LAND OF THE FREE
MELLOWS arrived in New York in time to witness the sunset of American democracy. Within months the classical scene vanished. Washington’s constitution had, it is true, already sprouted grotesque parasites corresponding to the needs of monopoly capitalism. But soon there was little of the original to be seen. In January 1917 the hoardings still carried soiled and torn posters recalling the President’s electoral confidence trick. “Wilson for President— He keeps you out of war” was the substance of them. His socialist opponent dropped 150,000 votes from the people’s fear of splitting the peace front.
But the President was not installed a month when he raised the apparently harmless question of American mediation. This was the first step in the implementation of the secret agreement made between Sir Edward Grey and Colonel House on 22nd February 1916. America was to call a conference of belligerents. If Germany should refuse to attend, the United States would declare war on her. Should she attend and reject the American peace terms, the United States would “leave the conference on the side of the allies” .1
This pleasant cabal was hindered first by opposition within the American administration, second by the Easter Rising, third by the indeterminate result of the Battle of the Somme, and finally by the President’s need for re-election. But it was not thought possible to delay the militarisation of America. The mediation plan was accompanied by proposals for military training in High Schools. Behind the scenes measures were being prepared which ran grossly counter to the President’s high promises.
After calling back to the ship to collect his pay—very much against Callanan’s advice—Mellows was taken to the Gaelic American where his appearance excited so much interest that a pencil sketch was made.2 He reported to the veteran Fenian, John Devoy. Seventy-four years of age, and extremely deaf, the old man retained his faculties impaired only by a certain inelasticity of mind, such as is common in even the
1 Tansill, America and the Fight for Irish Freedom, p. 216.
2 Original in National Museum, Kildare Street, Dublin.