A Union Forever

A Union Forever: The Irish Question and U.S. Foreign Relations in the Victorian Age

David Sim
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt32b541
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  • Book Info
    A Union Forever
    Book Description:

    In the mid-nineteenth century the Irish question-the governance of the island of Ireland-demanded attention on both sides of the Atlantic. InA Union Forever, David Sim examines how Irish nationalists and their American sympathizers attempted to convince legislators and statesmen to use the burgeoning global influence of the United States to achieve Irish independence. Simultaneously, he tracks how American politicians used the Irish question as means of furthering their own diplomatic and political ends.

    Combining an innovative transnational methodology with attention to the complexities of American statecraft, Sim rewrites the diplomatic history of this neglected topic. He considers the impact that nonstate actors had on formal affairs between the United States and Britain, finding that not only did Irish nationalists fail to involve the United States in their cause but actually fostered an Anglo-American rapprochement in the final third of the nineteenth century. Their failures led them to seek out new means of promoting Irish self-determination, including an altogether more radical, revolutionary strategy that would alter the course of Irish and British history over the next century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6968-8
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: An Atlantic Triangle
    (pp. 1-10)

    In the autumn of 1851, shiploads of Irish migrants disembarked on New York’s quays with every tide, attracting the curiosity—and sometimes the antipathy—of the city’s citizens. As the gravity of the Irish famine became apparent to U.S. audiences in late 1846, a slew of articles, lectures, and publications sought to diagnose Ireland’s ills and explain the avalanche of displaced people arriving in the United States. One of the city’s newest journals, theNew-York Daily Times, reprinted an article from a Washington, D.C., newspaper that noted that

    among the subjects which momentarily rise to excite the interest of mankind,...

  5. Chapter 1 Challenging the Union: American Repeal and U.S. Diplomacy
    (pp. 11-38)

    In the 1840s, Daniel O’Connell headed a transatlantic campaign for the repeal of the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland. That campaign received significant American support and had an important impact on U.S. domestic politics in the early years of the decade. Mutual suspicion shaped Anglo-American relations, a result of a series of geopolitical confrontations, not least concerning the United States’ annexation of the Republic of Texas. British statesmen were alarmed by what they perceived as the unnecessarily aggressive expansionism of the United States, and many Americans feared that British foreign policy was driven by antislavery zealots who wished...

  6. Chapter 2 Ireland Is No Longer a Nation: The Irish Famine and American Diplomacy
    (pp. 39-68)

    The Irish famine is rarely viewed as an event of consequence in the history of U.S. foreign relations. This is short sighted, for the transnational significance of the famine was apparent to contemporary U.S. statesmen, to whom it offered the opportunity to demonstrate U.S. power in the heart of the British imperial system, and to the U.S. public, who donated large sums in private philanthropy to aid those starving in Ireland.

    For free trade Democrats, the famine confirmed their indictment of the British imperial system of protectionism and gave rise to exuberant predictions of U.S. economic ascendancy. Buoyed by the...

  7. Chapter 3 Filibusters and Fenians: Contesting Neutrality
    (pp. 69-96)

    The years from the late 1840s to the early 1870s—from the onset of the Great Famine migration to an emergent Anglo-American rapprochement—constitute a distinct period in the relationship between the United States (and U.S. statesmen) and Irish American nationalism. Considering U.S. foreign policy during the Civil War era through the lens of Irish nationalism enriches our understanding of the North Atlantic world, particularly in relation to the ambiguities of transatlantic neutrality and immigrant citizenship. Moreover, the tensions generated by Irish filibustering in the United States and questions of expatriation and naturalization in these years highlight the important role...

  8. Chapter 4 The Fenian Brotherhood, Naturalization, and Expatriation: Irish Americans and Anglo-American Comity
    (pp. 97-128)

    As we have seen, Fenians seized upon the capaciousness of the 1818 U.S. Neutrality Act to contest British rule in Ireland. British recognition of the Confederacy as a belligerent power, American claims for reparations for damage done by British-built Confederate ships, and the seeming toleration—even promotion—of Fenian activities by politicians in the United States fueled antagonism between the United States and Britain in the years after 1865. Fenian actions were predicated on the hope that sympathetic U.S. legislators would extend to Ireland the recognition that Britain had extended to the Confederacy during the Civil War. More quixotically, some...

  9. Chapter 5 Toward Home Rule: From the Fenians to Parnell’s Ascendancy
    (pp. 129-152)

    The ability of Irish American nationalists to challenge stable relations between Britain and the United States decreased with the failures of the Fenian Brotherhood. As the Irish home rule movement grew more prominent in British politics, the place of the Irish question in U.S. politics and diplomacy changed. The resolution of Reconstruction-era tests of Anglo-American peace—through mediation and the establishment of comity on the subject of naturalization—closed off means of generating the international instability that many Irish American nationalists had looked to as a condition of Irish liberation. It was not simply that the Fenian Brotherhood had failed...

  10. Chapter 6 A Search for Order: The Decline of the Irish Question in American Diplomacy
    (pp. 153-174)

    The history of the relationship between the Irish question and U.S. diplomacy during the 1880s is, in a sense, the history of a paradox. The use of dynamite augured a new era of spectacular violence, but this coexisted with the prosaic parliamentarianism of Parnell and the Irish Parliamentary Party. Scenes of explosive urban terrorism—legitimizing a narrative of guerilla activity that stretched through the twentieth century—came during the period of greatest progress toward Irish national self-determination since, at least, the days of O’Connell.¹ There were tensions between the “democratic” mode of warfare that dynamiting represented, free from the central...

  11. Epilogue: Rapprochement, Paris, and a Free State
    (pp. 175-186)

    Grover Cleveland’s astringent politics offered little to Irish nationalists. Even an apparently fierce dispute over Venezuelan territory—perhaps the episode most conducive to a full-scale crisis in Anglo-American relations in the final quarter of the nineteenth-century—resulted in peaceful arbitration.¹ In both his domestic and his foreign politics, Cleveland was a conservative, and his administration sought to limit the power of the central government and avoid American entanglement overseas. Though attempts to establish an international agreement on arbitration failed, the amicable settlement of the Venezuela crisis in October 1899 serves as a valuable gauge of British-U.S. relations, which became ever...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 187-242)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-258)
  14. Index
    (pp. 259-266)