Honest Labour

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XV (2) start of chapter

There must be no hesitation, no pause, in a country in which there is no hesitation, no pause, no rest—whose life is movement, whose law is progress. The golden rule to be observed by the new-comer is to accept any employment that offers, and refuse nothing that is honest and not morally degrading: and from the lowest, the humblest, the poorest positions, any commonly well-conducted man can rise, if he only determine to do so. Many of the greatest, highest, proudest men in America have risen from the axe and the spade—from labour of one kind or other; and in the estimation of every honourable mind, they are the greater, the higher, and the prouder, because of their having done so. Americans teach many useful lessons to the nations of the Old World. Progress is not the only principle happily illustrated by them; 'recuperation' is even better understood. If an American fail in business, his failure is no obstacle to his 'trying again;' as if a man happen to fall in the street, there is no reason why he should not pick himself up, rub the dust or mud from his clothes, and continue on his way. The American may fail once, or twice, or even thrice; but he does not therefore sit down in despair—with him, as long as there is life there is hope. It might be curious to speculate how many eminent merchants, now millionaires, or on the high road to that goal of the business man's ambition, owe their present position to the 'never say die' policy—who, so long as they had brains or health, would not give in. To 'begin again' is not the same desperate thing in America that it is in England or Ireland; simply because so many men have begun at the lowest, are beginning at the lowest, must begin at the lowest; and there is no shame attaching to the lowest in a country where honest labour—toil in the sweat of the brow—is honourable, not degrading. To our mind, there is something more than healthful and hopeful in this policy—it is manly and noble. Poor Irish gentility cannot comprehend, or will not accept it; but Irish pluck and energy will. Of this Irish pluck and energy I could give many illustrations; but I must content myself with a few.

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