An Irishman socially redeemed

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XII (3) start of chapter

I was stopping with a genial countryman in a thriving town in the State of Illinois, which was surrounded by a rich farming country, the land mostly prairie. My host was one of the most prosperous men in the town or district, and enjoyed the highest character for energy, probity, and benevolence. Like most Irishmen in the same locality, he was the sole architect of his own fortunes. In his intelligent company I visited several farms owned by our countryman, and situate from within five to ten miles of the town. 'Now,' said my companion, as his stout horses struggled through the heavy soil of the road, 'I will show you one of the best farms hereabouts; and there is not a better or a steadier man in the whole country than its owner. He is doing well, too, and has brought up his children nicely, though he had little enough when he commenced, as I could tell. Here we are at the gate, and, sure enough, there is himself in the midst of his boys and girls.' The farm, the house, the barns, stable, and out-offices all fully justified the description given of them; and the owner, whom we found hard at work, affording an example of industry to his young people, was in keeping with everything around him,—respectable and substantial.

It is not necessary to dwell on the cordiality of his reception, or to tell of his mortification when he found that his hospitable offers of bed and board could not be accepted by his visitors: with an Irishman, hospitality is almost a matter of course, and no one is more rejoiced than the Irish-American to welcome one who is 'fresh from the dear old country.' During our drive home my friend assured me there was not in the neighbourhood, and for a long way round, a man more respected or more generally looked up to than the Irishman we had just quitted. 'His opinion,' he added, 'is asked, and taken moreover, upon many important questions; and when disputes arise about various things, they are frequently referred to him, and he settles them.'

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