Irish revolutionary behind 'United States of America'

AN IRISH revolutionary dreamt up with the name of 'The United States of America', according to a letter from 1776. Stephen Moylan, who emigrated to America from Co Cork, became acting secretary to George Washington, the USA's first president.

A letter dated from January 2, 1776 -- and now posted online by the New York Historical Society -- records Moylan writing to Washington's personal assistant Joseph Reed to seek foreign assistance in the Revolutionary War against Britain. "I should like vastly to go with full and ample powers from the United States of America to Spain," he wrote. Until now, the earliest reported use of the 'United States of America' term dates back to an anonymous article in the Virginia Gazette in April 1776.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, librarian Mariam Touba said the letter was buried in the New York Historical Society's collection for "at least 100 years". "This, quite likely, is the first time the name 'United States of America' was ever written, or possibly expressed," she said.

The letter was written seven months before the Declaration of Independence and was discovered last year by author and former US congressional candidate Byron DeLear.

Research shows that Stephen Moylan was born in 1737 and was the son of wealthy merchants "among the most prosperous families in Cork". Moylan was educated in France, worked for a time in Lisbon and moved to Philadelphia in 1768. It is believed that he wrote his letter at the Continental Army's headquarters at Cambridge, Massachusetts. "Moylan is depicted as a true hothead for independence," Ms Touba said. "The Irish Catholic did have appropriate contacts for his proposed Spanish mission, since he had established himself in Lisbon as a merchant before settling in Philadelphia."

She said Moylan "has remained unheralded and forgotten in the centuries-long efforts to secure and maintain American freedom."


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