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An Alternative View to the Propaganda: The Irish-American Press and the Spanish-American War

By Eileen Anderson


Front page of The New York World reporting on Admiral Dewey's victory
at the Battle of Manila
(The Spanish American War Centennial)

The sinking of the US warship the Maine in February was a turning point in the conflict; and articles alluding to Spain’s culpability appeared in The New York World and The New York Journal; however, the Irish editors were sceptical about Spain’s role in the disaster. Ford remained convinced of English involvement in the campaign to discredit Spain and the Irish World quoted another article from The London Spectator that cites unrest in the Americas and defined the US as primarily Anglo.

The difficulties with Spain only served to increase latent sentiment essential to the unity existing among Anglo-Saxons. The possibility that the Spanish quarrel may bring them face to face with a continental coalition made the Americans realize that our race is not beloved on the Continent and that we may some day have to make a common cause. (26 March 1898)

In “England helped Spain go Broke” (21 March 1898), The Irish-American also suggests ongoing concerns about English participation. However, supporting the Spanish and complete abstention from the war would have been perceived as unpatriotic. As a result the articles printed in the Irish-American (and to some extent the Irish World as well) changed their anti-war tone. On 24 February the Irish-American published this opinion.

Until the result of an official inquiry is known, the proper thing, therefore, for everyone, is to keep cool and rest in the assurance that full justice will be insisted on by the President and congress. It would be premature to attempt to pronounce any judgment as to whether the terrible event was the result of an accident, or an act for which, in any way, the Spanish authorities can be held responsible. Should the latter prove to be the case, in the present state of feeling in the United States, war between the two countries would be inevitable.

On 2 April, a small article appeared in the Irish World that made a more subtle argument that defended the United States without criticising Spain.

The United States has always been most reasonable in its relations and dealings with other nations and it needs but plain and honest dealings on the side of Spain to have the present unpleasantness reach a satisfactory conclusion for both. The United States is neither a bully nor a grabbing nation.

At this point, the writer still has faith in the US legal system and believes that US and Spanish diplomats can solve the conflict.

Dunne’s Mr. Dooley also provided his opinion on the idea of ‘The Anglo-Saxon Race’ and the Anglicisation of the US in his column entitled On the Anglo-Saxon. He tells his friend and loyal customer, Hennessy, that an ‘Anglo-Saxon is a German that’s forgot who was his parent and ‘They‘re a lot iv thim in this country.’ Dooley also confides that he is ‘wan iv the hottest Anglo-Saxons that iver come out of Anglo-Saxony. Th’ name iv Dooley has been the proudest Anglo-Saxon name in the County Roscommon f’r many years.’ (Green 1988: 34) Also, in The Decline of National Feeling, Dooley claims that then President McKinley (Mack), was a Scots-Irish who was becoming more anglicised because he supported US/English connections. In the column, Hennessy asks Mr. Dooley about his plans for St. Patrick’s Day and he responds:

‘Well, said Mr. Dooley, “I may cillybrate it an’ I may not. I’m thinkin’ iv savin’ me enthusiasm f’r th’ queen’s birthday, whiniver it is that blessd holiday comes ar-round. Ye see, Hinnissy, Patrick’s Day is out iv fashion now. A few years ago ye’d see the Prisident iv th’ United States marchin’ down Pinnsylvanya Avnoo, with the green scarf iv th’ Ancient Order on his shoulders an’ a shamrock in his hat. Now what’s Mack doin’? He’s settin in his parlor, writin’ letters to th’ queen, be hivins, askin’ after her health. He was fr’m th’ north iv Ireland two years ago, an’ not so far north ayether, - just far enough north f’r to be on good terms with Derry an’ not far enough to be bad friends with Limerick… (Filler 1962: 46-7)

Dunne comments on way the colonisation of Irish culture makes it part of English tradition. Dooley calls himself an Anglo-Saxon and supplants the Catholic holiday of Saint Patrick’s Day (which celebrates the person who brought Christianity to Ireland) with the Queen’s birthday and reminds his readers that many Irish in the US have become “assimilated” into Anglo traditions.

The Invasion of Puerto Rico

Even after the US had invaded Cuba and was preparing to invade Puerto Rico, The World still dedicated much of its coverage to linking the push for US involvement in the Caribbean to an attempt by the English to increase their influence. The headlines in the summer 1898 issues attacked ‘Anglo’ ideas of hegemony more directly and supported a more multicultural approach to defining ‘Americanness’ by emphasising the necessity for other Americans to fight against Anglicisation. On 11 June they published an article with the headline ‘Arrogance of the Anglomanic Gang’ which offers an alternative definition to a single US identity.

What Binds Us as Nation is Not Community of Race, But a Community of Interests, […] Of all the Races Here That Which Calls Itself the Anglo-Saxon is the Only One That Attempts to Force the Entire Nation into its Allegiance […] It seems strange that it should be necessary to call attention to the fact that we are not a race, Anglo-Saxon, Teutonic, Latin or Celtic, or any other but a nation made up of many races.

The article concludes with ideas about ways of defining US citizens and warns against defining them by language or race. The Irish-American emphasised a parallel sentiment.

I would remind this self-complaisant ‘Anglo-Saxon’: that there are a good many countrymen of the young Emperor of Germany in this country, and many more of this race - All American citizens - who would have a word to say in regard to a combination of the aforesaid ‘mother and daughter’ against their fatherland. And then what about the Irish and their kindred? And what of the Franco-American element in our makeup, not to speak of the Russians, Scandinavians and Italians, and last, though not least our colored brethren, who owe their former condition of slavery to British colonial institutions? (10 June 1898).


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Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2007

Online published: 11 November 2007
Edited: 07 May 2009

Anderson, Eileen, "An Alternative View to the Propaganda: The Irish-American Press and the Spanish-American War
" in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 5:3 (November 2007), pp. 163-170. Available online (, accessed .


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