Category Archives: Irish War of Independence

American reporting of Irish independence

I’m developing new posts about American journalists who covered the Irish revolution. I urged site visitors to explore the project landing page to read my earlier work. You’ll find there:

  • Centenary year “revisited” posts covering events from 1918 to 1923.
  • Special projects: More detailed explorations of individual journalists.
  • Sources & links, including Irish-American newspapers, period books, and reports.

Back to D.C. — thanks New England archivists & librarians

The Burns Library holds BC’s Irish and Irish American collections.

I’m back in Washington, D.C., after 10 months in Boston for my wife’s Nieman Foundation fellowship at Harvard. It was a great experience for both of us. I visited several libraries and archives in the region to research my book on American journalists in revolutionary Ireland. In appreciation, I’ve listed the institutions and two individuals below, followed by more photos:

  • Boston College: Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr., and John J. Burns libraries.
    • Thanks to Guy Beiner, Sullivan Chair of BC’s Irish Studies program, Connolly House.
  • Boston Public Library: “Irish Papers” collection and newspaper microfilm.
  • Cambridge Public Library and associated Minuteman Library Network.
  • Colby College (Waterville, Maine): James A. Healy Collection at Miller Library.
    • Thanks to Patricia Burdick, head of special collections and archives.
  • Harvard: Widener, Lamont, Houghton, and Divinity School libraries, and
    • Radcliffe Institute: Schlesinger Library.
  • Tufts University: Tisch Library.
  • University of Massachusetts at Boston: Joseph P. Healy Library.
  • Yale University (New Haven, Conn.): Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Plaque at the entrance of Harvard’s Widener Library describes the fate of its namesake.

Bates Hall, the main reading room at Boston Public Library.

Hallway leading to special collections and archives at Yale University.

Miller Library at Colby College in Maine.

Ruth Russell’s ‘Ireland’ at Harvard library

I’ve written several pieces about Ruth Russell, the Chicago Daily News correspondent who in 1919 covered the early months of the Irish War of Independence. Notably, she lived in the Dublin slums to report about poor women and children. On her return to America, Russell expanded her newspaper dispatches into the 1920 book What’s the matter with Ireland? As an advocate for Irish independence, she protested with other women outside the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., and testified before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland.[1]See Beginnings; Correspondent; Activist; Witness; Afterward; and Ruth Russell remembered in stone … 57 years later

Harvard’s copy of the book.

Russell’s 103-year-old book is available online. Until recently, the only hard copy I’d seen was requested from storage at the Library of Congress in Washington. But I found What’s the matter with Ireland? while exploring the stacks at Harvard’s flagship Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library.

Harvard acquired the book on Oct. 7, 1920, according to the date stamp on the copyright page. Borrowers checked out the book 10 times during its first year in the library, as recorded by the due dates stamped on a schedule pasted to the inside back cover. These dates are shown below with select Irish-related news and other content from that day’s Boston Globe. The mix of local and international events offers a thumbnail sketch of events during the last year of the war as Harvard students or faculty read Russell’s book.

  • Nov. 20, 1920: John Derham, town commissioner of Balbriggan, and Francis Hackett, associate editor of The New Republic, testified at the American Committee on Conditions in Ireland hearings in Washington, D.C. Russell testified to the commission on Dec. 15, 1920. (See image of the Globe’s story below.)
  • Jan. 8, 1921: The censorship trial of Capuchin chaplain Fr. Dominic O’Connor, charged with making statements “likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty,” opened in Dublin. Convicted and sentenced to prison later that month, he was released on general amnesty upon ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922.
  • Jan. 21, 1921: Lord Mayor of Cork Donal O’Callaghan, a stowaway to America after the December 1920 British rampage in the city, said he would surrender to U.S. immigration authorities.
  • Feb. 9, 1921: British Prime Minister David Lloyd George said he offered Ireland a greater measure of home rule than Gladstone or Asquith. “But they won’t take it. … They must have an Irish Republic, an Irish Army, an Irish Navy. They won’t get it.”
  • Feb. 19, 1921: The Moore & McCormack cargo line advertised a Feb. 23 sailing from Boston to Belfast, Cork, and Dublin. The service, which began in September 1919 from Philadelphia, was citied by Sinn Féin as an example of Ireland’s commercial independence. The route was discontinued in 1925.[2]See An American reporters in 1920 Ireland: Industry.
  • March 16, 1921: Fr. John W. Meehan of Castlebar, County Mayo, continued to address local groups interested in Irish independence and conditions in the country. He arrived in Boston two months earlier.
  • April 4, 1921: A front-page Associated Press report said that “competent observers” believed prospects for peace in Ireland had brightened since St. Patrick’s Day.
  • May 11, 1921: More than 300 delegates representing 146 councils of the Massachusetts State Council of the Knights of Columbus adopted a resolution favoring immediate recognition of the Republic of Ireland. … “Pure linen” handkerchiefs imported from Belfast were on sale at 29 cents each at Chandler & Co. on Tremont Street.
  • Oct. 4, 1921: The Associated Press reported that “numerous newspapers writers and photographers” were permitted to observe an Irish Republican Army battalion in the Wicklow Mountains south of Dublin. “Throughout Ireland drilling and inspections of this kind have been proceeding since the truce was signed (in July),” the story said.
  • Oct. 25, 1921: Éamon de Valera’s message to Pope Benedict XV regarding “formally proclaimed” independence of Ireland stirred “the first real crisis” in negotiations toward a peace agreement with Great Britain, the AP reported. The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed Dec. 6, 1921.

It’s unclear if any of the Harvard borrowers paid the 5 cents per day fine for returning the book after the stamped due date. Interest in Russell’s book waned after the treaty. The next three due dates were May 19, 1931; Sept. 18, 1946; and May 28, 1955. The book remained shelved for 41 years, then was checked out three more times in April and May 1996.

Subsequent activity–if any–was recorded on electronic library systems and cannot be retrieved, according to the librarian who checked out the book for me. I was curious whether there was activity at the centenary of the Irish revolution and 100th anniversary of the book’s publication.

The Boston Globe published this story about Russell’s Dec. 15, 1920, testimony before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. The paper did not review her book, ‘What’s the matter with Ireland?’, released earlier in the year. The book was added to Harvard’s library in October 1920.

The online Quercus Rare Books offers an original hardcover inscribed by Russell for $250. It says: “To the President of the Irish Republic Eamon de Valera, with best wishes from a citizen of the United States.” Below the inscription is the stamp from de Valera’s library. De Valera provided a Jan. 29, 1920, letter praising Russell’s work, which appears as front matter in the book. Quercus also offers an unsigned first edition in “very good plus” condition (below “Near Fine” and “Fine”) for $100.

The back pages of Russell’s book contained advertisements for three other contemporary Irish titles from publisher Devin-Adair: The Invincible Irish, by J.C. Walsh; Why God Loves The Irish, by Humphry J. Desmond; and The Irish Rebellion of 1916 And Its Martyrs–Erin’s Tragic Easter, a collection of essays by eight writers. While it’s great these titles are available online, nothing beats the feel and smell of on old book pulled from the library shelf.

When Doris interviewed Sinéad

Sinéad de Valera

Doris Stevens

American suffragette, feminist, and author Doris Stevens wrote a profile of Sinéad de Valera in summer 1921 that was sympathetic to Irish independence and published in U.S., Irish, British, and French newspapers.  Stevens’ encounters with other Irish political and military figures provided additional glimpses of the country during the interregnum between the Truce of July 1921 and the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed in December of that year.

Before traveling to Dublin, Stevens attended a London performance of “The Whiteheaded Boy,” by Cork-born dramatist Lennox Robinson. She jotted in her journal:

“Made me realize all over again what a marvelous and also terrible race the Irish are. Also in the realism of this play it seemed to me that Ireland was a nation that had lived on its nerves for centuries. Each human being was like a powder magazine ready to break out at the least spark. This could only happen to a race whose normal and original sensitiveness had been transformed into a super sensitiveness, a disease of national magnitude, through centuries of doubt, misapprehension, and fear.

See my full piece on The Irish Story website.

Best of the Blog, 2022

Welcome to my tenth annual Best of the Blog, a roundup of the year’s work. July marked our milestone tenth anniversary, with more than 900 total posts since 2012. I appreciate the support of regular readers, especially email subscribers. (Join at right.) Thanks also to the archivists and librarians who assisted my research during the year, whether in person or remote. I visited collections at Princeton University, Harvard University, Boston College, and Boston Public Library for the first time, and returned to archives at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and the Dioceses of Pittsburgh. … Special thanks to Professor Guy Beiner, director of the Irish Studies Program at BC, for his warm welcome this fall.

I added two dozen posts to my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, which totals more than 140 entries since December 2018, including several from guest contributors. This year I began circling back to earlier years of the Irish revolution. Highlights included:

FREELANCE STORIES & PRESENTATIONS:

I was pleased to publish stories with several new platforms (*) this year and delighted to give a virtual presentation to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh:

‘Luminous In Its Presentation’:
The Pittsburgh Catholic and Revolutionary Ireland, 1912-1923
*Gathered Fragments: Annual journal of the Catholic Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania (Publishes late December 2022/early January 2023)

The Long Road to ‘Redress’ in Ireland
History News Network, (George Washington University), Oct. 30, 2022

My Pilgrimages to St. Patrick’s Churches
*Arlington Catholic Herald & syndicated by *Catholic News Service, March 11, 2022

The Irish Revolution in Pittsburgh
*Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Feb. 17, 2022, presentation linked from headline

Watch the presentation from the linked ‘Irish Revolution in Pittsburgh’ headline above, or from here.

At 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” Peace Feels Less Certain
History News Network, (George Washington University), Jan. 30, 2022

Cheers and Jeers for Ireland: Éamon De Valera’s Alabama Experience
*Alabama Heritage Magazine, Winter 2022

GUEST POSTS:

Thanks to this year’s four guest contributors, detailed below. Journalists, historians, authors, researchers, and travelers to Ireland are welcome to offer submissions. Use the contact form on the Guest Posts landing page to make a suggestion.

Journalists recall coverage challenges during Northern Ireland TroublesDaniel Carey is a PhD student at Dublin City University. His thesis examines the working lives of former journalists and editors in Ireland.

Pro-Treaty delegation in Pittsburgh, May 1922Dr. Anne Good Forrestal, a former lecturer in Sociology at Trinity College Dublin, is the granddaughter of Seán and Delia MacCaoilte. In spring 1922, he was part of the pro-Treaty delegation that visited America, including a stop in Pittsburgh. This story is based on one of his letters from the city.

Detailing the Crosbies of North KerryMichael Christopher Keane is a retired University College Cork lecturer and author of three books about the Crosbies, leading and often controversial landlord families in County Kerry for over 300 years.

Periodicals & Journalism in Twentieth-Century IrelandFelix M. Larkin and Mark O’Brien have edited two volumes of essays that focus on periodicals as a vehicle for news and commentary, rather than literary miscellany.

BEST OF THE REST: 

These stories were the most popular outside the “American reporting” and “Guest posts” series:

YEARS PAST:

Highlights of earlier work found here:

YEAR AHEAD:

I plan to spend the first half of 2023 in Cambridge, Mass., as my wife completes her Nieman fellowship at Harvard. I will continue to participate in BC’s Irish Studies Program. I also hope to finish my book on how American reporters covered the Irish revolutionary period as the “decade of centenaries” concludes in May with the 100th anniversary of the end of the Irish Civil War. God willing, I hope to travel to Ireland for the first time since shortly before the pandemic.

Best wishes to all,
Mark

When British troops left Southern Ireland

On Dec. 17, 1922, the last British troops departed what had become the 26-county Irish Free State, today’s Republic of Ireland, in ceremonies at Dublin. British military and police remained in the partitioned, six-county Northern Ireland. Here is a sample of U.S. newspaper reporting:

“British military rule in Ireland came to an end yesterday, after 600 years. The final spectacle in the historical drama was enacted on the quays of the Liffey as, one after another, four transports disappeared into the mists, bound for England. The last British troops that had occupied Southern Ireland sailed in those transports, sped by a tremendous demonstration of Irish affection, bitterness fostered for generations forgotten. In their ears, as the troopships swung out into the tide-way was the blare of a Free State army and playing Auld Lange Syne; the cheers and God-speed-ye’s of a great throng on the quays; the riverbank of a mass of fluttering handkerchiefs and Irish colleens throwing kisses.” — George McDonough, United Press

This image was widely used in U.S. newspapers through late December 1922. I have not seen a photo credit.

“Before they left, the British troops hauled in the Union Jack and the incoming Free State troops immediately hoisted the Irish tricolor, which now floats from all the barracks and government buildings in Dublin. … The (British) troops everywhere were loudly cheered. … The ‘Tommies’ were astonished at the display of good will. … A siren farewell by all the ships in the harbor sped the departing British troops on their way as transports moved out to sea. … The whistle chorus began the minute the first transport turned its nose homeward, and continued until the last British had got underway.” — Associated Press

“By nightfall not a single English soldier remained in Southern Ireland. Never has the city watched such a spectacle, and the people of Dublin gave free rein to their emotions as the columns swung by, each regiment preceded by its band and colors.” — New York Times

“The London office of the United News Sunday received from its Dublin correspondent a story concerning the departure of the last of British troops from Ireland. The telegram was dated “Bail Eatha, Oliath,” (sic) which indicates the movement to resuscitate Gaelic has started in southern Ireland. — United News, via Chicago Tribune (The correct spelling of Dublin in Gaelic is Baile Átha Cliath. The 1922 version was probably mangled in the telegraph transmission.)

‘Irish Bulletin’ subscription replies, December 1921

The “Irish Papers” collection at Boston Public Library contains letters, documents, pamphlets, and other material related to the Irish War of Independence and Civil War, 1919-1923. I recently reviewed portions of the collection related to press activity in Ireland during the period as part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series and book project. MH

The Irish Bulletin debuted in November 1919 as the official organ of the provisional Irish Republic. Its original press run of less than 50 copies grew to about 1,200 over two years.[1]See Bureau of Military History Witness Statement of Kathleen Napoli-McKenna, who worked at the Bulletin, p. 5. Readers included political insiders on both sides of the Irish Sea, the continent, and across the Atlantic, including American and other foreign journalists.

Chicago Tribune, Dec. 7, 1921. Bulletin referenced below George photo.

The Bulletin operated underground for most of its exitance. It effectively countered British propaganda and helped make the Irish republican case before the world. British operatives raided the Bulletin’s Dublin offices in March 1921 and soon published a forged edition, which fooled few readers. After the July 1921 truce, the Bulletin emerged from the shadows as Irish and British representatives began to negotiate a treaty settlement.

On Nov. 25, 1921, the Bulletin “manager” mailed a circular to known recipients from Mansion House, Dublin, likely working from the publication’s daily and weekly lists of names and addresses as of late July 1921.[2]Held by Bureau of the Military History, Dublin. Reference Code BMH-CD-006-09-16(k) and Reference Code BMH-CD-006-09-16(l), respectively. The circular stated:

The circumstances of the situation in Ireland have hitherto prevented direct communications between the readers of the IRISH BULLETIN and those responsible for its publication. This difficulty does not at present exist, and if recipients wish to communicate with the publishers they can do so (via Mansion House). We shall be glad to hear from those who receive the BULLETIN as to change of address, non-receipt, etc. … If no such acknowledgement reaches (the manager) he will discontinue sending the BULLETIN to that address.

A follow up circular mailed Dec. 12, 1921, said, “We have had no acknowledgement from you … (and) would be glad if you will let us know whether the copies of the BULLETIN sent you have arrived.”

The “Irish Papers” collection contains 216 replies, most of them on the bottom of either the first or second circular. John Steele, the Chicago Tribune‘s London correspondent, replied to the first notice with “many thanks for the Bulletin which is being received regularly.” He often referenced the Bulletin in his dispatches to America, but the Dec. 7, 1921, story clipped here appears to be the last time. Steele and American journalist Carl Ackerman, also on the Bulletin’s daily recipients list, in 1920 and 1921 shuttled between Irish and British officials to assist negotiations leading to the treaty.

Other Americans on the Bulletin’s daily mailing list included:

  • The American Consul’s office, Dublin
  • Clemens J. France, leader of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland, Dublin
  • Associated Press of America, London
  • P.J. Kelly, Irish-born correspondent of the New York World, Dublin
  • John H. McHugh Stuart, New York Herald, London
  • Webb Miller, United Press, London
  • E.C. Reeves, International News Service, London
  • Frank P. Walsh, a member of the American Commission on Irish Independence that visited Ireland in May 1919, and other activities, New York

American recipients on the Bulletin’s weekly mailing list included the Irish Diplomatic Mission, Washington, D.C.; Notre Dame University library, Indiana; and nearly 50 chapters of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR), which splintered from the Friends of Irish Freedom in late 1920 to support Éamon de Valera. Almost 100 newspapers and magazines are on the list, most of them Catholic weeklies. The list included secular Irish papers such as The Irish News and Chicago Citizen; The Irish Press, Philadelphia, The Irish Standard, Minneapolis; The Irish World and American Industrial Liberator, New York City; the Kentucky Irish American, Louisville; and a few labor organs. Mainstream press included The Nation magazine, which backed the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland in late 1920 and early 1921; and The New York Times, hardly a supporter of Irish independence at any time.

The Pennsylvania state chapter of the AARIR, based in Philadelphia, and the Catholic Sentinel of Portland, Oregon, nearly 7,500 miles from Dublin, are among the American groups that replied to the circular, as contained in the Boston archive.

G. K. Chesterton

English author G. K. Chesterton, who wrote a book and newspaper columns in favor of Irish independence, also sent a hand-written note to the Bulletin, apparently after reading the second notice:

“I hope you will forgive both delay & haste, as I am in a domestic rush. I certainly supposed I had read all of the issues of the Bulletin sent to me, with great interest and admiration for the ability and sincerity with which your case is argued; but it is clear that I missed the one you mention, or I should have sent the acknowledgement before. Yours very truly,”

The Bulletin ceased publication on Dec. 11, 1921, after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London, as referenced in Steele’s story above. The timing of the paper’s closure suggests some miscommunication among the editorial staff and other treaty supporters, or possibly disappointment with the subscriber notification response.

“With the coming of the Truce “The Irish Bulletin” on which I had the honour to work, had successfully completed its mission,” Kathleen Napoli-McKenna says in her Bureau of Military History Witness Statement, linked in Note 1. (She seems to mean the treaty.) “I recall the days of my work on the Bulletin with a deep sense of nostalgic happiness.”

Subsequent iterations of the Bulletin were published by anti-treaty forces through spring 1923.

See earlier posts on the 100th anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Treaty:

Dec. 6, 1921: When U.S. newspapers headlined Irish peace

Irish-American press reactions to Anglo-Irish Treaty

‘The Republic of Ireland is dead; long live … ‘

(This post was updated Dec. 13, 2022.)

References

References
1 See Bureau of Military History Witness Statement of Kathleen Napoli-McKenna, who worked at the Bulletin, p. 5.
2 Held by Bureau of the Military History, Dublin. Reference Code BMH-CD-006-09-16(k) and Reference Code BMH-CD-006-09-16(l), respectively.

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

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.

Two years later Turner engaged in a series of U.S. newspaper editorial page “debates” with Mary MacSwiney, sister of hunger strike martyr Terence MacSwiney, as she toured America on behalf of the Irish republic. The professor dodged the challenge of a live platform confrontation with the activist.[13]Joanne Mooney Eichacker, Irish Republican Women In America, Lecture Tours, 1916-1925 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2003) pp. 116, 121. See “The Irish Problem Is Debated”, The Cincinnati … Continue reading

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.[14]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.”[15]“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.[16]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 they 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).”[17]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.[18]”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.”[19]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.”[20]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 Joanne Mooney Eichacker, Irish Republican Women In America, Lecture Tours, 1916-1925 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2003) pp. 116, 121. See “The Irish Problem Is Debated”, The Cincinnati Post, Feb. 10, 1921, and other papers.
14 American opinion, p. 236.
15 “Erin Prosperous Writes Hackett”, Boston Post, Oct. 5, 1920.
16 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, May 4, 1921, Huebsch papers.
17 F. Hackett to B Huebsch, Jan. 28, 1922, from New York City, Huebsch papers.
18 ”Happy Times and Dragon’s Teeth in Ireland”, The New York Times Book Review and Magazine, June 18, 1922.
19 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.
20 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…”