August 18, 1792 – Alexander Hamilton Anticipates Trump

On this day in history, Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury in President George Washington’s cabinet, sent Washington an outline of concerns he had regarding the administration of government.

Alexander Hamilton

He wrote in part:

When a man, unprincipled in private life, desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits, despotic in his ordinary demeanor, known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty; when such a man is seen to mount the hobby-horse of popularity, to join in the cry of danger to liberty, to take every opportunity of embarrassing the general government and bringing it under suspicion, to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day, it may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion, that he may “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.

It has aptly been observed, that Cato was the Tory, Cæsar the Whig of his day. The former frequently resisted, the latter always flattered, the follies of the people. Yet the former perished with the republic—the latter destroyed it.

No popular government was ever without its Catilines and its Cæsars—these are its true enemies.”

You can read all of his remarks here.

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August 15, 1769 – 2019 Marks 250 Years Since the Birth of Napoleon

Most people have no impression of Napoleon other than one of his being short, pompous, exiled, and apt to keep one hand inside his coat. A recent and magnificent biography by Andrew Roberts, Napoleon: A Life, helps to dispel the myths and misinformation, and to edify readers about Napoleon’s brilliance, achievements, and innovations.

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Many of the previous biographies about Napoleon were written either by French authors who wished to ingratiate themselves with the restored Bourbon monarchy and so were unfailingly critical (even when the authors’ own private papers said otherwise), or by English authors who had a stake in portraying their enemy as negatively as possible. In addition, many of Napoleon’s letters were only recently published, and they, as the author avers, “radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation.” (Since 2004, the Foundation Napoleon in Paris has been publishing every one of the more than 33,000 (!!) letters that Napoleon signed.)

In this book of almost one thousand pages, Roberts tries to set the record straight, and in my opinion, does an outstanding job. Not only did he review all the recently released Napoleon correspondence, but he consulted eighty archives in sixteen countries, and visited most of the battlefields on which Napoleon fought, so as to get a better sense of his strategies and tactics.

Painting of Napoleon Bonaparte, 1798 when he was First Counsel of France by Andrea Appiani (1754-1817).

Painting of Napoleon Bonaparte, 1798 when he was First Counsel of France by Andrea Appiani (1754-1817).

While this is by no means a hagiography, one comes away with an enormously positive view of Napoleon at the end, or at least, I did. There are many insights one derives from this extensive history, but I will just list some of the salient points of Roberts’ account:

Napoleon, especially when he was younger, was both brilliant and courageous on the battlefield. He repeatedly faced enemies who greatly outnumbered his own forces, yet he achieved victories nonetheless, sometimes through sheer chutzpah, as with his takeover of Vienna before Austerlitz by a ruse de guerre – simply telling the populace the city had been surrendered already!

He had a phenomenal memory; never underestimated the value of speed for strategic advantage; and also was rarely loathe to follow up on victories by pursuing the defeated army to make sure he did not meet them again later on (a notable difference from the approach of so many generals in the American Civil War).

Napoleon had excellent skills in managing logistics, great organizational abilities, an incessant curiosity, and a wide and deep knowledge of the history and culture of other countries, which gave him an edge in understanding how and where the armies and citizens would conduct themselves. He worked tirelessly and seemed to think of everything: he even had guns designed according to the specifications of the country he was invading, so that his soldiers would know how to use any captured guns. He also took great care with creating and maintaining a strong esprit de corps in his troops, because he believed such a spirit could counter deficits, and repeatedly, he was right.

napoleonic

He was able to instill pride and fellowship in his army through speeches, a system of rewards for bravery, and a great deal of personal interaction with his troops, but in addition, Napoleon was extremely solicitous of the health and comfort of his soldiers. He lobbied constantly, and often successfully, to get them medical care, shoes, warm coats, wine, and other amenities.

Perhaps most importantly, he revolutionized military strategy by arranging his armies in detachable parts that could engage the army alone or in separate offensive maneuvers. His early successes from the use of divisional formations inspired other armies to adopt these procedures, which of course worked to his disadvantage as they did so.

450px-Code_Napoleon_-_Copy_in_Military_Museum_-_Dresden_-_Germany

But, as Roberts argues, Napoleon’s greatest and most lasting victories were political rather than military. He was not only greatly influenced by Enlightenment scholars but was also a child of the French Revolution, and so wherever and whenever he could, he ended feudal practices and insisted on institutions that supported modern ideas of meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, support for the arts and public works, an end to banditry on the roads, and a codification of the laws.

Roberts also defends Napoleon as being not at all the quintessential warmonger he is commonly accused of being. Not only was war was declared on him far more often than he declared it on others, but it was clear there were many times Napoleon tried his best to abide in peace, only to have other leaders unwilling to tolerate his presence in Europe. Perhaps the saddest part of his story, to me, was his relationship with Czar of Alexander of Russia. Napoleon truly seemed to like Alexander, but the Czar was notoriously influenced by whoever was in front of him at the time. When he was no longer with Napoleon (the two rulers spent a great deal of time together at one point), Alexander was convinced (by others, including his mother) that he should hate Napoleon, and make war upon him. The government of Britain, too, had no intention ever of letting Napoleon rule in peace.

Alexander I of Russia in 1826

Alexander I of Russia in 1826

Napoleon had some weaknesses, of course, but I don’t necessarily agree with Roberts on what they were. Looking back from the perspective of the 21st Century and in isolation from other leaders at the same time period, many of his attributes seem objectionable rather than progressive. But I think they should be placed in context. For example, Napoleon was rather obsessed with a dynastic rule for his family, but this wasn’t unusual in Europe. It was admittedly, however, something that violated even Napoleon’s own principles.

Roberts accuses Napoleon of misogyny, and yet what evidence he provides suggests his attitude toward women was common to his time, and sometimes, even better. I was particularly impressed that throughout his life Napoleon was more adamant than on almost any other point that the commission of rape by his soldiers was anathema.

Joséphine, first wife of Napoleon I, and thus the first Empress of the French.

Joséphine, first wife of Napoleon I, and thus the first Empress of the French.

Napoleon did have racist attitudes in his early years, but was open-minded enough to learn from experience and adjusted his assessments of blacks as time passed.

The author contends that Napoleon, who was very well-educated and widely-read, erred in claiming that no contemporaries wrote about Jesus, writing, “He was clearly unfamiliar with Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews which does indeed mention Jesus.” But it is the author who is incorrect. Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews was written around 93–94 AD, and the only authenticated reference to a “Jesus” is actually about James, further identifying him as “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.” Moreover, even that passage has been contested, since the book was subjected to alterations by Christians.

The author convinced me (but not himself, I don’t think) that many of Napoleon’s mistakes in the Russian campaign had to do with being hurt over Alexander’s rejection, and thus letting his emotions overrule the military maxims he previously had followed so faithfully. In any event, the Russia experience was horrific, and this part of the book is worth reading on its own if you are unfamiliar with one of the most gruesome campaigns in military history.

Napoleon's withdrawal from Russia, a painting by Adolph Northen

Napoleon’s withdrawal from Russia, a painting by Adolph Northen

Napoleon’s conviction that other powerful men would like him also led him to make grave miscalculations regarding Talleyrand, who betrayed Napoleon’s trust over and over.

In the year of Waterloo, Napoleon had additional problems. He was older, and neither as healthy nor as energetic as he used to be. Most of his best generals were dead. His recruits were raw. He had spent his career fighting armies led mostly by elderly men employing superannuated strategies, and was used to more of a “walk in the park” than he would encounter with the supremely adept Wellington. In any event, Napoleon and his senior generals made a plethora of “unforced errors” as the author calls them, and he did not deserve to win the battle.

Discussion: In this huge and well-written book, I only noticed a couple of things I thought were incorrect, and only a few grammatical problems, including a reluctance to use the subjunctive mood (which is not always used nowadays in any event); a couple of misused terms (for example, “cognitive dissonance” instead of “procrustean thinking”), and one uproariously funny misplaced modifier. Truly all of that is not a lot at all in a book of this length.

Evaluation: This book provides not only a corrective to many myths about who Napoleon was and what he did, or did not, accomplish, but an excellent history of this important time period in European history. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4.5/5

Notes on the Audio Production:

The narrator, John Lee, is just amazing. Not only does he keep you interested for all [almost 33] hours of the production, but his pronunciation is mind-blowingly good. In fact, it took me longer than it might have to listen to the book, because I tended to use the CDs like “Rosetta Stone” lessons – I would stop the audio and try to practice saying the names and places like the author did. My French pronunciation approved enormously as a result!

Run time: 32 hrs, 54 mins. Available as an unabridged digital download from Penguin Audio (2014).

Review of “Gettysburg: The Last Invasion” by Allen C. Guelzo

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought during the first three days of July in 1863. In spite of its importance, it might have been just another battle site competing in memory with all the rest but for its reframing in just 272 words by Lincoln at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg that November. Subsequently, an outpouring of words on Gettysburg has described every aspect of the battle, with Allen Guelzo, Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College, adding yet another comprehensive blow-by-blow account to the mix.

Gettysburg-The-Last-Invasion

I know many potential readers have a knee-jerk reaction to books about battles, a reaction that presumes the story will be of little or no interest to them. But really, there is so much fascinating that you find out and that is relevant to your lives! For example, for those of you who can barely manage to come up with meals to feed 2 or 4 or 6 people everyday, what if you had to feel thousands every day? Where would the food come from and what receptacles would you use for cooking? How would all of this be transported between battlefields?

Or did you ever wonder about the perils of not being able to keep hygienic for so long? There are not just the problems about which you might be aware, like disease and discomfort, but how about the fact that you couldn’t really sneak up on another army because they could smell you coming?!!!

I think I first fell in love with finding out details of military life when I read about the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. How fun to learn that rum was added to water to disinfect it [note to self: try that at home]; that sawdust was kept on board ships to spread out on decks before battles so no one would slip on blood; and that combatants determined how old their bread was by the stages in the life cycles of the weevils and maggots it contained.

Cavalry orderly painting from 1864 by Edwin Forbes

Cavalry orderly painting from 1864 by Edwin Forbes

In a similar way, Guelzo fleshes out his story of the Battle of Gettysburg with many interesting explanations such as why there wasn’t more cavalry in use at the time, and why the new sharp-shooting rifles didn’t confer as many advantages as had been hoped. It continues to amaze me too, how difficult it was for the generals to get the under-commanders and troops to do what they were supposed to do (and for that matter, for the Presidents of the North and South to get their generals to do what they were supposed to do). I like that Guelzo adds political context to the problems faced by the armies. I also found very interesting the reactions to the commanders and soldiers to the “diversity” of the troops (by which I mean, for example, Virginians versus Georgians).

“Negroes Driven South By The Rebel Officers,” Harper’s Weekly, November 8, 1862.

“Negroes Driven South By The Rebel Officers,” Harper’s Weekly, November 8, 1862.

With respect to the diversity of Gettysburg’s population, i.e., the presence of blacks, both free and slave, Guelzo makes a point of telling their story as well, something often omitted by chroniclers of the battle. Blacks in southern Pennsylvania (most of whom were free) made a mass exodus from the area, because as the Confederates entered the state, they rounded up as many blacks as they could, including the elderly, the women, and the children, making no distinction between freeborn blacks and runaways. They didn’t care what their status was; they intended to sell them as slaves back in the markets in Richmond.

[While some 200,000 African Americans served in the Union Army and Navy during the war, there is no evidence any black soldiers fought at Gettysburg. According to John Heiser, Gettysburg National Military Park historian, “There were no black ‘combatants’ on either side at Gettysburg, only ‘noncombatants’ in support roles: ambulance and supply-wagon drivers, hospital attendants, teamsters.”]

The invasion and battle make for a compelling story. Still, unless you are very devoted (and readers of Civil War histories do tend to be a very devoted bunch), you probably don’t need to hear a passage from every surviving letter or memoir recounting the very same emotion or observation over and over. Nor might you want to know every single aspect of just one battle of the Civil War. Nevertheless, there is a need for Guelzo’s book, just as there has been a need for the many other books on the very same subject.

George Gordon Meade was appointed to command the Army of the Potomac just three days before the Battle of Gettysburg

George Gordon Meade was appointed to command the Army of the Potomac just three days before the Battle of Gettysburg

Let me explain by way of example.

On the 150th anniversary of the battle, many glossy “commemorative” magazines came out about Gettysburg. One of them, the summer 2013 issue of “The Civil War Monitor” featured “Expert Takes on Gettysburg,” posing identical questions about the battle to Allen Guelzo and to Stephen W. Sears, who came out with his book Gettysburg ten years ago, on the 140th anniversary of the fight. Each author was asked the following:

  • What was Robert E. Lee’s biggest mistake at Gettysburg?
  • Was was Lee’s best decision?
  • What was George Meade’s biggest mistake at Gettysburg?
  • Meade’s best decision?
  • Whose Gettysburg performance is most overrated?
  • Who was the battle’s unsung hero?
  • What’s the biggest myth surrounding Gettysburg?
  • Did the Battle of Gettysburg mark a turning point in the war?

If you read each author’s answers, you will get an idea about why there can never be enough historical accounts of the same thing. Wait: these two did study the same battle, didn’t they? Only on the subject of Meade do they say anything even resembling agreement. Usually, their answers differ along these lines:

What’s the biggest myth surrounding Gettysburg?

Guelzo: “That Meade won the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee lost it and lost it big!”

Sears: “That Lee lost the Battle of Gettysburg. Au contraire, Meade won Gettysburg.”

Robert E. Lee claimed full responsibility for the defeat, offering his resignation to Jefferson Davis, which Davis refused to accept.

Robert E. Lee claimed full responsibility for the defeat, offering his resignation to Jefferson Davis, which Davis refused to accept.

And don’t even ask how many casualties there were at Gettysburg; I have never, ever seen two sources come up with the same number (unless one was citing the other!) [But fyi, there were approximately 50,000 on both sides in all, which includes of course wounded, captured and missing as well as dead.]

Evaluation: This is a book probably best suited to aficionados, as the hardcover version is over 650 pages and the unabridged book on CD lasts approximately 22 and one-half hours. For those who like knowing the minutiae of Civil War battles, this book, whether in hard copy or audio, will prove entertaining. In addition to information specific to the Civil War, Guelzo adds insights from other military campaigns and on tactics in general. I’ve read that there are a few minor factual errors in this book, but nothing affecting the integrity of the book overall. Guelzo is also not innocent of preferences for some generals and not others, but really, can you find anyone who knows anything at all about the Civil War who doesn’t have an opinion on say, McClellan? [Why, yes, that was me who refused to eat at a restaurant on a Civil War Battleground because it was called McClellan’s Cafe!]

I have a couple of complaints specifically about the audio version. Each of the discs ends quite unexpectedly – one of them even stops mid-sentence, or at least, mid-clause. Also, this is a story that really requires maps, and indeed, the hardcover version by Guelzo has plenty of them. Troop positioning was pivotal before, during, and after the battle. It is a bit frustrating not to have the maps on hand while listening. On the positive side, the narrator Robertson Dean performs admirably with respect to most of the very tricky pronunciations of names of officers and places, but he does say “Gett-is-burg” instead of “Gett-ees-burg” which is how the natives pronounce it.

Evaluation: Rating: 3/5

Published unabridged on 18 compact discs by BOT: Books on Tape, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2013

August 9, 2017 – Nepal Criminalizes “Period Huts”

On August 9, 2017, Nepal criminalized the practice of forcing females to move out to huts when they are menstruating. The law as written however would not come into effect until August 2018. The delay was to allow social campaigns to educate the populace about the new law.

This practice, known as chhaupadi, stems from an ancient Nepalese tradition dictating that females must be sequestered in small animal sheds outside the home during menstruation or after childbirth, as they are considered to be impure at those times. They are barred from entering their homes and forbidden from touching men, some animals, and some foods.

As the U.N. reported, chhaupadi leaves women susceptible to illness, rape and animal attacks. Between November, 2016 and the time of the passage of this new law, five women died while in exile, according to a nonprofit working in the western region.

The Supreme Court of Nepal had ruled in 2005 that the practice was illegal, but the ban has been widely ignored. This new law imposed a three-month jail sentence and a fine.

According to the BBC, challenges would still remain. Apsara Neupane, who was elected deputy mayor of Chandannath municipality in western Nepal in 2017, said the main problem was changing people’s behavior:

“Having a strong law is important but reforming social customs may take more time. In any case, I am glad to see that there has been a gradual change in how people perceive the Chhaupadi practice.”

“Period Hut”

August 7, 1912 – The Progressive “Bull Moose” Party Nominates Theodore Roosevelt for President

The Progressive Party was a third party in the United States formed in 1912 by former President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt had served two terms as president, from 1901 to 1909. He then helped ensure the Republican Party would select his Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, to succeed him. But Roosevelt became disappointed by Taft’s conservative policies.

He decided to challenge Taft for the Republican nomination in 1912, but had several disadvantages. One was that Roosevelt didn’t decide to enter the fray until late in the game. Second, Taft was already being challenged by progressive leader Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. And third, Taft had worked hard to control the Republican Party’s organizational operations and the mechanism for choosing its presidential nominee.

After the Republican National Convention rejected Roosevelt’s attempts to capture the nomination, Roosevelt and his supporters walked out. The Republicans re-nominated Taft, and the next day, Roosevelt supporters met to form a new political party of their own, “The Progressive Party.” The new party nominated a ticket of Roosevelt and the progressive Hiram Johnson of California.

Cartoon depicting delegates at the convention of the Bull Moose Party, c. 1912.
MPI/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The party’s platform built on Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal domestic program and called for a number of progressive reforms. The platform asserted that “to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”

The platform also called for women’s suffrage, strict limits on campaign contributions and expenditures, registration of lobbyists,“the conservation of human resources through an enlightened measure of social and industrial justice,” an eight-hour workday, and prohibition of child labor, inter alia.

As for businesses, the platform proclaimed:

We demand that the test of true prosperity shall be the benefits conferred thereby on all the citizens, not confined to individuals or classes, and that the test of corporate efficiency shall be the ability better to serve the public; that those who profit by control of business affairs shall justify that profit and that control by sharing with the public the fruits thereof.”

The entire platform is worth reading. Very few of the admirable ideals espoused by this progressive party have been attained.

The Progressive Party was popularly nicknamed the “Bull Moose Party” since Roosevelt often said that he felt “strong as a bull moose” both before and after an assassination attempt in Milwaukee, Wisconsin while out on the campaign trail. Roosevelt continued giving his speech after he was shot, assuring the crowd, “it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”

But most Republican politicians supported the “regular” Republican ticket, and the Bull Moose ticket received only some 25 percent of the popular vote. Thus split, the Republicans lost the election to the Democrats under Woodrow Wilson. The Bull Moose Party evaporated, and the Republicans were reunited four years later.

August 4, 1874 – Bloodless Victory for White Supremacy in Vicksburg, Mississippi

In the summer of 1874, armed whites prowled the streets ahead of the municipal elections scheduled for August 4 in Vicksburg, Missisisippi , according to Ron Chernow in his biography of Grant. Chernow wrote:

On July 4, the anniversary of Grant’s Vicksburg victory, white thugs pounced on a patriotic celebration held by black Republicans and opened murderous fire on the crowd, with several killed in the subsequent melee.”

The first black county sheriff in Vicksburg appealed to the Lieutenant Governor for intervention by U.S. soldiers, who then pleaded with Grant to send them. But Grant demurred.

Remarkably, the August election then proceeded without violence. Chernow observed:

. . . the eerie quiet merely proved that white intimidation had succeeded, with blacks terrorized into staying home; white supremacists expelled Republicans from local offices without firing a shot.”

This occurrence amounted to more than just an electoral win for white Democrats. They managed to impart, as Chernow observed, an important lesson for the whole South:

. . . without the protection of federal troops, they could resurrect the prewar power structure. The Vicksburg vote showed the fundamental weakness of a political revolution that had relied heavily on force applied by outsiders in Washington – something that couldn’t be maintained indefinitely. The lesson was well learned by armed White League and White Line militia in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and South Carolina, who mobilized to retake control of their states.”

August 1, 1915 – Funeral Oration by Patrick Pearse – “Ireland Unfree Shall Never Be At Peace”

The conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Irish culture is hundreds of years old. In the fifth century, Saint Patrick came to Ireland and brought Catholicism and English rule to the Celts who had been in Ireland since ancient times. By the time Henry VIII took the English throne, nearly 100% of Ireland was Catholic.

Henry VIII had a problem, however. His [first] marriage failed to produce a male heir to the throne, and moreover, he had become infatuated with another woman. He wanted a divorce but the Pope would not agree to it. Thus Henry VIII split from Catholicism, founded the Church of England, and demanded that all of the United Kingdom, including Ireland, convert to Protestantism.

The Irish were loathe to abandon their faith, and as a result of their stubborn adherence to “popery,” various acts were passed in the 16th and 17th centuries by Parliament that prescribed fines and imprisonment for participation in Catholic worship, and severe penalties – including death – for Catholic priests who practiced their ministry in Britain or Ireland. Other laws barred Catholics from voting, holding public office, owning land, bringing religious items from Rome into Britain, publishing or selling Catholic primers, or teaching. Protestant settlers from Scotland were sent to occupy Ireland, and Irish farmers were forced to become tenants to the new settlers. The Irish did not have access to education, and made almost no money. They lived off of the land they farmed, and all profits went to the Protestant settlers.

The Irish Penal Code was characterized by the philosopher Edmund Burke as “a machine as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”

Yet the English never did succeed in snuffing out hope, or in quenching the Irish thirst for self-determination, as evinced eloquently in the speech by Patrick Pearse, quoted below.

In the 1880s, there was a renaissance of Irish culture, which caused a wave of Irish Nationalism among Catholics. Parties such as Sinn Féin (in English: “Ourselves” or “We Ourselves”) were founded to advocate for the freedom of Ireland.

Violence between the Republicans and the Loyalists escalated, with Irish writers like William Butler Yeats fueling feelings of outrage with his eloquent poetry.

Patrick Pearse

On this day in history, Patrick Pearse, the Irish language activist, delivered an oration at the funeral of prominent Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. (Fenian was an umbrella term for the Fenian Brotherhood and Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), fraternal organizations dedicated to the establishment of an independent Irish Republic in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Glasnevin Cemetery, opened in 1832 for Irish Catholics, contains the graves of many of Ireland’s most prominent national figures.)

Rossa was a political prisoner who had been released as part of the Fenian Amnesty of 1870, with the proviso that he leave the country permanently. He took up residence in New York City where he joined the New York Fenian Brotherhood.

Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa

In New York, Rossa established his own newspaper dedicated to the cause of Irish national liberation from British rule, “The United Irishman.” In his paper he advocated terrorism to overthrow the British occupation. He also organized bombings in English cities from abroad. The British government demanded his extradition from America, but without success.

On February 2, 1885, Rossa was shot outside his office near Broadway by an Englishwoman, but he did not die. He was seriously ill in his later years, and was eventually confined to a hospital bed in St. Vincent’s Hospital, Staten Island, where he died at the age of 83.

His body was returned to Ireland for burial and a hero’s welcome.

According to Century Ireland, a Boston University online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago:

The funeral of the late Fenian, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, was the occasion of one of the most striking nationalist demonstrations ever witnessed in Dublin.

Special trains brought thousands of people from all parts of Ireland, while people also travelled from England and from the United States. Amongst the throng were numerous members of the clergy and public representatives.”

Crowds gather at the graveside of veteran Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in Glasnevin cemetery
Photo: National Library of Ireland, KE 234

The graveside oration, given by Patrick Pearse (also known as Pádraig or Pádraic Pearse), remains one of the most famous speeches of the Irish independence movement stirring his audience to a call to arms.

Mr. Pearse claimed: “The seeds sown by the young men of ‘65 and ‘67 are coming to their miraculous ripening today.”

He memorably concluded:

They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! They have left us our Fenian dead, and, while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”

You can read the full text of his speech here.