Feeling of the Irish in America towards England

John Francis Maguire

Feeling of the Irish in America towards England—A Fatal Mistake—Not Scamps and Rowdies—Who they really are—Sympathy conquering Irritation—Indifference to Danger—Down in the Mine—One of the Causes of Anti-English Feeling—More of the Causes of Bad Feeling—What Grave and Quiet Men think—If they only could 'see their way'—A Grievance redressed is a Weapon broken—The Irish Element—Belief in England's Decay—War with England—Why most Injurious to England—Why loss Injurious to America—The only Possible Remedy

IT is a matter of more importance to understand what is the real feeling entertained by the Irish in America towards England, or the British Government, than to ascertain the nature or the details of any organisation to which that feeling may give rise. If the feeling be ephemeral or factitious, the organisation, however formidable its aspect, resembles a torrent caused by a summer storm, or a tree with wide branches yet having no hold in the soil. And, on the other hand, though an organisation may be ill-designed or even ridiculous, or, on account of the folly, or violence, or treachery, of those who are responsible for its management, may come to a speedy dissolution, if it have its origin in an earnest and enduring feeling, it is significant of danger—it represents more than is seen; and die down as it may, it is sure to spring up again in some new form. Here the abiding life is, as it were, in the soil, whose vital energy throws these its creations to the surface. The question, then, should rather be, what is the feeling in which an organisation—Fenianism, or any other 'ism'—has its origin, than what is the organisation which springs from the feeling? With the special organisation, much less with its details, I have no concern whatever; while with the feeling I cannot, in duty or in honesty, refuse to deal.

Of the leaders, the real or ostensible leaders, of the existing organisation various opinions are entertained and freely expressed; and far stronger language has been used by different sections of the same nominal body with respect to the merits or demerits of rival chiefs than has been employed by the most indignant and out-spoken Crown Prosecutor, or the most enthusiastic advocate of British connection. It is only just, however, to state, that against the personal character, the honour and integrity, of the present most prominent member (60) of the Fenian organisation I have never heard a word. Personal ambition, or a desire for display, may have been urged against him by those who did not agree with his policy, or were opposed to the movement; but no one, not even a partisan of a rival leader, accuses him of dishonesty or of treachery.

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