Kindly Relations

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER IX (11) start of chapter

Even so far back as the commencement of the century, the Irish merchants had taken a prominent position in the colony; and in 1806 the Benevolent Irish Society was formed—an institution which had for its object the relief of the distressed without any distinction, and the fostering of national feeling and spirit. The promoters were some of the foremost men in the colony, Protestants and Catholics, between whom the most friendly relations existed; and the meetings and proceedings of this body did no little to influence the tone and temper of the community at large. Its annual celebrations of St. Patrick's Day, in which men of all creeds and countries participated, were held in great esteem, as much for the kindly sentiments they encouraged, as for the social enjoyment they were always certain to afford. This society, after a life of sixty years, is still in existence; and not only does it fulfil its mission of benevolence in the same spirit in which it was founded, but its annual reunions continue to be an agreeable feature in the festivities of St. John's.

Newfoundland may look in vain for a grievance; but should it discover one, it has the means within itself of quickly setting it at rest. Its inhabitants of all denominations enjoy in unimpaired fulness the blessings of civil and religious freedom: there are no harassing and vexatious meddlings with education; and if a considerable portion of the population do not occupy the soil by the best of all tenures, the fault does not lie with those who legislate for and govern them. That a good understanding between all classes of the community is the result of just laws wisely administered, we may take the conclusive evidence of Dr. Mullock, who thus bears witness to its existence:—

Allow me to say a few words of my experience of the people: I have found them, in all parts of the island, hospitable, generous, and obliging; Catholics and Protestants live together in the greatest harmony, and it is only in print we find anything, except on extraordinary occasions, like disunion among them. I have always, in the most Protestant districts, experienced kindness and consideration—I speak not only of the agents of the mercantile houses, who are remarkable for their hospitality and attention to all visitors, or of magistrates, but the Protestant fishermen were always ready to join Catholics in manning a boat when I required it, and I am happy to say that the Catholics have acted likewise to their clergymen. It is a pleasing reflection that though we are not immaculate, and rum sometimes excites to evil, still, out of a population of over 130,000, we have rarely more than eight or ten prisoners in gaol, and grievous crimes are, happily, most rare, capital offences scarcely heard of.

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