Category Archives: Journalism

Why latest Dublin riot rattles Irish republic

The Republic of Ireland faces a reckoning in the wake of Nov. 24 violence in Dublin.

The episode began with the stabbing of three children and one adult outside a local school, reportedly at the hand of an immigrant, quickly followed by a spasm of right-wing looting, arson, and attacks on police. Now, the Irish government and people must take a hard look at tension between the country’s growing non-native population and rising anti-immigrant ideology, and the even tougher challenges of economic equality in a world transformed by globalism and technology.

“The Dublin riots have changed everything,” The Irish Times proclaimed in a next-day headline.

Changed utterly? Perhaps.

Screen grab of images from the Nov. 24 riot in Dublin.

This was not the first time street violence and looting have flared in the Irish capital. It’s worth remembering that the April 1916 Easter Rising began with high-minded nationalist ideals. But it also included opportunistic looting and indiscriminate arson that had nothing to do with republican aspirations.

Most recently, the February 2006 “Love Ulster” riot is the more precise precursor of the latest unrest. It resulted when a group of Northern Ireland unionists came to Dublin to protest alleged government collusion with the IRA. They were met by dissident republican counter protestors. The two groups clashed with each other and the police. Historian John Dorney detailed the event, based on personal observations, on The Irish Story website he edits.

Replying to my outreach on the latest event, Dorney wrote that the 2006 riot started as “a small demonstration of political extremists that attracted a wider crowd of people basically looking for trouble. The looting was the same. The geography of these disturbances was almost exactly the same as those, also.”

What’s different this time around, Dorney continued, is the level of destruction and the driving ideology.

“You have a segment of young people, mostly males, a lot of whom are involved in petty crime or anti-social behavior who have been recruited by anti-immigrant agitators in Dublin over the past year or so. … Thanks to the internet a lot of them believe in conspiracy theories like ‘the great replacement’. We have social media to thank for this.”

Simmering trouble, uncertain future

Kindling for the recent riot has gathered at least since the start of the COVID pandemic. It was apparent in September as 200 right-wing protestors harassed and threatened politicians, government staff, and journalists outside Leinster House, the republic’s legislative home. In addition to anti-immigrant messages, the crowd appeared driven by COVID conspiracy theories, attacks on transgender rights, and other grievances, such as Ireland’s (especially Dublin’s) affordable housing crisis.

Central Statistics Office, Ireland

Unconfirmed social media messages that a native Algerian was the perpetrator of the school stabbings fueled the latest riot. Details of the man’s nationality and status in Ireland have not been released by officials. But Irish census data reveals 20 percent of the population in the 26 counties was born abroad. The growth has been driven by enlargement of the E.U.; the arrival of more than 90,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion; and arrivals from India, Brazil, Nigeria, the Philippines, and other places for a variety of reasons, Shane Harrison noted at BBC.com. Ironically, a Brazilian food delivery driver stopped the knife wielder.

“My Dublin-based friends are mostly internationals; many of them are people of color,” wrote Daniel Carey, a teaching assistant at the Dublin City University School of Communications and another of my transatlantic Irish history connections. “More than one colleague whose experience of Ireland has been overwhelmingly positive has reported being racially abused in the days since. At least some are considering their futures here. How did we – a nation of economic migrants – get here?”

Dublin historian Felix Larkin begins to answer that question by pointing to a broader “root cause of the malady which troubles our liberal democratic societies,” not just Ireland. He noted the American political philosopher Michael Sandel has identified the “competitive market meritocracy that deepens divides and corrodes solidarity.” With meritocracy in practice less based on ability and talent than generally acknowledged, the system leaves those who fall short with a sense of personal failure, hopelessness, humiliation, and resentment.

“That, in my view, is the most convincing analysis of the reason for the rise of populist movements today:  Trump and MAGA in the U.S., Johnson and Brexit in the U.K., and now Geert Wilders in The Netherlands,” Larkin said in reply to my outreach. He continued:

Ireland is not immune to this phenomenon: it has been bubbling below the surface of our society for some years, and it is a factor in the phenomenal rise of Sinn Féin. What we saw on (Nov. 24) in Dublin was an ugly manifestation of it, one not without precedent in other great cities of Western Europe and North America. All it takes is a spark to light the fire, like in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Those of us who value liberal democracy need to take heed.

Keep in mind that while Sinn Féin might have populist underpinnings, the party leans left rather than right. As Harrison observed, Ireland’s right-wing extremists so far have not yet rallied around a single personality or party. But in the early aftermath  of the riot, it appeared former UFC champion Conor McGregor was positioning himself for the role in a series of–what else?–incendiary social media postings. “Ireland-we are at war,” he wrote days before the riot in support of the boyfriend of 23-year-old Ashling Murphy, murdered last year by an immigrant.

American friends of Ireland should keep things in perspective. The U.S. State Department has not issued any travel advisories for the Republic; the usual Level 1: “Exercise Normal Precautions” status remains in place. The September protest outside Leinster House was hardly the same stuff as the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Ireland, thankfully, has avoided the mass shootings that plague American communities.

But as is true for the United States, the Irish will have to move beyond the knee-jerk cliches of political leaders claiming, “This is not who we are.” (Joe Biden, Leo Varadkar) and columnists such as Fintan O’Toole outdoing themselves to denounce the rioters as “scumbags” and “pitiful thugs.” That hasn’t worked on the MAGA crowd, and it won’t work in Ireland. As Irish artist Adam Doyle wrote in guest column for The Irish Times: “Demonizing and dehumanizing these communities pretty much ensures this will happen again. Calling people names and questioning their right to exist in the city means they’ll never trust you. You’ll never see eye-to-eye with someone who thinks you’re an animal.”

Reporter vs. reporter: Part 4, Behind the scenes

The is the final installment of a four-part series about the 1920 confrontation between American journalists Carl Ackerman and Charles Grasty as they covered the war in Ireland. This series is part of my ongoing exploration of American Reporting of Irish Independence© 2024. See:

“The Irish press devotes a column at a time to men like Grasty of the New York Times or Ackerman of the Philadelphia (Public) Ledger when they tell the truth concerning the Irish situation, calling them and their papers paid agents of the British Government.”

Ackerman and House

Carl Ackerman had just turned 30 years old when he arrived in London in February 1920 to oversee the Philadelphia Public Ledger‘s new foreign news service. Advertisements promoted Ackerman as “one of the best known of American correspondents.” Within a year the service would have more than two dozen subscriber newspapers, including the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Washington (D.C.) Herald, Des Moines (Iowa) Register, Minneapolis (Minnesota) Tribune, and St. Louis Star.[1]”Readers of the Eagle Now Have the Benefit of a New Cable News Service”, advertisement in the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, March 7, 1920, and “Foreign Service Subscribers to Date, … Continue reading

Ackerman traveled to Ireland in April. “The trip was valuable in that it gave me background of understanding which I needed because I had never been there or studied Irish affairs,” Ackerman wrote to John S. Spurgeon, his editor in Philadelphia.[2]Ackerman to Spurgeon, April 8, 1920, in Ackerman papers, Library of Congress.

Ackerman also told Spurgeon that he was “working very slowly and cautiously on ‘connections’” with U.S.  and British government officials.[3]Ackerman to Spurgeon, March 10, 1920, in Ackerman papers. As Maurice Walsh details in The News from Ireland, Ackerman’s reporting soon came to be influenced by two insiders–one American, one British—as he inserted himself into back-channel efforts to bring peace to Ireland. His behind-the-scenes work “was not unconnected to his view of how he should collect news as a journalist; the idea that good journalism was the fruit of being on excellent terms with powerful contacts,” which Ackerman described as ” ‘key men’ in ‘key positions.’ “[4]Walsh, The News from Ireland, (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.) p. 141.

In this regard, Ackerman’s June 1920 outing of Charles Grasty’s mission to Ireland for the Wilson administration smacks of either hypocrisy or sabotage. Wasn’t the New York Times journalist only doing the same thing as Ackerman?

To boost the reputation of the new foreign news service, the Public Ledger retained Edward House as a special advisor on diplomacy. House was available for the duty because he had been pushed out of the Wilson administration after the president suffered a stroke in October 1919. House was sidelined by Wilson’s wife and other White House insiders wary of his self-dealing. Ackerman and House had regularly exchanged correspondence during the Great War, and House had similar relationships with Grasty and other journalists.

Ackerman carried a letter from House to Sir Horace Plunkett on a second trip to Ireland in late June, a month after Grasty met with the Irish statesman. House raised the possibility of himself mediating peace negotiations between the Irish rebels and the British government. He described Ackerman as “my friend,” and told Plunkett “I commend him to you as being in every way worthy of your confidence.”[5]House to Plunkett, June 27, 1920, in House papers, Yale University. Plunkett in turn helped Ackerman shape a story that floated the possibility of an outside mediator, a person left unnamed in the story but whom the Irishman teased as “someone who belongs to your own country.[6]”Plunkett Blames British Blunders For Irish Strife”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Star Tribune, July 9, 1920, Third story of four-part series.

Top of March 7, 1920, Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertisement for the new foreign news service.

Top portion of March 7, 1920, advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for the new foreign news service, which was based from the Philadelphia Public Ledger.

Ackerman and Thomson

Ackerman’s second inside source was Sir Basil Thomson, director of intelligence at Scotland Yard. Beginning in May 1920, Thomson selectively leaked documents gathered by British intelligence to “prepare the ground for negotiation with IRA leaders” and “briefed Ackerman to carry messages to Sinn Fein and IRA leaders in Ireland, using Ackerman’s journalistic mission as cover for advancing an Irish settlement by negotiation.”[7]Walsh, News from Ireland, p. 143.

That summer, officials continued to contemplate using House as a mediator in the negotiations, but the effort eventually fizzled. Walsh notes that, “Ackerman’s role as go-between” continued to evolve. “There is no sign that Ackerman’s employers were aware of the secret work he had undertaken,” Walsh says. He cities Spurgeon’s Aug. 6, 1920, letter to Ackerman expressing relief that House abandoned the idea of becoming a mediator in Ireland because of his role on the editorial staff of an American newspaper. “If it was out of bounds to become a mediator on grounds of preserving editorial independence–even though he was an advisor to the Public Ledger and not a journalist–it must have been an equally forbidden path for Ackerman,” Walsh says.[8]Ibid., pp. 145-146.

On the other hand, it’s hard to believe that Spurgeon was ignorant of Ackerman’s extra-journalistic activities with U.S. and British officials. Ackerman certainly kept him informed about the House initiative, and Ackerman also told his editor about conversations with Thompson. Spurgeon knew Ackerman’s dispatches for Public Ledger subscriber papers didn’t contain many of the details that he described in their private correspondence. As Ackerman wrote in his own diary: “Frequently there is more news between the lines of a newspaper than appears in the print.”[9]Ackerman’s “London Notebook”, Aug. 18, 1920, in Ackerman papers.

Grasty’s ‘Irish Realities’

Charles Grasty

Grasty updated his New York Times reporting from Ireland in a September piece for The Atlantic Monthly. His conclusions related to America’s role in Ireland included:

I begin by saying that the common belief in America that the present movement in Ireland is a spontaneous eruption of a people smarting under tyrannous oppression is not well-founded. The movement, unlike similar movements in the past, has been carefully planned by a few bold and astute leaders. … For without financial help from America and an American sympathy that will constantly embarrass Britain, the enterprise of an Irish republic is a mere chimera. …

The (Irish republican) movement went forward without a single setback until the month of June of this year. First, the Republican Convention in Chicago, and then the Democratic Convention in San Francisco, refused to indorse Irish independence. De Valera failed in his task. With American sympathy and help, the achievement of a republic in Ireland was a possibility. Without them, the extreme of the Irish demand can never be attained. …

The failure to get the Irish question into the American presidential election, in my opinion, reduces to nil the chance, always slender, in view of Britain’s necessities, of establishing an Irish republic as the result of this particular movement. Without strong American aid, the conflicting elements in Sinn Fein cannot long be held together in the effort along the present lines for full independence.[10]Charles Grasty, “Irish Realities”, The Atlantic Monthly, September 1920.

Grasty’ last observation proved prescient. His piece was cited on the editorial pages of many U.S. newspaper, including the Minneapolis (Minn.) Star Tribune, Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, and Kansas City (Mo.) Times. Even the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle commented on his “recently returned … investigation of Irish conditions.”[11]”People In Ireland Bound To Win In End, Observer’s Belief”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Sept. 12, 1920. The Eagle did not mention Ackerman’s story about Grasty being on a mission for Wilson, which it had published just four months earlier.

Ackerman interviews Collins

Ackerman’s “exclusive and authorized interview” with Irish leader Michael Collins also drew significant press attention in late summer 1920. An editor’s note said, “For more than two years the British Government has searched for him. Today every policeman and officer in Ireland carries his photograph and description and has orders to arrest him at sight on the general charge of directing assassinations and raids on government offices.”[12]”Irish Never Will Accept Premier’s Terms–Collins”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Aug. 26, 1920.

Walsh has detailed how Irish propaganda minister Desmond FitzGerald proposed the Collins interview to Ackerman shortly after the plan to use House as a mediator fell from favor. Ackerman delayed his Irish Sea crossing a few days until he could first discuss the matter with Thompson, the Scotland Yard intelligence director. The reporter then debriefed the spy master on his return to London, even writing a private memorandum for British government officials about whether the Irish were hardened on a republic or willing to negotiate a settlement.[13]Walsh, News from Ireland, p. 145.

Such behind the scenes intrigues were unknown at the time but would be revealed after the December 1921 treaty between Sinn Fein and the British government. The Lowell (Mass.) Courier-Citizen lauded Ackerman’s scoop in an editorial republished on the opinion pages of other U.S. papers.[14]Publication date of original editorial unavailable. Reproductions include “Ackerman Among The Sinn Feiners”, St. Louis Star and Times, Oct. 21, 1920; “Newspapermen Best … Continue reading It said:

The American newspaperman is the best detective there is. … (British officials) can’t get near (Collins). Yet over to Dublin goes Carl Ackerman … and secures a two-hour interview with this very genuine celebrity. … Ackerman, of course, started (with) some advantages which the agents of Scotland Yard don’t have. He was personally known to some of ‘Mick’s’ friends as a chap who could be trusted. That’s always a newspaperman’s greatest asset when he’s on a difficult and dangerous job.

Ackerman wrote to Spurgeon in Philadelphia to say U.S. officials warned that he had placed himself “in a rather dangerous position.” He believed they did so only “in case something happened the American Government might be able to wash its hands.” Then Ackerman wondered: “How much this is due to the fact that I spoiled the carefully laid plans of Wilson and Colby to use Grasty I do not know.”[15]Ackerman to Spurgeon, Sept. 9, 1920, in Ackerman papers.

U.S. consul’s views

“Journalists are swarming over here just now,” Plunkett wrote to House in autumn 1920.[16]Horace Plunkett to Edward House, Oct. 5, 1920, in House papers. U.S. officials in Ireland also noted the activities of the press, including at least two references to Grasty and Ackerman.

Not long after Grasty published his Ireland series in the Times, he asked to see the official cables of U.S Consul Frederick T. F. Dumont, then stationed in Dublin, “in order to keep him fully informed from authoritative sources as to present events in Ireland.” Grasty essentially made a public records request nearly 50 years before the federal law providing access to such U.S. government documents. A State Department official commented: “This strikes me as rather an unusual request. It might eventually prove to be an embarrassing precedent to establish to allow newspaper men access to our official files.”

Nevertheless, Grasty’s request was relayed to Washington, which responded two days later with a two-word reply: “Certainly not.”[17]Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Great Britain, 1910-1929, Ireland – (Irish Free State, Eire) Political Affairs, General 841d.00, Roll 217: to Hurley from … Continue reading

Dumont, an occasional critic of press coverage of the Irish war, complimented Grasty and Ackerman in one of his regular dispatches to Washington:

The Irish press devotes a column at a time to men like Grasty of the New York Times or Ackerman of the Philadelphia (Public) Ledger when they tell the truth concerning the Irish situation, calling them and their papers paid agents of the British Government. Each paper has repeatedly been denounced as a paper owned by the Government. Events in various parts of the world have accustomed the public to sensations and they must be served up by the press of all countries to their readers if circulation and the money which comes from this circulation is to be retained.[18]Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Great Britain, 1910-1929, Ireland – (Irish Free State, Eire) Political Affairs, general 841d.00, Role 217, Dumont to State … Continue reading

Dumont wrote his comments on Nov. 12, nine days before Bloody Sunday in Dublin and a month before the burning of Cork city. Such Irish war “sensations” continued for the first six months of 1921, before a truce led to peace negotiations.

Afterward

Top portion of Ackerman’s Aug. 7, 1921, story in The New York Times, soon after leaving the Philadelphia Pubic Ledger.

Ackerman resigned from the Public Ledger in July 1921 after months of wrangling with Spurgeon and other top editors about the operations of the foreign news service. He returned to America and in August wrote a story for the New York Times that acknowledged (or bragged) that he had “frequently carried messages” to key men in the peace negotiations:

For nearly two years I have been in intimate contact with both British and Irish leaders. I have traveled frequently in Ireland and between that country and England. As a result of first-hand observation I propose to relate, for the first time, the inside story of the events which led to the truce and present conferences in London and Dublin. … From the very beginning of the possibility of a peaceful settlement … I had the exceptional fortune of having an intimate contact with the ‘key’ men on both sides.”[19]Carl W. Ackerman, “Inside Of Irish Parlay”, The New York Times, Aug. 7, 1921.

In a spring 1922 series about Ireland for Atlantic Monthly, Ackerman also acknowledged the role of John Steele of the Chicago Tribune in the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The veteran correspondent accompanied Ackerman on his first trip to Ireland in March 1920 and introduced him to several of those key men, including U.S. Consul Dumont and FitzGerald, the Irish propaganda minister. As he reiterated his own role of promoting peace in Ireland, Ackerman wrote, “At the same time Mr. Steele was ‘carrying on’ negotiations between Sir Hamar Greenwood and other Sinn Fein leaders which resulted in the final negotiation of the truce last summer (July 1921). Unknown to the outside world two American newspaper men were acting as the sole connecting links between Sinn Fein and Downing Street … “[20]Carl W. Ackerman, “Ireland From A Scotland Yard Notebook”, The Atlantic Monthly, April 1922.

Whatever intentions or hopes the Wilson administration once had for Grasty, his chance to play a role in the Irish peace settlement was scuttled by Ackerman’s June 1920 story. I suspect there still might be undiscovered documentation of what transpired between the two men, their newspapers, and U.S. officials. But we can never know what impact this might have had on the course of the Irish war and peace.

References

References
1 ”Readers of the Eagle Now Have the Benefit of a New Cable News Service”, advertisement in the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, March 7, 1920, and “Foreign Service Subscribers to Date, Jan. 1, 1921” in Spurgeon, John J., 1921, in Ackerman papers.
2 Ackerman to Spurgeon, April 8, 1920, in Ackerman papers, Library of Congress.
3 Ackerman to Spurgeon, March 10, 1920, in Ackerman papers.
4 Walsh, The News from Ireland, (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.) p. 141.
5 House to Plunkett, June 27, 1920, in House papers, Yale University.
6 ”Plunkett Blames British Blunders For Irish Strife”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Star Tribune, July 9, 1920, Third story of four-part series.
7 Walsh, News from Ireland, p. 143.
8 Ibid., pp. 145-146.
9 Ackerman’s “London Notebook”, Aug. 18, 1920, in Ackerman papers.
10 Charles Grasty, “Irish Realities”, The Atlantic Monthly, September 1920.
11 ”People In Ireland Bound To Win In End, Observer’s Belief”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Sept. 12, 1920.
12 ”Irish Never Will Accept Premier’s Terms–Collins”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Aug. 26, 1920.
13 Walsh, News from Ireland, p. 145.
14 Publication date of original editorial unavailable. Reproductions include “Ackerman Among The Sinn Feiners”, St. Louis Star and Times, Oct. 21, 1920; “Newspapermen Best Detective”, The Daily Public Ledger, Maysville, Kentucky, Nov. 9, 1920; and others.
15 Ackerman to Spurgeon, Sept. 9, 1920, in Ackerman papers.
16 Horace Plunkett to Edward House, Oct. 5, 1920, in House papers.
17 Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Great Britain, 1910-1929, Ireland – (Irish Free State, Eire) Political Affairs, General 841d.00, Roll 217: to Hurley from Winslow, Oct. 5, 1920; to “Dear Mr. Secretary” from V. H.,  Oct. 6, 1920; and to Winslow from Hurley, Oct. 7, 1920.
18 Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Great Britain, 1910-1929, Ireland – (Irish Free State, Eire) Political Affairs, general 841d.00, Role 217, Dumont to State Department, Nov. 12, 1920.
19 Carl W. Ackerman, “Inside Of Irish Parlay”, The New York Times, Aug. 7, 1921.
20 Carl W. Ackerman, “Ireland From A Scotland Yard Notebook”, The Atlantic Monthly, April 1922.

Reporter vs. reporter: Part 3, Irish-American reaction

The is the third installment of a four-part series about the 1920 confrontation between American journalists Carl Ackerman and Charles Grasty as they covered the war in Ireland. This series is part of my ongoing exploration of American Reporting of Irish Independence. See Part 1 and Part 2. © 2024.

Grasty’s Ireland series

“Grasty joins the small group of self-described, ‘impartial, disinterested, and fair’ newspaper ‘experts’ who spend three or four weeks in Ireland, and then advise American readers how to view English misrule of Ireland.”

Carl Ackerman told his editor in Philadelphia that Charles Grasty “did not telegraph anything to The New York Times while he was in Ireland, although he did begin to send messages as soon as he reached London.” Ackerman didn’t attribute this detail to something Grasty said during their confrontation.[1]Carl Ackerman to John J. Spurgeon, June 12, 1920, in Ackerman papers, Box 131, Miscellaneous correspondence. Library of Congress. He might have learned it from British intelligence, as we’ll see in Part 4.

Charles Grasty

Grasty, in a June 10 cable to Adolph Ochs, the Times publisher, said he had been “unable to settle down completing Irish letters”, which contained “interesting and rather important matter” from his reporting trip to Ireland. He promised to take the material on a forthcoming trip to Paris and write the “simple paragraphs” Ochs suggested in one of their earlier communications.[2]Charles Grasty to Adolph Ochs, June 10, 1920, in Ochs papers, New York Public Library.

Seven weeks later Grasty wrote to Ochs again to ask why his “Irish stuff”—three cables and 10 letters sent to New York before the end of June—had not yet appeared in the Times. Grasty wrote:

The information these dispatches contained were from a source in Dublin which Ambassador Davis guided me to. So far as I know no one else has had a like chance to develop a balanced view of Ireland. I think these dispatches answered many of the questions that are puzzling people in America.”[3]Grasty to Ochs, July 29, 1920, in Ochs papers.

Finally, in mid-August, the Times published four Grasty stories about Ireland. It’s possible that he returned there after his late May visit; roundtrip travel between London and Dublin or Belfast could be accomplished in a day. “I am just back from Ireland, whither I went to gather impressions of the present conditions there,” Grasty opened his first story. More likely, the Times changed the datelines to make his earlier material appear fresher than it was.

Each of the headlines below is linked to a copy of the original story, followed by the dateline and publication date, placeline, and a select excerpt:

Ireland’s Problems Seen At Close Range By An American, Aug. 1/Aug. 14, London

Most of the people I met were Sinn Feiners, and they were all most hospitable and obliging to me as an American. No American who leaves controversial matters severely alone need have any fears in visiting Ireland. In fact, the person of every American is sacred, for America is not the chief cornerstone of Sinn Fein hopes.

British Blundering And Sinn Fein Malice In Ireland, Aug. 3/Aug. 15, Dublin

After talking with as many people on both sides as I was able to see, and getting the opinion of the few neutrals whom it was possible to find in Ireland, I came to the conclusion that the minimum that Sinn Fein would accept was full dominion rule like Canada, omitting the Governor General and including control of excise, customs and police. They will not consent to leaving Ulster out. That is the situation at this time. Of course, if some adversary should overtake the movement for independent Ireland, and especially if there should be a split with the labor union, the demand might be modified; of if, on the other hand, British helplessness continued and the Presidential campaign in America crystalized American sympathy, Sinn Fein might decide to go the whole hog.

Ulster Men Look For Future Union, Aug. 5/Aug. 17, London

I don’t believe that Ulster is as eager for British rule as you might think after reading one of Sir Edward Carson’s speeches. Ulster people do not want to have Dublin rule put upon them just at this stage, but they are looking ahead to a future when Ireland may become a great industrial kingdom, dominated commercially and financially by Belfast, the well-organized capital of Ulster. Indeed, it was often in my mind as I traveled through Ireland what great possibilities awaited Ireland when permanent order should come.

Blames Both Sides For Irish Plight, Aug. 7/Aug. 18, London

Judging by results, British rule in Ireland has been a failure. Britain cannot plead the peculiarities and shortcomings of the Irish race as an excuse for her failure. She has been mistress of the situation for centuries and has had the power to enforce her authority and to apply the necessary remedies. The simple fact is that she has refused to bring to her task the kind of study and effort which the Irish situation called for. … But Ireland will be a unit sooner or later. The silent and irresistible forces of commercial and industrial self-interest will bring the North and South together.

I have not located any communication about Ireland from Gasty to Wilson or other members of his administration. The journalist easily could have briefed U.S. officials at the embassy in London when he exchanged his passport. With the publication of his stories in the Times, Grasty’s views about Ireland were now available for anyone to read.

Irish-American reaction

The Friends of Irish Freedom, a four-year-old American group supporting Irish independence, certainly read Grasty’s stories in the Times. And the group didn’t believe the correspondent’s claim that “my mental attitude was impartial” about Ireland, also made in the first story.

Through its weekly News Letter, the Friends dismissed Grasty as part of “the small group of self-described, ‘impartial, disinterested, and fair’ newspaper ‘experts’ who spend three or four weeks in Ireland, and then advise American readers how to view English misrule of Ireland.” The News Letter said Grasty made a “despicable attempt” to exploit sectarian division in Ireland, though religious issues hardly dominate the series. Ever watchful of real or perceived slights against the Irish cause by mainstream American or British newspapers, the News Letter also said the New York Times “has gone far in championing England’s course in Ireland.”[4]News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, Vol. II, No. 8, Aug. 21, 1920, p. 5.

The pro-Irish press delighted in the State Department denial of Ackerman’s story. This Aug. 28, 1920, headline appeared in ‘The Tablet’, a Catholic paper in Brooklyn, New York. 

In the next week’s issue, the News Letter again criticized Grasty as a “confident” of Lord Northcliffe, the British press magnate. This was certainly true.[5]News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, Vol. II, No. 9, Aug. 28, 1920, p. 3. Weeks after the November 1918 armistice, Grasty reported from London that Northcliffe “is making a wonderful hit with the American newspaper men. … always accessible to them … indefatigable in his efforts to help them … [with] a very large accumulated influence among Americans generally, but particularly among American working newspaper men.”[6]“Lord Northcliffe Our Interpreter”, The New York Times, Jan. 12, 1919. Story datelined Dec. 21, 1918. As a former publisher, Grasty also favorably compared Northcliff and Ochs; noting the London and New York publishers each had “a passion for the news, and this forms the mainspring of success” for their respective papers.[7]“British and American Newspapers”, The Atlantic Monthly, November 1919, p. 11.

More importantly, the New Letter questioned whether Grasty could write a “disinterested” journalistic assessment of the Irish situation while simultaneously acting “confidentially” for President Wilson and the U.S. State Department, as Ackerman had reported in June. News Letter chief Daniel T. O’Connell wrote to Secretary of State Colby to complain the articles contained “statements grossly unfair and calculated to advance British interests in relation to England’s treatment of Ireland. … [I]f Grasty is empowered to act for our Government in any capacity whatsoever, it is obvious he should not be permitted to utilize such relationships as a means for spreading misstatements and otherwise giving circulation to error.”[8]Daniel T. O’Connell to U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, Aug. 14, 1920, in Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Great Britain, 1910-1929, Ireland – … Continue reading

In a reply to O’Connell, one of Colby’s assistants said that Grasty “is not engaged in any Diplomatic mission, or assignment, under the authority of this Government.” The Times correspondent was not “an official or unofficial representative” and “not traveling with a Diplomatic passport.”[9]G. Howland Shaw to Daniel T. O’Connell, Aug. 18, 1920, in State Department Records, Roll 219.

Carl Ackerman, 1920.

It was the U.S. government’s second denial of Ackerman’s story since June. Like Ambassador Davis’ cable to Grasty, however, the reply to O’Connell parsed the words “official” and “diplomatic” while ignoring the “special” status of the original passport. A few pro-Irish papers published both letters as proof of mainstream press bias against Ireland.[10]News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, Vol. II, No. 9, Aug. 28, 1920; “Exposing One Carl Ackerman”, The Tablet (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Aug. 28, 1920; and “What Is Grasty Doing?”, The Gaelic … Continue reading The pages of the Public Ledger and the New York Times remained silent about the confrontation between the two reporters.

“I have received no denial from Grasty nor have I heard anything from any of our clients questioning in any way the Grasty cable,” Spurgeon in Philadelphia wrote to Ackerman in London. “I think it would be just as well to let the matter stand as it is unless something further develops.”[11]Spurgeon to Ackerman, July 2, 1920, in Ackerman papers.

Ochs discussed the Grasty matter on the telephone with Frederick T. Birchall, a British-born assistant editor at the Times. Birchall followed up their conversation with a handwritten note to the publisher, which reiterated that he did not want to repeat Ackerman’s original allegation. He also suggested that O’Connell’s letter was “harmful propaganda,” while the State Department reply “contains no news.”[12]Frederick T. Birchall to Ochs, Aug. 22, 1920, in Ochs papers.

But Ackerman and Grasty would each have more to say about Ireland.

NEXT: Behind the scenes 

References

References
1 Carl Ackerman to John J. Spurgeon, June 12, 1920, in Ackerman papers, Box 131, Miscellaneous correspondence. Library of Congress.
2 Charles Grasty to Adolph Ochs, June 10, 1920, in Ochs papers, New York Public Library.
3 Grasty to Ochs, July 29, 1920, in Ochs papers.
4 News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, Vol. II, No. 8, Aug. 21, 1920, p. 5.
5 News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, Vol. II, No. 9, Aug. 28, 1920, p. 3.
6 “Lord Northcliffe Our Interpreter”, The New York Times, Jan. 12, 1919. Story datelined Dec. 21, 1918.
7 “British and American Newspapers”, The Atlantic Monthly, November 1919, p. 11.
8 Daniel T. O’Connell to U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, Aug. 14, 1920, in Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Great Britain, 1910-1929, Ireland – (Irish Free State, Eire) Political Affairs, General 841d.00, Roll 219.
9 G. Howland Shaw to Daniel T. O’Connell, Aug. 18, 1920, in State Department Records, Roll 219.
10 News Letter of the Friends of Irish Freedom, Vol. II, No. 9, Aug. 28, 1920; “Exposing One Carl Ackerman”, The Tablet (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Aug. 28, 1920; and “What Is Grasty Doing?”, The Gaelic American, (New York, N.Y.) Sept. 4, 1920.
11 Spurgeon to Ackerman, July 2, 1920, in Ackerman papers.
12 Frederick T. Birchall to Ochs, Aug. 22, 1920, in Ochs papers.

Reporter vs. reporter: Part 2, London confrontations

The is the second installment of a four-part series about the 1920 confrontation between American journalists Carl Ackerman and Charles Grasty as they covered the war in Ireland. This series is part of my ongoing exploration of American Reporting of Irish Independence. See Part 1. © 2024.

State Department pressure

“…in present state affairs in Ireland large rumors grow from very tiny seeds.”

The U.S. State Department denied that Charles Grasty of The New York Times was on a diplomatic or official mission to Ireland for President Wilson. In a next-day follow up to Carl Ackerman’s original story, the  government “acknowledged that he might have gone to Dublin under a ‘special’ form of passport such as is issued often by American embassies or legations to messengers charged with the duty of conveying diplomatic papers to consular agents.” Ackerman also reported that British officials told him Grasty’s “mission to Ireland is purely one of observation on behalf of President Wilson.”[1]“England’s Irish Policy Outlined as Parlays Fail”, Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 2, 1920, and “Britain Decides To Increase Military Forces In Ireland”, St. Louis Star and Times, June 2, … Continue reading

On June 3, U.S. Ambassador Davis privately cabled Grasty about Ackerman’s story. In the clipped language of such communications, the ambassador wrote:

Have just received dispatch from Washington saying information reached department to effect that by reason your possession special passport wholly erroneous impression gotten abroad in Ireland you there on some sort mission for president. Of course possession of special passport is rather slender peg on which to hang such report but in present state affairs in Ireland large rumors grow from very tiny seeds. Department seems to regard this one as unfortunate and dangerous and direct me you give me change when you come London.[2]Charles H. Grasty to Carr V. Van Anda, June 8, 1920 (telegram), Adolph Ochs papers, New York Public Library. NOTE: Grasty quotes Davis; this is not taken directly from the ambassador’s cable to … Continue reading

Grasty was no stranger to the State Department. He had applied for and obtained several passports for Atlantic voyages in both directions over the previous decade. On June 10, he stopped at the U.S. Embassy in London to surrender the “special” passport and complete an “Emergency Passport Application.” Grasty stated his occupation as “journalist” and “journalistic work” as the reason for his travel.[3]National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Emergency Passport Applications, Argentina thru Venezuela, 1906-1925; Volume #: Volume 168: Great Britain.

Front page of Grasty’s June 1920 emergency passport application. Note that he has lived outside the United States since 1914, but made six trips to America.

Back of Grasty’s June 1920 emergency passport application. Note the “surrender” of “special passport number 30” from April 1920. Also note his two references: Adolph Ochs, publisher of The New York Times, and Dr. Carey Grayson, personal physician and advisor to President Wilson.

The emergency passport was signed by Williamson S. Howell, second secretary of the embassy. Davis thanked Grasty in a follow up cable for his “prompt and courteous compliance” in exchanging the special passport; which he considered evidence of the journalist putting his civic duty above personal convenience. The ambassador told Grasty he was “quite sure that this rumor did not originate in any indiscretion of your own,” which is contrary to Ackerman’s allegation that Grasty boasted about the special passport while aboard the Baltic.[4]Charles H. Grasty to Adolph Ochs, June 10, 1920 (telegram), in Ochs papers, New York Public Library. NOTE: As above, Grasty quoted Davis; this is not taken directly from the ambassador’s cable.

Grasty & Wilson

Grasty was a known supporter and confidante of Wilson. Both men were born in Virginia towns about 70 miles apart, Wilson being seven years older. The journalist described the president as “endlessly interesting” in a January 1920 magazine profile, shortly before his April 1920 return to Europe.[5]Charles Grasty, “The Personality Behind the President“, The Atlantic Monthly, January 1920. The story does not mention that Wilson suffered a stroke in October 1919, or anything about Ireland.

Eight years earlier, as publisher of the Baltimore Sun, Grasty backed Wilson as the Democratic presidential nominee at the party’s national convention in that city. The newsman championed the candidate in his successful campaign against Republican incumbent President William Howard Taft and progressive former President Theodore Roosevelt. Four years later, Grasty supported Wilson’s re-election.

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

From 1912 to 1922, Wilson and Grasty exchanged at least four dozen letters, though none of the correspondence listed in two archives dates from 1920, the period at the heart of this series.[6]Index to the Woodrow Wilson Papers, Vol. 2, G-O, Presidents’ papers index series / Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, and Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, Library & … Continue reading The president and the journalist “were in intimate contact” during the 1919 Paris peace conference and in Washington, D.C., the Times reported at Grasty’s death in January 1924, just two weeks before Wilson’s passing.[7]”Charles H. Grasty Dies In London”, The New York Times, Jan. 20, 1924. Grasty “enjoyed the former president’s highest respect and confidence and was a warm personal friend of both Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.”

The Times‘ obituary also said that Grasty held the trust and confidence of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who relied on their relationship to send important messages to America during and after the Great War. And the Times noted Grasty’s frequent interviews with London newspaper magnate Lord Alfred Northcliffe. Though native to Ireland, Irish separatists on both sides of the Atlantic viewed the conservative Northcliffe as a pro-British propagandist. (See Part 3.)

It’s unclear if Grasty and Ackerman had met in person before June 1920. They certainly knew of each other through their mutual contacts. Grasty wrote to Ackerman in 1917 on behalf of Adolph Ochs, the Times publisher, to ask for information about German newspaper operations. Ackerman had just returned to America after two years in Germany as a correspondent for United Press.[8]Grasty to Ackerman, May 3, 1917, and Ackerman to Grasty, Undated 1917, in Carl Ackerman papers, Box 122, Library of Congress. Ackerman also knew Ochs. In 1918 and 1919 wrote dispatches from Russia and China for the Times. Both reporters also corresponded with Edward House, a top Wilson advisor. (See Part 4).

Grasty confronts Ackerman 

Within a day or two after changing his passport at the U.S. Embassy in London, Grasty confronted Ackerman at the Public Ledger’s foreign office at Charing Cross. The men “argued” for about 90 minutes over the June 1 story, Ackerman told John J. Spurgeon, his editor in Philadelphia.[9]Ackerman to Spurgeon, June 12, 1920, Ackerman papers, Box 131, Miscellaneous correspondence, London, England. Ackerman wrote that Grasty showed him a copy of his own letter to Spurgeon “denying that he was in Ireland on official business.”

Carl Ackerman, 1920.

Grasty told Ackerman said that Wilson; Dr. Carey T. Grayson, the president’s personal physician and confidant; and U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, who replaced Robert Lancing in February 1920; asked him to undertake a special mission to Europe, including Ireland. This is interesting. Wilson had suffered a debilitating stroke in October 1919 and was seeing few visitors by the time Grasty left for Europe. The plan hit a roadblock, however, when Grasty informed Oches, who objected to the arrangement while he represented the Times, at least according to Ackerman.

Here is the key portion of Ackerman’s three-page letter to Spurgeon:

Grasty states that he told Mr. Ochs that he would not accept the President’s offer and that he wrote a letter to Mr. Colby refusing to undertake the work. Grasty admits, however, that he did accept a special diplomatic passport from Mr. Colby.

When my article was published Mr. Ochs cabled Grasty for an explanation. Grasty cabled the Times to look up his letter to Mr. Colby which Mr. Ochs did. Then Mr. Ochs cabled the text of the letter to Grasty and asked Grasty to show it to me and ask me to send a correction to the Public Ledger.

Mr. Grasty showed me this cablegram but I explained to him that while I was willing to send the text of that letter and his statement that he did not represent the government that I would, of course, add that he had a diplomatic passport; that he obtained diplomatic immunity in Liverpool and that he told reliable witnesses on the Baltic that he was on a government mission.

To this Grasty objected on the ground that he could not afford to have the question of his special passport discussed in the press and then he added that he had cabled Secretary Colby to instruct the Embassy here (London) to give him an ordinary passport and that he would give up the special which he possesses.

Ackerman repeated that Grasty informed “several fellow passengers on the Baltic” of having a confidential mission for the government. Ackerman did not rename his wife, as he had done in the letter to Spurgeon before the story was published. Ackerman also relayed that Grasty told him the Times accused him of “double-dealing and that Mr. Ochs is ‘sore.’ ”

Grasty cabled Ochs about his meeting with Ackerman. He said Ackerman was “convinced of his error but unwilling to make corrections” without restating that he had crossed the Atlantic with the special passport. Grasty declined the offer, he told Ochs, “because I thought it would involve matters in new muddle.” Grasty quoted exculpatory passages of his cables from Ambassador Davis. He did not mention anything about the Colby letter or Mrs. Ackerman, at least in the surviving communications.[10]Gasty to Van Anda, June 8, 1920, and Grasty to Ochs, June 10, 1920.

At the time, the U.S. government was just beginning to standardize how it issued passports in the aftermath of the First World War.[11]Giulia Pines, “The Contentious History of the Passport” in National Geographic. Published online May 16, 2017. Grasty’s “special” passport would have provided him with more access to U.S. and British government officials than other reporters. It also would have given him some measure of protection in Ireland if he encountered Irish rebels or the British military, which each were suspicious of visiting journalists. This might have been why Grasty wanted to keep the matter out of the press.

“I am told confidentially that Colby is issuing quite a number of diplomatic passports,” Ackerman wrote to Spurgeon. “If he keeps this up his is going to get the diplomatic service in ‘hot water.’”

It seems that Colby already had.

NEXT: Irish-American reaction

References

References
1 “England’s Irish Policy Outlined as Parlays Fail”, Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 2, 1920, and “Britain Decides To Increase Military Forces In Ireland”, St. Louis Star and Times, June 2, 1920.
2 Charles H. Grasty to Carr V. Van Anda, June 8, 1920 (telegram), Adolph Ochs papers, New York Public Library. NOTE: Grasty quotes Davis; this is not taken directly from the ambassador’s cable to him.
3 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Emergency Passport Applications, Argentina thru Venezuela, 1906-1925; Volume #: Volume 168: Great Britain.
4 Charles H. Grasty to Adolph Ochs, June 10, 1920 (telegram), in Ochs papers, New York Public Library. NOTE: As above, Grasty quoted Davis; this is not taken directly from the ambassador’s cable.
5 Charles Grasty, “The Personality Behind the President“, The Atlantic Monthly, January 1920.
6 Index to the Woodrow Wilson Papers, Vol. 2, G-O, Presidents’ papers index series / Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, and Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, Library & Research Center Digital Archive.
7 ”Charles H. Grasty Dies In London”, The New York Times, Jan. 20, 1924.
8 Grasty to Ackerman, May 3, 1917, and Ackerman to Grasty, Undated 1917, in Carl Ackerman papers, Box 122, Library of Congress.
9 Ackerman to Spurgeon, June 12, 1920, Ackerman papers, Box 131, Miscellaneous correspondence, London, England.
10 Gasty to Van Anda, June 8, 1920, and Grasty to Ochs, June 10, 1920.
11 Giulia Pines, “The Contentious History of the Passport” in National Geographic. Published online May 16, 2017.

Reporter vs. reporter: Part 1, President’s envoy?

This four-part series details the 1920 confrontation between American journalists Carl Ackerman and Charles Grasty as they covered the war in Ireland. In addition to their published reporting, it includes research from the Library of Congress, New York Public Library, and other sources. It is part of my ongoing exploration of American Reporting of Irish Independence. MH © 2024

Special passport

“News from Ireland … has been anything but dull and desultory; it has bristled with violence and bulged with rumblings of impending bloodshed on a widespread scale.”

As the Irish insurgency against British rule entered its second year, more American journalists grabbed their notebooks and traveled to Erin. There was plenty to write about in 1920. As one U.S. correspondent explained in an op-ed for The New York Times:

Events of the utmost significance are crowding upon one other so rapidly in Ireland at the present time that it is frequently difficult to assess any or all of them at their true relative value or to discern their precise cause and effect beyond, of course, the daily generalization that the situation is still more serious and nearer a calamitous climax. Every day the first pages of the newspapers contribute further complexities to this age-old and bitterest of modern political dramas. News, as such, coming from Ireland for weeks and months past has been anything but dull and desultory; it has bristled with violence and bulged with rumblings of impending bloodshed on a widespread scale.[1]Truman H. Talley, “Sinn Fein’s Provocative Martyrdom”, The New York Times, Aug. 29, 1920.

In addition to writing their first-page dispatches for U.S. newspapers, a few journalists also worked behind the scenes to help resolve the Anglo-Irish War. They shuttled messages between rebel leaders and the British government or huddled with U.S. government officials in London and Dublin. Some did this out of a sense of civic duty, others simply to get an edge on their competitors. When these private actions occasionally surfaced in public, it impacted the political negotiations and perceptions of the news coverage from Ireland.

A remarkable example of this occurred in June 1920. Carl W. Ackerman, the London-based chief of the Philadelphia Public Ledger foreign news service, reported that a prominent American newsman had come to Ireland on mission for U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

Ackerman’s June 1, 1920, story mentioned Grasty in the fourth paragraph.

“One of the most significant, undoubtedly, of all the recent developments in the Irish situation is the arrival in Dublin of Charles H. Grasty … a well-known journalist, a member of the staff of The New York Times, was frequently during the (First World) war an observer for the president,” Ackerman wrote. Grasty “is in confidential communication with the White House, and probability is that the president has followed his war custom of commissioning some journalist to make a special investigation for him, while ostensibly representing an American newspaper.”[2]“President Wilson Has Special Envoy In Ireland Now”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, June 1, 1920.

Ackerman was correct that Wilson had previously used journalists as his personal scouts to foreign hot spots, including Ireland. The president sent pioneering muckraker Ray Stannard Baker (McClue’s and American magazines) there during the spring 1918 conscription crisis and widening divisions between pro-British unionists and Irish republicans. “The extreme Ulsterman, it seemed to me, was exactly matched by the extreme Sinn Feiner, both for themselves alone,” Baker wrote years later. “There seemed to be no spirit of give and take: no desire anywhere for what Mr. Wilson called accommodation.”[3]Ray Stannard Baker, American Chronicle; The Autobiography of Ray Stannard Baker. [David Grayson] (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1945). See, “A Rebellious Ireland And My Report of … Continue reading

Wilson also dispatched George Creel to Ireland in early 1919, shortly after the establishment of Dáil Éireann. Creel (Kansas City World, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News) had just finished his duties as head of the U.S. government’s Committee for Public Information during the Great War. In a March 1, 1919, memorandum to Wilson, he described the Irish in Ireland as more politically practical than the Irish in America. Creel said that Sinn Fein‘s December 1918 election success had finished off the 40-year-old Irish home rule movement. He believed Ireland would accept dominion status, like Canada, if offered quickly. Otherwise, popular sentiment would harden in favor of an Irish republic. Creel also warned Wilson of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s duplicity and stressed that a settlement would help placate the Irish in America, with positive implications for domestic politics.[4]George Creel, Rebel at Large, (New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1947), pp. 216-22, and Creel, The War, The World, and Wilson, (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1920), p 202.

U.S. State Department officials stamped “SPECIAL” on Grasty’s passport on April 8, 1920, a week before he boarded the White Star liner RMS Baltic to cross the Atlantic. “Editor,” Grasty answered the ship’s officer who asked for his occupation and recorded it in the manifest without any indication of special diplomatic status. The Baltic arrived at Liverpool, England, on April 27.[5]The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 669. “Mr. Grasty admitted at the time, when questioned by customs officials, that he was on a special appointment by President Wilson,” Ackerman wrote in his June 1 story.

Then 57, Grasty had enjoyed a successful career as a newspaper publisher and executive. He moved to London during the First World War and worked as an emeritus correspondent for several U.S. publications, including the Times. His dispatches typically blended news reporting and editorializing, with strong opinions about the role of the press in America and the U.S. government in international affairs.

Charles H. Grasty, passport image from at least 1918.

Grasty had been in the United States on a lecture tour in early 1920. He was scheduled to deliver a speech titled “The New Balance of Power” during a mid-April business convention in Des Moines, Iowa. His sudden withdrawal from the event indicates the haste of his return to Europe, which also at least partially explains his special passport.[6]“Iowa Business Congress Draws Big Business Men” by Associated Press, Webster City (Iowa) Freeman, April 12, 1920, and “Business Congress To Open Tomorrow”, Des Moines Register, April 13, 1920.

Aboard the Baltic, Grasty used some of his time to write a letter to Times owner Adolph Ochs about proposed changes to the paper’s news and advertising layout. Grasty divided five pages of ship’s stationary into two typewritten columns: pros on the left side, cons on the right. Making any changes to the newspaper risked disrupting “the habits of the devoted reader,” he warned Ochs. “A paper like the Times has a personality, and even if there are some ugly points, the reader comes to like them with the rest.”[7]Charles H. Grasty to Adolph Ochs, “On board RMS Baltic,” April 22, 1920, with handwritten note dated April 28, 1920, London, at bottom, in Ochs papers, New York Public Library.

Ackerman’s source

Grasty apparently also found time during the 11-day crossing to converse with his fellow first-class passengers. Among them: Ackerman’s wife, Mabel, traveling with the couple’s young son. “He came over on the Baltic with Mrs. Ackerman and told her that he was on such a mission,” the London bureau chief alerted his Philadelphia editor, John J. Spurgeon, a week before the story about Grasty appeared in the Public Ledger and its affiliated newspapers. “He had a diplomatic passport and said that he intended to remain in London one week and then go ‘somewhere else.’ ”[8]Ackerman to Spurgeon, May 25, 1920. Carl W. Ackerman papers, Library of Congress, Box 131, Miscellaneous correspondence, London, England.

Carl Ackerman, 1920.

Ackerman told Spurgeon that he contacted London-based U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain John W. Davis to ask about Grasty’s mission to Ireland. The ambassador claimed he didn’t know anything about it.

During his first weeks back in Europe Grasty kept busy writing about ongoing efforts to recover from the Great War. He filed a May 1 dispatch from Paris about the just-concluded San Remo conference in Italy.[9]”Germans Must Act on Terms of Pact at Spa Conference”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 2, 1920. In another story he reported that Americans in Europe were taking “keen interest” in the warming U.S. presidential race back home.[10]“Yankees Abroad Closely Watch Politics in U.S.”, Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1920. And in a long opinion piece from London, Grasty insisted: “The United States is in greater danger today than at the time of the German offensive in March 1918. … The feeling in Europe against America has grown, as the feeling in America against Europe has grown.”[11]“Why Europe Must Be Cured To Keep America Safe”, The New York Times, June 13, 1920.

He dated the story June 1, the same day he was named in Ackerman’s dispatch, though Grasty’s piece was not published until several weeks later.

Grasty also had visited Ireland during the last week of May. He “tea’d & supped” in Dublin with Sir Horace Plunkett, the Irish agricultural reformer and home rule supporter wrote in his diary.[12]May 26, 1920, Diary of Sir Horace Curzon Plunkett, Transcribed, annotated and indexed by Kate Targett. December 2012, National Library of Ireland. The two men had known each other for years. “Wherever he goes he makes friends through his gentle optimism and sturdy character,” Grasty wrote in his 1918 book, Flashes from the Front. “For British patriot that he is, he is an Irishman to his heart’s core. His life has been a labor of love for Ireland.”[13]Charles H. Grasty, Flashes from the Front, (New York, The Century Co., 1918.), pp. 136-139.

Grasty would barely mention Plunkett in his subsequent reporting about Ireland. It appears the correspondent stayed there for about a week and limited his travel to the island’s two major cities. “If I had to choose a place of residence, I would prefer Dublin with all its shootings to Belfast with its grimness and monotony,” he wrote in one of his stories.[14]”Ulster Men Look For Future Union”, The New York Times, Aug. 17, 1920.

The June 1 publication of Ackerman’s story about Grasty, more than a month after the Times correspondent walked down the Baltic’s gangway in Liverpool, makes more sense in the context of the late May visit. And as the Ackerman’s story proves, he was doing his own reporting about Ireland, including reaching out to Plunkett and other insiders.

NEXT: London confrontations

References

References
1 Truman H. Talley, “Sinn Fein’s Provocative Martyrdom”, The New York Times, Aug. 29, 1920.
2 “President Wilson Has Special Envoy In Ireland Now”, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, June 1, 1920.
3 Ray Stannard Baker, American Chronicle; The Autobiography of Ray Stannard Baker. [David Grayson] (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1945). See, “A Rebellious Ireland And My Report of What I Saw”, p. 337.
4 George Creel, Rebel at Large, (New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1947), pp. 216-22, and Creel, The War, The World, and Wilson, (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1920), p 202.
5 The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 669.
6 “Iowa Business Congress Draws Big Business Men” by Associated Press, Webster City (Iowa) Freeman, April 12, 1920, and “Business Congress To Open Tomorrow”, Des Moines Register, April 13, 1920.
7 Charles H. Grasty to Adolph Ochs, “On board RMS Baltic,” April 22, 1920, with handwritten note dated April 28, 1920, London, at bottom, in Ochs papers, New York Public Library.
8 Ackerman to Spurgeon, May 25, 1920. Carl W. Ackerman papers, Library of Congress, Box 131, Miscellaneous correspondence, London, England.
9 ”Germans Must Act on Terms of Pact at Spa Conference”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 2, 1920.
10 “Yankees Abroad Closely Watch Politics in U.S.”, Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1920.
11 “Why Europe Must Be Cured To Keep America Safe”, The New York Times, June 13, 1920.
12 May 26, 1920, Diary of Sir Horace Curzon Plunkett, Transcribed, annotated and indexed by Kate Targett. December 2012, National Library of Ireland.
13 Charles H. Grasty, Flashes from the Front, (New York, The Century Co., 1918.), pp. 136-139.
14 ”Ulster Men Look For Future Union”, The New York Times, Aug. 17, 1920.

When a boatload of reporters steamed to the Easter Rising

Fourteen London-based newspaper correspondents clambered aboard a British naval destroyer at Holyhead, Wales, in the pre-dawn hours of April 27, 1916. They were soon underway for Dublin, where three days earlier Irish separatists seized several buildings and proclaimed a republic. Chief Secretary for Ireland Augustine Birrell and the British Admiralty invited the reporters to make the 67-nautical-mile sprint across the Irish Sea. They hoped to influence coverage of the insurrection cabled to the rest of the world, though Britain also imposed censorship and disseminated propaganda through its own press bureau since it began fighting the First World War two years earlier.

Arthur S. Draper, undated. Library of Congress

Arthur S. Draper, 34, of the New York Tribune was among the group of what today would be called embedded reporters. Born in Brooklyn, New York, to an English father and an American mother, he graduated from New York University in 1905 and soon joined the Tribune. The paper transferred him to London in 1915 to cover the war.[1]1910 U.S. Census, Census Place: Brooklyn Ward 24, Kings, New York; Roll: T624_975; Page: 18B; Enumeration District: 0656; FHL microfilm: 1374988; “Arthur Draper, Literary Editor”, The New … Continue reading

In one of several stories syndicated to U.S. newspapers, Draper recounted the correspondents were cold and shivering after the hastily organized, 300-mile train trip from London to Holyhead.[2]“Fierce Fighting Rages in Fire-Swept Dublin”, by Arthur S. Draper, New York Tribune, April 30, 1916 (Dateline April 29, 1916). Also, “Tales Of ‘The Week Of Dublin’s Nightmare’ ”, by … Continue reading Once aboard the destroyer, ironically named Dove, the correspondents welcomed the ship steward’s offer of hot chocolate.

We crawled through a coal hole aft and dropped into a cabin built to hold four instead of 14 men. Mr. Birrell found a place in the captain’s cabin. If you have never been on a destroyer crossing the Irish Sea you can get some notion of the motion by crawling into a barrel and taking a trip through Hell Gate.[3]Hell Gate is a narrow tidal strait in the East River in New York City. … Fourteen guests taxed (the steward’s) supply of cups and saucers, and we were well away before the first steaming bowl came teetering in from the pantry.

One of the correspondents soon turned “pale about the gills” and lurched for the ladder leading up to the deck. Others quickly followed as the ship “pitched, tossed, rolled, her lower decks awash like a Long Island Sound racer running before a swift breeze,” Draper wrote. “Holding fast to anything within their grasp, 11 regular reporters were swaying and lunging in imminent danger of being swept away.” While the majority lacked sea legs, the man from The Christian Science Monitor “slept peacefully with his head on the edge of a bunk and his feet on top of a bag of posters proclaiming martial law in Ireland.”

In his stories about the insurrection, the Boston newspaper correspondent repeatedly referred to himself as “the representative of The Christian Science Monitor,” with no byline on the reporting. Most of the other journalists aboard the Dove were not Americans but natives of the United Kingdom who worked as stringers for U.S. papers or wire services. They were selected for the journey because of the influence their reporting might have to counter the anticipated anti-British reaction of Irish Americans as the United States remained on the sidelines of the Great War.[4]Eddie Bohan, The 1916 Easter Rising & The American Press Pack, 2017. This 50-page paperback, published independently, contains a short bibliography but does not footnote specific details.

Wilbur S. Forrest of United Press, the 29-year-old, Illinois-born son of physician, was another native of America. His career began at The Peoria (Ill.) Journal Transcript after attending Bradley University in Peoria. He joined the wire service in 1910, working in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C., before being sent to Europe as an assistant general manager. In May 1915 Forrest reported from Queenstown (Cobh) on the German torpedo sinking of the Lusitania off the south Irish coast.[5]”Wilbur S. Forrest, 90, Is Dead; Was Herald Tribune Executive”, The New York Times, March 26, 1977. Eleven months later he steamed back to Ireland on the Dove.

HMS Dove. Imperial War Museums

“The little ship shivered in every plate and joint, and pitching like a bronco, it swayed and rolled at decidedly disturbing angles,” Forrest recalled of his ride to the rising.[6]Wilbur Forrest, Behind The Front Page: Stories of Newspaper Stories in the Making. (New York: D. Appleton-Century Company Inc., 1934). See Chapter 4, “Dublin Explodes”, pp 46-65. “The destroyer was running dark. A think, damp mist hung low and obscured the sky. The ship’s high speed added to the darkness was good protection against the German U-boats which roamed the Irish Sea at will.”

Dublin arrival

Finally, as dawn broke “after what seemed a lifetime of misery” aboard the Dove, Draper wrote, the newspaper men got their first look at smoke-shrouded Irish capital. Birrell, who for nine years as chief secretary had loathed making the Irish Sea crossing by regular mail boat,[7]Charles Townshend, Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion. (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2006), pp 24, 188. re-emerged to offer the journalists a quick farewell: “Good luck, gentlemen. I don’t know what will become of all of you,” he shouted as he disembarked to a waiting motor car under heavy guard. The Monitor correspondent added, “it was impossible to avoid retorting, ‘The same to you, sir.’ “[8]”Summary Given Of Short-Lived Rising In Dublin”, The Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 1916.

Draper continued: “We stood there for ten minutes absolutely ignorant of the danger surrounding us. The worst shot in the Irish Republic’s army could not have missed us had he shut his eyes and pulled the trigger with his big toe.” Forrest recalled the scene differently, writing the Dove sprayed a warning of machine-gun fire that briefly silenced the rebel snipers. “Not a shot was being fired when our party disembarked one by one, jumping from the destroyer’s prow to the quay and heading at no slow pace and with zigzag steps toward a British barricade three hundred yards away.”

The reporters dashed for the nearby London and North Western Hotel. They arrived without injury at the red brick, three-story building on the quayside next to the London and North Western Railway Company train station and steam packet terminal. The 19th century building still stands in the city’s Docklands district, about three blocks east of the Samuel Beckett Bridge.

“We watched the bombardment from a window on the third floor of a hotel,” Forrest wrote in one of his contemporary dispatches. “Naval boats, swinging in close to shore, sent shells screaming into the city, bringing the rebel strongholds crashing down with loud roars. … Soldiers were posted in large force along the quays and in the warehouses across the street from our hotel, answering the sharp volleys of the sniping rebels.”[9]”Shells Rout Rebels”, by Wilbur S. Forrest, The Washington Post, April 30, 1916.(Dateline April 29, 1916).

This image appeared on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer on May 2, 1916. The British destroyer with the reporters aboard would have entered the Liffey on the opposite side of the bridge to the right of the Customs House dome.

Uneven predictions

Draper’s analysis of the rising proved prescient about the short-term military outcome, condescending of the “hot-blooded Irish,” enamored with Britain’s weapons of war, and incorrect about the long-term political consequences. He wrote:

Possibly before this dispatch reaches you the Sinn Fein rebellion will be over. It’s life, however short, will be remembered. … It is seldom that reporters can sit in a hotel room and by peeping through drawn blinds see revolutionary history being made … I saw yesterday a British gun not one hundred feet away perform a marvelous feat of marksmanship. Directly opposite, across the (Liffey) river, stands a big distillery occupied by rebel snipers who had the audacity to fly the flag of the Irish republic from its roof. … Ten times (the gun) roared, every shot finding a mark … It was a wonderful exhibition of shooting. Later came the roar of machine guns and rifles telling the final story. Another rebel stronghold gone. …

A systematic search is being made by the military in all the suspected districts. Young Irishmen are very volatile. Their range of emotions is great. From the crest of so-called patriotism they drop quickly to the depths of despair. … They don’t look like martyrs on this chilly gray morning. Just poor, plain Irish lads, huddled together like so many sheep in the stockyards. … Brave they were, without doubt, but they were victims of misguided judgement. They deserve no sympathy. They will get little. …

To me the chief interest is not in the number of deaths or the amount of destruction, both of which are lamentably large, but in the types of men who have thrown away lives for a futile cause. In New York we have many of them. You see them on the bleachers at the Polo Grounds (baseball stadium), at the Socialist meetings in Union Square, at the strikes in West Street, and on the surface lines. …

Whatever following (Sinn Fein) had in civilian ranks has gone forever, as the people are already feeling the pangs of hunger as a result of the food shortage, due to the rebellion. After talks with a few civilians and a brief study of the faces of the frightened, worried, dazed women huddled in the doorways, I judge there is little sympathy of any kind with the rebellion. … The “republic” is shot to pieces. All the spirit of the rebellion is gone.

The rebels surrendered a few days later. Birrell returned to London “on a small destroyer, lately employed in bombarding Liberty Hall,” he recalled 21 years later.[10]Augustine Birrell, Things Past Redress (London: Farber and Farber Limited, 1937). See Chapter 11, “Ireland, 1907-1916”,  pp. 219-220. Whether Birrell returned aboard the Dove or another navy vessel is unclear, but it turned out to be his last Irish Sea crossing as chief secretary. He resigned from the government as soon as he reached London.

Wilbur Forrest in 1915 passport photo.

Afterward

During the first two weeks of May 1916 the British military executed 15 leaders of the rising, prompting an outpouring of sympathy and support that Draper failed to anticipate. Later that summer, insurrectionist Sir Roger Casement, who had been captured at Kerry, was tried for treason in London. “His expression did not change when the Lord Chief Justice arose to declare him guilty of the crime and pronounce the sentence of death,” Forrest recalled in his memoir nearly 20 years later. The reporter’s more detailed description of Casement “must have been too sympathetic,” he concluded, because the British censor declined to pass his story at the time.

A year after the rising, the United States finally joined Britain and the Allies in the Great War. In addition to those reporting of events on the continent, Draper returned to Dublin in July 1917 to cover the opening of the Irish Convention, the British government’s failed effort to resolve the separatist crisis. Draper transferred back to America in 1925 as foreign editor of the newly merged New York Herald Tribune; and the following year he became assistant editor of the paper. Draper left that position in 1933 to become editor-in-chief of the Literary Digest but he resigned two years later. He worked briefly for the U.S. Department of Labor.[11]Draper obituary, N.Y. Times, 1963.

Forrest joined Draper as a member of the Herald Tribune staff in 1918. In 1927, Forrest became the first correspondent to report aviator Charles A. Lindbergh’s safe landing in Paris. Through the 1930s he served as a special writer in China, Japan, and Washington. This is also when he authored his memoir, Behind The Front Page, quoted above. Forrest later became an executive at the Herald Tribune and served as head of the Reid Foundation, which provided fellowships to journalists.[12]Forrest obituary, N.Y. Times, 1977.

By coincidence, HarperCollins Publishers this month released, The Turning Tide: A Biography of the Irish Sea by Welshman Jon Gower. The book is described as “a hymn to a sea passage of world-historical importance” that combines “social and cultural history, nature-writing, travelogue and politics.” I don’t know if the narrative includes the crossing detailed in this post.

References

References
1 1910 U.S. Census, Census Place: Brooklyn Ward 24, Kings, New York; Roll: T624_975; Page: 18B; Enumeration District: 0656; FHL microfilm: 1374988; “Arthur Draper, Literary Editor”, The New York Times, Oct. 26, 1963.
2 “Fierce Fighting Rages in Fire-Swept Dublin”, by Arthur S. Draper, New York Tribune, April 30, 1916 (Dateline April 29, 1916). Also, “Tales Of ‘The Week Of Dublin’s Nightmare’ ”, by Arthur S. Draper, New York Tribune, June 4, 1916 (Dateline May 5, 1916).
3 Hell Gate is a narrow tidal strait in the East River in New York City.
4 Eddie Bohan, The 1916 Easter Rising & The American Press Pack, 2017. This 50-page paperback, published independently, contains a short bibliography but does not footnote specific details.
5 ”Wilbur S. Forrest, 90, Is Dead; Was Herald Tribune Executive”, The New York Times, March 26, 1977.
6 Wilbur Forrest, Behind The Front Page: Stories of Newspaper Stories in the Making. (New York: D. Appleton-Century Company Inc., 1934). See Chapter 4, “Dublin Explodes”, pp 46-65.
7 Charles Townshend, Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion. (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2006), pp 24, 188.
8 ”Summary Given Of Short-Lived Rising In Dublin”, The Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 1916.
9 ”Shells Rout Rebels”, by Wilbur S. Forrest, The Washington Post, April 30, 1916.(Dateline April 29, 1916).
10 Augustine Birrell, Things Past Redress (London: Farber and Farber Limited, 1937). See Chapter 11, “Ireland, 1907-1916”,  pp. 219-220.
11 Draper obituary, N.Y. Times, 1963.
12 Forrest obituary, N.Y. Times, 1977.

De Valera’s arrest and the Irish election, August 1923

U.S. press attention to Ireland waned after the country’s year-long civil war ended in May 1923. Americans focused on domestic politics, including the Aug. 2 heart attack death of President Warren G. Harding and transfer of power to Calvin Coolidge. But American newspapers revived their coverage of Ireland with the Aug. 15 arrest of republican leader Éamon de Valera two weeks before the country’s first general election of the post-revolutionary period.

De Valera had been in hiding for months, but he continued to promote the republican cause. In mid-July 1923 he issued a statement that was widely reported in U.S. papers, in part for the drama that it had been smuggled from Ireland to France by airplane. The statement was delivered to Webb Miller, European correspondent of United Press. The Michigan native, then 32, began his career as a criminal courts reporter at the Chicago American. As a freelance correspondent in 1916 he followed U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa. That reporting led to Miller’s job with United Press, which assigned him to Europe as America entered World War I.[1]Webb Miller, I Found No Peace, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1936); and “Webb Miller” in Robert B. Downs and Jane B. Downs, Journalists of the United States: Biographical Sketches of Print and … Continue reading He reported periodically from Ireland, including several dispatches during the 1918 conscription crisis.

Miller’s story noted that de Valera was wanted for arrest by the Irish Free State government he opposed. The exiled leader’s statement predicted “the full strength of the republicans will not appear in the coming elections” in late August. [2]”De Valera Sends Statement Into Paris By Plane”, Stockton (Calif.) Record, July 17, 1923, shown in this post, and other papers.

De Valera also complained about the Free State government’s suppression of the press, the same tactic the British had used against republicans earlier in the revolutionary period. And he thanked Americans for their financial support of the republican cause and assured the money was “applied strictly to the purposes for which they were subscribed.”

The Gaelic American, edited by de Valera’s arch antagonist John Devoy, described the statement as a “cheap publicity stunt.” It ridiculed the strategy of “clinging to the old mystery game” by delivering the text in “his phantom airplane.” The real reason for de Valera’s statement, the Gaelic American insisted, was to encourage the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) to send money across the Atlantic for the upcoming election. De Valera created the AARIR in the late 1920 split with the Devoy-backed Friends of Irish Freedom.[3]”De Valera Drops His ‘Idealism;’ Politician Now”, The Gaelic American, July 28, 1923. The two men also took opposite sides on whether to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921.

Dev’s arrest

Free State troops arrested de Valera a month later, minutes after he began speaking on a campaign platform in Ennis, County Clare. The Associated Press described the “sensational circumstances” in a dispatch that made the front pages of many American newspapers later the same day.[4]”De Valera Made Prisoner By Free Staters At Ennis”, The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Aug. 15, 1923, and other papers. In some papers the AP story was a brief among other foreign and domestic news, in others the arrest grabbed the top headline:

Eamon de Valera’s arrest in Ennis was the same day top story in Butte, Montana, a mining town with a significant Irish population that he visited in July 1919, during his 18-month American tour. (Image is above the fold only, not the full front page.)

The Gaelic American missed the arrest in its edition of three days later, an example of how the more robust financial resources and access to syndicated cable networks gave the daily papers an advantage over smaller weeklies. A front page story in the Devoy paper noted that de Valera was expected to resurface at the Aug. 15 campaign event in Ennis. In its next issue a week later, the Gaelic American declared “De Valera Is Laid By The Heels At Last” across the top of the front page. And maintaining its frequent role of media watchdog, the story noted:

There are several versions of the event, but all agree in the main details, and each contains a record of some incidents not contained in the others. The Associated Press report is the fullest, but the (New York) Times and the (Hearst-owned New York) American supply many interesting details. The main difference between the various reports is whether de Valera fainted when Free State troops fired a blank volley over the heads of those on the platform” … while other versions say he threw himself down or was knocked down by others. “In either case the picture which his friends have drawn of the cool, calm, self-controlled man who faces danger with an iron nerve disappeared forever.[5]De Valera Is Laid By The Heels At Last“, The Gaelic American, Aug. 25, 1923.

About a month after the arrest, another version of the event was reported in the Boston Globe by Chester A. Arthur, Jr., grandson of the late 19th century U.S. president, who attended the Ennis rally with his wife. As Free State troops opened fire, “all the men and women near (de Valera) flung themselves upon him and he is born down, obviously against his will,” Arthur wrote.[6]”Bullets Flew When De Valera Was Taken”, The Boston Globe, Sept. 14, 1923.

Jones interview

A week before his arrest de Valera gave an in-person interview to Dr. Edward Dewitt Jones, Texas-born pastor of the Central Christian Church in Detroit and a prolific writer, including five books. Jones reported the interview process began with the usual exchange of written questions and replies delivered through de Valera’s trusted messengers. Their meeting was arranged, Jones continued, with the benefit of a letter of introduction he held from “a distinguished Irish American.” Jones did not name this person in his story, but it quite possibly was Henry Ford. The automobile tycoon had opened a tractor factory near Cork city in 1919 and met privately with de Valera that October, during the Irish leader’s American tour. Jones interviewed Ford for a syndicated newspaper story before leaving for Ireland in July 1920.

The preacher wrote that he asked the automaker if he had any advice for the people of Ireland.

“Sure. Tell them to lay down the shillalah (sic, shillelagh) and take up the saw,” Ford replied.[7]”Ford Says Prohibition Is But Smoke Screen Of Crafty Politicians”, The Scranton (Pa.) Times, July 21, 1923.

Jones detailed the elaborate precautions he was required to take enroute to meeting “the Irish pimpernel.”[8]”De Valera, Disguised By Beard, Lived Safely In Heart of Dublin”, The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1923, and other papers. This included switching taxies and cars that drove circuitous routes through Dublin and its suburbs. Though Jones does not mention being blindfolded, the drama is similar to what other American reporters experienced to interview de Valera in early 1919, after his escape from Lincoln prison.[9]See my 2019 piece, March 1919: First interviews with escapee Éamon de Valera.

The Chicago Tribune published this photo of de Valera’s arrest on Aug. 26, 1923, 11 days after the event. It claims to be the only image of the arrest.

When they came face-to-face, De Valera sported “a heavy brown beard” that “made him look like a Frenchman,” Jones reported, then added the whiskers were shaved by the time he was arrested eight days later. The American, who was 46, described the 41-year-old de Valera as appearing older than he expected, yet “courteous, conciliatory in speech, stubborn in his opinions, spirited even in eclipse, but not embittered.” De Valera’s message to Jones mirrored the statement he sent to Miller: the 1922 election that upheld the Irish Free State was unfair, and the upcoming contest would be, too.

The North American Newspaper Alliance distributed the interview. The alliance had been created a year earlier by more than four dozen papers in the United States and Canada, led by the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Among the papers that used the de Valera interview, most appear to have published it on Aug. 28, the day after the Irish election.

General election

Many anti-treaty republicans, including de Valera, from the losing side of the civil war remained imprisoned during the election campaign. Most were committed to not participate in the legislature, even if elected. Cumann na nGaedheal, successor party of the pro-treaty wing of Sinn Féin, won the election and went on to form the government.

The Associated Press cited “Dublin correspondents of the London newspapers” as the source of its descriptions of “slow and steady” turnout in the capital while “reports from the provinces indicate the day passed peacefully.”[10]”Sixty Percent Of Irish Vote In Free State Elections”, The Buffalo (NY) Evening Times, Aug. 28,1923, and other papers. The wire story included that republican Countess Markievicz had been pelted with an egg at Rathmines, while in Waterford four brass bands representing competing political parties played over each other in an “old time election day amusement.” Markievicz and de Valera prevailed in their races. “A remarkable feature of the elections is the absence of the influence of Jim Larkin, a radical labor leader,” wrote Hugh Curran of the Dublin-based Irish Times, also a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune‘s Foreign News Service.[11]”Erin Peaceful As Vote Is Taken; Ballot Is Heavy”, Chicago Tribune, Aug. 28, 1923. Larkin, a socialist and communist agitator, had returned to Ireland earlier in the year after being released from the New York prison where he was sentenced on conviction of criminal anarchy.

“The fact that about 60 percent of the eligible voters went to the polls shows an interest which compares favorably with that evinced in American elections,” the Brooklyn Daily Eagle editorialized.[12]”A Peaceful Election In Ireland”, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 29, 1923.. “On the whole, the election bodes nothing but good for the Irish people.”

The Gaelic American cited election coverage from Denis O’Connell, an Irish-born correspondent for the Heart-owned Universal Service news wire, and the Associated Press, in its issue five days after the election.[13]”‘Model Election,’ Is The Verdict On Contest In Ireland”, The Gaelic American, Sept. 1, 1923. The paper provided more comprehensive coverage the following week. It concluded:

Notwithstanding, in view of the fact that on its shoulders fell the heavy burden of restoring order to a country reduced to a state of anarchy by the de Valera tactics, the result, taking it all in all, is a sweeping victory for government by sanity, and the fact, in contradiction to de Valera’s protest that the election would not be a free election, that there was complete freedom on the part of every voter … coupled with the order that prevailed at the polls, is a happy augur for the future.[14]”Griffith And Collins Vindicated By Result Of Election In Ireland”, The Gaelic American, Sept. 8, 1923.

Stephen Gwynn

The Gaelic American also recommended and reprinted election coverage from Irish journalist Stephen Gwynn, which appeared in the New York Times. A Protestant nationalist, Gwynn had represented Galway city in the British Parliament as a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1906 to 1918. He supported John Redmond’s call for the Irish Volunteers to support the British and Allied military effort in the Great War, where he served as a captain.

Gwynn’s Sept. 2, 1923, story is linked from its headline, “Irish Vote Assures Stable Government.”

The De Valera papers at University College Dublin contain more than 50 pages of statements that he issued to foreign correspondents, or content they sent to him for approval prior to publication, during this period. The collection includes statements issued to Miller, Jones, and Joe Toye of The Boston Herald-Traveller.[15]Eamon de Valera Papers, P150. See 22. REORGANISATION OF SINN FÉIN, PEACE MOVES AND CEASEFIRE, November 1922 – August 1923, Box 1790, p. 660

References

References
1 Webb Miller, I Found No Peace, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1936); and “Webb Miller” in Robert B. Downs and Jane B. Downs, Journalists of the United States: Biographical Sketches of Print and Broadcast New Shapers from the Late 17th Century to the Present, (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1991.), p 239.
2 ”De Valera Sends Statement Into Paris By Plane”, Stockton (Calif.) Record, July 17, 1923, shown in this post, and other papers.
3 ”De Valera Drops His ‘Idealism;’ Politician Now”, The Gaelic American, July 28, 1923.
4 ”De Valera Made Prisoner By Free Staters At Ennis”, The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Daily Eagle, Aug. 15, 1923, and other papers.
5 De Valera Is Laid By The Heels At Last“, The Gaelic American, Aug. 25, 1923.
6 ”Bullets Flew When De Valera Was Taken”, The Boston Globe, Sept. 14, 1923.
7 ”Ford Says Prohibition Is But Smoke Screen Of Crafty Politicians”, The Scranton (Pa.) Times, July 21, 1923.
8 ”De Valera, Disguised By Beard, Lived Safely In Heart of Dublin”, The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1923, and other papers.
9 See my 2019 piece, March 1919: First interviews with escapee Éamon de Valera.
10 ”Sixty Percent Of Irish Vote In Free State Elections”, The Buffalo (NY) Evening Times, Aug. 28,1923, and other papers.
11 ”Erin Peaceful As Vote Is Taken; Ballot Is Heavy”, Chicago Tribune, Aug. 28, 1923.
12 ”A Peaceful Election In Ireland”, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 29, 1923.
13 ”‘Model Election,’ Is The Verdict On Contest In Ireland”, The Gaelic American, Sept. 1, 1923.
14 ”Griffith And Collins Vindicated By Result Of Election In Ireland”, The Gaelic American, Sept. 8, 1923.
15 Eamon de Valera Papers, P150. See 22. REORGANISATION OF SINN FÉIN, PEACE MOVES AND CEASEFIRE, November 1922 – August 1923, Box 1790, p. 660

U.S. press on Harry Boland’s ‘race vendetta’ remark

Irish Republican and Sinn Fein politician Harry Boland in 1919. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Irish separatist Harry Boland urged a “race vendetta” against the British empire during a Jan. 6, 1921, speech at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The U.S. press jumped on his comment, reported in several variations, as highlighted:

  • “If England does not stop its campaign of murder in Ireland we will preach a race vendetta among the millions of Irish throughout the world and take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”–New York Times[1]“Boland Threatens World Vendetta”, New York Times, Jan. 7, 1921.
  • “If England does not stop her campaign of murder in Ireland we will preach a race vendetta all over the world, and when an Irishman is killed we will demand an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”–New York Herald[2]“Irish In America Are Called Upon To Fight Britain”, New York Herald, Jan. 8, 1921
  • “I say as calmly and deliberately as I can, that if Britain does not stop her campaign of murder in Ireland, then we will preach to our millions scattered all over the world, a race vendetta, and demand an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The Irish Times, Philadelphia[3]“No Cause To Question Faith Of Ireland’s Leaders, Says Boland” The Irish Times, Jan. 15, 1921. The pro-Irish independence weekly reported the quote as what appears to be the full text of the … Continue reading

Some papers simply quoted the phrase “race vendetta” in the headlines or body of their story, then used other direct quotes from the speech. Either way, Boland’s remark added to the swirl of Irish news in the American press at the start of 1921:

  • Lord Mayor of Cork Donal O’Callaghan on Jan. 4 arrived as a stowaway aboard a commercial ship at Newport News, Virginia. He became the subject of a deportation debate as U.S. officials also renewed their attention on Boland’s status in the country without a passport.
  • The American Commission on Conditions in Ireland continued its hearings on allegations of British atrocities in the two-year-old Anglo-Irish War. The American Committee for Relief in Ireland launched a separate effort to raise money for civilian victims of the war.
  • The upstart American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR) and the established Friends of Irish Freedom publicly feuded over the best way for the Irish in America to secure U.S. government recognition of the Irish republic.

One of the first complaints about Boland’s broadside came from Oswald Garrison Villard, editor of The Nation magazine and a key supporter of the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. Villard addressed a letter to Boland, which the writer released to the press, to “protest most vigorously” the race vendetta comments “if they are correctly reported in the press.”[4]Villard to Boland, Jan. 7, 1921, Oswald Garrison Villard Papers, 1872-1949 (MS Am 1323). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

The top of Villard’s letter to Boland. (Harvard)

Villard quoted Boland as calling for “a race vendetta in America” on behalf of the Irish cause. His letter continued:

…any suggestion that the (Irish) struggle be transferred to this side of the ocean will be resented throughout this country by all right-thinking Americans. The one hope of winning large numbers of Americans to the Irish cause is first to prove the justice of it, and second, to refrain from any acts of violence either in Ireland or here. … If any considerable number of our citizens of Irish birth and sympathies should act upon your advice and start a vendetta in this country against things or persons English over here, a justified wave of resentment would sweep from one side of the nation to the other and make it impossible for the Irish cause to obtain further hearing. Do not make any mistake; American interest in self-determination for Ireland does not imply hostility to England.[5]Ibid.

The New York Tribune editorialized that Boland’s “ravings” should not to be taken seriously and were just another example of Ireland being “attacked from the rear by fool friends.”[6]“The Boland Vendetta”, New York Tribune, Jan. 8, 1921 The paper suggested “a committee of friends of Ireland might attend him on his tours as a guard, ready to yank him to his seat when signs come that his temperament is about to boil over.”

The New York Times, regularly critical of the Irish cause and dubious of the American Commission, praised Villard for drawing a “broad and clear” line against “Bolandism or Bolandery or whatever that incitement to violence may be called.”[7]“Topics of the Times: Mr. Villard Sounds A Warning”, New York Times, Jan. 10, 1921. The Times suggested that the “right-thinking Americans” described by Villard “are well aware that England will not grant complete independence to Ireland” for the same reasons the U.S. government would not grant sovereignty to Long Island, New York, “no matter how fiercely they might demand it.”

A third editorial, which was syndicated nationwide, noted Villard’s “friendliness to the Irish cause cannot be questioned” and praised his letter as “good advice … administered with rare effectiveness.” The editorial “hoped that Irish leaders who, perhaps unwittingly, have been offending against American traditions and interests, and thereby hurting their own cause, will be more circumspect hereafter.”[8]“Advice To A Propagandist”, Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York, Jan. 15, 1921, and other papers.

But the harshest editorial criticism came from John Devoy, editor of The Gaelic American, who regularly sparred with Boland and his boss, Irish President Eamon de Valera. The pair had created the AARIR only weeks before Boland’s Garden speech, shortly before de Valera returned to Ireland. The strategy of confrontation with Devoy and the Friends of Irish Freedom was de Valera’s, but Boland was largely responsible for its execution, according to Boland biographer David Fitzpatrick. While this alienated many old supporters of the Irish cause in America, it also mobilized hundreds of thousands of Americans, including those without Irish heritage, behind the demand for self-determination.[9]David Fitzpatrick, Boland, Henry James (“Harry”) in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography, 2009.

 

Devoy reported Boland’s controversial comment as: “If Britain does not stop her campaign of murder we will start a race vendetta, take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and I tell you again that you should tear down everything English in America if this does not stop.”[10]“Boland Makes An Idiotic Speech”, The Gaelic American, Jan. 15, 1921. Devoy acknowledged that Boland described himself as speaking “calmly,” but the editorialist insisted the speaker “was very much heated up” and “shouted” his remarks. Devoy continued:

The restraining hand of de Valera has been withdrawn, and Boland is free to wag his tongue and make a fool of himself. Men who really contemplate vendettas and exacting ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth’ don’t swagger about it on public platforms and enable the enemy to take precautions and get evidence to secure convictions. Someone close to Boland ought to take Daniel O’Connell’s saying to heart when he was interrupted by a fool at a public meeting: ‘Will someone stuff a wisp of hay in that calf’s mouth.’”[11]The “wisp of hay” comment found in Michael MacDonagh, The Life of Daniel O’Connell, (London: Cassell and Company Limited, 1903), p. 320.

Boland acknowledged to his diary that he had been in “bad form” and “made an error” in the speech, which brought a “full blast” from the press. He told de Valera that he had “let my heart run away with my head.” Boland attempted to walk back his remark over the next few months, even as he insisted that he was “sadly misquoted.” Others urged him to let the matter rest.[12]David Fitzpatrick, Harry Boland’s Irish Revolution, 1887-1922. (Cork: Cork University Press, 2003), p. 195.

Over the next year Boland returned briefly to Ireland, came back to United States, then went back to Ireland again. He was shot while fighting against government forces during the Irish Civil War and died Aug. 1, 1922, age 35.

References

References
1 “Boland Threatens World Vendetta”, New York Times, Jan. 7, 1921.
2 “Irish In America Are Called Upon To Fight Britain”, New York Herald, Jan. 8, 1921
3 “No Cause To Question Faith Of Ireland’s Leaders, Says Boland” The Irish Times, Jan. 15, 1921. The pro-Irish independence weekly reported the quote as what appears to be the full text of the speech, but is not identified as such.
4 Villard to Boland, Jan. 7, 1921, Oswald Garrison Villard Papers, 1872-1949 (MS Am 1323). Houghton Library, Harvard University.
5 Ibid.
6 “The Boland Vendetta”, New York Tribune, Jan. 8, 1921
7 “Topics of the Times: Mr. Villard Sounds A Warning”, New York Times, Jan. 10, 1921.
8 “Advice To A Propagandist”, Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York, Jan. 15, 1921, and other papers.
9 David Fitzpatrick, Boland, Henry James (“Harry”) in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography, 2009.
10 “Boland Makes An Idiotic Speech”, The Gaelic American, Jan. 15, 1921.
11 The “wisp of hay” comment found in Michael MacDonagh, The Life of Daniel O’Connell, (London: Cassell and Company Limited, 1903), p. 320.
12 David Fitzpatrick, Harry Boland’s Irish Revolution, 1887-1922. (Cork: Cork University Press, 2003), p. 195.

Remembering Emmet at midsummer blogiversary

I hope regular readers and occasional visitors to this blog are enjoying their summer. This post concludes our eleventh year, which included a temporary relocation to Boston and return to Washington, D.C. Here, one of my regular walks takes me by the statue of Irish patriot Robert Emmet.

Since 1966–the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising–the statue has been located in the 2400 block of Massachusetts Avenue, known as “Embassy Row.” It’s a 5-minute walk from the Embassy of Ireland on Sheridan Circle, and a block from the historic Woodrow Wilson House. As a second-term U.S. president, Wilson attended the June 1917 unveiling of the statue by Kerry-born sculpture Jerome Connor. “Heckling suffragettes” briefly disrupted the ceremony as they unrolled a banner that asked: “Why laud patriotic struggles of the past and suppress struggles for freedom at your gates?”[1]”Two Arrested With A Banner at Emmet Statue Exercises”, The Washington Post, June 29, 1917. American women secured the right to vote three years later as it became clear that Wilson was no supporter of Irish independence.

I continue to pursue my research about how American journalists reported the Irish struggle, both in Ireland and in America. More posts ahead. Thanks for your continued support of the blog. MH

 

References

References
1 ”Two Arrested With A Banner at Emmet Statue Exercises”, The Washington Post, June 29, 1917.

Arthur Gleason’s ‘inside’ reporting of post-Rising Ireland

(This post continues my exploration of how American journalists covered the Irish revolution. Visit the project landing page to access earlier work and resources. MH)

The United States’ April 1917 entry into the First World War had two immediate impacts on Ireland: increased scrutiny of Irish American efforts to support the revolution in ally Britain’s backyard, first exposed a year earlier during the Easter Rising; and more American newspaper correspondents based in London to cover the arrival and battlefield engagements of U.S. troops on the continent. In addition to their eastward journeys across the English Channel from Dover to Calais, these reporters also travelled westward across the Irish Sea, usually boarding the overnight mail boats from Holyhead to Dublin.

Arthur H. Gleason, date unknown

Arthur H. Gleason was among the first American journalists to assess post-Rising Irish nationalism within the British Empire. Born in 1878 in Newark, N.J., he graduated from Yale University in 1901 and joined the New York Tribune as a reporter. For 10 years from 1903 Gleason worked as a writer and editor at Cosmopolitan, Country Life in America, and Collier’s Weekly magazines. At the outbreak of the war in 1914, he joined the Red Cross and served with the Hector Munro Ambulance Corps in Belgium. Gleason was briefly captured by the Germans, but managed to escape and report his observations of the front lines, including several popular books about the war, notably Golden Lads, co-written with his wife.[1]“Arthur Gleason papers, 1863-1931”, MSS18382, Library of Congress, and multiple newspaper obituaries.

Gleason rejoined the Tribune in 1916 as a European correspondent as U.S. entry into the war became inevitable. Arthur Draper, another of the paper’s London correspondents, had covered the Rising in Dublin. He was “an outspoken proponent of including interpretation in foreign news reports,” rather than the just-the-facts presentation of the wire services.[2]Gerald L. Fetner (2017) Modern Foreign Correspondents after World War I: The New York Evening Post‘s David Lawrence and Simeon Strunsky, American Journalism, 34:3, pp. 313-332. Gleason wrote a series of articles for the Tribune‘s op-ed pages that aimed to educate readers about war conditions in Great Britain. He also produced articles on the same topic for Century Magazine. This work was collected nearly word-for-word as the book Inside the British Isles, published in spring 1917.

BRIEF VISIT

Gleason made what he described as a “brief visit” to Ireland, apparently before the end of 1916, to detail nationalist restiveness. “Sane opinion in Ireland is well aware that in any solution Ireland remains inside the federation of the British commonwealth,” he wrote, “but the status toward which the intelligent Irish work is that of a self-governing nation, like the free colonies.”[3]Arthur Gleason, Inside The British Isle (New York: The Century Co., 1917), p. 173.

Gleason’s analysis focused more on economic, market, and labor conditions than politics. He reported:

The real Irish question is poverty. … The slums of Irish cities are among the worst in Europe. … Many of the farms are too small for economic working, and what there is of them is not good enough soil. Much of the best tillage remains in the hands of landlords and is used for grazing instead of the production of crops. The hope of Ireland lies in trade unionism, education, and cooperation. Ireland’s real problem is to increase production and distribute prosperity.[4]Ibid, pp. 206-209, and “Poverty: The Real Irish Question”, New York Tribune, April 11, 1917.

Gleason viewed wealthy Irish Americans as an important source of this hope. At the time of his visit, he “found Ireland stimulated” by the news that Henry Ford proposed building a tractor factory in Cork city, near the industrialist’s ancestral homeland. The reporter continued:

If the very rumor (of Ford’s plant) has given cheer to an underpaid population, how much new hope will flow in if Irish Americans whose hearts bleed for Ireland will invest some of their money in Irish agriculture and industry. A few million dollars invested where the heart is will relieve a pressure on Ireland, which today is resulting in bad housing, undernourishment, overwork and an undue proportion of pauperism. The real Irish question is not solved by political wrangling and chronically jangled nerves inside the island, nor by hot temper at long distance. The Irish Americans who have planted the tradition of Ireland’s wrongs inside the United States are two generations out of date. … American money is not needed for nationalist propaganda. It is needed for agricultural and industrial development. Our rich Irish Americans can do an immense service to Ireland. They can aid to set her free. But not by parliamentary debates, speech-making campaigns, and pitiful abortive rebellions. They can set her free by standing security for land improvement, better housing, the purchase of machinery and fertilizer plants.

Gleason interviewed and quoted English social and economic academics such as Graham Wallas, Sir Alfred Eckhard Zimmern, and Sir George G. Butler. He also discussed matters with Irish nationalist writers and journalists James Stephens and George William Russell, known by the pseudonym AE, and he quoted Ulster leader Sir Edward Carson. Gleason did not meet or mention Sinn Féin leaders Arthur Griffith, Eamon de Valera, and Michael Collins, who were incarcerated by the British at the time.

PRESS ASSESMENT

Gleason spoke with Dublin-born Lord Northcliffe, a powerful press baron of London’s Fleet Street. The reporter devoted one of his Tribune op-eds and a chapter of his book to a comparison of the British, Irish, and American press. He wrote:

I think the little independent spirited Irish weeklies are admirable. They sass the censor and the Lord Lieutenant and the (Dublin) Castle. I met some of the editors—poor men and honest, editing and writing papers in which they believe. They seem to me worth all the sleek, timid New York crowd put together. … A man believes something hard, and, being Irish, he has the knack of statement, so he publishes a paper.[5]Inside, p. 263, and “A Batch of Papers”, New York Tribune, May 10, 1917.

New York Tribune headline of Gleason’s May 10, 1917, piece on the press.

Privately, Gleason shared drafts of his Irish reporting with key sources for their approval before publication, a common practice at the time but anathema to most modern journalists. His regular correspondents included Butler and Lord Eustace Percy, a British diplomat.

“Butler has handed me your article on Ireland: neither of us feel quite comfortable about making ourselves responsible for it to the extent of giving it special facilities for transmission to America as it stands at present,” Percy wrote to Gleason, then living in Hove, Sussex, on the English Channel coastline 65 miles south of London. “My criticism of your article is not that it is hostile to this country (though I think that is the net effect of it) but that it is not really calculated to enlighten America. … You are carrying coals to Newscastle in writing for America sentimental impressionism about great political problems.”[6]Percy to Gleason, Dec. 28, 1916, Arthur Gleason papers.

Gleason replied two days later.[7]Gleason to Percy, Dec. 30, 1916, Arthur Gleason papers. He agreed to make some “modifications” to the content and withdraw other passages from his Tribune and Century dispatches; but not from the book, which he argued provided fuller context of the relationship between the two islands. “I want the article to be passed,” Gleason wrote, an acknowledgement of the realities of war-time censorship in Britain, which would soon to be duplicated in America. “I think you will agree I have met you seven eighths of the way.”

Gleason bristled at Percy’s charge of sentimental impressionism. “That which is excellent in Belgium and Serbia does not become ‘sentimental’ or selfish in Poland or Ireland. It merely remains the same principal for which French and English (and soon Americas) are fighting—the right of self-government.”

MISSING CONTENT

Gleason’s reporting from Ireland was subject to further editing. Soon after the publication of Inside The British Isles, he wrote to Douglas Z. Doty, editor at the Century publishing company, to complain that “heavy hunks” of content totaling 16 pages had been cut from the manuscript. “Everything that explains the state of mind, everything that voices the young men, has disappeared,” Gleason complained. “Poems, quotations, the statement of a young rebel to me, all have disappeared.”[8]Gleason to Doty, June 4, 1917, Arthur Gleason papers.

Praise for Gleason’s book came from papers within the British Isles. Belfast Newsletter, April 1, 1918.

He questioned whether the missing material resulted from “editorial exigency” in New York or censorship by the British Foreign Office, which he claimed had approved the manuscript. The missing material, according to Gleason, included quotes from several Irish political leaders, among them Helena Malony, a 1916 Easter Rising participant and member of Cumann na mBan, the Irish republican women’s paramilitary organization. Malony’s feminism and labor activism were especially relevant to Gleason’s broader social and economic interests.

Also missing from the book, Gleason wrote, were his analysis of the Dublin rebellion; a tribute to the Gaelic League and similar Irish organizations; a poem written by executed Rising leader Pádraic Pearse; and references to The White Headed Boy, a 1916 comedy drama by Irish playwright Lennox Robinson.

Nevertheless, Inside the British Isles won praise on both sides of the Atlantic. “It is welcome as a contribution to the discussion which is not merely of interest to Ireland, but to thousands of Irish well-wishers and sympathizers in this country,” said one American review.[9]”The Irish Problem”, Buffalo (N.Y.) News, Aug. 27, 1917. An advertisement in the Irish press (image) collected several favorable reviews.

SCUTTLED INVESTIGATION

Gleason returned to America as Irish separatists launched a guerilla war against the British military and police in Ireland. He continued to work on labor and economic issues through the New York-based Bureau of Industrial Research and with social reformer Paul Underwood Kellogg. They co-authored British Labor and the War in 1919. But Gleason’s insights about Ireland were called upon again in late 1920.

Oswald Garrison Villard, editor of the weekly liberal journal the Nation, organized the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland on behalf of pro-Irish interests. He invited dozens of U.S. senators, state governors, big city mayors, college presidents and professors, religious leaders, newspaper editors, and other prominent citizens to form and oversee the eight-member panel of inquiry, which was not affiliated with the U.S. government. Villard and his supporters also intended to send a five-member investigative team to Ireland, including Gleason.

Other members of the proposed delegation included:

  • Major Oliver P. Newman, a journalist, sociologist, former Washington, D.C. commissioner and U.S. Army veteran of the Great War;
  • Rev. Norman Thomas, a Presbyterian minister, socialist political candidate, and publisher of the World Tomorrow;
  • James H. Mauer, a progressive labor leader and president of the Pennsylvania State Federation of Labor; and
  • Robert Morse Lovett, dean of the University of Chicago.

For several weeks in November and December 1920 the New York Tribune, Gleason’s former employer, and other American newspapers published conflicting reports about whether the group would, or would not, be issued passports to visit Ireland; based on the approval or objections of the U.S. or British governments. The dispute continued as the commission, which included Newman, Thomas, and Mauer, opened public hearings on conditions in Ireland at a Washington hotel.

Privately, Gleason was skeptical of the investigative delegation to which he was publicly named. “Unless the strongest kind of commission is sent to England and Ireland, it will be better to send none at all,” he wrote to Villard. “To send a half dozen unknown or slightly known persons will injure the cause of good-will you have at heart. The work will be discredited, or treated with indifference and irony.”[10]Gleason to Villard, Nov. 24, 1920, in Oswald Garrison Villard Papers, 1872-1949 (MS Am 1323), Harvard University, Box 37, Irish Commission, 1920-1921.

Gleason subsequently complained there were too many socialists in the proposed group, with “no bishop, no judge, no ‘big’ business man. So idealistic a commission will not avail.”[11]Ibid. “Since writing the above…” handwritten on same letter.

The proposed delegation scuttled by the time the commission concluded its hearings in January 1921. A month later another group of American investigators travelled to Ireland as part of an overlapping effort called the American Committee for Relief in Ireland. This group’s account of distress in Ireland was released within days of the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland report based on the Washington hearing testimony. Pro-Irish supporters cheered the two narratives critical of British rule; the British government condemned both reports as exaggerations and fabrications; and U.S. officials mostly tried to remain neutral and outside the fray.[12]See my earlier posts American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921, and American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921.

EARLY DEATH

Though unstated in his letter to Villard, Gleason’s reluctance to join the proposed Irish delegation also might have been based on his skepticism of Irish American political meddling in the conflict, though he encouraged economic investment, as noted above. In his 1917 book, Gleason wrote:

The irreconcilable Irish in America had seemed to me a set of men “scrapping” volubly for the sake of words and dissension.  … (It is) the bitterness of Roman Catholic pulpits in Boston and Chicago, the railings of mass meetings in New York, the irresponsible perorations of Irish-American politicians that chiefly threatens the future of Ireland. … (Progressive British people) cannot and will not accept from America the last and worst doctrine of reaction.[13]Inside, pp. 173, 191.

It does not appear that Gleason wrote more about Ireland after 1917. The island was partitioned in 1921 as the war with Britain ended and devolved into the year-long Irish civil war. The revolutionary period that began at Easter 1916 ended in May 1923.

Gleason died of meningitis on Dec. 30, 1923, two weeks after his 45th birthday. He is buried in Washington, D.C.

References

References
1 “Arthur Gleason papers, 1863-1931”, MSS18382, Library of Congress, and multiple newspaper obituaries.
2 Gerald L. Fetner (2017) Modern Foreign Correspondents after World War I: The New York Evening Post‘s David Lawrence and Simeon Strunsky, American Journalism, 34:3, pp. 313-332.
3 Arthur Gleason, Inside The British Isle (New York: The Century Co., 1917), p. 173.
4 Ibid, pp. 206-209, and “Poverty: The Real Irish Question”, New York Tribune, April 11, 1917.
5 Inside, p. 263, and “A Batch of Papers”, New York Tribune, May 10, 1917.
6 Percy to Gleason, Dec. 28, 1916, Arthur Gleason papers.
7 Gleason to Percy, Dec. 30, 1916, Arthur Gleason papers.
8 Gleason to Doty, June 4, 1917, Arthur Gleason papers.
9 ”The Irish Problem”, Buffalo (N.Y.) News, Aug. 27, 1917.
10 Gleason to Villard, Nov. 24, 1920, in Oswald Garrison Villard Papers, 1872-1949 (MS Am 1323), Harvard University, Box 37, Irish Commission, 1920-1921.
11 Ibid. “Since writing the above…” handwritten on same letter.
12 See my earlier posts American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921, and American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921.
13 Inside, pp. 173, 191.