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Green Voices of the Past: The Commemoration of Armed Insurrections in the Irish American Club

Posted for: Emily Poteat.

The Irish American Club was a club dedicated to organizing and advocating for issues pertinent to the Irish republican cause. Throughout Minute Book of the Board of Officers for the Irish American Club, one of the most prominent examples of their advocacy and work was through their commemorative celebrations held in remembrance of some of the failed Irish republican uprisings, as well as important figures in Irish republicanism.

One of the first instances of commemorating armed insurrections that appeared in manuscript, was with the mention of a committee on an Emmet celebration on page eight of the manuscript [1]. This celebration was to commemorate the death of the leader of Irish Rebellion of 1803, Robert Emmet. Emmet was born on September 08, 1771, and was the eleventh child of Dr. Robert Emmet and Elizabeth Emmet (née Mason) [2]. Emmet prior to the insurrection was deeply involved in the Society of United Irishmen, which was formed following the French Revolution, and later evolved to advocate to secure a representative government in Ireland. Emmet, initiated the Irish Rebellion on July 23, 1803, and did so in the hope of overthrowing British rule in Ireland and implementing a representative government [4]. The rebellion failed, and on September 20, 1803 Emmet was put to death for his role in the rebellion [5]. On page 68 of the minute book, it becomes clear that the men in the Irish American Club felt a deep commitment to making sure that the celebration in commemoration of Emmet was successful. For example, on page 68 a man identified as “Br Thompson” is described as having “urged the brothers to try and make the coming Emmet celebration a great success”[6]. Further punctuating this was a description of a statement made by a man referred to as “Br Dillon,” who “said that we ought to try and make the Emmet celebration the greatest success we ever had on account on the present situation in Europe”[7]. From these brief mentions of the planning of the Emmet celebration, one gains the sense that the Emmet celebration was of great importance to the men of the Irish American Club. As an important Irish republican figure, the Emmet celebration was brought up yearly in the minute book, and was one of the club’s annual celebrations.

Image showing quote about Emmet celebration

Also commemorated frequently by the Irish American Club, was the 1798 Rebellion. The Irish Rebellion of 1798 was born in the era of the French Revolution.[8] Revolutionary fervor sweeping through France, gave inspiration to Irish republican and Irish nationalist organizers, and this resulted in the reorganization of groups such as the Volunteers, and the creation of the United Irishmen [9]. In early 1798 the United Irishmen made the decision to instigate a domestic uprising, and this rebellion is considered by scholars to have decisively changed Irish society [10]. Primarily, the purpose of the 1798 Rebellion was to overthrow British rule in Ireland. During the rebellion, the rebels had success in County Wexford, in Ireland; however, when the rebels attempted to carry the rebellion to the northern and western regions of Ireland, they failed [11]. It was on June 21, 1798, at Vinegar Hill, where the rebel forces were effectively defeated [12]. From the way that the Irish American Club spoke of the 1798 Rebellion, referred to in the manuscript as “the events of 98,” one gains a sense of the importance of the event to the Irish American community in the late nineteenth century [13]. For example, on page 98, when debating on the plans for the commemorative celebration of the 1798 Rebellion it was recorded by the secretary, that the “Bros Carney and Redmond” had carried out a long debate as to “the most suitable way to celebrate the memory of the men and the events of 98” [14]. Furthermore, the importance of the rebellion and commemorating it, for the club is clear in the language utilized in the minute book, with the words “most suitable” it is clear the men were putting considerable thought into the celebration. Further, according to page 104 of the manuscript, there was considerable anticipation for the commemorative celebration, as it is put forth “Bro MacMahon reported from the committee on the 98 celebration, stating that the prospects for a very impressive demonstration were bright, as all persons who were enthusiastic” [15].

Image showing quote about the 1798 Rebellion

From the commemoration of these two uprisings, one gains the sense of the dedication and the inspiration that the men of the Irish American Club drew from the armed uprisings in Ireland’s history. Moreover, this minute book amplifies the voices of the men who partook in the commemoration of events and a cause they were deeply committed to.

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Bibliography

Curtin, Nancy J. “The Transformation of the Society of United Irishmen into a Mass-Based Revolutionary Organization, 1794-6.” Irish Historical Studies 24, no. 96 (1985): 463-492.

Geoghegan, Patrick M. Robert Emmet: A Life. Cornwall, United Kingdom: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002.

Minute book. Board of Officers Irish American Club. Meeting Minutes. January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library. Accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888.

Patterson, James G. In the Wake of The Great Rebellion: Republicanism, Agrarianism and Banditry in Ireland after 1798. Manchester, United Kingdom: Manchester University Press, 2008.

Séaghdha, Tomás Ó. “Robert Emmet and the Insurrection of 1803.” The Past: The Organ of the Uí Cinsealaigh Historical Society, no. 22 (2000): 51-66.

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Notes

[1] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888., 8.

[2] Patrick M. Geoghegan, Robert Emmet: A Life. (Cornwall, England: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002), 51.

[3] Nancy J. Curtin, “The Transformation of the Society of United Irishmen into a Mass-Based Revolutionary Organization, 1794-6,” Irish Historical Studies 24, no. 96 (1985): 463.

[4] Geoghegan, Robert Emmet: A Life, 155-164.

[5] Tomás Ó Séaghdha, “Robert Emmet and the Insurrection of 1803,” The Past: The Organ of the Uí Cinsealaigh Historical Society, no. 22 (2000): 64.

[6] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888., 68.

[7] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888., 68.

[8] James G. Patterson, In the Wake of The Great Rebellion: Republicanism, Agrarianism and Banditry in Ireland after 1798 (Manchester, United Kingdom: Manchester University Press, 2008), 1.

[9] Patterson, In the Wake of the Great Rebellion, 1.

[10] Patterson, In the Wake of the Great Rebellion, 3.

[11] Patterson, In the Wake of the Great Rebellion, 3.

[12] Patterson, In the Wake of the Great Rebellion, 3.

[13] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888, 98.

[14] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888, 98.

[15] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888, 104.

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Emily Poteat is a graduate assistant in Irish Studies and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Department, and a graduate student in the History Department.


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Last Modified: September 15, 2021