The Irish Element

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXX (13) start of chapter

The Irish element being constantly on the increase, it must, as a matter of inevitable necessity, become more influential, more powerful, more to be conciliated and consulted—to be used, or to be abused; and it need scarcely be said, for it is patent and notorious, that there are those who will use and who will abuse it. There is no country in the world in which elections are so frequent as the United States; and the humblest citizen being in possession of the franchise, there are thus afforded almost innumerable opportunities of appealing to the prejudices or pandering to the passions of those in whom is reposed the sovereign power of election, even of raising the successful soldier or the ambitious statesman—nay, the rail-splitter or the journeyman tailor—to the loftiest dignity within the limits of the constitution. Thus we hear of Senators, and members of Congress, and Secretaries of State, and candidates for the Presidency, or even holders of that office, delivering addresses, proposing resolutions, or expressing sentiments favourable to Irish nationality, and tinged with a more or less decided anti-British spirit. Those who thus speak or act may be honest in intention, may really desire to assist Ireland, may believe in the justice of her cause and in the probability of her success; or they may not care a rush about the country of which they so eloquently declaim, and may regard the whole thing as so much moonshine, only useful for the purposes of political capital; but that the speeches are delivered, the resolutions proposed, and the sentiments expressed, is known to the world.

It may become a question—to what lengths will these declarations go?—to what point will these professions of sympathy reach?—how far will these enthusiastic friends of Ireland advance?—or at what line will they halt? Whether they advance, or whether they stop short, the mischief is done in either case—the weight of their name and influence is given in sanction of a sentiment which, so far as the Irish are regarded, is honestly and sincerely entertained. The occasion may arise, sooner or later, when difficulties would spring up between the two great nations at either side of the Atlantic, and these occasions may sorely perplex the men who thus deliberately play with fire; but if they do arise, one thing at least is certain,—the Irish vote will not be cast into the balance on the side of peace, In whatever party England may possibly find a friend, or a peace-maker, it will not be among those who long impatiently for the chance of another Fontenoy.

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