This Week in the History of the Irish: October 16-24

LUAIN -- On Oct. 17, 1803, nationalist politician and Young Irelander William Smith O'Brien was born in Dromoland, County Clare. O'Brien was educated in England and was a Conservative when elected to Parliament from Ennis in 1829. However, his politics changed once there and by 1844 he supported Daniel O'Connell's Repeal Movement. He soon became a member of the Young Irelanders. In 1848 the British suspended habeas corpus and began arresting all the Young Ireland leaders. Smith eluded escape for a time and led a brief, abortive rising in Tipperary. He was arrested and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered but the sentence was reduced to penal servitude for life in Tasmania. After serving five years there, he was given partial pardon in 1854 and then a full pardon two years later. As he prepared to leave Australia in '54 he was given a series of dinners and testimonials and presented with gifts by the Irish population of the area. O'Brien lived in Brussels until his final pardon came through and then returned to Ireland but did not participate in Irish politics again. On June 16, 1864, he died in Bangor, Wales. He is buried in Rathronan churchyard in Co. Limerick.

CÉADAOIN -- On October 19, 1751, Charles Edward (Jennings) Kilmaine, general in the French army, was born at Saul's Court, Dublin. His father was a physician from County Galway. Though the family name was Jennings, Charles became known as Kilmaine in France after the area of County Mayo which had been the ancient patrimony of the family. Other members of the Jennings family had been officers in the Irish Brigade of France. Kilmaine was sent to France in 1762 and educated there, becoming very proficient in the French language. In 1774, he joined the French army, but he joined the Royal Dragoons (uniform, right), not the Irish Brigade. In 1780, he accompanied General Armand-Louis Lauzun's expeditionary force to America. Kilmaine returned to France with the rank of captain. When the revolution in France began, Kilmaine was among a minority of Irish officers who supported the new government. At the outbreak of war with the Prussians, Kilmaine as put in command of a number of French cavalry squadrons and performed brilliantly throughout the campaign. But when the tide turned against the French and the Reign of Terror began, he was dismissed from the army and jailed for a few months. When he was released, he returned to the army. Kilmaine's excellent performance as Bonaparte's cavalry commander during his Italian campaign greatly impressed the future emperor. Kilmaine was appointed commander-in-chief of the planned invasion force of England. He became great friends with Theobald Wolfe Tone while Tone was in France and was greatly saddened when the French Directory canceled plans for the invasion he hoped would free Ireland. Kilmaine's health had been seriously affected by his service in Italy and in 1799 it forced him to resign from the army. On December 11, 1799, Kilmaine, who had come to be known in the French army as, "The Brave" Kilmaine, died in Paris. He had surely been one of the greatest officers of all The Wild Geese.

National Library of Ireland
A common scene in 19th century Ireland, the Royal Irish Constabulary helping to evict a tenant family from their home. Scenes such as this led to the founding of the Land League.

DEARDAOIN -- On October 20, 1881, the Irish National Land League was outlawed by the government. From the start (see below) the League had been a thorn in the side of government of British Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone. The passage of the second Land Act in 1818 failed to mollify many of the leaders of the Land League, mainly due to the fact that close to 300,000 tenants behind in their rents were excluded from its benefits. Charles Stewart Parnell continually attacked the bill until Gladstone had him arrested October 13, 1881. On the 13th, from his prison cell, Parnell signed the No Rent Manifesto, which called on supporters of the Land League to withhold rent payments. Many other leaders of the League, including Michael Davitt, whose name was added to the bottom of the document by others, and other moderate elements in Ireland opposed this move. Perhaps sensing weakness in the League organization, the government outlawed the League the next day; but the work of the League was then continued by the Ladies Land League, which had been founded earlier by Parnell's sister Anna. In 1882, Parnell was released from jail after reaching a written compact with the government, which extended the benefits of the Land Act to those excluded earlier, while Parnell pledged to help end land-agitation violence in Ireland and cooperate with Gladstone's Liberal party. In October 1882, Parnell would form the Irish National League, replacing the Land League. The Land League passed into history, but it had helped show Irish peasants that if they all stood together there was strength in numbers.

AOINE -- On October 21, 1879, Andrew Kettle, Michael Davitt (right), and Charles Stewart Parnell met in Dublin and founded one of the most important organizations in Irish history -- the Irish National Land League. The League's purpose was to reform the horrendous conditions faced by tenant-farmers throughout Ireland. The national organization was modeled on the Land League of Mayo, which Davitt had helped found earlier in the year. While the leaders of the League tried to make it a constitutional movement the colonial government saw it as a continuation of such physical-force organizations as the Whiteboys and Ribbonmen. In truth, the organization did receive the support of the Fenians and the Clan na Gael, both of which were dedicated to the overthrow of British rule by whatever means necessary, an alliance known as the New Departure. The League stated that it wished to change the landlord system by "every means compatible with justice, morality, and right reason." The League gained widespread support at home and abroad and used methods such as the boycott -- first used against Capt. Charles Boycott, a Mayo landlord -– as one of their most effective weapons. In December 1880, Parnell, Davitt, and other leaders of the League would be arrested for their activities, but not convicted. The League attained many of the reforms they sought when Gladstone's Parliament passed the Land Act of 1881; but Parnell and others were not satisfied with it. Parnell would be imprisoned by the government again for his opposition to the Act.


'I had firmly resolved not to say or write or do anything which could be interpreted as a confession on my part that I consider myself a criminal in regard to the transactions of 1848.'

        -- William Smith O'Brien writing to his wife in 1854 after learning of his conditional pardon.

'He was the only officer in whom Napoleon ever placed complete confidence. He was capable of the greatest things. His military genius was more profound than even that great Commander-in-Chief, but he did not possess the latter's vivacity. …'
         -- Captain Landrieux, aide de camp to General Charles Kilmaine, left.

'Pay no rent under any pretext. Stand passively, firmly, fearlessly by while the armies on England may be engaged in their hopeless struggle against a spirit which their weapons cannot touch. ...'
         -- From the text of the No Rent Manifesto, October 18, 1881

'The land of Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland, to be held and cultivated for the sustenance of those whom God decreed to be the inhabitants thereof. Land being created to supply mankind with the necessaries of existence, those who cultivate it to the that end have a higher claim to its absolute possession than those who make it an article of barter to be used and disposed of for the purpose of profit or pleasure.'
         -- From the "Declaration of Principles" of the Irish National Land League


October -- Deireadh Fomhair

16, 1854 - Oscar Wilde (Author - Dublin)
16, 1890 - Michael Collins (Revolutionary - Clonakilty, Co. Cork)
17, 1765 - Henry Clarke (Duke of Feltre, soldier and diplomat, Landrecies, France, of Irish parents)
17, 1803 - William Smith O'Brien (Young Irelander - Dromoland, Co. Clare)
18, 1718 - Peg Woffington (Actress - Dublin)
19, 1696 – Duke of Liria, (colonel in the Spanish army, son of the Duke of Berwick and Honora Burke, Sarsfield’s widow, St. Germain-en-Laye, France)
19, 1751 – Charles Edward Kilmaine, (Gen. in the French army, Dublin)
20, 1674 - James Logan (Colonial statesman, scholar - Lurgan, Co. Armagh)
21, 1725 – Franz Moritz Lacy (soldier in the Austrian army, son of Peter Lacy, St. Petersburg, Russia)
21, 1904 - Patrick Kavanagh (Author - Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan)


16, 1827 - Cavan born Thomas Baron von Brady, general in the Austrian army, dies in Vienna.
16, 1865 - The third Fenian convention, in Philadelphia, approves a plan to invade Canada.
17, 1796 - Grattan's motion in House of Commons in favor of admitting Catholics to parliament defeated.
17, 1882 - Irish National League founded by Parnell, replacing the Outlawed Land League.
18, 1649 - New Ross surrenders to Cromwell's Parliamentary Army.
18, 1881 - Parnell issues "No rent manifesto" from prison.
19, 1580 - Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne burns Rathcoole, Co. Dublin.
19, 1745 - Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish poet, wit and satirist, dies.
19, 1989 - In Britain, the murder convictions against the "Guildford Four," jailed since 1975 for IRA attacks on public houses at Guildford and Woolwich in 1974, quashed.
20, 1881 - Land League is outlawed.
21, 1879 - Founding of the Irish National Land League
21, 1880 - Ladies Land League is founded in New York.
21, 1921 - Peace conference convenes in London.

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Tags: Europe, Irish Freedom Struggle, On This Day


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