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A Union Forever

The Irish Question and U.S. Foreign Relations in the Victorian Age

by David Sim

Publication Year: 2013

In the mid-nineteenth century the Irish question—the governance of the island of Ireland—demanded attention on both sides of the Atlantic. In A 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.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Quote

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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction: An Atlantic Triangle

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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...

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1. Challenging the Union: American Repeal and U.S. Diplomacy

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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...

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2. Ireland Is No Longer a Nation: The Irish Famine and American Diplomacy

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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...

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3. Filibusters and Fenians: Contesting Neutrality

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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...

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4. The Fenian Brotherhood, Naturalization, and Expatriation: Irish Americans and Anglo-American Comity

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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...

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5. Toward Home Rule: From the Fenians to Parnell’s Ascendancy

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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...

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6. A Search for Order: The Decline of the Irish Question in American Diplomacy

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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...

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Epilogue: Rapprochement, Paris, and a Free State

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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...


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pp. 187-242


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pp. 243-258


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pp. 259-266

E-ISBN-13: 9780801469688
E-ISBN-10: 0801469686
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801451843
Print-ISBN-10: 0801451841

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 865565852
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Union Forever

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Ireland.
  • Ireland -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Great Britain.
  • Great Britain -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 19th century.
  • Irish question.
  • Ireland -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
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