It is needless to descant on such a theme. It is impossible to give any true idea of the literary labors of those men, without having seen and perused their huge folios, many of which have not yet been published to the world. Poor Colgan could give us little more than his "Trial Thaumaturga and that was only destined to form the portal of the edifice he purposed erecting as a shrine to the memory of the whole host of saints nurtured in the island-the Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae
The grand idea, which first germinated in the minds of those men, expanded afterward in others under circumstances more favorable. Did they not suggest to Bollandus and his fellows the thought whose realization has immortalized them?
In tasks such as these were the Irish emigrant monks of the time employed.
There was yet another class of involuntary Irish exiles those shipped to the " plantations" of America, to the 11 tobacco" and 11 sugar" islands, to Virginia and Jamaica, but principally to the Barbadoes. The origin of this new kind of emigration, already touched upon, is worthy of the times and of the men who called it forth.
After forty thousand soldiers had been allowed, or rather compelled, by Cromwell to enlist in foreign armies, it was found that many had left behind them their wives and children. What was to be done with these " widows" whose husbands and numerous offspring were still living ? They could not be sent to Coff as women, with children only, could not be expected to "plant" that desolate province; they could not be expected to "plant" that desolate province; they could not be allowed to remain in their native place, as the decree had gone forth that all the Irish were to "transplant" or be transported: it would have been inconvenient and inexcusable to do what had been so often done in the war-massacre them in cold blood-as the war was over.
To relieve the government of this difficulty, Bristol merchants, and merchants probably from other English cities, trading with the new British colonies of North America, thought it a providential opening for a great profit to accrue to the soils of the benighted Irish women and children, and likely at the same time to add something to their own purses and those of their friends, the West India planters.
It was only under Elizabeth that permanent colonies were sent out from England to the continent and islands of the New World. The Cavaliers of Virginia are as well known in the South as the Puritans of New England in the North. This last colony dated only from the time of the Stuart dynasty. The great question for all those transatlantic establishments was that of labor; but in the South it was more difficult of solution than in the North, where Europeans could work in the fields, a thing scarcely possible in the tropics. The natives as we know, were first employed in the South by the Spaniards, and soon succumbed to the demands of European rapacity.
In the West Indies, natives of two different races existed: the soft and delicate Indian of Hayti and Cuba, and the ferocious Caribs of many other islands. The first race soon disappeared; the other continued refractory, indomitable, choosing to perish rather than labor; and some remnants of it still remain, saved by the Catholic Church. As yet, African negroes had not been conveyed there in sufficient numbers.
A brilliant thought struck the minds, at once pious, active, and business-like, of those above-mentioned Bristol merchants-a thought which was the doom of thousands of Irish women and children.
The names of a few of those Bristol firms deserve to be handed down. Those of Messrs. James Sellick and Leader, Mr. Robert Yeomans, Mr. Joseph Lawrence, Dudley North, and John Johnson, are furnished by Mr. Prendergast, who tells us that-
"The Commissioners of Ireland under Cromwell gave them orders upon the governors of garrisons to deliver them prisoners of war . . . . upon masters of work-houses, to hand over to them the destitute under their care, 'who were of an age to labor,' or, if women, those 'who were marriageable, and not past breeding;' and gave directions to all in authority, to seize those who had no visible means of livelihood, and deliver them to these agents of the Bristol merchants; in execution of which latter directions, Ireland must have exhibited scenes in every part like the slave-hunts in Africa."
A contract was signed on September 14, 1653, by the Com missioners of Ireland and Messrs. Sellick and Leader, "to supply them (the merchants) with two hundred and fifty women of the Irish nation, above twelve years and under the age, of forty- five."
The fate reserved for the human cattle, as they must have been looked upon by the godly gentlemen who bartered over them, may be well imagined. It is calculated that, in four years, those English firms of slave-dealers had shipped six thousand and four hundred Irish men and women, boys and maidens, to the British colonies of North America.
The age requisite for the females who were thus shipped off may be noted; the boys and men were not to be under twelve or over fifty. These latter were condemned to the task of tilling the soil in a climate where the negro only can work and live. As all the cost to their masters was summed up in the expense of transportation, they were not induced to spare them, even by the consideration of the high price which, it is said, caused the modern slave-owners of America to treat their slaves with what might be called a commercial humanity. It is easy to imagine, then, the life led by so many young men forced to work in the open fields, under a tropical sun. How long that life lasted, we do not know; as their masters, on whom they entirely depended, were interested in keeping the knowledge of their fate a secret. It is well understood that, when the unfortunate victims, had once left the Irish harbor from which they set sail, no one ever heard of them again; and, if the parents still lived in the old country, they were left to their conjectures as to the probable situation of their children in the new.
Sir William Petty says that "of boys and girls alone "-exclusive, consequently, of men and women-" six thousand were thus transplanted; but the total number of Irish sent to perish in the tobacco-islands, as they were called, was estimated in some Irish accounts at one hundred thousand."
The "Irish accounts" may have been exaggerated, but the English atoned for this by certainly falling below the mark, as is clear from the fact that, according to them, the Commissioners of Ireland required the "supply" for New England alone to come from "the country within twenty miles of Cork, Youghall, Kinsale, Waterford, and Wexford;" that "the hunt lasted four years," and was carried on with such ardor by the agents of many English firms that those men-catchers employed persons "to delude poor people by false pretenses into by-places, and thence they forced them on board their ships; that for money sake they were found to have enticed and forced women from their husbands, and children from their parents, who maintained them at school; and they had not only dealt so with the Irish, but also with the English." For this reason, the order was revoked, and the "hunt" forbidden.
When agents were reduced to such straits after the government had used force, as Henry Cromwell acknowledged, the large extent of country mentioned above must have been well scoured and depopulated; and certainly a far greater number of victims must have been secured by all those means combined than is given in the English accounts. We believe the Irish.
One other source of supply deserves mention. Not only women and children, but priests also, were hunted down and shipped off to the same American plantations; so that persons of every class which is held sacred in the eyes of God and man for its character and helplessness, were compelled to emigrate, or rather to undergo the worst possible fate that the imagination of man can conceive.
In 1656 a general battue for priests took place all over Ireland. The prisons seem to have been filled to overflowing. "On the 3d of May, the governors of the respective precincts were ordered to send them with sufficient guards, from garrison to garrison, to Carrickfergus, to be there put on board of such ships as should sail with the first opportunity to the Barbadoes. One may imagine the sufferings of this toilsome journey by the petition of one of them. Paul Cashin, an aged priest, apprehended at Maryborough, and sent to Philipstown, on the way to Carrickfergus, there fell desperately sick; and, being also extremely aged, was in danger of perishing in restraint from want of friends and means of relief. On the 27th of August, the commissioners having ascertained the truth of his petition, they ordered him sixpence a day during his sickness, and (in answer, probably, to this poor prisoner's prayer to be saved from transplantation) their order directed that the sixpence should be continued to him in his travel thence (after his recovery) to Carrickfergus, in order to his transplantation to the Barbadoes. "— (Cromwellian Settlement.)
In that burning island of the West Indies, deprived of all means, not only of exercising their ministry among others, but even of practising their religion themselves, of fulfilling their holy obligation of prayer and sacrifice, these victims of such an atrocious persecution were employed as laborers in the fields: their transplantation had cost money, and the money had to be repaid a hundred-fold by the sweat of their brow.
Ship-loads of them had been discharged on the inhospitable shore of that island; each with a high calling which he could no longer carry out; each, therefore, tortured in his soul, with all the sweet or bitter memories of his past life crowding on his mind, and the dreary prospect spreading before him, to the end of his life, of no change from his rude and slavish occupation under the burning sun, hearing no voice but that of the harsh taskmaster; his eyes saddened and his heart sickened by the open and daily spectacle of immorality and woe, with no ending but the grave.
It seems, however, that these holy men found some means of fulfilling their sacred duty as God's ministers, for the inhuman traffic in such slaves as these to the Barbadoes lasted but one year. In 1657 it was decreed that this island should no longer be their place of transportation, but, instead, the desolate isles of Arran, opposite the entrance to the bay of Galway, and the isle of Innisboffin, off the coast of Connemara. Mr. Prendergast thinks that this change of policy in their regard may have been caused by the price of their transportation, which probably mounted to a high aggregate sum. But he must be mistaken. They certainly cost no more than women and children, and their labor in the West Indies surely covered this expense. The reason for the change is more plainly visible in the nature of the site substituted for the Barbadoes as their place of exile. The "holy isles" of Arran and the isle of Innisboffin were then, as now, bare of every thing—almost of inhabitants. The priests could be there kept as in a prison, and, though they might be of no profit to their masters, they could not hear a voice or see a face other than those of their fellow-captives. In the West India islands there existed an already thick population, and the very women and children who had been transported thither before them would be consoled by their ministry, though practised by stealth, and strengthened in their faith, which might thus have not only been kept alive among them, but spread over the whole country.
Who can say if the faith, preserved among the many Irish living in the island until quite recently, was not owing to their exhortations?
"The first Irish people who found permanent homes in America," says Thomas D'Arcy McGee, "were certain Catholic patriots banished by Oliver Cromwell to Barbadoes. . . . In this island, as in the neighboring Montserrat, the Celtic language was certainly spoken in the last century,1 (1 The Celtic language— that sure sign of Catholicity—was not only spoken there last century, but is still to-day. The writer himself heard last year (1871), from two young American seamen, who had just returned from a voyage to this island, that the negro porters and white longshoremen who load and unload the ships in the harbor, know scarcely any other language than the Irish, so that often the crews of English vessels can only communicate with them by signs.) and perhaps it is partly attributable to this early Irish colonization, that Barbadoes became 'one of the most populous islands in the world.' At the end of the seventeenth century, it was reported to contain twenty thousand inhabitants."
Although Barbadoes is the chief island concerned in the present considerations, nevertheless nearly all the British colonies then existing in America, received their share of this emigration. Several ship-loads of the exiles were certainly sent to New England, at the very time that New-Englanders were earnestly invited by the British Government to "come and plant Ireland;" Virginia, too, paid probably with tobacco for the young men and maidens sent there as slaves. The "Thurloe State Papers" disclose the fact that one thousand boys and one thousand girls, taken in Ireland by force, were dispatched to Jamaica, lately added to the empire of England by Admiral Penn, father of the celebrated Quaker founder of Pennsylvania.
Thus, then, began the first extensive emigration of the Irish to various parts of British America—a movement quite compulsory, which in our days has become voluntary, and is productive of the wonders soon to claim our attention.
The involuntary emigration of soldiers and clergymen to the Continent of Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was, as has been seen, the cause of great advantages to Ireland, and became, in the designs of a merciful Providence, a powerful means of drawing good from evil. At first sight, it seems impossible to discover a similar advantage in this other most involuntary emigration to the plantations of America.
A pagan has declared that "there is no spectacle more grateful to the eyes of God than a just man struggling with adversity;" and where, except in the first ages of Christianity, could more innocent victims, and a more cruel persecution, be witnessed?
After the horrors of a civil war, horrors unparalleled perhaps in the annals of modern nations, the children and young people of both sexes are hunted down over an area of several Irish counties, dragged in crowds to the seaports, and there jammed in the holds of small, uncomfortable, slow-going vessels. What those children must have been may be easily imagined from the specimens of the race before us to-day. We do not speak of their beauty and comeliness of form, on which a Greek writer of the age of Pericles might have dilated, and found a subject worthy of his pen; we speak of their moral beauty, their simplicity, purity, love of home, attachment to their family, and God, even in their tenderest age. We meet them scattered over the broad surface of this country—boys and girls of the same race, coming from the same counties, chiefly from sweet Wexford, the beautiful, calm, pious south of Ireland. Who but a monster could think of harming those pure and affectionate creatures, so modest, simple, and ready to trust and confide in every one they meet? And what could be said of those maidens, now so well known in this New World, of whom to speak is to praise, whom to see is to admire? Such were the victims selected by the Bristol firms, by "Lord" Henry Cromwell, Governor-General of Ireland, or by Lord Thurloe, secretary and mouth-piece of the "Protector." They were to be violently torn from their parents and friends, from every one they knew and loved, to be condemned, after surviving the horrible ocean-passage of those days, the boys to work on sugar and tobacco plantations, the girls to lead a life of shame in the harems of Jamaica planters!
Such of them as were sent North, were to be distributed among the "saints" of New England, to be esteemed by the said "saints" as "idolaters," "vipers," "young reprobates," just objects of "the wrath of God;" or, if appearing to fall in with their new and hard task-masters, to be greeted with words of dubious praise as "brands snatched from the burning," "vessels of reprobation," destined, perhaps, by a due imitation of the "saints," to become some day "vessels of election," in the mean time to be unmercifully scourged by both master and mistress with the "besom of righteousness" probably, at the slightest fault or mistake.
Such was the sorrowful prospect held out to them; there was no possibility of escape, no hope of going back to the only country they loved. In the South they soon, very soon, sank into an obscure grave. In the North a prolonged life was only a prolongation of torment. For, who among them could ever think of becoming a "convert?" They had been taken from their island-home when over twelve years of age; they had already received from their mothers and hunted priests a religious education, which happily could never be effaced; they were to bury in their hearts all their lives long the conviction of their holy faith, supported by the only hope they now had, the hope of heaven.
Could the eyes of God, looking down over the earth, and marking in all places with deep pity his erring children, find souls more worthy of his vast paternal love? Can we imagine that the ears of Heaven were deaf to their prayers poured out unceasingly all those long days and nights of trials and of tears? Can we read in the designs of Providence the blessed decrees which such scenes called forth? Blind that we are, unable often to judge rightly of our own thoughts, often an enigma to ourselves, how shall we dare to judge of what is so far above us? No Christian at least can pretend that all those miseries, accumulated on the heads of so many innocent victims, had no other object than to make them suffer. Ireland will yet profit by all the merits, unknown and untold, gained by so many thousand human hearts and souls and bodies given over to misfortunes which baffle expression.
And as yet we have said nothing of those cargos of priests shipped from Carrickfergus to Barbadoes, and afterward to Arran and Innisboffin. Deprived of all means of making their new country in America a witness of Catholic prayer and worship—not one of them probably being able to offer the holy sacrifice even for a single day, nor administer any sacrament unless perhaps that of penance-by stealth; not one dared open his mouth and preach the truth publicly to all. What could they do? They offered the sacrifice of themselves; the very sight of them possessed almost the virtue of a sacrament, and their lives preached a sermon more eloquent than any of those which entrance the vastest audience of a solemn cathedral. No! the first emigration of 'the Irish to America was not unfruitful in its results. And were we to attribute the great progress made by Catholicity on the American Continent in the present age to the merits of those numerous victims of persecution, who could prove us to be in error, and say that between the sufferings of innocence in the seventeenth and the glorious success of their countrymen in the nineteenth century there is no connection? The old phrase of Tertullian, "Sanguis martyrum, semen Christianorum," has been proved true too often in the annals of the Catholic Church to be falsified in this one instance; yet, if what our days witness be not the result of former sufferings and sacrifices, those trials were barren, and are consequently inexplicable. Every cause must have its effect; and it is a truth which no Christian can hesitate to admit, that the most efficacious source of blessings is the tear of the innocent, the anguish of the pure of heart, the humble prayer of the persecuted servant of God.
When we come to speak of the emigration of the race to the American Continent, which is now in progress, the stupendous facts which will make our narrative and excite our admiration must be regarded and accounted for from a religious and Catholic stand point, and we shall then be able to refer to this first and apparently barren emigration. Many losses, spiritual as well as temporal, may stagger the unreflecting, particularly when the whole designs of Providence are as yet scarcely in their inceptive stage; but the more they are developed before our eyes, the more the truth is made clear; every difficulty vanishes; and the soul of the beholder exclaims "Yes, God is truly wise and merciful!"
But it is time at last to enter on the consideration of what we esteem the first great issue involved in the resurrection of Ireland, namely, all the probable consequences of the present emigration, which is the true point we are aiming at, as our purpose is to show the benefit that Ireland has already derived, and is sure to derive later on, from that incessant flow of the great human wave starting from her shore to oversweep vast continents and islands of the sea. What aid will it afford to her own resurrection at home, in order to render that complete and lasting? This may be said to have been our main object in writing these pages; for, although it may be impressive enough for those who regard the subject attentively, and although it will certainly be a source of wonder to those who come after us, nevertheless it fails to strike as it ought the great mass of beholders.
Often in the history of nations, while the mightiest revolutions are in progress, they are scarcely perceptible to the actors in them; all their circumstances, their most active and effective operations, being like the silent workings of Nature, scarcely sensible to those around, until the end comes and the great result is achieved; then history records the event as one fraught with the greatest blessings, or misfortunes, to mankind. So will it be, we have no doubt, with that strange concatenation of small domestic facts which now form the universal phenomenon of all English-speaking countries: the spread of the Irish everywhere.
What were its beginnings? Nothing at all. What good effects followed it? None perceptible for a long time. These two reflections claim our attention first, for we must study the phenomenon, in all its circumstances and bearings.
This new emigration we call voluntary, to distinguish it from the first, which was forced upon large portions of the Irish race. But, in reality, the Irish undertook it at the beginning with reluctance; the intolerable state of existence which they were compelled to undergo in their own land acting upon them with a kind of moral compulsion amounting to an almost irresistible force. For it was either the famine or persecution of the century preceding which first drove them to emigrate.
Necessity of expansion is a great characteristic of their race, an instinctive impulse which three thousand years ago carried a part of it into the heart of Asia. But this particular branch had been rooted to the soil for so many centuries, by the stern necessity of repelling a series of successive invasions, that this great characteristic appeared for a long time to be totally extinct in it. They seemed neither to know nor care any more for foreign countries; and no race in Europe, from the ninth to the eighteenth century, showed itself so completely wedded to the soil, and incapable of the thought of spreading abroad.
At last they began to move. And what was the first origin of the new movement? No one can say precisely. Only, in various accounts of occurrences taking place in the island during the last century, we occasionally meet with such entries as the following by Matthew O'Connor, in his "Irish Catholics:"
"The summer of 1728 was fatal. The heart of the politician was steeled against the miseries of the Catholics; their number excited his jealousy. Their decrease by the silent waste of famine must have been a source of secret joy; but the Protestant interest was declining in a proportionate degree by the ravages of starvation. . .
"Thousands of Protestants took shipping in Belfast for the West Indies. . . . The policy that would starve the Catholics at home would not deny them the privilege of flight."
This is the first mention of emigration, on any extensive scale, which we could find in the records of last century; and, at the time when the Protestant Irish went to America, where they doubtless met with congenial minds in the Puritans of New England, the Catholics still turned, as before, to Spain and France.
But a new entry in 1762 unfolds a new aspect. This time Catholics alone are spoken of: "No resource remained to the peasantry but emigration. The few who had means sought an asylum in the American plantations; such as remained were allowed generally an acre of ground for the support of their families, and commonage for a cow, but at rents the most exorbitant."
This is the first instance we meet with of Irish Catholics emigrating to America, at least in comparatively large bodies. They were no doubt encouraged to take this step by the accounts which reached them of the success of the Ulster Protestants who had gone before, and whose posterity is now to be found in the South chiefly, as low down as Carolina and Georgia.
But the relative prospects of the Protestants and Catholic were at that time far from being equally good. The first, driven from home by famine, found a land of plenty awaiting them, a genial climate, perfect toleration of their religious tenets everywhere, and in some districts they gained real political influence. They were received with open arms by the colonists, who were unable to occupy the land alone, and ready to welcome new fellow- citizens, who would aid them in their contests with the Indians, and add materially to their prosperity and resources. All persons and all things then smiled on the new-comer, and within a very short time he found himself possessed of more than he had ever expected. Thus others were induced to follow from the north of Ireland, and famine was no longer the only motive power which impelled them to leave their native land. Mr. Bancroft tells us they were called Scotch-Irish.
On the other hand, the Irish Catholics found a fertile soil and an inviting climate; Nature welcomed them, but man recoiled, inflamed by a bitter hostility against their faith and their very name. This feeling of opposition, on both accounts, was already fast wearing away in Europe; but the "liberality" springing up in the Old World, owing to a variety of circumstances, had not yet penetrated into the British colonies of North America. They were still, in this respect, in the state in which the Revolution of 1688 had left them: Catholicity was proscribed everywhere, and the penal laws of the Old World were attempted to be enforced in the New, as far as the different state of the country would permit. A few details, taken mainly from Mr. Bancroft's history, will give us a tolerably exact idea of the situation in which the newly-arrived Irish Catholic found himself in that future land of liberty.
The consequences of the downfall of James II. were soon fully accepted by the British colonies, throughout which changes of greater or less degree took place in the laws, not only without any great opposition, but in the main with the full applause of all parties. The Stuart dynasty was thrown over more easily in America than it had been in the British Isles.
It is universally admitted that one of the greatest consequences of that downfall was the renewed persecution of Catholics in England and Ireland. In the words of Mr. Bancroft:
"The Revolution of 1688, narrow in its principles, imperfect in its details, frightfully intolerant toward Catholics, forms an era in the liberty of England and of mankind."
It will be no surprise, then, on coming to review the various colonies, to find the oppression of the Catholic Church common to all without one exception.
Beginning with the South, we find the new governor of South Carolina, Archdale, a Quaker, and, on that account, personally well disposed toward all, desirous of showing that a Quaker could respect the faith of a "Papist," commencing his administration by sending back to the Spanish Governor of Florida four Indian converts of the Spanish priests, who were exposed as slaves for sale in Carolina. He likewise enfranchised the Huguenots of South Carolina, who, up to this time, had been kept under by the High Church oligarchy. Yet, when he came to urge the adoption of liberal measures toward all in the state, the colonial Legislature consented to confer liberty of conscience on all Christians, with the exception of "Papists."
In North Carolina, the Church of England was actually made the state Church, in 1704, and the Legislature enacted that "no one who would not take the oath prescribed by law should hold a place of trust in the colony."
Of Virginia, Spotswood, the governor, could write to England, in 1711: "This government is in perfect peace and tranquillity, under a due obedience to royal authority, and a gentlemanly conformity to the Church of England."
Of Maryland, Mr. Bancroft writes that the English Revolution was a Protestant revolution.
"A convention of the associates 'for the defence of the Protestant religion' assumed the government, and, in an address to King William, denounced the influence of the Jesuits, the prevalence of popish idolatry, the connivance by the previous government at murders of Protestants, and the danger from plots with the French and Indians."
Hence, a little farther on, we read: "The Roman Catholics alone were left without an ally, exposed to English bigotry and colonial injustice. They alone were disfranchised on the soil which, long before Locke pleaded for toleration, or Penn for religious freedom, they had chosen, not as their own asylum only, but, with Catholic liberality, as the asylum of every persecuted sect. In the land which Catholics had opened for Protestants, the Catholic inhabitant was the sole victim to Anglican intolerance. Mass might not be said publicly. No Catholic priest or bishop might utter his faith in a voice of persuasion. No Catholic might teach the young. If the wayward child of a Papist would but become an apostate, the law wrested for him from his parents a share of their property. The disfranchisement of the proprietary related to his creed, not to his family. Such were the methods adopted 'to prevent the growth of Popery.'"
Mr. Bancroft adds with much truth and force: "Who shall say that the faith of the cultivated individual is firmer than the faith of the common people? Who shall say that the many are fickle, that the chief is firm? To recover the inheritance of authority, Benedict, the son of the proprietary, renounced the Catholic Church for that of England; the persecution never crushed the faith of the humble colonists."
Pennsylvania appears to form an exception to that universal animosity against Catholics. It is said that, owing to William Penn, "religious liberty was established, and every public employment was open to every man professing faith in Jesus Christ. . . . In Pennsylvania human rights were respected: the fundamental law of William Penn, even his detractors concede, was in harmony with universal reason, and true to the ancient and just liberties of the people."
Such may have been the written law—the theory; but the law as executed—the fact—was far from realizing those fine promises. As late as the end of the Revolutionary War, the Catholics of Philadelphia were compelled to hide away their worship in a small chapel, surrounded by buildings whose only access was a dark and winding alley still in existence a few years back.
It is known, moreover, that Penn himself, in 1708, forbade mass to be celebrated in the colony. According to T. D. McGee, Governor Gordon, in 1734, prohibited the erection of a Catholic church in Walnut Street; and, in 1736, a private house having been purchased at the corner of Second and Chestnut streets for the same object, it was again prohibited.
New Jersey showed her liberality in the form sacred to all the other colonies: "Liberty of conscience was granted to all but papists."
There was as yet no homogeneity in New York, the Dutch still preserving great power, and, consequently, "the idea of toleration was still imperfect in New Netherlands; equality among religious sects was unknown." If this was the case with several Protestant organizations, what must it have been with the Catholics? It is well known that no one dared openly avow his faith in the true Church, and that John Ury was hanged in 1741 for being a priest, though whether he was a priest or not is still a question.
Rhode Island had proclaimed in the beginning "entire freedom of mind;" but, after the Revolution of 1688, the colony "interpolated into the statute-book the exclusion of papists from the established equality."
The spirit of Connecticut is well expressed in the words of the address sent by the colony to King William of Orange, on his accession: "Great was the day when the Lord who sitteth upon the floods did divide his and your adversaries like the waters of Jordan, and did begin to magnify you like Joshua, by the deliverance of the English dominions from popery and slavery." We wonder how the taciturn Hollander received this effusion of Connecticut? There is nothing more to add on the situation of the Catholics in the land of the "blue laws."
In Massachusetts it will be no surprise to hear that "every form of Christianity, except the Roman Catholic, was enfranchised."
This short sketch is eloquent enough with reference to the position in which the poor Irish immigrant found himself on landing on the shores of the New World. His faith he found proscribed as severely almost as in his own country. He was compelled to conceal it; and, even had he been free to make open profession of it, he could find no minister of his creed tolerated anywhere. The country was a perfect blank as far as the ceremonies of his religion went. In his native land he knew where to find a priest; he was advised of the day and of the precise place where he might assist at the sacred mysteries of his religion; and, were it in the cave or on the mountain-top, in the bog or the morass, he knew that there he could adore and receive his God as truly and as worthily as in the magnificent domes looking proudly to heaven under Catholic skies. But in British North America, except in a few counties of Maryland, where the true faith had once been openly planted and taken root, where some clergymen of his own creed were even still to be found, though forced to conceal, or at least not expose themselves too freely, he knew that elsewhere it was useless for him to inquire, not only for a sacred edifice where he might go to thank his God on landing, but even to look for a priest should he find himself at the point of death.
At the present day it is almost impossible to give any details and move the reader by a picture of the complete spiritual destitution of the Irish immigrant in his new home. Here and there, however, we meet, in reading, facts apparently insignificant in themselves, which at first sight seem to have no connection whatever with the subject on hand, yet which, with the aid of reflection, throw quite a flood of light on it, as convincing as it is unexpected. Take, for instance, the following:
"In the last year of the administration of Andros in Massachusetts," says Mr. Bancroft, "the daughter of John Goodwin, a child of thirteen years, charged a laundress with having stolen linen from the family. Glover, the mother of the laundress, a friendless immigrant, almost ignorant of English, like a true woman, with a mother's heart, rebuked the false accusation. Immediately, the girl, to secure revenge, became bewitched. The infection spread. Three others of the family, the youngest a boy of less than five years old, soon succeeded in equally arresting public attention. . . . Cotton Mather went to pray by the side of one of them, and, lo! the child lost her hearing till prayer was over. What was to be done? The four ministers of Boston and the one of Charlestown assembled in Goodwin's house, and spent a whole day of fasting in prayer. In consequence, the youngest child, the little one of five years old, was 'delivered.' But if the ministers could thus by prayer 'deliver' a possessed child, there must have been a witch. The honor of the ministers required a prosecution of the affair; and the magistrates, William Stoughton being one, with a 'vigor' which the united ministers commended as 'just,' made 'a discovery of the wicked instrument of the devil.' The culprit was evidently a wild Irishwoman, of a strange tongue. Goodwin, who made the complaint, 'had no proof that could have done her any hurt;' but the 'scandalous old hag,' whom some thought 'crazed in her intellectuals,' was bewildered, and made strange answers, which were taken as confessions, sometimes, in excitement, using her native dialect. . . . It was plain the prisoner was a Roman Catholic; she had never learned the Lord's Prayer in English; she could repeat the Pater Noster fluently enough, but not quite correctly; so, the ministers and Goodwin's family had the satisfaction of getting her condemned as a witch and executed."
The position of this poor woman, who had never openly declared herself a Catholic, but which fact the people were led to infer from various circumstances, expresses the condition of all Irish immigrants at the time. A further fact recorded by the same historian shows what the feeling toward Catholics was at the time in Massachusetts:
"The girl, who knew herself to be a deceiver, had no remorse, and to the ministers it never occurred that vanity and love of power had blinded their judgment."
The reason was plain: Glover was a Catholic. How could the girl be expected to feel remorse for having brought about her death? How could the ministers feel the least concern because their "vanity and love of power" had effected the hanging of such a creature?—"a vessel of wrath," in any case; a "predestined reprobate," beyond doubt, whose ignominious death on earth and eternal punishment afterward were "a true source of joy in heaven and an increase of glory for the infinite justice of God, " if there was any truth in Calvinism.
Another fact, as suggestive as the above, is found in McGee's "Irish Settlers in America:" "The first Catholic church that we find in Pennsylvania, after Penn's suppression of them in 1708, was connected with the house of a Miss Elizabeth McGauley, an Irish lady, who, with several of her tenantry, settled on land on the road leading from Nicetown to Frankfort. Near the site of this ancient sanctuary stood a tomb, inscribed, 'John Michael Brown, ob. 15th December, A. D. 1750. R. I. P.' He had been a priest residing there incognito."
Miss E. McGauley was not poor, like Glover. On coming to America with some of her tenantry, she secured herself beforehand against the difficulty of practising her religion; and, knowing well that no priest was to be found in the country, she brought one with her. All the remainder of his life did this minister of God reside in her house incognito, keeping the ministry intrusted to him for the service of all a profound secret. He never attempted, probably, to enlighten his prejudiced and ignorant neighbors; the knowledge of his character and the benefits arising from his presence were confined to the lady of the house and her faithful tenantry. Even after his death the secret was still kept, and only the cabalistic characters "R. I. P." remain to tell an intelligent reader that he was neither Quaker nor Protestant; and, probably, tradition alone, preserved doubtless in the neighborhood, could assure us that he was a priest.
How many Catholics scattered over the broad colony of Pennsylvania, immigrants like Miss McGauley, but unlike her in their poverty, and therefore unable to hire a clergyman, never knew that they might unburden their consciences and enjoy the consolations of their religion, by travelling a hundred miles or so to the house "on the road leading from Nicetown to Frankfort?" How many lived and died within a short distance, and never knocked at the door, owing to their ignorance of the class of inmates? Thus, although there were some ministers of God in the country, their number was so small, and they were so far distant from each other, that their labors were utterly unavailing for the great body of the Catholic immigrants, who would have rejoiced to throw themselves at their feet, and ease their hearts and purify their souls by confession.
Some Irishmen, it is true, had emigrated before such concealment was requisite, in Maryland at least, where an asylum for all had been opened by Lord Baltimore, a Catholic. Thus, the Carrolls had settled in Prince George County. They were at liberty to make open use of the services of the English fathers of the Society of Jesus, who for a long time officiated undisguisedly among their English Catholic flocks; but, as was seen, after the Revolution of 1688, Catholics were disfranchised in Maryland even, their religious rites proscribed, and penalties enacted against the open profession of their worship.
Thus, concealment became a necessity, there also; the policy of keeping the existence of clergymen and the celebration of the holy mysteries secret had to be adopted there as in other colonies. The Carroll family, like Miss Elizabeth McGauley, gave refuge in their house to a minister of their own religion, and it was in such a chapel-house that John Carroll was born, on the 8th of January, 1735—the first Bishop and Archbishop of Baltimore.
It is therefore no matter for wonder that the number of children of the Church in North America did not increase in proportion to the number of Catholic immigrants; on the contrary, the posterity of the majority of those who chose the British colonies, for their home was lost to her. The immigrants themselves, we are confident, never lost their faith. Although living for years without any exterior help, without receiving a word of instruction or advice, without the celebration of any religious rite whatever, or the reception of any sacrament, yet, faith was too deeply rooted in their minds and hearts to be ever eradicated, or shaken even.
But, though they themselves clung fast to their faith in the midst of so many adverse circumstances, what of their children?
There is no doubt that many of them did, individually, every thing possible to transmit that faith to their children; but all they could do was to speak privately, to warn then against dangers, and set up before them the example of a blameless life. Not only was there no priest to initiate them into the mysteries, granted by Christ to the redeemed soul; there was not even a Catholic school-master to instruct them. Even the "hedge-school" could not be set on foot. Books were unknown; Catholic literature, in the modern sense, had not yet been born; there was no vestige of such a thing beyond, perhaps, an occasional old, worn, and torn, yet dearly-prized and carefully-concealed prayer-book, dating from the happy days of the Confederation of Kilkenny.
There is no reason, then, for surprise in the fact that, although the families of those first Irish settlers were numerous and scattered over all the district which afterward became the Middle and Southern States, only a faint tradition remained among many of them that they really belonged to the old Church and "ought to be Catholics." How often was this the case thirty years ago, particularly in the South!
It would not be right to conclude that all this was a pure and unmitigated loss to the Church of Christ. Later on, we shall have to speak of more numerous and serious losses: but a few words on this first one may not be thrown away.
As in the material world an infinite number of germs are lost, and quantities of seeds, wafted on the breeze from giant trees and humble plants, fall and perish on a barren rock, in the eddies of a swift-running brook, or, oftener still, on the hard and unkind soil on which they have happened to alight; so that, out of a thousand germs, a few only find every thing congenial to their growth, and attain to the full size allotted them by Nature —nevertheless, despite this loss, the species is not only preserved, but so multiplied as to produce on the beholder, in after-time, the impression that, not only no loss has been sustained, but that much has been gained. So is it with the Catholic Church in general, and in particular with the momentous events now being considered.
The cultivated field of the "father of the family" was about to be extended over a new and vast area. A whole continent was to be "fenced around," and "olive-trees," and "fig-trees," and all plants useful and ornamental, were destined to flourish in that vast garden to the end of time. The great and eternal Father was, by his providence, directing the mighty operation from above, and marking the various points of the compass to which the floating germs were to be wafted. He knew that he was planting a new garden for his Son, who would, as usual, be the first husbandman, and employ many workmen to help him.
How could it be expected that all would be gain without loss, when the harvest-time had not yet arrived, and the "enemy" was busy sowing "tares" in all directions? Was not the work human as well as divine? and, as human, did not the work partake of the imperfection of human things?
The continent had evidently been predestined to form one of the strongest branches of the great Catholic tree. Discovered before the modern heresies of Protestantism had shown themselves, it was to bring into the fold of Christ new nations, when some old ones were to be cut off and wither away. This has long ago been pointed out; but another mighty design of Providence there was which only now begins to show itself.
Columbus was in search of Asia and the holy sepulchre when he stumbled on the New World. Nor was the idea of his great mind altogether a delusion. The new continent was in future ages to be used as the highway from Europe to the Orient; China, Japan, India, vast regions filled with innumerable multitudes of human beings, had, so far, scarcely been touched, could scarcely be touched, by Catholicism coming from Europe. In fact it was too far away, and the means of intercommunication were too inadequate. The holy Catholic Church increases as "things which grow;" a few husbandmen—missionaries—are required to set the first seedlings and plants in the soil, to water them, watch over them, and see that they thrive and flourish; the rest of the process is a matter of seeds wafted by the wind, falling and taking root in a fertile soil, which has been already prepared for their reception. If there were no other means of propagation than the toil and sweat of the husbandman, how long would it take to cover the whole earth with vegetation? The first propagation of Christianity was done in this way; hence it took more than ten centuries to Christianize Europe. In the fifth century, Rome was still thoroughly pagan. Were the vast regions of that dim, far-away East to undergo a similar slow and painful process, necessitating an immense amount of labor, centuries and centuries in duration? God hastened the process by adding to it the wafting of seeds, and America was to be the vast nursery from which those seeds were to come. It was from that long and alternately widening and narrowing belt of land, running down the sea from north to south, that the Japhetic race was to invade the "tents of Sem."
Thus was the dream of Columbus to be realized. Asia would be reached by Europe, of which America would form a part. The east of Asia would become contiguous to a real European population, large masses of which would easily come in contact with the Mongolian and Malay races of their immediate neighborhood, steam and modern improvements in travel reducing the intervening distance to a matter of a few days. Thus the Japhetic movement could be carried out on a large scale, and European civilization come to supersede the obsolete manners of those old and effete races of Eastern Asia. The unity of mankind would be vindicated against its blasphemers; and, to crown the whole, Christianity would find its way back to the cradle of man, then, to its own birthplace, Calvary and the sepulchre of Christ. Thus would the conjectural vision of the great Genoese become only an explanation of the old prophecy of the second father of mankind.1 (1 The reader will understand that all this is merely "a view, " and not given as a pure interpretation of Scripture or past history.)
Thus would the Church at last become rigorously Catholic, and not as some theologians imagined, in their desire to make actual, incomplete facts coincide with a far wider theory, only Catholic by approximation.
If it were allowed us to read the designs of Providence reverently, we might say, without presumption, that it seems such is to be future history, although simple conjecture may produce too strong an impression on our minds. But, at the period of which we speak, shortly after the middle of the last century, any one who would have spoken thus would have been justly deemed a visionary. The south of America, though possessed of the true religion, seemed inert; the North was already showing signs of an intense future activity, but all opposed to the truth. God was about to change those appearances, and, by infusing the Irish element into the North, produce, in a comparatively short space of time, the wonderful phenomenon which we witness.
Yet, so short-sighted are we, that some are almost staggered in their faith, because the children of the earliest Irish emigrants to this country, were apparently lost to the Church.
Nevertheless, several circumstances might be brought forward to show that a real gain accrued to the Church from these lost children of the first Irish settlers. How many prejudices, so deeply rooted in the country as to seem ineradicable, owe their destruction to them! How many harsh and uncharitable feelings against Catholics were smoothed away or softened down by their instrumentality!
Those men who, in after-life, remembered that they "ought to be Catholics," were not ready to accept, on the word of a "minister," all the absurd calumnies spread against the Church throughout those vast regions. They had heard, by a kind of tradition, kept alive in their families, of what their ancestors had formerly suffered, and they at least were not inclined to join in the universal denunciation of a creed which they were conscious "ought to be" their own.
Who shall say whether it is not the old Catholic blood, running in the veins of these children of Irish Catholic parents, which has been mainly instrumental in creating that spirit of true liberality which inspires the honorable conduct of the majority of the American people, and in which the Church has at all times found her safety?
It is certain that there is a vast difference between that American spirit and the atmosphere of distrust pervading other countries, and that the rapid spread of the Church throughout the broad regions of the Union has been singularly favored by the soft breeze of a liberal and kindly feeling so common to those even who are not born within the fold. And that the children of Irish parents, themselves lost to the Church, have exercised great influence from the start, in that regard, cannot, we think, be denied.
But, perhaps, too much space has been devoted to that first emigration from Ireland; it is time to come to a more recent period of which there are more certain and positive accounts.
There is no need to speak of the happy change effected in the position of the Catholic Church in America by the Revolution; Washington, in his reply to the address of the Catholics of the country, has given expression to the feelings of the nation in terms so well known that they require no comment.
From that date commences the real history of the Catholic Church in North America, outside of the provinces originally settled by the French and Spaniards. The influx of Irish immigrants now attracts our chief attention.
From the year 1800, when the "Union" was effected between England and Ireland, the number of immigrants increased suddenly and rapidly, and the situation of the new-comers on their arrival was very different from that of their predecessors. They found liberty not only proclaimed, but established; few churches indeed, but, such as there were, known and open, and a bishop and clergymen already practising their ministry.
Before entering upon the extent, nature, and effects of this second Irish immigration—which may be studied from documents existing—it will be well to say a few words on the elements which constituted the Catholic body when first organized. We are concerned, it is true, with the new element introduced by the great movement of which we begin to speak; but we are far from undervaluing other sources of life, which not only affected the Church at its birth in the United States, but have continued to act upon her ever since with more or less of energy. The reader should not imagine that, by not speaking of them, we are unjust or blind to their efficiency; they simply lie without the scope of our plan.
In the North the French, and in the South the Spanish missionaries, had imparted to Catholicity a vitality which could not be extinguished; but its operations were almost entirely confined to limits outside those which circumscribe the field of our investigations. The French element, however, grew into prominence even at the outset within those limits, either through the acquisition of Louisiana, or in consequence of the French immigration during the terrible revolution of last century. It is only necessary to open the pages of Mr. R. H. Clarke's recently-published "Lives of the American Bishops," to be struck with the importance of that element. It may be said that, for the first twenty-five years of the republic, French prelates and clergymen, together with several American Marylanders, were intrusted with the care of the infant Church. Ireland seems to have had scarcely any office to fulfil in that great work, save through the humble exertions of a few devoted but almost unknown missionaries; so that, when bishops of Irish birth were first chosen, they were either taken from Ireland itself, as was Dr. England, Bishop Kelly, of Richmond, or Conwell, of Philadelphia, or from the monasteries of Rome, as were Bishops Connolly and Concanen, of New York. Bishop Egan, of Philadelphia, can scarcely be called an exception, as he had only spent a very few years in this country when he was elevated to the episcopal dignity. The German element showed itself only in Pennsylvania.
It was under circumstances such as these that that stream of desolate people began to flow, spreading gradually through immense regions, and bringing with it only its unconquerable faith.
From the "mustard-seed" a noble tree was to spring up; but as yet it was only a weak sapling. In 1785, Bishop Carroll made an estimate of the Catholic population of the States: "In Maryland, seventeen thousand; in Pennsylvania, over seven thousand; and, as far as information could be obtained, in other States, about fifteen hundred." New York City could not yet boast of a hundred Catholics.
Like all things durable and mighty, the first swelling of that great wave was slow and silent, and scarcely perceptible, until little by little the ripple spread over the vast ocean.
The first apparent causes have been well expressed by T. D. McGee, in his "Irish Settlers:" "The breaking out of the French War in 1793, and the degrading legislative Union of 1800, had deprived many of bread, and all of liberty at home, and made the mechanical as well as the agricultural class embark to cross the Atlantic.
"Hitherto the Irish had colonized, sowed and reaped, fought, spoken, and legislated in the New World, if not always in proportion to their numbers, yet always to the measure of their educational resources. Now they are about to plant a new emblem - -the Cross—and a new institution—the Church—throughout the American Continent. For, the faith of their fathers they did not leave behind them; nay, rather, wheresoever six Irish roof-trees rise, there you will find the cross of Christ reared over all, and Celtic piety and Celtic enthusiasm, all sighs and tears, kneeling before it."
Let us look at a few particular signs of the coming of this great wave in its first scarcely perceptible movement.
"John Timon was born at Conewago, Pennsylvania, February 12, 1797, and baptized on the 17th of the same month; his parents, James Timon and Margaret Leddy, had quite recently arrived in this country from Ireland, and were from Belturbet, County Cavan. A family of ten children, of whom John was the second son, blessed the Catholic household of these pious parents."—(Lives of American Bishops.)
"Francis Xavier Gartland was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1805; he came to America, while yet a child, and made his studies at Mount St. Mary's, Emmettsburg."—(Ibid.)
"John B. Fitzpatrick was born in Boston, November 1, 1812. His parents emigrated from Ireland, and settled in Boston in 1805."— (Ibid.)
What did the parents of the future bishop find on their arrival at Boston? In the year previous, the first Catholic congregation was assembled in that city by the Abbe La Poitre, a French navy- chaplain, who had remained in America after the departure of the French fleet, which rendered such powerful assistance in the struggle for American independence. In 1808, four years before the birth of him who was destined to wear the mitre, the Catholics had obtained the old "French Church" in School Street, which was probably a Calvinist meeting house.
Another wavelet of a precious kind was the following: "Bishop Lanigan was meditating" (in Ireland) "the establishment of a religious community in the city of Kilkenny, and designed Miss Alice Lalor for one of its future members. But, in 1797, her parents emigrated from Ireland and settled in America, and she felt it to be her duty . . . . to accompany them. But she promised the bishop to return in two years. On arriving at Philadelphia, she became acquainted with the Reverend Leonard Neale. . . . Feeling convinced that it was not the design of Providence that she should abandon America for Ireland, Father Neale released her from her promise to return to Kilkenny, in order that she might become his cooperator in the foundation of a religious order in the United States (the Visitation Nuns)."— (Ibid.)
Already was the young church robbing the old of some of its best members, who were to give some weight to the Irish element in this country.
"George A. Carrell was born at Philadelphia. . . . He was the seventh child of his Irish parents, and the house they occupied, and in which he was born, was the old mansion of William Penn, at the corner of Market Street and Letitia Court."— (Ibid.)
Two short observations naturally present themselves here. Philadelphia is the city oftenest mentioned whenever foreigners are spoken of as landing in North America at that time. It was then the great harbor of the country, New York not having attained the preeminence she now enjoys. Hence, the Church counted seven thousand children in Pennsylvania; but very few north of that city. Thither came the German Catholics, also, in great numbers to spread themselves chiefly West and South. Such was the direction then taken by the Catholic wave.
Our second remark only concerns the house in which he who became Bishop Carrell was born. It seemed only fitting that an Irish Catholic family should thus early take possession of the very dwelling-place of the founder of the colony, as the Catholic Church was destined, through the Irish element chiefly, to supplant and outlive the little church of the "Friends."
All the facts, however, just quoted are exceptional, and regard only the select few. What became of the mass, meanwhile? As usual, history for the most part is silent with regard to it. A very few words constitute the only record which can afford us a glimpse of the real situation of the vast majority of those poor, friendless, obscure immigrants, on whom, nevertheless, the great hopes of the future were built.
We have, happily, some means left us of forming an opinion; and it will be seen that their situation was much the same as that of their earlier compatriots. For instance, in the "Lives of American Bishops" we read the following startling story:
"The Abbe Cheverus very frequently made long journeys to convey the consolations of religion or perform acts of charity. About this time (1803) he received a letter from two young Irish Catholics confined in Northampton prison, who had been condemned to death without just cause, as was almost universally believed, imploring him to come to them and prepare them for their sad and cruel fate. He hastened to their spiritual relief, and inspired them with the most heroic sentiments and dispositions, which they persevered in to the last fatal moment of their execution. According to custom, the prisoners were carried to the nearest church, to hear a sermon preached immediately before their execution; several Protestant ministers presented themselves to preach the sermon; but the Abbe Cheverus claimed the right to perform that duty, as the choice of the prisoners themselves, and, after much difficulty, he was allowed to ascend the pulpit. His sermon struck all present with astonishment, awe, and admiration."
Here, in 1803, we have almost a repetition of the death of the poor woman Glover; and, had it not been for the high character of the admirable man who hastened to their assistance, those two young Irish Catholics would have had for their only religious preparation before death a sermon from one or more Protestant ministers; and, as the great and good Cheverus could not be everywhere in New England, there is little doubt but that such was the fate of more than one of the newly-arrived immigrants.
In 1800 and the following years a comparatively large number of Irishmen landed at New York, and the future terrible scourge of their race, ship-fever, soon broke out among them. Dr. Bailey, the father of Mrs.Seton, was Health Physician to the port of New York at the time, and he allowed his daughter to visit and do good among them. She was deeply impressed by the religious demeanor of the Irish just landed. The Rev. Dr. White relates in her "Life:" "'The first thing,' she said, 'the poor people did when they got their tents was to assemble on the grass, and all, kneeling, adore our Master for his mercy; and every morning sun finds them repeating their praises.' In a letter to her sister- in-law she describes their sufferings under the 'plague' in the following golden words:
"'Rebecca, I cannot sleep; the dying and the dead possess my mind—babies expiring at the empty breast of their mother. And this is not fancy, but the scene that surrounds me. Father says that such was never known before; that there are actually twelve children that must die from mere want of sustenance, unable to take more than the breast, and from the wretchedness of their parents deprived of it, as they have laid ill for many days in the ship, without food, air, or changing. Merciful Father! Oh, how readily would I give them each a turn of my child's treasure, if in my choice! But, Rebecca, they have a provider in heaven, who will soothe the pangs of the suffering innocent.'"
When she wrote the above, Mrs. Seton was not yet professedly a Catholic; but how truly animated with the spirit of the Church of Christ! Happy would the poor immigrants have been had they only met with Protestants of her stamp on landing, and of her father's, who, although he prevented her becoming foster-mother to those poor children, as her first duty regarded her own child, died himself, a victim to his charity toward their parents, contracting, in the fulfilment of his office, the fever they had brought with them, which he was striving to allay!
The following fact, which will conclude this portion of our inquiry, happened a little later, but, on that very account, will serve as a connecting link with the considerations which are to follow, and will open our eyes to the real position of that already swelling mass of immigrants.
"During the year 1823, Bishop Connolly (of New York) made the visitation of his entire diocese. . . . He extended his journey along the route of the Erie Canal, which was commenced in 1819, where large numbers of Irish laborers had been attracted, and among whom the bishop labored with indefatigable zeal." At that time the clergy of the whole diocese consisted of eight priests with their bishop.
At last we find the "Irish people" at work. The spectacle is full of sadness; and the only emotion which can fill the heart is one of deep pity. In that vast wilderness of the West, for such it then was, along public works extending hundreds of miles, large gangs of men—such is the expression we are compelled to use—are hard at work along that dreary Mohawk River; blasting rocks, digging in the hard clay, uprooting trees, clearing the ground of briars, tangled bushes, and the vast quantity of debris of animal and vegetable matter accumulated during centuries. This was the work which "attracted" large numbers of Irish laborers. They had left their country, crossed the ocean under circumstances that should come under our notice, and landed on these (at that time) inhospitable shores, to find work; and they found the occupation just mentioned. We can picture the "shanties" in which they lived, the harpies who thrived on them, the innumerable extortions to which they were subjected. Bearing in mind that, in the immense State of New York and in one-half of New Jersey, there were just eight priests with their bishop, we may form some idea of the way in which they lived and died.
How they must have blessed this bishop, who had left Rome, his second country, and the noble associations which surrounded him in the Eternal City, to come to the succor of his unfortunate countrymen scattered away in a New World! And well did he deserve that blessing!
But his passage along the Erie Canal could be nothing more than a veritable passage—a transient sojourn of a few days or weeks at most. What became of those gangs of men after, what had happened to them before, no one has said, no one has told us, no one now can ascertain; we are only left to conjecture, and the spectacle, as we said, is too sad to dwell upon.
But, hidden within this melancholy view, lies a great and glorious fact. It was the beginning of an "apostolic mission" on the part of a whole people, a mission which will form one of the most moving and significant pages of the ecclesiastical history of the nineteenth century. Every Christian knows that apostolic work is rough work; the brunt of the battle must be borne by the earliest in the field, that it may be said of their successors in the words of the Gospel: "Vos in labores eorum introistis."
Such being the hard lot of the immigrants in the interior of the country, was that of those who remained in the cities much more enviable? On this point we are enabled to judge, at least as regards New York. In a letter written by Bishop Dubois, and published in vol. viii. of the "Annals of the Propagation of the Faith," we meet with the following exhaustive description:
"At the beginning of this century, the newly-arrived immigrants were employed as day-laborers, servants, journeymen, clerks, and shopmen. Now, the condition of this class here is precisely the same as its condition in England; it is entirely dependent upon the will of the trader: not because by law are they forced thereto, but because the rich alone, being able to advance the capital necessary for factories, steam-engines, and workshops, the poor are obliged to work for them upon the masters' own conditions. These conditions, in the case of servants especially, sometimes degenerate into tyranny; they are frequently forced to work on Sundays, permission to hear even a low mass being refused them; they are obliged betimes to assist at the prayers of the sect to which their masters belong, and they have no other alternative than either to do violence to their conscience, or lose their place at the risk of not finding another. Add to this the insults, the calumnies against Catholics, which they are daily forced to hear—a kind of persecution at the hands of their masters, who do every thing to turn them away from their religion; consider the dangers to which are exposed numbers of orphans who lose their fathers almost immediately upon landing; add to this the want of spiritual succor, a necessary consequence of the scarcity of missionaries; and you will have a feeble idea of the obstacles of every kind which we have to surmount. . . . Supposing an immigrant, the father of a family, to die, the widow and orphans have no other resources but public charity; and if a home is found for the children, it is nearly always among Protestants, who do every thing in their power to undermine their faith."
This picture of immigrant-life in New York was certainly repeated through all the other large cities. Under such a combination of adverse circumstances it is most probable that men and women of any other nation would have entirely lost their faith. Such, then, was the dreary prospect for the new-comers. Who at that time would have dared hope to witness the consoling spectacle which followed soon after? To begin with the dawn of that bright day, we must pass on to a new period of immigration, commencing in 1815 or shortly after, and continuing down to the "exodus" of 1846.
It may be well, before entering upon it, to look at the causes which drove so many to leave the shores of Ireland. From the year 1815 the number of immigrants increased considerably and kept on a steady increase until it swelled to the startling proportions of 1850 and the following years.
It is easy to demonstrate that the causes were twofold: 1. The wretched state of the vast majority of the Irish at the best of times. 2. The periodical famines which have regularly visited the island since the beginning of last century. At any time it was in the power of the English to remedy both causes by effecting certain changes in the existing laws. The first of these is evidently the necessary result of the penal laws which had converted the Irish, designedly and with the wilful intent of the legislators, into a nation of paupers. The second can only be the result of the laws affecting the tenure of land and the trade and manufactures of the country.
To attribute the pauperism which now seems a part and parcel of the Irish nation while in their own country to the indolence and want of foresight on the part of the natives themselves, as it is a fashion with English writers to do, is wilfully to close the eyes to two very important things: their past history in their own land, and their present history outside of it.
As to their past history in their own land, it is an established fact that pauperism was unknown in the island, until Protestant legislators introduced it by their confiscations and laws with the manifest intent of destroying, rooting out, or driving away the race. What has been previously stated on this point cannot be gainsaid; and it suffices for the vindication of a falsely- accused people. There might be some hope for a speedier and happier solution of the vexed "Irish difficulty" did the grandsons of those who wrought the evil only honestly acknowledge the faults of their ancestors—the least that might be expected of them; and it would not be too much to imagine them honest enough to repair those faults in these days of severe reckoning and self-scrutiny.
As to the present history of the race outside their own land, now that it has been scattered, by these grievous calamities, all over the world, whatever characteristics its children may present, indolence and want of foresight can scarcely be numbered among them, in view of the success which attends their march everywhere. And if these qualities would seem to be rooted in the native soil, they are only "importations" like the men who fastened them there, and due only to the cramped position in which their legislators so carefully confined them. Where should there be energy, when every motive that could urge it has been taken away? How is it possible to improve their condition, when every improvement only imposes an additional burden upon them in the shape of rack-rent or eviction?
In his work on "The Social Condition of the People," Mr. Kay quotes from the Edinburgh Review of January, 1850, the evidence on this point given by English, German, and Polish witnesses before the Committee of Emigration, and the proofs gathered from every source as to the rapid improvement of the Irish emigrant, wherever he goes, are certainly convincing.
As for the foolish (for it is nothing else, unless it be wicked) assertion that those frightful famines referred to are to be attributed to the sufferers themselves, it is only necessary to say in refutation that in the very years when thousands were being swept away daily by their ravages in Ireland—1846 and 1847— the harbors of the island were filled with English vessels, loaded with cargoes of provisions of every kind to be transported to England in order to pay the rents due to absentee landlords: and all these provisions were the product of the famine-stricken land, won by the toil of the famine-stricken nation. This has invariably been the case when famine has swept over the island: the island's riches were in her harbors, stored in the holds of foreign vessels, to be carried away and converted into money that these noble Anglo-Irish landlords might be enabled to "sustain" life
Others have ascribed these periodical visitations to a surplus population; but, without entering into a discussion on the subject, Sir Robert Kane, in his "Industrial Resources of Ireland," shows that, taking the island in her present state and under the existing system of cultivation, she could support with ease eighteen million inhabitants; that, if the best methods of farming were generally adopted, the soil, by double and even triple crops, could feed without difficulty, not only twenty- five million, the figure stated by Mr. Gustave de Beaumont, a French publicist of eminence, but as many as from thirty to thirty-five million inhabitants.
But, as the same judicious writer observes, "the enormous quantity of cattle annually shipped off from Ireland to England would, in that case, be consumed in the country which produces it."
It is clear, therefore, that the pretended surplus population of Ireland is, as Sir Robert Kane says, a piece of pure imagination, perfectly ideal, and that it is its unequal and not its aggregate amount which is to be deplored.
But no one has presented the question more clearly and solved it more precisely than Mr. Gustave de Beaumont in his admirable work on Ireland, from which we note one or two telling passages, as given in Father Perraud's "Ireland under English Rule."
"The celebrated French publicist, who was the first to present to us (in France) a complete picture of the condition of Ireland, examining in 1829 how emigration might or might not do away with all the misery he had witnessed, proposed to himself the following questions:
"I. To what extent ought emigration to be carried, in order to bring about a material change in the general state of Ireland? namely, by taking away the pretended surplus population.
"II. Would it be possible to carry it out to the proposed extent?
"III. Supposing it practicable, would it be a radical and final solution of existing difficulties?
"The advocates of emigration replied to the first question by estimating at a minimum of two million the number of individuals who would have to leave Ireland, at one time, in order to produce there that kind of vacuum which would improve the conditions of labor and the existence of the rest of the agricultural population.
"Upon these data the solution of the second question was easy. It was by no means difficult to prove that the system was impracticable on so large a scale; impracticable on account of the insufficiency of the means of transport at disposal; impracticable on account of the enormous sums required to carry it out.
"In fact, supposing an emigrant-ship to carry a thousand passengers—a very high figure—two thousand vessels would be required to attain the end in view, namely, the sudden and universal emigration of the whole so-called surplus population. That is to say, the whole merchant navy of Great Britain would have to be drawn off from the commerce of the world, and chartered for the execution of this very chimerical plan. Where was the sum required for the most necessary expenses and urgent wants of two million passengers to be got? And what country in the world would have submitted to a monster invasion like those of barbarous times? Unless, indeed, these two million individuals were beforehand coldly devoted to death by hunger, was there a single country in which it could be hoped they would immediately find work or the means of subsistence?"
All those impossibilities, genuine indeed and at the time, 1829, of unforeseen solution, became, under Providence, possible by extending the period of transportation from one year to twenty; so that, instead of two, in reality three million and a half were thus transported.
But, where M. de Beaumont displayed all his talent for appreciation and keen reasoning was, when he came to consider the third and most embarrassing question of all. Was it certain that, the system of renting and cultivating land always remaining the same, emigration would suffice to heal those inveterate sores, and effect, in conformity with the wishes of its partisans, a social transformation?
On this point, he showed, in a manner admitting of no reply, that the emigration of a third or even of half the population would not radically put an end to the misery of the country. The difficulty with Ireland does not consist in being unable to produce wherewith to feed her population; it lies in the manner in which landed property is managed, a system which no amount of emigration can possibly modify; for, "if one of the first principles of the landlord be that the farmer should gain by tilling no more than is strictly necessary to support him—if, in addition, this principle is, as a general rule, rigidly followed out, and all economical means of living resorted to by the farmer necessarily induce a rise in the rent—what, upon this supposition (of the sad reality of which every one knowing Ireland is perfectly conscious), can be the consequence of a decrease of population?"
Always obliged to live as sparingly as possible, in order to escape a rise in the rent, and forced to undergo daily privations in order to meet his engagements, how is the Irish farmer to gain by the departure of his neighbor? "Thus, after millions of Irishmen have disappeared, the fate of the population which remains is in no wise changed; it will forever be equally wretched."
Then, glancing at the past, making a sad enumeration of Ireland's losses during the last three centuries, and evoking from these too eloquent figures the accents of a touching eloquence, the writer asks himself how far so much bloodshed, such armies of individuals, stricken down by death, or hurried out of the country by transportation—so many families extinct, and the like—had contributed to restore and save Ireland?
"Open the annals of Ireland, and see the small amount of influence which all those violent enterprises and all those extraordinary accidental causes of depopulation have had upon the social state of the country. Calculate the number of souls that perished during the religious wars; count the thousands of Irishmen that perished under the sword of Cromwell; to all that the victor massacred add the myriads that he transported; think of the hundreds of thousands who sank under famine, the number of whom exceeded in one year, 1741, forty thousand; do not overlook the formerly considerable number who yearly died by the hand of the executioner; in fine, to this add the twenty-five or thirty thousand individuals who emigrate from the country every year" (this was written before 1830); "and, having laid down these facts, you look for the consequences: when, in the midst of these different crises, you see Ireland always the same, always equally wretched, always crammed with paupers, always bearing about with her the same hideous and deep wounds, you will then recognize that the miseries of Ireland do not arise from the number of her inhabitants; you will conclude that it is the nature of her social condition to generate unmitigated indigence and infinite distress; that, supposing millions of poor swept out of her by a stroke of magic, others would be seen rising up in abundance out of a well-spring of misery, which in Ireland never dries up; and that the fault does not lie in the number of her population, but in the institutions in force in the country."
The celebrated French writer had certainly pointed out what were the real causes of the distress in Ireland. He had shown how false were the pretended causes then assigned for it by Englishmen; he touched the key-note—the land tenure; and, as a well-wisher to Ireland, deprecating any new calamities, he was firmly opposed to those various fancy projects of emigration en masse, suggested by numerous British writers, many of whom, such as the editors of the London Times, were induced to promulgate them by their deep hatred for the old race, which led them to represent under a modern garb the old Norman and Puritan philanthropic desires of rooting out and sweeping off the Irish from the land.
The projects of emigration, therefore, were most eagerly advanced by the enemies of the Irish, their real friends being, on the whole, opposed to the movement at the time. But, the true causes of Irish misery being either unseen or unappreciated, or, if known, studiously fostered, with a view of bringing about the one aim which ran all through the English policy, of emptying the island and destroying the race, eventually it did actually become a dire necessity for the people to fly; and therefore, from 1815 to 1845, the wave of emigration began to rise fast, and go on swelling in volume and widening in extent from year to year. Midway between the two extreme points, about 1830, it amounted to between twenty-five and thirty thousand. M. de Beaumont could not see how two millions could be transported at once. Nor were they. But he did not foresee that in the twenty years succeeding that in which he wrote more than three millions and a half would actually be shipped from the island; and all the difficulties that he anticipated—the number of ships requisite, the immense amount of money needed, the countries where such numbers might be received—were furnished by Providence for the spread of the Irish in many lands. But these considerations can only be briefly touched upon here; they will form the interesting subject of the next chapter. What we have now to consider is the commencement of the great exodus, confined so far to Canada and the United States, but already working wonders over the vast stretch of country which spreads away between the St. Lawrence and the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the official records of emigration from the "United Kingdom," from 1815 to 1860 inclusive, we find that, in general, the greater number emigrated to Canada up to 1839; from that epoch, but chiefly after 1845, the greater number went directly to the United States. Let us first look for a reason for this change of destination, and afterward for its result.
Homer, wiser than many modern philosophers, tells us that "there are beings which have a certain name among men and another quite different among the gods." What is true of names, is true likewise of what they represent, motives and things in general. Men often assign to actions motives far different from those known to God; and, in like manner, the motives of men, visibly impelled by the Spirit of God, are often far beyond the comprehension of "philosophers." We are far from presuming to dive into the divine thoughts with the certainty of bringing to the surface what lies hidden in their mysterious depths; but every Christian should endeavor humbly to penetrate them, and modestly set forth what he gathers from them.
What object can be assigned for the Irish emigrating in such large numbers to Canada for a quarter of a century, from 1815 to 1840? It cannot be because Canada is, as it then was, a British colony: the English Emigration Commissioners had the honesty to confess, later on, that the rush to the United States was in consequence of their desire to avoid dwelling under the English flag. It was not because, in Canada, a greater facility opened up for obtaining good land; for, in Lower Canada, where they tarried for a long time, the land was already occupied by French- Canadians, and, in that severe climate, the soil is not over- productive. It cannot have been the facility for transportation— during about six months of every year, the mouth of the St. Lawrence is closed to ships, and travel through a frozen land is not the most desirable thing, particularly to homeless and moneyless immigrants. Last of all, it was not the similarity of climate and language with those of their own island. What, then, can it have been?
In our own opinion, the human motive of the Irish can have been no other than a religious one; in the Divine mind, the motive was of a still higher and more merciful character. The Irish had heard, from the few of their countrymen who had already emigrated to the United States, of the great difficulty they experienced in practising their religion. On the other hand, they knew that, throughout Lower Canada, there was not a village without its Catholic church and priest, and that Quebec and Montreal were important and entirely Catholic cities. This great fact blinded them to the many disadvantages they would have to undergo in emigrating to such a country; or, rather, they saw the disadvantages, but the thought that their religion and that of their children would be safe in Canada was enough for them. It is the same people ever, in the nineteenth century as in those which preceded it, and all noble minds must respect them for thus first looking to the supernatural.
But, had the Almighty a design in directing them to the north of the continent, and establishing so great a number of them permanently in that country? We are fully persuaded that the Irish race is now, and ever has been, predestined to fulfill a high mission on this earth. What is now transpiring under our eyes is too clear to be denied by any Christian; and admitting the general fact that the race must be an instrument in the hands of God to spread his Church throughout, in English- speaking countries particularly, to correct, by their presence and influence in every quarter of the globe, the evil effects of the spread of what we call Japhetism among Oriental races—let us endeavor to see how their coming to settle in Canada served for that great end.
The Gospel of our Lord was first preached in those dreary regions by religious of the Gallic race. The labors of Catholic missionaries in Canada, of the members of the Society of Jesus particularly, are now well known and appreciated. The French colony in Canada was from the first a Catholic colony: It was not a conquest; it was not a commercial enterprise; it was not a transatlantic garden for luxurious Frenchmen: it was what Mr. Bancroft has well called it, "a mission." The desire of winning souls to Christ had begun the work, had run all through it almost to the end. The blood of martyrs had consecrated it; that of Rasles, shed by heretics; of Lallemant, Brebeuf, and Jogues, by pagans. But, after the surrender of the colony to England, although the terms of the cession were as favorable to religion as could be desired, and the British power could not introduce there any of the penal laws still pressing so hard on English and Irish Catholics, nevertheless, a great danger arose in consequence, which is particularly visible now after more than a century has passed away. Though Catholicity could not be persecuted, and, for once, England faithfully observed the terms of a capitulation which involved a religious side, as little could heresy be excluded or denied some of the privileges which it enjoys in the mother country. The government was to be administered mostly by Protestant officials; the new-comers from England would be composed, for the greater part, of Protestant merchants and artisans. The Anglican Church would soon gain the prestige of wealth and influence. The country in the east, it is true, thickly settled by Catholic farmers, would long remain Catholic; but in the large towns, Quebec and Montreal chiefly, an influx of Protestants of every sect was to be expected; while in the west, where the French had scarcely occupied the country, the numerical majority would soon lean to the side of the new arrivals from England and Scotland. The English tongue would gradually supersede the French, and it might have been foreseen from the beginning that, within a given time, notwithstanding the rapid increase of French-Canadians by birth, Catholicity would lose first its preeminence, and, perhaps, after a while, occupy a very inferior rank.
The religion professed by the many millions connected with the centre of unity has never shrunk from an equal contest, and is sure of victory when left free and untrammelled; but in Canada it should be observed that, had it not been for the coming of the Irish, the whole of the Catholic population would have spoken French, being surrounded and absorbed almost by sectarians of every hue, all speaking English. The strange spectacle would there have shown itself—a spectacle, perhaps, never witnessed hitherto— of a Catholic and Protestant language. The separation of the two camps would have rested chiefly upon this peculiar basis; and there can be no doubt that, with the vigorous youth of the United States, developing so rapidly in the South, and destined to carry with it the English tongue over all the Northern continent, together with the spread of the English and Scotch North and West, the French language was destined to become circumscribed within narrower and narrower limits, and its final disappearance in America would be probably only a work of time.