Skip to main content


Special Collections Online at UT

Robert Love Taylor Letter

Identifier: MS-0795

  • Staff Only

This letter from Tennessee governor Robert Love Taylor to Irish political activist John Boyle O’Reilly argues for the home rule of the Irish against British monarchal hold. Written on April 2, 1889, the letter discusses the present drama of Ireland’s ownership and citizen regulation. During the 1880’s, the Irish sent a home rule bill to the British Parliament in hopes of regaining control of Ireland and the world was awaiting the results of the diplomacy. Taylor describes the British as cruel and unjust for allowing the subjugation of the Irish people on their own land.


  • 1889 April 2

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


0.1 Linear Feet (1 folder)


Tennessee governor Robert Love Taylor wrote this letter to Irish political activist John Boyle O’Reilly on April 2, 1889, arguing that the Irish should rule their homeland and drive out the English.

Biographical/Historical Note

Robert Love Taylor was born on July 31, 1850 in Happy Valley, Tennessee in Blount County to Nathaniel Green Taylor and Emmaline Haynes Taylor. Robert had one sibling, Alfred (1848-1931). During the Civil War, the Taylor family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Even though Robert was raised in a politically divided household, Robert Love Taylor became a staunch Democrat, which aligned with his mother’s family ideologies and dissociated from his father’s Whig Party political views. As a young man Taylor applied himself to the study of law at three universities and colleges, including East Tennessee Wesleyan University, Buffalo Institute in Tennessee, and Pennington Seminary in New Jersey. Around the year 1878, Taylor began to practice law in Elizabethton and Jonesboro, Tennessee under the guidance of Judge S.J. Kirkpatrick. He then served in the 46th Congress as a Democrat for the state during the years 1879-1881. When re-election season came, he was defeated by his Republican counterpart and decided to open up a newspaper called The Comet in Johnson City, Tennessee. The newspaper only lasted about four years when the company hit financial troubles. Soon after, Robert Love Taylor was awarded the position of Pension Agent in Knoxville, TN. In the election year of 1884, the Taylor brothers race against each other for Governor of Tennessee in what is termed the “War of the Roses.” Robert Love Taylor wins the position and was re-elected for a second and third term during the years 1887 and 1897. In 1907, “Bob” was elected into the Senate for the state of Tennessee. In 1910, Taylor attempts to run against the Republican candidate Ben W. Hooper for the position of Governor; however, he does not succeed. Only two years later does the infamous “Bob” Love Taylor die from a gallstones attack in Washington, D.C on March 31, 1912. Robert was buried with his brother in the Johnson City, Monte Vista Memorial Park.

John Boyle O’Reilly was born in June of 1844 near Drogheda, Ireland at Dowth and the historic castle that gave the immediate land around it this unusual name. The O’Reilly’s family was just as historic as the land they settled upon years ago. John Boyle O’Reilly’s parents went by the names William David O’Reilly and Eliza Boyle, both very smart and well-educated individuals that inspired their son to pursue an equally advantageous career in writing. John, as one of the oldest sons in their family of ten, succeeded in obtaining a job at the local Drogheda Argus as an apprentice printer for several years until his elderly boss passed away and left O’Reilly without an occupation. Considering his experience and his love of the printed word, O’Reilly soon found a job at Englands’s renowned newspaper The Guardian and afterwards participated in the British Army. His Irish sympathies, however, drew him to the Fenian movement, a band of Irish rebels that pursued their freedom from the British with reconnaissance and violence. After serving a little more than 20 years in jail and in imprisonment in Australia, in 1869, O’Reilly landed in Boston, Massachusetts. In the following year, John Boyle O’Reilly became the editor of the Boston newspaper The Pilot. For many years until his death in 1890, O’Reilly wrote of his life and experiences, poems, and novels. John Boyle O’Reilly’s literary achievements as well as his dedication to his native land, Ireland, made him an icon that people in Massachusetts as well as in Ireland recognize.


This collection is in one folder.

Acquisition Note

This collection was purchased in 1975.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA