Tag Archives: Irish War of Independence

First Dáil Éireann recalled at Embassy of Ireland, USA

The centenary of the first Dáil Éireann and preceding December 1918 election that swept Sinn Féin to power were marked at the Embassy of Ireland, USA. Irish Ambassador Dan Mulhall said the two events are often “overshadowed” by the 1916 Easter Rising and Irish War of Independence.

Sinn Féin‘s use of the phrase Declaration of Independence “was not by accident,” Mulhall said, but deliberately meant to evoke the American political statement of July 4, 1776. The Irish declaration, however, was very much inspired by the Irish Proclamation of 1916.

As he wrote in a recent Embassy blog post:

The Declaration is best seen perhaps as a reiteration of the 1916 Proclamation. The difference between the two documents is the context in which they were issued. When it occurred, the Easter Rising expressed the will of a relatively small minority of Irish nationalists, whereas in January 1919 the members of the First Dáil had the wind in their sails in the wake of that decisive election result a month before. The quest for some form of independence now had the undoubted support of a majority of the Irish electorate.

Irish Ambassador to the USA Dan Mulhall, standing, joined by, left to right, Dr. Jennifer Wells of George Washington University; RTÉ Washington correspondent Brian O’Donovan, the panel moderator; and Dr. Shirley Graham of George Washington University.

Mulhall noted the Irish electorate in December 1918 was three times larger than in the 1910 general election, last before the Great War. Dr. Shirley Graham, a gender equality and international affairs associate professor at George Washington University, emphasized that women were a major factor in the 1918 outcome.

Before the British Parliament granted limited suffrage earlier in 1918, “Irish women were invisible, unknown, and without voice,” Graham said. Their decades-long fight for the vote, radicalized during the war years, was finally realized at the polls, if only to be set back in the new Irish state.

Dr. Jennifer Wells, assistant professor of History at George Washington University, noted Irish newspapers had mixed reactions to the first Dáil; from the “dismay” of The Irish Times; to the “bold and novel move” described by the Independent; and Cork Examiner‘s exclamation that 21 January 1919, was “a date that marked a turning point in the history of Ireland.”

[See my ongoing series about U.S. and Irish-American press reporting on these events.]

None of the papers were fully right, or completely wrong, said Wells, who warned not to “fetishize the assembly” a century later. The Dáil‘s “chaos created the inevitability of partition,” she said; but its members also “appealed quite brilliantly” to President Woodrow Wilson’s highest aspirations for the rights of small nations, and they “laid bare the gross tyranny” of the British Empire.

Ireland was the first and only country to secure independence from one of the prevailing powers of the war, rather than one of the defeated empires, Mulhall said. The first Dáil became the foundation for a century of parliamentary democracy.

“Who could have imagined that group could set the stage for the last 100 years,” he said, adding that London’s initial view was, “This thing isn’t serious; it’s just a bit of play acting.”

“From then on,” Mulhall said, “the clock would not be turned back.”

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, 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

Another story for ‘The Irish Story’

The Irish Story published another of my stories this week. The website features articles, interviews, ebooks and podcasts about Irish history. I had the pleasure of meeting TIS chief editor and independent historian John Dorney this summer in Dublin. John does an excellent job of managing the website along with his own excellent research and writing projects. We enjoyed some non-history craic, as well.

James Brophy, of Dublin or New York?

Mrs. Brophy’s Late Husband” joins my other work exploring how ordinary Irish and Irish American lives were overshadowed by large historical events. In this case, the Irish War of Independence of the early 1920s. My earlier piece for TIS, “Nora’s Sorrow – The Murder of John Foran, 1888,” deals with the Land War period. My blog serial and book “His Last Trip,” about my Kerry-born grandfather, also fits this category.

Such stories “humanize and enrich history by reminding us that the study of the past should include the study of the lives of ordinary people, their attitudes, beliefs, motives, experiences and actions,” Bill McDowell wrote in “Historical Research: A Guide for Writers of Dissertations, Theses, Articles and Books.”

I certainly haven’t invented a new technique for historical exploration, much less perfected the approach. But I intend to purse it, especially while I have access to the U.S. Consulate in Ireland records at the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland.

In addition to managing commercial interests and the major political and social issues of the day, consulate officials also handled more routine matters, including notes and letters asking about missing people and the dead; emergency passport applications; and inquiries about estates and pensions. These records are a primary source for the stories of Anna Brophy and Nora Foran … and others I hope to find in the future.