Clan na Gael
The Clan na Gael (sic; the
spelling would be Clann na
nGael "family of the Gaels")
was an Irish republican organization in the United
States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Successor
to the Fenian
a sister organization to the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
immigration to the United
States of America began to increase in
century many Irish organizations were formed. One of the earliest
formed under the name of the Irish
Society and was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737. These
organizations went by varying names, most notably the anti-Protestant Ancient and Most Benevolent Order of
Brothers of Saint Patrick, founded in New York in 1767, the Society of the Friendly Sons of Saint
Patrick for the
Relief of Emigrants in Philadelphia in 1771, and the Friendly
Sons of Saint Patrick also formed in New York in 1784.
In the later part of the 1780s, a
rather than Catholic
character began to grow in these organisations
amongst recently arrived Irish immigrants.
helped solidify this sense of nationalism and was most noticeably found
use of the name "Hibernian." (Hibernia is the Latin for Ireland.)
the Irish Republican Brotherhood
founded in Dublin
Stephens. The initial decision to create this organisation
came about after Stephens consulted, through special emissary Joseph Denieffe, with John O'Mahony
and Michael Doheny,
members of a precursor group called the Emmet Monument
In response to the establishment of the IRB in Dublin,
a sister organization was founded in New York,
led by O'Mahony. This arm of Fenian
activity in America
a surge in radicalism among groups of Irish immigrants, many of whom
recently been forced from Ireland
by the Great
Hunger. In October, 1865, the Fenian Philadelphia
Congress met and appointed the Irish Republican Government in the U.S.
1865 in Ireland
the IRB newspaper The
had been raided by the British and the IRB leadership imprisoned. Another
uprising would occur in 1867 but the British remained in control.
After the 1865 crackdown in Ireland,
the American organization began to fracture over what to do next. Made
veterans of the American Civil
War, a Fenian army had
been formed. While O'Mahony
supporters wanted to remain focused on supporting rebellions in Ireland
competing faction, called the Roberts, or senate wing, wanted this Fenian Army to attack British bases in Canada.
resulting Fenian Raids
U.S.-British relations. The level of American support for the Fenian cause began to diminish as the Fenians
were seen as a threat to stability in the region.
The Irish were still seen as a foreign people within the borders of the
American state by anti-Catholic Americans such as members of the Know-Nothing Party; their existence
within America was
seen primarily as temporary camps of
immigrants who planned to stay in America
only as long as the British stayed in Ireland. Upon the British
withdrawal from Irish soil, it was believed, the Irish immigrants would
to their native land. The Fenian Raids
were seen as
an astonishing example of immigrant
activity in U.S.
history and Irish nationalism
has itself become something of an exception among the American melting
Very few U.S.
concerned themselves with their mother country as did the Irish; in
1868, 100,000 Fenian supporters held an
demonstration in New York.
After the failure of the Fenian Raids, the
Fenian Brotherhood became an illegal entity
law. After 1867, the Irish Republican Brotherhood headquarters in Manchester
chose to support neither of the existing feuding factions, but instead
a renewed Irish republican organization in America,
to be named Clan na
Under the leadership of John
Devoy, Clan na Gael would eventually be
successful in educating Americans about the movement. In 1876, it would
known for rescuing six convicted and exiled Fenians
from remote Western Australia in the Catalpa
In 1879, Devoy promoted a "new departure" in Irish
republican thinking, by which the "physical force party" allied
itself with the "constitutional movement" under the political
leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell, MP; the
plans of the Fenians were thus combined
agrarian revolution inaugurated by the Land
The 1880s saw the solidification, at least within America, of Irish
ideological orientations with most nationalist sentiment finding its
within Clan na Gael, rather than sectarian
anti-Protestant organisations. The more
agrarian-minded found their ideological brethren within the Irish
Federation of America. The third ideological strand was
the union and socialist
movement and found support with the Knights
In 1891, a moderate offshoot of the Clan na Gael broke away and formed an
the name of Irish
National Federation of America with T. Emmet as president.
federation supported the National Party in Ireland,
shoot-off of Parnell's Home Rule Party.
The objective of Clan na
Gael was to secure an independent Ireland and to assist the
Republican Brotherhood in achieving this aim. To this end, the Clan was
prepared to enter into alliances with any nation allied against the
with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Clan found
greatest ally in Imperial Germany and it was with their
help the Easter
Rising would come about. Devoy, along
Casement, was able to bring together both the American and German
the years prior to the Easter
Rising. Clan na
Gael became the largest single financier of both
the Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence.
Clan na Gael by
those guns and munitions to be used in the uprising of 1916. Germany had hoped that by distracting Britain
Irish uprising they would be able to garner the upper-hand in the war
affect a German victory on the Western
Front. However, they failed to follow through with more support.
John Devoy (1842-1928) was an
leader and exile.
Devoy was born
near Kill, County
Kildare. In 1861
he travelled to France
with an introduction from
Sullivan T.D. to John Mitchel. Devoy
joined the French Foreign Legion and served in Algeria
year before returning to Ireland to become a Fenian
organiser in Naas,
many Fenian leaders were arrested, James
Stephens, founder of the Irish Republican Brotherhood,
appointed Devoy Chief Organiser
of the Fenians in the British
Army in Ireland, his duty being to enlist Irishmen in the British
Army into the IRB. In November, 1865 Devoy
orchestrated Stephens' escape from Richmond
IRB Council of War called for an immediate uprising, but Stephens
to Devoy's annoyance as he calculated the Fenian force in the British Army to number
80,000. The British got
wind of the
plan through informers
and moved the regiments abroad, replacing them with loyal regiments
Devoy was arrested in February, 1866 and
interned in Mountjoy Gaol before being
tried for treason
and sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude. In Portland
strikes and was moved to Millbank Prison.
and exiled to America
where he received an address of welcome from the House of Representatives.
Devoy became a journalist for the New
York Herald and was active in Clan
na Gael. In 1875 Devoy and John Boyle O'Reilly organised
the escape of six Fenians from Freemantle
Prison, Australia aboard the ship Catalpa.
In 1879 Devoy returned to Ireland
to inspect Fenian centres
and met Charles Kickham, John O'Leary and Michael Davitt
on route in Paris.
Devoy played a minor indirect role in Ireland's
Rising in 1916.
In 1914 Padraig Pearse visited Devoy
and later the same year Roger Casement worked with Devoy
in rasising money for guns to arm the Irish
Volunteers. Though he was skeptical of the endeavor, he financed
supported Casement's expedition to Germany
German aid in the struggle to free Ireland from English rule.
and in 1919
addressed Dáil Éireann, and later
supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Devoy was editor of the Gaelic American
until his death in
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