Irish Progress in St. John

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER IV (3) start of chapter

The Irish, Protestants and Catholics, hold a most important position in St. John, and may be said to own fully half the property and wealth of that bustling active city. Of this property and wealth, the Catholics, who, with scarce an exception, are Irish, possess a considerable share. And what they possess they realised for themselves. The majority of those who are now respected for the position they occupy, and which position is enhanced by their character for honour and integrity, came out poor—in many instances absolutely penniless; but they stripped to the work before them, and climbed, with steady energy, from the lowest rung of the social ladder to wealth and independence. Rare indeed is the instance of a young man having come out with a tolerably well-filled purse. 'I had not a pound in the world when I landed here,' is the boast of nine out of ten who owe their present proud position to their own unaided exertions. And when describing how several of the wealthiest of the modern emigrants succeeded in life, some one who knew the city well would say: 'Such a man first worked as a labourer; I remember this man in a sawmill; that man commenced as a lumberman; one was a gardener, another a porter, another a pedlar: and now such a man is worth 2,000l; such a man, 5,000l; such a man, 10,000l; such a man, 20,000l.; such a man, 50,000l.: but, sir, all made by honesty, energy, and good conduct.' This is literally the history—the noble history—of many a man in St. John, who is a credit to the country of his adoption, and an honour to the land of his nativity. Even those who enjoyed the advantage of a good education had, when they started, little more of worldly goods than those whose only possessions were their strength, their honesty, their strength or their skill; and in the hard struggle upwards, that incalculable advantage necessarily told in their favour. But in all cases, education or no education, whether the young adventurer brought with him the well-won honours of Old Trinity, or the learning picked up in a village school, steadiness, sobriety, and good conduct were essential to success.

The possession of 'a little money' is very useful to any man who emigrates to a new country, especially when he has a family to provide for. But it has been confidently asserted, by experienced observers of the early struggles and successful career of their countrymen, that the most fortunate men came out 'without a pound in their pocket,' or, as they phrased it, without 'anything worth speaking of.' This may be accounted for by the necessity which compels a man without money, in a strange place, to set to work at once, and at anything that offers; whereas the man with a small capital is perhaps inclined to look about him too long, expecting, like Mr. Micauber, that 'something will turn up,' and may thus lose the opportunity, or fritter away the energy essential to success.

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