If they only could 'see their way'

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXX (11) start of chapter

There are others—and they are to be met with in every State of the Union—who are of the O'Connell school; in fact, they are as much of the 'moral force' and 'not a single drop of blood' policy now, as if they were still subscribers to Conciliation Hall, wore the Repeal button, and exhibited a card of membership over the mantel-shelf. They prefer the open ways of the constitution to secret oaths and midnight drillings; and when they read in the Irish news the miserable record of a new failure, they exclaim—'Oh, if these people would only follow O'Connell's advice! He carried Emancipation without the loss of a life, or the spilling of a drop of blood.' And yet these 'moral-force' men are not to be implicitly trusted for consistency: if they, too, 'saw their way,' and matters really came to a crisis, they might be found contributing their $10,000, or their $20,000, or their $50,000 to send a ship to sea with the green flag flying at her peak.

If it be asked, is this anti-British feeling likely to die out? Considering that it has so long existed, and that it is more intense, as well as more active at this day than at any time during the last quarter of a century, it is rather difficult to suppose it would, or will. Emigration is adding yearly, monthly, weekly to its strength. Few who land at Castle Garden that are not prepared by previous sympathy to join or to support whatever anti-British organisation may exist; nor are they long in America before they catch the strong contagion of its bitter hostility—assuming they have not already felt it at home. Every batch of 500 or 1000, every new 50,000, or 100,000, while adding to the Irish population—the Irish Nation—at the American side of the Atlantic, strengthens the Irish element, and deepens and intensifies the anti-English feeling. It may subside—so may the sea; but, like the sea, the first breath will set it again in motion, while a storm would lash it into fury. Thus it is with that vast, deep-lying, all-pervading sentiment which exists in the Irish heart—which is cherished as something holy (and in its unselfish aspirations there is nothing mean or ignoble)—which is fed by tradition, nourished by history, kept alive by instances of legal wrong or sanctioned oppression, stimulated by the musical rhythm and stirring verse of the ballad, roused into a blaze by appeals that flush the cheek and kindle the fire of the eye. It may subside; but it is difficult to think how, without some counteracting cause, it can die out.

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