May 292016
 

Immortal-Irishman-2_1024x1024The immortal Irishman is Robert Meagher, surely the most famous and interesting person I’ve never heard of.  Meagher (pronounced Mar) was an incomparably gifted nineteenth century orator and supporter of human rights.  He formed part of a cadre of Irish intellectuals that fomented a failed revolution against British rule at a time when infected potatoes puddled in Irish fields, millions were starving, and British landlords exported wheat and oats form Ireland to England.  In return for defying Queen Victoria and her troops, Meagher was sentenced to death, only at the last moment having his sentence commuted to lifetime banishment in Tasmania.  After many years in virtually solitary exile, he escaped to America, overcame harsh anti-Catholic racism, and spoke his way into becoming a leading general of an Irish brigade in the U.S. civil war.  Lincoln counted him as a confidant and following his wartime leadership of one of the most recognized battalions on either side of the conflict, Meagher became governor of the Montana territory, reluctant to fight Indians because he understood their plight as being in brotherhood with the plight of enslaved Africans and oppressed Irishmen.  Egan’s account of Ireland’s subjugation is exceptionally clearheaded, and his retelling of the Civil War is as compelling as any I have ever encountered.

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