One of the Causes of Anti-English Feeling

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXX (8) start of chapter

According to a system of logic, with the force and justice of which they are thoroughly satisfied, certain classes of the Irish in America—indeed, the majority of them—hold the British Government responsible for all the evils of Ireland; and at the door of Government and Parliament is also laid the responsibility of the wrongs done by individuals with the sanction of the law, and the passive assent of the Legislature. After all, it is not to be wondered at that Irishmen in America should adopt the logic of Englishmen in Parliament. 'If a people are discontented, the fault must lie with those who govern them,' has been more than once heard of late years in the British House of Commons; and though the axiom may have been applied to a foreign people and a foreign government, an Irishman might be excused for holding it of equal force when applied nearer home. I can answer for it, that in this rough-and-ready manner even the humblest men instinctively reason. In fact, the logic is there ready for their use.

Visiting a farm-house in a Western State, I found the owner, a man verging on sixty, in the midst of his family, sons and daughters, fine specimens of the Irish race, with the glow of health on their cheeks, and vigour and life in every movement. A quarter of a century before, the owner of that house and farm was evicted under circumstances of singularly painful severity,—his cottage had been assailed by the 'crowbar brigade,' and he and his wife had barely time to snatch their children from the crashing ruin of what had been their home; and in his heart he cherished a feeling of hatred and vengeance, not so much against the individual by whom the wrong was perpetrated, as against the Government by which it was sanctioned, and under whose authority it was inflicted.

He had not the least objection to tell of his difficulties in the new country, for he had every reason to be proud of his sturdy energy, and his hard struggles for the first few years; but, whatever the subject of which he spoke, he would invariably contrive to wander back to the memorable day of his eviction, when, as he said, 'he and his were turned out like dogs—worse than dogs—on the road-side.' 'See, sir!' he exclaimed, 'I tell you what it is, and you may believe me when I say it, though I love the old country—and God knows I do that same—I would not take a present of 200 acres of the finest land in my own county, and have to live under the British Government.' 'Not if the British Grovernment had anything to do with it, I suppose,' said the wife, as if explaining her husband's assertion, which she seemed to regard as reasonable and natural. 'I'll never forgive that Government the longest day I live.' 'Why then, indeed, Daniel, it's time to forgive them and everybody now,' put in the wife, 'for sure, if that same didn't happen, you would not be here this blessed day, with your 400 acres of fine land, and plenty for all of us, and the schooling for the children, and no one to say "boo" to us, and all our own! May the Lord make us thankful for his mercies!' 'Well, Mary, no thanks to the British Government for that,—'twasn't for my good the blackguards done it—and if you and the children didn't perish that day, 'twas the Lord's will, not theirs.' 'Why then, Daniel, I can't say again that'—and the wife gave in. The sons, one of whom had fought for the Union, sympathised more with the vengeful feeling of their father than with the Christian spirit of their mother.

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