The Advantages of Religious Equality for the Irish

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER I (16) start of chapter

It would be foreign to the truth to assert that Catholics in Nova Scotia have not their difficulties to contend with. They have difficulties and troubles, but they are in a position in which they can endure if they cannot overcome them. For instance, unscrupulous politicians will occasionally raise an anti-Catholic cry, that for the time inflames the passions of the unreflecting, and disturbs the good understanding which, as a rule, pervades the colony. But it not unrarely occurs, that the same politician—generally a man who troubles himself but little about religion in any form whatever—who thought it his interest to excite ill feeling against Catholics, discovers that it is more to his advantage to stand well with that body; and instances are told of the same unscrupulous party-leader one day calumniating, and the next making overtures to, those who can at all times materially influence the result of an election, or even the fate of an administration. Nor is this utter dishonesty and shameless want of principle confined to a few unscrupulous individuals in one British Colony; it is much to be regretted that the species—whose chief characteristic is, that they are ready to sacrifice everything, save and except what they think to be their personal interest, for a good 'cry'—are to be found plentifully scattered throughout America. Even the most bankrupt politician finds 'No Popery!' a useful cry—for the time; for the good sense of the community wearies of the folly, or the politician has probably invented something which has the merit of novelty, and he allows Catholics to exist in peace.

The Irish, including Protestants and Catholics, are estimated at 100,000. The larger proportion of the Protestants were originally from the north of Ireland, or had left the United States after they had achieved their independence; and their descendants now possess nearly the whole of the counties of Colchester and Cumberland. They took up most of the lands from which the French Acadians were banished in the year 1755. That they should be prosperous and independent is consistent not only with the sturdy energy of their nature, but with the countenance and support which they received from the colonial authorities and home government. With them, as with their brethren in all the British colonies, things went favourably: not so with the Catholics, who had much to contend with, and everything to do for themselves.

A striking proof of the position of Irish Catholics in Nova Scotia—to which the vast majority emigrated under the most unfavourable circumstances—may be mentioned: namely, that of the 2,000 Catholic voters in the city and county of Halifax, all, or nearly all, own over 50l. of real estate, and but very few of them claim the franchise through the annual payment of a rent of 50l. and upwards.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America