Tag Archives: Cardinal James Gibbons

‘A duty to their own flesh & blood’

Americans of Irish descent owed a “special duty to their own flesh and blood,” Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore emphasized in a spring 1921 fundraising appeal. The Irish had “given generously to all other suffering peoples,” he said, “they will not forget their own.” 

Cardinal Gibbons

Gibbons was an honorary leader of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland as the war with Britain entered its third year. The New York-based organization described itself as a “non-political and non-sectarian body, solely humanitarian in aim,”[1]“American Committee For Relief In Ireland, Part 1, Suggested Plan for National Organization”, Undated. From Series X: Manuscripts & Printed Material, page 1. From “Maloney collection of … Continue reading but had strong Irish nationalist and Catholic connections. Just over 1 million Irish immigrants lived in America at the time. Their U.S.-born children and grandchildren swelled that number many times over. 

The American Committee sought as many contributors as possible, especially the rich. Organizers emphasized that “securing a large number of contributions early in the campaign” would encourage others to “enlarge their gifts because of the example set by wealthy fellow citizens.”[2]“Suggested Plan”, p 3. Promotional material suggested $10 contributions would “provide food, clothing and shelter for some homeless Irish waif for one month.”[3]Flier in the John B. Collins Papers, University of Pittsburgh, ULS Archives & Special Collections, Series I, Folders 12/13, “American Committee for Relief in Ireland.” Digital copies … Continue reading

The campaign set a $10.2 million nationwide goal. For perspective, that was just less 10 cents–a dime–from each of America’s 107 million residents, or $10 from every Irish native. Final donations from the 48 states and the District of Columbia totaled $4,555,313, just over 4 cents per capita for all Americans and about $4.55 for Irish immigrants.[4]Excludes $100,000 from the American Red Cross and $13,881 from Alaska, not a state at the time, Canada, the Canal Zone, Mexico, and other foreign contributions, none of which were included in the … Continue reading

New York and Massachusetts, with the first and second largest Irish immigrant populations, finished first and second in collections, respectively. Pennsylvania, with the third largest Irish population, finished seventh in U.S. fundraising.

Here are the collection totals, number of Irish immigrants, and the Irish per capita rates for those seven states:

  • New York: $1,192,603 * 284,747 * $4.18
  • Massachusetts: $734,058 * 183,171 * $4.01
  • Connecticut: $358,508 * 45,404 * $7.89
  • Illinois: $330,533 * 74,274 * $4.45
  • California: $330,448 * 45,308 * $7.29
  • New Jersey: $226,476 * 65,971 * $3.43
  • Pennsylvania: $210,795 * 121,601 * $1.73

The American Committee’s 1922 final report and audited statement praised Connecticut for its $358,000 collection on a $100,000 quota, the highest return by percentage over any assigned state goal. Thomas Lawrence Reilly, the New Haven sheriff and son of Irish immigrants, chaired the state campaign.[5]1920; Census Place: New Haven Ward 10, New Haven, Connecticut; Roll: T625_193; Page: 23A; Enumeration District: 375. In March 1921, local volunteers canvassed with buttons, pledge cards, and receipt books.

“Every person giving a subscription will receive a button and a receipt for the amount they contribute,” a Meriden paper reported on St. Patrick’s Day. “The buttons have a red, white and blue background with the letters A.C.R.I across them in green letters.”[6]”Irish Relief Appointment”, The Journal (Meriden, Conn.), March 17, 1921.

The formula for determining state quotas is not described in the American Committee’s 1922 final report, its six-page “Suggested Plan for National Organization”, or a 12-page memorandum of national committee meetings from December 1920 through October 1921.[7]American Committee for Relief In Ireland, Schedule A, pp. 43-44; “Suggested Plan” in Maloney collection; and “Committee for Relief in Ireland’, providing accounts of several meetings of … Continue reading Without such context or background, it is difficult to evaluate the success or failure of individual states. I welcome reader input on these details.  

Some additional perspective on the nationwide collections:

  • 21 of 48 states returned less than half of their assigned quota;
  • 18 states surpassed their quota;
  • 11 states returned more than $100,000; and
  • 9 states contributed less than $10,000; with $547 from Arkansas the smallest return.

Gibbons died shortly after issuing the statement quoted at the top and shown below in a Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper advertisement. American relief was distributed in Ireland through summer 1922.

Also see: The Pittsburgh fight over relief to Ireland

References

References
1 “American Committee For Relief In Ireland, Part 1, Suggested Plan for National Organization”, Undated. From Series X: Manuscripts & Printed Material, page 1. From “Maloney collection of Irish historical papers, 1857-1965”, New York Public Library.
2 “Suggested Plan”, p 3.
3 Flier in the John B. Collins Papers, University of Pittsburgh, ULS Archives & Special Collections, Series I, Folders 12/13, “American Committee for Relief in Ireland.” Digital copies provided by Jon Klosinski, May 26, 2021. I have previously reviewed these files in-person.
4 Excludes $100,000 from the American Red Cross and $13,881 from Alaska, not a state at the time, Canada, the Canal Zone, Mexico, and other foreign contributions, none of which were included in the campaign’s stated goal.
5 1920; Census Place: New Haven Ward 10, New Haven, Connecticut; Roll: T625_193; Page: 23A; Enumeration District: 375.
6 ”Irish Relief Appointment”, The Journal (Meriden, Conn.), March 17, 1921.
7 American Committee for Relief In Ireland, Schedule A, pp. 43-44; “Suggested Plan” in Maloney collection; and “Committee for Relief in Ireland’, providing accounts of several meetings of the Commission in New York, Dec. 16, 1920-Oct. 26, 1921, in Patrick McCartan Papers, 1912-1938, Library of Ireland.

Join my March 20 presentation on Cardinal Gibbons

UPDATE:

Thanks to those who attended the virtual event, and to the Irish Railroad Workers Museum, Baltimore, for the invitation. See my story about Cardinal Gibbons in the Catholic Review (Baltimore): Cardinal Gibbons, who died 100 years ago, was committed to Ireland

ORIGINAL POST:

James Gibbons was born in Baltimore in 1834 to Irish immigrants. The family moved back to County Mayo, where the future Cardinal Gibbons witnessed the Great Famine as a teen. On return to America, he regularly sent humanitarian aid to Ireland as he ascended the church hierarchy.

Cardinal Gibbons

Through most of his career, Cardinal Gibbons was circumspect about Ireland’s frequent bids for freedom from the British crown and London parliament. But from 1919 until his death, March 24, 1921, he supported several key American Irish efforts to help Ireland’s War of Independence. His speech at the Irish Race Convention in Philadelphia was “one of the most decisive steps of his life,” one contemporary said.

My “Cardinal Gibbons and Ireland” virtual presentation for the Irish Railroad Workers Museum (Baltimore) begins at 11 a.m. Eastern (3 p.m. Ireland), Saturday, March 20. Free registration here. (Link removed). You are very welcome to join us.

The cardinal’s photo on the front of The Gaelic America after his appearance at the February 1919 Irish Race Convention. (Click image to enlarge.)

Promoting the February 1919 Irish Race Convention

Philadelphia in the 1910s.

Fast-moving events in Ireland compelled nationalist supporters in America to call their third “Irish Race Convention” since 1916 for late February 1919. The Friends of Irish Freedom would mobilize 5,000 delegates to Philadelphia within two months of the Sinn Féin election victory and first meeting of the Dáil Éireann.

The Philadelphia turnout was a tribute to the organizational skills of the FOIF’s national officers and the passion of its rank and file members. It built on momentum since the May 1918 second Irish Race Convention in New York City, including months of lobbying President Woodrow Wilson’s administration to recognize Irish independence, which culminated in “Self-Determination for Ireland Week” in December 1918.

The Irish Press, Philadelphia, unabashedly promoted the home city convention. The Feb. 8, 1919, edition contained content that made little distinction between the front page and the editorial page.

“Although several remarkable gathering representative of the Irish throughout the United States have been held in recent years, there is no no room for doubt that the convention to be held in Philadelphia, February 22 and 23, will be by far the most notable event of the kind that has ever taken place in this country,” the page 1 story said.

“In personnel and importance, the coming convention of the Irish Race in America completely overshadows all similar gathering held in these United States,” the page 4 editorial declared.

Press publisher Joseph McGarrity, and editor, Patrick McCartan, were each involved in planning the convention and behind the scenes struggles over what would be publicly declared at the event. Historians have debated how much influence the newspaper’s leaders and their Philadelphia supporters  exerted on the convention, or if John Devoy, Judge Daniel Cohalan, and other Irish activists in New York City really pulled the strings.

Far from these Irish hubs, the Feb. 8 issue of the Kentucky Irish American, Louisville, featured a front page notice that “all societies in favor of Ireland’s national independence” were entitled to send five delegates to Philadelphia. Registrations were to be sent to FOIF National Secretary Diarmuid Lynch, care of the group’s headquarters, 1482 Broadway, in New York City. (Lynch and McCartan each won parliamentary seats in the December 1918 general election while in America. They were in absentia members of the first Dáil.)

The Feb. 15 issue of The Irish Standard, Minneapolis, noted on its front page that requests for credentials were due to New York by Feb. 12. “Delegates presenting themselves without credentials cannot be seated until after those bearing credentials have been dealt with,” it warned. Not to worry. A second story named six delegates selected from Minneapolis and St. Paul, including Rev. Jeremiah Harrington, a member of the FOIF national board.

In a page 4 editorial, the Standard complained: “The transactions and conclusions of the convention will command world wide attention, despite the apparent conspiracy of silence that seems to prevail among many of our great American newspapers when anything is done to arouse public interest in the promotion of Ireland’s welfare.”

In fact, mainstream newspapers did publish the names of local delegations heading to Philadelphia in the weeks before the convention. Many also announced the confirmation of headline speakers such as Cardinal James Gibbons, of Baltimore; Cardinal William Henry O’Connell, of Boston; Archbishop Dennis Joseph Dougherty, of Philadelphia; U.S. Senator William Borah, R-Idaho; and Pennsylvania’s newly-elected Republican Gov. William C. Sproul, among others.

More news coverage would come from the two-day event, as we will see in future posts. See previous posts in this series at: American reporting of Irish Independence, 1919-1922.

View the full 76-page Third Irish Race Convention program from the Villanova University digital collection.