Historical Highlights

A House Reception for Irish Parliament Member Charles Stewart Parnell

February 02, 1880
A House Reception for Irish Parliament Member Charles Stewart Parnell Image courtesy of Library of Congress This special print was designed for the House Reception honoring Charles Stewart Parnell of Ireland.
On this date, Irish Parliament Member Charles Stewart Parnell addressed the House of Representatives concerning the plight of Ireland, then in the midst of its second major potato famine of the century. Despite the absence of a quorum, Speaker of the House Samuel Randall of Pennsylvania gaveled the House into the evening session nearly 30 minutes late. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported that the House Floor was a mix of ladies and non-Members. Only the fourth international leader to be invited to address the House, Parnell reported on the conditions of the Irish potato famine and its causes. “The present famine, as all other famines in Ireland, has been the direct result of the system of land tenure which is maintained there," Parnell said, "And while we have been compelled by the frightful condition of our people . . . I feel it to be equally my duty to point out to you the cause which keeps Ireland in a condition of chronic poverty.” After his 32-minute speech, the House adjourned for the evening. The Tribune judged Parnell’s address to be lack luster: “the whole affair was tame and spiritless.” One Representative told the Tribune reporter that the address failed because it lacked substance: “not going [even] skin deep into the subject of the Irish question.” House Receptions were not associated with other informal, social receptions and lunches provided for foreign leaders on behalf of congressional leadership or individual committees. In the post-World War II era, the practice of using one-chamber receptions was eventually discontinued. The last House Reception was held for Mexican President Joe Lopez Portillo in 1977.

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