Writing Emmet’s Epitaph: Rebels Versus Politicians in the Boston Globe’s



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“Writing Emmet’s Epitaph: Rebels Versus Politicians in the Boston Globe’s Representation of the Easter Rising”

James E. Jordan

“I have but one request to ask at my departure from this world. It is the charity of its silence. Let no man write my epitaph; for as no man who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or ignorance asperse them. Let them rest in obscurity and peace, my memory be left in oblivion and my tomb remain uninscribed, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then and not till then, let my epitaph be written.”

–Robert Emmet, 1803
On Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, a force of Irishmen under arms estimated at between 1,000 and 1,500 men and women attempted to capture Dublin. Their ultimate intention was to violently bring about “Home Rule” in Ireland by seizing the opportunity presenting itself owing to Britain’s protracted involvement in the Great War. The “rebels” took over key buildings, centered on the General Post Office in O’Connell Street—the place where Padraig Pearse issued his proclamation on behalf of the Irish Republic. The leaders of the rebellion, Pearse, James Connolly, and the others, knew that their chances of success were so slight as to be almost non-existent; yet, for almost a week, they fought and died, attempting to hold back the combined might of the British and Irish forces sent against them. On the direct orders of the cabinet in London, the punishment dealt to the rebels was swift, secret, and shocking: the leaders were tried by a military court and executed. Only after death were their sentences announced to the public. It was this callous response by the British that served to create a sympathetic environment in which radical Irish Nationalists, such as Michael Collins, would later prosecute a successful terrorist war and realize a(n) (almost) free Ireland. Three thousand miles away in America, the British reaction found the Boston Globe, historically a conservative, constitutionalist daily newspaper, caught between the two seemingly opposed, yet inextricably intertwined, traditions of Irishmen as rebels and as politicians. The Globe’s coverage essentially evolved through three discernable stages. First, the newspaper expressed initial support for Britain and Redmondite—constitutional—politics and thus denounced the rebels as traitors. Second, following the secret executions, the Globe started to withdraw from its previous position; however, it did not openly support the revolutionaries either. Finally, the Globe markedly changed the ways in which it described Pearse and co., but also in its treatment of Britain and her policies. Ultimately, it was these ill-conceived British policies that served to galvanize Boston public opinion in favor of the men who had made the ultimate “blood sacrifice,” an opinion that had previously been portrayed on the Globe’s pages as decidedly anti-rebel. It was the British government’s cold-hearted suppression of the Rising, therefore, that brought to life the “rebels” of popular imagination for the Boston-Irish, and in doing so paved the way for the Boston Globe to write Emmet’s epitaph.1

The Globe’s first report of trouble in Ireland was on Wednesday 26th of April, but it was downplayed, as per the British government’s official line, as a relatively small and insignificant “German” affair. The language the Globe employed went cheek-in-jowl with the British government’s position, referring to the affair as a “revolt,” and the participants, “rioters,” “disturbers,” and as a “mob.”2 Notably, the Globe identified the men actively opposing the riots as “loyalists” and “nationalists,” terms clearly demonstrating the newspaper’s opening position on the “Easter Rebellion.” The later edition has a more accurate report of the day’s occurrences in Dublin, with two of the front-page headlines stating “Martial Law” and “11 Insurgents Killed.”3 In addition to referring to Sir Roger Casement as leader of the “Separatist Faction,” the evening Globe voices the public’s condemnation, calling him a “renegade” and a man whose actions have made him “intensely hated.”4 Overall, the rebellion was still portrayed by the Globe as a relatively small affair, a view that would change, however, by the following evening.

The next evening’s edition ran the headline, “ALL OF IRELAND IN UPROAR,” a far cry from the previous day’s rendering of the rebellion. In response to this escalation of events, the Globe quoted the two most important Irish politicians (at the time), Sir Edward Carson and John Redmond, both of whom were avowed parliamentary enemies, but both of whom expressed their “abhorrence of the uprising and their desire to support the government” in the Commons.5 The newspaper detailed the “official” British line in full, publishing Lord Lansdowne’s comments on the rebellion, some of which included him stating that the “rebels made a half-hearted attack on Dublin Castle” and that now the “situation was undoubtedly well in hand.”6 Furthermore, the Globe continued to discredit Casement, running the headline, “SUPPORT THEORY SIR ROGER CASEMENT IS INSANE”–the implications of which are self-evident.7 The Globe followed up this derogatory headline by printing a story that implied Sir Roger was acting according alone, unsupervised and out of control.8

Amassing various points of view of the rebellion, the Globe found broad support throughout the world for the denunciation of the rebels. There was even a special dispatch from the Vatican illustrating the legitimacy of such denunciations in which His Holiness the Pope was set to “discipline Irish clergy found to be rebels.”9 Again, the Globe reported that Redmond and Carson support the British in quashing the rebellion, having “expressed their detestation of the rising.”10 In addition to denunciation from within the United Kingdom and the highest office in the Roman Catholic Church, the Globe also found disapproval of Pearse and co., from the far-flung corners of the British Empire. The newspaper printed that Redmond had received a cablegram from, among others places, Adelaide, Australia “repudiating the action of the rebellious elements in Dublin and expressing scorn at what they have done ‘while brave Irish soldiers are dying at the front that their country might prosper.’”11

Particularly unsympathetic to the rebels, Saturday morning’s Globe led with the headline, “DUBLIN REBELS BEATEN WITH HEAVY LOSSES,” the report direct from one of its own eye-witness correspondents.12 Continuing with anti-rebel rhetoric, just a couple of inches down the headline reads, “TRAITORS TO IRELAND REDMOND DECLARES.”13 Referring to the Home-Rule Bill that had been temporarily postponed from being put into action owing to the outbreak of hostilities on the Continent, Redmond begged the question, “Is there a sane man in Ireland who does not see this meant the drowning of Ireland’s newly-won liberties in Irish blood?”14 Redmond further claimed the rebels’ view to be that of the minority, consisting of traitors who had tried to make Ireland a cat’s paw of Germany. Portraying the rebels as backstabbers, Redmond also referred to the revolt as an “insane and unpatriotic movement” while criticizing the leaders for remaining “in the safe remoteness of American cities.”15 This edition has a lot of “factual” and eyewitness reports about the rising; for example, the Globe identified most of its leaders (including Countess Markiewicz) and lamented the damage done to Dublin’s infrastructure and business. The paper reported the rebels looting the hospital and taking patients and hotel guests prisoner, as well as including an account of someone who castigated the rebels for becoming very “indiscriminate” with their firing, causing “many more civilians to be wounded.”16 The same correspondent who reported that there was around 1500 rebels, confirmed that he had seen the “rebel flag” and estimated the current number of casualties to be around 100.17 Furthering the newspapers’ stance that the rebellion be condemned, the Globe informed its readers the “rioters shot down women and children” in one or two instances, and that the majority of the rebels were disaffected old men and impressionable youths.18

The next morning leading headline, “DUBLIN REBELLION IS NEAR COLLAPSE,” gave Bostonians the impression that things would soon return to normal, especially when it reported in the body text that the situation in the rest of Ireland was “generally satisfactory.”19 Supplementing this sense of finality, Baron Wimbourne, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, cleverly declared that the rebellion was part of a German scheme designed to undermine the war effort. When coupled with his “praise for the loyalty displayed by the great majority of the Irish people,” he presented a persuasive argument that the British were quashing the rebellion on behalf of the Irishmen overseas who were fighting the Germans.20 Although the Wimbourne article primarily provides logistical information, it did include an account of the Sinn Feiners shooting at the fire brigade– sentiments which would hardly endear the rebels to a foreign audience. Furthermore, another report implied that the civilian population of Dublin was suffering most because the situation the rebels had created kept them starving and unable to leave their homes. For those that did venture outside of their houses for food or the like, the article entitled “Children Shot By Sinn Feiners” articulated exactly what could happen to those who came within rebel sights, an charge “fully justified” by the Associated Press correspondent who “saw the whole thing that morning.”21

The newspaper reported that the “elements making for disorder” comprised of no more than 3,000 of the population and that the rebel group consisted “almost entirely of youthful enthusiasts, not even 100 men of mature years involved,” thereby implying the rebellion was by no means representative of the general population of Irishmen.22 In an effort to buttress this position, the Globe yet again ran a story in which Redmond denounced the rebellion as anti-Irish. In fact, this edition demonstrates the considerable support the newspaper afforded John Redmond in the pre-execution period of the Rebellion, stating that “as leader of the Irish Nationalists, [he] has placed himself absolutely at the disposal of the authorities and is in constant touch with them.”23 In addition to backing him themselves, the Globe printed evidence of other Redmondite support in America, one of the most significant being when the “National Officials of United Irish League Declare[d] [Redmond] Voiced Sentiments of Vast Majority of Irishmen” regarding the recent events in Ireland.24 Although Redmond’s support was portrayed as firm in the United States, according to what the Globe published, it was stronger across the water in Ireland. The newspaper continued, “in many places besides Dublin, the Nationalist voters already have on their own initiative [as opposed to Redmond’s mere appeal for this] mobilized in support of the troops.”25 The Globe, therefore, presented an image of Redmond and the British government in which the former represented the Irish people while the latter fought on behalf of their best interests. There was little or no dissension in Ireland among the inhabitants vis-à-vis the British according to reports, with one correspondent even stating, “on every hand one hears eager queries for news and strong condemnation of the revolutionaries.”26 A word of warning is printed about martyrdom along with an admonition that executing Sir Roger Casement would be bad for the “Irish Cause” because his hanging “would confuse the minds of many people who do not know the story of Irish politics and Home Rule.”27

Monday’s edition pronounced the end of the revolt, declaring that the “rebel flag was up in flames” and that the “[British] soldiers [had] Stop[ped] Looting.”28 Details concerning the surrender were also printed, with the Globe estimating that there were “about 450 of them” who had capitulated.29 The rebellion was over, and so now the Globe attempted to assess the extent of the damage caused by the belligerents. Therefore, one of its front-page headlines was “Redmond Reassures America Uprising Has Not Harmed Home Rule Cause,” as if to try and calm Bostonians down in their wrath against the rebels who might have undone many generations’ constitutional work towards a free Ireland.30 German aid was again cited as the impetus for the affair rather than any particular nationalistic volition on the part of the Irish. Wimbourne was quoted as saying “that in fact their [Sinn Fein] motto, ‘ourselves alone,’ accurately reflected their relations to the rest of their fellow countrymen.”31 Compounding Wimbourne’s sentiments were the strong words of John Redmond who, in a message written intended especially for American eyes, claimed, “the whole disgraceful plot is viewed with execration by the Irish people” and that “it was almost entirely a Dublin movement; partly the creation of the Sinn Feiner cranks and German agents there….”32 Furthermore, he believed he had the support of Irishmen all over the world. To demonstrate the rebellion’s fruitless conclusion, the Globe printed Redmond as saying “I beg our people in America not to be unduly disturbed by this futile and miserable attempt to destroy Ireland. It has failed definitely, finally failed.”33 Perhaps because the situation had calmed down significantly, the newspaper now printed a copy of the Proclamation of Independence read out by Patrick Pearse on the steps of the GPO. In addition, the Globe also published an (rare) article of its own, surmising on the rebellion that “the opinion prevails on every hand that the attempt at the formation of a Republic has been abortive. The rebels have been unable to show any success after their first surprise.”34

On Tuesday the 2nd of May, the Globe was still fully in support of John Redmond and the conservative elements in Irish politics, reassuring its readers that the situation in Ireland was returning to a state of normality. The front-page headline, “ENGLAND SHIPS DUBLIN REBELS: All in City Surrender and 489 Sent to Britain,” presented Bostonians with the knowledge that the rebellion had definitely ended.35 Brief biographies of some of the leaders and a fairly balanced day-by-day account of the recent events in Ireland were also included. To demonstrate its attempt at objectivity, the Globe incorporated a report stating that “most of the population, expressed indignation at the outbreak, which they considered the work of fanatics, and as never having had a permanent chance of success.”36 By arguing that the inhabitants were the chief sufferers of the rebellion, the newspaper made a case in which those same people could be mad at the rebels. These sentiments were realized in a subsequent paragraph that read,

The Dublin soldiers and the Irish regiments, who bore the brunt of the first day’s outbreak, expressed great indignation over the uprising. Some expressed regret that the English regiments had been brought over to suppress the disturbances, as they thought the English soldiers were inclined to treat the rebels too leniently.37


Local support for John Redmond was also printed in an article describing the events at a recent meeting of the Boston Central Branch of the U.I.L. which, after a two hour deliberation, sent the following cablegram: “No doubting Irish sentiment in Boston. Ardently supports you and the party.”38 With things returning to normal in Ireland and no real change in opinion in Boston reported by the Globe, the rebellion looked situated to be forgotten. Nevertheless, the winds of change were blowing and word of the rebellion would not be long out of the news.

After a brief morning lull in the Globe’s interest in Dublin affairs, the evening edition reported the first news of “FOUR IRISH REBELS SHOT” and “SECRETARY BIRRELL RESIGNS,” thus breathing new life into this previously moribund subject.39 Now that the newspaper had been forced to make value judgments as to the righteousness of these executions, it started to waver somewhat in its anti-rebellion stance. A change of emphasis is belied in the morning edition’s headline of “FOUR DUBLIN LEADERS SHOT.”40 Instead of being rebels, Pearse et al. were now being considered leaders, implying that they were representative of a people and not, of what noted historian R. F. Foster called, “a minority of a minority.”41 Fairly sympathetic biographies are provided of Pearse, Connolly, Clarke, and MacDonagh, while a report that the executions “created a profound feeling” in the Commons when announced was also included.42

“EXECUTIONS DENOUNCED” led another article on the same day from New York, in which Robert Ford decried the shooting of Pearse would “make the war between England and Ireland more bitter.”43 He also lamented that Pearse should have been treated as a prisoner of war: “To shoot him down was a piece of base brutality and will no doubt cause reprisals by the people of Ireland.”44 Expanding upon this theme, Jeremiah A. O’Leary, director of the United Irish Societies, defiantly declared, “The world will remember Ireland because the blood of these men and the sacrifices of their gallant associates will cry out.”45 Perhaps responding to the changing (or hardening) attitudes, the Globe also reported how John F. Kelly, chairman of the Massachusetts Committee, F.O.I.F., replied a resolute “no” to a letter asking for funds for the relief of the Allies, adding his comments, “[of England] night and day I pray for her downfall.”46 Nevertheless, by the evening edition, the newspaper continued in its transitional phase with appropriate ambiguity when it appeared to have returned to its previous position regarding the Irish belligerents, again referring to those who had been shot as rebels and stating that, “justice has been swift in the case of the leaders of the Sinn Fein rebellion.”47 The Globe also corrected itself from the morning edition when it had reported that Connolly had been shot – he was still alive, in prison, wounded.48 Perhaps typical Globe reporting, one article read,

The general public was not aware of the execution of the ringleaders until late last evening, and it was not possible to observe the effect of their punishment upon the citizens of Dublin, who, however, for the vastly greater part were not in sympathy with the rebellion.49


Openly advocating the British administration’s policies, the Globe once again referred to the Irish belligerents, who were shot on Friday the 5th of May, as “rebels” and quoted the Bishop of Dublin’s support for the Crown’s policies there. Shortly after things had been reported to be calming down, Plunkett, Daly, O’Hanrahan, and Willie Pearse were the “FOUR IRISH REBELS SHOT.”50 Furthermore, it became known that Irish Secretary, Augustine Birrell resigned the previous day; the combination of situations presented a somewhat archaic picture of events in Ireland, and, in many ways, the confused position of the Globe. In an attempt to downplay the latest executions, the Globe notified Bostonians that fifteen others were condemned to death but later had their sentences commuted to 10 years penal servitude. Additionally, however, the Bishop of Dublin, supporting the policy of executions, announced,

Many armed rebels are still at large in Dublin, and the danger of another uprising can only be averted by the strictest of measures. This is not the time for amnesties or pardons. It is a time for swift, stern punishment.51


The apparent calming down of recent events in Ireland meant that the Globe’s coverage on the 6th of May was limited to a short piece on the execution of Major John McBride; what is noteworthy, however, is that from this date forward, the paper is consistent when referring to the men and women it formerly castigated as “rebels.” McBride’s execution was reported as his being the “EIGHTH SINN FEIN LEADER SHOT.”52 The pendulum had swung, and the Irish belligerents were “leaders” once more. After taking Sunday off Irish affairs, the Globe’s commentary reappeared on Monday to return the Easter rebellion to its front pages making clear its paradigmatic shift in perspective.

On Monday the 8th of May, Bostonians picked up their morning edition of the Globe and were greeted with the very partisan front-page headline “PRAISE IRISH, SCORE ENGLAND,” a banner exemplifying the paper’s recent change of heart concerning the late unpleasantness in Ireland.53 Again, the Irish belligerents are called “leaders” on the front page; the newspaper also recorded that the death sentences of a number of the leaders had been commuted to jail terms. John Redmond’s name was reported “drowned out with hisses” at a local Roxbury meeting of the F.O.I.F., an attitude that was becoming increasingly popular as a result of the growing number of well-attended F.O.I.F. meetings held across the country.54 Quoting J. Rohan, the Globe reported from the meeting that “the resolutions style this insurrection the greatest boon that could be achieved for the Irish race, and point to the executions as deeds which the whole Irish race will resent for all time and for which retribution must be exacted.”55 In addition, the Globe printed extensive details of a “Meeting of 4000 at Springfield: Auditorium Crowded at Mass Meeting to Protest Against Executions of Leaders of Irish Uprising.”56

“FOUR MORE IRISH LEADERS SHOT” appeared on the front page of the Tuesday morning Globe, accompanied by John Redmond’s request to the British government that an end be put to the executions.57 Essentially, all that was new in Tuesday’s editions was that James Mark Sullivan had been reportedly released and John MacNeil, the “President of the Sinn Fein Volunteers,” had been arrested for his involvement in the recent events in Ireland.58 In a very small piece on the front page of Wednesday evening’s Globe also appeared a report that Baron Wimbourne, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, had resigned, but little else on the latest occurrences of interest in Dublin was mentioned.

When on the morning of Thursday the 11th of May the Boston Globe reported the shooting of F. Sheehy Skeffington as a “blunder,” the paper continued its anti-British pro-“rebel” commentary, even to the point of referring to two more men executed as having been “slain.”59 The account of the three men being, in essence, murdered, one of whom was a pacifist, and two of whom were journalists, added to the increasing Bostonian sentiment that the British were acting capriciously in Ireland, thereby contributing to the mounting feelings of sympathy for the rebels. Redmond’s party recognized this sympathy and so issued statements, some of which the Globe published, calling “for martial law to be revoked, otherwise the public would start to turn against England and towards the rebels.”60 In Boston, it looked as though the public already had.61 The Globe also printed George Bernard Shaw’s defiant comments that declared the executed men to be sacrificial victims who would take “their places beside Emmet and the Manchester Martyrs in Ireland and beside the heroes of Poland, Serbia, and Belgium in Europe” which “nothing in heaven and earth [could] prevent.” 62 By continuing to report the Rising in such a way, the Globe appeared to be proving true Shaw’s prophesy, and, in essence, writing Emmet’s epitaph.

The evening edition related the urgency to which events in Ireland called for by leading with the headline, “ASQUITH IS GOING TO DUBLIN,” and, notably, the article referred to those executed in the uprising as “persons.”63 “FOURTEEN PERSONS EXECUTED IN IRELAND” appeared on the front page, a distinct difference from the Globe’s pre-execution assignation of the belligerents purely as “rebels.” Now, the newspaper was portraying these men as human and, by not referring to them as rebels, again highlighting its own change in stance. This shift in perspective by the Globe is also discernable by the language it used to describe the 73 “persons” who received sentences of penal servitude. Not only were the executed no longer rebels, but also those who participated in the rebellion benefited from the perspective change. Another manifestation of the change in attitude was the newspaper’s open advertisement of a F.O.I.F. meeting: “The provisional committee of the F.O.I.F. of Massachusetts has called upon ‘the men and women of Irish blood and all lovers of human liberty in Massachusetts’ to assemble in Tremont Temple Monday at 8pm to protest against the recent execution of revolutionists in Ireland. There will be speeches.”64

Following the executions of James Connolly and Sean McDermott, Saturday’s Globe printed its belief that these “signers of [the] Proclamation” would be the “last to suffer,” thus hinting that the bloody affair might finally be laid to rest.65 The term “leader” was by this time the word consistently used by the newspaper to describe those Irish belligerents who had been executed by the British Army.66

On Monday the 15th of May, the Boston Globe filled the second page of its morning edition with a multitude of articles denouncing the British and the handling of recent events in Ireland along with demands for a “FREE IRELAND.”67 Now the newspaper not only freely printed condemnations of the British but also started to publish “radical” groups’ rhetoric calling for an Ireland free from the yoke of Great Britain. Even previously moderate—that is, constitutionalist—groups were reported to be extremely anti-British. For example, the Globe printed that the

County Wexford Club adopted resolutions last evening denouncing the conduct of the English government in their punishment of Irishmen who took an active part in the recent Irish revolt in Dublin, at their meeting in Hibernian Hall, Charlestown, following a stirring address by Dr. H. V. McLaughlin of Brookline.68


In addition, the President of the Central Branch of the United Irish League “denounce[d] the conduct of the English government in their murdering of Irish patriots” and castigated them for their “satanic brutality.”69 Someone else went so far as to call for England’s ruin, declaring “no Irishman with red blood in his veins will rest content until England has been destroyed.”70 Speaking of Easter 1916 in the same vein as the American War of Independence in 1776, Matthew Cumming said that he had “vengeance across his flag.”71

The 15th and 16th of May were days of high publishing activity for Boston’s most popular newspaper, although the emphasis now shifted from events in Ireland to the local reactions. The front page of the Globe’s morning edition on Tuesday the 16th of May was dedicated to the mass meeting held the previous night, during which denunciations of the British had been commonplace. The meeting of over 9,000 people (which included a spillover meeting on the common at Parkman Bandstand) was hailed by the Globe as “one of the biggest mass meetings Tremont Temple ever saw” and featured speeches from the city’s leading men.72 The extremely radical resolutions from the meeting that was held under the auspices of the F.O.I.F. demanded “America Break With England,” and the Globe acquiesced, printing them in full.73 The executions seemed to serve as the vehicle for increased radical Irish Nationalism, an attitude manifested by one of the speakers, Joseph Smith of Lowell, who “scored the English and Redmondite press” and declared, “We are here to honor the memory of our martyred dead, not to mourn them.”74 Furthermore, the Globe reported that when Smith asked the crowd if they endorsed the Tremont Resolutions, the multitude “showed its emphatic approval of them with whoops which continued a full minute.”75 In the midst of this sea of British denunciation, the Globe did publish an account of the U.I.L.’s “SUPPORT FOR REDMOND,” an article that seemed to swim against the current of popular Boston opinion.76 Included in the piece was a statement maintaining “all the members expressed the fullest confidence in the leadership of John E. Redmond and the members of the Nationalist party and they felt that Irish representative will be able to handle the delicate situation in a way to win the praise of Irishmen everywhere.”77 Much interest in Casement’s trial and Asquith’s continued presence in Dublin was also expressed.

From the 17th to the 26th of May, the Globe primarily concerned itself with the trial and character of Sir Roger Casement while also detailing the fate of Jeremiah C. Lynch, an American citizen involved in the Rebellion. Although Lynch had originally been sentenced to death, his sentence was later commuted to 10 years in prison in response to an outcry by the American press (and official diplomatic intervention by the Wilson administration). Another Globe article of note from this period concerned an opinion on the state of affairs regarding the rebellion from England. In a letter written from Dublin where he had been investigating conditions, Henry W. Massingham, editor of The Nation, asserted, “the Sinn Fein Revolt finally earned the sympathy of the Irish people, who in the hour of it start fiercely condemned it, because of the executions and errors of the military administration.”78 The Globe appeared to be using Massingham’s analysis as its own, a style which had come to characterize this newspapers’ approach to reporting Easter Rebellion news.

The front pages of the Boston Globe from August 2nd through 4th portrayed Sir Roger Casement’s execution sympathetically, with the newspaper including a number of partisan statements from people utterly opposed to such a “blunder.” The Globe presented a variety of opinions on the subject, including sources from England and U.S. Senators. On the 3rd of August, it printed a front-page statement by Lord Cecil on the legality of the execution, although notably, in the later edition, there is an article written by Michael Francis of Philadelphia who declared that statement a fake.79 On the same day, an editorial from the Daily News (England) was published, the author of which testified,

We cannot but reaffirm our conviction that resolving that the death penalty must be exacted, the government has exhibited grave unwisdom. From a commutation of Casement’s sentence no evil results could follow. To pretend that further exaction is necessary as an example or warning is to give the disaffected section in Ireland another martyr to embitter feeling throughout the island, to alienate many persons, and to enable Germany to play off the death of Casement—the parallel in reality is grotesque, but is not near enough for her purpose against the death of Capt. Fryatt.80
The editor continued, “No one can contend that the execution of Casement is a crime; but that it is a lamentable blunder can hardly be contested.”81 With such vehement denunciations of Casement’s plight, the change in the Globe’s coverage from support of the politicians to rebels now seemed to be complete.

Striving to transcend the factionalized reactions concerning the Easter Rebellion, the Boston Globe, perhaps unwittingly, placed itself above the two seemingly opposed, yet inextricably intertwined, traditions of Irishmen as rebels and as politicians. In an essay entitled, “The Political Irish: Politicians and Rebels,” Thomas N. Brown contends that politicians and rebels “are in fact two political Irish traditions that animate the contemporary American imagination.”82 He continues, “the two images are at odds with one another,” stating that while the politician has “the ability to accommodate differences, to find when in office suitable compromises in moral and other dilemmas,” the rebel “is of a different order.”83 “The rebel,” in Brown’s words,

Rejects compromise and pursues principles, even unto death. The moral distance between the rebel and the politician is immense: The rebel seeks justice, the politician is content with order. The rebel finds his place in the streets and the hills, the politician in the ancient houses of power. The rebel looks to the future; the politician sits complacently in the present…The rebel resides in Ireland; the politician in America.84
William V. Shannon further illustrated this concept when he posited that the Irish immigrants to America brought with them an awareness of the uses of politics. Most of them came from rural, western Ireland where local government was in the hands of an Anglo-Irish landlord class backed by the British army and the police. The political history of nineteenth century Ireland was essentially a struggle to break that monopoly. During the long struggle, the ordinary Irish people had shown formidable talents for political conspiracy and political agitation. Retaining the characteristics that enabled them to extract concessions in Ireland, the Irish arrived in the United States a community-oriented and politicized people. As a result, their political culture put a high value on loyalty and on strong leadership.85 However, violence was endemic in much of rural Ireland where tenant farmers and landless laborers struggled to overthrow the landlord system, and nationalist groups like the Fenians conspired to bring Ireland its freedom by the use of force. “Rebels” were, therefore, admired by many and romanticized by a vast majority of Irish men and women. Shannon notes, “the Irishman as rebel is a tradition counterposed to that of the Irishman as politician.”86 Since the Irish so quickly found their way into political power in the open American system, they had relatively little recourse on this side of the Atlantic to violence or to the moral absolution of the rebel, but his romantic appeal lingered in the popular imagination. Perhaps this contradictory respect and admiration for both politicians and rebels was the reason for the Globe’s portrayal of a mixed reception to the Easter Rebellion amongst Bostonians. As Brown proposes, however, throughout history “Irish rebels are [seen as] heroes”; therefore, while the Globe’s receptiveness to Boston’s Irish population and its eventual support for the Easter Rebels might not necessarily be considered inevitable, it may be considered as somewhat understandable. 87

Initially, the Globe may have appeared so vehemently anti-rebellion in the pre-execution period because of the politics of its Irish Society editor, James T. Sullivan, an active Redmondite. Sullivan dominated the John Redmond Branch of the U.I.L., a branch that held its meetings at the Globe building, and a group to which he always gave extensive coverage. Strengthening the case for a relative lack of Redmondite activity even with a Redmondite in control, the Globe included few reports of conservative gatherings in its coverage of Irish affairs.88 Considering that the first mass meeting in protest to the executions was held at Hibernian Hall on May 7th under the auspices of the Clan-na-Gael and was not accounted for by the city’s most popular newspaper, a Redmondite agenda might have been thought to be behind this non-report.89 John Devoy’s Gaelic American did print an account of the event, however, reporting that “the hall was crowded to the utmost capacity, and a large number of people were turned away” even going so far as to assert, “Boston never witnessed a more enthusiastic or unanimous meeting.”90 Perhaps the Gaelic American exaggerated, perhaps not. Either way, the Globe ignored a meeting whose crowd was estimated at between 1500-2000 people; the reasons for its omission could be assumed to be political. On May 16th, the day after the mass meeting held at Tremont Temple, delegates representing 30 of the 32 Irish County Clubs passed a resolution condemning the executions and calling on all “liberty-loving Americans” to join in this sentiment against England’s “latest act of tyranny.”91 Two days later, one thousand people attended the annual dance given by the Irish Volunteers to benefit Irish freedom. The hall was decorated with a large “rebel flag” and a commemorative tablet, draped in black, with the names of those executed and the motto “Sacred to the Memory of Ireland’s Murdered Patriots. Never to be forgotten.”92 The Globe reported none of it. Again, although it is possible that the newspaper was unaware of these events, its ignorance is unlikely.

Although the Globe was not expressly affiliated with the Catholic Church, it is impossible to divorce the latter’s influence from Boston culture and politics; therefore, the newspaper, perceiving the Church’s official position as intrinsically conservative and evenhanded, could have constructed its initial reactions anchored in this Christian doctrine. Theodore Hammet sums up the Church’s official position on the rebellion when he notes,

In a move which said a good deal about the Church, the Pope condemned the rebellion and some two hundred priests signed a telegram to Redmond ‘ deploring the revolt…and expressing their loyalty to the King.’93


According to the teachings of the Church, a revolution must not be started unless it is against a government that practices intolerable oppression. Moreover, all legitimate means of redress should have been tried before any resort to violence. The revolutionary movement should also have widespread popular support and should have a reasonable prospect of success. After applying these criteria to the Easter Rebellion, historian John J. Horgan (writing many years after the Rebellion) was sharply critical of the rising: “This small body of conspirators by putting nationalism before religion…placed themselves outside the pale of the Church.”94 Theodore Hammet offers a different interpretation, however, arguing that the Catholic Church in Boston was far more favorable to the rebels than its counterpart in Ireland. He notes, “Never in the vanguard of the militants, the Church, her priests in Boston, and the diocesan organ nonetheless were deeply affected by the repression and the executions.”95 The differences in opinion regarding the Rebellion that Hammet asserts existed between the Catholic Church in Boston and Ireland might explain in part the ease with which the Globe made the transition from being anti-rebellion to pro-rebellion, especially because the Boston Pilot supported the rebels from the start.

Officially the Catholic organ for the archdiocese of Boston, the Pilot was hostile to the British, while being openly in favor of the Easter rebels. The editor manifested one such example of his enmity towards the Crown when, on the 5th of August, he wrote “let us remember that the British Government will never yield to the Irish claim for justice, because it is justice, unless a knife is at the nation’s throat or a conquering enemy at its door.”96 As the authorized Catholic newspaper/letter for Boston and its surrounding area, one would usually be surprised to find such an organ advancing physical force tactics; perhaps the Pilot illustrated the general belief in Irish-American (Catholic) circles that the British’s execution of the Irish “celebrities” was both shocking and outrageous. Even a “modest opinion” on the Easter events in the paper could yield sentiments stating,

we would say that every son, grandson, and great-grandson of an Irishman…who took up arms for the Allies, had in his heart the stirring hope that directly or indirectly he was doing something for Ireland, and would be, in the last analysis, behind the rebels.97
In addition, Alden Jamison has noted the fact that once the rebellion had started, the Pilot began almost immediately to “utilize the propagandistic Irish Press and News Service, which it had previously spurned.”98 Despite the often highly biased views of the Pilot’s writers and editors, it did raise awareness and perceptively surmise that the “rebellion had already done much to unify Irishmen, wherever they might be, in their determination that the Irish question had to be solved.”99

Thus, the Boston Globe’s representation of the Easter Rising of 1916, among other things, has demonstrated that the newspaper was receptive enough to local pressures to drastically change positions on the Irish belligerents and events. While slightly more conservative—that is, pro-Redmond—than some elements of the American press, it did allow itself to get swept along with the general tide of discontent that crashed across the continent because of the British government’s policy of mass internment and execution of rebels. One of the lessons of Easter Week and the subsequent policies pursued in 1916 by the British are clearly evident: Executions are not taken lightly, they serve to make martyrs of people and can lead to emotions overtaking rationality, especially when those people perceive themselves to be subjugated. General Maxwell, by putting Pearse et al. to death, brought to life the “rebels” (as detailed by Brown) of popular imagination for the Boston-Irish, among whom there was already considerable anti-English feeling. Another potential lesson that might be taken from this study is that an ally (The Globe) turned against Great Britain, granted, not to the extent some newspapers did, but significantly enough to where it (perhaps unwittingly) became an important vehicle for Irish nationalism in Boston. Both are lessons that would be well remembered by more powerful nations against lesser ones when prisoners of war are taken.



1 Robert Emmet, aided by Thomas Russell tried to reorganize the United Irish movement (the group whose bloody rebellion had failed in 1798); however, their “efforts ended ignominiously.” Launching a rebellion that lasted but a few hours on the night of July 23rd, 1803, thirty people were killed, including the chief justice of Ireland and his son-in-law “who were piked to death after their coach was attacked.” Emmet was arrested on August 25th and was sentenced to death by hanging. Nevertheless, it was his final words that, delivered extemporaneously after he learned his fate, outlived him and shaped the legend his name was to become. These words are included in the opening quote of this essay. See Golway, For the Cause of Liberty, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), 92.

2 Boston Daily Globe, 26 April 1916 (1). Initially, and, in some quarters for much longer, Sinn Fein was thought to be responsible for the rebellion. As Adelman notes, “Sinn Fein (‘Ourselves Alone’) had been founded by Arthur Griffith in 1907 as a militant, but non-violent, Irish nationalist organization. It had little influence before the war, and its anti-war stance in 1914 remained a minority view and was more or less ignored by the authorities. What changed the situation was the Easter Rebellion of 1916.” He further contends that “the rebellion was essentially a Sinn Fein uprising, [and] increased the prestige and influence of Griffith’s organization at the expense of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Sinn Fein’s popularity increased even more as a result of the policies pursued by the British government and army after May 1916: the continuation of martial law and further imprisonments, including that of Arthur Griffith himself; the creation of fresh martyrs owing to the deaths of a few prisoners on hunger strike; the spread of revolutionary ideas among the Irishmen brought together in the prisons and internment camps; and the apparent acceptance of the Unionist veto over immediate Home Rule by Asquith and Lloyd George. By the end of 1916 Sinn Fein had in effect remodeled itself to conform with its current image, and become a revolutionary party committed to the establishment of the Irish Republic whose birth had been announced in the Easter Proclamation.” In Paul Adelman, Great Britain and the Irish Question: 1800-1922 (Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Redwood Books, 1996), 135.

3 Boston Evening Globe, 26 April 1916 (1).

4 Boston Evening Globe, 26 April 1916 (1).

5 Boston Evening Globe, 27 April 1916 (1).

6 Boston Evening Globe, 27 April 1916 (6).

7 Boston Evening Globe, 27 April 1916 (10).

8 Boston Evening Globe, 27 April 1916 (10).

9 Boston Evening Globe, 28 April 1916 (4).

10 Boston Evening Globe, 28 April 1916 (4).

11 Boston Daily Globe, 28 April 1916 (2).

12 Boston Daily Globe, 29 April 1916 (1).

13 Boston Daily Globe, 29 April 1916 (8).

14 Boston Daily Globe, 29 April 1916 (1).

15 Boston Daily Globe, 29 April 1916 (8).

16 Boston Daily Globe, 29 April 1916 (8).

17 Boston Evening Globe, 29 April 1916 (1).

18 Boston Evening Globe, 29 April 1916 (1).

19 Boston Sunday Globe, 30 April 1916 (1).

20 Boston Sunday Globe, 30 April 1916 (11).

21 Boston Sunday Globe, 30 April 1916 (11).

22 Boston Sunday Globe, 30 April 1916 (11).

23 Boston Sunday Globe, 30 April 1916 (11).

24 Boston Sunday Globe, 30 April 1916 (11).

25 Boston Sunday Globe, 30 April 1916 (11).

26 Boston Sunday Globe, 30 April 1916 (11).

27 Boston Sunday Globe, 30 April 1916 (53).

28 Boston Daily Globe, 1 May 1916 (1); Boston Evening Globe, 1 May 1916 (2).

29 Boston Evening Globe, 1 May 1916 (1).

30 Boston Daily Globe, 1 May 1916 (1).

31 Boston Daily Globe, 1 May 1916 (2).

32 Boston Daily Globe, 1 May 1916 (3).

33 Boston Daily Globe, 1 May 1916 (3).

34 Boston Evening Globe, 1 May 1916 (2).

35 Boston Daily Globe, 2 May 1916 (1).

36 Boston Daily Globe, 2 May 1916 (2).

37 Boston Daily Globe, 2 May 1916 (2). Owing perhaps to the explosive implications of this story it was dropped for the evening edition.

38 Boston Daily Globe, 2 May 1916 (2).

39 Boston Evening Globe, 3 May 1916 (1).

40 Boston Daily Globe, 4 May 1916 (1).

41 Foster, Modern Ireland, 477.

42 Boston Daily Globe, 4 May 1916 (6).

43 Boston Daily Globe, 4 May 1916 (6).

44 Boston Daily Globe, 4 May 1916 (6).

45 Boston Daily Globe, 4 May 1916 (6).

46 Boston Daily Globe, 4 May 1916 (6).

47 Boston Evening Globe, 4 May 1916 (1).

48 Boston Evening Globe, 4 May 1916 (1).

49 Boston Evening Globe, 4 May 1916 (6).

50 Boston Daily Globe, 5 May 1916 (3).

51 Boston Daily Globe, 5 May 1916 (3).

52 Boston Daily Globe, 6 May 1916 (1).

53 Boston Daily Globe, 8 May 1916 (1).

54 Boston Daily Globe, 8 May 1916 (1).

55 Boston Daily Globe, 8 May 1916 (3)

56 Boston Daily Globe, 8 May 1916 (3).

57 Boston Daily Globe, 9 May 1916 (1).

58 Boston Daily Globe, 9 May 1916 (1).

59 Boston Daily Globe, 11 May 1916 (1).

60 Boston Daily Globe, 11 May 1916 (3).

61 In Boston, the F.O.I.F. could count amongst its number the Devoy, Casement, Montgomery (Roxbury), and County Plunkett (Roxbury) branches in addition to there also being branches in Brokton, Brighton, Cambridge, and Lynn. The Ancient Order Of Hibernians (hereafter A.O.H.) was the first strictly Irish organization to appear in America and was transplanted from Ireland in 1836. It was basically a social and fraternal organization and spread very rapidly – by 1910, the national assembly was 180,000, with numerous divisions in Boston. By its constitution the A.O.H. was forbidden to involve itself in politics, but foreign affairs were exempted from the ban, which left the Order free to work for the cause of Ireland. The nationalist organization endorsed the Irish Parliamentary Party—the conservative Irish group whose object was Home Rule for Ireland within the British Empire—but the membership generally favored complete independence. At the Massachusetts State Convention of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in August, resolutions severely denouncing England and demanding the recognition of Ireland as a republic were received with wild enthusiasm by the thousand delegates. See Alden Jamison, Irish-Americans, the Irish question and American diplomacy, 1895-1921 (Unpublished PhD dissertation, Harvard University, 1942), 525.

Theodore Hammet also noted “the historian of the A.O.H. claims that its members predominated (both in numbers and in influence) in the F.O.I.F.,” thereby demonstrating a link between the two groups. See Theodore Hammet, The Boston Irish During World War One: A Study in Idealism [Microform] Boston: 1971., 69.

For a more detailed discussion of radical groups’ activity in Boston, see Hammet, 167.


62 Boston Daily Globe, 11 May 1916 (3).

The Manchester Martyrs: “On September 11, 1867, Colonel Kelly and a comrade were arrested in Manchester England. As they were being transported under a light guard a week later, a party of thirty Fenians ambushed the prison van and demanded that the police officers turn over their keys. The policeman inside the van, a Sergeant Brett, refused to do so. One of the Fenians fired a shot, perhaps to break the lock on the van door, perhaps to frighten Brett. Instead the bullet fatally wounded the sergeant, and another prisoner inside the van took the key from the dying man and handed it to the Fenians. Kelly was set free.

The officer’s murder, and the audacity of the ambush, shocked England. The police swept up dozens of Irishmen living in Manchester. Eventually, five were put to trial for the crime. One was completely innocent; the other four were part of the ambush but none had fired the fatal shot. Nevertheless, they were convicted and sentenced to be hanged. Two of the suspects were naturalized American citizens, and one of them, Edward Condon, gave the Manchester rescue words that would be added to Irish nationalist lore. ‘I have nothing to regret, to retract or take back,’ he said in the dock. ‘I can only say: God save Ireland!’ Three of his co-defendants, William Allen, Philip Larkin, and the other American citizen, Michael O’Brien, took up the call: ‘God save Ireland!’ they shouted.

Allen, Larkin, and O’Brien were hanged in Manchester on November 24, 1867. They became known as the ‘Manchester Martyrs,’ and the anniversary of their executions would be commemorated in Ireland and in America for decades. Their courage inspired a ballad, entitled ‘God Save Ireland,’ that became an anthem of nationality and defiance.” See Golway, For the Cause of Liberty, 147-148.



63 Boston Evening Globe, 11 May 1916 (1).

64 Boston Evening Globe, 11 May 1916 (1).

65 Boston Daily Globe, 13 May 1916 (1).

66 Boston Daily Globe, 13 May 1916 (1).

67 Boston Daily Globe, 15 May 1916 (2).

68 Boston Daily Globe, 15 May 1916 (1). Theodore M. Hammet contends that of particular interest in Boston were the so-called Irish County Clubs, which were formed by immigrants and their descendants from each county in Ireland and which held frequent socials, balls, and reunions. He also notes that there was a city-wide Central Council of Irish County Clubs which was instrumental in calling the attention of members to Irish and American causes. For a further discussion of these county clubs see Hammet, The Boston Irish During World War One, 8.

69 Boston Daily Globe, 15 May 1916 (1).

70 Boston Daily Globe, 15 May 1916 (2).

71 Boston Daily Globe, 15 May 1916 (2).

72 Boston Daily Globe, 16 May 1916 (1). For example, Mayor Curley and Cardinal O’Connell.

73 Boston Daily Globe, 16 May 1916 (4).

74 Boston Daily Globe, 16 May 1916 (4).

75 Boston Daily Globe, 16 May 1916 (4).

76 Boston Daily Globe, 16 May 1916 (4).

77 Boston Daily Globe, 16 May 1916 (4). Contrary to what historian Michael J. Ryan has argued, the President of the U.I.L. of America cabled him to the effect that the Irish executions after the Easter Rebellion had “alienated every American friend and caused a resurgence of ancient enmities. Your life-work destroyed by English brutality.” See Charles Callan Tanshill, America and the Fight for Irish Freedom, 1866-1922: An Old Story Based Upon New Data (New York: The Devin-Adair Co., 1957), 224-225.

78 Boston Daily Globe, 20 May 1916 (3).

79 Boston Daily Globe, 3 August 1916 (1); Boston Evening Globe, 3 August 1916 (8).

80 Boston Daily Globe, 3 August 1916 (3).

Captain Fryatt: Captain Charles Fryatt of the Great Eastern Railway Steamer Brussels was a regular on the Rotterdam/British East Coast route since the start of the war and this was the cause of much annoyance to the Germans. In March 1915 they made two determined efforts to sink the Brussels. On the 3rd March 1915 Capt. Fryatt successfully dodged an attack on his ship by a U-Boat and sailed home to a hero’s reception and was presented with a gold watch by the ship's owners. On the 28th March 1915 a further attempt was made to sink his ship by a U-Boat. Capt. Fryatt saw it surface and as it was trying to line up a torpedo shot on the ship, he turned the helm over and bore down on the U-Boat which was forced to crash dive in order to avoid him. It appears that the U-Boat passed from starboard to port under the ship as it surfaced close enough to the ship so that, as Capt. Fryatt reported "you could have easily hung your hat on the periscope as she lay along side us". The U-Boat then disappeared never to be seen again. Capt. Fryatt was awarded another gold watch, this time by the Admiralty.



Captain Fryatt continued his voyages for another fifteen months until on the 23rd June, 1916, he was trapped by a flotilla of German torpedo boats and taken to Zeebrugge. He was tried by a Court Martial in Bruges on 27th July. By all accounts, he was convicted before the trial even took place. It condemned Capt. Fryatt to death as a franc-tireur. The sentence being confirmed by the Kaiser. He was executed that same evening. He was buried in a small cemetery just outside Bruges which the Germans used to bury Belgian "traitors." This text was excerpted from http://www.gwpda.org/naval/pers0003.htm. Online 11 Nov 2003.

81 Boston Daily Globe, 3 August 1916 (3).

82 Thomas N. Brown, “The Political Irish: Politicians and Rebels” in David Noel Doyle and Owen Dudley Edwards, Editors, America and Ireland, 1776-1976: The American Identity and the Irish Connection (Westport Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1976), 134.

83 Thomas N. Brown, “The Political Irish: Politicians and Rebels” in Doyle and Edwards, America and Ireland, 134.

84 Ibid., 134.

85 Information taken from William V. Shannon, “Boston’s Irish Mayors: An Ethnic Perspective” in Burns and Formisano, Boston 1700-1980: The Evolution of Urban Politics (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1984), 203.

86 Ibid., 203.

87 By the phrase “Boston’s Irish population” the Americans in Boston of Irish-descent are also intended to be included.

88 Hammet, The Boston Irish During World War One, 166-167.

89 Ibid., 69-70. Granted, Redmond also denounced the executions, but this meeting held under the auspices of the Clan-na-Gael resolved to support this latest independence movement.

90 Gaelic-American, May 13 1916.

91 Boston Post, May 17 1916.

92 Boston Post, May 19, 1916.

93 Hammet, The Boston Irish During World War One, 67. Hammet quotes from the Boston Post, May 3, 1916.

94 John J. Horgan, Parnell to Pearse: Some Recollections and Reflections (Dublin: Browne & Nolan 1948), 289. Quoted in Tanshill, America and the Fight for Irish Freedom, 201.

95 Hammet, The Boston Irish During World War One, 68.

96 Boston Pilot, 5 August 1916.

97 Ibid., 13 May 1916.

98 Jamison, Irish-Americans, 494.

99 Ibid., 495.


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