Tag Archives: John Redmond

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

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“…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: Milltown Malbay

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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“Only yesterday no fewer than 23 of these publicans from Milltown Malbay appeared at Ennis here to be tried for ‘boycotting’ the police. … An important feature of this case is the conduct of Father White, the parish priest.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

One of the more controversial aspects of Hurlbert’s Ireland Under Coercion was his coverage of boycotting activity in Miltown Malbay, about 20 miles west of Ennis in County Clare. Citing government officials and reports, Hurlbert accused Father Patrick White of helping to organize the activity.

Father White strongly rebutted Hurlbert’s characterizations in his own booklet, Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion’ , published in 1890 or 1891, about two years after Hurlbert’s book.

Hurlbert arrived in Ennis on 18 February 1888, a few days after his London meeting with Michael Davitt. (See post 15 and post 16). The American reporter had left Ireland four days earlier for an unexplained side trip to Paris, which suddenly became “unnecessary.”

At Ennis, Hurlbert connected with Colonel Alfred Turner, a high-ranking police commissioner; Cecil Roach, a resident magistrate from neighboring County Kerry, and Richard Stacpoole, “a gentleman of position and estate” who had welcomed London journalist Bernard Becker to the region eight years earlier.

“I was struck by the extraordinary number of public houses in Ennis,” Hurlbert remarked. He reported being told by a police sergeant that Milltown Malby, with a population of 1,400, had 36 pubs, and that 23 of the publicans had boycotted the police. Hurlbert reported that during their trials, one was acquitted; one discharged; 10 signed guarantees in court to refrain from further conspiracies; and 11 were sent to the gaol (jail).

Main Street in Milltown Malbay, circa 1890, a few years after Hurlbert’s visit. Image from The Lawrence Photograph Collection, National Library of Ireland.

Col. Turner told Hurlbert that Father White “was the moving spirit” of the local boycotting activity. Hurlbert wrote:

All this to an American resembles a tempest in a tea-pot. But it is a serious matter to see a priest of the Church assisting laymen to put their fellow-men under a social interdict … [I]t is a serious scandal that a parish priest should lay himself open to the imputation of acting in concert with any political body whatever, on any pretext whatever, to encourage such proceedings.

In three days of diary entries and 30 pages of the book, Hurlbert weaved in and out of the case. He reproduced the full police report of a related case handed to him by Col. Turner, as well as letters between Col. Turner and Father White. As the book was going to press later that year, the policeman and the priest each provided additional letters to Hurlbert to further clarify their positions. These were published in the Appendix.

Father White devoted half of his 32-page pamphlet to rebutting Hurlbert’s characterization of himself and the situation in Milltown Malbay. “He has libeled me, and libeled me unsparingly,” the priest wrote. He considered taking Hurlbert to court, “but legal friends … dissuaded me” because a Tory or Unionist sympathizer on the jury would probably nix a favorable verdict.

The tit-for-tat of the episode is too tedious to detail here. It does illustrate how local tensions between police and communities unfolded against the national developments of the Land War and Home Rule movement. In fact, as Hurlbert noted, the case of one boycotted family in Milltown Malbay was raised in Parliament in a debate between John Redmond, then a nationalist M.P. for Wexford North, and Chief Secretary for Ireland Arthur Balfour.

The Clare County Library has compiled a number of resources about Milltown Malbay, including the relevant extract from Hurlbert’s book and an article about the July 1888 evictions on the Vandeleur Estate, Kilrush. Unfortunately, Hurlbert unmasked is not so easy to access.

NOTES: Pages 165 to 195 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. I obtained a copy of Hurlbert unmasked thanks to an inter-library loan from Hesburgh Libraries at the University of Notre Dame. The pamphlet is also available at the National Library of Ireland.

NEXT: On boycotting

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.

No Easter Rising without the Irish in America

There would have been no 1916 Easter Rising without Irish America.

That’s a frequent theme in the research and writings of New York University Professor Joe Lee. He lectured on the topic 24 March for Irish Network-DC.

Lee noted that home rule champion John Redmond’s 20 September 1914 speech at Woodenbridge, County Wicklow, “stuck in the craw” of John Devoy and other Fenians in America.

Redmond supported Britain in the Great War, infamously expressed by his urging Irish soldiers to go “wherever the fighting line extends.” This created a backlash in still neutral America, Lee said, that shifted opinion away from home rule and toward militant Irish nationalism.

Support came immediately in the form of “a colossal amount of money” to fund an Irish rebellion, most of it raised in New York, Philadelphia and Boston.

“Irish America was ahead of Ireland,” Lee said.

The Proclamation of an Irish Republic read outside the General Post Office on Easter Monday 1916 noted that Ireland was “supported by her exiled children in America.” But Lee said this “grossly understates American contributions” to Irish freedom.

Lee engaged in a little speculation about what what might have happened if the Irish rebels had been able to last longer against British troops, generating more attention in America heading into the 1916 presidential campaign. Home rule, passed by Parliament in 1914 but suspended at the outbreak of World War I, was still on the table, Lee noted. Devoy and his followers might have been able to exert more pressure on Woodrow Wilson to make a deal for Irish independence as Britain worked to bring America into the war.

It didn’t work out that way, of course, just as the plans for the Rising didn’t unfold according to plan. Here’s a recent piece by Lee in the Irish Examiner about what might have happened in April 1916 if they had.

 

U.S.-Irish relations at St. Patrick’s Day: 1916-2016 (P1)

This blog series focuses on U.S.- Irish relations at St. Patrick’s Day over the past 100 years. Since this is the centennial of the Easter Rising, I’m looking at 1916 and each 25 years afterward: 1941, 1966 and 1991. I’m also writing a post on St. Patrick’s Day 1976, the year of the American bicentennial.

Part 1: Before the Rising & afterward

St. Patrick’s Day 1916 arrived in the second year of the Great War and a month before the Easter Rising. The Washington Post reported that President Woodrow Wilson was wearing “a bright green necktie and a little shamrock fresh from the ‘ould sod,’ a present from John Redmond, the Irish nationalist leader.”

Woodrow-Wilson_Health-Crisis_HD_768x432-16x9.jpg (768×432)

Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president in November 1916.

The Post also published a short message from Redmond, datelined London: “Ireland stands united with the allies in the cause of liberty and civilization, and looks forward with confidence to the union of all her sons in the service of their common country under home rule at the termination of the war.”

The events of April 1916 made sure home rule never came to pass as the war on the continent dragged longer than Redmond and others imagined.

Whether the reporting about Wilson’s sartorial selections for St. Patrick’s Day was accurate or a bit of strategic blarney is impossible to know. But in the years following the Rising the descendant of Ulster Protestants, “deceived Irish America and ignored the execution of Roger Casement,” charges Robert Schmuhl, the author of “Ireland’s Exiled Children: America and the Easter Rising.”

In an adaption from his book for Irish Central, Schmuhl writes:

For too long as president, Wilson refused to concentrate on the Irish question. Despite the leadership he tried to exert on the world stage and the radical changes within Ireland after the Easter Rising that deserved his attention, he kept ducking and dodging in public while fuming and fulminating in private. Over time, he appeared weak and indecisive.

Public opinion in the U.S. and elsewhere crystallized that Wilson was not inclined to do anything for Ireland. Though he blamed the American Irish for the failure to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and involve the United States in the League of Nations, they, in turn, blamed him for abandoning Ireland at a critical time.

More on Wilson, Irish exile John Devoy and American poet Joyce Kilmer in this 2012 piece by Schmuhl: ‘All Changed, Changed Utterly’: Easter 1916 and America.

For something less political, read about Wilson’s ancestral home near Strabane, County Tyrone.