Category Archives: IUC, Revisted

Blogiversary: Six years, and a summer break

July marks the blog’s sixth anniversary.

Before publishing my next post, which will be my 600th, I want to thank my readers for their support. I appreciate those who subscribe to the blog via email, share the posts on social media, or just drop by from time-to-time. Special thanks to Angie Drobnic Holan, my lovely wife, who contributes to the effort as volunteer editor and webmaster.

The Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited project, which dominated my work the first half of this year with over 40 posts, was well received. January through June traffic on the site was 70 percent of the 2017 full-year total.

Over the next two months, I’ll be posting less frequently in order to enjoy the summer and work on several long-term projects. The latter includes:

  • Preparing for a 15 September presentation at the Irish Railroad Workers Museum, in Baltimore, based on my Prologue magazine story, Ireland’s Famine Children ‘Born at Sea’.
  • Additional research and editing of the Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited, project for an e-book version.
  • Planning for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in November, and the following Irish War of Independence centenaries. I will attend the Newspaper & Periodical History Forum of Ireland‘s 10th Anniversary Conference, 9-10 November, in Galway. It will explore the 1918 British elections under the theme “The Press and the Vote”.

I will post a few history stories on the blog over the summer, including a new serialized version of my “Nora’s Sorrow” project, and keep up with contemporary events, such as Brexit and Pope Francis’ August visit to Ireland.

For now, however, thanks again for all of your support since 2012. Keep coming back!

Vintage presses displayed at the National Print Museum in Dublin, February 2018.

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisted: Final thoughts

This is the last post in a blog serial that has explored aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. All of the hyperlinks below are to earlier posts in the series. All of the posts and other background material are available at the project landing page. Thanks for supporting #IUCRevisited.

***

“I went to Ireland … to learn what I could of the social and economical conditions of the Irish people as affected by the revolutionary forces which are now at work in the country.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

I discovered the digital edition of Ireland Under Coercion several years ago while researching the 1888 Kerry murders of James Fitzmaurice and John Foran. The former was shot at dawn, 31 January 1888, at Lixnaw, as Hurlbert awoke in Dublin for his first full day in Ireland. He mentions the murder several times in the book. Foran was shot in late July, as the first edition of IUC was in production for its August 1888 release.

Period illustration of the murder of James Fitzmaurice, survived by his daughter Nora, which occurred in January 1888 as Hurlbert began his six-month travels in Ireland.

I was intrigued by the book from an American journalist traveling in Ireland during a flare up in the decade-long Land War. Hurlbert’s six-month reporting trip began shortly after the Times of London published its “Parnellism and Crime” series and ended just as a special judicial commission began hearings that largely disproved the newspaper’s allegations. He was in Ireland as the Vatican issued the Papal decree against boycotting and the rent-withholding Plan of Campaign. Tenant evictions continued on several large estates during this period. The rapidly growing number of nationalist newspapers that covered these events, Hurlbert asserted, did so less for domestic consumption than for foreign audiences. Across the Atlantic, the Irish in America played a significant role in their homeland politics as mass emigration continued from Ireland.

Like other journalists who wrote books about their visits to Ireland during this period, Hurlbert described the beauty of the landscape. He also detailed the sights of Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Kilkenny and smaller towns. Today, there is a romantic, late 19th century aura to his travels by rail and jaunting car. One of my favorite passages in the book:

“I pity the traveler of the future here, if he is never to know the delight of traversing these wild and picturesque wastes in such weather as we have had today, on a [jaunting] car, well-balanced by a single pleasant companion, drinking, as he goes, deep draughts of the Atlantic air.”

A rural road in Donegal. Photo by Rita Wilson/Donegal Film Office.

Hurlbert’s main focus was the big issues of the day: Home Rule, boycotting and moonlighting. He interviewed numerous people who shaped the period: Land League leader Michael Davitt; Chief Secretary for Ireland Arthur Balfour; Catholic clergy and tenant activists Father James McFadden of Donegal, Father Patrick White of Clare, and Father Daniel Keller of Cork; Ulster Protestant clergymen and unionist supporters Rev. Dr. “Roaring” Hugh Hanna and Rev. Dr. Richard Rutledge Kane, both in Belfast; physically-challenged Irish aristocrat Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh; and the aging Fenian John O’Leary

To be sure, there are challenges to reading Hurlbert’s book. His conservative, pro-landlord, pro-unionist views frequently come across as smug, elitist and–history shows–wrong. He didn’t write the ugliest Irish stereotypes of the day, but they lurk between the lines. Many of his references to Irish and other world history, literature, and the law will be obscure to most modern readers.

Title page from digitized edition of Ireland Under Coercion.

Hurlbert’s 19th century writing style, meandering prose often filled with personal asides and other tangents, is grammatically correct; yet can be cumbersome for 21st century readers who prefer shorter sentences. Too many of the journal-dated sections of the book lack smooth transitions between paragraphs and could have benefited from subheads. Near the end of the book, Hurlbert accommodated the eleventh-hour request from one of his hosts to protect sources by replacing their names or other identifying information with clusters of * * * * *. It’s an unacceptable contrivance for a piece of journalism.

I don’t doubt that Hurlbert’s grave concerns about the outcome of Irish agrarian agitation and nationalist movements were deeply influenced by his experiences of witnessing the terrible American Civil War. Neither do I disagree with the contemporary critics who charged that Ireland Under Coercion was the American expat’s barely-disguised bid to cozy up to the British establishment. The project apparently generated some late-career income for Hurlbert after what appears to have been a comfortable and enjoyable tour of Ireland. He would need it, as his private life was soon caught up in a public scandal.

There is certainly more material in the book than I have been able to explore in the 40 previous posts of this series. I expect to return to this project in the future. For now, however, I’m moving on to other work. Thanks again for supporting Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited. MH

Map of Ireland showing Hurlbert’s 1888 travels.

NOTES: Top quote from page 10 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American.  

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Hurlbert researched

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

***

“…as we are dealing not with the history of Ireland in the past, but with the condition of Ireland at present … ”
–William Henry Hurlbert

In the 130 years since Hurlbert published his Irish political journal and travelogue, contemporary historians have occasionally, but sparingly, cited his reporting in their works about the Land War period.

Hurlbert

Among the earliest references was The fall of feudalism in Ireland; or, The story of the land league revolution, the 1904 book by Michael Davitt. Hurlbert briefly interviewed the agrarian activist. (See series posts Meeting Davitt and More Davitt.) In his book, the Irishman made a few brief mentions of the American, by then dead for nine years:

Ireland Under Coercion … was intended to show that Mr. Parnell and the National League, not Mr. Balfour and Dublin Castle, were the true coercionists in Ireland. What the purpose or motive of the book was has remained a mystery.

Here are three more recent examples:

  • Coercion and Conciliation in Ireland, 1880-1892, by Lewis Perry Curtis Jr., 1963. Citing an August 1888 letter from Arthur Balfour, Perry reported that Hurlbert “ingratiated himself” to the Irish chief secretary and other unionists “by professing his willingness to educate the American public about the ‘true’ nature of Irish nationalism.”
  • Irish Terrorism in the Atlantic Community, 1865-1922, by Jonathan Gantt, 2010. In a one paragraph summary of IUC in his section about the Land War, Gantt noted that “…according to Hurlbert, the presence of ferocious agrarianism represented a failure for all concerned and marked a breakdown in civilization.”
  • Mr. Parnell’s Rottweiler: Censorship and the United Ireland Newspaper, 1881-1891, by Myles Dungan, 2014. Dungan wrote of Hurlbert:

He rejected the nationalist narrative of extreme agrarian distress and cited the significant rise in savings bank deposits in areas where the Plan [of Campaign] was in operation as proof of the capacity, and unwillingness, of tenant farmers to pay even arbitrated rents. He was also highly skeptical of the nationalist narrative of press suppression, suggesting there were greater abuses of press freedom by the Lincoln administration during the American Civil War.

Ireland Under Coercion is probably referenced in a few more history books, but not too many. Hurlbert’s work was absent from dozens of books and websites that I consulted in researching this blog series. I suspect he has been overlooked either because he was an American, or because of his pro-landlord, pro-unionist views.

“There is another and more important factor,” Irish historian Felix M. Larkin, co-founder and former chairman of the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland, wrote in an email: “Historians are loath to use contemporary press reports and journalists’ memoirs as sources.”

Larkin just wrote a piece for The Irish Catholic newspaper that criticizes the new, four-volume Cambridge History of Ireland for ignoring the print media. Hurlbert isn’t cited in its index, either, he wrote.

Nevertheless, the online availability of Hurlbert’s book may prompt some fresh looks at his travels in Ireland. As noted earlier in this series, Hurlbert’s quote about Sion Mills is included in a 2014 BBC online profile of the village; and extended passages of his visit to Milltown Malbay are posted on the County Clare Library website.

Ireland Under Coercion also figures into two books about the mystery of “The Diary of a Public Man.” The anonymously-authored North American Review article about the eve of the U.S. Civil War was published in 1879. The mystery of “a public man,” a historical detective storya 1948 book by Frank Maloy Anderson, and  A secession crisis enigma : William Henry Hurlbert and “The diary of a public mana 2010 exploration by Daniel W. Crofts, each reference Hurlbert’s 1888 Ireland book. Crofts concluded that Hurlbert wrote the magazine piece nine years earlier.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Hurlbert’s trip to Ireland is detailed in Travellers’ Accounts as Source-Material for Irish Historians, a reference by Christopher J. Woods, and The Tourist’s Gaze, Travellers to Ireland, 1800 to 2000, edited by Glen Hooper, which features a passage from IUC.

Hurlbert and his Ireland work are long gone, but not completely forgotten.

Title page from digitized edition of Ireland Under Coercion.

NOTES: Top quote from page 291 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanDavitt, page 559; Curtis, page 263; Gantt, page 125; and Dungan, pages 291-93. Crofts, especially pages 180-187.

NEXT: Final thoughts

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Hurlbert reviewed

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

***

“Although barely a month has elapsed since the publication of these volumes, events of more or less general notoriety have so far confirmed the views taken in them of the actual state and outlook of affairs in Ireland, that I gladly comply with the request of my publisher for a Preface to this Second Edition.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

The first edition of Ireland Under Coercion was published in August 1888. The Preface of the second edition, quoted above, was dated 21 September 1888. Mixed reviews of the book appeared that autumn in Irish, English and American newspapers and literary journals.

The Times of London devoted nearly a full page to the book, with “no apology for placing before our readers copious extracts.” It described IUC as “entertaining as well as instructive.” More importantly, the organ of Britain’s ruling Tory party “attached still greater value to the book as a collection of evidence on the present phase of the Irish difficulty, the genuineness of which it would be idle to impeach.”

This was ironic. The review appeared weeks before a special judicial commission began investigating alleged crimes by Charles Stewart Parnell and other Irish nationalists, driven primarily by an 1887 Times series. Once the commission exposed those reports as false, included the newspaper’s use of forged letters, the Times had to pay damages to Parnell. 

The pro-Parnell United Ireland, which Hurlbert described in IUC as “that dumb organ of a downtrodden people,” weighed in a week after the Times‘ review. It labeled Hurlbert “a clever politico-journalist hack, his ambitions, throughout a somewhat extended career, have ever outrun the appreciation of his countrymen … a slighted genius.” It condemned IUC as a “libelous book on Ireland … fit to take its place amongst other grotesque foreign commentaries.”

The same day, The Kerry Evening Post wrote that Hurlbert’ “ruthlessly dethrones many of the ‘pure-souled patriots’, who have been held up to the admiring gaze of the Irish peasants.” The Tralee paper circulated in the region of the Lixnaw murder and Glenbeigh eviction reported by Hurlbert. It generally represented “Protestant interests and conservative politics.” The Post concluded: “The opinions of an intelligent and instructed foreigner may well be commended to Mr. [William] Gladstone’s study, as an answer to his boast that the ‘civilized world’ is on his side in the great controversy of the day.” [The former and future PM supported Home Rule for Ireland.]

Hurlbert

The Saturday Review, a London newsweekly, described Hurlbert as “an American gentleman to whom the condition of Ireland is gravely interesting, because to a certain extent his own country is responsible for it. … He is evidently possessed of a keen sense of humor, and he writes like a well-educated Englishman, while he views men, morals and manners with all the disinterestedness to be expected from a foreigner.”

The Review also criticized Hurlbert for not attempting “any process of solution, short and summary, or tedious and expensive, by which the Irish difficulty might be solved … he has no pet plan to suggest.”

In America, cloth-bound, gilt top editions of Hurlbert’s book were sold for $1.25 by S.A. Maxwell & Co. The Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle described the book as “… a sort of high class piece of newspaper reporting … [with] a map claiming to show the most disorderly and the most distressed districts, and that the latter are not the former.”

The Literary World, an American journal, explained to its readers: “The rule of the Land League is, in Mr. Hurlbert’s opinion, the only coercion to which Ireland is subjected; and the title of his volume has reference to this view.” The monthly praised IUC as a “keen and fair-minded report .. [that] may be commended as a practical and thoughtful treatise upon the Irish question.”

The Literary World also suggested that Hurlbert’s book could be read together with Philippe Daryl’s Ireland’s Disease, the English in Ireland, and George Pellew‘s In Castle and Cabin: or Talks in Ireland in 1887. “The three supplement each other well.”

“Hurlbert unmasked’

Hurlbert moved on to another political travel journal, this time about France. But his Ireland book got fresh attention in 1891 when Father Patrick White published a rebuttal pamphlet, Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion.’  

In his book, Hurlbert had accused the parish priest of organizing boycott activities  at Miltown Malbay, based on his February 1888 visit to County Clare. In Hurlbert unmasked, Father White disputed the charge, and criticized the American reporter on numerous other fronts.

The New York Sun noted that Father White ridiculed the former editor of the rival New York World “as a snob who made his tour of Ireland under the conduct and patronage of lords and others of social and Tory distinction, and who is scrupulous and persistent in advertising the fact.” Following the priest’s lead, the Sun also criticized Hurlbert’s use of unnamed sources.

In a review of Hurlbert’s book about France, The New York Times recalled the 1888 Ireland work as “superficial and tedious,” written “for no higher object and with no less ignoble a spirit than to please certain English nobles in the world of fashion.” At least, the Times suggested, Hurlbert did so “with very respectable success.”

Hurlbert’s book contained a map of his travels “claiming to show the most disorderly and the most distressed districts, and that the latter are not the former.”

NOTES: Top quote from Preface of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanReviews from Times of London, Aug. 18, 1888, page 12; United Ireland, Aug. 25, 1888, page ??; The Kerry Evening Post , Aug. 25, 1888, page 2; The Saturday Review, Sept. 29, 1888, pages 386-387; IUC advertised in The Chicago Tribune, Dec. 1, 1888, page 13; The Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle, Nov. 25, 1888, page 7; The Literary World; a Monthly Review of Current Literature, Jan. 19, 1889; page 22; The New York Sun, Jan. 31, 1891, page 7; The New York Times, April 27, 1890, page 19.

Protestant interests and conservative politics,” from page 196-97 of Newspapers and Nationalism: The Irish Provincial Press, 1850-1892, by Marie-Louise Legg, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 1999.

NEXT: Hurlbert researched

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Civil War

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

***

“For today in Ireland, as then in America, we find a grave question of politics … seriously complicated and aggravated, not only by considerations of moral right and wrong, but by a profound perturbation of the material interests of the community.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

In addition to his comments about the Irish in America, Hurlbert also made numerous references to the U.S. Civil War, which he witnessed a quarter century before his visit to Ireland. “Hurlbert’s home country and its history were never far from mind as he explored the Emerald Isle,” historian Daniel Crofts wrote in his book about the 19th century American journalist.

Hurlbert suggested the 1867 Fenian Rising “was undoubtedly an indirect consequence of our own Civil War in America.” He wrote of meeting a Colonel Talbot, “the only foreign officer” at the Battle of Petersburg [Virginia], who relayed a story about then U.S. General and later President [1869-1877] Ulysses S. Grant. He reported the U.S. northern state of New Hampshire was the only state to lose population during the war decade of the 1860s, which he compared to Irish emigration in the 1880s:

This phenomenon, unique in American history, is to be explained by only three causes, all active in the case of congested Ireland,–a decaying agriculture, lack of communications, and the absence of varied industries.

Hurlbert’s assessment of Ireland during the Land War as similar to America during the Civil War is most evident in this extended passage from the Epilogue of Ireland Under Coercion. The Border States were slave states that did not secede from the Union and did not join the Confederacy:

Not once, but a hundred times, during the visits to Ireland recorded in this book, I have been reminded of the state of feeling and opinion which existed in the Border States … of the American Union … For today in Ireland, as then in America, we find a grave question of politics … seriously complicated and aggravated, not only by considerations of moral right and wrong, but by a profound perturbation of the material interests of the community. … [I]t would be uncandid not to say that the optimists of Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee had greater apparent odds in their favor [for reaching a peaceful solution] in 1861 than the optimists of Ireland seem to me to have in 1888.  Ireland stands to-day between Great Britain and the millions of the Irish race in America and Australia very much as the Border States of the American Union stood in 1861 between the North  and the South. … [T]he Border States enjoyed all the advantages and immunities of ‘Home Rule’ to an extent and under guarantees never yet openly demanded for Ireland by any responsible legislator within the walls of the British Parliament. But so powerful was the leverage upon them of conflicting passions and interests beyond their own borders that this sovereign states, well organized, homogeneous, prosperous communities, much more populous and richer in the aggregate in 1861 than Ireland is to-day, practically lost the control of their own affairs, and were swept helplessly into a terrific conflict, which the had the greatest imaginable interest in avoiding, and no interest whatever in promoting.

As Crofts noted, “Hurlbert recognized that analogies were deceptive,” yet he “understood, better than many of his contemporaries,” the similarities of “ideological polarization” and  “absolutist mentalities” at work in America during the mid-1800s and Ireland in the late 1800s. Crofts continued:

[Hurlbert’s] dour warnings about how the Irish situation might trigger a civil war were not fulfilled during his own lifetime, but he was correct to predict that the struggles of the 1880s could have a violent sequel [and did in the Irish War of Independence and Civil War, 1919-1923]. … The conflict that led to partition [in Ireland] was mercifully less bloody than the American Civil War, but it was bad enough [and] persisted for the rest of the 20th century.

“The War in the Border States,” by Thomas Nast. Published in Harper’s Weekly, January, 1863.

NOTES: From pages 145, 220, 394, and 417-18 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. Pages 183-84, 186-87 of A secession crisis enigma : William Henry Hurlbert and “The diary of a public man, by Daniel W. Crofts.

NEXT: Hurlbert reviewed

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Beautiful Belfast

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

***

“If Belfast were not the busiest and most thriving city in Ireland, it would still be well worth a visit for the picturesque charms of its situation and of the scenery which surrounds it.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert ended his six-month reporting trip to Ireland in Belfast. He admitted that his “flying visit” was solely “to take the touch of the atmosphere of the place” in order to write about Ulster’s unionist sympathizers. Many journalists, myself included, have made similar quick trips to Belfast to report on the deep cleaves of Irish political, religious and social history.

Queens College Belfast, circa 1888. Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

Hurlbert, the former New Yorker, described Belfast as “very well laid out … with broad avenues and spacious squares  … an essentially modern city.” He noted the city’s incorporation in 1613 under James I, but did not mention that earlier in 1888 it was granted city status by Queen Victoria. Since the late 18th century, he said, the city had grown “after an almost American fashion” to a population of more than 200,000, second largest in Ireland. He noted the waterfront city had filled surrounding marshlands to accommodate its expansion, similar to Boston’s Back Bay district.

“Few American cities which are its true contemporaries can be compared with Belfast in beauty,” Hurlbert wrote. He admired the “imposing” front facade and “graceful central tower” of Queens College; the Botanic Gardens, “much prettier and much better equipped” than public gardens in Boston or New York; the “whilom mansion” of the Marquis of Donegal “still called the Castle“;  and the Queens Bridge over the River Langan, “a conspicuous feature in the panorama  [with its] five great arches of hewn granite.”

Queen’s Bridge, circa 1888. Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

Hurlbert also noted the Richardson and Co. warehouse; the Robinson and Cleaver store; and “the famous shipyards of the Woolfs (sic) on Queen’s Island.” In contrast to his observations about “the worst quarters of Dublin” at the beginning of the book, Hurlbert gushed:

The banks, the public offices, the clubs, the city library, the museum, the Presbyterian college, the principal churches, all of them modern, all of them bear witness to the public spirit and pride in their town of the good people of Belfast.

High Street in Belfast, circa 1888. Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

NOTES: From pages 199, and 407-410 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: Civil War

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Ulster booster

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

***

“To dream of establishing the independence of Ireland against the will of Ulster appears to me to be little short of madness.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert concluded his travels in Ireland with a trip to Belfast. The late June visit on “the very eve of the battle month of the Boyne” confirmed his establishment sympathies as he reported on the thorniest problem of the “Irish Question” — the pro-union Protestants of Ulster.

“In this part of Ireland,” he wrote, “the fate of the island has been more than once settled by the arbitrament of arms; and if Parliamentary England throws up the sponge in the wrestle with the [Land] League, it is probably enough that the old story will come to be told over again here. … There are good reasons in the physical geography of the British Islands for this controlling interest of Ulster over the affairs of Ireland, which it seems to me a serious mistake to overlook. … [I]t is hard to see how, even with the consent of Ulster, the independence of Ireland could be maintained against the interest and the will of Scotland, as it is easy to see why Leinster, Munster, and Connaught have been so difficult of control and assimilation by England.”

Hurlbert stated his purpose for the trip was to interview “some of the representative men of this great Protestant stronghold.” He met a “kindly, intelligent Ulsterman” who worried that if England approved Home Rule for Ireland it would rob him and other others of their property rights and leave them “trampled underfoot by the most worthless vagabonds in our own island … [and] a war against the Protestants and all the decent people there are among the Catholics.”

Hanna

As mentioned in an earlier post about the Papal decree against the agrarian agitation, Hurlbert also visited Rev. Dr. “Roaring” Hugh Hanna, a Presbyterian clergyman and staunch unionist. “Like most Ulstermen I have met, he has a firm faith, not only in the power of the Protestant North to protect itself, but in its determination to protect itself against the consequences which the northern Protestants believe must inevitably follow any attempt to establish an Irish nationality. … He … firmly believes that an Irish Parliament in Dublin would now mean civil war in Ireland.”

Kane

Rev. Dr. Richard Rutledge Kane, the “Grand Master of the Orangemen in Belfast,” predicted the upcoming 12th of July demonstrations would be “on a greater scale and more imposing than ever.” He told Hurlbert that Northern Protestants “were never so determined as they are now not to tolerate anything remotely looking to the constitution of a separate and separatist Government in Dublin.”

These views foreshadowed the opposition to Home Rule efforts in 1893, 1914, and 1920, the last of which resulted in the partition of Northern Ireland. (Six counties remain tied to Great Britain, while three counties of the province of Ulster are part of the Republic of Ireland.) The threatened “civil war” never erupted along the North versus South front anticipated or implied by these comments, but instead manifested itself in the sectarian “troubles” of the last third of the 20th century.

The final passage of Hurlbert’s travel journal (followed by an Epilogue and Appendix) ended on this note of Ulster boosterism and bias toward the Protestant unionists over Catholic nationalists:

With such resources as its wealth and industry, better educated, better equipped, and holding a practically impregnable position in the North of Ireland, with Scotland and the sea at its back, Ulster is very much stronger relative to the rest of Ireland than La Vendée was relative to the rest of the French Republic in the last century. In a struggle for independence against the rest of Ireland it would have nothing to fear from the United States … [W]hile the chief contributions, so far, of America to Southern Ireland have been alms and agitation, the chief contribution of Scotland to Northern Ireland have been skilled agriculture and successful activity. It is surely not without meaning that the only steamers of Irish build which now traverse the Atlantic come from the dockyards, not of Galway nor of Cork, the natural gateways of Ireland to the west, but of Belfast, the natural gateway to the north.

This early 20th century anti-Home Rule postcard reflects the geography and the views expressed by Hurlbert and the unionists he interviewed in Belfast in 1888. The northwest and north central (upper left and middle protrusion) sections of Ulster shown in orange did not become part of Northern Ireland. From National Museums Northern Ireland collection.

NOTES: From pages 404-416 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: Beautiful Belfast

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Irish America

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

***

“…The most important support given by the Irish in America to the Nationalists is solicited by their agents on the express ground that they are really laboring to establish an Irish Republic … .”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert made numerous references to the Irish in America throughout his book, often associating the entire cohort with its most radical and violent separatist elements. He also challenged more conventional political action.

This passage is from his Prologue:

It is undoubtedly the opinion of every Irish American who possesses any real influence with the people of his race in my country, that the rights and liberties of Ireland can only be effectually secured by a complete political separation from Great Britain. Nor can the right of Irish American citizens, holding this opinion, to express their sympathy with Irishmen striving in Ireland to bring about such a result … be questioned. … But for all American citizens of whatever race, the expression of such sympathies ceases to be legitimate when it assumes the shape of action transcending the limits set by local or by international law. It is of the essence of American constitutionalism that one community shall not lay hands upon the domestic affairs of another; and it is an undeniable fact that they sympathy of the great body of American people with Irish efforts for self-government has been diminished, not increased, since 1848, by the gradual transfer of head-quarters and machinery of those efforts from Ireland to the United States. … It is not in accordance with the American doctrine of ‘Home Rule’ that ‘Home Rule’ of any sort for Ireland should be organized in New York or in Chicago by expatriated Irishmen.

Davitt

Hurlbert was a Harvard undergraduate when waves of Famine immigrants arrived in America and the Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848 was suppressed in Ireland. His newspaper career spanned the rise of the anti-Catholic and anti-Irish Know Nothing Party, the New York arrival of the Cuba Five, and the 1880 American tours of Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell.

As the two nationalists gave their speeches that year, an estimated 1.85 million Irish-born people lived in the United States, with another 3.24 million born in America to Irish parents, a total of just over 10 percent of the population. Another 655,000 Irish immigrants arrived during the 1880s.

Parnell

“The Irish were firmly enmeshed in American political, social and economic life,” historian Ely M. Janis wrote. “Irish America was coming of age in the 1880s, and Parnell’s visit both coincided with and consolidated the growing assertiveness of Irish Americans.”

In addition to Parnell and Davitt’s travels in America, Hurlbert also mentioned events such as the 1880 Irish Race Convention in Philadelphia and 1886 Irish National Convention in Chicago, addressed by John Redmond. Prime Minister William Gladstone’s 1886 Home Rule bill, he wrote, “was simply intoxicating” to Irish America.

Hurlbert devoted attention early in the book to the relationship between Davitt and the socialist land views and activities of Henry George and Rev. Dr. Edward McGlynn. He made only a single reference each to Patrick Ford, “the most influential leader of the American Irish”; O’Donovan Rossa, “wielding all the terrors of dynamite from beyond the Atlantic”; and John Devoy, who with Davitt in 1878 outlined the “scheme for overthrowing British rule in Ireland by revolutionizing the ownership of land.”

Hurlbert did little to distinguish the competing strands of Irish nationalism in America or Ireland. Instead, he focused on its most radical elements, as expressed in this passage from the Appendix.

The relation of Mr. Parnell and his Parliamentary associates to what is called the extreme and “criminal” section of the Irish American Revolutionary Party can only be understood by those who understand that it is the ultimate object of this party not to effect reforms in the administration of Ireland as an integral part of the British Empire, but to sever absolutely the political connection between Ireland and the British Empire. … If Mr. Parnell and his Parliamentary associates were to declare in unequivocal terms their absolute loyalty to the British Crown, they might or might not retain their hold on Mr. Davitt and upon their constituents in Ireland, but they would certainly put themselves beyond the pale of support by the great Irish American organizations. Nor do I believe they could retain the confidence of those organizations if it were supposed that they really regarded the most extreme and violent of the Irish Revolutionists, the “Invincibles” and the “dynamiters” as “criminals,” in the sense in which the Invincible and the dynamiters are so regarded by the rest of the civilized world.

Irish population in the United States, 1880. Hewes, Fletcher W, and Henry Gannett. Scribner’s statistical atlas of the United States, showing by graphic methods their present condition and their political, social and industrial development. [New York, C. Scribner’s sons, 1883] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

NOTES: From pages x (Ford, in Preface), 2-3 (Prologue), 14 (Devoy), 386 (Rossa), 432-433 (Appendix), and 466 (Top quote), of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. … Pages 9 and 37 of A Greater Ireland: The Land League and Transatlantic Nationalism in Gilded Age America, by Ely M. Janis, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 2015.

NEXT: Ulster booster

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

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

***

“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 Wicklow.

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

***

“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