Wednesday, July 15, 2009

America’s man in Auckland: John D’Arcy Connolly

Image from Cyclopedia of New Zealand (1902)

Researching for the post on the Leading Wind fire and aftermath, and reading the somewhat fiery letter to the NZ Herald editor by the then American consul, I started wondering just what lay behind Mr. Connolly of the U.S. Diplomatic Service. Quite a bit, as I’ve found out. He certainly sounds like one of our country’s forgotten friends.

John D’Arcy Connolly was born in 1854 in County Galway, Ireland. The Connolly family had to leave Ireland in 1867, on account of John’s father Daniel’s affiliation with the Fenian movement, and they journeyed to America. There, John Connolly found work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, on steam boats and railroad-building in the middle west of the country. Travelling to California, he eventually took charge of the railroad section at Occidental, in California and married Georgina Gilman Blaney. The couple had three daughters.

Connolly’s career of public service began in 1884 with his appointment by the Californian Governor to a vacancy on the board of supervisors of Sonoma County. He served until January 1889 when President Grover Cleveland sent his name for appointment as the United States consul to New Zealand. On the promotion of J. T. Campbell to a post on China, Connolly succeeded him as the American consul based in Auckland from early 1889. (Evening Post, 7 February 1889) He arrived on the Mariposa at Auckland on 31 March 1889, and provisionally recognised by the Government as United States Consul for New Zealand at Auckland in April.

According to a history of Sonoma County, compiled in 1911 (which included a chapter on him):
“Mr. Connolly’s official career in the Antipodes is an honorable and successful one. Starting in on his new duties, he appreciated the responsibility of the position. All his life his days had been passed in a struggle with adversity. He did not have even a fair common school training, and, as he says, about all he knew was how to tackle a job of hard work. His knowledge of diplomacy and statecraft was exceedingly vague, and he was not asleep to the fact that the British Colonials are far advanced in the science of practical government … Here was a delicate situation for an untrained man, and a place where an injudicious act might place himself and his government in a false position.”
Still, Connolly didn’t do a bad job at all of keeping to the diplomatic middle-ground. While he was of Irish birth and descent (and with his father having had a background with the Fenians), Connolly maintained as much of a diplomatic line in the murky waters of the Home Rule question as possible.
“A committee meeting of the Irish Delegates Reception Committee] was held in the Catholic Institute last evening [May 22], and was numerously attended …

The following letter from the American Consul was read :— Auckland, N.Z. May 18th, 1889. Messrs M. J. Sheehan and Wm. Jennings, Hon. Secretaries, etc. Gentlemen, — Your kind note of the 16th inst. at hand, requesting permission to add my name to the Reception Committee, who are to receive the Irish delegates upon their arrival in Auckland. I wish you would express my sincere thanks to the members of the Committee for their kind consideration. Under ordinary circumstances, I certainly would esteem it an honour to have my name identified among the gentlemen who have been appointed to receive the illustrious "Irish Patriots," who are about to visit New Zealand. I regret exceedingly that l am compelled (for obvious reasons) to fore go the honour and pleasure the granting of such a simple request would undoubtedly afford me. I am here the humble representative of a people and a country who, I presume, it is unnecessary for me to state, has always taken a keen interest in the welfare of Ireland, and who has contributed materially toward whatever success may have attended the efforts of those who have been and are to-day doing battle in their country's cause. Rest assured that the sympathy shown by the American people in the past for the oppressed in Ireland will continue unabated. But while the Americans generally entertain the liveliest interest in your ultimate success, the settled policy of the Government is that of non-interference on the part of its representatives abroad with the social or political affairs of the countries to which they may be accredited. Therefore I deem it advisable and prudent (though I do so regretfully) to respectfully decline, lest acquiescence on my part might be misconstrued and thereby lead to unnecessary and unpleasant complications. Were l in the capacity of a private citizen I could gladly and cheerfully accept an invitation to honour and welcome Mr Dillon and his distinguished compatriots, or any man who has the cause of long-suffering Ireland at heart. These gentlemen are devoting their lives and their fortunes in laudable efforts to ameliorate the condition of their unhappy countrymen. Truly they are deserving of such a reception and kind treatment as only the generous and liberty loving people of Auckland can, and will I am sure, afford them. I trust that every man, not only in Auckland, but throughout New Zealand generally, who has the cause of human liberty in their breast, will not only lend their presence on such occasions as may be offered them to hear those distinguished gentlemen in other parts of the colony, but will also contribute of their means. And I sincerely hope the day may not be far distant when peace, happiness, and contentment will reign in Ireland where utter wretchedness, ill treatment, poverty and misrule has so long hold sway. — I have the honour to be, gentlemen, faithfully yours, Jno. D. Connolly, U.S. Consul.”
(Te Aroha News, 25 May 1889)

Still, Connolly’s actions and words in the British colonies attracted some doubts in his own homeland.
“Referring to the sympathy publicly shown by the United States Consul of Auckland to the Irish National League, the Republican Standard of New Bedford, Mass. Writes: “Evidently Mr Connolly is more of an Irishman than an American, and however much we may sympathise with the Irish in their endeavours to gain Home Rule for their country; we think that the representatives of the American nation should hold themselves aloof from anything tending to show a partiality in a matter concerning the politics of the country in which they hold office."
(Bruce Herald, 6 September 1889)

But in Auckland, in the main, he was well liked.
“With this issue we present our readers with an excellent portrait of Mr John D'Arcy Connolly, the United States Consul for Auckland. He arrived in the colony on the 30th March last, and in the interim has done good service for New Zealand by sending home most complimentary, reports on her vast resources, which should do much towards increasing the trade between this colony and the land of the Stars and Stripes. Mr Connolly hails from California, where his wife and family reside, but as his name implies, is of Irish parentage. He is a comparatively young man, being only 34 years of age, and is brimful of energy or "get " as our "Murkan " friends would term it. He is an ardent admirer of Home Rule for Ireland, and thinks the day is not far distant when such a result will come about. In American politics Mr Connolly is what is known as a Democrat, but this is his first appointment in the Consular .ervices, although he has ably filled other State positions. In manner he is one of the most unobtrusive of men, and should make heaps of friends in New Zealand.”
(Observer, 5 October 1889)

Part of his popularity may well have been derived from the several glowing reports to his bosses in Washington as to the state of the colony here. New Zealanders have always warmed to those who say nice things about us.
"Consul Connolly, in his report to the United States Government, says :— " I have no hesitancy in saying that I believe New Zealand will in a few years rank first among the colonies of Australasia owing to her wonderful natural resources and climate." So mote it be! "
(Observer, 16 November 1889)
“Mr J. D. Connolly, the American Consul at Auckland, reporting to the United States Government on the commerce and resources of this Colony, states in the chapter devoted to trade that "the advance is indicative of a healthier and more satisfactory condition of trade than has existed for several years past. For a man with a little capital desirous of taking up land, I know of no better country. There is a healthy and perceptible reaction setting in. Confidence and self-reliance are doing for the people of New Zealand now what the Government sought to do for them, and did to some extent — viz., the building up of a great and prosperous people in this the richest and fairest Colony of them all, and the development of her wonderful natural resources. All that is required is capital to develop these latent resources, and a healthy system of immigration to settle upon the lands, together with continued economy in the administration of governmental affairs. I have no hesitancy in saying that I believe New Zealand will in a few years rank first among the Colonies of Australasia, owing to her wonderful natural resources and climate." The report is supplemented by numerous statistical tables. It is apparent that Consul Connolly intends to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.”
(Christchurch Star, 25 November 1889)

The Leading Wind incident in 1891 and his reactions to it, however, did not enamour him in the eyes of some here in NZ.
An international difficulty between Now Zealand and the United States, diplomatic relations strained, and the Stars and Stripes insulted ! This seems to be the result of the recent outbreak of fire on the American ship Leading Wind, in Auckland. A firm of "durned colonial Britishers" has dared to invoke the aid of the law to enforce security for a debt claimed from an American citizen, and to use legal process to prevent his giving leg bail. This outrageous proceeding has wounded the tender national susceptibilities of the American Consul, Mr. Connolly, and has led him to modify the opinions he had, he informs us, formed as to the friendly sentiments between the people of New Zealand and those of his great country. We feel deeply grieved at this. There is nothing that New Zealand values higher, we are sure, than Mr. Connolly's good opinion. Our future fate hangs upon it, and we can only hope that His Excellency the Governor will at once tender to Mr. Connolly his personal apologies, as well as those of the Sovereign he represents, and the colony be governs, for the outrage committed in allowing a Colonial Sheriff to lay sacreligious hands on the sacred person of a Yankee skipper.

Unfortunately, "it's a way we have in the colony" of letting the law take its ordinary course, irrespective of persons. We trust to writs and sheriffs, instead of to Judge Lynch. Perhaps it might have been more in accord with Mr. Consul Connolly's ideas of the fitness of things had the Christchurch merchants taken the law into their own hands to obtain payment or security from Captain Hinckley. But he was treated just as a British captain or a member of any other nationality would be treated under similar circumstances. This is the head and front of our offending, and this is what has wounded the national susceptibilities of Mr. Consul Connolly. The idea that the feelings of the respective peoples of New Zealand and the United States of America are involved or represented in this transaction is really too good. It is simply delicious. Captain Hinckley may be a smart man, although in this case the Britisher has succeeded in inflicting upon him the indignity of being held to bail; but Mr. Connolly has fairly written himself down— a Consul. Roman history, we believe, furnishes a very near precedent for the office being so filled. A certain Emperor made his horse a Consul. The United States has appointed Mr. Connolly."
(Evening Post, 27 April 1891)

Still, he was a part of NZ society, controversies or no. He attended meetings of the Auckland Rowing Club, gave addresses to members of the St. Patrick’s Literary Society, and was even, for a time, President and Steward of the Auckland Trotting Club. The Sonoma County history says that “twice the Liberal and Labor committees visited him at the consulate and wanted him to resign his position and stand for Parliament for the city of Auckland. He was given to understand that in the race he would be unopposed and would be offered a portfolio in the New Zealand Ministry within three months after his election. But the Irish-American citizen, though taking an intense unofficial interest in English-Colonial affairs, preferred Uncle Sam to Queen Victoria.”

Yet another report to the US (possibly a bit on the propoganda side):
“Mr Connolly, U.S. Consul at Auckland, contributes to his Government a report on "Organised Labour in New Zealand." He summarises the condition of labour, the legislation relating thereto, the position and influence of unions, and comes to the conclusion that the New Zealand labourer is, "perhaps as comfortable as any of his class in the world . . . He works less hours m the week and receives more pay in proportion to the number of hours than he would in most countries. He is well housed and clothed; in fact, he is well provided for in every respect. He is not degraded because he toils for a livelihood. His children are educated at the expense of the State."
(Timaru Herald, 28 May 1891)

Through Connolly, the American government were even apprised of details of Hannaford’s lighthouse design.

"In the American Exporter for October last, published at New York, there is a leading article on ' Electric Lighthouses,' which is entirely devoted to a consideration of the Hannaford Light.

From that article we learn that the U.S. Department of State had instructed Consul Connolly of Auckland to keep it posted on the progress of the invention, and we quote from a report made by Mr Connolly in June last: —

'”It appears that Mr Hannaford had not patented his invention at the time of his death, but would have done so had be been possessed of the means necessary to defray the expenses. It also appears that, owing to the death of the inventor, some minor details remain unperfected. . . His widow exhibited the working model, but there were none of the mechanical appliances attached except the bell and windmill ; the former sounds an alarm at each revolution of the windmill. Should the other portions of the mechanism prove as satisfactory as the windmill and bell, there can be little doubt as to its practicability. . . I may say in conclusion that 'the iron tower windmill and bell appeared to be feasible, cheap, and easily erected. Should the electrical feature prove satisfactory,' success is almost certain.”

As we always stood up for the merits of Mr Hannaford's invention, it gives us pleasure to find those merits recognised by the 'cute’ Americans. No doubt, a lighthouse on Hannaford's principle will soon be an accomplished fact."
(Observer, 1 January 1892)

Connolly’s comments on New Zealand’s land laws were contained in a private letter to a friend in America, published in the States, then republished here in 1895.

The following interesting letter, written by Mr J. D. Connolly, United States Consul at Auckland, was sent as a private communication to America to a friend there, who had it published, however, m the columns of the American press : — "The land laws of this country are unique, having no parallel in the modern world, that I am aware of. Of the extension of the franchise to women I can only say that the experiment has proved eminently successful, even beyond the thoughts of the most enthusiastic advocates. Her first effort has raised the moral tone and purified to a large extent the moral atmosphere of politics. Woman has demonstrated here that she is disinterested, unselfish and worthy of the political confidence reposed in her.

As to the country having drifted into Socialism, as you seem to think, it is only fair to say that there is very little need, of apprehension m that respect, at least for the present. At the same time it cannot be denied that the tendency, of legislation appears to be pointing that way. If it be Socialism to relieve the poor, the working man, the artisan and the struggling small farmer and the mechanic from the burdens of taxation as much as possible, and compel the monopolist, the land-grabber, the purse-proud and the affluent members of society to bear the weight of the expense of government, then Socialism is certainly is full swing here.

If it be Socialism to shorten the hours of labour to eight per day, and give him a half holiday in every week, besides at least half-a-dozen full holidays m the year under full pay, thus affording him more time for rest, recreation, and intellectual development than is enjoyed by his fellow-workers m any part of the world, then, indeed, it is undeniable that Socialism is rampant in New Zealand. If it be Socialism to compel the admission of more pure air and genial sunshine into the workroom and factory, under Government supervision, to teach the labourers their rights and how to lawfully and peaceably obtain them, to force the, earth-grabber to either sell, subdivide or improve his land so it will produce what nature intended it should thereby administering to the wants of the people, or place the land within the reach of those who desire homes—if this be Socialism then indeed are the people of this country blessed beyond all other for all I have enumerated, and more, are they enjoying to the fullest extent today.

There is a general diffusion of wealth, no great poverty, and not a single millionaire so far as I know. Although legislation does not directly interfere with the laudable accumulation of thrift and industry, yet there is no denying that the general tendency is towards checking, if not absolutely preventing, the acquisition of vast estates in the hands of individuals or companies to the detriment of the people. This cannot in any sense be called Socialism. The men who have inaugurated these honest, Christian reforms are not animated by any spirit of Socialism, but by a sincere desire to promote the universal welfare, to resist the aggression of the strong and lend a helping hand to the weak and lowly. You may call these principles by that name if you choose, but the facts are as herein stated."
(Timaru Herald, 16 April 1895)

Connolly made a formal consular report on the “Land, Labor and Taxation Laws of New Zealand”, which, according to the Sonoma County history, “attracted world-wide attention.” It led to calls in the U.S. for Connolly’s removal as Consul, but his defenders in Washington fought back, singing his praises. He left New Zealand finally in 1897, lamented by many, including the Catholic NZ Tablet newspaper.
“[30 September] Mr. John D’arcy Connolly, United States Consul in Auckland, to-day relinquishes his office to his successor, Mr. Dillingham. For the last eight years he carried out his consular duties in Auckland. A profound feeling of sorrow and regret at the loss of Mr. Connolly has been manifested by the general public of all classes to whom he has endeared himself by his sterling manliness and unflinching' adherence at all times to his principles. To the old Faith he is inseparably bound, and to the land of his birth, dear old Ireland, he is equally attached. A democrat amongst democrats, he places implicit reliance upon the masses. He will be sadly missed in Auckland, where it will be a long time before an equal to him can be found. To Auckland, and the Colony generally, he has been of incalculable service by reason of his clear and intelligent consular reports in which Maoriland has been repeatedly and eloquently lauded. Though kind to us our climate has been cruel to him, because his health has suffered severely. Mr. Connolly stays with us until the end of the present year when he leaves for his home in Sonoma County, California.”
(New Zealand Tablet, 8 October 1897)

According to Connolly, he once overheard a NZ MHR, an absentee landlord at a time when Connolly was making his views on such things known in Wellington. The unnamed MHR is said to have said:
“This man Connolly is a blawsted hanerchist, and ‘as through ‘is writings and damned-fool speeches raised more ‘ell in New Zealand than all the others put together. ‘E ‘as the ear of this fool government and can get anything ‘e wants. The fellow ‘ad ought to be recalled and deported. ‘E is a menace and a disturbing element.”
The history (in .pdf) goes on: “After ten years’ service in Auckland Mr. Connolly was relieved during the McKinley administration by Frank Dillingham … When the experts of the Treasury Department had cast up his accounts for ten years it was found that eight cents were due him. This he received in a treasury draft, and his bondsmen … were discharged. That eight cents can be said to be Mr. Connolly’s net earnings from his official employment in the diplomatic service of the United States, but while he returned poorer, he returned wiser than when he went away; and he also returned with the love and friendship of thousands of people he met in the far Antipodes.” Poorer in some ways, perhaps, but while he was here, he took out 500 shares in at least one NZ goldmining company.

He ran for office under the Democrat ticket for the Californian assembly, but was defeated. He went on to become the host of the Altamont Hotel in Occidental, Sonoma County, and died in 1920. He lies buried at Druids Cemetery, Occidental.

(From the Observer, 17 August 1895)

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