Hope in the Future

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XIV (6) start of chapter

I was much amused at receiving a letter from an influential member of one of the most prosperous of the temperance societies of New York, in which the writer proudly claimed for his body prominent distinction, on these very cogent grounds—that not only had they a considerable number of members belonging to their society, but that their members owned more property, had more money in the bank and in profitable investments; had built more houses, and of a superior description; had educated their children better, and advanced them more successfully in life, and held a higher social position, than the members of any other society in New York; though the writer had no notion of disparaging any of them whatever. Here was a volume of sermons embodied in these few words; and being the words of a good Irishman, I commend them to his countrymen wherever they may be.

I was thus addressed in a Western city by an Irishman who is himself a credit to his country. Upright, intelligent, and self-respecting, he is one of those men, of whom there are thousands in America, who would not compromise the national honour in his own person for any earthly consideration. He said:—

'I have one request to make of you, and I am certain you will comply with my humble but earnest prayer: and that is, to place before the eyes of the poor intending emigrant, as of those who have their interest at heart, and whose advice is likely to be taken by our people, the terrible dangers of intemperance in this country. Implore of them, in the name of everything pure and lovely in Heaven and on earth, to make up their minds, as good Christians, to leave off the use of intoxicating drinks before starting for this country—otherwise they are not wanted here. Let them stay at home, where, even if of dissipated habits, they can meet some good Samaritan who will extend to them the hand of friendship in distress; for here the man inclined to drink will meet with nothing but bad whisky and a pauper's grave, and not one to say, "Lord have mercy upon him!" This is my request of you, and I make it in the interest of our common country, because I have too good reason to know that drink is the bane of our people.'

With the influence of sound religious teaching, whose tendency leads to self-government and control—the influence of the Church, which is every day drawing her children more within the reach of her salutary authority—the influence of organisations through which even the despairing outcast may learn a lesson of hope, of moral and social redemption,—with these influences steadily acting on the Irish in America, we may look with confidence to the wiping away of a reproach which is due to the folly and madness of the few rather than of the many; as also to the removal from the path of the Irishman of one of the most fatal obstacles to his advancement in a country for which he is eminently suited by qualities that, if not marred or perverted by this one terrible vice, must lead him to success in every walk and department of life, whether public or private.

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