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American History: October '99 Letters

Originally published by American History magazine. Published Online: August 11, 1999 
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The story of the Molly Maguires (August 1999) is, in fact, merely the story of the continuing persecution of the Irish by their Anglo-Saxon masters transferred across several thousand miles of ocean. In this case those masters are personified by the mine and railroad owners, especially Franklin Gowen. The case of James McParlan is also a familiar one in the long history of the Irish race. The rich and powerful in Ireland had always found informers willing to betray their people and sell their souls for a few pieces of silver. So here's an Irish toast to the Molly Maguires, who, if they did commit excesses, did so with the desperation of the oppressed, and here's the back of our hands to James McParlan, informer.

Joseph Gannon
Plainfield, Connecticut


Probably by coincidence, the August issue includes both an illuminating article by Joseph H. Bloom on the Molly Maguires and a photograph of Arthur Conan Doyle–but no one connects the two. Sad. One of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels, The Valley of Fear, centers on a fictionalized version of the McParlan-Molly Maguire affair and has Birdie Edwards, the McParlan character, later pursued by Professor Moriarty, Holmes' great adversary.

Robert L. Hunt
Birmingham, Alabama


As one who served 20 years in the U.S. Army and also happens to be a Jew, I would like to respond to Mr. Barry Siegel's letter ("Mailbox," August 1999) concerning Jeannette Rankin's vote against entering World War II.

Everything I have read indicates that Rankin voted her conscience in 1941. She was certainly consistent, having voted against entering World War I some 24 years before. While she may have been naive and misguided, I cannot see how this would make her anti-Semitic. In this republic there have always been those whose consciences forbade their taking up arms. This has always been a cherished right in this country. I carry in my wallet a small card with the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: "If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought–not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought we hate."

How refreshing it is to find a congressional representative who voted her conscience as opposed to those today who take polls to see which way the wind is blowing before taking a stand.

Gerson J. Subotky
Vine Grove, Kentucky


I have been a subscriber for many years and always enjoy the articles. But, on page 10 of the August 1999 issue I found a very major error. In the box about the Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump it says the jump "was apparently in use as long ago as A.D. 500, more than a century before the Europeans introduced the horse to North America…"

I taught history for 36 years and Europeans were NOT in the Americas, much less North Dakota, in A.D. 600.

Steve Moseley
La Jolla, California

Editor's reply: Mr. Moseley is certainly correct. The word should have been "millennium," not "century."

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