The Irish Race despaired of

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER III (2) start of chapter

Standing immediately near the stranger was a gentleman who displayed marked courtesy to the 'American'—as the Bishop simply represented himself to be—pointing out to him the leading peers on either side, and explaining such of the forms and modes of procedure as were likely to be useful to one who was for the first time witness of a debate in the Lords. In the course of his statement Earl Grey necessarily referred to the Emigration movement, which he deplored as a great calamity—a regret, I may remark, shared in by the wisest statesmen and truest patriots of the day; though this annual wasting away of the strength and very life of a nation is regarded, not merely with indifference, but with positive satisfaction, by shallow thinkers, and false judges of the character and capability of the Irish race.

'My dear Sir,' said the courteous neighbour of the Catholic Bishop, 'I do not at all agree with his lordship; on the contrary, my deliberate conviction is, unless the Irish go away of their own accord, or are got rid of in some manner or other, and are replaced by our people—I mean the English or the Scotch—nothing good can ever be done with that unhappy country.'

The conviction thus deliberately expressed was honestly entertained. There was no hostility, no anger, no passion, but a deep-seated belief in the truth of the terrible sentence thus tranquilly pronounced on a whole nation. A similar opinion has been too frequently expressed or insinuated in the public press of England, not perhaps so frequently of late as in former years; and, shocking as the fact may appear to be, there have not been wanting those who call themselves Irishmen to indorse this insolent slander by their unnatural verdict.

Now, if any man in that assembly could most practically and completely refute the scandalous proposition, it was the Catholic Bishop to whom, in the dusk of the evening, and while the gorgeous chamber was yet in the shadows of twilight, his courteous informant thus vouchsafed this candid opinion. That same day, a few hours before he listened to this sweeping condemnation of the Irish race, Dr. Sweeny had described to me the extraordinary success which had attended his efforts to settle the Irish on the soil of New Brunswick; and how, in the midst of the most trying difficulties, which scarcely any one in the old country could imagine, much less appreciate, the same Irish, of whom the gentleman in the House of Lords so utterly despaired, had, in an almost incredibly short space of time, won their way to rude comfort and absolute independence. In that interview I acquainted the Bishop of my intention to make a tour through the British Provinces and the States; and before we separated it was arranged that I should specially visit his latest settlement of our unjustly depreciated countrymen. The appointment made in London in the month of March was faithfully kept in New Brunswick in the month of October; and on the morning of Thursday, the 25th of that month, the Bishop and I were en route for the settlement, a distance of nearly 200 miles from the city of St. John.

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