James Stephens (1825-1901) was born in Kilkenny. He founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish branch of the Fenian movement, in 1858. Stephens can be ranked among the best political organisers of the nineteenth century, but he was also arrogant and dictatorial about the means to attain his ends. Marta Ramon is the author of A Provisional Dictator: James Stephens and the Fenian Movement and an occasional lecturer and tutor for NUI Maynooth and Oscail.
James Stephens' "American Diary" is one of the most important documents of early Fenianism. It uncovers the difficulties facing the movement's founders, and offers an insight into mid nineteenth-century American life and the Irish-American community. It also provides a unique first-hand impression of James Stephens' striking personality. It is one of Stephens' scarce full-length pieces and one of the best written, although it has not previously been published in its entirety.
Introduction by Marta Ramon
Note on the Text
DIARY OF JAMES STEPHENS, Part I
Epilogue by Marta Ramon
- I Documents
II Biographical notes on key figures
'University College Dublin Press has now published over thirty 'Classics of Irish History'. These contemporary accounts by well known personalities of historical events and attitudes have an immediacy that conventional histories do not have. Introductions by modern historians provide additional historical background and, with hindsight, objectivity.'
'Scholars of nineteenth-century Irish and Irish-American politics should reacquaint themselves with these classics, part of a long running and immensely useful series from University College Dublin Press.'
Irish Literary Supplement
'Stephens was a crucial figure in the Fenian movement and also controversial. He was one of those who founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood in New York in 1858. His diary of 1859 is therefore a useful account from an insider’s view of the early days of the Fenians. Stephens gives his version of events and the development within the organisation but also, perhaps incidentally, an insight into the Irish-American community and American society at that time. This volume of the Classics of Irish History series is a valuable first-hand source for this period in Irish history.'
'No one interested in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (the Fenians) can afford to ignore this first-hand account of how it came into being by the man who founded the movement. The diary has never been previously published in its entirety. Marta Ramon introduction provides an excellent background to the diary.
James Stephens (1825–1901) was always something of a romantic figure, who was known as An Seabhach Siulach (The Wandering Hawk). He was a railway engineer from Kilkenny who took part in the Young Ireland uprising of 1848, was wounded at Ballingarry, and then escaped to Paris. Although he has been criticised as being no original thinker, no Wolfe Tone or James Connolly, nevertheless, he has to be accorded his place in history for his organisational and motivational abilities. In fact, one has to acknowledge that Stephens should be ranked among the best political organisers of the 19th century. He was certainly arrogant and dictatorial and dissension within the American branch of the movement caused him to be denounced as 'a rogue, impostor and traitor'.
His was the guiding hand that created and shaped the IRB into the longest surviving insurgency movement in Ireland, from whose base the modern Irish state finally emerged. He organised his movement on military lines.
The diary is essential to understanding Stephen's role and is, as the publisher says, one of the most important documents of early Fenians. More important, for historians, it provides a unique insight to his fascinating personality.'
Peter Berresford Ellis
'His 1858 diary offers insights into the thinking of the Irish-American emigrants, with their concept of having a role in a military liberation project. Key figures in the 1848 aftermath were John Mitchell and Michael Doheny, and the Irish Republican Union (IRU) was the organisational link, along with the Emmett Monument Association (EMA) associated with Doheny and John O'Mahony.
We pick up in the Stephens diary some feel for the problems of knowing who is who, what their motivations are, whether they can be relied upon, are they good for money or military participation… '
Click on this line for full article: http://www.irishdemocrat.co.uk/book-reviews/birth-of-fenianism/
'The editor, who has written a full account of James Stephens and the Fenian movement already, provides the ‘diary’, or rather journal for large parts of it are not daily records at all, provides an introduction and additional material on those involved which will make this of very great interest and use to those wishing to understand the roots of the republican movement. Already in these pages the belligerent suspicions of others that have bedevilled that movement are clearly present.'
25 February 2010
'This diary is one of the most important documents on the early years of the Fenian movement. It is introduced and annotated by Dr Marta Ramon, author of an acclaimed biography of Stephens. Although quotations from the diary have been used in the past, this is the first time that it has been [published in full. After the failure of the attempted rebellion in 1867 Stephens faded into the background and though he lived until 1901 he never wrote his autobiography – a pity. If we can judge by this diary it would have given us an insight into the crucial years from 1865 to 1867 and would have further illuminated both his own remarkable personality and his comrades. … UCD Press are to be congratulated on this series in general. The standard of editing and presentation are uniformly high. The inclusion of the hitherto unpublished works on the Fenian movement makes available valuable insights which will greatly assist students of the period. One looks forward to more such publications.'