Download pdf

Table of Contents


Contact Information

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

By Eileen Anderson


In this editorial the war is seen as prompting a change in the ethnic understanding of association and creating a civic version of US ethnicity.

However, as an article on 28 March demonstrates, the position of The Irish-American was becoming less inclined to question the logic of the war and began to support US involvement. Neither editor encouraged the involvement but they attempted to convince their readers that their duties as Catholics were related to the responsibilities of US citizenship.

We avail ourselves of this opportunity; however, to call to mind our Catholic brethren that should war break out between our Republic and Spain, we are obliged in our conscience to be loyal to the flag- the Stars and Stripes. It is the teaching of Catholic theology that the government has a right, binding on the conscience of its subjects, for their money and their arms in the war against their foe. We trust after God and the intercession of the Blessed virgin in the well-known peaceable disposition of the American government and the American people, that war may be averted. But should it come - Catholics, you know your duty…

The article displays a double speak that could be interpreted as pro-Spanish or pro-War and it is unclear whether their duty as Catholics is to the other Catholic nation or to US interests. A new anti-Spain rhetoric replaces their previous sympathy as they call Spain ‘the wreck of a once great nation’ (25 April 1898).

The Irish World did not undergo such a transformation and was much more restrained in its support of the war. The journalists remained respectful to the Spanish people. However, like The Irish-American, they paid homage to the ‘Irish boys’ such as the well-known sixty-ninth Infantry Regiment of New York and other regiments that were volunteering to go to war. On 7 May they dedicated an entire page to the history of the Sixty-Ninth [3] and reports on the ovation the regiment received as they departed for Florida. Both newspapers emphasised that the Irish that were fighting for the United States and ostensibly for Cuban/Puerto Rican independence.

The Irish-American also highlighted the Irish presence in the War and emphasised ideas of race and blood and contended that Admiral Dewey, who played an important role in the Philippines conflicts, was an Irishman.

The Irish Strain in the American Blood appears to be again asserting itself as it did in the early naval combats of the Republic. The name of Admiral Dewey, of our fighting navy, may have an unfamiliar appearance to some people, but it is only the anglicized form of the old Irish Sept-name of ODuaghtaigh which was one of those described by penal law in the Old Land. (7 May 1898).

This emphasis on the Irish presence in the US armed forces redefines the War as a US endeavour and not an Anglo one.

Dunne parodies this way of promoting the Irish presence in the military and Mr. Dooley makes a more ironic claim about Dewey’s Irish ancestry in his column called On War Preparations. He tells Hennessey that “Cousin George is all r-right” and when his friend questions him about his cousin George he says “Dewey or Dooley, ‘tis all th’ same. We dhrop a letter here an’there, except the haitches, - we niver dhrop thim, -but we’re th’ same breed iv fighting men. Georgy has th’ traits iv th’ family’(Green 1988: 14).

Most of Dunne’s satire on the battles was directed at US generals and parodied the ideas of masculine bravery portrayed in The New York Journal and The New York World. Dunne’s column on the invasion of Puerto Rico, entitled General Miles’s Moonlight Excursion, ridicules the entire invasion of Puerto Rico and depicts a party-like atmosphere. Mr. Dooley pontificates on his own inadequacies compared to the “brave” soldiers fighting the war, comments on the velocity of the surrender of the Puerto Rican people, and implies that the real reason that US invaded the island was for capitalistic gain - not the promotion of democracy. In the column, Mr. Dooley explains the valiant efforts of General Miles, who led the Puerto Rican invasion, to his friend, Mr. Hennessey. He tells ‘Hinnissy’ that he would have liked to participate in the military incursion. He also comments that the biggest decision that the General and his soldiers had to make was deciding where to eat, play croquette and how to dodge the bouquets of flowers being thrown at them.

Dear, oh, dear,” said Mr. Dooley, “I’d give five dollars-an’ I’d kill a man f’r three - if I was out iv this Sixth Wa-ard tonight, an’ down with Gin’ral Miles; gran’ picnic an’ moonlight excursion in Porther Ricky. ‘Tis no comfort in being a cow’rd whin ye think iv thim br-rave la-ads facin’ death be suffication in bokays an’ dyin’ iv waltzin’ with th’ pretty girls of Porther Ricky. (Filler 1962: 55)

General Miles was one of Dunne’s favourite objects of satire because of his self-aggrandising behaviour. Puerto Rican resistance to the invasion was nominal and in Dunne’s columns the officials appear as welcoming hosts, who ask to be taken into a ‘gloryous an’well-fed raypublic’ (Filler 1962: 57). As they arrive, the young women throw flowers at the troops and arrange a party in their honour.

At the end of the “Excursion” sketch, Mr. Dooley reminds Hennessy that there are monetary advantages to be gained by the integration of Puerto Rico. He once again downplays any notion that the United States is a liberating force. The bartender also explains his view on the real results of war when he quotes his version of General Miles’s first speech to the Puerto Rican people:

‘Ye will get ye’er wur-kin-cards from the walkin’ diligate.’he says; ‘an ye’ll be entitled,’ he says; ‘to pay your share iv th’ taxes an’ to live awhile an’ die whin ye get r-ready, ’he says; ‘jus th’ same as if ye was bor-rn at home, ’I don’ know th’ names iv ye; but I’ll call ye all Casey, f’r short. (Filler 1962: 56).

In this speech the United States is transformed from a liberating force into an imperial one and General Miles tells the crowd that they have nothing to worry about because they will be able to work and pay taxes just like all other US citizens. He goes on to negate their Spanish, African, and Caribbean ancestry by calling them all by an Irish surname.

The force of Dunne’s satire is that he appears to support the war, yet he is criticising the real motivations of the Generals and the US government.

‘An so th’ war is over?’asked Mr. Hennessy.

‘On’y part iv it,’ said Mr. Dooley. “The part that ye see in the pitcher pa-apers is over, but the tax collector will continue his part iv th’ war with relentless fury. Cal’vry charges are not th’ on ’y wans in a rale war.”(58)

According to Dooley, the spectacle of the war is over, but the most important part has just begun. He knows that the island will be taken over by the US and they will be forced to pay taxes to a government that will not grant them the same rights as citizens.


1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5


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 .


The Society for Irish Latin American Studies

 Copyright Information