Category Archives: History

Assessments of Ireland, November 1922

The Nov. 24, 1922, firing squad execution of Anglo-Irish Treaty opponent Erskine Childers became one of the most high-profile events of Ireland’s civil war, then in its fifth month. Another six months of internecine conflict lay ahead. But as the 26-county Irish Free State and partitioned, six-county Northern Ireland governments formalized in December, the Irish began to consider life beyond the revolutionary period that had started a decade earlier. The reflections below–two from native Irish writers–appeared in U.S. newspapers in November 1922:

Seumas MacManus

The Donegal-born MacManus published ‘Story if the Irish Race’ in October 1921, then returned home in summer 1922 for the first time in eight years. He wrote:

MacManus

“One of the very first sights that interested me as well as one of the most pleasant–and also one of the most important for Ireland’s future–was the marvelous flock of children that seemed to spring from the ground wheresoever I went over the face of the country. … I was delighted to see the bands of little ones that dotted the roads–to see them and to hear them–for Irish children do not believe in locking their sweet joy within their tiny bosoms.”

“Of the many vital educational changes the greatest and most valuable is that which establishes and entrenches the Irish language in its place in practically every school in the country. … Though the Gaelic movement made great advances during the last twenty years, its progress within the next three years will be marvelous. There will be very few people of the younger generation who will not be Irish speakers and Irish readers. … The re-establishing of this rich and beautiful language again, giving a new orientation to the Irish mind, will be a spiritual blessing of profound significance.”

“The curse of landlordism, which had for ages blighted the nation’s life, is now almost entirely uprooted. The great majority of the small holders of the country now own their land without dispute. And this undisputed possession of the land that was theirs and their forefathers through centuries, has given them a stimulus  that transforms them. People are energetic who had been lethargic, are ambitious who had been crushed, and prosperous who had been poverty stricken. They now dress well who formerly could not afford a new coat once in five years, and they eat well, and they pleasure themselves and know the joy of living to which they had once been strangers.”[1]”Stork’s Busiest Days In The Emerald Isle”, New York Times, Nov.19 1922.

Irish culture goes on

“Americans undoubtedly gather the impression that Dublin is a city of murder and arson and that all of the old Irish culture has been subsumed in the clatter of and smoke of war. But this is not so. Irish culture goes on. A little circle of Irish intellectuals meet three nights a week to discuss literature, Irish history and Irish economics, and follows the trends and progress of the world. Often these meetings are held while the rat-tat-tat of machine guns continues in the streets. … A bit of American tinge is given to these sessions by occasional visits from American correspondents, some of whom are studying the intellectual side of Ireland. The war may go on, but Irish culture doesn’t die.”[2]Daniel O’Connell of the Hearst-owned International News Service, Nov. 24, 1922.

Padraic Colum

The Longford-born Colum published some of his earliest poetry in Arthur Griffith’s ‘United Irishman’ and was active in the Gaelic League and Abbey Theater before the revolutionary period. He emigrated to America in 1914, but traveled home frequently, including 1922. These excerpts are from two pieces:

Colum

“The salient thing about Ireland is that the country holds together. … No one feels this orphaned government is in real peril–the anti-governmental forces are felt as an inconvenience, an expense and an irritant, but they are not now felt as a danger. Mind you, there is no enthusiasm for the government or the Free State that is about to come into existence. … There was enthusiasm for the treaty last December but all zest has since been knocked out of the people. The Irish remember they are not clear of the British Empire.”

“It seems odd to speak of settlement and reconstruction in a country whose main activity is civil war; it seems odd to talk of reconstruction in a city where the children on the street play with toy revolvers and keep up games of taking prisoners and doing Red Cross services. It seems odd to talk of settlement and reconstruction in such a country and such a city. Nevertheless, the mood of the people makes it palpable that the epoch of revolution is past and that the only thing that will stir them again is reconstruction and the proper ordering of their affairs.”[3]”Ireland’s Epoch of Revolution is Ended, Says Padraic Colum; Now Comes Here Reconstruction” The Boston Globe, Nov. 12, 1922.

“Ireland is learning in many directions. She is learning to organize and operate an army; she is learning how to rebuild a police force and magistracy; she is learning what the elements of a constitution are; she is learning about parliamentary procedure; she is even learning what the price of civil disturbance may be. Above all, she is learning to do without England–that England was a symbol of injustice, rapine and atrocity. She has seen now what fearful blows Irishmen can deal at Irishmen and what injustices and evil-dealing can take place in an Ireland that is without a Dublin Castle. Ireland, in fact, is loosing her England ‘complex’ and soon she will be able to get about her business without any particular reference to her great and much distracted neighbor–a consummation devoutly to be wished for!”[4]”Literally ‘The Boys’ Rule Ireland”, New York Tribune, Nov. 19, 1922.

References

References
1 ”Stork’s Busiest Days In The Emerald Isle”, New York Times, Nov.19 1922.
2 Daniel O’Connell of the Hearst-owned International News Service, Nov. 24, 1922.
3 ”Ireland’s Epoch of Revolution is Ended, Says Padraic Colum; Now Comes Here Reconstruction” The Boston Globe, Nov. 12, 1922.
4 ”Literally ‘The Boys’ Rule Ireland”, New York Tribune, Nov. 19, 1922.

Reprise: Speechwriter behind Obama’s Irish references

UPDATE: Cody Keenan’s Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the Battle for America, released in October by HarperCollins, is the subject of this Nov. 11 Irish Times‘ podcast.

ORIGINAL POST:

Barack Obama has given some 3,000 speeches since entering the White House in 2009, and about 1 percent of them have included strong references to Ireland. That might not seem like much at first glance, but there’s hardly another country or subject that gets as many mentions from the presidential podium.

Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan, left, interviewed by Simon Carswell, Washington correspondent for The Irish Times.

Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan, left, interviewed by Simon Carswell, Washington correspondent for The Irish Times.

“The Irish have a stranglehold on one full day,” Obama speechwriter Cody Keenan told the 15 September gathering of Irish Network-DC. “They get three speeches on St. Patrick’s Day.”

That’s 24 speeches over eight years. Other notable Obama talks involving Ireland have included his May 2011 visit to the Republic and June 2013 trip to Northern Ireland, plus his 2009 eulogy of Sen. Ted Kennedy and  2015 remarks at the funeral of Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden.

For Keenan, an Irish-American with ancestral roots to Dublin and Cork, the 2011 College Green speech was a plum assignment. “It’s rare you get to write about something you have such personal passion about,” he said.

Keenan noted that the president “is his own chief speechwriter. … We take all our cues from him.”

New details on Ruth Russell in revolutionary Ireland

My ongoing research of American journalists in revolutionary Ireland, 1918-1923, has revealed new details about Ruth Russell, a Chicago correspondent who covered the early months of the war. I wrote a December 2019 series about Russell, linked below, and gave several history conference presentations about her before the Covid pandemic.

Ruth Russell, 1919.

The most significant new information is that Russell joined Chicago-area efforts to raise financial relief for Ireland after the April 1916 Easter Rising, then was denied permission to travel to Ireland to help distribute the aid. British diplomats in America raised objections about her association with The New World, Chicago’s pro-Irish Catholic weekly. The 27-year-old Russell came to the attention of some of the highest ranking officials in the U.S. and British government, according to digitized Dublin Castle records accessed through Harvard’s Widener Library. Three years later the Chicago Daily News supported Russell’s passport application and the U.S. State Department permitted her travel to Ireland in March 1919.

Separately, in January 1924, Russell wrote to Albert Jay Nock, libertarian author and editor of the Freeman magazine, about the publication’s imminent demise after four years of U.S. circulation. Referring to herself as an “unmoneyed schoolteacher,” Russell offered to send $100 to help keep the magazine afloat. She did not, however, mention her two 1920 stories about Ireland for the publication, based on her year-earlier reporting for the Daily News. I found the letter in the B.W. Huebsch Papers at the Library of Congress while researching Francis Hackett.

I have made other minor edits and updates to the five-part series, found here:

My 2020 update on Russell’s burial spot: Ruth Russell remembered in stone … 57 years later

My full series on journalists: American Reporting of Irish Independence

Hearing the Irish Civil War silence breakers

Queen’s University Belfast lecturer Síobhra Aiken has detailed the 100-year history of how officially and collectively sanctioned silence about the Irish Civil War is regularly pierced by the silence breakers who have documented the “unspeakable war.” Aiken’s new book, Spiritual Wounds: Trauma, Testimony and the Irish Civil War (Irish Academic Press), also notes the irony that recent generations of silence breakers are often unaware they belong to such a lineage because the earlier efforts have been forgotten.

The June 1922 to May 1923 war sparked by the Irish republican split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty has notoriously been absent from Irish school texts and memoirs, Aiken said. Ireland’s “Decade of Centenaries” commemorations of the revolutionary period originally was to end this year, excluding the civil war. But public outcry resulted in an extension that is allowing the country to grapple with its legacy through next year.

“The paradox of intentionally forgetting is that it ensures attention,” Aiken said during her Oct. 25 lecture for the Irish Studies program at Boston College. This has typically been accomplished over the century through autobiographical novels and other works of fiction, many of them created by women. But these sources have been overlooked or dismissed by the “strong gatekeeping” of mainstream historians and more established male writers, she said.

Síobhra Aiken at Boston College.

Some of the works Aiken citied include: Tragedies of Kerry, 1922-1923, by Dorothy Macardle, 1924; Legion of the Rearguard, by Francis Carty, 1934; The Bitter Glass, by Eilís Dillon, 1958; and The Scorching Wind, by Walter Macken, 1966. More Irish writers have tackled the civil war since the new century began, aided by access to digital resources such as the Bureau of Military History and Military Service Pension Collection. Contemporary writer Orna Ross (Aine McCarthy), who has written about the civil war, has said that “silence is always a magnet.”

Aiken noted that more of the narratives come from the defeated, anti-treaty side, rather than those who supported the new 26-county Irish Free State. Works from the prevailing side are generally more disillusioned than pro-government or triumphalist. Aiken also acknowledged that in Irish politics, intentional forgetting played a role in helping to maintain stability and allow the state to move forward.

Spiritual Wounds is based on Aiken’s doctoral research at the University of Galway, which was awarded the American Conference for Irish Studies Adele Dalsimer Prize for Distinguished Dissertation in 2021.

‘St. John’ wreck recalled on South Shore Irish Heritage Trail

The Oct. 7, 1849, wreck of the Irish emigrant ship St. John near the Massachusetts Bay community of Cohasset is one of the historical highlights of the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail. More about the trail below. From 99 to upwards of 160 passengers and crew, mostly from counties Clare and Galway, were killed when a storm dashed the brig on rocks less than a mile from the shore, about 25 miles south of Boston Harbor. Eleven people survived.

Sandy Cove, Cohasset, at low tide, Oct. 16, 2022. The ‘St. John’ wrecked less than a mile from this beach, where many of the dead where recovered. Henry David Thoreau described the scene in his book, ‘Cape Cod.’

American writer Henry David Thoreau witnessed the aftermath of the wreck, which he described in his 1865 book, Cape Cod, based on his 1849, 1850, and 1855 walks along the distinctive peninsula.  This book was published 11 years after Walden, in which Thoreau described Irish railroad workers living near the pond he made famous. Here are some of his descriptions of the scene in Cohasset immediately after the St. John disaster:

On reaching Boston (from his home in Concord, Mass.), we found that the Provincetown steamer, which should have got in the day before, had not yet arrived, on account of a violent storm; and, as we noticed in the streets a handbill headed, “Death! one hundred and forty-five lives lost at Cohasset,” we decided to go by way of Cohasset. We found many Irish in the cars, going to identify bodies and to sympathize with the survivors, and also to attend the funeral which was to take place in the afternoon;—and when we arrived at Cohasset, it appeared that nearly all the passengers were bound for the beach, which was about a mile distant, and many other persons were flocking in from the neighboring country. …

As we passed the graveyard we saw a large hole, like a cellar, freshly dug there, and, just before reaching the shore, by a pleasantly winding and rocky road, we met several hay-riggings and farm-wagons coming away toward the meeting-house, each loaded with three large, rough deal boxes. We did not need to ask what was in them. …

It appeared to us that there was enough rubbish to make the wreck of a large vessel in this cove alone, and that it would take many days to cart it off. It was several feet deep, and here and there was a bonnet or a jacket on it. In the very midst of the crowd about this wreck, there were men with carts busily collecting the sea-weed which the storm had cast up, and conveying it beyond the reach of the tide, though they were often obliged to separate fragments of clothing from it, and they might at any moment have found a human body under it. Drown who might, they did not forget that this weed was a valuable manure. This shipwreck had not produced a visible vibration in the fabric of society. …

Yet I saw that the inhabitants of the shore would be not a little affected by this event. They would watch there many days and nights for the sea to give up its dead, and their imaginations and sympathies would supply the place of mourners far away, who as yet knew not of the wreck. Many days after this, something white was seen floating on the water by one who was sauntering on the beach. It was approached in a boat, and found to be the body of a woman, which had risen in an upright position, whose white cap was blown back with the wind. I saw that the beauty of the shore itself was wrecked for many a lonely walker there, until he could perceive, at last, how its beauty was enhanced by wrecks like this, and it acquired thus a rarer and sublimer beauty still.

This monument at the mass grave of those killed in the wreck of the ‘St. John’ at the Cohasset Central Cemetery was erected through the efforts of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and its Ladies Auxiliary. It was dedicated on May 30, 1914, and now part of an annual remembrance. The group at left are students from the Irish Studies program at Boston College.

A memorial to the dead Irish emigrants is part of the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail, which includes monuments, museums, and other attractions in nine towns from Weymouth to Plymouth. Up to 40 percent of the population along this 30-mile coastal stretch claim Irish heritage, thus its nickname as the Irish Rivera. One of the newest additions to the trail is a monument to the 1916 Easter Rising, found at the Scituate waterfront. Learn about other stops at the heritage trail website.

Memorial of the 1916 Easter Proclamation at Scituate on the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail.

Selling Irish history & politics books: Hackett & Creel

In November 1922 journalist Francis Hackett wrote a letter to his brother, Edmond Byrne Hackett, to complain about the poor sales of The Story of the Irish Nation, which The Century Co. had published in March. “The Irish book sold 1,143 copies. Awful,” the author wrote. “Two people could help to sell it. One is George Creel, who sold his own book and knows the machinery. The other, Miss Lucile Erskine, worked to sell Ireland for Ben Huebsch.”[1]Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Brick Row Book Shop records (New York, N.Y.), 1913-2015, Box 63, Folder 1. The Grolier Club. Assistance and digital scans provided July 18, 2022, … Continue reading

Ben Huebsch in 1918 passport photo.

Huebsch, a New York City publisher, released Hackett’s Ireland, A Study in Nationalism in 1918, a year before Creel’s Ireland’s Fight for Freedom arrived from Harper & Brothers. Many similar books competed for the attention and dollars of American readers during Ireland’s revolutionary period. Author and critic Edmond Lester Pearson included both the Hackett and Creel books in his November 1919 roundup of Irish titles for the Weekly Review. He described Hackett’s book as a “moderate” account of contemporary conditions, while Creel’s was a “vehement attack upon England,” quoting from a New York Times review.[2]Ireland”, The Weekly Review, Nov. 15, 1919. See “Mr. Creel’s View on Matters Connected with Ireland’s Fight for Freedom”, The New York Times, Aug. 10, 1919.

As with today’s instant political books, the success or failure of this genre usually depends on a combination of reviews and advertising, the author’s personal promotion, and how quickly or slowly new developments age the content between the covers. Creel and Hackett are good examples. I’ll take the former first.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent Creel to Ireland in February 1919 after Sinn Féin candidates elected to the British Parliament in December 1918 instead convened as Dáil Éireann in Dublin. Creel had just finished his duties as head of the Committee for Public Information, the Great War propaganda arm of the American government. His report to Wilson said the Irish separatists would accept some form of dominion status, but only if granted within the next few months. Otherwise, Creel insisted that hardline republican sentiment would take hold.[3]Francis M. Carroll, American opinion and the Irish question, 1910-23 : a study in opinion and policy, Dublin : New York, Gill and Macmillan ; St. Martin’s Press, 1978, p. 196.

George Creel in 1917.

Creel, an American journalist before he took the Wilson administration post, serialized his views about Ireland through the New York Sunday American, and an article in Leslie’s weekly. Ireland’s Fight for Freedom debuted in July 1919. The author described the 250-page book, “this little volume,” as designed to “furnish the facts upon which an honest and intelligent answer” could be found to the Irish question.[4]George Creel, Ireland’s Fight for Freedom, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1919, p. xiv.

Creel became “one of the more unlikely Irish apologist,” historian Francis M. Carroll has written. As part of the book promotion, Creel spoke at Irish Progressive League meetings. But he also continued to support Wilson, the League of Nations, and criticized several Irish American leaders.[5]American opinion, p. 144.  This drew an attack from the New York City-based Gaelic American, which republished Creel’s Leslie’s piece, then blasted it as “an absurd and fantastic misrepresentation of the Irish movement in America.”[6]George Creel Attacks Irish American Leaders”, The Gaelic American, Aug. 16, 1919, p 3.

A Study in Nationalism

The Hackett brothers each emigrated from Kilkenny at the turn of the 20th century. As Francis pursued a journalism and literary career, Byrne became a bibliophile, eventually opening shops in New York City and near the campuses of Yale and Princeton universities in Connecticut and New Jersey, respectively. Both brothers corresponded with Ben Huebsch, whose papers are held at the Library of Congress. Letters from Francis, the younger sibling, date to 1907, when he was a reporter and editorial writer at the Chicago Evening Post.

Ireland: A Study in Nationalism developed when Francis returned home in 1912-13 to care for his ailing father. It took him years to complete. He wrote to Huebsch from Kilkenny:

I have completed no work yet. Time dissolves like snow in Ireland. The hours are like flakes falling into a river. They disappear with an appalling softness.[7]F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Nov. 11, 1912, from 20 Patrick St., Kilkenny, Ireland, in Ben Huebsch Papers, Library of Congress.

Hackett nevertheless gave his publisher an assessment of Ireland two years before Parliament passed the Government of Ireland Act, then immediately suspend it due to outbreak of world war on the continent:

Home Rule is taken for granted already, and the Nationalists are tired of it all. Ireland is in a bad way with the Catholics in control of education and with no conscious about it. … Catholicism is ruining us. It favors our tendency to follow the line of least resistance, to repress and to negative. Ireland is comparatively crimeless, comparatively harmless. It gets drunk, men and women, and it backbites a lot, but it is negatived (sic) by the church.

Economically, the land acts favor the farmer, but the farmer is abysmally ignorant and conservative. He is Ireland, and his soul will have to be ripped up, plowed, harrowed, before anything can happen. And it will be a long fight.[8]Ibid.

When Hackett finally delivered the manuscript to Huebsch, the author wrote:

This book, finished since conscription was enacted (January 1916, in Britain) has been in hand for four years. It’s aim is to tell Americans the facts in the Irish case, the explanation of those facts, and a way of reconstruction. Besides being critical, it aims to be impartially informative, so that the Americans may judge the case for itself, on the merits.[9]Undated, unaddressed page with chapter headings similar to those in published book. The handwriting is consistent with other letters from F. Hackett, though I am not a handwriting expert. Huebsch … Continue reading

Huebsch did not publish Ireland until 1918. The reason for the delay is unclear, though it might have been related to the April 1916 Rising in Dublin, which left Hackett disenchanted.[10]Thomas J. Rowland, “The American Catholic Pres And The Easter Rising” in Ireland’s Allies: American and the 1916 Easter Rising, Miriam Nyhan Grey, ed., University College Dublin … Continue reading At last, he dedicated the book to his late father, “who loved and served Ireland.” The author soon began lecturing about Ireland in Chicago, Boston, and other cities. “In fact, demand for addresses on the subject are so numerous that were it not for his duties as an editor at the New Republic, Mr. Hackett could spend most of his time on the platform,” Publisher’s Weekly reported.[11]”Personal Notes”, The Publisher’s Weekly, April 12, 1919, p. 1011.

Other Ireland books

As noted above, the market for Irish books was crowded. In his 1919 roundup, Pearson also identified as pro-nationalist P. S. O’Hegarty’s Sinn Fein, an Illumination, (Maunsel, 1919); Francis P. Jones’s History of the Sinn Fein Movement and the Irish Rebellion of 1916, (Kenedy, 1917); and Shane Leslie’s The Irish Issue in its American Aspects (Scribner, 1917), “a brilliant discussion by a moderate Sinn Feiner.” For the “British and Unionist point of view,” Pearson recommended Phillip G. Cambray’s Irish Affairs and the Home Rule Question, (Murray, 1911) and Ian Hay’s The Oppressed English, (Doubleday, 1917).

But “for one book, if you can read but one,” the reviewer recommended Edward R. Turner’s Ireland and England in the Past and Present, (Century, 1919). In Pearson’s view, the University of Michigan professor of European history “tried to write an impartial study of the whole question. … He truly says that in America the whole question is usually discussed by extremists, and, of course, extremists will not like his book.”

True enough, as Pearson’s Weekly Review piece spread more widely through daily newspaper syndication, Turner’s book was savaged by the Irish National Bureau, the Washington, D.C.-based propaganda operation of the Friends of Irish Freedom. The Bureau published a 16-page pamphlet that declared the purpose of Turner’s book was:

…to induce American people to take the views of a certain class of English imperialist, to induce them to look kindly on a surrender of all those principals and purposes for which they poured out blood and treasure in the late war, to lead them to look with favor on English world-hegemony. In the pages of this book liberty, self-determination, independence seem to be matters for contempt, for ridicule, for things loathsome and to be avoided.[12]Daniel T. O’Connell, “Edmund Raymond Turner of the University of Michigan: Apostle and Apologist of Reaction,” Irish National Bureau, Washington, D.C., December 1919.

Hackett’s second book

In 1920, more than a year after the first Dáil and the war in Ireland growing more brutal, Hackett released an Irish Republic Editionof Study in Nationalism. While he originally favored dominion home rule, his later editions “bent the argument to support independence,” Carroll has written.[13]American opinion, p. 236. Hackett cited Creel’s book in the bibliography of his Irish edition. That summer, Hackett returned to Ireland for a reporting trip with his wife, Danish writer and illustrator Signe Toksvig. They witnessed British police and military atrocities and other impacts of the war.

Francis Hackett in 1935.

When they arrived back in America, Hackett wrote an October 1920 syndicated newspaper series and articles for the New Republic based on his observations. “A great change has taken place in the morale of the Irish people since I last visited here in 1913,” he wrote. “The pre-war Ireland is gone, never to return.”[14]“Erin Prosperous Writes Hackett”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920. Hackett and his wife also testified before the pro-nationalist American Committee on Conditions in Ireland in November 1920.

By spring 1921, shortly before the truce, Hackett was thinking about a new Irish book. He wrote to Huebsch with a proposal to repurpose some content from A Study in Nationalism:

I don’t want to urge you to take it, and I can understand your feeling disinclined to do it, but if Ireland is petering out I want you to let me use whatever of the material I can and see if I can’t get out another book, and take my chance somewhere else. This won’t effect my feelings about you as publisher and as friend, but I feel I’m a fool not to sow another Irish crop–if necessary in fresh ground.[15]F. Hackett to B Huebsch, May 4, 1921, Huebsch papers.

Hackett’s second Ireland book, Story of the Irish Nation, took shape as a 1922 series for the New York World. He detailed the long arc of the island’s troubled history rather than a rehash of his 1920 reporting and public testimony. He mailed another letter to Huebsch about getting $2,000 from the World, and he promised to repay a $500 debt to the publisher. Hackett also revealed his plans to turn the series into the second Ireland book:

I have decided to give the history to the Century Company. I have made no contract with them as yet but the want it. They are willing to give me all foreign rights and a flat 15%, and are willing to get behind it in a commercial way. I am going to try them on this in the hope we will clean up enough money to be able to go to Denmark (his wife’s homeland).”[16]F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Jan. 28, 1922, from New York City, Huebsch papers.

Century published Story of the Irish Nation in March. Reviewers generally praised the book that summer, including a full-page feature in the New York Times by American writer and diplomat Maurice Francis Egan.[17]”Happy Times and Dragon’s Teeth in Ireland”, The New York Times Book Review and Magazine, June 18, 1922. By November 1922, when Hackett wrote to his brother, conditions in Ireland were much different than when the book was published. The Irish Civil War, sparked by the Dáil’s split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty, erupted after the release. Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins both died in August, and IRA “irregulars” and Free State troops committed atrocities at least as worse as during the war against Britain.

Given the fratricide and the Irish Free State constitution set to take effect in December 1922, Francis suggested to Byrne that Story of the Irish Nation “might begin to move.” He lamented that Century, his new publisher, “has no invention, but is faithful and plodding.” He also believed, “The Catholics, the K. of C., the A.O.H., are the people who would buy my history if they ever got started.”[18]Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Grolier Club archives. “K. of C.” is Knights of Columbus. A.O.H. is Ancient Order of Hibernians.

But Francis Hackett knew better. Only days before writing to his brother, he mailed a letter to Huebsch. Hackett wrote wrote: “My Irish history fell in between the Republic and Free State squarrel (sic) and got mashed to nothing.”[19]F. Hackett to B. Huebsch, Nov. 2, 1922, in Huebsch Papers.

***

See my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, which I am currently developing into a book. 

References

References
1 Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Brick Row Book Shop records (New York, N.Y.), 1913-2015, Box 63, Folder 1. The Grolier Club. Assistance and digital scans provided July 18, 2022, by Meghan R. Constantinou, librarian, and Scott Ellwood.
2 Ireland”, The Weekly Review, Nov. 15, 1919. See “Mr. Creel’s View on Matters Connected with Ireland’s Fight for Freedom”, The New York Times, Aug. 10, 1919.
3 Francis M. Carroll, American opinion and the Irish question, 1910-23 : a study in opinion and policy, Dublin : New York, Gill and Macmillan ; St. Martin’s Press, 1978, p. 196.
4 George Creel, Ireland’s Fight for Freedom, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1919, p. xiv.
5 American opinion, p. 144.
6 George Creel Attacks Irish American Leaders”, The Gaelic American, Aug. 16, 1919, p 3.
7 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Nov. 11, 1912, from 20 Patrick St., Kilkenny, Ireland, in Ben Huebsch Papers, Library of Congress.
8 Ibid.
9 Undated, unaddressed page with chapter headings similar to those in published book. The handwriting is consistent with other letters from F. Hackett, though I am not a handwriting expert. Huebsch Papers.
10 Thomas J. Rowland, “The American Catholic Pres And The Easter Rising” in Ireland’s Allies: American and the 1916 Easter Rising, Miriam Nyhan Grey, ed., University College Dublin Press, Dublin, 2016, p. 294.
11 ”Personal Notes”, The Publisher’s Weekly, April 12, 1919, p. 1011.
12 Daniel T. O’Connell, “Edmund Raymond Turner of the University of Michigan: Apostle and Apologist of Reaction,” Irish National Bureau, Washington, D.C., December 1919.
13 American opinion, p. 236.
14 “Erin Prosperous Writes Hackett”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920.
15 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, May 4, 1921, Huebsch papers.
16 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Jan. 28, 1922, from New York City, Huebsch papers.
17 ”Happy Times and Dragon’s Teeth in Ireland”, The New York Times Book Review and Magazine, June 18, 1922.
18 Francis Hackett to Byrne Hackett, Nov. 16, 1922, in Grolier Club archives. “K. of C.” is Knights of Columbus. A.O.H. is Ancient Order of Hibernians.
19 F. Hackett to B. Huebsch, Nov. 2, 1922, in Huebsch Papers.

Recalling the 1922 kidnapping of Dublin press correspondent

This post is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series. I am developing this content and new research into a book. MH

***

American journalist Hayden Talbot returned to Ireland a decade after he published a newspaper serial and instant biography of Michael Collins. Talbot had conducted several interviews with the Irish leader shortly before he was killed in an August 1922 ambush. In a 1932 magazine piece, the journalist recalled working in Ireland on the eve of civil war:

The Dublin of 1922 was not a salubrious place for alien journalists. The fact that there were 112 of us ‘covering’ the first meeting of the Dail helped, however. Only one pressman, in fact, suffered. He was kidnapped and held prisoner for several days. But we were all suspect. Dublin was substantially an armed camp. You were either for ‘Mick’ Collins or for de Valera. The fact that we alien reporters—for the most part—didn’t know a thing about either man (and cared less) was incomprehensible to the man in the street in Dublin.[1]Hayden Talbot, “Dublin Isn’t Troublin”, Answers ; London  Vol. 88, Iss. 25,  (May 7, 1932): 12

A. B. Kay’s photo appeared in the New York Daily News on Jan. 28, 1922, weeks after his safe return.

There are several aspects of Talbot’s comments, and others in the piece, that are ripe for exploration. For this post, I want to focus on the kidnapped pressman. His name was A. B. Kay, a correspondent for the Times of London. His Jan. 5, 1922, abduction came as Dáil Éireann reacted to criticism from the Dublin-based Freeman’s Journal, which grew into a larger debate about press freedom in Ireland. Days later the Dáil narrowly approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which prompted the resignation of President Éamon de Valera.

Because of those subsequent events, Kay’s kidnapping and quick release were soon forgotten. But it was front-page news for a day in large U.S. dailies such as the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, which published reports from their representatives among the 112 Dublin correspondents. Smaller papers across the country relied on an Associated Press dispatch, which reported Kay was getting a bite to eat with other newsmen in a Dublin grocery when he was abducted at gunpoint. He had recently reported that some members of the republican army were turning in favor of ratifying the treaty. This led to threats of being “put in a vault with corpses and a candle.”[2]”London Times Man Kidnapped By Sinn Fein”, Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune, Jan. 5, 1922, and other papers.

Dozens of the foreign correspondents in Dublin met to formulate a protest against the kidnapping, including a boycott of further coverage of the Dáil’s treaty debates. “The American and Irish correspondents joined the English newspaper men in signing the protest,” AP reported.[3]Ibid. Given the magnitude of the treaty vote and de Valera’s resignation, the proposed boycott never would have withstood the pressure to report.

And the kidnapping became secondary as anti-treaty members of the Dáil vented about unfavorable coverage in the Freeman’s Journal. In an editorial headlined “Vanity of Vanities,” the paper blasted de Valera for his “criminal attempt to divide the nation in the crisis of its fate,” among other criticisms.[4]”Vanity of Vanities”, Freeman’s Journal, Jan. 5, 1922. Mary MacSwiney wanted the Freeman’s reporter barred from the chamber. Sean Milroy argued against evictions of the press–or even representatives of Dublin Castle: “I think we are not afraid to hear the worst or the best that they can say.”

  • The full debate can be read from where the assembly resumes at 8.35 p.m.

Only a few days earlier, the anti-treatyites had launched the first issue of Poblacht na h-Éireann (The Republic of Ireland) newspaper in response to the overwhelmingly pro-treaty views of Ireland’s urban and provincial press, not just the Freeman’s Journal. In March, so-called “irregular” republican forces threatened the Freeman’s staff at gunpoint, smashed the presses with sledgehammers, and set fire to the building. 

As University College Cork’s Donal Ó Drisceoil has noted:

This reflected poorly on the democratic claims and general reputation of republicans at a time when they were engaged in what was partly a struggle to win over public opinion, including that of the diaspora, especially Irish-America, and was also largely counter-productive. It allowed their opponents to draw parallels with British attacks on and suppressions of Irish newspapers in the recent past; to characterize anti-Treatyites as lawless, thuggish and potentially dictatorial; and to cast themselves as a democratic bulwark against ‘anarchy’, representative of a majority and champions of the liberty of the press (which, conveniently, happened to be overwhelmingly pro-Treaty).[5]Press, Propaganda and the Treaty split“, RTÉ’s Atlas of the Irish Revolution, June 15, 2022.

 

References

References
1 Hayden Talbot, “Dublin Isn’t Troublin”, Answers ; London  Vol. 88, Iss. 25,  (May 7, 1932): 12
2 ”London Times Man Kidnapped By Sinn Fein”, Medford (Oregon) Mail Tribune, Jan. 5, 1922, and other papers.
3 Ibid.
4 ”Vanity of Vanities”, Freeman’s Journal, Jan. 5, 1922.
5 Press, Propaganda and the Treaty split“, RTÉ’s Atlas of the Irish Revolution, June 15, 2022.
6 ”Writer Describes Irish Kidnapping”, The Washington Herald (Washington, D.C.), Jan. 7, 1922.
7 Ó Drisceoil, “Press, propaganda…”

Liz II, Liz T, and the lingering links of empire

(This is a developing story and will be updated periodically over the next few days. Reminder to my email subscribers to check the website to see the latest version. MH)

UPDATE 1:

Newsweek reports: Why Some People From Ireland, India Are Celebrating Queen’s Death People in countries formerly controlled by Britain, such as India, Ireland, Australia and Nigeria, were quick to point out the monarchy’s role in the subjugation of their countries.

Out of curiosity a checked the Irish Newspaper Archive for coverage of Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. Most of the stories are straightforward. The Irish Press, founded in 1931 by longtime Irish leader Éamon de Valera, included a report that several Dublin cinema owners were kept from showing film coverage of the ceremony by intimation from an unnamed group. The Belfast papers gushed about the event.

ORIGINAL POST:

The death of Queen Elizabeth II and selection of Liz Truss as the U.K.’s new prime minister are a reminder of how Ireland and Britain remained linked across the Irish Sea.

The queen, 96, made a remarkable state visit to the Republic Ireland in May 2011. It was the first by a reigning monarch since her grandfather, King George V, crossed 100 years earlier, a decade before the island’s partition. Elizabeth made earlier and subsequent visits to Northern Ireland, including a memorable June 2012 handshake with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, then Sinn Féin deputy first minister of the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly.

Michael D. Higgins, president of Ireland, released a statement on the queen’s death. It said, in part:

As we know, the Queen often spoke of how much she enjoyed her own historic State Visit to Ireland in 2011, the first such Visit by a British monarch since Irish independence, and during which she did so much through eloquent word and generous gesture to improve relations between our two islands.

Queen Elizabeth’s Visit was pivotal in laying a firm basis for an authentic and ethical understanding between our countries.  During those memorable few days eleven years ago, the Queen did not shy away from the shadows of the past. Her moving words and gestures of respect were deeply appreciated and admired by the people of Ireland and set out a new, forward looking relationship between our nations – one of respect, close partnership and sincere friendship.

Here’s the queen’s speech:

 

Truss, who replaced Boris Johnson, is being widely criticized on both sides of the Irish border. In one of her first moves, Truss appointed pro-Brexit lawmaker Steve Baker to a role in the Northern Ireland Office. Unionist displeasure with how Northern Ireland is treated by Brexit trade protocols has kept the Northern Ireland Assembly elected in May from coming to power.

More on Truss and the queen as I update this post.

Remembering An Gorta Mor … as hunger persists

This memorial is a short walk from where I live in Cambridge, Mass.

Twenty-five years ago this summer Irish President Mary Robinson dedicated what press reports described as the first memorial in America to An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger of the mid-19th century. The recognition came at the 150th anniversary of “Black ’47”, the worst year of the Irish famine. A few months earlier Robinson dedicated Ireland’s National Famine Memorial in County Mayo.

“I wish we could say as a people that in a world of plenty there would be no famine,” Robinson told 1,000 onlookers at Cambridge Common, next to the Harvard campus, across the Charles River from Boston.[1]”1st U.S. Memorial to Irish Famine”, Daily News, New York, N.Y., as reported by Reuters. Two views of the sculpture are seen above and below.

A list of more than 140 famine memorials worldwide shows a simple plaque-on-stone memorial was dedicated in 1995 in Bergen County, New Jersey. Still, 1997 marked a boom in more artistic representations of the deaths of 1 million Irish and emigration of 1 million others. The Irish Famine Memorial in downtown Boston was unveiled 11 months after the one in Cambridge.  At least three more have been added in greater Boston since then.

There are also an estimated 828 million people who experience hunger every day; far too many in a world of plenty.

This post was corrected to reflect the New Jersey memorial.

Mary Robinson paraphrased these words in her 1997 unveiling speech.

References

References
1 ”1st U.S. Memorial to Irish Famine”, Daily News, New York, N.Y., as reported by Reuters.

On Michael Collins and Abraham Lincoln

UPDATE:

My ongoing research about press coverage of the Irish revolution discovered this passage by Irish journalist Ernest Boyd in the September 1922 issue of Foreign Affairs, two months before the Carl Ackerman piece referenced near the bottom:

The parallel between this loss to Ireland and that of the United States when Lincoln was assassinated has already suggested itself. The parallel is more apt than in the case of most parallels of this kind, for it not only emphasizes the particular hold which Michael Collins had upon the hearts and imaginations of his countrymen, but also reminds us of the hope that emerges from such tragic events. The murder of Lincoln deprived America of her man of destiny, yet the United States fulfilled their destiny without him, and ideals of the dead leader and of the Civil War did not perish.[1]Ernest Boyd, “Ireland: Resurgent and Insurgent,” Foreign Affairs 1, no. 1 (September 15, 1922): 86-97.

ORIGINAL POST:

Michael Collins, the Irish Free State government and army leader, was shot near Bandon, County Cork, on Aug. 22, 1922. For some, his death in the second month of the Irish Civil War evoked the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865, days after the end of the U.S. Civil War.

This dispatch by Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Paul Williams appeared in U.S. newspapers including the New York Times and the Baltimore Sun the day after the Collins shooting. Note the quote about Lincoln in the fourth paragraph:

Baltimore Sun, Aug. 23, 1922. (Story continued).

The unnamed Freeman’s editor most likely was Harry Newton Moore, a Canadian journalist who “shook out picturesque phrases” during his turn in the role.[2]Desmond Ryan, Remembering Sion. Arthur Blake, Ltd. London, 1934. Thanks to Dublin historian Felix M. Larkin for pointing me to this source. The Freeman’s Aug. 24, 1922, editorial about Collins, “Greatest and Bravest,” contained no such reference to Lincoln, nor did the paper’s other assassination coverage.

But during an Aug. 28, 1922, requiem high mass for Collins at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, County Tipperary, the Rev. Joseph McCarthy suggested the slain Irish leader drew inspiration from the late American president. The priest said:

It seems to me he went to a very good master to learn the art of government–Abraham Lincoln. A passage from one of Lincoln’s great addresses quoted in speeches by Michael Collins might well have been in his mind as a guiding motto, ‘with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right–as God gives us to see the right–let us serve on to the finish the work we are in, to build up the nation’s wounds.'[3]”Tipperary’s Grief, Eloquent Clerical Tributes” Evening Echo, Aug. 29, 1922. Also quoted in Irish Independent, same day.

Collins quoted this familiar passage from Lincoln’s second inaugural address (Given 41 days before his assassination.) in an April 23, 1922, speech at Tralee, County Kerry, according to the Cork Examiner.[4]”At Tralee, Very Successful Meeting”, The Cork Examiner, April 25, 1922. Collins and Arthur Griffith also released a joint statement shortly after a peace conference earlier that month at the Mansion House in Dublin failed to resolve difference between factions for and against the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Their statement quoted Lincoln’s Nov. 19, 1863, Gettysburg Address, “that government of the people, by the people, shall not perish from the earth.”[5]”Opposition Leaders Turn Down Plebiscite”, Freeman’s Journal, May 1, 1922.

Hearst’s International magazine, November 1922. (Full story linked in Note 5.)

American journalist Carl W. Ackerman made the Lincoln connection in the headline and final paragraph of his November 1922 magazine remembrance: “Ireland tomorrow will be a united, prosperous, homogenous country, and in her history Collins. for all time, will stand out as the Lincoln of Ireland.”[6]The Dream of Ireland’s Lincoln” , Hearst’s International, November 1922, Vol. XLII, No. 5, p 81. Ackerman had interviewed Collins in July 1920, “when he was a fugitive” from the British army, the article’s introductory text noted. Collins gave more regular press interviews after the July 1921 truce, including with Americans Samuel Duff McCoy and Hayden Talbot. (More on Talbot in an upcoming post.)

In a modern assessment, John Dorney made a different connection between Collins and Lincoln. The Dublin historian, in an Aug. 17, 2017, article for The Irish Story, questioned whether the former was the founder of Irish democracy or an aspirant dictator. Dorney wrote:

Collins, had he had the chance to defend himself in later years, from charges he was an aspirant dictator, would no doubt have argued that putting off the opening of the Third Dáil in July and August 1922 was merely a short-term emergency measure and not a portent of any kind of dictatorship.

He might have cited the parallel between himself and Abraham Lincoln, the American president during that country’s civil war. Like Collins, Lincoln’s enemies characterized him as a ‘tyrant’ and like Collins, Lincoln did take all the measures he felt necessary to win the Civil War and save the Union. In 1861 for instance, he too suspended habeus corpus, imposed censorship and military courts and shut down the legislatures of ‘disloyal’ states such as Maryland.

Just like Collins, Lincoln justified such measures on the grounds that he was fighting so that ‘government of the people for the people and by the people shall not perish from the earth’. Regarding the suspension of habeas corpus, Lincoln contended that it was necessary if the laws of the Union were to have any meaning, ‘are all the laws [of the United States] but one [the right to trial] to go unexecuted?’ he wrote.

Civil wars and assassinations are bloody business, in any country, at any time. And we are left to ponder “what might have been” had such leaders lived longer lives.

(NOTE: I revised the first paragraph to remove that Collins was “assassinated,” as this seems a matter of some debate. Explore my full “American Reporting on Irish Independence” series. MH)

References

References
1 Ernest Boyd, “Ireland: Resurgent and Insurgent,” Foreign Affairs 1, no. 1 (September 15, 1922): 86-97.
2 Desmond Ryan, Remembering Sion. Arthur Blake, Ltd. London, 1934. Thanks to Dublin historian Felix M. Larkin for pointing me to this source.
3 ”Tipperary’s Grief, Eloquent Clerical Tributes” Evening Echo, Aug. 29, 1922. Also quoted in Irish Independent, same day.
4 ”At Tralee, Very Successful Meeting”, The Cork Examiner, April 25, 1922.
5 ”Opposition Leaders Turn Down Plebiscite”, Freeman’s Journal, May 1, 1922.
6 The Dream of Ireland’s Lincoln” , Hearst’s International, November 1922, Vol. XLII, No. 5, p 81.