IRELAND, John (1838-1918)
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Third archbishop of St. Paul, Minnesota. Distinguished American prelate who was on friendly terms with Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.
DS – Document Signed: highly uncommon 3”x4” official White House card signed by Ireland with his title of office. Accompanied by a color reprint image of Archbishop Ireland from an original oil painting (by Adolfo Müller-Ury). This is the first White House card we have seen signed by an American Catholic prelate. Highly desirable given Ireland’s association with McKinley and Roosevelt.
At age 25, one year after his ordination, Father Ireland received permission from his bishop to serve as a chaplain in the Fifth Minnesota Regiment of the Civil War. At the battle of Corinth on October 4, 1862 the Fifth Minnesota saved the day for the Union with a charge that stopped a Confederate breakthrough of the Union lines. Running short on ammunition, the troops received additional cartridges from Chaplain Ireland who ran down the line dispensing ammunition. When the fighting was over, the soldiers noted that their chaplain tirelessly tended the wounded and administered the Last Rites to soldiers whose wounds were beyond human aid. Father Ireland was mustered out of service in March of 1863 due to ill-health, but he never forgot his time in the Union Army. He was ever active in the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization, and would write about his experiences as a combat chaplain.
At a time when most Irish Catholics were staunch Democrats, Ireland was known for being close to the Republican party. He opposed racially inequality and called for equal rights and equal privileges, political, civil, and social. Further emphasizing the justification for the American Civil War, Ireland observed: never forgot why the Civil War had to be fought, as this statement by him regarding the rights of blacks indicates: There is but one solution of the problem and it is to obliterate absolutely all color line. Open up to the Negro as to the white man, the political offices of the country, making but one test, that of mental and moral fitness. Throw down at once the barriers which close out the Negro merely on account of his color from hotel, theater, and railway carriage. Meet your Negro brother as your equal at banquets and in social gatherings. Give him, in one word, and in full meaning of the terms, equal rights and equal privileges, political, civil and social. I know no color line, I will acknowledge none. The time is not distant when Americans and Christians will wonder that there ever was a race prejudice.