In 1867 forty Irish American freedom fighters, outfitted with guns and ammunition on Erin’s Hope, sailed to Ireland to join the effort to end British rule. Yet they never got a chance to fight. British authorities arrested them for treason as soon as they landed, sparking an international conflict that dragged the United States and Britain to the brink of war.
John Warren, born in Clonakilty, turned his trial for treason into a bold challenge to British authority. The small ruckus created by these impassioned Irish Americans provoked an international human rights revolution that is not, even now, fully realized. The Fenians claimed American citizenship. British authorities disagreed, insisting that naturalized Irish-born Americans remained British subjects. “Once a subject, always a subject,” they quipped. Whose vision would prevail? Since the American Revolution, the United States had been on a collision course with European nations as migrants poured out of Europe and into America.
“Sending” states often refused to relinquish their legal hold on emigrants. The Fenians stepped into an international controversy that had been brewing for years over “whose was whose.” The crisis resulted in a dozen landmark treaties and path-breaking domestic laws – in Britain, Germany, and the U.S. – acknowledging the right of exit and the freedom of migration. Dr. Lucy E. Salyer is Associate Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire and author of Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law, which won the Theodore Saloutos Book Award for the best book on immigration history. A former Constance E. Smith Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Salyer received the Arthur K. Whitcomb Professorship for teaching excellence, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Her latest book Under the Starry Flag recovers a forgotten chapter in international history, a time when nations sought to tear down walls preventing the free flow of people.
Copies of the book will be on sale at the lecture.