Saturday, April 16, 2016

Robert Schmuhl's "Ireland's Exiled Children"

Robert Schmuhl is the Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce Chair of American Studies and Journalism at the University of Notre Dame, and the author or editor of a dozen books.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his most recent book, Ireland's Exiled Children: America and the Easter Rising, and reported the following:
On page 99 of Ireland's Exiled Children, President Woodrow Wilson is preparing for the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and making his decision that the future of Ireland will not become an issue in the upcoming negotiations. Ultimately, this decision alienated many in Ireland and in Irish America. Wilson, of course, had championed "self-determination" for small nations, and Irish people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean thought the president was including Ireland in his thinking. He wasn't. He considered the fate of Ireland a domestic matter to be resolved by Great Britain. A quoted memo on page 99 and written by a British official notes "the president assured him 'that as far as he was concerned he would not allow Ireland to be dragged into a Peace Conference.'" The word dragged is telling.

Throughout his two terms in the White House, Wilson ducked and dodged when confronted by the Irish Question as best he could. Though he did everything a Democrat could do to appeal to Irish American voters in 1912 and 1916, he kept substantive matters related to the Easter Rising of 1916 and the struggle for Irish independence afterwards at a distance. For a long time, Irish Americans perceived him as an ally; however, a review of his papers in the Library of Congress and elsewhere reveal a strong bias against those of Irish ancestry living in the U.S.

Ireland's Exiled Children focuses on four individuals to tell the story of America's role and involvement in the Easter Rising. John Devoy raised money to support the buying of arms for the rebellion, and he plotted and schemed for decades to defeat the British in Ireland. Joyce Kilmer wrote compellingly about the Rising as a journalist and poet, explaining the significance of the event and its aftermath to the American public. Woodrow Wilson sought to avoid the complexities of Ireland's fate and, in time, blamed the Irish in America for the failure of the Senate to ratify the Versailles Treaty and U.S. participation in the League of Nations. And Eamon de Valera, who was born in New York and fought during the Rising, used his American connections throughout his life to advance politically, although how he avoided execution after receiving a death sentence in 1916 remains something of a mystery.

Timed to appear on the centenary of the Rising, Ireland's Exiled Children is the first full-scale study of U.S. participation and response to a defining moment in modern Irish history.
Learn more about Ireland's Exiled Children at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue