Political Cartoon: The Anti-Home Rule Orange Circus Over the Water

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Irish World, 11 March 1893

In the midst of the second Home Rule crisis in 1893, the most prominent Irish-American newspaper, the Irish World, published this political cartoon: “The Anti-Home Rule Orange Circus Over the Water.”

Here we see Edward Saunderson, MP and leader of the Ulster unionists in Parliament, beating the Orange drum.  Reverend Richard Rutledge Kane, of Belfast’s Christ Church, rips and stomps the Home Rule bill.  And in the background, Prime Minister William E. Gladstone is burned in effigy.

The Irish World described the scene: “More than 5,000 persons were present at the great Orange meeting here [in Belfast] to-day.  Dr. Kane, who presided, said that Ulster was prepared to defend herself to the last against the proposals of the Home Rule Bill.  The men of Ulster need not feel, however, that they would be alone and unaided in the fight for their liberties.  They had the sympathies of Englishmen of all classes throughout the world.

“He had received letters from military and police officers in England and Ireland and telegrams from Canada and Australia promising co-operation with the men of Ulster if the latter resorted to arms to defend their liberties against the tyranny of their historic foes.  A hundred thousand Orangemen were ready to resist to the death the Home Rule Bill.”

The Irish World‘s serious tone in reporting the event contrasts with the snarling and chaotic feel to the political cartoon, with the beating of the Orange drum an annoying “circus” and distraction from what Irish nationalists considered as the larger issues at stake with Home Rule.

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The Irish in a Colorado Mining Town: A Look at Leadville

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Church of the Annunciation, Leadville, CO – photo credit: L. Flewelling

In the nineteenth century, the Irish were the second largest foreign-born ethnic group in Colorado, with the major sites of Irish settlement at Denver, Leadville, and Cripple Creek. The earliest Irish migrants in Colorado were miners, railroad workers, soldiers, and domestic servants.  In Denver, many Irish worked as common laborers.

In 1877, miners in Lake County realized that the black sand they had been tossing off to the side when looking for gold was actually silver.  This led to a silver boom, causing the city of Leadville to spring up overnight.  By far the largest ethnic group in Leadville was the Irish, and Leadville became the most Irish city in the Rocky Mountain region by 1880.  About 9% of the population had been born in Ireland and another 7% were second generation Irish Americans.  The majority of Irish were miners, and like most groups in Colorado at this time, were mostly men.

Irish women in Leadville were housewives, domestic servants, laundresses, about six were prostitutes, and there were also several nuns who worked as nurses at St Vincent’s Hospital.

In Leadville, the Irish mainly settled on the east side of town, with 6th street as the main thoroughfare.  Because they were the largest ethnic group, they had a large impact on the town as it grew.  They had their own Catholic church, the Church of the Annunciation, which was founded in 1879.  There was also St Vincent’s Hospital and St Mary’s Catholic School.  The names of the mines also reflect the Irish presence.  Many of them are name after people or groups from Irish nationalism: Robert Emmet, Wolfe Tone, O’Donovan Rossa, Fenian Queen, and Charles Stewart Parnell.  Others have more general Irish cultural links: O’Sullivan, Murphy, Fitzjames, Letterkenny, Mary Murphy, Red-Headed Mary, Seamus O’Brien, Fitzhugh, Donovan, O’Brien, and Maid of Erin.

The most well-known people of Leadville were also Irish.  Molly Brown and her husband J.J. were the children of Irish immigrants.  Baby Doe Tabor, whose birth name was Elizabeth McCourt, was also the daughter of Irish immigrants.  Her husband, Colorado Lieutenant Governor Horace Tabor, was known to support the Irish nationalist movement.

Irish nationalism was a huge cause for the Irish immigrants in Leadville.  Nationally, Leadville ranked third in money donated to the Irish Land League, behind only Philadelphia and Chicago.  Leadville formed its own branches of the Land League and the Ladies’ Land League, and also had other Irish societies, the Knights of Robert Emmet, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Daughters of Erin.  The Irish also had their own local militai, the Wolfe Tone Guards.

Both Leadville and Denver’s Irish populations were well-organized and supportive of nationalist causes, and this led several Irish nationalists to include both cities in their fundraising tours of the United States.  This included two visits by the founder of the Land League, Michael Davitt, as well as the treasurer and secretary of the Land League and several members of the Irish Parliamentary Party.  Oscar Wilde also came to Denver and Leadville in 1882.  He gave a talk on art and aesthetics to the miners at the Tabor Opera House and became legendary in the area for the amount of whiskey he consumed.

Along with their nationalist activism, the Irish in Leadville were known for their participation in local labor movements.  They were associated with the leadership of two major strikes in Leadville, the first a 23-day strike in 1880 and the second a much longer strike from 19 June 1896 to 9 March 1897.  Labor activism fit well with Irish land agitation and calls for self-government.  In fact all three of these movements had been tied together through the most prominent Irish American newspaper, the Irish World.  The newspaper’s founder and editor, Patrick Ford, promoted Irish nationalism and American labor activism, and his paper was circulated around the country, even to places as distant as Leadville before it had railroad access.

In both of the Leadville strikes, the miners’ unions were led by Irish miners, demanding higher pay and shorter working days.  In both cases, the strikes were put down by the Colorado National Guard.  While the 1880 strike was peaceful, the 1896 strike became violent, with armed strikers attacking the mines.  At least eight miners were killed.

In 1896, Leadville’s branch of the Loyal Orange Institution was founded.  In North America, the Orange Order had a by far larger presence in Canada, with a weaker organization in the United States.  In Colorado, the oldest and largest Orange presence was in Denver.  The timing of the foundation of the Orange lodge in Leadville is interesting, as the population of Leadville had been drastically declining since the 1893 silver crash.  So why would smaller numbers of people want to form a new organization at this time?  It’s possible that the Irish and Scotch-Irish Protestants were attempting to dissociate themselves from the Irish Americans who were leading the miners’ strike, who they would have considered radical, extreme, and at the bottom of the social ladder.

The Orange lodge in Cripple Creek was also founded soon after the Cripple Creek miners’ strike, which was also heavily associated with Irish American-led labor agitation.

It’s difficult to track just low large of a presence the Orange Order and other Scotch-Irish migrants would have had in Colorado, because the peak of emigration from Ireland was farther in the past.  They might be lumped in with second-generation Irish Americans from Canada, Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan, where the Orange Order was strongest.

After the silver crash of 1893 and the strike of 1896, the productivity and population of Leadville declined drastically.  In 1900, 8,900 people lived there, and by 1910, it was down to 4,400.  Many of the Irish miners moved on to different mines in the west, while others moved to Denver.  By 1910, 44% of the Irish in Colorado lived in Denver, part of the total of 63% of the Irish population living on the Front Range.  Those who remained in Colorado were more urban and middle class than the working class miners.

The Irish in Colorado continued to be active in the labor movement, including the leaders of the Cripple Creek miners’ strike in 1903-4 and Mary Harris Jones, known as “Mother Jones,” who was born in County Cork and was active in supporting miners during the Ludlow Massacre.  The Irish worked in the coal mines along the Front Range, became police officers and firefighters in Denver, supported the expanding Catholic church in the region, and continued to participate in fraternal societies such as the Knights of Columbus.  Éamon de Valera, the president of the Irish parliament, visited Denver as part of his fundraising tour of the United States in 1919, highlighting continued support for Irish nationalism.

Additional Readings:

David M. Emmons, Beyond the American Pale: The Irish in the West, 1845-1910 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010).

Dennis Gallagher, Thomas J. Noel, and James Patrick Walsh, Irish Denver (Charleston: Arcadia, 2012).

James Patrick Walsh, Michael Mooney and the Leadville Irish: Respectability and Resistance at 10,200 Feet, 1875-1900 (Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Colorado Boulder, 2010).

Federalism and Irish Home Rule

In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, I’ve seen the idea of federalism to be applied to the United Kingdom come up several times.  I thought it would be interesting to revisit the debate over federalism in an earlier era to see how it was addressed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  The idea of federalism is especially interesting to me in thinking about how it might work with the structure of the United Kingdom, where powers have been devolved from the center to the national assembly and parliaments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – rather than the separate nations/states/provinces coming together to form the central government as happened in the formation of the United States and in Canada.

By the Home Rule era, federalist ideas as applied to the Irish situation were not new: Daniel O’Connell had been tempted by the federalist plans of William Sharman Crawford in the 1840s, and Isaac Butt had originally started the Home Rule movement in the 1870s with ideas of a federal system in the United Kingdom that would help to address Irish grievances.

While not a part of the constitutional system of the United Kingdom, federalism was a frequent undercurrent in British political thought.  As Michael Burgess points out, the United Kingdom became a major “exporter” of federal systems to other places in the world, including Australia, Canada, India, Nigeria, and Malaysia, as well as federalism playing an influential role in the unification of South Africa.

Throughout the Home Rule era, federalist ideas were promoted or suggested by many politicians of different stripes, either to illustrate parallels between federalist systems and the Home Rule bills or to work as alternatives to Home Rule.  Another important element within federalist thought was imperial federation, which operated both within and outside of the Irish Home Rule context.  At one time or another, Joseph Chamberlain, W.T. Stead, Lord Acton, J.R. Seeley, J.L. Garvin of the Observer, David Lloyd George, Walter Long, L.S. Amery, and Edward Carson all espoused federalist ideas.  On the nationalist side, federalism found champions in Moreton Frewen, William O’Brian, and T.M. Healy.

Some Irish unionists viewed the Home Rule bills as introducing a federal-state dynamic into the relationship between Britain and Ireland.  Carson questioned why the bills did not adhere more closely to the American system.  In parliamentary discussions on the second Home Rule bill, Carson reasoned, “As in America, where they had a distinction between Federal matters and State matters, so under the Bill, where they had a distinction between Imperial matters and local matters, they would necessarily have disputes between the Irish Government and the Imperial Government.”  Given the inevitability of future conflict, Carson wondered why the Home Rule bill failed to set up a court system similar to that of the United States.  He hoped for a Supreme Court to settle potential disputes between the two governments.

In a later speech, Carson again emphasized the parallels with the American system of federalism.  He questioned, “The only parallel they had for the Constitution they were now setting up in Ireland was the Constitution of America.  It had been taken from the American Constitution, but why did not the Government follow the provision of the American Constitution, which set up a Federal Executive in each State?”  Carson wished for greater adherence to the American federal system, including a federated state-style government, to ensure protections of unionist interests and preservation of the Union.

On the other hand, W.E.H. Lecky argued that the federal system would not matter in the slightest if the same Irish nationalists were in charge of the Home Rule parliament.  He wrote, “It is this profound division of classes in Ireland that makes all arguments derived from the example of federal governments in Europe or America so utterly fallacious.  The first question to be asked before setting up a local legislature is ‘Who are the men who are likely to control it?’”  Lecky believed that the strong divisions in Ireland meant that unionists would not be represented in the new government no matter what system was in place.

J.A. Rentoul, MP for East Down, pointed out another inherent problem in the comparisons of federalism in the two countries.  Ultimately, the United States presented an example that was the opposite of Home Rule.  Rentoul argued,

There was no one of the United States of America that claimed to be a nation or that asked for national privileges.  Each State of the United States gave up certain powers of its own, in order that it might be met by other States giving up those same powers to what I may term a supreme legislature which governed them all…. In the United States, then, it was not the case of a number of nations being restrained from exercising their proper rights and privileges, but of States voluntarily giving up to a Constitution, which they themselves had founded, certain of their rights, in order that they might assist in exercising similar rights over other States.

As Rentoul asserted, the federal system of government in the United States was not regulating a number of separate nations devolving power from a central government, as would be the case with Ireland under the Home Rule Bill.  The United States represented the exact opposite: a number of states coming together into a voluntary union with each other when they would have otherwise been separate.  It was apparent, therefore, that unity was enshrined in the American constitution.

By the time of the third Home Rule Bill, federal options were gaining more consideration.  This was especially the case after the passage of the 1911 Parliament Act meant that it was increasingly likely that some form of Home Rule would be passed.  By the end of the Home Rule period, the most important federalist thinkers were F.S. Oliver and the Earl of Selborne.  With increased support for federalist options, unionists continued to criticize the Liberals for the system set up in the Home Rule Bill.  Many of these criticisms were based on the idea that it was the Liberal Party’s intention to eventually implement a federal system for the whole United Kingdom.

Oliver was active in this criticism.  In a series of letters to the Times, he questioned the tariff provisions within the Home Rule Bill.  He wrote,

At what stage of the proceedings, for instance, was the tariff concession wrung from a Government pledged to the maintenance of Free Trade – a concession which will inevitably entail the erection of a Customs barrier between Ireland and Great Britain?  Of all the farcical features in the Bill this perhaps is the most absurd.  For it has been the aim hitherto of every confederation in the world to get rid of hindrances and restraints upon trade between its various members.  This principle of freedom is the foundation upon which not only the unity but the prosperity of the United States is based.

Oliver argued that the United States, Canada, Australia, and South Africa had all fought and sacrificed to get rid of customs barriers.  Oliver believed that unity could not be maintained with customs barriers cutting through the heart of the United Kingdom.

The Ulster Unionist Council saw the existence of customs barriers within the Home Rule Bill as creating a farce of the idea that the Liberal government ever intended to implement a wide-reaching federal system.  In 1912, the UUC issued a resolution stating, “The hypocrisy of the pretence that the present Bill is the forerunner of a Federal Constitution for the United Kingdom is shown by the Customs barriers proposed to be set up between Great Britain and Ireland, an arrangement unknown in any existing Federal system.”  This was again an example of unionists calling for the Home Rule Bill to adhere more closely to existing federal systems such as that in the United States.

Additional Reading:

  • Duncan Bell, The Idea of a Greater Britain Empire and the Future of World Order, 1860-1900 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).
  • Andrea Bosco, ed., The Federal Idea, Vol. I: The History of Federalism from the Enlightenment to 1945 (London: Lothian Foundation Press, 1991).
  • George Boyce and J.O. Stubbs, “F.S. Oliver, Lord Selborne, and Federalism,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 5, no. 1 (Oct. 1976).
  • Michael Burgess, “Federalism: A Dirty Word? Federalist Ideas and Practice in the British Political Tradition” (London: Federal Trust Working Papers, 1988).
  • A. Kennedy, “Sharman Crawford’s Federal Scheme for Ireland,” in Essays in British and Irish History in Honour of James Eadie Todd, ed. H.A. Cronne, T.W. Moody, and D.B. Quinn (London: Muller, 1949).
  • Lawrence J. McCaffrey, “Irish Federalism in the 1870s: A Study in Conservative Nationalism,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 52, no. 6 (1962).
  • Alan J. Ward, “Frewen’s Anglo-American Campaign for Federalism, 1910-1921,” Irish Historical Studies 15, no. 59 (Mar 1967).

John MacBride and Maud Gonne’s Irish-American Tour: Fundraising for the Second Boer War

Find my previous post on Maud Gonne here.

In November 1900, Maud Gonne and Arthur Griffith, the two main organizers of the Irish Transvaal Society, heard the surprising news that John MacBride had returned from the Transvaal.  MacBride, famed for his leadership of the Irish Transvaal Brigade, had been in South Africa since 1896.  “It was shortly after the Jameson Raid that my own attention was first turned seriously to the course of events developing in the South African Republics,” he wrote.  He had been angered to learn that Irishmen in South Africa had supported the British during the Jameson Raid.  “My own view as to the manner in which Irishmen should act in such a crisis ran, of course, on altogether different lines, and although the Jameson business fizzled out in so contemptible a fashion, I felt convinced that the English would not allow it to be their final attempt on the rich republics of the Vaal; and I was also very anxious that our countrymen in South Africa should not, on the next occasion, be found on the side of the would-be grabber and oppressor.”

Once in South Africa, MacBride worked to organize the local Irish community, including establishing an Irish society in Johannesburg with Griffith.  Irish immigrants in Africa were soldiers, missionaries, civil servants, miners, and adventurers.  By the 1890s, about 15,000-20,000 Irish were in southern Africa, many spurred to immigrate by the discovery of gold in 1886.  When war broke out in 1899, an estimated 28,000 Irishmen served in the British army in South Africa.  In response to Queen Victoria’s visit to Ireland in 1900 to boost recruitment numbers for the British army, Gonne wrote an impassioned attack against her in the form of an article entitled “The Famine Queen.”  The article was first published in a special edition of Gonne’s own journal, L’Irlande Libre, and reprinted in the United Irishman, which was suppressed by the authorities to prevent people from reading it.  “Taking the Shamrock in her withered hand she dares ask Ireland for soldiers – for soldiers to protect the exterminators of their race!” Gonne criticized.  “And the reply of Ireland comes sadly but proudly, not through the lips of miserable little politicians who are touched by the English canker but through the lips of the Irish people: ‘Queen, return to your own land; you will find no more Irishmen ready to wear the red shame of your livery.’”  She avowed that any Irishmen who entered the British army would no longer be considered Irish.

Hundreds of Irishmen joined the war effort on the side of the Boers to fight against the British.  Donal McCracken writes, “A basic idea uniting the movement was the belief that Boer aspirations to national identity mirrored Ireland’s own and that consequently to support the Boers was to advance Ireland’s cause.”  The Irish Transvaal Brigade, founded and co-led by MacBride, operated from September 1899 to September 1900 and helped to galvanize the Irish nationalist movement.  Gonne compared the Irish Brigade to the Wild Geese (embodying the historic tradition of Irish soldiers fighting for foreign armies), who “upheld Ireland’s honour by fighting for the enemies of England even as to-day John MacBride and the Irish Brigade organised by him saved Ireland’s honour in the Transvaal.”  She declared that the Irish Brigade had done more for Ireland’s honour than any nationalist at home, “for it is action that counts.”

By September 1900, the war had entered a new phase of guerilla fighting.  Most of the Irish left South Africa, the majority going to America and many settling in mining camps in the western United States (as they had been miners in South Africa).  MacBride, who could not go back to Ireland, traveled to Paris, where he was met by Gonne, Griffith, and the Paris Young Ireland Society.  This was the first time MacBride and Gonne met, though they had previously corresponded with each other concerning the Irish Brigade.  Gonne wrote, “We sat up all night talking.  MacBride said he had come back hoping there would be something doing in Ireland.  The war in Africa is not over and England had still De Wet to deal with, but most of the foreign volunteers had been sent back and the Irish Brigade had been disbanded because the war was entering on another phase.  There would be no more regular battles; and in guerilla warfare only those who knew the country and spoke the language would be of use.”

MacBride told her and Griffith that John Blake, the Irish-American co-leader of the Irish Brigade, was staying on, and indeed, a few dozen Irishmen continued to fight as part of the Boer war effort.  MacBride himself hoped to return to Ireland to help lead a nationalist resurgence, writing, “Though at present the weapons have fallen from our hands, we hope to pick it up in our own island home, and never let it drop till, by union and strength, we blot out the last vestige of the ‘Empire of Hell.’”  However, MacBride realized through talking to Gonne and Griffith that the only current hope for movement on revolutionary nationalism lay in America.  They determined that MacBride would undertake a tour of America, hoping to spark Clan-na-Gael enthusiasm.  Griffith himself wrote a lecture for MacBride to deliver on his tour, using MacBride’s memories of his experience in South Africa.  Gonne recounted, “After a reception by the Paris Young Ireland Society and talks with a few friends from Dublin MacBride went to America.  In a few weeks, he wrote to me, urging me to accept an invitation to come on another lecture tour arranged by the now united Clan-na-Gael.  He added that he could not get things going unless I came.”

Gonne, who had toured America previously under the auspices of the O’Sullivan faction of the Clan-na-Gael, joined MacBride in the United States in February 1901.  “He was with a crowd of friends belonging to both sections of the united Clan who met me when I came off the French Trans-Atlantic liner at the docks in New York; and there was a great meeting in the Academy of Music the night after my arrival,” Gonne wrote.  “MacBride gave his lecture on the work of the Brigade and I spoke of Ireland.  We had a splendid press.”

Still, the American tour did not go as they hoped.  While Irish-Americans felt solidarity with the Boer people, the high point of Irish-American support had been the year before.  MacBride turned out to be a rather poor public speaker, and Gonne herself managed to alienate several prominent Irish-American leaders.  She was criticized for attacking the United Irish League and constitutional nationalists in her speeches.

The pair mourned the fact that lawyers and politicians, rather than revolutionaries, controlled the Irish-American nationalist movement.  “They could be counted on to exert their influence against an Anglo-American alliance, which England was always trying for.  That in itself was a great thing, for to make the holding of Ireland injurious to England is one of the means toward securing freedom,” Gonne recounted.  “No doubt they would back up the fight in Ireland when it started, but they were happier supporting constitutional leaders like Parnell and were hard to convince that there was nothing to hope from men like [John] Redmond or John Dillon.”  Despite lack of concrete support for revolutionary nationalism, she felt that the rank-and-file of Irish-American nationalist organizations were “ready for anything.”

Gonne returned to Europe at the urging of Griffith in May 1901, leaving MacBride in America.  “I didn’t feel I had accomplished much,” she reflected, “but I still hoped MacBride might succeed in setting the match to the inflammable fighting forces of the Clan-na-Gael, in spite of the politicians.”  As she returned to Paris, she managed to smuggle out a baby alligator from America as a present for her seven-year-old daughter.  After completing his tour of the American west coast, MacBride decided to return to Europe as well, working as a journalist in Paris while still hoping to help spark a revival in revolutionary Irish nationalism.  He wrote to a group of Limerick nationalists, “Depend not on aid from America or France.  God helps those who help themselves.  Let our motto be – ‘Ourselves! Ourselves alone! Sin fein! Sin fein!’  The brave doctrine of fight must not be allowed to be hushed in the land.  It is not by frothy speeches from platforms in Ireland and America and by academic motions in Westminster that our country shall be made ready for the chance that will surely come again – the second chance that comes to those who prepare for it.”

While constitutional nationalism was on the rise in the early years of the twentieth century, Gonne, MacBride, and Griffith’s experiences show that the undercurrents of revolutionary nationalism remained, biding time and preparing for that chance.

Selected Reading:

Norman Jeffares and Anna MacBride White, eds., The Autobiography of Maud Gonne: A Servant of the Queen (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).  Written 1938.

Anthony J. Jordan, ed., Boer War to Easter Rising: The Writings of John MacBride (Dublin: Westport, 2006).

Donal P. McCracken, Forgotten Protest: Ireland and the Anglo-Boer War.  (Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2003).  Originally published as The Irish Pro-Boers, 1877-1902, in 1989.

Donal P. McCracken, MacBride’s Brigade: Irish Commandos in the Anglo-Boer War (Dublin: Four Courts, 1999).

Margaret Ward, ed.  In Their Own Voice: Women and Irish Nationalism (Cork: Attic, 1995).

Margaret Ward, Maud Gonne: Ireland’s Joan of Arc (London: Pandora, 1990).

On the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising

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Dublin’s GPO – photo credit: L. Flewelling

One hundred years ago on Easter Monday, Irish republicans mainly made up of members of the Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, and Cumann na mBan rose up in rebellion, seizing several strategic locations throughout Dublin (as well as rising up in other parts of Ireland).  At their headquarters at the General Post Office, the Irish republican flag was raised and Patrick Pearse read the Proclamation of the Republic.

… Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory. …

On this 100th anniversary, so many dimensions of the Easter Rising have been explored.  As we’re a blog focused on global history, it is worth remembering that this was an uprising with global dimensions, supported by the Irish diaspora.  And after the Easter Rising, with the British government swiftly carrying out the executions of the rebellion’s leaders, huge numbers of Irish abroad flocked to join or support revolutionary nationalism in Ireland.  The Easter Rising sparked real vitality in the Irish-American community that hadn’t been seen since the days of Charles Stewart Parnell.  Some 800,000 Irish-Americans joined nationalist organizations and over $10 million was raised in support of Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army.

Reflections on Transnational History, Part 1: Irish Unionists and the Role of America

“Despite the role played by the diaspora in shaping Irish nationalism, historians of Irish nationalism – even those who warn against the evils of ‘exceptionalism’ and ‘geographical solipsism’ – generally adopt the nation-state as their primary unit of historical analysis,” writes Fearghal McGarry.  “Similarly, studies of diasporic Irish nationalism usually overlook the impact of the phenomenon on Ireland.”

While there are many studies on the development of Irish-American nationalism, they do remain fairly separate from the general historical narrative of Ireland (with some notable exceptions).  Enda Delaney describes the development of two separate fields of historiography, “one covering the ‘homeland,’ or domestic history, the other concerned with the ‘diaspora,’ or migrant communities, and only rarely do these historiographies collide.”  The diaspora is generally subsumed into migration studies, examining the role of the migrant group in their host society, while there has been less work done on how the diaspora impacted Ireland beyond the sheer volume of emigrants.

How do we as historians examine the connections, exchanges, and circulations of Ireland, migrants, their host societies, and the wider world throughout history, along with the more traditional histories of Ireland?  I’ve recently been thinking a lot more about the ideas behind transnational history.  I do feel that looking at history through a transnational lens is a natural path to follow given the interconnections in our world today.  Transnational history may be without a clear definition, but as Akira Iriye and Pierre-Yves Saunier write in the introduction to The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History, it is about addressing “the entangled condition of the modern world,” a condition that clearly is not wholly new or unique (though still we must guard against reading back present-minded views of globalization onto history).

While we can see links and flows of people, ideas, products, processes, and patterns across the world (as described by Iriye and Saunier) throughout history, we have to find a balance for how much these were important as compared to local, regional, national, or other processes.  How do we get closest to discovering what was most important to people in the past and what their lives actually encompassed?

America has a significant place in the study of transnational history, earning its own entry in the Palgrave Dictionary (interesting in itself because one of the main tenets of transnational history is to undermine exceptionalism).   Martin Klimke writes, “The extraordinary transnational appeal of America is one of its most outstanding historical characteristics.  The attraction of the ideas of self-government, freedom of religion, and the embrace of universal democratic principles as the nation’s foundation transformed the United States of America into a global reference point, both negative and positive, for a plethora of desires, debates and developments.”

Klimke continues, “Since national or local cultures are generally constructed through binaries and created through imagined differences between oneself and the ‘other,’ disputes about American influence often reach to the core of identity debates in various parts of the world.  In them, America often serves as a projection with which to identify or from which to separate and distance.”  Thus the image/products/institutions of America have been used both negatively and positively throughout the world to compare the position of one’s own nation/political movement/culture etc.

And I’ve found that Irish unionists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did both – they depicted Irish nationalists as too closely controlled by their American financiers and as a foreign movement that was unwanted by the Irish people.  But unionists also depicted an America with positive connotations – celebrating their Scotch-Irish heritage and the ideals of the American Revolution.

I would not want to overstate the American role in Ireland – but the unionists themselves clearly attached significance to the American influence.  They certainly did not read the diaspora in America as separate from the Irish nationalists in Ireland.

One key contribution of a transnational approach is in emphasizing the idea of circulation.  Isabel Hofmeyr writes, “The key claim of any transnational approach is its central concern with movements, flows, and circulation, not simply as a theme or motif but as an analytic set of methods which defines the endeavor itself.”

With this idea of circulation in mind, it is clear that it wasn’t just that America imposed its presence on the Irish question.  It was that the unionists took the idea of America and shaped it to their own purposes.  They overstated the American influence in the Irish nationalist movement because it helped them to further their movement.

The Irish diaspora in America was influenced by both Ireland and the host society; in turn the diaspora impacted both Ireland and the United States.  Our challenge is figuring out how to accurately capture these transnational processes in a way that is comprehensible, does not create false generalizations, and keeps local contexts and individual experiences in view.

Suggested Reading:

Bayly, C.A., Sven Beckert, Matthew Connelly, Isabel Hofmeyr, Wendy Kozol, and Patricia Seed. “Conversation: On Transnational History,” American Historical Review 111, no. 5 (2006).

Delaney, Enda. “Our Island Story? Towards a Transnational History of Late Modern Ireland,” Irish Historical Studies xxxvii, no. 148 (2011).

Iriye, Akira, and Pierre-Yves Saunier, eds. The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History: From the Mid-19th Century to the Present Day. Houndmills: Basingstoke, 2009.

McGarry, Fearghal. “‘A Land Beyond the Wave:’ Transnational Perspectives on Easter 1916.” In Transnational Perspectives on Modern Irish History, ed. Niall Whelehan. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Ireland and India: Source Round-Up

One area that I’ve seen come up more and more in the study of Irish history is the linking of Ireland to India.  This is an extremely rich realm of study, encompassing everything from the presence of the Irish in the Indian civil service to links between nationalist groups to literary and intellectual connections.

The Irish played an outsized role as soldiers and civil servants in India, serving the British Empire in the army, as doctors, engineers, lawyers, and administrators.  The Catholic and Presbyterian churches also sent missionaries from Ireland to India.  The Anglo-Irish in particular acted as part of the British elite in India, contributing to the ranks of viceroys and governors general – including Lord Canning, Lord Mayo, Lord Dufferin, and Lord Lansdowne.  Lord Macartney was the Governor of Madras; the Lawrence brothers were known for their prominent roles in the Punjab; Lord Cornwallis, Sir Charles Trevelyan, and Sir Antony MacDonnell each served in both Ireland and India.

India and Ireland engaged with each other through their respective nationalist movements, with Ireland acting as a successful example.  Daniel O’Connell helped to form the British India Society in 1839; Home Rule MP Frank Hugh O’Donnell promoted the cause of India; links were forged between Éamon de Valera, Sean T. O’Kelly, and Frank Aiken on the Irish side with Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Vithalbhai Patel from India.  The desire for cooperation amongst nationalists led to the formation of the Indian-Irish Independence League in 1932.

India and Ireland are linked through literary history (such as the work of Kipling, Yeats, and MacNeice), political activism on nationalism and suffrage (as evidenced by James and Margaret Cousins, and Margaret Noble), and anti-imperial activity.  Comparative history has also been a fruitful realm of research – everything from examining the British role in both countries, law and governance, the role of the press, political movements, communism, gender roles, mythmaking, and construction of national identity.

I’ve listed below some of the sources for this productive area of study – it is by no means exhaustive but definitely gives you an idea of all of the great scholarly work on Ireland and India.

  • Sikata Banerjee, Muscular Nationalism: Gender, Violence, and Empire in India and Ireland, 1914-2004 (New York: New York University Press, 2012).
  • Purnima Bose, Organizing Empire: Individualism, Collective Agency, and India (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).
  • B. Cook, Imperial Affinities: Nineteenth Century Analogies and Exchanges between India and Ireland (New Delhi: Sage, 1993).
  • Ganesh Devi, “India and Ireland: Literary Relations,” in The Internationalism of Irish Literature and Drama, ed. Joseph McMinn (Savage, MD: Barnes & Noble, 1992).
  • Tadhg Foley and Maureen O’Connor, eds., Ireland and India: Colonies, Culture and Empire (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2006).
  • G. Fraser, “Ireland and India,” in ‘An Irish Empire’? Aspects of Ireland and the British Empire, ed. Keith Jeffery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996).
  • Denis Holmes and Michael Holmes, eds., Ireland and India: Connections, Comparisons, Contrasts (Dublin: Folens, 1997).
  • Glenn Hooper and Colin Graham, eds. Irish and Postcolonial Writing: History, Theory, Practice (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).
  • Joseph Lennon, Irish Orientalism: A Literary and Intellectual History (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004).
  • Mansoor, The Story of Irish Orientalism (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, 1944).
  • Kaori Nagai, Empire of Analogies: Kipling, India and Ireland (Cork: Cork University Press, 2006).
  • Kate O’Malley, Ireland, India and Empire: Indo-Irish Radical Connections, 1919-1964 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008).
  • Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre, Cosmopolitan Nationalism in the Victorian Empire: Ireland, India and the Politics of Alfred Webb (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).
  • Michael Silvestri, Ireland and India: Nationalism, Empire and Memory (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).
  • Julia M. Wright, Ireland, India, and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Maud Gonne and World War I

“My dear Willie, You seem to have escaped the obsession of this war – I cannot; night & day I think about it uselessly.  I cannot work, I cannot read, I cannot sleep.  I am torn in two, my love of France on one side, my love of Ireland on the other.”

Maud Gonne, Irish nationalist, women’s rights activist, actress, and eternal muse to William Butler Yeats, wrote these words to Yeats on 26 August 1914, about a month after the outbreak of the Great War in Europe.

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Maud Gonne ca. 1900 – photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Gonne, born in England and educated in France, came to Ireland in 1882 and emerged in 1888 as the first woman to be publicly associated with the Irish nationalist movement since the demise of the Ladies’ Land League.  Her parents were unionists, but she was determined to devote her life to working for Ireland and Irish nationalism.

She was in Arrens, in the Pyrenees, with her twenty-year-old daughter Iseult, ten-year-old son Seán, and a houseguest, Helena Moloney (also an Irish nationalist/actress), when she wrote to Yeats in August 1914.  In her wartime letters to Yeats and John Quinn (an American supporter of Irish nationalism and cultural revival), Gonne revealed the internal turmoil she went through while in France, dealing with violence and destruction, and attempting to follow along with the momentous turn of events in Ireland.

In her 26 August letter to Yeats, she condemned the decision made by Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond to pledge support for the war effort, leading the majority of Irish Volunteers to back Britain.  She worried for the future of Ireland, wondering if the opportunity for the implementation of Home Rule had been squandered.  She wrote to Quinn in July 1915, “In Ireland things seem to be going very badly.  The English-made Ulster revolt is quite triumphant in the Coalition Government, and Home Rule is again far away.  Once again Ireland has been deceived and cheated.”  It was difficult to receive newspapers and letters from Ireland in wartime, and as she noted to Yeats, “Want of Irish news makes me very restless.”

Meanwhile, she pondered the war itself, unable to understand its purpose.  “This war is an inconceivable madness which has taken hold of Europe,” she wrote to Yeats.  “It is unlike any other war that has ever been.  It has no great idea behind it.”

Though she feared that European civilization might be swept away by the war, she volunteered with the Red Cross as a nurse, along with Iseult and Helena.  She went first to nearby Argelès-Gazost, then after three months traveled to Paris.  Helena returned to Ireland while Gonne continued nursing duties at Paris-Plage.  She and Iseult gained the rank of lieutenant from the French, which enabled them to travel with the army so that they could nurse where they were most needed.

She wrote to Yeats in November 1914, “I am nursing the wounded from 6 in the morning till 8 at night & trying in material work to drown the sorrow & disappointment of it all – & in my heart growing up a wild hatred of the war machine which is grinding the life out of these great natures & reducing their population to helpless slavery & ruin.”  She felt that nursing soldiers to go back again to the front was useless.  “I have no military enthusiasm & can see nothing but misery in this present war – a wind of folly & fatality is driving Germany & France to their ruin,” she wrote in December 1914.

She felt keenly the destruction of the landscape in France, as well as expressing a sense of hopelessness and futility at the loss of life.  Poignantly, she wrote to Yeats in January 1915, “When you hate the war even ambulance work is rather encouraging it, & yet & yet, one cannot remain with hands folded before suffering –”

The war experience left her with hatred for the waste of war itself and for violence.  She declared that all she wanted to do was work for peace, but didn’t know how to go about doing it.

And then, while on holiday with her family in Normandy over Easter in 1916, she received news of the outbreak of the Easter Rising in Dublin.  She wrote to Yeats, “I am ill with sorrow – so many of my best & noblest friends gone – I envy them for this world does not seem a place to live in when such crimes can go unpunished.  The shelling & destruction of an open town like Dublin seem to me one of the greatest crimes of this awful war – It has disgusted every French person I have spoken to, though with the alliance the French press cannot voice this disgust.”

As well as being heartbroken by the loss of life in the Rising (including complicated emotions over the execution of her estranged husband, John MacBride), Gonne blamed the British for the destruction of the landscape itself, the destruction in Dublin.  To Quinn, she described the Irish participants in the rising as completely justified through the betrayal by the British, appalling taxation, looming famine, the government gifting a place of power to Irish unionists, and other provocations.

She was soon determined to get back to Ireland, but was prevented by the British government after she made it over to England in October 1917.  She snuck back into Ireland in 1918.  Gonne’s attitudes toward World War I, her love of France, and her care for soldiers while despising the war itself, all the while supporting Irish nationalist efforts, show how intertwined these transnational events were, and emphasize once again that there is no straightforward way to generalize about Irish nationalist experiences of World War I.

Suggested Reading/Listening:

RTE History Show 10 January 2016 – guest Margaret Ward.

Londraville, Janis, and Richard Londraville, eds.  Too Long a Sacrifice: The Letters of Maud Gonne and John Quinn.  Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1999.

Ward, Margaret.  Maud Gonne: Ireland’s Joan of Arc.  London: Pandora, 1990.

Ward, Margaret, ed.  In Their Own Voice: Women and Irish Nationalism.  Cork: Attic, 1995.

White, Anna MacBride, and A. Norman Jeffares, eds.  The Gonne-Yeats Letters 1893-1938.  New York: W.W. Norton, 1992.

Ulster Sails West

“Many Americans are misled by [Irish] Republican propaganda.  We ask them to remember to whom it is that they largely owe their freedom; we ask them to remember that it was our people in Ulster who were the first to start and the last to quit.”

William Forbes Marshall, also known as the Bard of Tyrone, wrote these words in 1943 in his Ulster Sails West.  Marshall, born in Drumragh, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, in 1888, was a Presbyterian minister who had served at Castlerock since 1928.  At Castlerock, where he lived for the rest of his life, he gained fame for his poetry and promotion of the Ulster dialect.

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W.F. Marshall – photo credit: Dictionary of Ulster Biography

Marshall’s stated purpose in writing Ulster Sails West is to tell the story of the emigration from Ulster to North America in the eighteenth century, revealing the extent to which Ulster immigrants had shaped United States government and society.  This task was made all the more urgent, he explains, “now that the American flag so often decorates our Ulster countryside, and we have ceased to stare at American soldiers walking in our streets.”  Northern Ireland was used as a staging area for Allied troops during World War II, with a peak of 120,000 American servicemen stationed there at one time.  An estimated 300,000 American servicemen passed through Northern Ireland throughout the course of the war.

Marshall writes that “few of these welcomed friends have heard our story.”  He accuses Irish Republicans of using the history of the Scotch-Irish to support the end to partition in Ireland; Ireland’s neutrality in World War II also shapes Marshall’s message.  He wishes to educate Americans so that “when appeals are made to them, with reminders of services said to have been rendered, let them remember that these reminders rest on no basis of fact, that Southern Ireland was no more in [the American Revolutionary] war than she is in this one, and that she made no mark on the United States till the 19th century.”

Beyond this direct response to his World War II context, Marshall’s characterization of Ulster Protestant immigrant impact on American history is very similar to what I have found for Ulster unionists in the Home Rule era (1886-1920).  Marshall himself uses several works from the Home Rule era as sources.  He emphasizes the martial excellence of the immigrants, which he must intend to especially appeal to the American soldiers stationed in Northern Ireland.  He quotes tributes to Scotch-Irish fighting abilities in the American Revolution from the likes of George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt.  He recognizes numerous Scotch-Irish generals from all of the major conflicts of American history.

Marshall also highlights the Scotch-Irish contribution to American religion, education, politics, journalism, industry, and inventions.  He credits them with leading the way to the west as pioneers.  And of course, he has the familiar long list of United States presidents of Ulster descent, which numbered fourteen at the time.

All throughout the book he denies the right of Irish Republicans (as he characterizes the situation) to use this history and achievement as their own.  With the repeated emphasis on this history as solely belonging to the Ulster Protestants, he reveals how strongly he felt the threat of the history being “stolen.”  He states, “We are not willing to lose the credit for those achievements of our people.  We are not willing that this credit should be stolen from those to whom it belongs, and made part and parcel of a tireless propaganda for our political extinction.”

As with the Ulster unionist use of American history in the Home Rule era, there is some question of what Marshall hoped to achieve with this call for the “rightful” use of history.  He states at the end of the book that he hopes the American people would be guided in their views of Ireland by knowledge and thoughtful consideration of the facts.

And perhaps also guided by the sentiments of the noteworthy poem that opens the book:

Hi! Uncle Sam!  /  Wherever there was fighting,  /  Or wrong that needed righting,  /  An Ulsterman was sighting /  His Kentucky gun with care:  /  All the road to Yorktown  […]  /  That Ulsterman was there!

On Friday I’ll be taking a look at some related things to consider when examining at this source and others like it, so stay tuned!

 

Suggested Reading:

Marshall, William F.  Ulster Sails West.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1984.

“GI Guide to Ulster (Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland).” Your Place or Mine, BBC Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland and World War II.”  Irish History Live, Queen’s University Belfast.