The 1890's provided even more of a breakthrough for the more exceptional sons of Irishmen, for this decade was to see them enter the professions of law, medicine and dentistry. Frank Moran, at 21, was the youngest member of the 1897 graduating class of Western Reserve University Dental School. A classmate, Joseph Henahan, went on to head the University's oral surgery department. He is credited with advancing the design of forceps and also came up, with the idea of block anesthesia. When he retired in 1937, he was succeeded in his position by his nephew John Sweeney.
Politics: The End of the 19th Century
More than with medicine, however, the Irish gained a foothold in the profession of law. It seemed more suitable somehow, probably because it involved a more dialectic mind and a glib tonue, and was, of course, a stepping stone to the field of politics, the natural habitat of the Irish. Upon seeing this advance, a long-time politician of note, Marcus A. Hanna, often called "the maker of Presidents," is alledged to have said, "They're all natural politicians. They have the gift of gab and are as devious as hell."
Whether Hanna actually said those words or not, he and a lot of other Republicans certainly could have, for they locked horns with the overwhelmingly Democratic Irish during many an election and never looked forward to such confrontations. The .....
Cleveland Irish of the 1890's had learned their lessons well -the vote was a powerful club over the head of a society in which they formerly held little clout.
Irish-style politics in other cities was something to behold. Just a century after the Revolutionary War had taken place, the Irish had made such inroads into the nation's political system that one observer remarked: "One of the functions of the Irish race in America is to administer the affairs of the cities."
The none-too-happy-observer had conducted a study, which led to the discovery that at least 17 cities were held captive by Irishmen and their sons. The Irish political clout in the cities stemmed, of course, from their refusal to scatter themselves into the rural hamlets of the nation's interior. They much preferred huddling together in urban ghettos, and, indeed, were often urged to do so by their bishops. John Hughes, Archbishop of New York, was typical of the high-rank prelate who saw betterment for the Irish through cohesive voting blocks.
The mass voting in the large eastern seaboard cities not only led to the control of municipal governments, but ultimately would change state and national politics as well. Moreover, of all the immigrant groups, the Irish alone had a thorough understanding of Anglo-Saxon democracy, so it was only fitting that they be the vanguard group. The irony in it all, is that the Irish learned its workings back in their homeland through osmosis, .....
for they were not allowed to participate in its functions. Hence, they could doubly appreciate the power inherent in such elective offices as mayor, alderman and sheriff.
To the Irishman's way of thinking, the Democrats had all the best of it when it came to party politics, for they not only wooed the Irish vote, but actually nominated and backed Irishmen for elective office. As previously noted, as early as 1852, 18 Irish Democrats had won political races in New York alone. Not bad by anyone's standard of measurement, and a lot of people were sizing up the situation.
One of the most virulent groups opposing Irish success in the game of politics was the 'Know-Nothings,' a nativist reactionary fraternity dedicated to the proposition that Popery and its adherents would never gain a foothold in America. Despite intense opposition from that group and others like it, the Irish political machine continued along in high gear. By the early 1870's, Tammany Hall, that extra-legal organization that served as the Democratic Party's headquarters in New York, fell into Irish hands when 'Honest John' Kelly succeeded William Marcy (Boss) Tweed, the last old-stock American to rule the Tiger's Lair.
In 1883 Cleveland was to have its own 'Honest John,' surnamed Farley, elected mayor of the city, but he got precious little help from the Irish community, since he was from the north .....
of Ireland and as Orange as a man can be -- a Mason, no less. Farley really wasn't a bad mayor, just an unenterprising one. Most local citizens agreed he deserved his nickname, for, if nothing else, he was honest.
In almost every other large American city, including the colossus of the Midwest, Chicago, Irishmen would come to dominate the political situation. It was a very simple process -- Tammany and other Irish-controlled political machines built their power on the strength of large and unified voting blocks. What's more, most of these organizations survived where others failed because the Irish were efficient with the whip. They understood clearly that politics was a gut-level business.
It was the contention of the Irish political bosses that the average man didn't care half as much about what went on in Washington as he did about what went on in his block. Did the city plan to build a park in his neighborhood, or a new firehouse that would mean more jobs? Could the block captain help him out with his problems? That was the gist of it in 19th Century America and the Irish knew it.
Cleveland, however, was not an eastern seaboard city, nor were the local Irish as numerous as their brethren elsewhere. Even more to the point, the Irish here tended to be much more independent in their voting habits, preferring to go with the man every bit as much as with the party. That is why it took .....(continued next page)