half of 1888, momentum was building for a special commission to investigate the Times‘ report, which Parnell and his supporters claimed was based on a forged letters.

The commission was established in August 1888, a month before Hurlbert wrote the preface for Ireland Under Coercion. His views, dated 21 September 1888, predicted “an imminent rupture between the Parnellite party and the two wings–Agrarian and Fenian–of the real Revolutionary movement in Ireland.”

Parnell was vindicated in 1889 by the special commission, which exposed the forged letters. He enjoyed a brief period of triumph. But the Parnellite party splintered the following year when the leader became embroiled in a famous divorce case. Personal behavior, not political tactics, caused his downfall.

Parnell died at the end of 1891, age 45.

Parnell’s grave at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, July 2016.

NOTES: From pages 161 (top quote), 39, 18 and xi of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanPages 186 and 191 of  A secession crisis enigma : William Henry Hurlbert and “The diary of a public man, by Daniel W. Crofts, LSU Press, 2010. Also, “Anointing the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland”: Charles Stewart Parnell’s 1880 American Tour and the Creation of a Transatlantic Land League Movement,” by Ely M. Janis, in German Historical Institute Bulletin Supplement 5, 2008.

NEXT: Dinner guests

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Nationalist poetry

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“I have to-day been looking through a small and beautifully-printed volume of poems just issued here.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

In Dublin, Hurlbert picked up a copy of Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland. It was dedicated to Irish separatist John O’Leary and the Young Ireland Societies. Hurlbert noted “the spirit of all the poems it contains is the spirit of [the Young Ireland rebellion of 18]48, or of that earlier Ireland of Robert Emmett.

In 1888, O’Leary had only been back in Ireland a few years following a five-year imprisonment in England and 15-year exile in Paris and America that resulted from his conviction for treason. The new book’s dedication poem, “To John O’Leary,” included the stanzas:

Because you loved the nobler part / Of Erin; so we bring you here

Words such as once the nation’s heart / On patriot lips rejoiced to hear.

O’Leary

Scholar John Turpin attributed the poem, which is unsigned in the book, to William Butler Yeats. According to Susan O’Keeffe, director of the Yeats Society Sligo, it was written by T.W. Rolleston, who edited Poems and Ballads.

There is no dispute that O’Leary influenced Yeats. They met in 1885, when O’Leary was 55 and Yeats was 20. It was a year before the failure of the first Home Rule bill and the widening of the Catholic nationalist and Protestant unionist divide in Ireland. As historian Owen McGee wrote in a History Ireland piece:

O’Leary maintained a lifelong conviction that a non-confessional Irish nationalist political élite could emerge, even when this possibility had seemingly evaporated after 1886. His tenacious hold on this belief, which Yeats found inspiring and essentially inherited, virtually defined ‘Romantic Ireland’ to the young poet, for whom O’Leary acted as a patron.

O’Leary died in 1907. Six years later, in his poem “September 1913” at the start of Ireland’s revolutionary period, Yeats penned the memorable stanza:

Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yeats

Four poems in the 1888 collection are signed by Yeats: “The Stolen Child” , 1886, which Hurlbert described as “an exquisite ballad” ; “The Meditation of the Old Fisherman” , 1886; “The Madness of King Goll” ,1887; and “Love Song” , year unknown.

Hurlbert also commented on the poem, “Marching Song of the Gaelic Athletes,” attributed to An Craoibhín Aoibhinn (translated from Irish as, The Pleasant Little Branch), the pseudonym of Irish nationalist Douglas Hyde. It became the anthem of the Gaelic Athletic Association, or GAA, which was founded in 1884.

“These Athletes are numbered now, I am assured, not by thousands, but by myriads, and their organization covers all parts of Ireland,” Hurlbert wrote. “It the spirit of [18]48 and of [the Rebellion of 17]98 is really moving among them, I should say they are likely to be at least as troublesome in the end to the ‘uncrowned king’ as to the Crowned Queen of Ireland.”

Parnell

The uncrowned king was a reference to nationalist M.P. Charles Stewart Parnell. Hurlbert seemed to imply that the GAA and other Irish republicans would overwhelm Parnell’s second attempt at securing constitutional Home Rule. (More about Hurlbert’s views of Parnell in the next post.)

The 33 poems collected in the 80-page Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland were published by M. H. Gill and Son of Dublin. Hurlbert described the firm as “Nationalist publishers … who have the courage of their convictions, since their books bear the imprint of O’Connell, and not Sackville Street.”

Four years earlier, “in a rash of apparent nationalism,” Dublin Corporation opted to rename the street after Daniel O’Connell, the early 19th centurty “Liberator” of Catholic Ireland. Some unionist residents challenged the effort in court, preferring to remember the former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The street name wasn’t officially changed until after independence in the early 20th century.

Inside title page of the digitized copy of the book, linked at top.

NOTES: From pages 391-392 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. Other sources are linked. UPDATE: This post was updated on 13 May 2018, to include information about the O’Leary poem from the Yeats Society Sligo.

NEXT: Uncrowned king

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Bank deposits

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“It is a curious fact which I learned to-day from the Registrar-General, that the deposits in the Post Office Savings Banks have never diminished in Ireland since these banks were established.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert made numerous references to how deposits at local Post Office Savings Banks grew from 1880, the start of the Land War, to 1887, the first full year of the Plan of Campaign. He included a table of the deposits at a dozen branches in places he visited. The aggregate increase was 20,329 pounds, or almost 60 percent, over the seven-year period.

“The Post Office Savings Banks represent the smaller depositors, and command special confidence among them even in the disturbed districts,” Hurlbert wrote. “Yet in all these places the Plan of Campaign has been evoked ‘because the people were penniless and could not pay their debts!’ ”

Ireland’s first Post Office Savings Banks opened in 1862. As with the forerunner Trustee Savings Banks, these institutions were “partners in a great national movement designed to encourage the people to save, the emphasis being to save for a rainy day–sickness, unemployment,old age, etc.,” Richard Barry wrote in his 1956 article, “Savings in Ireland.” The increased deposits noted by Hurlbert could have been driven by savers other than tenant farmers withholding their rents.

Hurlbert met the manager of the Portumna Branch of the Hibernian Bank, who told him “there was no doubt that the deposits in the bank had increased considerably since the adoption of the Plan of Campaign [on a nearby estate]. Money was paid into the bank continually by persons who wished the fact of their payments kept secret …”

The bank manager said in some cases tenants allowed their agent to seize their stock and sell it to pay the rent. This allowed them to remain on the landlord’s property, and also avoid having to paying into the Plan fund.

Other farmers were victims of usury. To borrow small sums of money, they were required to have two securities, “one of them a substantial man good for the debt,” Hurlbert reported. These lenders had to be “treated” by the borrower with “a weekly sum for the countenance they have given him, which not seldom amounts … to 100 percent on the original loan.”

Five years after Hurlbert left Ireland, a second Home Rule bill was introduced in Parliament. One of the provisions of the legislation, which eventually failed, called for all bank business to be transferred to the proposed Irish government controlled by a new Irish legislature.

“For the first time in the history of the Post Office Savings Bank a decrease took place in Irish deposits, instead of the unbroken record of increasing deposits,” Irish Unionist M.P. Authur Warren Samuels wrote in his 1912 book on Home Rule finance, published during the third attempt at Home Rule. He described the 1893 deposits decline as “a striking instance of the distrust of Home Rule entertained by the small shopkeepers, farmers, domestic servants and artisans in Ireland.”

Though the deposit flow was the opposite of what he observed in 1888, Hurlbert, the anti-Irish nationalist, probably would have been smugly used the outcome to make his point.

NOTES: From pages 203, 238, 274, 328, 382, and 462-463 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. … Page 45 of “Savings in Ireland” by Richard Barry, in University Review, Autumn 1956, via JSTOR. … Pages 170-171, Home Rule finance: an examination of the financial bearings of the Government of Ireland Bill, 1912, by Authur Warren Samuels, 1912, via Internet Archive.

NEXT: Nationalist poetry

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: On Moonlighters

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“The ‘Moonlighters’ of 1888 lineally represent, if they do not simply reproduce, the ‘Whiteboys’ of 1760.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert was correct. The Whiteboys and Ribbonmen of the 18th century were forerunners of the late 19th century Moonlighters; shadowy, violent groups that struck against landlords and other establishment interests on behalf of Ireland’s rural poor and powerless. Hurlbert also quoted a land agent who referenced the Terry Alts, active in County Clare during the late 1820s, as “the Moonlighters of that day.”

These secret organizations also terrorized their own people, as was true among late 20th century republican and loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. Even today, 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement ended hostilities between the two sides, these groups “show no intention of loosening their grip of fear on the communities where they operate.”

From the 1879 start of the Land War, the Moonlighter moniker was applied to typically nocturnal raiders on farmers who threatened the agrarian agitation, either by paying their rent or leasing the land of an evicted tenant. Moonlighters intimidated people who were being boycotted for related reasons, and they settled family feuds and other local grudges. Their tactics included threatening letters and public notices; maiming animals, setting fires and other property damage; as well as assaults and murder.

“Moonlighters were reported as being organized as ‘bands’ or ‘companies,’ each under a captain,” historian Marc Mulholland wrote in a 2016 essay. “Their depredations were concentrated in the impoverished and rural west of Ireland.”

Hurlbert quoted an unnamed priest from the region, “a Nationalist,” who described the western counties of Clare and Kerry as “a solitary plague-spot where dwell the disgraceful and degraded Moonlighters … these insensate pests of society.” The priest’s letter to Hurlbert was written days after the Lixnaw murder of boycotted farmer James Fitzmaurice. Like many government officials, Hurlbert framed the crime as evidence of an “open alliance” between nationalist politicians and agrarian activists, and “the criminal classes in certain parts of Ireland.”

In another passage, Hurlbert wondered “why so many [agrarian] crimes are committed with virtual impunity?” He cited “two sufficient reasons” in answer to his own question: witnesses refused to testify, or tell the truth if they did; and juries “in nine cases out of 10” would not do their duty to convict the guilty.

To help overcome local intimidation and secure prosecutions, Hurlbert noted the trials of some accused Moonlighters were transferred from Kerry and Clare to Wicklow, 200 miles away on Ireland’s east coast. This is what happened in the case of two men charged, convicted and executed for the Fitzmaurice murder. Hurlbert did not report this outcome, which occurred within three months of the crime, and well before he published the book.

His west of Ireland letter writer excepted, Hurlbert complained that too many priests in the country were “not only disposed to wink and condone” the Moonlighters’ activities, “but openly to cooperate with them under the pretext of a ‘national’ movement.” This was “intolerable” for the church, he wrote, “and dangerous to the cause of Irish autonomy.”

An 1886 issue in the Illustrated London News.

NOTES: From pages 127, 183, 208-212, 268, 445-447, and 459 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American.  Marc Mulholland, “Political Violence” in The Princeton History of Modern Ireland, edited by Richard Bourke and Ian McBride, Princeton (N.J.) University Press, 2016, page 388.

NEXT: Bank deposits

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Meeting Kavanagh

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“…like most people who have paid any attention to the recent history of Ireland, I knew how wonderful an illustration his whole career has been of what philosophers call the superiority of man to his accidents, and plain people the power of the will. But I knew this only imperfectly.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

During his travels in Ireland, Hurlbert met a wide variety of people, from Members of Parliament and Dublin Castle officials, to landlords and agents, as well as Irish nationalists, activist priests, farm laborers and jarvey drivers. None could match the extraordinary personal story of Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh.

Kavanagh

The Irish aristocrat was born with “no arms below the lower third of his upper arm, nor legs below mid thigh. And in consequence, no hands and no feet,” Brian Igoe wrote in The Limbless Landlord, a 2012 eBook, also edited into a related article for The Irish Story. And yet, Kavanagh also was “an expert horseman, a first class shot, a noted yachtsman, an active local Justice of the Peace and administrator, as well as a Member of Parliament.”

In his book, Hurlbert noted that he had corresponded with Kavanagh years earlier when he was a New York newspaper editor. He knew about the Irishman’s physical condition. Upon meeting Kavanagh at his Borris House estate in County Carlow, the American reported:

His servant brought him up to the carriage and placed him on it. This was impossible not to see. But I had not talked to him for five minutes before it quite passed out of my mind. Never was there such a justification of the paradoxical title which [James John Garth] Wilkinson gave to his once famous book, The Human Body, and its Connexion with Man,–never such a living refutation of the theory that it is the thumb which differentiates man from the lower animals.

During a three-day visit, Hurlbert and Kavanagh discussed the agrarian uprising in Ireland, including the host’s effort to support “a defensive organization of the Irish landlords against the Land League.” Kavanagh also told Hurlbert that Chief Secretary for Ireland Arthur Balfour was doing “great good” at Dublin Castle.

They toured the estate grounds, with Hurlbert walking and Kavanagh “going with us on horseback” and explaining “every hill and clump of trees on this large domain … like a master of woodcraft through all manner of leafy byways to the finest points of view” along the River Barrow. Hurlbert was awed by “magnificent Scotch firs” and “remarkable Irish yews.”

Borris House

Borris House was a “stately and commodious, and more ancient than it appears to be, so many additions have been made to it at different times.” In one room, Hurlbert found “many curious old books and papers” to keep a student of early Irish history “well employed for a long time.”

Hurlbert was among one of last guests Kavanagh welcomed to the estate. According to Igoe, who cited Ireland Under Coercion in his research, it was about this time that Kavanagh developed diabetes and other health problems. He stayed mostly at his London house, perhaps because of access to better medical care. Kavanagh died there on Christmas Day, 1889, three months before his 58th birthday.

NOTES: From pages 301-318 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: On Moonlighers

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Pope’s decree

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“…[T]he real issues of to-day [are] between the Church speaking through the papal decree of April 20, 1888, and the National League of Ireland acting through the Plan of Campaign.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

One of the most extraordinary developments of the Irish Land War period unfolded as Hurlbert traveled in the country during the first half of 1888 and published his diary later that year. Pope Leo XIII issued a decree that condemned the “mode of warfare called the Plan of Campaign” and the associated violence of “a form of proscription … known as boycotting.”

Pope Leo XIII

So began “perhaps the worst period in the whole history of Irish relations with the Holy See,” historian Emmet Larkin wrote.

As described in earlier posts of this blog serial, Hurlbert encountered several Catholic priests in Ireland who supported the agrarian agitation of their parishioners. Their bishops either publicly backed these efforts, or refrained from restricting such activism.

The British government quietly lobbied the Holy See to help suppress this aspect of their Ireland problem, as distinct from the Home Rule activism of nationalists in Parliament and the militancy of Irish newspaper editors, often the same people. Envoys from London and Dublin Castle traveled to Rome to dangle the possibility of opening a Catholic university in Ireland, as well as fully restoring diplomatic ties with Westminster for the first time since the founding of the Anglican Church.

In 1887, Leo XIII sent his personal emissary to Ireland to report on the agrarian strife and nationalist efforts. The Irish bishops were well aware of the papal mission, which was discussed during 1 February 1888, ceremonies to lay the foundation stone of St. Patrick’s Church in Rome. They quickly soured on the decree that followed two months later.

Hurlbert raised the decree with several people he met in Ireland. He reported that one unnamed laborer told him many Irish people regarded the decree as “a kind of attack on their liberties, and that they are quite as likely to resit as to obey it.” Another man, a “keen-eyed, hawk-billed, wiry veteran” of the Rising of 1848 quipped: “Hasn’t [the pope] enough, sure, to mind in Rome? … It was some of them Englishmen wheedled it out of him, you may be sure, sir.”

Hurlbert also sat down with Presbyterian clergyman and anti-Catholic agitator Rev. Dr. “Roaring” Hugh Hanna. The churchman “spoke respectfully of the papal decree … but he seems to think it will not command the respect of the masses of the Catholic population, nor be really enforced by the clergy.” Hanna and Hurlbert probably snickered a little about the situation, though that isn’t recorded in the book.

Hurlbert wrote this passage from Belfast on 25 June 1888. A day earlier, the Vatican reinforced its April decree through an encyclical, Saepe Nos, which complained that the message of two months earlier was “grievously perverted by means of forced interpretations.” Rome reminded its Irish readers that the pontiff had “carefully inquired” to “obtain full and reliable knowledge of the state of your affairs, and of the causes of popular discontent.”

In other words, Leo XIII was standing by his original orders against boycotting and the Plan.

Irish nationalists were furious. They demanded separation of church and state, and accused the London government of ” ‘drawing a veil’ over the pope’s eyes in order to succor rackrenting landlords,” historian Lewis Perry Curtis, Jr. has noted. Hurlbert described  the “contemptuous and angry repudiation” of the decree by agrarian activist Michael Davitt.

In a late May 1888, speech at Bray (25 miles south of Dublin), Davitt said:

Irish Catholic laymen are no more bound by the Pope’s ideas or decision outside of purely doctrinal matters than they are by the views or commands of any other foreign potentate; and the day on which they would be cowardly enough to submit to a far worse kind of political subserviency than that against which we are fighting, we would write ourselves down before the self-governed nations of the world as being too slavish in disposition to merit the enjoyment of liberty, and too recreant to the spirit of our ancestors to be worthy of anything else but the contempt of freemen.

As an American, Hurlbert also recounted how Rev. Dr. Edward McGlynn, the New York-born son of Irish immigrants, was excommunicated in 1887 because he supported the land views of socialist Henry George. “It is clear that clerical agitators, high and low, must soon elect between Mr. George, Dr. McGlynn, and Mr. Davitt, and obeying fully the papal decree,” Hurlbert wrote in the 21 September, 1888, Preface of his book.

In the book’s undated Epilogue, he continued:

The papal decree has  gone forth. Those who profess to accept it will be compelled to obey it. Those who reject it, whatever their place in the hierarchy of the Church may be, must sooner or later find themselves where Dr. McGlynn of New York now is. Catholic Ireland can only continue to be Catholic on the conditions of obedience, not formal but real, not in matters indifferent, but in matters vital and important, to the Head of the Catholic Church. (Leo XIII lifted Father McGlynn’s excommunication in 1892.)

As Hurlbert’s book went to press, the Irish hierarchy decided its formal response to the decree. As described by Larkin:

When, in early September, the bishops received yet another letter from the pope’s secretary of state, Cardinal Rampolla, charging that they were wanting both in loyalty and in dutifulness, they had indeed had enough. At their annual general meeting in early October 1888, they decided to send a collective letter to the ope. The letter, which was finally sent off in early December, signed by 28 of the 30 Irish bishops, was exceedingly strong. In effect, they told the pope that they knew more about the situation in Ireland than he did and that they could “not enforce the decree without jeopardizing both his and their own authority in Ireland.” This collective letter obviously had the intended effect on the pope and his advisers, for they ceased to insist that the Bishops take a strong line on the Plan and Boycotting.

For the British government, the decree “was only a scrap of paper so long as the Holy See took no steps to enforce it,” Curtis wrote. One one hand, the decree, combined with enforcement of the 1887 coercion laws and better crops, did help tamp down agrarian violence. On the other hand, “initial enthusiasm” about the decree “soon gave way to discouragement … [because] the effects of the order upon the priesthood were slow to manifest themselves … [but] at least slowed down the momentum of the Plan.”

Period illustration of the Papal Rescript, or decree, by Sir John Tenniel in Punch.

NOTES: From pages vii, xi, 25-27, 31, 365-367, 406, 410-411, and 425 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. …Pages 3-4 of The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and the Fall of Parnell, 1888-1891, by Emmet Larkin, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1979. … Pages 65, 270-277, and 388 of Coercion and Conciliation in Ireland, 1880-1892, by Lewis Perry Curtis, Jr., Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. … Davitt quote from The Nation, June 2, 1888, page 1.

NEXT: Meeting Kavanagh

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Battling books

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“This sort of ostrich fury is common enough among the regular drumbeaters of the Irish agitation.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

An earlier post in this series mentioned Hurlbert’s reference to French journalist Paschal Grousset’s 1887 newspaper dispatches from Ireland, which were collected into the book Ireland’s Disease, the English in Ireland. It was among numerous books published during the 1880s by visitors to Ireland, including Hurlbert’s Ireland Under Coercion.

In a late February 1888 diary entry from Partumna, County Galway, Hurlbert discussed two other recently published books about Ireland, also both written in French: Chez Paddy (Paddy at Home), by Baron Edmond de Mandat-Grancey, and the rebuttal, Pour l’Irlande (For Ireland), by Emile Piché, a French-Canadian priest. The former book favored the conservative government in London, the latter title was sympathetic to Irish tenants.

Hurlbert’s view of Piché’s book is summarized by his quote at the top. He scoffed at Pour l’Irlande’s  frontispiece, which featured a three-headed Cerberus-type monster with three collars labeled, in French, “Flattery,” “Famine,” and “Coercion.” The creature stands atop a pedestal with the inscription: “1800 to 1887. Erected by the grateful Irish to the English Government.”

The year 1800 refers to the Act of Union, which dissolved the Irish parliament and created direct rule from London, which prompted the Home Rule efforts of the 1880s. The labeling of one of beast’s collars as “coercion” refers to government actions against the agrarian uprising. It is opposite of how Hurlbert used the word in his book’s title and throughout its text to refer to the tactics of the Land League and other agrarian activists against landlords and the government.

Hurlbert complained that Piché’s description of the 1887 Glenbeigh evictions wasn’t fair to the land agent or the police. Remember, he had just visited Glenbeigh a few weeks earlier to report about landlord-tenant relations. The American also wrote he was “quite certain” that de Mandat-Grancey came to Ireland “with no prejudice in favor of the English Government, or against Nationalists.”

In discussing other contemporary reporting about Irish issues, Hurlbert knew that his own book would face scrutiny when it was published later that year. The conservative Times of London would write that Ireland Under Coercion was “quite different in character” but “not less interesting” than Chez Paddy, largely because both opposed Home Rule and agrarian reforms. The pro-Nationalist United Ireland described Hurlbert’s “libelous book” as being “fit to take its place amongst other grotesque foreign commentaries [such as] Chez Paddy.” In his criticism of Pour l’Irlande, Hurlbert described United Ireland as “that dumb organ of a downtrodden people.”

More reviews and reactions to Hurlbert’s book in a future post.

NOTES: From pages 249-252 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. … Times of London, 18 August 1888, and United Ireland, 25 August, 1888.

NEXT: Pope’s decree

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Two nicknames

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“I found a good car at the railway station, and set off at once for Portumna.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

In late February 1888, Hurlbert traveled from Cork city to Portumna in western County Galway, in the Irish Midlands. He stopped in Parsonstown, noting its ancient (and present) Irish name of Birr, from St. Brendan’s Abbey of Biorra. The American reporter described the town as “a clean prosperous place, carefully looked after by the chief landlord of the region, the Earl of Rosse,” a peerage of the Parsons family, and thus the town’s name in the 19th century.

This historic limestone boulder in Birr is referred to as the ‘Navel of Ireland’ and is often considered to mark the center of Ireland.

Hurlbert also mentioned that Sir William Petty called the place Umbilicus Hiberniae, or the “Navel of Ireland,” in his 1650s Survey of Ireland, since it was believed to be the center of Ireland. Other references to this nickname date to the 12th century.

The true geographic center of Ireland is actually 35 miles to the north, in Carnagh East townland, County Roscommon, near Altlone. The town straddles the River Shannon and also includes portion of County Westmeath.

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Hurlbert made his way to Portmuna Castle on the estate of the Marquis of Clanricarde, where he was the guest of land agent Edward Shaw Tener. As they discussed the agrarian agitation in Ireland, Tener stated that he knew the agent’s job came with personal risk. Hurlbert then referenced an earlier passage of his book:

But he [Tener] takes this part of the contract very coolly, telling me that the only real danger, he thinks, is incurred when he makes a journey of which he has to send a notice by telegraph–a remark which recalled to me the curious advice given me in Dublin to seal my letters, as protection against ‘ the Nationalist clerks in the post offices.’ “

Portumna Castle

Tener said that his precautions were required “not at all against the tenants  … nor the people here at Portumna, but from mischievous and dangerous persons at Loughrea and Woodford,” outside the estate. “Woodford … got the name of the ‘cockpit of Ireland‘, because it was there that Mr. [John] Dillon, in October 1886, opened the ‘war against the landlords’ with the ‘Plan of Campaign’.”

NOTES: From pages 249 to 257, of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: Battling books

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Missed train

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“Our return trip to Cork in the ‘light railway,’ with a warm red sunset lighting up the river Lea, and throwing its glamour over the varied and picturesque scenery through which we ran, was not the least delightful of a very delightful excursion.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert traveled hundreds of miles by railways during his six-month reporting trip in Ireland. The island’s first “iron roads” were laid a half century earlier. Hurlbert crossed the River Boyne at Drogheda on “one of the finest viaducts in Europe,” which was completed in 1855, or 33 years earlier.

The Drogheda viaduct, as seen in my February 2018, trip.

The opening quotation is from Hurlbert’s 26 February 1888, entry on his way to learn about the troubles at the Ponsonby Estate. He ended the chapter: “From Lismore [County Waterford] I came back by the railway through Fermoy [County Cork.]” The next entry, dated 28 February, begins: “I left Cork by the early train to-day, and passing through the counties of Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, Queen’s [now Laois] and King’s [now Offaly], reached this place [Portumna, County Galway] after dark on a car from Parsonstown [now Birr].”

During the 1880s, nearly two dozen railroad segments opened in Ireland, including numerous “light railways,” or short-distance spurs connecting remote areas and larger stations on the main lines. The quotation at the top likely refers to the Cork and Muskerry Light Railway, which opened in 1887. “No doubt it will be a great thing for Donegal when ‘light railways’ are laid down here,” Hurlbert wrote during his January 1888, visit to the northwest county.

The American journalist missed an opportunity to report on one of the most unique railways in Irish history, which opened the week of his travels around Portumna. The Listowel and Ballybunion Railway was a 9-mile monorail. Pannier-like cars rode on a single rail atop A-shaped trestles set over the bogs and pastures of north County Kerry. The unusual model was designed by French engineer Charles Lartigue, who attended the opening ceremony on 29 February, 1888–Leap Year Day.

“It seems strange, but it is not less true that a remote village on the coast at Kerry should have been selected for the first experiment in a railway system which promises a revolution in the construction of our iron roads,” The Irish Times reported.  “The Lartigue system is about as different from all preconceived notions of railways as it is possible to imagine.”

Read my 2009 History Magazine article to learn more about the unusual line.

It’s too bad that Hurlbert missed riding this train. Contemporary travelers to Kerry can visit the Lartigue Monorail museum and hop aboard the demonstration replica of the original line, which closed in 1924.

The Lartigue monorail in North Kerry opened on Leap Year Day, 1888. Hurlbert was 90 miles away in Partumna.

NOTES: From pages 233, 115, 248-249, and 252 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: Two nicknames

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan