Concluding Observations relative to the objects of the Writer's Tour in Ireland

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XXVII (3) | Start of Chapter

In conclusion I would say, that though Ireland's Welcome has some dark shades, yet these only serve to give light and life to the picture. Had my reception among the higher and middle ranks been as Christian-like and as civil as among the poor, it would have been one monotonous tissue, which might have spread a false coloring before my eyes, so that her true character would have been hidden. Had all men spoken well of me, had all treated me kindly, the woe of Christ must have been mine, and I might have been an idler in my Master's vineyard. They have done me good; and to all who have so little understood the true principles of gospel self-denial and gospel kindness towards the poor, as to censure the course I have taken, they should be pitied, they should be prayed for, they should be forgiven, and be assured that by me they are forgiven. And happy should I be to testify my forgiveness in my own country, and by my own fireside, and at my own table, should these comforts ever again be mine. America, faulty as she may be, will extend the cordial hand to the Irish stranger; and if he be poor, she will give him bread and clothing; she will pay him for his toil, and will allow him to stand erect, and call himself a man. I speak of Free America. With the oppressors of the South I have no sympathy. I have often been tauntingly asked, "Why do you not labor for the slaves in your own country?" I answer, "I have done so, and it was a strong inducement to bring me to Ireland. I saw the most of your nation who land upon our shores are not only destitute, but ignorant of letters, and crouching and servile till they get power, and in all these lineaments bear a good comparison with our slaves." And I could not but ask, What but oppression could produce this similitude? And painful as is the fact, yet it must be told of the Irish in America, too many, quite too many strengthen the hands of the avaricious oppressor, and help him to bind the chains tighter about the poor black man; and I came to entreat you to show your people a better way. I came to beg you to help us knock off our fetters, by sending a more enlightened and free people among us, who cannot be bribed by flattery or money.

But who shall teach them these noble lessons? For while I have seen the same jealousy, the same jesuitical caution, and a greater unkindness in many cases exercised towards me by masters in Ireland, than by slaveholders in the American Slave States, how can I hope better things till better principles get possession of the heart? Let not these remarks be misunderstood; let them not be misconstrued; I speak not of all Ireland. There are noble hearts in the Emerald Isle, who do not practise oppression; but I speak to the guilty, and let them hear. I was a friend to Ireland, before I left home. I have remained her friend here, and shall return, if possible, still more so. Yes, though much of the painful toil might have been spared, and my means of doing good been greatly enlarged, had those

who had it in their power received and treated me more kindly; yet it has not loosened one cord that tied my heart to the suffering poor, it has not induced me to shun one neglected alley, where lay on their cold pile of straw the starving and the dying. No, it has stimulated me more to stir up my country to come to your aid, and I will do it so long as my pen can move and my country has a loaf to spare. If any one think me too severe in any of these pages, let him reverse the picture; let him suppose that America for the last fifty years had been pouring in her destitute ragged paupers upon you, by wholesale and retail. Suppose you had welcomed these paupers, had given them labor and bread till they could walk upon the earth as men and women. And suppose, at the end of fifty years, an Irish woman should be disposed (however strange the whim) to visit that country, to see what these Americans were at home, to learn their manners and habits there, in order to better understand them here, and do them good; should you not expect that the law of civility, the law of Christianity, and the law of equity at least should induce them not only to receive her cordially, but to do all in their power to facilitate such rational designs?

I ask no answer. I put the question not to anger you, not to complain, but to convince you that such were the most honorable, the most Christian-like way to act; and should the like again happen, the Bible mode will be the best to adopt, to "be careful to entertain strangers," till you know they are impostors; and suspect not their letters as forged ones, till some marks of forgery can be detected. What would have become of your poor countrymen, think you, in America, had they been treated thus? I am glad I came; I am glad to be here in your dreadful famine; I am glad to be honored with doing a little for the wretched among you. Would to God I could do more. Three years almost I have gone over, and looked at your pretty island, and with all my privations, my toil, and cold repulses, I have been paid, doubly repaid; and from my heart can I say, were it not

for the suffering my eyes have seen, I should place these years among the happiest of my life. I love you all, and would do you all good, were it in my power. To the Roman Catholics, both duty and inclination require that I should acknowledge a deep debt of gratitude. They have opened the doors of convents, of schools, of mansions, and cabins, without demanding letters, or distrusting those that were presented. They have sheltered me from storm and tempest; they have warmed and fed me without fee or reward, when my Protestant brethren and sisters frowned me away. God will remember this, and I will remember it.

Should I ever reach home, I hope to give a fuller detail of my tour, which embraced all but the county of Cavan. I have made no mention of the north of Ireland, for want of room, but cannot close without saying that in Belfast I spent a few pleasant weeks. The Protestants there made me feel as if I were by a New England fireside, where I was neither worshipped as a goddess nor made a second-hand article, though I might perform some domestic service appropriate to woman. Their religion appeared, in many cases, like that of the heart, and their labors through the past winter of famine, and which have not yet relaxed, testify that their faith has produced good works.

I have spoken plainly, that I might render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and as I visited Ireland to see it as it is, so I report it as I found it. I have stayed to witness that which, though so heart-rending and painful, has given me but the proof of what common observation told me in the beginning—that there must needs be an explosion of some kind or other. But awful as it is, it has shown Ireland who are her worthy ones within her, and who are her friends abroad, and it will show her greater things than these.

May God bring her from her seven-times-heated furnace, purified and unhurt, and place her sons and daughters among the brightest of the stars that shall shine for ever in the kingdom of heaven, is the sincere desire of the writer.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.