Drink more injurious to Irish than others

John Francis Maguire

Drink more injurious to Irish than others—Why this is so—Archbishop Spalding's Testimony—-Drink and Politics—Temperance Organisations—Hope in the Future

WERE I asked to say what I believed to be the most serious obstacle to the advancement of the Irish in America I would unhesitatingly answer—Drink; meaning thereby the excessive use, or abuse, of that which, when taken in excess, intoxicates, deprives man of his reason, interferes with his industry, injures his health, damages his position, compromises his respectability, renders him unfit for the successful exercise of his trade, profession, or employment—which leads to quarrel, turbulence, violence, crime. I believe this fatal tendency to excessive indulgence to be the main cause of all the evils and miseries and disappointments that have strewed the great cities of America with those wrecks of Irish honour, Irish virtue, and Irish promise, which every lover of Ireland has had, one time or other, bitter cause to deplore. Differences of race and religion are but as a feather's weight in the balance; indeed, these differences tend rather to add interest to the steady and self-respecting citizen. Were this belief, as to the tendency of the Irish to excess in the use of stimulants, based on the testimony of Americans, who might probably be somewhat prejudiced, and therefore inclined to judge unfavourably, or pronounce unsparingly, I should not venture to record it; but it was impressed upon me by Irishmen of every rank, class, and condition of life, wherever I went, North or South, East or West.

It was openly deplored, or it was reluctantly admitted. I rarely heard an Irishman say that his country or his religion was an effectual barrier to his progress in the United States. On the contrary, the universal admission was this: 'Any man, no matter who he is, what country he comes from, or what religion he professes, can get on here, if he is determined to do so; and he will be respected by Americans, if he will only respect himself. If the Irishman is a sober man, there is no fear of him—he cannot fail of success; but if he is too fond of the drink, it is all up with himhe is sure to fail.' Expressed in these simple words, this is the matured and deliberate verdict of every experienced or observant Irishman, from the most exalted dignitary of the Catholic Church to the humblest workman who maintains his family in comfort by his honest toil.

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