by Maria O’Shea, Manuscripts Student
We have a number of letters here at the National Library written by the nationalist sympathiser Caroline Margaret Douglas, Marchioness of Queensberry, including ten letters, c. 1900-1901, many, if not most of which were sent to James Connolly as editor of The Workers’ Republic.
Caroline Douglas née Clayton (1821-1904) was the wife of Archibald Douglas, 7th Marquess of Queensberry. She actively supported Irish nationalism, writing several pamphlets on Ireland, including Let there be Light (1897) and regularly making donations, including financing the education of James Larkin’s children and sending a £100 cheque for the dependents of the Manchester Martyrs (William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien). She subscribed to the Irish Socialist Republican Party’s literature and was said to have corresponded with James Connolly (Dictionary of Irish Biography, Vol. 3, D-F, p. 419, C.U.P., 2009), as these letters show.
Religious themes dominate these letters, as does the question of Irish politics. In one letter to Connolly she writes that although she agrees with much of his Erin’s Hope: the End and the Means (1897), she does not agree with anyone who ‘does not begin by building all their works [upon] … our one Father’. She goes on to call the Manchester Martyrs ‘the greatest men ever produced in Ireland … because they eternally point to the One sole life giving and saving Power’. However, she disagrees with violence and makes the proviso that she sends her letters (and presumably her contributions) on the ‘understanding that she is against the taking of life to gain any thing on earth. It is all murder’. In another letter written in 1901 she writes that it is ‘useless to wish to try to free Ireland in her present state… So far as I see, when She is prepared, her sons will walk into Ireland by their tens of thousands without striking a blow’. She also writes that the ‘murdered Boers are paving the way of the fall of the British Nation’.
Some of her letters mention sending cheques although in one letter from October 1901 she writes that she is worried about a cheque she has sent as it was said that ‘you are “anarchists” in your writing … I have nothing to do with anarchy or disorder of any kind’.
She consistently calls whomever she is writing to her ‘brother’ and asks him when addressing her letter not to put her title of Queensberry and instead signs her name, as she does in most of these letters, as Sister Caroline.
These letters are part of the William O’Brien papers and can be found at MS 13,950 and on microfilm Pos 6994.