Tag Archives: Home Rule

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: Home Rule

This is post 4 of my work-in-progress blog serial about the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited 

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“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.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

In the early 1880s, agrarian agitator Michael Davitt and Irish Parliamentary Party leader Charles Stewart Parnell partnered in an bid to secure domestic political autonomy for Ireland–Home Rule. The effort got financial and political support from the Irish in America, roused by visits from Davitt and Parnell. Despite the support of Liberal British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, however, the legislation was defeated by unionists in 1886, two years before Hurlbert’s arrival in Ireland.

Charles Stewart Parnell

Hurlbert wrote the 1886 bill would have made Gladstone and the British government “the ally and the instrument of Mr. Parnell in carrying out the plans of Mr. Davitt, Mr. Henry George, and the active Irish organizations of the United States.” Hurlbert also recognized the Home Rule effort was not over:

“How or by whom Ireland shall be governed concerns me only in so far as the government of Ireland may affect the character and the tendencies of the Irish people, and thereby, the close, intimate, and increasing connection between the Irish people and the people of the United States, may tend to affect the future of my country. … [In the wake of the failed 1886 bill] ‘Home Rule for Ireland’ is not now a plan–nor so much as a proposition. It is merely a polemical phrase, of little importance to persons really interested in the condition of Ireland, however invaluable it may be to the makers of party platforms in my own country, or to Parliamentary candidates on this side of the Atlantic. … [It] has unquestionably been the aim of every active Irish organization in the United States for the last twenty years … [and] Parnell is understood in America to have pledged himself that he will do anything to further and nothing to impede.”

Within months of Hurlbert’s visit to Ireland, Parnell would face a special commission called to investigate his alleged links to two 1882 political murders. Though cleared two years later, he soon was scandalized by revelations of his extramarital affair with the wife of one of his parliamentary colleagues. He died in 1891, two years before a second Home Rule bill was raised (and defeated) in parliament.

Col. Edward James Saunderson

During his second and third days in Dublin, Hurlbert met with several members of the British administration and M.P.s who opposed any form of separation of Ireland from the United Kingdom. An unidentified Catholic unionist from southern Ireland told him it would be “madness to hand Ireland over to the Home Rule of the ‘uncrowned king’ (Parnell’s nickname).”

Later, Hurlbert attended a meeting of Irish unionists, where he heard a speech by Colonel Edward James Saunderson. The M.P. for North Armagh (now part of Northern Ireland) asked the audience whether they could ever imagine being governed by “such wretches” as the Parnellite nationalists?

“Never,” the crowd replied in what Hurlbert described as “a low deep growl like the final notice served by a bull-dog.” Ian Paisley and his unionist supporters echoed the response 97 years later outside the Belfast City Hall.

NEXT: Dublin slums

NOTES: This post is based on the Prologue and pages 53 to 70 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: An Introduction

Happy New Year. For 2018, I’m producing an open-ended, work-in-progress blog serial about the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by William Henry Hurlbert. #IUCRevisited.

William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert was 60 when he traveled around Ireland during the first six months of 1888, a period of resurgent agrarian violence and nationalist political agitation. The Charleston, S.C.-born, Harvard-educated, veteran New York City newspaperman supported the private property interests of Ireland’s mostly absentee landlords and the law-and-order response of London’s ruling conservative Tory government. He soon drew the scorn of Irish nationalists, including a rebuttal pamphlet, Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion.’

This blog serial will explore late 19th century Ireland through the people, places and events Hurlbert detailed in his travels. I will supplement his original text with background material and my own 21st century perspectives. The posts not only will cover the Land War and Home Rule conflicts of the day, but also other aspects of life in Ireland at the time, and Hurlbert’s numerous references to the Irish in America and the November 1888 U.S. presidential election.

In his Prologue, Hurlbert writes:

I went to Ireland, not to find some achromatic meaning for a prismatic phrase, which is flashed at you fifty times in England and America where you encounter it once in Ireland, but 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. … I have done little more than set down, as fully and clearly as I could, what I actually saw and heard in Ireland. … As I had no case to make for or against any political party or any theory of government in Ireland, I took things great and small, and people high and low [especially] with those classes of the Irish people of whom we see least in America … “

The book is written in a travel diary format, beginning with his 30 January 1888, arrival in Dublin, and ending with a 26 June 1888, entry from Belfast. The Preface is dated 21 September 1888. I will quote extensively from the passages, but edit Hurlbert’s frequently meandering sentences.

I am 81 pages into the 475-page book. As I get deeper in the text, I will begin to cross-reference and circle back to earlier book passages and blog posts, as appropriate to understanding the material. Reader questions and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for joining me–and William Henry Hurlbert–on this adventure through “Ireland Under Coercion,” Revisited.

Map of Ireland showing Hurlbert’s 1888 travels.

NEXT: Dublin arrival

NOTES: Quotes from pages 8 and 10 of the Prologue to Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanMost hyperlinks on people’s names or places are to Wikipedia for consistency and ease of production. I am maintaining a People, Places & Events reference on the project landing page.

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Irish reaction as America entered World War I

One hundred years ago, during the first week of April 1917, the United States entered World War I. President Woodrow Wilson could no long maintain his pledge of neutrality since the war began in 1914, and Congress supported his decision. The American draft began in June 1917.

“Ireland’s interest in the great decision is obvious,” the Freeman’s Journal editorialized. The moderate nationalist newspaper viewed America’s entry in the war as “vindication” for John Redmond, who in 1914 urged Irish soldiers to go “wherever the fighting line extends” in support of Britain. His call shifted Irish American support from home rule toward more militant Irish nationalism and Germany.

“America today is Ireland’s ally, as desired by Sinn Féiners, but she is Ireland’s ally because the Irish leader from the beginning set Ireland’s feet on the one path that every friend of freedom was bound to tread,” the Freeman’s Journal concluded in April 1917.

Redmond and others in the Irish Parliamentary Party believed that America’s presence not only ensured victory on the battlefield, but also guaranteed the implementation of home rule, the limited domestic autonomy for Ireland approved just before the war, but put on hold because of the outbreak. The IPP’s view was mistaken. Militant Irish nationalism, fueled by the 1916 Easter Rising and Britain’s execution of the rebel leaders, continued to manifest with Sinn Féin‘s 1918 electoral victories and the Irish War of Independence. The time for home rule had passed.

Across the Atlantic, Irish America rallied behind Wilson, putting aside criticism that he hadn’t done enough on behalf of the cause of Irish independence after the Rising and the executions of the leaders, historian Robert Schmuhl writes at RTE‘s Century Ireland. He continues:

The president understood that Irish Americans were a loyal constituency of his Democratic Party; however, he viewed the situation in Ireland as an internal matter to be resolved by the government of the United Kingdom. Bobbing and weaving like a prizefighter, Wilson hoped he wouldn’t alienate any segment of Irish America. His political ducking and dodging worked to his advantage for just so long.

Following the Armistice, Wilson once again faced the appeals of Irish-Americans to recognize Ireland as one of what he had called the ‘small states’ that deserved ‘self-determination’. … At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, which ultimately produced the Treaty of Versailles and created the League of Nations, Wilson refused to allow the subject of an Ireland divorced from the United Kingdom to enter the formal post-war deliberations and discussions. Despite persistent efforts by the American Commission on Irish Independence to get the president to realize how his numerous calls for ‘self-determination’ had rallied the Irish and Irish-Americans throughout the Great War, the obstinate Wilson remained steadfast in his opposition to raising the fate of Ireland.

The revolution will be colorized

A 90-minute documentary tells the story of Ireland’s struggle for independence from Home Rule to Civil War through beautifully colorized newsreel and photos.

British Pathé is offering online subscription access to “Revolution in Color” for $8 a month. It is narrated by Allen Leech, who played Branson, the Irish nationalist chauffeur on television’s “Downtown Abbey.”

“When you watch black and white, you are detached from the personalities and the history,” said director Martin Dwan. “There is something about color that triggers empathy with people.”

British Pathé, one of the world’s largest newsreel archives, attempted to make a similar film in 1935. It was blocked by Éamon De Valera’s Irish government at the time, in part because of the violence of the Civil War period, according to The Irish Times.

Watch the trailer: