Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Today -100: April 26, 1916: In the name of God and of the dead generations


The NYT plays catch-up with rather sketchy reports of the events of Easter Monday (the 24th) in Dublin. Irish republicans rise up against British colonial rule and British colonial mail delivery. They take the General Post Office as their headquarters and issue a proclamation, read out by Pádraig Pearse (also known by his slave name Patrick; he signs the proclamation as P. Pearse) announcing the establishment of “the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State,” with equal rights for all. Actually, announcing the establishment of the Poblacht na hÉireann – an Irish word for “republic” having to be coined for the occasion.

It begins, “In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.” “In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.” The key word here is “sacrifice,” since the rising is more gestural than practical, a “performance of rebellion” as a historian whose name I didn’t catch put it on the RTE documentary on the Rising. It’s as doomed as a bayonet charge in the Somme, and most of them knew it. In fact, the 7 men who sign the Proclamation will all be executed. Um, spoiler alert.

The rebels occupy various locations in Dublin including, most importantly given its control of telegraph and telephone communications, the General Post Office. However, there are simply not enough fighters (thanks in large part to Eoin MacNeill, head of the Irish Volunteers, having gotten cold feet last week and calling off the parading that would have served as cover for the bringing together of men) to occupy Dublin Castle or strategic Trinity College or shut down the telegraph wires completely. There are a few actions outside of Dublin, mostly isolated attacks on army and police barracks, but much more faith was placed than turned out to be warranted on the power of symbolic actions to rouse the Irish people to spontaneous rebellion.

It’ll take a couple of weeks to make the NYT, but on this date Francis Sheehy-Skeffington was murdered. Frank was a mild nationalist, a pacifist, and the co-editor of The Irish Citizen, a feminist newspaper (his double-barreled last name is a combination of his name and that of his wife Hanna, the most prominent Irish suffragist.


Sheehy-Skeffington was out on the street yesterday trying to prevent looting when soldiers arrested him. The next day he and other prisoners were used as human shields/hostages by soldiers during raids on suspected Sinn Fein sites. When a captain shot a prisoner, a boy, Frank objected and was in turn put against a wall and shot. He was 37.

Realizing that this murder was going to cause them trouble, soldiers raided his house and used a key taken from his body to open his desk to look for documents that might retroactively justify Sheehy-Skeffington’s murder. All this without informing Hannah, who was standing right there with their 7-year-old son while this was going on, that she was now a widow (indeed, she was never officially informed). This is what’s known in Ireland as a dick move.

Henry Morgenthau resigns as US ambassador to Turkey. From the start of the Armenian Genocide, he has been loud and detailed in his criticism of the Turkish government and active in organizing relief activities.

Theodore Roosevelt loses the Massachusetts presidential primary. Well, technically, delegate candidates pledged to him lose to unpledged (i.e., Anyone But Roosevelt) delegates. It’s weird that so many primaries happened in 1916 before candidates had declared themselves.

New York Mayor John Purroy Mitchel calls for New Yorkers to put out flags on May 13 for “Preparedness Day.”

The new planes arrive for the Mexican incursion, but most of them are the same models that keep crashing into mountains. The pilots are not best pleased.


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