Happy Fourth of July

Today is not a holiday in Ireland, of course. Still, there are plenty of celebrations of Independence Day here in Dublin. Anita will attend a party at one of A-Company’s offices, organised by Irish workers. Our local, The Pembroke, is decorated with a big poster of the Stars and Stripes, and red-white-and-blue bunting and balloons all over. The pub is advertising free hot dogs with the purchase of American beer. (Coors Light is all they have on tap; it’s embarrassing.) I’m curious to hear what the DJ plays during happy hour.

Dubliners, at least, always have a great interest in the US — more its politics than its economics. Over the past year, the general Irish attitude about America was still wary, but it shifted toward positivity, mostly due to the success of the 3% Irish presidential candidate, Barack Obama. He is seen as a spiritual successor to JFK, and Kennedy is still revered and adored all over Ireland. The dominant mood, as I sense it, is that the US can inspire hope and energy abroad once again.

Finally, let us not forget the close bond between America and the rebellions of Ireland after the Declaration of Independence. The success of American independence from Great Britain was an inspiration for the Rising of 1798:

John Cladwell described how “..on the news of the battle of Bunker Hill, my nurse Ann Orr led me to the top of a mount on midsummer eve, where the young and the aged were assembled before a blazing bonfire to celebrate what they considered the triumph of America over British despotism.”

Many of the United Irishmen, the intellectual leaders of that rebellion, looked across the Atlantic. They would continue to look west through the subsequent risings as well. And Irish immigrants to the US would play decisive roles for both nations.

The Harp and the Eagle: book cover

While Wolfe Tone, one of the heroes of the 1798 rebellion, did not admire the Americans he met in Pennsylvania, his “Declaration of the United Irishmen” echoes the “Declaration of Independence” that we celebrate today:

In the present great era of reform, when unjust Governments are falling in every quarter of Europe; when religious persecution is compelled to abjure her tyranny over conscience; when the rights of man are ascertained in theory, and that theory substantiated by practice; when antiquity can no longer defend absurd and oppressive forms against the common sense and common interests of mankind; when all Government is acknowledged to originate from the people, and to be so far only obligatory as it protects their rights and promotes their welfare; we think it our duty, as Irishmen, to come forward, and state what we feel to be our heavy grievance, and what we know to be its effectual remedy. We have no national Government— we are ruled by Englishmen, and the servants of Englishmen whose object is the interest of another country, whose instrument is corruption, and whose strength is the weakness of Ireland; and these men have the whole of the power and patronage of the country as means to seduce and subdue the honesty and spirit of her representatives in the legislature.

And the United Irish catechism makes the connection absolutely clear:

What is that in your hand? It is a branch.
Of what? Of the Tree of Liberty.
Where did it first grow? In America.
Where does it bloom? In France.
Where did the seeds fall? In Ireland.

The spirit of the Fourth of July is not about the United States of America (a country which came in being well after 1776). It is the spirit of Liberty that continues to inspire so many today.