Tag Archives: Samuel Duff McCoy

On Michael Collins and Abraham Lincoln

UPDATE:

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

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

ORIGINAL POST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

Letters reveal Samuel D. McCoy’s Irish literary connections

This post continues my review of the Samuel Duff McCoy papers at Princeton University. It is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, which I am expanding into a book. MH

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UPDATE, July 20, 2022:

The 12-page, typed James Stephens (under James Esse) typescript titled “If You Have Not Been To Connacht” that is referenced in the original post below appears to have been part of a 32-page manuscript titled “Saluting Maeve, Queen of Connacht, Queen of Hearts, Queen of the Fairies.” It once belonged in the collection of bibliophile and philanthropist James A Healy, a New York stockbroker. Birgit Bramsbäck cited this collection in her monograph, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study, first published in 1959.[1]Birgit Bramsbäck, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study, Norwood Editions, 1975. Reprint of 1959 ed. published by Lundequist, Upsula. Issued as no. 4, Upsula Irish Studies. Thanks to … Continue reading Healy died in 1975.

The first seven lines of the longer “Maeve” piece are in ink, the remainder in pencil and “profusely revised,” according to one description.[2]Richard Cary, “James Stephens at Colby College” in Colby Library Quarterly, series 5, no.9, March 1961, p.224-253. “Maeve” description p. 238. The manuscript is inscribed at the end, “James Stephens / Cafe Napolitaine / Boui. des Italiennes / Paris / 14 Sep. 1921.”[3]Ibid, and noted by Bramsbäck. As noted in the original post below, effort was soon made to have a version of this story published in America.

The story is about Connacht, and primarily about Galway at “the first week of the truce” (July 11, 1921), according to the version in the McCoy papers. Bramsbäck quoted Stephens’s description of poor people being harassed by British troops in the west of Ireland. I have bolded one word from the typescript in the McCoy collection that differs from the manuscript quoted by Bramsbäck :

These stories can be multiplied and multiplied but it is asking (among) the poor one seeks for them, for it is the poor who pay. They are true not only of Ireland but of every country where backs have grown accoustomed to bowing and where the art of advertising his misfortunes has not been taught to the simple man, indeed, to consider misfortune as constant and compliance as a waste of time is the culture of the poor, and lends to him a fortune in distress which would bring a sense of shame to every person of a livelier intelligence or an easier situation.

Stephens’s papers are scattered among many locations, as noted below. Saluting Maeve” is held at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

ORIGINAL POST, July 14, 2022:

When he wasn’t publicly detailing Ireland’s war-related humanitarian needs in 1921, American journalist Samuel Duff McCoy privately promoted Irish arts and letters. At least the Irish urged him to.

McCoy had a literary background beyond his 20 years of working at Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia newspapers, plus a turn as Red Cross publicity director during the Great War. At Princeton, he was a student editor at the Nassau Literary Magazine. In 1915 he co-founded the journal Contemporary Verse and regularly contributed prose and poetry to national magazines.

During two 1921 trips to Ireland, McCoy had contact with several Irish writers and book dealers, as revealed in letters to him. Full details of the relationships are unclear, but the letters sketch efforts to bring the work of Daniel Corkery and James Stephens to American readers. McCoy’s papers also contain what appears to be an unpublished Stephens short story about Connacht.

Daniel Corkery

McCoy and his American Committee for Relief in Ireland colleagues established their headquarters at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. Patrick O’Daly (Pádraig Ó Dálaigh) of Talbot Press Limited wrote to McCoy soon after the delegation’s mid-February 1921 arrival.

“I have just had a note from a friend of ours, Daniel Corkery, author of ‘The Hounds of Banba,’ in which he mentions your name,” O’Daly wrote. “Do you not think it would be a good thing if we could have this book published in America? It seems to us, at least, that the present time ought to be kind of favourable when Ireland, and matters relating to Ireland, are so much in the public mind.”[4]Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 9. O’Day to McCoy, March 8, 1921.

Corkery (1878-1964) began writing short stories and plays in his 20s while working as a teacher. He also played the cello and dabbled in painting. Following the success of his debut collection, A Munster Twilight, in 1916, Talbot Press published The Hounds of Banba in 1920.[5]Daniel Corkery” in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.

From McCoy Papers, Princeton University.

Banba is a poetic name for the spirit of Ireland in an earlier age; one of a divine trio of eponyms along with Ériu and Fódla.[6]Online Oxford Reference. The hounds are the island’s occupiers, the British police and military. Corkery dedicated the book’s nine stories about nationalist revolutionaries to “The Young Men of Ireland.”

O’Daly asked McCoy to meet “at your convenience.” He also enclosed, at Corkery’s request, he wrote, the 1920-21 catalogue of Talbot Press, 89 Talbot St., Dublin, which listed The Hounds of Banba. The 28-page booklet also included John Butler Yeats’s Essays: Irish and American. “The stories are of the present day, dealing with the adventures of men ‘on the run’ and other works in the Sinn Fein Movement,” read the description. (McCoy’s papers also include the April 1920 catalogue of Maunsel & Co., Ltd., 50 Lower Baggot St., Dublin, and the “No. 1” 1920 catalogue of The Irish Book Shop, Limited, 45 Dawson St., Dublin. These items are not associated with letters.)

Recognize this signature? 

An undated, handwritten letter to McCoy by a correspondent with a mysterious signature says: “I understand from Mr. Corkery that you’ve expressed to him your interest in the publishing of his books.”[7]McCoy Papers, Correspondence Unidentified, Folder 13. Unidentified correspondent to McCoy, undated. The correspondent, who acknowledged a thank you note from McCoy for providing unspecified help to the American Committee, was chiefly interested in his assistance to re-issue Edward Bunting’s (1773-1843) Irish music catalogue.

It’s unclear from McCoy’s papers if he met O’Daly. Corkery’s papers at University College Cork contain several 1921 letters from O’Daly and Talbot Press regarding efforts to find a U.S. publisher for The Hounds of Banba. McCoy is not named in the finding guide descriptions, though possibly referenced in the letters. The New York publisher B. W. Huebsch issued the book in spring 1922.

McCoy used the book title–without reference to Corkery–in the opening segment of his 10-part series, “The Lads Who Freed Ireland,” syndicated from January 1922 in U.S. newspapers. McCoy wrote, “… the world gazes, dumbfounded, at the Hounds of Banba today. The first has become last. Have we, the powerful, what Ireland has shown us?”[8]”White Heat/Chapter 1” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 6, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.

That summer, Corkery’s story “Egan O’Rahilly” (1670-1726) appeared in The Celtic Outlook, the literary journal that succeeded The Irish Press, Philadelphia, weekly newspaper.[9]See my “On ‘The Irish Press’, ‘Celtic Outlook’, and Villanova digital.” He later devoted a chapter to the Irish language poet in his book The Hidden Ireland.

E. Byrne Hackett

McCoy returned to America in April 1921 to continue his work with the American Committee for Irish relief, including the release of its “Distress in Ireland” report and an unsuccessful request the U.S. State Department distribute the money.[10]See my “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921. Carroll, F. M. “The American Committee for Relief in Ireland, 1920-22.” Irish Historical Studies, vol. 23, … Continue reading He steamed back to Ireland that summer, mixing his committee duties with traditional journalism, including two pieces for Leslie’s Weekly.[11]”George: A Letter to King George Concerning Colonel George”, June 11, 1921, and “How Belfast Greets Royalty,” Aug. 13, 1921. Kilkenny native and U.S. antiquarian bookstore owner Edmond Byrne Hackett wrote to McCoy at the Standard Hotel in Dublin on Oct. 22, 1921, from his New York office. He acknowledged receipt an article by James Stephens about Connacht.

“It will give me pleasure to attempt to market it, and I am sending it first of all to The Century as I happen to know that the editor is interested in the present status of affairs in Ireland,” reads an unsigned, typewritten copy.[12]McCoy Papers, Correspondence A, Folder 12. Hackett to McCoy, Oct. 22, 1921.

E. Byrne Hackett                (Martin Dostál, Geni.com)

Hackett (1879-1953) was the fifth son of Dr. John Byrne Hackett, the Kilkenny coroner. The son was educated at Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare, and St. Francis College, Sussex, England, then emigrated to the United States in 1899. In America, he worked as a salesman at Doubleday Page & Company in New York from 1901-1907, and as manager of publishing at Baker & Taylor Company from 1907-1909. He served as director of the Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., soon after its founding in 1908, and established the Brick Row Book Shop in that city in 1915.[13]Compiled from E. Byrne Hackett papers, Yale University; “Byrne Hackett and His Bookshops“, The Publisher’s Weekly, Oct. 1, 1921, p.1182; “E. Byrne Hackett Dies In … Continue reading

Byrne Hackett also was the brother of journalist and author Francis Hackett (1883-1962), who emigrated in 1900. Francis began his career as a beat reporter in Chicago but later switched to writing editorials and literary criticism. He became a founding editor of The New Republic magazine in 1914. In summer 1920, he returned to Ireland and detailed the war atrocities he witnessed for the magazine and in a six-part series for the New York World, which syndicated the work to other papers three month’s before McCoy’s “Lads” series. In November 1920, Francis testified before the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. It seems more likely that McCoy was influenced by, rather than unaware of, Francis Hackett’s 1920 Irish reporting and commission testimony, given his correspondence with Byrne Hackett.[14]See Part 1 and Part 2 of my “Two Irish immigrant journalists return home, 1920” posts.

A second letter to McCoy from Byrne Hackett in the Princeton archive is handwritten and undated. It probably preceded the typed letter, most likely from late summer or early fall 1921.

“I am very sorry again to have missed you and James Stephens. I have only this minute got back from Kilkenny (one unreadable word) with some kinsfolk.”[15]McCoy Papers, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 15. Hackett to McCoy, Undated.

Hackett wrote he was in London buying books for the new Brick Row Book Shop at 68 1/2 Nassau Street in Princeton, N.J., which followed the summer 1920 opening of a second store in New York City. “It promises to do good work down at Princeton as has been done in New Haven for some time,” Hackett wrote of the third store.

This image illustrated the Brick Row Book Shop story in the Yale Banner and Pot Pourri, 1922 Year Book. It was not described as the New Haven, New York, or Princeton stores, or anyplace else.

The Princeton store opened in October 1921 and was soon described in Yale’s alumni weekly:

Commodious quarters consisting of reading and display rooms, as well as the main store, have been provided. The reading room has been fitted with comfortable lounges and chairs, and there prospective buyers are assured of an open fire, quite, and access to any book that the store has. The policy of fostering interest in good reading and of so arranging matters that anyone may browse without the necessity of buying was sure to meet with approval from the first, and the shop has been well filled with students since the day of the opening.[16]”The Brick Row at Princeton”, The Yale Alumni Weekly, Nov. 25, 1921, p. 250.

Hackett, who received an honorary Master of Arts degree from Yale in 1914, also teased McCoy about his college background: “You did not tell me you were a Princeton man,” he wrote.[17]Degree from Note 9, quote from Note 11.

James Stephens

James Stephens

Stephens (1880-1950) should not be be confused with the same-name Fenian leader (1825-1901). The author also wrote under the pseudonym James Esse. In his mid-20s, Stephens began writing for United Irishman, later Sinn Féin, and other papers edited by Arthur Griffith. These nationalist publications were often suppressed by the British government. In the second installment of his “Lads” series, McCoy quoted Stephens talking about Griffith :

” ‘His worst trouble, in those days,’ James Stephens to me, with a twinkle in his eye, ‘was thinking up new names for his paper. He used to lay awake nights, thinking up new names for it, he did so.’ “[18]”The Smiling Swordsman/Chapter 2” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 7, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.

McCoy also relayed a story–unattributed to Stephens, Griffith or anyone else–of the two men strolling down Grafton Street late one evening early in the revolutionary period.  A pair of “young rowdies” twice knocked Griffith’s hat off of his head. Without a word, he removed his glasses and struck a blow “that started from Griffith’s pacifistic shoulders and ended on the point of one of the young rough’s jaw, with the impact of a ton of brick.” Griffith and Stephens then continued their conversation from the point of interruption, according to McCoy’s telling.

Arthur Griffith

As Stephens was writing for Griffith, Irish writer and artist George Willian Russell, known by the pseudonym AE, introduced him to Dublin literary circles. In 1916, Stephens observed the fighting around St. Stephen’s Green at Easter week. His instant book, The Insurrection in Dublin, “is regarded as the most vivid account by a contemporary observer of the changing moods and scenes of Dublin during the rising,” according to the Dictionary of Irish Biography.

Whatever efforts Byrne Hackett might have made to place Stephens’s Connacht story, the piece did not appear in The Century. The magazine’s November 1921 issue featured an interview with Russell, who complimented Stephens, Austin Clarke, and John Millington Synge as among the best practitioners of modern Irish verse.[19]The Opinions of AE“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 103, No. 1, November 1921, pgs. 3-9. The Dial literary magazine, another American journal, reviewed the U.S. release of Stephens’s Irish Fairy Tales, published the previous year in Ireland.

In October 1922, The Century published Stephens’s “The Outlook for Literature, With Special Reference to Ireland.” The eight-page assessment of the post-war cultural and political landscape included this passage:

… during the last five years the national act of Ireland has been so real that it has achieved what older minds considered to be impossible, and has achieved by methods which the official and logical intellect, if its advice had been sought, could only have considered as infantile. It is the good fact of life that the infant wins always, and I think that Ireland awakens from her profound sleep as the youngest race now active in the world, and the best fitted to accept possible modifications with the curiosity and good humor of a brave young person.[20]The Outlook for Literature“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 104, No. 6, October 1922, pgs. 811-181.

Stephens also wrote Arthur Griffith: journalist and statesman, a tribute to his former editor, after the Sinn Féin founder died Aug. 12, 1922, due to several health complications.

Connacht story 

The McCoy papers at Princeton contain a 12-page typescript with the byline of James Esse.[21]Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Ireland, Conflict With Great Britain, 1921, American Committee for Relief in Ireland, Box 6, Folder 1. The piece is titled “If You Have Not Been To Connacht.” The word “Publicity” is handwritten in pencil in the top right corner.

The piece begins:

If you have not been to Connacht it is unlikely that a verbal description will assist you to realise the wonderful country. Many visits are necessary before the unearthly beauty, and, at times, unearthly radiance of that ancient kingdom become apparent to the traveller. A run through leaves one with a somewhat bewildering recollection of rocks, but when Connemara is recalled in the solitudes of ‘afterwards’ you may discover that you think of rocks with an affection you had never before dared to chance on stony ground.

The piece ends with a variation of the first sentence: “But if you have not been to Connemara it is unlikely that a verbal description will help you to realise the wonderful country.” My emphasis of the differences.

It appears this story was never published in America or Ireland. There are collections of Stephens’s papers at the New York Public Library , Kent State University (Ohio), Trinity College Dublin, and Stanford University Libraries, in addition to Colby. The TCD collection contains a 1926 letter to Stephens from McCoy, who expresses concern about the writer’s heath, saying he had “the same illness” five years earlier.[22]Stephen’s papers, MS 10408/26/1464, Trinity College Dublin, as relayed by July 16, 2022, email from Manuscripts & Archives Research Librarian Ellen O’Flaherty.

Connemara, County Galway.                                                                                                                      ©Tourism Ireland

References

References
1 Birgit Bramsbäck, James Stephens: A Literary and Bibliographical Study, Norwood Editions, 1975. Reprint of 1959 ed. published by Lundequist, Upsula. Issued as no. 4, Upsula Irish Studies. Thanks to Colin Smythe at Colin Smythe Limited, who pointed me to this book, which I was finally able to review at the Library of Congress.
2 Richard Cary, “James Stephens at Colby College” in Colby Library Quarterly, series 5, no.9, March 1961, p.224-253. “Maeve” description p. 238.
3 Ibid, and noted by Bramsbäck.
4 Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 9. O’Day to McCoy, March 8, 1921.
5 Daniel Corkery” in the online Dictionary of Irish Biography, October 2009.
6 Online Oxford Reference.
7 McCoy Papers, Correspondence Unidentified, Folder 13. Unidentified correspondent to McCoy, undated.
8 ”White Heat/Chapter 1” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 6, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.
9 See my “On ‘The Irish Press’, ‘Celtic Outlook’, and Villanova digital.”
10 See my “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921. Carroll, F. M. “The American Committee for Relief in Ireland, 1920-22.” Irish Historical Studies, vol. 23, no. 89, 1982, pp. 30-49. Whelan, Bernadette, United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-29, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2006, See Ch. 8, “Harding, Irish Relief Aid And Recognition”, pp. 326-327.
11 ”George: A Letter to King George Concerning Colonel George”, June 11, 1921, and “How Belfast Greets Royalty,” Aug. 13, 1921.
12 McCoy Papers, Correspondence A, Folder 12. Hackett to McCoy, Oct. 22, 1921.
13 Compiled from E. Byrne Hackett papers, Yale University; “Byrne Hackett and His Bookshops“, The Publisher’s Weekly, Oct. 1, 1921, p.1182; “E. Byrne Hackett Dies In Hospital”, The Central New Jersey (New Brunswick) Home News, Nov. 11, 1953; and “Well Known Irishman’s Death in U.S.”, Irish Examiner, Nov. 18, 1953.
14 See Part 1 and Part 2 of my “Two Irish immigrant journalists return home, 1920” posts.
15 McCoy Papers, Correspondence B-Z, Folder 15. Hackett to McCoy, Undated.
16 ”The Brick Row at Princeton”, The Yale Alumni Weekly, Nov. 25, 1921, p. 250.
17 Degree from Note 9, quote from Note 11.
18 ”The Smiling Swordsman/Chapter 2” of “The Lads Who Freed Ireland”, Minneapolis (Minn.) Morning Tribune, Feb. 7, 1922, via United Features Syndicate.
19 The Opinions of AE“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 103, No. 1, November 1921, pgs. 3-9.
20 The Outlook for Literature“, The Century Magazine, Vol. 104, No. 6, October 1922, pgs. 811-181.
21 Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Ireland, Conflict With Great Britain, 1921, American Committee for Relief in Ireland, Box 6, Folder 1.
22 Stephen’s papers, MS 10408/26/1464, Trinity College Dublin, as relayed by July 16, 2022, email from Manuscripts & Archives Research Librarian Ellen O’Flaherty.

‘Don’t get shot.’ Samuel Duff McCoy’s 1921 Ireland travels

This post is based on my review of the Samuel Duff McCoy papers at Princeton University. It is part of my American Reporting of Irish Independence series, which I am expanding into a book. MH

***

Journalist Samuel Duff McCoy began a year of travel in revolutionary Ireland with a three-day side trip to Washington D.C.; arriving Jan. 22, 1921, by train from New York City.[1]Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence, 1915-1963, Ireland, Conflict with Great Britain, 1921, Related correspondence, A, Folder 20, McCoy’s expense report, Jan. 27, 1921. His itinerary in the capital included a stop at the Quality Shop, 1307 F Street, N.W., three blocks from the White House. The 39-year-old probably admired the shop’s selection of new phonographs, perhaps he even sampled some music in one of the “soundproof, comfortable demonstrating parlors.” An advertisement promised “the afternoon’s work will be more pleasant and you will work with more zest if you drop in for a half hour or so and hear Art Hickman’s latest jazz hit, Bert Williams’ new ‘blues,’ Nora Bayes’ character song or inimitable Al Jolson.”[2]“Washington’s New Columbia Shop” advertisement, Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), Nov. 21, 1920, p. 21.

McCoy’s 1921 passport photo.

But McCoy visited the shop to pose for a passport photo as he readied to cross the Atlantic. Leaders of the newly-formed American Committee for Relief in Ireland had just appointed him as the secretary of an eight-member delegation that would assess humanitarian needs after two years of war between Irish separatists and British authorities. Dressed in a dark suit and vest, a lightly polka dotted bow tie tucked underneath his white shirt collar, McCoy faced the camera with a serious, determined look.[3]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 17. Undated passport photo with Quality Shop stamp on back and Jan. 22, 1921, letter of introduction from Richard Campbell.

The Iowa-born McCoy began his newspaper career in 1903 after graduating from Princeton University. He started at the Washington Times, moved on to the Brooklyn Eagle and New York Evening Sun, then the Public Ledger and Evening Bulletin in Philadelphia. In 1917, when the United States entered the war in Europe, McCoy became publicity director for the Philadelphia chapter of the American Red Cross. He rejoined the Sun in New York after the armistice. [4]McCoy Papers, Box 10, I. Writings, F. Autobiographical Notes. Who’s Who In America, Vol. 20, 1938-1939, with supplementary notes.

But McCoy was no ordinary newspaper man. From age 16 he contributed prose and poetry to national magazines. He was among only a few non-senior editors of Princeton’s Nassau Literary Magazine, and later co-founded the journal Contemporary Verse. In 1904, Chicago’s Marshall Field hired McCoy as a private tutor for his two grandsons during a two-month trip to Augusta, Ga., aboard the private rail car of Robert Todd Lincoln, president of the Pullman Company and son of the assassinated Civil War president. McCoy also worked as an editor at the Bobbs-Merrill book publishing company in Indianapolis, Ind.

As McCoy completed the paperwork for his 1921 passport, U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer wrote a letter of introduction on his behalf to U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain John W. Davis in London. Palmer and McCoy knew each other from Philadelphia, and they potentially reconnected in Washington that January. Palmer wrote to Davis: “I do not know what he is going to England for, but I can vouch for the character of any work undertakes.” He described the journalist as “a loyal American, a keen observer, and a splendid writer.”[5]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, Unidentified, Folder 1, Jan. 24, 1921, Palmer to Davis.

Within days of Palmer’s letter, attorney Richard Campbell, the New York City-based secretary of the American Committee, sent a hand-written letter to McCoy about the upcoming trip. The County Antrim native mentioned his family and business contacts in Ireland who would either look up McCoy in Dublin or welcome him to other parts of the country. “Have as good a time as you can. Don’t get shot—remain indoors at night,” Campbell advised.[6]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 18. Jan. 27, 1921, Campbell to McCoy.

Cover of McCoy’s 14-page report, released in April 1921.

First trip

By mid-February, McCoy and the seven other Americans sat down in London with British officials to discuss the situation in Ireland. Then, the U.S. delegation crossed the Irish Sea to Dublin. They spent six weeks in Ireland, traveling to nearly 100 cities and villages in 22 of the island’s 32 counties.[7]See “American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921.”

McCoy wrote the delegation’s official report, “Distress in Ireland,” as he returned to America in April.[8]See “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921.” His narrative, addressed to the American Committee’s executive board and released to the public as a 14-page pamphlet, refers to “your delegation” and “our investigation.” McCoy turned self-referential in the last paragraph of the report:

The need from the burning of homes seems to me to be both great and pressing. We went through dozens of towns where there were homes and shops burnt; in most cases these people have made claims for damages, but in the meantime, these claims have not been paid, in many cases there is little probability of their ever being paid. As an individual I am entirely convinced that many of these people were entirely innocent of any complicity in the acts for which there were punished by having their homes burnt.

Back in Washington, McCoy unsuccessfully lobbied U.S. State Department officials to support the relief effort. The American government balked at providing domestic aid to Great Britain as London officials declared the relief effort succor to the Irish separatists. Despite its stated desire to remain non-partisan, the American Committee would have to work directly with the Irish White Cross, which was sympathetic to the Irish republican cause.

McCoy received correspondence from Clemens J. France, the delegation leader who had remained in Ireland. “I am very anxious to know regarding your reception by the (American) Committee in New York,” France wrote from Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. “As yet I have received no word from the Committee as to future plans. Every one here, of course, is very anxious about the reconstruction work” being funded by the American relief money.[9]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to McCoy.

The relief effort also faced sectarian headwinds. France sent McCoy a copy of his letter to Campbell, the lawyer and Committee secretary, detailing efforts to collect the signatures of 1,000 prominent Irish Protestants who supported the American relief. “I think you will agree with me that these are times which call for active co-operation by all who are interested in the Christian principals of humanity, and it is in this spirt that I am making this appeal for your personal co-operation,” France wrote in his “Dear Sir (or Madam)” cover letter to potential signers. He told Campbell “about two hundred” had signed.[10]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to Campbell, and undated appeal cover letter on American Committee stationary showing the names of the eight-member … Continue reading

Through May McCoy attended public events to support the American fund raising effort, including Lord Mayor of Dublin Lawrence O’Neil’s stop in Boston. But the reporter soon returned to Ireland, this time accompanied by his wife.

Second trip

“Welcome back to Ireland,” Frank Daly, chairman of the Cork Harbour Commission and Irish White Cross member wrote to McCoy in Dublin in late June. “We are rather in a state of chaos here just at present. … There are a great many cases requiring attention … “[11]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 4. June 30, 1921, Daly to McCoy.

McCoy’s itinerary through October included a mix of relief work, efforts to market his own writing and the manuscripts of Irish authors, and sightseeing. He was in Ireland for the start of the truce, partition of Northern Ireland, and prison release of separatist leaders as British and Irish negotiators in London hammered out the treaty that ended the war. He reunited with France. They rendezvoused with American Committee Treasurer John J. Pulleyn and Campbell, who had warned about gun violence, then making their own visit to Ireland. [12]See “The lawyer, the banker & money to Ireland, fall 1921.”

As Pulleyn and Campbell prepared to sail back to America, the Irish negotiators in London issued a special letter thanking the American Committee “and all those in the United States who have contributed to its funds for the generous assistance sent to Ireland for the relief of the suffering, loss and misery incurred by the Irish people in their struggle for national independence.” The letter also expressed “appreciation of the able and devoted work done in Ireland on behalf of your committee my Messrs. France and McCoy and those associated with them.”[13]Reports, American Committee for Relief In Ireland and Irish White Cross, 1922, Irish Delegation of Plenipotentiaries to Campbell and Pulleyn, Oct. 29, 1921, p. 56.

McCoy, moved by the acknowledgement, penned a note to Irish leader Arthur Griffith on R.M.S. Aquitania stationary. He wrote:

Throughout my association with the relief work in Ireland my one constantly recurring regret was that I could not do something directly for Ireland’s cause; the little that I might do in other directions seemed, and still seems, nothing compared with the devotion of Irish men and Irish women; and so, although the kind thing said in your letter moved me deeply because it came from such men as you, I can accept it only for what I inwardly hoped to be able to do and not for anything I did do.[14]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 14. Nov. 12, 1921, McCoy to Griffith. Underlined words in original letter.

‘The Lads’ series

A different image of McCoy was used in this newspaper advertisement for his 1922 series. Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.) Feb. 1, 1922.

Upon completing his fourth Atlantic crossing in mid-November, McCoy began to write a newspaper series about his 1921 experiences in Ireland. He “locked himself in at the Princeton Club (in New York City) and has been writing like mad against time ever since,” United Feature Syndicate manager Norris A. Huse told prospective editors days before Christmas.[15]McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 27. Dec. 22, 1921, Huse to Dear Sir. Huse continued:

“McCoy’s stuff is graphic. It will grip the readers and make an indelible impression. His words are alive. They pulsate. They paint a picture that moves. The papers that run this series will have a tremendous opportunity to make a tremendous circulation building feature of it. It’s big stuff–it’s news–it’s hot off the griddle–it’s a real BEAT!”

Huse syndicated McCoy’s 10-part, 20,000-word series in January 1922 under the headline “The Lads Who Freed Ireland.” The New York Morning World, Chicago Daily News, San Francisco Examiner, Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.), Fall River (Mass.) Globe, and Grand Island (Neb.) Daily Independent were among the U.S. papers that purchased the series for $20 per article. McCoy’s reporting from Ireland also appeared in Leslie’s Weekly and The Literary Digest magazines.

McCoy had met leading characters and witnessed important events in the final year of the Irish revolution. He didn’t get shot. But the heroic triumph of Irish separatists that he described was soon sullied by the Irish Civil War.

I will explore the series in a future post.

References

References
1 Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Series 3, Correspondence, 1915-1963, Ireland, Conflict with Great Britain, 1921, Related correspondence, A, Folder 20, McCoy’s expense report, Jan. 27, 1921.
2 “Washington’s New Columbia Shop” advertisement, Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), Nov. 21, 1920, p. 21.
3 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 17. Undated passport photo with Quality Shop stamp on back and Jan. 22, 1921, letter of introduction from Richard Campbell.
4 McCoy Papers, Box 10, I. Writings, F. Autobiographical Notes. Who’s Who In America, Vol. 20, 1938-1939, with supplementary notes.
5 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, Unidentified, Folder 1, Jan. 24, 1921, Palmer to Davis.
6 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 18. Jan. 27, 1921, Campbell to McCoy.
7 See “American investigators visit Ireland, February 1921.”
8 See “American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921.”
9 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to McCoy.
10 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, A, Folder 4. April 30, 1921, France to Campbell, and undated appeal cover letter on American Committee stationary showing the names of the eight-member visiting delegation.
11 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 4. June 30, 1921, Daly to McCoy.
12 See “The lawyer, the banker & money to Ireland, fall 1921.”
13 Reports, American Committee for Relief In Ireland and Irish White Cross, 1922, Irish Delegation of Plenipotentiaries to Campbell and Pulleyn, Oct. 29, 1921, p. 56.
14 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 14. Nov. 12, 1921, McCoy to Griffith. Underlined words in original letter.
15 McCoy Papers, Series 3, Related correspondence, B-Z, Folder 27. Dec. 22, 1921, Huse to Dear Sir.

Exploring the Samuel Duff McCoy Papers at Princeton

Journalist Samuel Duff McCoy and seven other Americans traveled to revolutionary Ireland in February 1921 to assess its humanitarian needs after two years of war with Britain. Six weeks later, McCoy, then 39, wrote the delegation’s investigative report as he returned home to urge the U.S. State Department to distribute relief funds being collected in America. Unsuccessful in that effort, McCoy sailed back to Ireland that summer to coordinate the relief effort with the Irish White Cross and report on the end of the war for U.S. newspapers and magazines.

Samuel Duff McCoy, probably January 1921 passport photo. It is stamped on the back from a Washington, D.C. studio. Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

McCoy’s work with the American Committee for Relief in Ireland has been documented by historians of this period’s U.S.-Irish relations, notably Francis M. Carroll and Bernadette Whelan.[1]Carroll, Francis M., America and the Making of an Independent Ireland, A History, New York University Press, New York, 2021, and Whelan, Bernadette, United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From … Continue reading But McCoy’s reporting from Ireland has not received much attention. And historians appear to have overlooked McCoy’s personal papers, which are held at Princeton University in New Jersey.

I have just completed a review of the Ireland-related material in this archive. It includes nearly 100 letters to and from McCoy, most dated from January 1921 through the first half of 1922. His correspondents include Clemens J. France, an American lawyer, leader of the relief delegation, and an early assistant to the fledgling Irish Free State government. Other writers include top officials of the American Committee based in New York City, Lord Mayor of Dublin Laurence O’Neill, Irish historian Alice Stopford Green, and IRA commander and Dáil Éireann member Seán MacEoin.

The material also includes hand edited typescripts of McCoy’s “The Lads Who Freed Ireland” series, syndicated in early 1922 to U.S. newspapers including the New York Morning World, Chicago Daily New, San Francisco Examiner, and Minneapolis Star Tribune. United Feature Syndicate publicity material describes the 10-part series as “The Red Hot ‘Inside’ Story of the Dramatic Struggle That Led to Liberty.” McCoy’s work, or articles about his work, also appeared in Leslie’s Weekly and The Literary Digest.

The archive also includes:

  • Unpublished or draft manuscripts by McCoy, American suffragist and author Doris Stevens, and Irish writer James Stephens, under the pseudonym James Esse.
  •  A report by New York banker John J. Pulleyn and lawyer Richard Campbell, the American Committee’s  treasurer and secretary, respectively, on their October 1921 visit to Ireland, plus McCoy’s press release about their arrival to the London newspapers.
  • A map of Ireland showing the nearly 100 cities and villages in 22 of the island’s 32 counties covered by the investigative team in February 1921, a notated Irish-English dictionary, and ephemera such as a March 1921 Abbey Theatre playbill and October 1921 Phoenix Park racing form.
  • Dozens of black & white photographs by McCoy and Dublin’s William David Hogan, including key revolutionary figures and various urban and rural scenes.

Over the remainder of this year I will use the McCoy material in new pieces or to update existing stories in my American Reporting of Irish Independence series. Princeton digitized the letters portion of the McCoy papers at my request during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am willing to share my notes of the non-digitized portion of archive, viewed during my Feb. 20-23 visit to the Firestone Library, with researchers interested in Irish or journalism history. Unsurprisingly, Princeton will not reveal who has previously looked at this material. I welcome information about historians who have tapped this archive or written about McCoy.

Ledger of “civilian passes” for the eight-member delegation of the American Commission for Conditions in Ireland, dated March 3, 1921, and signed by McCoy. Samuel McCoy Papers, 1868-1964, Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

References

References
1 Carroll, Francis M., America and the Making of an Independent Ireland, A History, New York University Press, New York, 2021, and Whelan, Bernadette, United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-29. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2006.

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

John Steele’s Jan. 8, 1922, Chicago Tribune story. Front page banner below.

“The Republic of Ireland is dead; long live the Irish Free State,” declared Chicago Tribune correspondent John Steele in the opening sentence of his story about Dáil Éireann‘s narrow and bitter vote to ratify the Anglo-Irish Treaty.[1]”Ireland Votes Peace, De Valera Loses, 64 To 57, In Long Battle” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922, and syndicated to other U.S. papers. The Irish-American journalist also promoted his role in reaching the Jan. 7, 1922, vote and later claimed that pro-treaty leader Arthur Griffith described the outcome as “better to be an equal partner in a big concern than to keep a little sweet shop in a back street.”[2]”Tribune Writer Go-Between In 1920 Pact Talks”, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1949.

Steele’s news lead echoed the treaty debate speech of Dáil member Patrick McCartan three weeks earlier. He uttered the “is dead” formulation seven times within a few minutes:

The Republic of which President (Éamon) de Valera was president is dead. … I submit it is dead, and that the men who signed the (treaty) document opposite Englishmen wrote its epitaph in London. It is dead naturally because it depended on the unity of the Irish people … the Cabinet … (and) this Dáil. … Internationally the Republic is dead. We were looking for recognition of the republic in foreign countries. Michael Collins said we were not recognized in the United States. That is true. … You cannot go to the secretary of state of any foreign government and ask him to recognize the Republic of Ireland, because I submit it is dead …  as a political factor the Republic is dead. … We were an inspiration to the patriots of India and the patriots of Egypt. Today we give heart to the compromisers in India and Egypt as well as the compromisers in Ireland. I say, therefore, the Republic of Ireland is dead.[3]Dáil Éireann debate, Dec. 20, 1921, Vol. T No. 7.

As a separatist promoting the Irish cause in America, McCartan edited The Irish Press in Philadelphia from its first issue in March 1918 through September 1920. The pro-de Valera weekly battled John Devoy’s New York City-based Gaelic American over control of American grassroots financial support for the Dáil and the U.S. government’s Ireland policies. Four days after McCartan’s debate speech in Dublin, and without naming its former editor, the Irish Press editorialized that the Irish Republic “is neither dead nor dying.” The paper continued:

The spirit that created it, like itself, is immortal. The temporary subversion of its name, or of its ideals, resembles a swiftly moving cloud that for an instant dims the penetrating waves of the sun or the light of the moon. Let no one say the Republic of Ireland is dead. It lives and will live on, in glory and splendor, when its enemies are dead and forgotten. … The Republic of Ireland is in God’s keeping.[4]Words That Saved Ireland After 1916“, The Irish Press (Philadelphia), Dec. 24, 1921.

Whether plagiarism or paraphrase of the popular proclamation, Steele’s January 1922 ratification story did not identify McCartan’s words or his vote for the treaty. The reporter had quoted McCartan in late December 1921 coverage of the debates. Steele described the sessions as “a battle between the living and the dead.” He continued:

The dead were represented by old men and widows and the living by young men who have fought in the battle for Ireland’s independence and survived. The living are all in favor of ratification and the dead against it. So far I have seen nothing to induce me to change my opinion that the living will win.[5]”Dead Arrayed Against Living On Irish Treaty”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 21, 1921.

The epanalepsis, “The king is dead, long live the king,” is said to have originated from the French, Le roi est mort, vive le roi!, upon the accession of Charles VII after the death of his father Charles VI in 1422.[6]From Wikipedia entry last updated Nov. 17, 2021. A king was never proposed for the Irish republic; the Irish Free State was a constitutional monarchy.

“Long live the Irish Free State, and three cheers for a speedy establishment of an independent Irish Republic,” a New York City union organ declared shortly after the Dec. 6, 1921, treaty announcement.[7]”The Irish Free State”, The Headgear Worker, Dec. 9, 1921, Vol. 6, No. 23. The Baltimore Sun repeated “Long live the Irish Republic” in an editorial that applauded the Dáil vote. The daily also noted that the Irish faced the challenge of disproving enemies and detractors who charged, prophetically: “The minute they stop fighting outsiders they will begin fighting among themselves.”[8]”A Right Decision”, The Baltimore Sun, Jan. 8, 1922.

Promoting Steele

John Steele in Dec. 7, 1921, Chicago Tribune photo.

For the Chicago Tribune and other papers that subscribed to its foreign news service, the treaty ratification was another opportunity to promote Steele’s role in brokering 1920 secret talks between Sinn Féin leaders and British government officials. The Tribune boasted: “Mr. Steele in his dispatches always insisted that actual peace was coming. … his accomplishments in aiding the contracting parties to common ground ranks high in the newspaper’s achievement.[9]”Tribune Man Aided in Finding Way To Anglo-Irish Peace”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922. This work was done through Patrick Moylett, a Galway businessman and associate of Griffith, according to accounts by Steele and Moyett.[10]”Humble Galway Grocer Brings Peace To Irish, Steele of Tribune Took Him to British Officials”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 9, 1921, and Steele’s unfinished memoir, published in … Continue reading

In a chapter of an unfinished memoir published in 1949, Steele quoted Griffith, who died in August 1922, as saying:

You always replied to my demands for a separate republic that we would never get it but that we could and would get dominion status within the British empire. Every other correspondent from abroad whom I talked to pretended to sympathize with me and assure me we would win full freedom and separation. I knew that contact had to be made with the British thru a neutral, and that the most available neutral would be a newspaper correspondent of international standing who was on good terms with both sides. You were obviously the man I wanted.

The Belfast-born Steele emigrated to America in 1887, age 17. According to information Steele provided for biographical publication, he was “educated privately and in newspaper offices.” He joined the New York Herald staff in 1890, followed by turns as a reporter and editor at three other papers in the city. He became managing editor of a London-based syndicate during World War I, then took charge of the Chicago Tribune‘s London bureau in 1919, where he remained until 1935.[11]”John S. Steele, Retired Tribune Writer, Is Dead”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1947, and 1900 U.S. Census, Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 15; Enumeration District: 0543; FH … Continue reading

Steele wasn’t the only American correspondent in Ireland to mix public journalism and private diplomacy. Carl Ackerman of the Philadelphia Public Ledger also shuttled messages and documents between the two sides. Other journalists stepped beyond their newspaper roles. Ruth Russell of the Chicago Daily News and Kilkenny native Francis Hackett of the New York World gave pro-Ireland testimony to the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland. Author Samuel Duff McCoy parlayed his work with the American Committee for Relief in Ireland into a 1922 newspaper series.

Newspaper journalism was highly competitive in the 1920s, with exaggerations and claims of “scoops” a regular part of the business, just like on today’s faster-moving digital platforms. Historians have suggested that Steele and Moylett amplified their roles; that Michael Collins and other Irish republicans described the backchannel arrangement as a “fiasco” and viewed Steele as being out for a story and a tool of Lloyd George; and that Griffith was concerned about the appearance of settling for less than a republic, while the January 1922 post-ratification quote Steele attributed to him (second sentence of this post) cannot be independently verified.[12]See: “Unsettled Island: Irish Nationalism, Unionism, and British Imperialism in the Shaping of Irish Independence, 1909-1922”. Thesis by Michael Christopher Ras, Concordia University … Continue reading

In the memoir chapter published two years after his death, Steele recalled:

To every reporter at some time of his career there comes the high spot. … My high spot was … the opportunity and great good fortune to play a part in the settlement of the age old quarrel between Ireland and England which led to the establishment of the Irish Free State. … I never lost affection for the land of my birth. Moreover, wherever the English language is spoken, Ireland is news and Ireland’s struggle for freedom was big news.

This Aug. 3, 1922, advertisement in the Washington Herald promoted Steele’s work in Ireland. Steele’s Ireland work also appeared in the (Memphis, Tenn.) Commercial Appeal, Sioux City (Iowa) Journal, Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) Sun, and other papers. (Apologies for the poor quality of the photos in digital scan.)

After ratification

Three years after the treaty ratification, in June 1925, de Valera addressed the Wolfe Tone commemoration at the Irish patriot’s grave in Bodenstown, County Kildare, a regular rally for Irish republicans. De Valera said:

By your presence you proclaim your undiminished attachment to the ideals of Tone, and your unaltered devotion to the cause for which he gave his life. It is your answer to those who would have it believed that the Republic of Ireland is dead and its cause abandoned.[13]Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern quoting de Valera at Oct. 16, 2005, Tone commemoration, via CAIN Web Service, Ulster University.

Less than a year later De Valera established the Fianna Fáil party, which abandoned Sinn Féin abstentionism and in 1932 won elected power in the Dáil. Republican aspirations were finally realized on April 18, 1949, with the full establishment of the 26-county representative state. That day, the Chicago Tribune published the “never been told full story” of Steel’s memoir, including the quotes attributed to Griffith, by then 27 years dead.

In his 1952 Bureau of Military History statement, Moylett said that he had promised Steele exclusive U.S. rights to his own experience in revolutionary Ireland. “But, as I have been disillusioned over the way things have been conducted in this country during and since 1922, I have no wish to publish it.”

Nevertheless, the Irish Free State was dead. Long live the Republic of Ireland.

References

References
1 ”Ireland Votes Peace, De Valera Loses, 64 To 57, In Long Battle” Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922, and syndicated to other U.S. papers.
2 ”Tribune Writer Go-Between In 1920 Pact Talks”, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1949.
3 Dáil Éireann debate, Dec. 20, 1921, Vol. T No. 7.
4 Words That Saved Ireland After 1916“, The Irish Press (Philadelphia), Dec. 24, 1921.
5 ”Dead Arrayed Against Living On Irish Treaty”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 21, 1921.
6 From Wikipedia entry last updated Nov. 17, 2021.
7 ”The Irish Free State”, The Headgear Worker, Dec. 9, 1921, Vol. 6, No. 23.
8 ”A Right Decision”, The Baltimore Sun, Jan. 8, 1922.
9 ”Tribune Man Aided in Finding Way To Anglo-Irish Peace”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1922.
10 ”Humble Galway Grocer Brings Peace To Irish, Steele of Tribune Took Him to British Officials”, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 9, 1921, and Steele’s unfinished memoir, published in “Go-Between”, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 1949. Patrick Moylett, Bureau of Military History Witness Statement 767, Dec. 16, 1952. Page 50.
11 ”John S. Steele, Retired Tribune Writer, Is Dead”, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 8, 1947, and 1900 U.S. Census, Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 15; Enumeration District: 0543; FH microfilm: 1241105.
12 See: “Unsettled Island: Irish Nationalism, Unionism, and British Imperialism in the Shaping of Irish Independence, 1909-1922”. Thesis by Michael Christopher Ras, Concordia University Montreal, Quebec, Canada, January 2017, Collins quote: NLI, Art Ó Briain Papers, Ms. 8426/7, Michael Collins to Art Ó Briain, 15 December 1920; NLI, Art Ó Briain, Ms. 8430/12, Michael Collins to Art Ó Briain, Jan. 4, 1921. Also: We Bled Together: Michael Collins, The Squad and The Dublin Brigade, Dominic Price, Collins Press, 2017.
13 Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern quoting de Valera at Oct. 16, 2005, Tone commemoration, via CAIN Web Service, Ulster University.

American visitors describe ‘Distress in Ireland,’ April 1921

The eight-member American delegation to Ireland visited 95 cities, towns, and villages, including the Aran Islands, in 22 of 32 counties, from mid-February to late March 1921. Now, the team prepared to report its investigation of Irish humanitarian needs to the American Committee for Relief in Ireland (ACRI), its New York-based sending organization.

Delegation leader Clemens J. France, brother of a U.S. senator, and Oren Wilbur, a creamery and dairy farming expert, would remain in Dublin to help oversee the distribution of funds from America through the Irish White Cross. The other members disbursed in pairs:

  • attorney Walter C. Longstretch and architect William Price left by mid-March;
  • agricultural specialist John C. Baker and housing expert Philip W. Furnas sailed at the end of the month for France and Germany to meet their colleagues from the American Friends Services Committee, the Quaker humanitarian organization; and
  • former Friends Intelligencer editor R. Barclay Spicer and journalist Samuel Duff McCoy on April 1 boarded the Cunard liner Aquitania for America.[1]”Going Home: American Relief Committee’s Tour of Inspection Finished”, Freeman’s Journal, March 28, 1921.

Simultaneously, the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland (ACCI) released a 152-page report based on its November 1920 through January 1921 hearings in Washington, D.C. The non-U.S. government panel interviewed three dozen Irish, English, and American witnesses, including the widow and sister of Irish hunger strike martyr Terence MacSwiney. The ACCI report concluded that “Imperial British forces” in Ireland had created a state of “terror” that deprived Irish citizen of legal and moral protection.

An image from the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland report.

The British Embassy in Washington immediately rebutted the ACCI report as “biased and wholly misleading.” The embassy statement said that Ireland, “so far from being a devastated country, is the most prosperous part of the United Kingdom, and probably the whole of Europe.”

The statement also insisted that “widespread misapprehension appears to exist in regard to the necessity of raising funds from United States sources for relief work in Ireland. … [though] … banking and tax returns show Ireland as a whole has never been more prosperous. … Apart from … genuine unemployment, common to all countries at the present moment, and … normal poverty … every case of distress and destitution is directly due to the effects of the Sinn Féin in Ireland.[2]Embassy statements quoted from “British Embassy Replies to Irish” and “British Call Ireland Never More Prosperous” in The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), April 1, 1921.

The ACRI responded with its own lengthy, at times, rambling, statement, which was reported in news stories and placed in paid advertising. [Bottom of post.] “Since its organization [in December 1920] our Committee has been closely in touch with conditions in Ireland, and the unit of workers in charitable relief, some of whom had experience in other war devastated countries, which our Committee sent to Ireland, has brought us closely in touch with this situation. From this unit [and other sources] … we unhesitatingly state that [the British Embassy statements are] inaccurate and unfounded.”[3]“To The American Public”, advert in the New York Herald, April 7, 1921.

Distress in Ireland

Original report linked in text.

McCoy released the ACRI delegation’s 14-page “Distress in Ireland” report on April 16 in New York. Many U.S. newspapers published an Associated Press story about its findings.

The delegation estimated that 25,000 families, or about 100,000 “men, women and children … are in pitiful need of instant help from the American people.” The report anticipated the skepticism of British and U.S. government officials, pro-British or anti-Sinn Féin journalists, and segments of the general public:

We are quite aware that the ordinary traveler through Ireland, going only by train, and not visiting two or three communities, would be unaware that any such degree of distress exists. From his train window he would see only green and fertile countryside, of immense agricultural wealth, and fully supporting its population. In towns he might visit he would see, in his casual walks through their busy streets, little that would lead him to believe that acute distress exists.

But if he looked beneath the surface, if he went from house to house, outside the beaten paths of travel, eliminating, though he might, all the distress from unemployment resulting from trade depression, and all the distress of the habitual mendicant class–he would still find in every little village that he entered two, three, or a half dozen families which had never before been in want and which, but for the fact that they had come face to face with starvation, would never let their need be guessed.[4]”Distress in Ireland”, p. 7.  

The delegation’s report estimated the damage to Irish homes, shops, factories, and creameries totaled $20 million, about $294 million a century later.[5]Per U.S. Inflation Calculator. It noted extensive damage to Ireland’s important agricultural sector, including 55 attacks on creameries.

“I wish to express my conviction that the creameries and their auxiliaries are the most important of all the immediate relief needs which the American people can help,” the report quoted Wilbur, the dairy farming expert who remained in Ireland.

McCoy concluded the report with a personal thought about British military reprisals on Irish residences. “As an individual,” he wrote, “I am entirely convinced that many of these people were entirely innocent of any complicity in the acts for which they were punished by having their homes burnt.”

Behind the scenes

Samuel D. McCoy

Five days after the report’s public release McCoy met in Washington with an executive assistant to U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. McCoy proposed the American government help distribute the relief money for Ireland. He alleged the British had reneged on a promise to allow non-partisan relief to be distributed in Ireland. He suggested the State Department could allay British concerns about the partisanship of the Irish White Cross by supervising the relief in Ireland, as it had done in Belgium during the war.[6]Carroll, F. M. “The American Committee for Relief in Ireland, 1920-22.” Irish Historical Studies, vol. 23, no. 89, 1982, pp. 30-49. Whelan, Bernadette, United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: … Continue reading

Behind the scenes, forces had been quietly working against the ACRI before McCoy’s visit to the State Department. The U.S. consul in Dublin, Frederick T. F. Dumont, who had met the visiting ACRI delegation, sent several cables to Washington that suggested the group was being exploited by Sinn Féin operatives within the Irish White Cross. Other government insiders in Washington insisted the relief group was anti-British. The American Friends Services Committee and the American Red Cross backed off their earlier support of ACRI for the same reason.

Nevertheless, “the regular accounts in the newspapers, the findings of the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland, and the statistics produced in the reports of the American Committee for Relief in Ireland and the Irish Write Cross provided persuasive evidence that there was a substantial measure of destruction and dislocation as the result of the fighting,” Carroll has noted.[7]Carroll, “ACRI, 1920-22”, p. 40. ACRI’s network of state committees continued the fundraising efforts launched during the week of St. Patrick’s Day. The campaign pushed forward, and the group continued to send money to the Irish White Cross.

New York Herald, April 7, 1921. Click to enlarge.

***

This is the third post about the ACRI. Find previous stories in my American Reporting of Irish Independence centenary series. NEXT: “Relief quotas” will examine state fundraising goals, and how well each did. I’ll publish this installment in June. 

References

References
1 ”Going Home: American Relief Committee’s Tour of Inspection Finished”, Freeman’s Journal, March 28, 1921.
2 Embassy statements quoted from “British Embassy Replies to Irish” and “British Call Ireland Never More Prosperous” in The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), April 1, 1921.
3 “To The American Public”, advert in the New York Herald, April 7, 1921.
4 ”Distress in Ireland”, p. 7.
5 Per U.S. Inflation Calculator.
6 Carroll, F. M. “The American Committee for Relief in Ireland, 1920-22.” Irish Historical Studies, vol. 23, no. 89, 1982, pp. 30-49. Whelan, Bernadette, United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-29, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2006, See Ch. 8, “Harding, Irish Relief Aid And Recognition”, pp. 326-327.
7 Carroll, “ACRI, 1920-22”, p. 40.