John Sweetman

John Sweetman

John Sweetman (9 August 1844 – 8 September 1936) was an Irish politician who became the President of Sinn Féin for the year 1908.

He was the eldest son of Mr John Sweetman (a Dublin brewer) and Honoria, daughter of Mr Malachy O'Connor (a Dublin merchant). He was born in County Dublin and educated at Downside College in Somerset. He lived at Drumbaragh, Kells, County Meath. He married Agnes Hanly at the Catholic Church, Navan, County Meath on 11 September 1895. They had six children.

In 1879 he was prominent enough in Irish nationalist circles to be a committee member and propose the election of Charles Stewart Parnell as president of the Irish Land League.

In 1880 he visited Minnesota and became involved in a scheme to settle poor Irish people in the State. On 27 December 1881 "The Times" published an article from 'a correspondent' (who may have been Sweetman himself) about 'An Irish Colony. Currie, Murray County, Minnesota'. The article explained that John Sweetman was the Managing Director of the Irish-American Colonization Company, "the principal organizer and practical director of the order to make the most profitable selection of lands Mr Sweetman travelled through and carefully examined the States of Dakota and Minnesota, and also Manitoba, and finally purchased some 20,000 acres (80 km²) of prairie land situated in Murray County ...".

Unfortunately the colonisation project was not a complete success, but it did help a number of people to obtain a better life in America.

The Sweetman brewery in Dublin was purchased by the Guinness family in 1891.

He was a major investor in the "National Press" newspaper. "The Times" of 3 June 1892 mentioned that "Mr John Sweetman of County Meath, who had contributed £1,000 as a donation to the fund for starting the "National Press", had been unanimously selected for the Eastern Division". This was at a convention to select Nationalist candidates for the two Parliamentary constituencies in County Wicklow.

He was a member of Parliament who worked for Irish Home Rule and strongly opposed armed insurrection. He represented East Wicklow 1892-1895, as a member of the Anti-Parnellite faction of the Irish Parliamentary Party. He became a Parnellite in 1895 and resigned his seat, with effect from 8 April 1895, by being appointed the Steward of the Manor of Northstead. He contested the by-election on 26 April 1895 but was defeated. He also lost at North Meath in the 1895 general election.

By the early twentieth century he had become more radical. In 1905, speaking at the annual conference of the Catholic Truth Society of Ireland in response to a paper suggesting the replanting of the waste lands of Ireland as a remedy to emigration, he displayed considerable hostility to the "English" government. "The Times" reported that he said "it was not for that society to call upon its greatest enemy, the English government, to plant forests. The English government hated the Irish nation as that of Egypt hated the Jewish nation, and they must fight the Government with all the weapons that God had given them, just as Moses had fought the Egyptians. Unfortunately they had not the power to call down the ten plagues of Egypt upon the English Government, but they could boycott England's manufactures and her Navy and Army".

He was one of the founders of Sinn Féin in 1905, succeeding Edward Martyn to be the second President of the party in 1908. Arthur Griffith took over as the third President later in the year.

He died in Dublin in 1936.

Descendants:Not much is known.


* "Who's Who of British Members of Parliament: Vol. II 1886-1918", edited by M. Stenton and S. Lees (The Harvester Press 1978)
* "The Times" (of London), editions of 27 December 1881, 5 April 1889, 3 June 1892, 5 July 1892, 10 April 1895, 17 September 1895 and 13 October 1905 and 10 September 1936.

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