Easter 2016 was in late March, but a century ago it fell on April 23. If Verdun was the seminal event of winter 1916, and the Somme the pressing issue of the summer, then the Easter Rising was the key event of that spring. Strange as it sounds, it’s hard for people to imagine how international the Great War was. I imagine this is because we think of globalization as a twenty-first century phenomenon. The war was of concern to people throughout the world however. It is worth noting that 200,000 Irish had fought in the British Army up to that point in the war. The Great War had implications for Americans of all nationalities. Irish and German Americans were watching events in far off Europe with especially keen interest. Nowhere was this truer than New York City with its large immigrant communities. The city’s many German-language newspapers covered the war in detail, and the Irish press was doing the same.
One New Yorker who got caught up in the Easter Rising was naturalized American Jeremiah C. Lynch. Lynch was twenty when he came to the United States and remained active in the Irish cause. He was in his early forties when the war began, and was working in Dublin as an insurance agent for the Cotten Exchange when the Easter Rising started on April 24. He was quickly arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to execution. The British were wasting no time; he was scheduled to face a firing squad at 4:00 am British time on May 19. Senator James A. O’Gorman (D-NY) asked the Wilson Administration to intervene with the British government for a stay of execution. Working feverishly, Wilson had directed the American Ambassador Walter Hines Page to press for some sort of clemency. Page was well-positioned to plead for leniency; he was extremely Anglophilic and understood the complexities and tensions under which the British government was working on a number of issues. J.C. Lynch’s punishment was eventually commuted to ten years in prison.
(image/Library of Congress)