Tag Archives: Charles Stewart Parnell

Ruth Russell in Revolutionary Ireland: Beginnings

Chicago journalist Ruth Russell reported from revolutionary Ireland in 1919, followed by a year of activism for its independence. This five-part monograph is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series. © 2019

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On Jan. 27, 1919, a Chicago Daily News editor urged the federal government to expedite a passport for one of his reporters, Ruth Russell. “Because of the news conditions in Ireland at the present time, it is hoped that she may leave as soon as possible,” News Editor Henry J. Smith wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing.1 

Six days earlier, the separatist Sinn Féin party declared independence from Britain and established a breakaway government in Dublin, a move based on its near sweep of Irish parliamentary seats in the United Kingdom’s first election after the Great War. In County Tipperary, 125 miles southwest of the Irish capital, two policemen were killed in an ambush, the first shots of Ireland’s latest uprising against centuries of British rule. 

Russell’s 1919 passport photo.

In Washington, D.C., Lansing approved Russell’s passport, and she was assigned to answer this question: “What’s the matter with Ireland?” Russell recalled later, “This was the last injunction a fellow journalist, propagandized into testy impatience with Ireland, gave me before I sailed for that bit of Europe which lies closest to America.”2 

Nearly a year to the day after Smith’s State Department outreach, another letter was written on Russell’s behalf. This time the author was Éamon de Valera, president of the provisional Irish republic. Russell interviewed him in March 1919, shortly after her arrival in Dublin. 

“I congratulate you on the rapidity with which you succeeded in understanding Irish conditions and grasped the Irish viewpoint,” de Valera wrote in the Jan. 29, 1920, letter published as front matter in Russell’s new book, What’s the matter with Ireland?, based on her 1919 reporting. “I hope we shall have more impartial investigators, such as you, who will take the trouble to see things for themselves first hand, and who will not be imposed upon by half-truths.”3 

Russell’s reporting from Ireland at times was insightful and compassionate, especially her sketches of women, children, and workers living in the shadows of the revolution. It is debatable whether she remained an impartial investigator. Her experiences in Ireland transformed her into a pro-Irish activist. She left the Daily News; joined at least one Washington, D.C., protest against British rule in Ireland; and testified before an American commission exploring conditions in Ireland. Russell’s activism was fleeting, however, and her 1919 reporting became dated by rapidly evolving events in Ireland. By 1921, she withdrew from journalism and public attention. 

BEGINNINGS 

Ruth Marie Russell was born March 24, 1889, in Chicago, the eighth child of Martin J. Russell, a 43-year-old Chicago Times editorial writer, and 39-year-old Cecilia [nee Walsh]. Both parents were the offspring of pre-Great Famine Irish immigrants. The couple lived in Hyde Park, just a few blocks from St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, where their newborn was baptized April 21, 1889.4 A live-in cook and a household “servant” tended the family, which also included Russell’s paternal grandmother, 76-year-old Jane Lewis [nee Mulligan].5 

“Among my earliest recollections are long twilight hour discussions with my grandmother about early Chicago–she came here in 1835,” Russell recalled in a 1931 newspaper interview to promote her novel, Lake Front.6

In the book, about Chicago’s first 100 years, the 42-year-old Russell described her hometown in the 1890s of her youth: “It was an ugly city. Its lines were hard and sharp. Its color, smoke. Its air, gritty. Its noises, strident. Its smell, salt with the blood of slaughterhouses. Its people, pale and hurried.”7  

Postcard image of the Irish Village.

Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, developed near Russell’s Hyde Park neighborhood, included an Irish Village with a recreation of the Blarney Castle and white-washed, thatched-roof cottages. An organizer of the exhibit wrote that it would be a great mistake “if any who boast of Irish blood in their veins do not resort thither with their children in order to call to mind the stories told by parents of the scenes of their childhood, or muse over bygone days which they themselves can recall in the dear old home.”8 

During this period, Chicago’s 16 percent Irish-born population9 read newspaper stories about the murder of Dr. Patrick Henry Cronin, a member of the city’s Irish nationalist underground, and the divorce case downfall of Charles Stewart Parnell, Ireland’s “uncrowned king.” Irish immigrant Margaret F. Sullivan, who worked with Russell’s father at the Chicago Herald, wrote a popular book about the agrarian agitation in her native country.10  

In June 1900, when Russell was 11, her popular father died of kidney disease at age 54. “All the newspaper reading public recognized Mr. Russell as an editorial writer of learning, caliber, force, and judgement,” the Chicago Tribune quoted one of his friends.11 At St. Thomas the Apostle Church, the Rev. Daniel Riordan described the deceased as “a conspicuous example of scrupulous integrity.”12 

Russell attended nearby St. Xavier Academy, a Catholic girls school. Upon graduation in 1906, she enrolled at Chicago Normal College and for the next two years prepared for a teaching career.13 In September 1909, Russell matriculated into the University of Chicago, and she graduated four years later with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree.14 In June 1914, she sailed to France to study in Grenoble, but hurried home with the outbreak of the Great War.15

It appears Russell helped manage the St. Mary’s Campfire Girls program on Chicago’s south side.16 By October 1917, she “decided to enter the family field” and followed her late father and an older brother, James Russell, into the newspaper business.17

She began working as a reporter at the Daily News

REPORTER 

Chicago Daily News Building, 15 North Wells St., circa 1903. Chicago History Museum.

At the time of Russell’s newspaper debut, fast-growing Chicago was the second-largest city in America and “home to some of the most influential and dynamic journalists, editors, and newspaper owners in the United States.”18 Investigative efforts and literary styles flourished in the city’s newsrooms. Carl Sandburg joined the Daily News staff the same year as Russell and would bolster his reputation through coverage of Chicago’s 1919 race riots and profiles of the city’s African-American population.19 Russell was hired as a “special writer”20, typically an ad hoc or freelance arrangement that was one of the best ways for women to enter the newsroom.21

For two weeks in 1918, the 5-foot, 9-inch reporter22 hauled heavy steel tools to shell turners inside a Chicago munitions factory for an undercover series about women in war work. She profiled the manual laborers, including “a big woman whose straggly blond hair was stuck to the side of her wide, flat face with perspiration” as she pushed a 200-pound load. The reporter strained and “blushed at my little loads.” Russell estimated that she “walked about four miles, trucked approximately 900 pounds of steel, shouldered less heavy tools and earned $2 in an eight-hour night.” At the end of the shift, “I threw myself on a restroom cot.”23

In addition to such domestic coverage, the Daily News aggressively pursued foreign news. Publisher Victor F. Lawson established bureaus in London, Paris, and Berlin “on the best sites in town, with big signs, to lure in Chicago tourists,” foreign correspondent Paul Scott Mowrer recalled.24 But Lawson was interested in more than good publicity. In the paper’s handbook for foreign correspondents, he wrote: 

The key words of the service are significance and interpretation. Generally speaking, we aim to chronicle only what is significant, and we aim to show the significance of everything we chronicle … how and why it happened, and what it means. We have therefore to be clearer, more analytical, more thorough, less superficial, more cautious and generally more accurate, and perhaps more conscientious than our competitors.25

Lawson advised his correspondents to stay close to the native people, report on their styles and customs, fads and fancies, including business, education, science, religion, art, sports, and social problems. As the United States entered the Great War, his reporters fanned across Europe, including poetess Eunice Tietjens, sent to cover the conflict “from a woman’s perspective.”26

More than three dozen female journalists filed dispatches from the war in Europe for U.S. newspapers and magazines; more than doubling the number of women foreign correspondents since the Mexican-American War of the mid-19th century.27 Russell joined this still-small and under-appreciated sorority soon after the armistice.

The revolution erupting in Ireland was a story of particular interest to Chicago readers.

NEXT: Russell’s reporting from Ireland.

Guest post: The slow death of the Freeman’s Journal

Historian Felix M. Larkin specializes in the study of Irish newspapers, especially the Freeman’s Journal, the prominent Dublin daily published from 1763 to 1924. (See his website and our 2017 Q&A.) In October 1919, Irish writer Seumas MacManus noted the Freeman’s troubles in a U.S. newspaper column, excerpted in my Oct. 13 post. I asked Felix to write this guest post after he rightly corrected one of my notes at this centenary of a key moment in the Freeman’s history. MH

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On Oct. 27, 1919, Dublin’s Freeman’s Journal newspaper was sold to a prominent local businessman, Martin Fitzgerald, and a former English journalist now living in Ireland, Robert Hamilton Edwards. The Freeman had been associated with the Irish home rule movement for the previous four decades– back to Charles Stewart Parnell’s time – and its sale represented the final step in the fall of that movement, which began with the 1916 Rising and culminated in the victory of Sinn Féin in the 1918 general election.1

Founded in 1763, the Freeman had become an important newspaper under the ownership of the Gray family from 1841 to 1892. Though more moderately nationalist in editorial policy than Parnell, it had eventually accepted his leadership and had remained loyal to him at the outset of the Parnell ‘split’ in 1890.2 However, when the anti-Parnellites launched their own daily newspaper, the National Press, in March 1891 and the Freeman began to lose circulation and revenue as a result, it switched sides. The Freeman and the National Press later merged in March 1892. There followed a long and bitter struggle for control of the paper between rival anti-Parnell factions led by Tim Healy and John Dillon, both MPs; this struggle was ultimately resolved in the latter’s favor in 1896.

Thomas Sexton, another prominent anti-Parnell MP, became chairman of the Freeman company in 1893. He remained chairman until 1912. The period of Sexton’s chairmanship was one of relentless decline in the Freeman’s fortunes. The National Press had inflicted grave damage on it, and it continued to face strong competition from the Irish Daily Independent – established as a pro-Parnell organ when the Freeman changed sides in the ‘split’, but purchased by William Martin Murphy in 1900 after the ‘split’ was healed. The Freeman thus lacked funds for investment and was unable to respond to the greatly increased demand for newspapers nationally at this time.

In contrast, Murphy transformed the Independent into a modern, mass-circulation organ. It soaked up the increased demand for newspapers and became the market leader. The Freeman began as a result to incur trading losses, and no dividends were paid by the company after 1908. The home rule leaders eventually acted to save it and forced Sexton’s resignation in 1912. It was subsequently run by a group of party stalwarts and subsidized from party sources, and its parlous condition was exacerbated by the destruction of its premises during the 1916 Rising. After the Rising, money was raised from home rule supporters in Britain and in the United States, as well as in Ireland, in a desperate effort to keep it afloat.3

Following the 1918 general election, the company – without the financial support of the now defunct home rule party –collapsed and went into liquidation.4 It was then purchased by Fitzgerald and Edwards as a commercial venture. Fitzgerald – a wholesale wine and spirit merchant – had been a home ruler and the Freeman’s new management soon committed itself to a policy of advocating dominion status for Ireland.

Martin FItzgerald

It was an inauspicious time to attempt to revive an ailing Irish newspaper of moderate nationalist sympathies. The difficulties that the new owners encountered were extraordinary. The Freeman was suppressed by the British military authorities for seven weeks from December 1919 to January 1920; Fitzgerald, Edwards and the editor, Patrick Hooper, were imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail for a month at Christmas 1920 following publication by the Freeman of a story about army brutality; and after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which was strongly supported by the Freeman, its printing presses were smashed in March 1922 by a raiding party of 200 anti-Treatyites.

Fitzgerald played a role in the process leading up to the 1921 Treaty. Once the Government decided to explore settlement possibilities, he was able to use his standing as a newspaper proprietor to act as an intermediary between Sinn Féin and Dublin Castle.5 He was in regular contact both with Michael Collins and with Alfred Cope, Assistant Under-Secretary at the Castle. Cope, adopting the nom de guerre ‘Mr. Clements’, frequently visited Fitzgerald’s home. Their relationship took on a further dimension when, during the Treaty negotiations, Cope sought to influence the shapers of public opinion in Ireland to support the emerging settlement. Through Fitzgerald, Cope gained a measure of control over the contents of the Freeman’s Journal at that time.

The Freeman’s campaign in favor of the Treaty was generally regarded, even by many on the pro-Treaty side, as unduly partisan. However, the new administration in Dublin came increasingly to rely upon it for propaganda. In recognition of this, Fitzgerald was nominated to the first Senate of the Irish Free State in 1922. He served in that forum until his death in 1927. By then, the Freeman had succumbed to its many tribulations. The main factor in its eventual demise was that the partnership of Fitzgerald and Edwards had ended in grief when the latter tried unsuccessfully to corner the market in newsprint and then absconded, leaving debts which the enfeebled Freeman could not meet. The last issue appeared on Dec. 19, 1924.6 The Freeman’s assets, including the title, were later bought by the Independent. It was a sad end for a distinguished newspaper.

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For more on the Freeman’s Journal, see Larkin’s Aug. 21, 2012 guest blog for the National Library of Ireland, and May/June 2006 piece in History Ireland.

Charles Stewart Parnell returns to Parliament … sort of

UPDATE:

Historians Conor Mulvagh and Diarmaid Ferriter discuss Parnell, plus a report on the opening of  the Charles Stewart Parnell museum at Avondale House in 1986, all from RTÉ Radio.

ORIGINAL POST:

Long-dead Irish Parliamentary Party leader Charles Stewart Parnell, MP from 1871 to 1891, this week haunted the Brexit debate in the House of Commons.

Charles Stewart Parnell

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Tory leader who supports the split from Europe, said the successful cross-party efforts to block a no-deal Brexit were “the most unconstitutional use of this House since the days of Charles Stewart Parnell, when he tried to bung up Parliament.”

As The Irish Times explained, Parnell disrupted the chamber’s sedate procedures in pursuit of Irish Home Rule more than 130 years ago.

Under Parnell’s leadership, the Irish Party adopted obstructionist tactics that brought the work of the Commons to a standstill for days on end. The most famous filibuster lasted for 41 hours in 1881 but the Irish MPs made a nuisance of themselves day in and day out in pursuit of their political goal.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, a Member of the European Parliament he wants to divorce, also revealed that he has “long been a great admirer” of Parnell. In fact, he keeps a picture of the 19th century constitutional nationalist in his Brussels office.

Parnell was “the Great Disruptor of the U.K. parliament” Farage said, according to several media reports. “I have tried, in the same way, to cause some disruption in the European Parliament … If you believe in the cause of national freedom and self-determination, you cannot consent to Brussels rule or being a member of the European Union.”

Many Irish seemed displeased about Parnell being exhumed by the Brexiteers.

“It is a compliment to Parnell – back-handed or otherwise – to suggest that his impact continues to resonate today. But beyond that, the politics espoused by Rees-Mogg and Farage shows no sympathy with Ireland,” the Times editorialized.

“No doubt [Rees-Mogg] was trying to imply that the Irish are always troublesome and that insistence on the backstop is in a tradition of Irish obstruction of British politics,” historian Felix Larkin wrote in a letter to The Guardian. “But he should remember that if it were not for Daniel O’Connell he would be ineligible to take his seat in the House of Commons by virtue of his [Catholic] religion.”

Parnell was even trending on Twitter. Some select posts:

  • Nice to see Parnell causing a bit of bother in the House of Commons again.
  • [Rees-Mogg] doesn’t deserve to even mention [Parnell’s] name.
  • Fairly certain that Parnell would have kicked the shit out of Rees-Mogg.

Rest in Peace: Parnell’s grave at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, July 2016.

‘Irish American’ publisher’s Irish-American story

Kentucky Irish American Publisher William M. Higgins served on the official committee that Oct. 10, 1919, welcomed Irish President Eamon de Valera to Louisville.1 The city’s enthusiastic reception for the rebel leader demonstrated the “feelings of the American people who know and appreciate the blessings of freedom with the people of Ireland who are striving to obtain the same boon,” his newspaper editorialized a week later.2

Higgins and de Valera shared more than their desire for an independent Ireland. By coincidence, the 67-year-old host and the 37-year-old guest were both natives of New York State, some 700 miles away. In later years, de Valera’s American birth to an Irish mother and Spanish father prompted hostile challenges about his Irishness. Higgins, the son of Great Famine immigrants, easily balanced both sides of his hyphenated heritage.

Obituary image in The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.), June 10, 1925.

He was a devout Catholic, active in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and “an ardent advocate of freedom for Ireland,”3 He also was president of printers’ union local and “one of the sponsors and chief boosters of the Amateur Baseball Federation.”4

Higgins was a husband and the father of eight children. He attended the weddings of two of his three daughters; and the funerals of two of his five sons; one who died by drowning; the other by self-inflicted gunshot, whether intentional or accidental is unclear.5

Saint Louis Cemetery, Louisville, Ky.

Higgins dropped dead in his newsroom, age 72, in 1925. It was shortly after creation of the Irish Free State, partition of the island, and end of Ireland’s civil war. The Irish American had turned more of its coverage to local issues.

“Louisville lost a real citizen, a man who always stood up for what he thought was right,” one rival newspaper said of Higgins. “While he was not a native, he practically grew up with the town,” another local columnist said. 6

Immigrant parents

Hugh Higgins, William’s father, emigrated to America from Rivertown, County Sligo in 1848.7 His mother, Mary, departed from Drumlace, County Leitrim, in 1849, “the year when the tide of immigration from Ireland brought thousands of her good, Christian kind to build up this country,” the Syracuse Catholic Sun said in an obituary re-published on the front page of her son’s then year-old newspaper.8

From 1848 to 1855, over 5,000 Irish immigrants settled in Upstate New York’s Onondaga County; about 40 percent in Syracuse.9 William’s parents married in Auburn, New York, about 25 miles east of Syracuse, where they settled.10 He grew up hearing first-hand accounts of the Famine, and the stories of earlier Irish immigrants who dug the nearby Erie Canal, opened in 1825 and enlarged during his boyhood.

Nine of 50 people listed on the 1870 census page showing the Higgins family were born in Ireland, and many of those born in America had immigrant parents.11 The census form indicates only whether each person’s mother and father was foreign born, but not the country, as recorded in later editions of the decennial count.

Louisville move

By 1880, 28-year-old Higgins lived at 289 Seventh St. in Louisville. He was married to Mary; with then 2-year-old, and 2-month old, sons, the children he later buried.12 It is unclear why he moved south; perhaps he or his New York-born wife had family in Louisville.

Higgins also might have relocated to further his career as a printer, which began in Syracuse. In Louisville, he worked in the composing room of The Courier-Journal and the Louisville Times. He also became president of the Typographical Union No. 10.13

Louisville experienced a “second wave” of Irish immigration during the 1880s.14 As a newspaperman, Higgins would have been aware of Charles Stewart Parnell’s Feb. 19, 1880, visit to Louisville. The Irish MP lectured at Liederkranz Hall “for the benefit of the Irish relief fund.”15 Perhaps Higgins joined the local branch of the American Land League.16

Parnell

Parnell arrived the day after visiting the capitol at Frankfort, where it was said “Kentucky is the Ireland of America”; not for being oppressed, but because of the “genial, hearty good nature, the hospitality, the love of fair-play, the pluck and courage” of its people. He was welcomed to Louisville as “a city that always greets with open arms, without regards to politics or opinions, every honest man who loves and serves as country.” 17

Thirty-eight years later, the example probably influenced the welcome that Higgins and other Irish Americans in Louisville extended to Eamon de Valera. By then, he was the established publisher of the Kentucky Irish American for 20 years.

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More on Louisville’s Irish community and the Kentucky Irish American’s coverage of the Irish War of Independence in a future post. Project home page.

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Hurlbert reviewed

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“Although barely a month has elapsed since the publication of these volumes, events of more or less general notoriety have so far confirmed the views taken in them of the actual state and outlook of affairs in Ireland, that I gladly comply with the request of my publisher for a Preface to this Second Edition.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

The first edition of Ireland Under Coercion was published in August 1888. The Preface of the second edition, quoted above, was dated 21 September 1888. Mixed reviews of the book appeared that autumn in Irish, English and American newspapers and literary journals.

The Times of London devoted nearly a full page to the book, with “no apology for placing before our readers copious extracts.” It described IUC as “entertaining as well as instructive.” More importantly, the organ of Britain’s ruling Tory party “attached still greater value to the book as a collection of evidence on the present phase of the Irish difficulty, the genuineness of which it would be idle to impeach.”

This was ironic. The review appeared weeks before a special judicial commission began investigating alleged crimes by Charles Stewart Parnell and other Irish nationalists, driven primarily by an 1887 Times series. Once the commission exposed those reports as false, included the newspaper’s use of forged letters, the Times had to pay damages to Parnell. 

The pro-Parnell United Ireland, which Hurlbert described in IUC as “that dumb organ of a downtrodden people,” weighed in a week after the Times‘ review. It labeled Hurlbert “a clever politico-journalist hack, his ambitions, throughout a somewhat extended career, have ever outrun the appreciation of his countrymen … a slighted genius.” It condemned IUC as a “libelous book on Ireland … fit to take its place amongst other grotesque foreign commentaries.”

The same day, The Kerry Evening Post wrote that Hurlbert’ “ruthlessly dethrones many of the ‘pure-souled patriots’, who have been held up to the admiring gaze of the Irish peasants.” The Tralee paper circulated in the region of the Lixnaw murder and Glenbeigh eviction reported by Hurlbert. It generally represented “Protestant interests and conservative politics.” The Post concluded: “The opinions of an intelligent and instructed foreigner may well be commended to Mr. [William] Gladstone’s study, as an answer to his boast that the ‘civilized world’ is on his side in the great controversy of the day.” [The former and future PM supported Home Rule for Ireland.]

Hurlbert

The Saturday Review, a London newsweekly, described Hurlbert as “an American gentleman to whom the condition of Ireland is gravely interesting, because to a certain extent his own country is responsible for it. … He is evidently possessed of a keen sense of humor, and he writes like a well-educated Englishman, while he views men, morals and manners with all the disinterestedness to be expected from a foreigner.”

The Review also criticized Hurlbert for not attempting “any process of solution, short and summary, or tedious and expensive, by which the Irish difficulty might be solved … he has no pet plan to suggest.”

In America, cloth-bound, gilt top editions of Hurlbert’s book were sold for $1.25 by S.A. Maxwell & Co. The Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle described the book as “… a sort of high class piece of newspaper reporting … [with] a map claiming to show the most disorderly and the most distressed districts, and that the latter are not the former.”

The Literary World, an American journal, explained to its readers: “The rule of the Land League is, in Mr. Hurlbert’s opinion, the only coercion to which Ireland is subjected; and the title of his volume has reference to this view.” The monthly praised IUC as a “keen and fair-minded report .. [that] may be commended as a practical and thoughtful treatise upon the Irish question.”

The Literary World also suggested that Hurlbert’s book could be read together with Philippe Daryl’s Ireland’s Disease, the English in Ireland, and George Pellew‘s In Castle and Cabin: or Talks in Ireland in 1887. “The three supplement each other well.”

“Hurlbert unmasked’

Hurlbert moved on to another political travel journal, this time about France. But his Ireland book got fresh attention in 1891 when Father Patrick White published a rebuttal pamphlet, Hurlbert unmasked : an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion.’  

In his book, Hurlbert had accused the parish priest of organizing boycott activities  at Miltown Malbay, based on his February 1888 visit to County Clare. In Hurlbert unmasked, Father White disputed the charge, and criticized the American reporter on numerous other fronts.

The New York Sun noted that Father White ridiculed the former editor of the rival New York World “as a snob who made his tour of Ireland under the conduct and patronage of lords and others of social and Tory distinction, and who is scrupulous and persistent in advertising the fact.” Following the priest’s lead, the Sun also criticized Hurlbert’s use of unnamed sources.

In a review of Hurlbert’s book about France, The New York Times recalled the 1888 Ireland work as “superficial and tedious,” written “for no higher object and with no less ignoble a spirit than to please certain English nobles in the world of fashion.” At least, the Times suggested, Hurlbert did so “with very respectable success.”

Hurlbert’s book contained a map of his travels “claiming to show the most disorderly and the most distressed districts, and that the latter are not the former.”

NOTES: Top quote from Preface of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanReviews from Times of London, Aug. 18, 1888, page 12; United Ireland, Aug. 25, 1888, page ??; The Kerry Evening Post , Aug. 25, 1888, page 2; The Saturday Review, Sept. 29, 1888, pages 386-387; IUC advertised in The Chicago Tribune, Dec. 1, 1888, page 13; The Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle, Nov. 25, 1888, page 7; The Literary World; a Monthly Review of Current Literature, Jan. 19, 1889; page 22; The New York Sun, Jan. 31, 1891, page 7; The New York Times, April 27, 1890, page 19.

Protestant interests and conservative politics,” from page 196-97 of Newspapers and Nationalism: The Irish Provincial Press, 1850-1892, by Marie-Louise Legg, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 1999.

NEXT: Hurlbert researched

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Irish America

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“…The most important support given by the Irish in America to the Nationalists is solicited by their agents on the express ground that they are really laboring to establish an Irish Republic … .”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert made numerous references to the Irish in America throughout his book, often associating the entire cohort with its most radical and violent separatist elements. He also challenged more conventional political action.

This passage is from his Prologue:

It is undoubtedly the opinion of every Irish American who possesses any real influence with the people of his race in my country, that the rights and liberties of Ireland can only be effectually secured by a complete political separation from Great Britain. Nor can the right of Irish American citizens, holding this opinion, to express their sympathy with Irishmen striving in Ireland to bring about such a result … be questioned. … But for all American citizens of whatever race, the expression of such sympathies ceases to be legitimate when it assumes the shape of action transcending the limits set by local or by international law. It is of the essence of American constitutionalism that one community shall not lay hands upon the domestic affairs of another; and it is an undeniable fact that they sympathy of the great body of American people with Irish efforts for self-government has been diminished, not increased, since 1848, by the gradual transfer of head-quarters and machinery of those efforts from Ireland to the United States. … It is not in accordance with the American doctrine of ‘Home Rule’ that ‘Home Rule’ of any sort for Ireland should be organized in New York or in Chicago by expatriated Irishmen.

Davitt

Hurlbert was a Harvard undergraduate when waves of Famine immigrants arrived in America and the Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848 was suppressed in Ireland. His newspaper career spanned the rise of the anti-Catholic and anti-Irish Know Nothing Party, the New York arrival of the Cuba Five, and the 1880 American tours of Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell.

As the two nationalists gave their speeches that year, an estimated 1.85 million Irish-born people lived in the United States, with another 3.24 million born in America to Irish parents, a total of just over 10 percent of the population. Another 655,000 Irish immigrants arrived during the 1880s.

Parnell

“The Irish were firmly enmeshed in American political, social and economic life,” historian Ely M. Janis wrote. “Irish America was coming of age in the 1880s, and Parnell’s visit both coincided with and consolidated the growing assertiveness of Irish Americans.”

In addition to Parnell and Davitt’s travels in America, Hurlbert also mentioned events such as the 1880 Irish Race Convention in Philadelphia and 1886 Irish National Convention in Chicago, addressed by John Redmond. Prime Minister William Gladstone’s 1886 Home Rule bill, he wrote, “was simply intoxicating” to Irish America.

Hurlbert devoted attention early in the book to the relationship between Davitt and the socialist land views and activities of Henry George and Rev. Dr. Edward McGlynn. He made only a single reference each to Patrick Ford, “the most influential leader of the American Irish”; O’Donovan Rossa, “wielding all the terrors of dynamite from beyond the Atlantic”; and John Devoy, who with Davitt in 1878 outlined the “scheme for overthrowing British rule in Ireland by revolutionizing the ownership of land.”

Hurlbert did little to distinguish the competing strands of Irish nationalism in America or Ireland. Instead, he focused on its most radical elements, as expressed in this passage from the Appendix.

The relation of Mr. Parnell and his Parliamentary associates to what is called the extreme and “criminal” section of the Irish American Revolutionary Party can only be understood by those who understand that it is the ultimate object of this party not to effect reforms in the administration of Ireland as an integral part of the British Empire, but to sever absolutely the political connection between Ireland and the British Empire. … If Mr. Parnell and his Parliamentary associates were to declare in unequivocal terms their absolute loyalty to the British Crown, they might or might not retain their hold on Mr. Davitt and upon their constituents in Ireland, but they would certainly put themselves beyond the pale of support by the great Irish American organizations. Nor do I believe they could retain the confidence of those organizations if it were supposed that they really regarded the most extreme and violent of the Irish Revolutionists, the “Invincibles” and the “dynamiters” as “criminals,” in the sense in which the Invincible and the dynamiters are so regarded by the rest of the civilized world.

Irish population in the United States, 1880. Hewes, Fletcher W, and Henry Gannett. Scribner’s statistical atlas of the United States, showing by graphic methods their present condition and their political, social and industrial development. [New York, C. Scribner’s sons, 1883] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

NOTES: From pages x (Ford, in Preface), 2-3 (Prologue), 14 (Devoy), 386 (Rossa), 432-433 (Appendix), and 466 (Top quote), of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. … Pages 9 and 37 of A Greater Ireland: The Land League and Transatlantic Nationalism in Gilded Age America, by Ely M. Janis, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 2015.

NEXT: Ulster booster

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Uncrowned king

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“Mr. Parnell and the National League are really nothing but the mask of Mr. Davitt and the Land League.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Parnell

Hurlbert disagreed Michael Davitt’s agrarian agitation, but he respected the activist, whom he interviewed. The American reporter had nothing but contempt for Charles Steward Parnell, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, whom he had observed for a decade, but does not appear to have met.

Davitt and Parnell were each involved in the Irish National Land League, which was was outlawed in 1882 and replaced by the similarly-named Irish National League. To Hurlbert, Davitt was more authentic and reasonable, while Parnell had “one voice for New York and Cincinnati, and another for Westminster.”

This should not have surprised Hurlbert. Political leaders frequently vary their messages for foreign and domestic consumption, and often carefully calculate their rhetoric even within constituencies.

Hurlbert was editor of the New York World when Parnell arrived in the city on New Year’s Day, 1880, as the Land War heated in Ireland. Over the next three months, Parnell made a 62-city tour of the United States and Canada that raised over $300,000 in tenant relief. It was considered so successful that supporter Timothy Healy proclaimed Parnell the “uncrowned king” of Ireland as they sailed home. The nickname held.

In his 1888 book, Hurlbert tried to recast Parnell’s visit. He suggested the M.P.’s first U.S. interview “made on the whole an unfavorable impression in America.” Further, it was only because Davitt  and leaders of Irish organizations in America “came to the rescue” that Parnell achieved any success, including his “off day” visit to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Reception display

“His tour, however, on the whole, harmed more than it helped the new Irish movement on my side of the Atlantic,” Hurlbert wrote.

Ely M. Janis has noted Parnell’s visit “especially rankled several important American newspaper editors,” though the historian did not name Hurlbert. “Several commentators noted Parnell’s subdued style in public meetings and believed him unable to stir Irish Americans to action,” Janis continued, but his rhetorical skills improved during the tour and he helped make the Land League a success in the years to come as he emerged “as the dominant Irish leader of his generation.”

Daniel Crofts, Hurlbert’s biographer, wrote that his subject “failed to recognize the astuteness of the great Irish leader or to recognize Parnell’s claim on the Irish heart.” Hurlbert saw Parnell and Henry George “as dangerous subversives who stood ready to undermine both property and political order.”

Curiously, Hurlbert never mentioned the “Parnellism and Crime” series published by The Times of London a year before his trip to Ireland. The series implicated Parnell in the Phoenix Park murders of 1882. As he traveled during the first half of 1888, momentum was building for a special commission to investigate the Times‘ report, which Parnell and his supporters claimed was based on a forged letters.

The commission was established in August 1888, a month before Hurlbert wrote the preface for Ireland Under Coercion. His views, dated 21 September 1888, predicted “an imminent rupture between the Parnellite party and the two wings–Agrarian and Fenian–of the real Revolutionary movement in Ireland.”

Parnell was vindicated in 1889 by the special commission, which exposed the forged letters. He enjoyed a brief period of triumph. But the Parnellite party splintered the following year when the leader became embroiled in a famous divorce case. Personal behavior, not political tactics, caused his downfall.

Parnell died at the end of 1891, age 45.

Parnell’s grave at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, July 2016.

NOTES: From pages 161 (top quote), 39, 18 and xi of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an AmericanPages 186 and 191 of  A secession crisis enigma : William Henry Hurlbert and “The diary of a public man, by Daniel W. Crofts, LSU Press, 2010. Also, “Anointing the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland”: Charles Stewart Parnell’s 1880 American Tour and the Creation of a Transatlantic Land League Movement,” by Ely M. Janis, in German Historical Institute Bulletin Supplement 5, 2008.

NEXT: Dinner guests

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Nationalist poetry

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“I have to-day been looking through a small and beautifully-printed volume of poems just issued here.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

In Dublin, Hurlbert picked up a copy of Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland. It was dedicated to Irish separatist John O’Leary and the Young Ireland Societies. Hurlbert noted “the spirit of all the poems it contains is the spirit of [the Young Ireland rebellion of 18]48, or of that earlier Ireland of Robert Emmett.

In 1888, O’Leary had only been back in Ireland a few years following a five-year imprisonment in England and 15-year exile in Paris and America that resulted from his conviction for treason. The new book’s dedication poem, “To John O’Leary,” included the stanzas:

Because you loved the nobler part / Of Erin; so we bring you here

Words such as once the nation’s heart / On patriot lips rejoiced to hear.

O’Leary

Scholar John Turpin attributed the poem, which is unsigned in the book, to William Butler Yeats. According to Susan O’Keeffe, director of the Yeats Society Sligo, it was written by T.W. Rolleston, who edited Poems and Ballads.

There is no dispute that O’Leary influenced Yeats. They met in 1885, when O’Leary was 55 and Yeats was 20. It was a year before the failure of the first Home Rule bill and the widening of the Catholic nationalist and Protestant unionist divide in Ireland. As historian Owen McGee wrote in a History Ireland piece:

O’Leary maintained a lifelong conviction that a non-confessional Irish nationalist political élite could emerge, even when this possibility had seemingly evaporated after 1886. His tenacious hold on this belief, which Yeats found inspiring and essentially inherited, virtually defined ‘Romantic Ireland’ to the young poet, for whom O’Leary acted as a patron.

O’Leary died in 1907. Six years later, in his poem “September 1913” at the start of Ireland’s revolutionary period, Yeats penned the memorable stanza:

Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yeats

Four poems in the 1888 collection are signed by Yeats: “The Stolen Child” , 1886, which Hurlbert described as “an exquisite ballad” ; “The Meditation of the Old Fisherman” , 1886; “The Madness of King Goll” ,1887; and “Love Song” , year unknown.

Hurlbert also commented on the poem, “Marching Song of the Gaelic Athletes,” attributed to An Craoibhín Aoibhinn (translated from Irish as, The Pleasant Little Branch), the pseudonym of Irish nationalist Douglas Hyde. It became the anthem of the Gaelic Athletic Association, or GAA, which was founded in 1884.

“These Athletes are numbered now, I am assured, not by thousands, but by myriads, and their organization covers all parts of Ireland,” Hurlbert wrote. “If the spirit of [18]48 and of [the Rebellion of 17]98 is really moving among them, I should say they are likely to be at least as troublesome in the end to the ‘uncrowned king’ as to the Crowned Queen of Ireland.”

Parnell

The uncrowned king was a reference to nationalist M.P. Charles Stewart Parnell. Hurlbert seemed to imply that the GAA and other Irish republicans would overwhelm Parnell’s second attempt at securing constitutional Home Rule. (More about Hurlbert’s views of Parnell in the next post.)

The 33 poems collected in the 80-page Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland were published by M. H. Gill and Son of Dublin. Hurlbert described the firm as “Nationalist publishers … who have the courage of their convictions, since their books bear the imprint of O’Connell, and not Sackville Street.”

Four years earlier, “in a rash of apparent nationalism,” Dublin Corporation opted to rename the street after Daniel O’Connell, the early 19th centurty “Liberator” of Catholic Ireland. Some unionist residents challenged the effort in court, preferring to remember the former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The street name wasn’t officially changed until after independence in the early 20th century.

Inside title page of the digitized copy of the book, linked at top.

NOTES: From pages 391-392 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. Other sources are linked. UPDATE: This post was updated on 13 May 2018, to include information about the O’Leary poem from the Yeats Society Sligo.

NEXT: Uncrowned king

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: On boycotting

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“The author … tells a story … of ‘boycotting’ long before Boycott.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert mentioned “boycott” about two dozen times in his book, which is somewhat remarkable considering the word had not existed eight years earlier. It resulted from the 1880 social and commercial ostracism of County Mayo land agent Captain Charles Boycott in a key early protest of the decade’s agrarian agitation in Ireland.

In his discussion about boycotting in Miltown Malbay (See previous post), Hurlbert referenced a passage from the 1852 book Fortnight in Ireland, by  Sir Francis Head. The book was based on Head’s one-week visit to the island, his first, near the end of the Great Famine.

In a description of religion conversion efforts tied to charity (“Protestant missionary zeal with Protestant donations of meal”, in Hurlbert’s phrasing), Head noted 36 years earlier:

Any Roman Catholic who listens to a Protestant clergyman, or to a Scripture reader, is denounced as a marked man, and people are forbidden to have any dealings with him in trade or business, to sell him food or buy it from him.

A boycott! The phenomenon is even older, however, according to Samuel Clark in his seminal work, Social Origins of the Irish Land War:

The practice was obviously not invented by Irish farmers in 1880. For centuries, in all parts of the world, it had been employed by active combinations [social groups] for a variety of purposes. In rural Ireland itself the practice of refusing to bid for involuntarily vacated farms or for distrained livestock had a long history, as did the ostracism of landgrabbers. Even during the Land War, the tactic was used well before the Boycott affair; and it had been advocated on numerous occasions before [Charles Stewart] Parnell recommended it in September 1880.

Parnell

It seems an oversight by Hurlbert that as he reported about boycotting in County Clare, he did not reference Parnell’s speech eight years earlier at Ennis. Parnell spoke weeks before Boycott’s troubles began in the Lough Mask area of Mayo, 80 miles to the north. Parnell said:

When a man takes a farm from which another has been evicted, you must shun him on the roadside when you meet him – you must shun him in the streets of the town – you must shun him in the shop – you must shun him on the fair green and in the market place, and even in the place of worship, by leaving him alone, by putting him in moral Coventry, by isolating him from the rest of the country, as if he were the leper of old – you must show him your detestation of the crime he committed.

Davitt

Michael Davitt also used the image of a leper in his 29 January 1888, speech at Rathkeale; the oration about not overusing the term “Bloody Balfour” that caught Hurlbert’s attention upon his arrival in Ireland. Davitt also said:

I maintain that a landgrabber is a thief, when he covets and steals his unfortunate neighbor’s holdings, and I want to say once more, what I repeated on a hundred platforms, that the landgrabber incurred malediction in the days when the Holy Bible was written: ‘Cursed be he who removes his neighbor’s landmark.’ He is a cowardly, slimy renegade, a man who should be look upon as a social leper, contact with whom should be considered a stigma and a reproach.

As noted in an earlier post, Davitt complained in his diary that the Freeman’s Journal (and other papers) did not report this portion of his speech. It was, however, quoted in Parliament the week that Hurlbert was in Clare.

In Ireland Under Coercion, Hurlbert reported that some landlords and their workers suggested they were able to withstand boycotts without much impact. In places such as Kerry, however, he noted that the “dual government” of the Land League “enforce[d] their decrees by various forms of outrage, ranging from the boycott, in its simplest forms, up to direct outrages upon property and the person.”

This included the murder of boycotted Kerry farmer James Fitzmaurice, two days after Davitt’s Rathkeale speech. See my earlier post.

Period illustration of the January 1888 murder of boycotted Kerry farmer James Fitzmaurice in front of his daughter Nora. She was not physically harmed.

I’ll give the last word to Father Patrick White, parish priest of Miltown Malbay, who Hurlbert reported as being “the moving spirit” behind a series of boycotts in Clare. Father White denied the allegation in his rebuttal booklet, Hurlbert unmasked: an exposure of the thumping English lies of William Henry Hurlbert in his ‘Ireland Under Coercion’ . He explained:

There was unquestionably boycotting in the district, and as [local Land League] president … I had to take note of it. The people, goaded by desperation by the terrible distress of [18] ’78, ’79 and ’80, were up in arms against the heartlessness and the cruelties of the Landlord system, which had paved the way to it. … Against such an obstacle as this neither an appeal to justice nor argument of was of any value whatsoever, so boycotting was resorted to. Desperate diseases require desperate remedies … The people fully appreciated my difficulty [as a priest] acting as president with them, and never pressed me to accept, or put from the chair, any boycotting resolution.

I’ll return to this issue in a future post about another word that came out of the late 19th century agrarian agitation in Ireland: moonlighting.

NOTES:  Hurlbert referenced Fortnight on page 172 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. Quote about “dual government,” etc., on page 219. Quote from Head on page 155 of Fortnight. Quote from Clark on page 311 of Social Origins. Quote from Father White on pages 17-18 of Hurlbert Unmasked.

NEXT: Killone Abbey

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Father McFadden

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“Whatever ‘landlordism’ may mean elsewhere in Ireland, it is plain enough that in the history of Gweedore it has meant the difference between savage squalor and civilization.”
–William Henry Hurlbert”

Hurlbert reached Gweedore, in western Donegal, where he visited Father James McFadden, a tenant activist. Their discussion about the priest’s recent arrest would foreshadow a more famous event one year later.

Hurlbert begins this section of the book with a detailed history of Gweedore since Lord George Hill arrived 50 years earlier and “made up his mind to see what could be done with this forgotten corner of the world. … The old rundale plan of dividing up the land among the children was put a stop to, and every tenant was encouraged not to make his holding smaller, but to add to and enlarge it.”

Hurlbert’s description of rural peasants as “children,” above and below, once again demonstrates his pro-landlord, anti-tenant bias. He continued:

“Clearly in Gweedore I have a case not of the children of the soil despoiled and trampled upon by the stranger, but of the honest investment of alien capital in Irish land, and of the administration by the proprietor himself of the Irish property so acquired for the benefit alike of the owner and the occupiers of the land. That the deplorable state in which he found the people was mainly due to their own improvidence and gregarious incapacity is also tolerably clear.”

Hill certainly made improvements in the area: drainage, roads, and mills, which he detailed in his 1845 book, Facts from Gweedore. He died in 1879, the year Micheal Davitt, Charles Stewart Parnell and others launched the Irish National Land League to reduce rents, facilitate tenant ownership and foster Irish nationalism. Father McFadden took a leadership role in the League’s local chapter, which challenged the heir, Captain Arthur Hill, and other landlords.

Father James McFadden

In January 1888, Father McFadden was arrested on a charge of inciting tenants to withhold their rents under the Plan of Campaign, an activist strategy begun in late 1886 by Irish nationalists and their supporters in America. He was waiting to begin his sentence when Hurlburt arrived on 5 February 1888.

The priest “spoke freely and without undue heat” about his arrest and trial, Hurlbert reported. Father McFadden did complain that the court clerk read in eight minutes “a speech which it took me an hour and twenty minutes to deliver.”

Hurlbert is silent about whether he asked Father McFadden if he made the inflammatory statement, “I am the law in Gweedore; I despise the recent [1887] Coercion Act.” In his meeting with Chief Secretary for Ireland Arthur Balfour earlier in the book, Hurlbert claimed he was shown the government’s evidence, which contained the statement.  

Hurlbert asked the priest if the Plan of Campaign “did not in effect abrogate the moral duty of a man to meet the legal obligations he had voluntarily incurred?”

Father McFadden replied: “If a man can pay a fair year’s rent out of the produce of his holding, he is bound to pay it. But if the rent be a rack-rent, imposed on the tenant against his will, or if the holding does not produce the rent, then I don’t think that is a strict obligation of conscience.”

Their meeting ended on a friendly note, as Hurlbert accepted a glass of wine from the priest.

***

Six days later, at Baron’s Court, County Tyrone, Hurlbert interviewed Sergeant Owen Mahony, the R.I.C. constable who provided the testimony that convicted Father McFadden.

Mahony said that he was selected to monitor Father McFadden’s speech at the Land League rally at Doe, 20 miles northeast of Gweedore, because he spoke Irish, the language used by the priest; and because he also had stenographic skills.

“What I did was to put down in English words what I heard said in Irish,” Mahony told Hurlbert. “This I had to do because I have no stenographic signs for the Irish words. … [Father McFadden] said that ‘he is the law in Gweedore, and they should heed no other’ … He dislikes me because I am living proof that he is not the only law in Gweedore.”

Father McFadden was incarcerated in April 1888 at Derry, his original three month sentence doubled during appeal. He was released in October and greeted by a cheering crowd. “He declared the imprisonment had broken neither his health nor his spirits, and that he would continue to denounce the landlords’ government,” according to a news cable from Ireland.

Hurlbert’s coverage of Father McFadden was criticized as the American’s just-published book was being “devoured by the gullible people of England.”

***

On 3 February 1889, a year after Hurlbert’s visit, R.I.C. Inspector William Martin tried to arrest Father McFadden at Derryberg, four miles west of Greedore, in connection with further agrarian agitation. The priest reportedly was still wearing his vestments and carrying the Holy Eucharist in a ciborium. A crowd surrounded Martin and beat him to death. Father McFadden and several parishioners were soon arrested for murder.

At their highly publicized trial, the priest plead guilty to a lesser charge, while the others received manslaughter sentences, according to Tim O’Sullivan’s online history of Gweedore. Father McFadden was prohibited from further political activities and later transferred him to another parish.

The priest in 1889 published his own book, The Present and The Past of The Agrarian Struggle in Gweedore,” in which he criticized Lord George Hill’s title as “Fictions from Gweedore.” He did not mention Hurlbert’s book.

The chapel at Derryberg.

NEXT: Landscapes & landmarks

NOTES: This post is based on pages 46 (Balfour meeting), and 77 to 140 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American. Quote about release of Father McFadden from 6 October 1888, issue of The Kingston (N.Y.) Daily Freeman. Quote about Hurlbert’s book from 8 September 1888 issue of the Dundalk Democrat.

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan