Charles Stewart Parnell’s Appeal to the Irish People of America

In advance of our March 19 Autographs auction, specialist Marco Tomaschett contributed this blog post about Charles Stewart Parnell.

Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) founded the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) in 1874 and helped build the Anglo-American movement advocating Irish Home Rule. 

The coherence of his party dissipated when, in November 1890, Parnell’s adultery became public after Captain William O’Shea–whose wife was having an affair with Parnell–sued for divorce. 

After this revelation, William Gladstone, with whose Liberal party Parnell had formed an alliance, declared that Parnell should depart from the IPP, partly for the sake of improving the future of Home Rule. Parnell declined to do so, and solicited support in Ireland and the United States for his maintaining control–thus advocating an Irish, as opposed to a British, program for Irish self-governance.

Lot 72 in Swann’s March 19 auction of Autographs contains an important artifact documenting Parnell’s appeal to American supporters of Home Rule. This autograph manuscript signed is a working draft of his address, “To the Irish People of America,” and argues that the defeat in the summer of 1886 of the First Home Rule bill demonstrates the lack of public support for Gladstone’s vision of Home Rule, and that the members of the IPP who committed “mutiny” by favoring Gladstone’s recommendation that Parnell step down were “office-seekers and envious persons [who] temporarily destroyed the unity” of the party. The address requests that the delegates sent by Parnell be given a favorable reception and hearing [at the 4th General Convention of the Irish National League of America, held in Chicago in October of 1891]. 
On March 14, 1891, the New York Times published an editorial critical of Parnell’s address, which had recently been transmitted by cable to the Times and elsewhere. The editorial claims that Parnell’s mutinous dissenters include not only a majority of the IPP, the most influential Irish members of Parliament, and the Irish Church, but the majority of Irish people everywhere. On October 2, after much heated discussion, the Irish National League Convention in Chicago adopted a platform against Parnell’s continued leadership.