A Fatal Mistake

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXX (2) start of chapter

There cannot be a more fatal mistake, whether fallen into in England or in Ireland, than that which has its origin in the desire to make light of the feeling existing among the Irish in America—namely, of depreciating the position, character, and motives of those who have either joined or aided the present movement, or who sympathise with its objects, whether special or general. It has been frequently asserted that the Fenian organisation embraces within its ranks none but the looser portion of the population—in fact, 'the scum of the great cities,' and that it depends altogether for its support on the contributions extorted from day labourers and servant-girls. That the organisation embraces many young men of loose habits or irregular lives must of necessity be the case—it must be so with every movement or organisation of a similar nature; yet, though such supporters of an organisation may not be the steadiest members of the community, or the most remarkable for self-restraint, they bring to it physical force, courage, and a reckless desperation which no obstacle can daunt or deter. Men of this class, however, do not constitute its strength; they certainly are not its guiding spirits, nor do they form more than a section or percentage of the whole body—they are, in fact, but a mere minority of the rank and file of American Fenianism.

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