Tag Archives: Land War

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 an 1889 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

The troubled foundation of St. Patrick’s in Rome, 1888

ROME — The foundation stone of St. Patrick’s Church in the Eternal City was laid during a critical period of Irish history and the eve of a low-point in the country’s relationship with the Vatican.

I stopped by the church, plain by Roman standards, as part of my ongoing project of visiting as many St. Patricks as possible. As it turned out, the church’s foundation date of 1 February 1888 (St. Brigid’s Day) also dovetailed with my interest in Ireland’s late 19th century nationalist struggles and land war.

St. Patrick’s Church, Rome, April 2017. Mosaic of St. Patrick below Celtic cross.

The morning of the foundation ceremony, a delegation of three archbishops, 10 bishops and 300 other pilgrims from Ireland, America and other nations with significant Irish immigrant populations met with Pope Leo XIII. The visitors gave the pope “a magnificent chalice of Irish workmanship,” a photo album of “sights, churches and principal monuments” of Dublin and a nearly £16,000 donation to the Vatican exchequer. The pontiff blessed the trowel to be used in that afternoon’s building site ceremony and handed each of the guests a coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination.

The pope addressed the group in Latin, according to The Nation, which reproduced his text with an English translation. He assured the visitors that he had viewed Ireland “with paternal care” since the start of his pontificate 10 years earlier.

“We were moved by her many claims upon us, but most of all by the integrity of that Catholic faith which, established by the labors and the zeal of St. Patrick, was preserved by the unconquerable fortitude of your ancestors, and transmitted to you to be guarded as a sacred inheritance,” he said.

The mosaic above the sanctuary is by Rodolfo Villani and depicts St. Patrick converting the High King Laoghaire at Tara, using the shamrock to explain the Trinity. The banner UT CHRISTIANI ITA ET ROMANI SITIS (“Be ye Christians as those of the Roman Church”) — is from the writings of St. Patrick.

The pontiff also briefly discussed the “present state of affairs” in Ireland, noting that a year earlier he dispatched Archbishop Ignatius Persico to investigate the country’s troubles. At the time, tension between Irish tenant farmers and absentee landlords had been stoked by a protest strategy known as the Plan of Campaign, which sought to reduce rents by withholding payments. If tenants got evicted, the Plan called for peer-enforced social ostracism, or boycotting, to prevent others from leasing the land. Some Catholic clergy were tacitly supporting the movement by joining the simultaneous nationalist efforts to secure Irish political autonomy, called home rule.

Persico began his mission to Ireland in 1887 just as the Times of London published a sensational series of stories linking agrarian unrest to Irish leader Charles Steward Parnell. The prelate’s presence generated mixed reactions among the Irish hierarchy, according to their letters to Tobias Kirby, rector of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, who acted as their representative to the Vatican. In July, Archbishop William Walsh of Dublin wrote that he was “very edified” by Persico’s mission. In September, Rev. J. Hassan of Londonderry said he was “ashamed of the cold reception” some gave the Vatican visitor. In October, Msgr. Bernard O’Reilly of Dublin worried that Persico’s report would be “unfavorable to Ireland” and complained he was “the wrong man to send.” The next day, Rev. M. Mooney of Cahir wrote he was delighted by the “genuine spark of Celtic spirit in his [Persico’s] very tone.”

As if to underscore the troubles in Ireland, boycotted Kerry farmer James Fitzmaurice was gunned down in a widely reported land-related murder a day before the February 1888 foundation ceremony. That may have been on the pope’s mind when he told the Irish delegation he ordered the Persico mission “that we may be aided by his report in ascertaining the actual condition of things, and the steps that in your interest it may be desirable to take.” The pontiff also suggested that he might help ease Ireland’s “difficulties” through his personal diplomacy, just as he diffused anti-Catholic tensions in Germany.

Back in Ireland, however, The Nation noted that there were “wide differences” between the situations in the two countries, and that a similar outcome was unlikely. “The German question was essentially a religious one; the Irish question is an essentially non-religious one. Nor is there in English politics any such commanding personage as Bismarck,” the paper wrote four days later.

Sanctuary statue of St. Patrick. The tabernacle is open because this photo was taken the morning of the Easter Vigil.

About 10 weeks after the St. Patrick’s foundation ceremony, Rome issued a Papal Rescript that condemned the Plan of Campaign and its associated violence and boycotting tactics. While Persico favored grassroots guidance by the Irish bishops, the decree reflected the top-down approach of the Vatican, which at least in part was trying to appease English Catholic elites and the conservative government in London, which soon opened a special commission on “Parnellism and Crime.”

The Irish bishops grumbled that the decree divided their loyalty to the pope with their ministry to the people. The directive also drew a harsh rebuke in the first issue of The Irish Catholic, the latest publishing endeavor of Timothy Daniel Sullivan, a Dublin-based MP who also owned The Nation. “We deplore that the Holy Office has been deceived into accepting as a description of the affairs of Ireland, one without any basis in fact,” the new weekly said in its 5 May editorial.

Two months later, Rome reinforced the rescript with a Papal Encyclical, Saepe Nos, which complained the original decree was “grievously perverted by means of forced interpretations.” The pontiff reminded his Irish readers that he had “carefully inquired” to “obtain full and reliable knowledge of the state of your affairs, and of the causes of popular discontent.” In other words, the Vatican was standing by its original orders against boycotting and the Plan.

The Irish hierarchy and populace only grew further enraged. By the end of 1888, 28 of 30 Irish bishops signed a letter to the pope stating that they could not enforce the decree without jeopardizing both his and their own authority in Ireland. The following year became “perhaps the worst period in the whole history of Irish relations with the Holy See.” The Irish bishops even balked at Vatican directives to hold special collections to help pay for building St. Patrick’s Church in Rome.

Lack of funds and other delays slowed completion of the church for 23 years. It finally opened on St. Patrick’s Day 1911, “in weather that was raw, and chill, and rainy, much resembling that of spring days in Ireland,” the Freeman’s Journal reported. Eight years after the death of Leo XIII, the Kerry People suggested the late pontiff “encouraged and most generously contributed” to the Irish-connected church. (The Nation folded 11 years earlier, and The Irish Catholic’s archive was not immediately available.)

Most of Ireland’s tenant-landlord disputes had been resolved by 1911, but an even more difficult revolutionary period was just about to begin. With it, there would be a new round of trouble between Irish nationalists and the Holy See.

NOTES in addition to material linked above:

  • Freeman’s Journal, 28 March, 1911, page 5.
  • Kerry People, 8 April 1911, page 9.
  • Larkin, Emmet: The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and the Fall of Parnell, 1888-1891 University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1979. “Worst period” quote on page 3, plus other background.
  • St. Patrick’s Church, Rome.
  • The Nation, 4 February 1888, page 11.
  • The Two Edged Sword.

Saturday in the stacks: ‘set-piece eviction’ timeline

Irish history stacks at Catholic University of America.

I spent a few hours in the main Mullen Library at Catholic University of America, browsing the Irish history collection in the open stacks. I selected from one of the shelves “A New History of Ireland, Volume VI: Ireland Under the Union: 1870-1921,” edited by W. E. Vaughan. I settled into a chair to read the chapter, The Parnell Era, 1883-91, by R. V. Comerford.

The Irish “Land War” period of tenant-landlord agitation is typically framed as 1879-1882. But agrarian unrest on the island began during the Great Famine of the mid-19th century and lasted throughout the 1880s. In reading about British administration of Ireland during the year 1887, Comerford makes this statement that caught my eye:

“This was the great era of the transportable battering-ram and of the set-piece eviction scene, producing images that have been frequently superimposed on earlier times.” (My emphasis.)

Eviction scene with battering-ram in County Clare, July 1888.

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.

Wonders and threats in Ireland’s natural environment

A few environmental stories:

  • Irish marine scientists have discovered a new cold water coral habitat nearly 200 miles off the Co. Kerry coastline. Story in The Irish Times.
  • The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, were visible in Co. Donegal and parts of Northern Ireland due to a huge solar storm, the Belfast Telegraph reports.
  • Meanwhile, the Times also covered a recent “climate justice” conference, where scientists complained the government isn’t doing enough to address greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say 2014 was the warmest in Ireland since 1880 (start of the Land War period) and average temperatures had increased by 0.5 degrees since 1981. At current rates, temperatures in Ireland are expected to rise by between one degree and 1.5 degrees over the next 30 years.

Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency offers this scorecard of key environmental indicators, including ratings for climate change, water, air, land and nature.

Henry George and land agitation in Ireland

Writing in The Irish Story, Barry Sheppard details how a 19th century American writer and economist influenced Irish land reform. He says in the post:

The name Henry George is not normally one which is automatically associated with Irish land reform, indeed he has been all but forgotten, even by those interested in the history of Irish and international land reform. Yet at various stages his name crops up in relation to Irish land reform from the period of the Land War in the 1880s through to the 1930s and beyond, when a new period of Irish land reform gathered pace under a domestic administration.

George traveled to Ireland in 1881 to cover the Land War for The Irish World newspaper. He spent a year in the country speaking about his views on a single tax on land, which he believed should be nationalized rather than held by individual owners. More about George’s life and views here.

GeorgeDuring his stay in Ireland George was arrested twice by the ruling British authorities. He was able to have a letter smuggled to U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, which was published on the front page of The Washington Post on Sept. 17, 1882:

I would not, Mr. President, think of addressing you on this subject were my case an isolated one, as then it would merely show an abuse of power by certain individual officials.  But, on the contrary, such cases are constantly occurring, and many American citizens have already in various parts of this country been subjected to similar, and even to much worse indignities and hardships — and this evidently not by accident, but because of being Americans.

The British later apologized for the two detentions, but not before the Land League was able to capitalize for its own benefit. Such incidents, Terry Golway writes in his John Devoy biography “Irish Rebel” (see my previous post) helped “raise the Irish-American movement from its ratholes.”

George’s influence in Ireland lasted decades beyond his death in 1897, according to Sheppard.

That he was for all intents and purposes and outsider makes his impact even more impressive.  It is also his status as an outsider which has also kept him on the periphery of Irish history.

New book explores Kerry’s GAA history, 1884-1934

A new book about the first 50 years of Gaelic Athletic Association activity in County Kerry has come to my attention thanks to a review on the History Ireland website. “Forging a Kingdom: The GAA in Kerry 1884-1934” by Richard McElligott was published last fall by The Collins Press.

The book does a fine job of blending political, social and sporting events in Kerry in the context of the GAA’s role in the broader history of Ireland, according to the reviewer:

“No stone is left unturned in tracing the contours of this development, through the ups and downs of the Irish National League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, agricultural productivity and the rural economy of Kerry, emigration, other sports, the Gaelic League, rail transport, the Irish Volunteers and the IRA, the wars of 1919–23, the internal structures of the GAA in the county and key administrative figures, as well as the role of Kerrymen in America and the evolution of the games themselves. Throughout the book, McElligott demonstrates clearly how interwoven was (and is) the GAA into the fabric of society. For this reason, “Forging the Kingdom” constitutes an invaluable text on the history of a county and the dynamics of rural nationalist Ireland, let alone on the sporting aspect.”

Forging_A_Kingdom

I don’t yet have my copy of the book. I used Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to peek at some of what McElligott (@RichardMcELL) has written about my own area of interest, the Land War period of the late 19th century. He writes:

“By the mid-1880s, the press described the county as ‘the most criminally disturbed, the most evicted, the most rack-rent county in all of Ireland.’ Land agitation had gripped the county with such force that for most of the decade, Kerry was at the forefront of agrarian disturbance and subsequent government coercion to eliminate it.”

Here’s a NewsTalk podcast with McElligott.

The GAA (@officialgaa) has a history section on its official website. This link is to the Kerry GAA site, which also can be followed on Twitter @Kerry_Official.