Clan na Gael

The Clan na Gael (sic; the correct Irish 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 Brotherhood and a sister organization to the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

As Irish immigration to the United States of America began to increase in the 18th century many Irish organizations were formed. One of the earliest was formed under the name of the Irish Charitable Society and was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737. These new organizations went by varying names, most notably the anti-Protestant Ancient and Most Benevolent Order of the Friendly 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 strong nationalist rather than Catholic character began to grow in these organisations and amongst recently arrived Irish immigrants. The usage of Celtic symbolism helped solidify this sense of nationalism and was most noticeably found in the use of the name "Hibernian." (Hibernia is the Latin for Ireland.)

In 1858, the Irish Republican Brotherhood had been founded in Dublin by James 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 Association.

In response to the establishment of the IRB in Dublin, a sister organization was founded in New York, the Fenian Brotherhood, led by O'Mahony. This arm of Fenian activity in America produced a surge in radicalism among groups of Irish immigrants, many of whom had 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. But in 1865 in Ireland the IRB newspaper The Irish People had been raided by the British and the IRB leadership imprisoned. Another abortive 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 up of veterans of the American Civil War, a Fenian army had been formed. While O'Mahony and his supporters wanted to remain focused on supporting rebellions in Ireland a competing faction, called the Roberts, or senate wing, wanted this Fenian Army to attack British bases in Canada. The resulting Fenian Raids strained 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 return 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 pot. Very few U.S. immigrants concerned themselves with their mother country as did the Irish; in March of 1868, 100,000 Fenian supporters held an anti-English demonstration in New York.

After the failure of the Fenian Raids, the Fenian Brotherhood became an illegal entity under American law. After 1867, the Irish Republican Brotherhood headquarters in Manchester chose to support neither of the existing feuding factions, but instead promoted a renewed Irish republican organization in America, to be named Clan na Gael.

Under the leadership of John Devoy, Clan na Gael would eventually be successful in educating Americans about the movement. In 1876, it would become known for rescuing six convicted and exiled Fenians from remote Western Australia in the Catalpa rescue.

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 political plans of the Fenians were thus combined with the agrarian revolution inaugurated by the Land League.

The 1880s saw the solidification, at least within America, of Irish ideological orientations with most nationalist sentiment finding its home 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 connected to the union and socialist movement and found support with the Knights of Labor.

In 1891, a moderate offshoot of the Clan na Gael broke away and formed an organization under the name of Irish National Federation of America with T. Emmet as president. The federation supported the National Party in Ireland, a shoot-off of Parnell's Home Rule Party.

The objective of Clan na Gael was to secure an independent Ireland and to assist the Irish Republican Brotherhood in achieving this aim. To this end, the Clan was prepared to enter into alliances with any nation allied against the British; with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Clan found its greatest ally in Imperial Germany and it was with their help the Easter Rising would come about. Devoy, along with Roger Casement, was able to bring together both the American and German support in 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. Imperial Germany aided Clan na Gael by selling those guns and munitions to be used in the uprising of 1916. Germany had hoped that by distracting Britain with an Irish uprising they would be able to garner the upper-hand in the war and affect a German victory on the Western Front. However, they failed to follow through with more support.

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John Devoy (1842-1928) was an Irish rebel leader and exile.

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 for a year before returning to Ireland to become a Fenian organiser in Naas, County Kildare.

In 1865, when 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 Prison, Dublin. In February, 1866 an IRB Council of War called for an immediate uprising, but Stephens refused, much 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 from Britain. 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 Prison, Devoy organised prison strikes and was moved to Millbank Prison. In January, 1871 he was released 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 Easter Rising in 1916. In 1914 Padraig Pearse visited Devoy in America, 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 and supported Casement's expedition to Germany to enlist German aid in the struggle to free Ireland from English rule.

returned to Ireland and in 1919 addressed Dáil Éireann, and later supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Devoy was editor of the Gaelic American from 1903 until his death in New York in 1928.

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