Henry George, the Transatlantic Irish, and their Times: Volume 27 Part 2


Table of contents

(17 chapters)
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Pages xiii-xiv
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This anthology contains writings by Henry George and relevant authors pertaining to the Irish-American experience, Ireland, and related topics during the early 1880s. They merit attention not only for their relative unavailability and for revealing salient aspects of questions relating to the single tax as George and his supporters viewed them, but most importantly for elucidating the meteoric rise and fall of Henry George.


Pages xv-liii
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Henry George came to maturity at a time when the simplicity and democratic values that had governed the United States were under assault. Slow and placid rhythms of life prevailed, but their future would be brief. Factories were flinging mass-produced goods into an economy accustomed to expecting a hat or a pair of shoes to come to an individual consumer from a local craftsman, or perhaps from a merchant drawing craft products from small shops at some distance. Canals and then rail tracks had begun slicing into the backcountry. Cities were taking on a character Americans might more quickly have expected of ancient times: overcrowded housing, uncollected sewage, the ravages of cholera, and the spread of street crime.

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The material in this section dates as early as 1880, a year after publication of Progress and Poverty. George had not attained notoriety but was about to do so. It was at this time that he began a close association with Patrick Ford of The Irish World. So these selections should be read carefully both to clarify this transitional period and as a seedbed for future works.

The position of these Irish agitators is illogical and untenable; the remedy they propose is no remedy at all – nevertheless they are talking about the tenure of land and the right to land; and thus a question of worldwide importance is coming to the front.3

George knew fully well what he was getting into when he started to associate with radical Irish Americans. These varied in their demands regarding home rule, land reform, and other issues, but they had in common a detestation of British rule – they could get on with their lives without the crown and parliament, Victoria, Disraeli, and Gladstone. The British were conquerors, or at the very least unwelcome foreigners. A short extract from a letter to Patrick Ford appears in the first volume of The Henry George Trilogy and deserves a reappearance: “We’ll topple Mr. British Crown before we are done. And I don’t care what plan anyone proposes so that he goes on the right line” (from George, “My Dear Mr. Ford,” in Wenzer, 1997b, p. 135).

Dublin, Wednesday, 1 a.m., Aug. 9, 1882.

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Alfred Isacsson's long-needed definitive biography of Edward McGlynn, The Determined Doctor, should be read by anyone interested in McGlynn and George (Isacsson, 1998). McGlynn was an interesting amalgam of stubbornness and priestly compassion who could just as easily get into a donnybrook as give away the shirt off his back. But he was a troublemaker who could rarely compromise, so his friendship with George embroiled the single-tax philosopher, as described in the introductory essay, in a foreordained losing battle with the Roman Catholic Church. George also allowed himself to be easily swayed by the glamour of a political career. Hindsight suggests that he should never have gotten involved. Like his friend McGlynn, he was not easily given to compromise, so he would have probably made a poor politician. His campaigns, especially his first mayoralty race, which most certainly gave machine politics a bruised eye, created more problems for him than they were worth.

To the Most Rev. M.A. Corrigan, Archbishop of New York:

A reason for this section is to present the most appropriate documents written by George's contemporaries to highlight his views and interactions toward the various Irish problems. An added bonus was that George was close friends with Dr. Edward McGlynn, Michael Davitt, and Patrick Ford; had associated with Bishop Thomas Nulty, James Leigh Joynes, Cardinal Henry Manning, and Charles Stewart Parnell; and had met and fought with Archbishop Michael Corrigan. With the exception of Jones, all these men were some of the more famous players on the stage in American, Irish, and English history. Bringing to the surface some important contributions by them is in itself an important historical contribution. The connection with George immeasurably enhances their significance and interest.

Our Dublin correspondent telegraphed last night:

Historians consider correspondence to be an important primary source, especially when they open the heart and mind of the sender and the recipient. They may reveal motives too deep for the spare writings of public discourse. But a historian must deal objectively with material that, in its spontaneous emotion, can be more deceptive than revelatory. And at times, it can be an intrusive undertaking, especially with love letters. An observation by the prominent nineteenth-century American historian Francis Parkman bears heeding:Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them. He must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes [or reads]. (Bartlett & Beck, 1968, p. 721)

37 Lower Gardiner St.


Pages 527-539
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The first part of the bibliography lists the collections of private papers from which cited material comes. The second part contains relevant works in English relating to Henry George and the single tax, and includes graduate papers. The third part presents a selected list of books about Irish history, the Irish-American experience, Roman Catholic history, and related subjects. The fourth part contains a list of consulted newspapers. All cited works are included in their respective categories, except for newspaper articles, details of which are included in the notes.

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Book series
Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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