No. 87 NAI DFA Washington Embassy Confidential Reports 1938-9

Extracts from a confidential report from Robert Brennan to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(108/69/39) (Copy)

Washington, 12 December 1939

My visit to Boston was very successful and I made a great many contacts which will, I hope, be useful as time goes on. I was the guest of the Clover Club of Boston, an organization which is confined to a few hundred members, consisting mainly of Irish and Catholic business and professional men. The Society has been fifty years in existence, and one of its earliest members was John Boyle O'Reilly.1

[matter omitted]

After the breakfast I went to the Consulate and had a look around. Everything seemed to be in good shape.

It had been arranged that I should see Mr. John T. Hughes2 at this stage, but we were already behind in our time schedule and I had only time to shake hands with him, but arranged I should have a talk with him later in the day which I did. Mr. Hughes wanted to explain that he did not wish to embarrass the Government by his recent cable about the prisoners, but that he felt that if a tragedy had occurred it would have had disastrous effects on Irish opinion here. We had a long talk about Irish affairs generally. He seemed to be hurt because he had not seen some recent Irish visitors to Boston including Mr. Seán Moylan.3 He explained that the reason why he had not been more active in the matter of the de Valera Reception Committee was, firstly, because his health was not good and, secondly, because he thought there was no necessity for him to take a prominent part because he was satisfied that the Reception would have been the biggest thing ever held in Boston.

From the Consulate we proceeded to the Mayor's office where I was cordially received by His Honor and shown over the City Hall. Thence we proceeded to the residence of Cardinal O'Connell.4 His Eminence, who on the previous day had celebrated his 80th birthday, was very affable, and the interview instead of lasting the customary fifteen or twenty minutes, took the greater part of an hour, a circumstance which was commented on favourably by the members of the Reception Committee. The Cardinal expressed his great satisfaction that Ireland was neutral. He said that Ireland was very fortunate at the present time in having a Government with such patriotic, broadminded, unselfish and cultured gentlemen. This he attributed to the fact that the standards had not been corrupted in Ireland. The picture in America was otherwise. Here the pro-British element were trying to involve America in war and quite apart from that they were setting up false standards. He had just been reading a book on J. Pierpont Morgan5 in which this gentleman was lauded to the skies. In the Cardinal's opinion, Morgan and his like were merely heirs to the robber Barons; they were lauded because they managed to rob the people to the extent of many millions while unfortunate Irishmen, for whom of course there was no excuse except the bad example set, were jailed for doing something similar on a much smaller scale. When I mentioned the fact that the Catholic Church was now recognized almost universally in America as a great stabilizing influence, he said he resented the patronizing attitude which produced this thought and he had no desire to see the Church regarded as a sort of moral policeman for the robber Barons. To the gentlemen present he said, its about time we, the Irish, raised our heads in this country and let one and all know that the standards we hope to achieve are ingrained in us because of our faith and tenacity, and that we are in the forefront of the best elements in America today. It is time that an end was put to the claim of any mental or moral superiority on the part of the Anglo-Saxons. The Cardinal asked me many questions about Ireland which I was able to answer, and altogether the general atmosphere of the audience was very pleasing and warm-hearted. His Eminence, at the close, presented me with a replica of the medal given to him on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee. During the audience he was accompanied by his Secretary, Monsignor Minehan.

Subsequently we visited Harvard University where President Conant6 received us and expressed his disappointment that Mr. de Valera had been unable to carry out his visit. Under the guidance of Dr. Jerome Green and Dr. Corcoran Thom we made a tour of the College premises. One of the Professors in the Anthropologic Section, whose name I cannot find at the moment, recalled his very pleasant experiences in Ireland while a member of the Anthropological Expedition7 and he expressed deep appreciation for the financial help given by the Irish Government and for the assistance generally given by all and sundry connected with the work.

Afterwards we proceeded to the State House where in the absence of Governor Saltonstall,8 who was in Washington for the Gridiron Dinner, we were received by the Acting Governor, Mr. Cahill9 and Mr. David J. Lynch of the Governor's Staff.

At luncheon, Mr. Sheehan had arranged that I should meet several of those who had been active in the Irish movement from 1916 onward.

[matter omitted]

In the afternoon we visited Boston College where we were received by Father Keyes, S.J., and Father Murphy, S.J., the latter being the Gaelic Professor in the College.

In the evening I was the guest of honour at the Clover Club Dinner and the speakers all paid high tribute to Ireland and to myself. I sat between the President of the Club and the Mayor. The latter told me of his pleasant experiences on his recent visit to Ireland and said he had made a promise to his wife that they would visit Ireland every year. He did not know how he was going to manage it now while the war was on, but he would probably fly to Lisbon. My speech was very well received. It was on the lines of recent speeches dealing mainly with the progress of events in Ireland under a National Government.

On Sunday morning, accompanied by several members of the Clover Club Committee and by Mr. O'Riordan and Mr. Sheehan, we attended High Mass in the Cathedral. Owing to a mistake in the arrangements the Cardinal was elsewhere.

[matter omitted]

1 John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-90), poet and novelist; transported to Australia in 1868 forinvolvement with the Irish Republican Brotherhood but escaped to America in February 1869.

2 John T. Hughes (1871-1945), Boston lawyer; a strong supporter of Irish republicanism and a founder member of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic.

3 Seán Moylan (1888-1957), Fianna Fail TD for North Cork (1932-57), Minister for Lands (1943-8) and Minister for Education (1951-4).

4 Cardinal William Henry O'Connell (1859-1944), Archbishop of Boston (1907-44).

5 John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), American financier, banker and philanthropist.

6 Dr James Bryant Conant (1892-1978), President of Harvard University (1933-53).

7 A reference to the field study undertaken in the west of Ireland in 1932 by Harvard archaeologists and anthropologists under the direction of Professor Earnest Hooten. The project received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and from the Irish Government. Best known of the team were anthropologists Conrad M. Arensberg (1910-97) and Solon T. Kimball (1909-82) for their book Family and Community in Ireland (Harvard, 1940) and for Arensberg's The Irish Countryman: an Anthropological Study (London, 1937). Professor William Lloyd Warner was directly responsible for Arensberg's and Kimball's research and, through contacts with de Valera, for the Taoiseach's endorsement of the project.

8 Leverett A. Saltonstall (1892-1979), Governor of Massachusetts (1939-45), United States Senator (1945-67).

9 Horace T. Cahill, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts (1939-45).

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO