Ulster Unionism and America, 1880-1920
Flewelling, Lindsey Jean
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This thesis examines the relationship between Ulster unionists and the United States during the Home Rule era from 1880 to 1920. As they fought to uphold the Union, Ulster unionists reacted to Irish-American involvement in the Irish nationalist movement with anxiety and fear of the impact on a potential Dublin parliament. At the same time, unionists cultivated an image of a violent and extremist Irish-America in order to counter Irish nationalism and support their own movement. Unionists condemned the American funding of Irish nationalism and United States government interference on the Irish question. However, they were also anxious to show that unionism had international appeal, seeking American support against Home Rule and promoting a self-image of close ties to the United States. This thesis argues that Ulster unionists took a multifaceted and paradoxical approach to America, repudiating American involvement in the Irish nationalist movement while attempting to find opportunities to advance the cause of unionism in the United States. Throughout the Home Rule period, the Ulster unionist record of appeals and responses to the United States was marked by unevenness and contradictions which limited their effectiveness. However, unionists increasingly used an idealized, imagined America to support their own movement. They cited American historical and constitutional examples and fostered an Ulster identity based in part on Scotch-Irish heritage and Protestant connections. Ulster unionists were less insular and more internationally focused than they are generally portrayed. Chapter I introduces the historical context and historiographic framework in which the thesis operates. Chapters II and III provide an overview of the relationship between Ulster unionists and the United States from 1880 to 1920. During this period, unionists attempted to garner American support for their movement while contemporaneously responding to Irish-American nationalism and the involvement of the United States government on the Irish question. Subsequent chapters are arranged thematically, examining the elements of the Ulster unionists’ American strategy. Chapter IV investigates Scotch-Irish ethnic revival and associational culture in the United States, analyzing continued links to Ireland and attitudes toward Irish Home Rule. Chapter V provides case-studies of unionist visits to the United States as they endeavored to counter nationalist influence and build up a unionist following. Chapter VI explores the interconnection of religion and politics in Ulster’s relationship with America. Chapter VII examines the impact of American history and politics on the Ulster unionist movement. Chapter VIII concludes that the inability of Ulster unionists to effectively deal with the United States in the present day has roots in the relationship between unionists and America during the Home Rule era.