If it is permitted us to study, love, and admire the designs of Providence among men, who shall say that it is presumption to assert that God's was the hand which directed the Irish exiles and set them in their place, in order to prevent the sad spectacle of a land settled by holy people, belonging almost exclusively to God and to Christ, endeared to the true Church by so many labors endured for the spread of truth, and memorable by so many heroic virtues practised in those frozen wilds and dreary forests, from falling sooner or later into the hands of the most unrelenting enemies of the papacy?
It cannot be presumptuous to attribute it to the designs of Providence, as otherwise it is impossible to discover any reason whatever which might influence the Irish in selecting that desolate spot for their place of exile. They came, therefore, in great numbers, to set themselves under the spiritual control of priests unable to understand either their native language or the borrowed English they brought with them; they came, confident that all the Catholic churches built prior to their coming would be open to them, and that the pastors of those French congregations would receive them, not as strangers, but as long- lost children, at last let loose from a land of bondage, come to share the freedom secured by the settlers.
The statistics of immigration having been accurately kept since 1815, it is easy to ascertain the number of Irish people who landed in Canada during the precise period under investigation. And, although a certain number, which increased with the years, did not remain in the country where they first landed, but pushed on immediately, or shortly after, south to the United States, still, a large proportion settled permanently in the country.
Half a million English-speaking persons arrived in Canada between the years 1815 and 1839. At that time there was no distinction made between the three different classes coming respectively from England, Scotland, and Ireland; but, when this classification afterward came to be made, the Irish formed a steady three-fourths of the whole. Applying this proportion to the time under consideration, we have the large amount of three hundred and seventy-five thousand. The number was afterward considerably increased, although a greater number still went directly to the United States; so that it is ascertained that within ten years, from 1839 to 1849, four hundred and twenty- eight thousand Irish people arrived in Canada; that is to say, at a rate of fifty thousand a year.
The country in which they settled was certainly large, as it comprised not only Canada proper, but also the British provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the large islands in the vicinity. But, as the Irish, contrary to their former custom, now prefer to dwell in large towns and assemble together rather than find themselves, as it were, lost in a sparsely-peopled district, the population of important cities, such as Quebec and Montreal, and of the growing western towns of Toronto, Kingston, and others, was very sensibly affected by their arrival. The English was no longer to be an exclusively Protestant tongue; and, as the more rapid increase of the Irish by birth would soon equalize numbers, and give them eventually the preponderance, it was clear that the country would ultimately remain Catholic, even supposing that the French tongue should be finally forgotten.
The first extensive emigration to the large cities of Canada was also owing to the fact that, the eastern provinces not having come under the stipulation of the capitulation treaty, the penal laws were still unrepealed in that district. Toward the beginning of this century we find Father Burke, wishing to open a school for Catholic children at Halifax, Nova Scotia, threatened with the enforcement of the law by the then governor of the province, if he persevered in his attempt, a threat which was only prevented from being carried into execution by the liberal spirit of the Protestant inhabitants. The flow of emigration to the colonies south and east of the St. Lawrence was, consequently, of a much later, in fact, for the most part, of quite recent date.
In Newfoundland the case was still worse. That region had been ceded to Great Britain by France, in 1713, at the Treaty of Utrecht; and, although that treaty stipulated that freedom of worship should be guaranteed, nevertheless, the country remained closed to Catholic clergymen, the stipulation being nullified by the treacherous clause "as far as the laws of England permitted. "Hence, the French Catholics with their clergy were soon obliged to leave the colony, and as late as 1765, according to Mr. Maguire ("Irish in America"), the governor of the island was issuing orders worthy of the reign of Queen Anne. In the words of Dr. Murdock, Bishop of St. John's, Newfoundland, "the Irish had not the liberty of the birds of the air to build or repair their nests; they had behind them the forest or the rocky soil, which they were not allowed, without license difficultly obtained, to reclaim and till. Their only resource was the stormy ocean, and they saw the wealth they won from the deep spent in other lands, leaving them only a scanty subsistence."
The Irish had therefore to fall back on the cities of Lower Canada, where, moreover, they found numerous churches and priests. Hence, Quebec was their first place of refuge, and they soon formed a large percentage of the population. Montreal was their choice from the first, where they arrived in crowds, attracted by the intense pleasure they felt at the happy chance of living and dying in a really Catholic city, where, turn in what direction they would, their eyes were gladdened by the sight of magnificent churches, colleges, convents, hospitals, with the cross, the symbol of their faith, surmounting nearly all the public edifices of the city.
Western Canada was as yet an uninviting field for the Irish. A large number of Scotchmen and "Orangemen" had already settled there, when the British Government, having adopted the scheme of emigration for Ireland, offered them favorable conditions for transport and settlement. It was on the west chiefly that an invasion of English Protestantism threatened, and the Catholics of Ireland were, in the dispensation of Providence, to meet that danger. It is no surprise, then, to find the English Government itself made subservient to designs very different from its own, offering in 1825 to bear the whole expense of establishing large bodes of Irishmen on these wilds—wilds then, but full of promise for the future. Among other colonies transported bodily, Mr. Maguire tells of four hundred and fifteen families, comprising two thousand individuals, all from the south of Ireland, genuine "Irish in birth and blood," transported from Cork harbor to Western Canada, on board British ships, under the auspices of the government. Their story will well repay the reading, and above all their remonstrance to the governor of the province, after they had surmounted the first difficulties of their new position: "We labor under a heavy grievance, which, we confidently hope, your Excellency will redress, and then we will be completely happy, viz., the want of clergymen to administer to us the comforts of our holy religion, and good schoolmasters to instruct our children."
In spite, however, of the efforts made by British statesmen to direct the flow of Irish emigration to the northern part of the American Continent, the number of those who voluntarily crossed the Atlantic to settle directly in the United States was steadily increasing. Not only did they find there perfect freedom of religion, but the absence of clergymen was being gradually less felt, and each new bishopric created became a centre of religious life and vigor.
Moreover, the new republic had turned out to be the most energetic and enterprising nation which the world had yet seen. A whole continent lay before it to subdue, and at once the young giant prepared to grapple with the truly gigantic difficulty. With the arrival of every "packet-boat," Europe was astonished to hear of the amazing vitality displayed by a nation of yesterday, composed of a few millions of individuals, who had already spread their frontiers as far north as the whole line of the great lakes, as far west as the Pacific coast, and southward to the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana fell in, and, from a state of torpidity in which it had slumbered, the vast territory which then went by that name waked suddenly into a prodigiously active life. At the very beginning of the century, the Missouri had been navigated to its source, and Lewis and Clarke, crossing the high ridge of the Rocky Mountains, had descended the Columbia to its mouth, and settled the boundary of the United States along the far-spreading Pacific. The mighty Mississippi, in the midst of that splendid domain, belonged from source to mouth to the republic, and, with its tributaries, was already alive with numerous steamboats, passing up and down, bearing their life and all its belongings with them, and the (at that time more numerous still) flatboats, carried down the stream, to reach, in due time, New Orleans.
There was small thought of hindering "foreigners" from coming to take a share in the giant enterprise. All the inhabitants were in fact foreigners to the soil; and the new-comers, no matter from what country they came, had just as good a right to sit at the common board as the first-landed. It was felt and wisely acknowledged to be the real interest of the young nation to welcome as great a number as Europe could send.
Thus have we already seen large numbers of Irishmen laboring along the Erie Canal. There was not a public work undertaken at the time in which they did not bear a welcome hand. And what race of men could be found better fitted for such work? It would indeed be interesting to show from good statistical tables what share Irishmen have really had in building up the prosperity of the Union by their labor, skilled and unskilled.
At the period we have now come to, they were already crowding in at the harbors of the Atlantic, so astonishing to the newly- arrived European by the extraordinary activity which characterizes them; they were numerous in the factories just starting into life, from the desire of not depending on England for all manufactured goods; they were multiplying in large hotels, in private families, in the fields outside the large cities. Above all, the buildings erected at the time, in such great numbers, employed many of them as mechanics and laborers; and whenever some grand undertaking, which looked to the future welfare of the country, demanded a large draft of men, there were they to be seen as they had never been seen before, even in their own country, where all labor was reduced to the individual efforts of each, just sufficient to eke out a miserable life.
At this time, about 1820, the Irish immigrants settled, for the most part, on the Atlantic seaboard; few had yet crossed even the ridge of the Alleghanies. In the Eastern States they found occupation enough, and the steady growth of the country required their willing aid. From that time the North formed their chief point of attraction, and the States of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, were their great resorts. Even New England was no longer forbidden ground to them, and they began to spread themselves over its rocky and unpromising surface, to effect there a greater moral change than probably anywhere else in the country. In 1827, during the first pastoral visitation of Bishop Fenwick, when he erected, on the spot made memorable by the apostolic labors of Father Rasles, a monument to the memory of that saintly man, we read that "he then went in search of some Irish Catholics living at Belfast, Maine, whom he found suffering both for the necessaries of life and for the sustenance of the soul. He relieved both their temporal and spiritual wants, and imparted them his blessing, and some wholesome advice."
He was enabled to do more for them in the following year at Charlestown, Massachusetts. On the 15th of October, 1828, according to the Boston Gazette, "he laid the corner-stone of a Catholic church near Craigie's Point, designed to accommodate the Catholics of that place and of Charlestown, who were said to be already numerous." There is no doubt that the several churches built about that time in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, were filled rather by Irish immigrants than by American converts, although not a few consoling examples of this latter method of the Church's increase took place about this period.
But New York was taking the lead as the landing of predilection for the desolate children of Ireland. Thus, at the installation of Bishop Dubois, in St. Patrick's Cathedral, November 9, 1826, he addressed himself particularly to the Irish portion of his congregation, observing that "he entertained for them the liveliest feelings of affection. He reminded them of the persecutions they had undergone in defence of their religion, of the sacrifices many of them had made on leaving their native country, and conjured them always to manifest that attachment to the religion of their forefathers which had hitherto so prominently distinguished them among their brother Catholics."
The whole State was beginning to swarm with new arrivals from the Green Isle. This detachment, however, only formed the scarcely perceptible head of the great army which was to follow. We shall soon return to see its masses steadily treading their way on toward the West, and never halting till they reached the Pacific coast; we will see for what purpose.
Meanwhile, it is fitting to look at another wing of this army taking its position directly south of Asia, the great continent which holds the first dwelling of man on earth, and toward which all the tendencies of modern civilization seem to turn.
An immense island, to which geographers have now given the name of the fifth continent, from the dawn of creation lay sleeping between the seas known as the Indian and Pacific Oceans. A few thousand savages, said to be the lowest type of the human family, roamed aimlessly over its extensive wilds. Out of the ordinary route of circumnavigating explorers, few European ships had reached its coast, when the Dutch attempted to form establishments on its southern and western sides, giving it the name of New Holland. At the end of last century the English Captain Cook formed the first successful European settlement— Botany Bay—in what he called New South Wales, at the south- eastern extremity of the island. The French surveyed a considerable portion of the western coast at the beginning of this century. But finally, as has so far generally been the case with other colonies, the English remained in possession of the whole, and, though their first thought was to use it merely as a penal settlement, they soon saw the importance of removing their convicts to Van Diemen's Island, and now no less than four or five distinct British colonies embrace the entire coast-line of the continent, the interior still remaining an unknown desert.
Immigration, other than the transport of criminals, began only in 1825; and the white population of New South Wales, which in 1810 was only eight thousand three hundred, in 1821 only thirty thousand, increased rapidly after the discovery of the gold- fields in 1851, so that in 1861 more than seven hundred thousand free colonists had been landed from British ships on the continent and large islands of Van Diemen and New Zealand, notwithstanding their enormous distance from Great Britain.
The importance of this vast colony, or, rather, of this agglomeration of colonies, should not be estimated from their extent and productions alone, but chiefly from their proximity to Asia toward the north, and to America toward the east. Already lines of steamers connect the new continent with China on the one side and San Francisco on the other; and when we reflect that the English tongue is the only one spoken throughout that vast territory; that English political institutions, with all their attendant machinery of parliaments, elections, municipal governments, and liberties, toleration, a free press and free discussion, are day by day becoming more deeply rooted in the habits of the people, it is easy to perceive how soon the peculiarities of Japhetism, starting from that centre, will invade the whole line of Southern and Eastern Asia and the countless island-groups of Polynesia. The Catholic reader will at once perceive how the true religion must have been left to struggle, hopelessly almost, in its mission of enlightenment and mercy, surrounded as it was by so many adverse circumstances, had not the Irish element been at hand to fall back on.
Our information on this important branch of the subject is unfortunately not extensive; nor is this to be wondered at, since it is only from 1851 that Irish immigration really began to show itself in Australia, and take an active part in the European rush toward that quarter of the world, or, rather, to use the phrase of Holy Writ, "to dwell in the tents of Sem." When Great Britain sent out her first cargoes of convicts to Australia, it never entered into the ideas of that enlightened power that such an attendant as a minister of religion might be wanted, and, as Mr. Marshall says in his book on "Christian Missions:" "The first ship which bore away its freight of despair, of bruised hearts, and woful memories, and fearful expectations, would have left the shores of England without even a solitary minister of religion, but for the timely remonstrance of a private individual. The civil authorities had deemed their work complete, when they had given the signal to raise the anchor and unloose the sails; the rest was no concern of theirs. "He adds something more extraordinary and more to our purpose still:
"Among the emigrants to the new continent, soon some of those children of Ireland, whom Providence seems to have dispersed through all the homes of the Saxon race, that they might one day rekindle among them the light of faith, which their own long misfortunes have never been able to quench, were carried as the first fruitful seeds of the ever-blooming tree of the Church."
To these exiles it was necessary to convey the succors of religion. The first Catholic priest who arrived in Australia on his mission of charity, and whom the policy of self-interest, at least, might have prompted the authorities to greet with eager welcome, was treated with derision, and "was directed," as one of his most energetic successors relates, "to produce his permission," or "hold himself in readiness for departure by the next ship." He was alone, and consequently a safe victim; and though, as the latest historian of the colony observes, "his ministrations would have been not less valuable in a social than in a religious point of view," he was seized, put in prison, and finally sent back to England, because his presence was irksome to men who seem to have felt instinctively that his proffered ministry was the keenest rebuke to their own cruelty and profaneness.
This first Catholic priest was the Rev. Mr. Flynn, on whom the Holy See had conferred the title of archpriest, with power to administer confirmation. Arrived at Sydney in 1818, he did much good there in a short time. Mr. Marshall has told us how the colonial authorities treated him.
But a circumstance, not mentioned in this clever author's work on "Missions," shows who and what were those Irish exiles whom the priest had come to serve and direct in his spiritual capacity. When suddenly carried off to prison, he left the Blessed Sacrament in their little church at Sydney. There the faithful frequently assembled during the two years which followed his departure, as large a number as could muster, to offer up their prayers to God, and look for consolation in their affliction. The visible priest had been violently snatched away from them; the Archpriest of souls, Christ, remained.
The Rev. W. Ullathorne, now Bishop of Birmingham, England, was afterward made Vicar-General Apostolic of that desolate mission by the Holy See. He informs us, in a letter published among the "Annals of the Propagation of the Faith," how these poor Irish people were treated by their "masters" in Australia.
"It was forbidden them to speak Irish, under pain of fifty strokes of the whip; and the magistrates, who for the most part belonged to the 'Protestant clergy,' sentenced also to the whip and to close confinement those who refused to go hear their sermons, and to assist at a service which their consciences disavowed."
In 1820 two fresh missionaries replaced Mr. Flynn. They found the little church where their predecessor had left our Lord two years before still in the same state; and soon the insignificant flock, which ever multiplies under persecution, began to increase wonderfully, so that twelve years later, out of the whole population of the colony—one hundred thousand—there were from twenty to thirty thousand Catholics.
Meanwhile, their emancipation in England had secured their rights in the British colonies. There was no longer the threat of the whip hanging over those who refused to hear Protestant sermons; there was no longer fear of their missionary being sent back by the first ship to England. Hence the Holy See immediately established the hierarchy of the Church, on a regular and permanent basis, there, Dr. Polding being the first bishop.
This may be called an era in the history of the Catholic Church. A hierarchy, independent of the state in heretic and even infidel countries, is a modern thought inspired by the Holy Spirit to the rulers of the flock of Christ to meet modern requirements. By this new system the long list of so-called Protestant countries was at once swept away. For no country can be called Protestant which has its regularly-established bishops of Holy Church, with their authority permanently secured. Their dioceses cover the land, and the land consequently belongs to the Church, however great may be the number of heretics or infidels, and however powerful the organizations antagonistic to Catholicity. The "people of God" is there, to multiply with the years, and finally absorb all heterogeneous bodies. The Church, as we saw, is a growth; other bodies are crystallized and do not grow; more, they become materially and necessarily disintegrated by the action of time and the friction of surrounding bodies, of spreading roots and living organisms.
This plain, unmistakable, eventual truth was the real cause which brought about the violent explosion of fear and hatred following directly the reestablishing of the Catholic hierarchy in England. The opposing forces felt that their hour was come, and they could not but shiver at their approaching annihilation, small as was the body of the English Catholics at the time. But it is not for us to enter here on these considerations, which would call for long developments, and which belong more fittingly to the general history of the Church than to Irish emigration to Australia.
The few facts glanced at above afford ample grounds for picturing the state of the first Irish exiles who set foot on that broad island of the Antipodes. It was only a repetition of the scenes witnessed at the same time wherever the Irish strove to propagate the true faith. Later on it will be our pleasure to come back to this field and wonder at the growth of a blooming garden which has replaced the old sterility.
Of the other British colonies wherein a certain number of Irishmen began to settle at the time of the present investigation, no details can yet be furnished. It is easy to suppose, however, without fear of mistake, that the spiritual destitution and state of more or less open persecution which we have found existing in America and Australia, prevailed also at the Cape Colony, at Natal, in Guiana, Labuan, Ceylon, etc. A very different spectacle is about to be unfolded before our eyes, and we hasten on to behold its wondrous development and splendor—a splendor, however, ushered in by scenes of extreme woe.
THE "EXODUS" AND ITS EFFECTS.
The stream of Irish emigrants, starting from the one source, separated now and continued flowing to the four quarters of the globe, and, at length, its influence was beginning to be felt in England itself, the last of the lands whither the Irish exiles could think of turning. The poorest, unable to pay their passage- money to North America, began to show themselves among the thick populations of the great manufacturing centres of Great Britain. More than fifty thousand departed annually to settle in other climes and plant Catholicity in regions that, from a religious point of view, were wildernesses.
In 1846 came an awful calamity, to impart to the movement an impetus of which no one could have dreamed, and which went very far to realize what M. de Beaumont had a few years before declared to be an impossibility—the almost sudden transportation of millions of starving Irish. This was the great famine, still so fresh in memory, and now appearing to those who witnessed its effects like that terrible passage of the destroying angel in the night.
There is no better mode of accounting for this visitation than that given by T. D. McGee, in his "Irish Settlers in America:"
"The famine (of 1846) is to be thus accounted for: The act of Union in 1800 deprived Ireland of a native legislature. Her aristocracy emigrated to London. Her tariff expired in 1826, and, of course, was not renewed. Her merchants and manufacturers withdrew their capital from trade and invested it in land. The land! the land! was the object of universal, unlimitable competition. In the first twenty years of the century, the farmers, if rack-rented, had still the war prices. After the peace, they had the monopoly of the English provision and produce markets. But in 1846 Sir Robert Peel successfully struck at the old laws imposing duties on foreign corn, and let in Baltic wheat and American provisions of every kind, to compete with and undersell the Irish rack-rented farmers.
"High rents had produced hardness of heart in the 'middleman,' extravagance in the land-owner, and extreme poverty in the peasant. The poor-law commission of 1839 reported that two million three hundred thousand of the agricultural laborers of Ireland were 'paupers;' that those immediately above the lowest rank were ' the worst-clad, worst-fed, and worst-lodged ' peasantry in Europe. True indeed! They were lodged in styes, clothed in rags, and fed on the poorest quality of potato.
"Partial failures of this crop had taken place for a succession of seasons. So regularly did those failures occur, that William Cobbett and other skilful agriculturists had foretold their final destruction years before. Still, the crops of the summer of 1846 looked fair and sound to the eye. The dark-green, crispy leaves, and yellow-and-purple blossoms of the potato-fields, were a cheerful feature in every landscape. By July, however, the terrible fact became but too certain. From every town-land within the four seas tidings came to the capital that the people's food was blasted—utterly, hopelessly blasted. Incredulity gave way to panic, panic to demands on the Imperial Government to stop the export of grain, to establish public granaries, and to give the peasantry such productive employment as would enable them to purchase food enough to keep soul and body together. By a report of the ordnance-captain, Larcom, it appeared there were grain-crops more than sufficient to support the whole population —a cereal harvest estimated at four hundred millions of dollars, as prices were. But to all remonstrances, petitions, and proposals, the imperial economists had but one answer: 'They could not interfere with the ordinary currents of trade.' O'Connell's proposal, Lord Georga Bentinck's, O'Brien's, the proposals of the society called 'The Irish Council,' all received the same answer. Fortunes were made and lost in gambling over this sudden trade in human subsistence, and ships laden to the gunwales sailed out of Irish ports, while the charities of the world were coming in.
"In August, authentic cases of death by famine, with the verdict, 'starvation,' were reported. The first authentic case thrilled the country, like an ill wind. From twos and threes they rose to tens, and, in September, such inquests were held, and the same sad verdict repeated, twenty times in a day. Then Ireland, the hospitable among the nations, smitten with famine, deserted by her imperial masters, lifted up her voice, and uttered that cry of awful anguish which shook the ends of the earth.
"The Czar, the Sultan, and the Pope, sent their rubles and their pauls. The Pacha of Egypt, the Shah of Persia, the Emperor of China, the Rajahs of India, conspired to do for Ireland what her so-styled rulers refused to do—to keep her young and old people living in the land. America did more in this work of mercy than all the rest of the world."
The sudden effect of this fearful trial was to increase the total emigration from the British Isles from ninety-three thousand in 1845 to one hundred and thirty thousand in 1846; to three hundred thousand in 1849; to nearly four hundred thousand in 1852. In ten years from 1846, two million eight hundred thousand had fled in horror from the country once so dear to them. From May, 1847, to the close of 1866, the number of passengers discharged at New York alone amounted to three million six hundred and fifty-nine thousand!
Those immense fleets of transports, which M. de Beaumont thought necessary, but not to be found, were found. On such a sudden emergency, every kind of tub afloat was thought suitable for the purpose; and, all being sailing-vessels, the voyage was proportionately long, the provision made for such numbers insufficient, and the emigrants, already weakened by privations, were fit subjects for the plague which, under the form of ship- fever, rapidly spread among those receptacles of human misery, so that, when the great caravan arrived in the St. Lawrence, whither that first year all seemed to tend, the following was the picture presented:
"On the 8th of May, 1847, the Urania, from Cork, with several hundred immigrants on board, a large proportion of them sick and dying of the ship-fever, was put into quarantine at Grosse Isle, thirty miles below Quebec. This was the first of the plague- smitten ships of Ireland which that year sailed up the St. Lawrence. But, before the first week of June, as many as eighty- four ships, of various tonnage, were driven in by an easterly wind; and of that enormous number of vessels there was not one free from the taint of malignant typhus, the offspring of famine and of the foul ship-hold."
The effects of that awful misfortune may be found vividly described in Mr. Maguire's book, from which the above extract is taken, on the long line of march of that desolate army of immigrants, leaving its thousands of victims at Grosse Isle, near Quebec, at Pointe St. Charles, a suburb of Montreal, in Kingston, in Toronto, Upper Canada, and, finally, at Partridge Island, cpposite St. John's, New Brunswick.
America was thus destined to witness some of those scenes so often enacted on the soil of Ireland, to compassionate the people of the holy isle, to open her friendly bosom for the reception of the unfortunate beings, who in return gave her all they possessed—their faith.
But what M. de Beaumont so emphatically insisted upon, although at first seemingly contradicted by the event, was nevertheless true. England, the mighty mistress of the seas, did not possess ships enough for the purpose of transportation; and her entire navy added to all her merchant-vessels would scarcely have sufficed. Ships had to be built, steamers chiefly, in order to effect the transportation speedily, and diminish the dangers of the passage.
Then Providence worked upon the ingenuity of worldly-wise men, and set them planning and studying the question in all its bearings, to devise new schemes of transportation on a scale not dreamed of hitherto. Watt, the Stephensons, Brunel, A. Maury, and others, rose up to perfect the various steam-machines already known and in use; to investigate the currents of the ocean, the different qualities of its waters, its depth and soundings, in order to make the paths of the deep easier and surer to navigators. The ingenuity of ship-builders effected a revolution in naval architecture, and rendered possible the construction of vessels of from ten thousand to twenty-five thousand tons burden. Merchant companies and capitalists arose to embrace the whole world in their mighty speculations, studying the capabilities of all countries for trade, the most desolate as well as the most inviting, the meanest as keenly as the mightiest, linking the whole world in one vast commercial circle, that the European race might be borne on to the mercantile conquest of the universe; and all this came about, doubtless, to effect its deeper and more permanent moral conquest by the despised, doom-trodden, starving, dying Irishman, who laid claim to one arm, one possession only—his faith and the blessing of the Church.
Was not the Irish exodus intimately connected with all those events? Was it not one of the mightiest causes of all those gigantic enterprises?
But where were the funds to be found for such immense undertakings? The treasury of nations is continually drained of vast sums at home, and dare not draw away a part of its metallic basis sufficient for such a purpose. Moreover, it is limited, and needs the precious metals as a solid foundation whereon to rest, or the fabric built upon it will be the fabric of a dream, as was that of Law in France at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The gold and silver mines of Mexico and Peru seem exhausted; the new ones of the Ural Mountains in Northern Asia, of the Atlantic coast of North America, were not adequate to meet the demands of such mighty operations.
Suddenly, in the year 1846, a Swiss captain, transformed into a California settler, while endeavoring to turn a water-fall in his new home to some account, discovers gold-dust in the sand. As if by magic, the coast of California, hitherto neglected, difficult of access at the time, and consequently ignored by mankind, notwithstanding its wealth in mineral and vegetable productions, becomes at once the cynosure of all eyes, the hope of all hearts, the most renowned of all countries. Thither they flock in crowds prom all parts of Europe and America, and a steady flow of seventy million dollars annually is secured as a basis for the new designs of capitalists and merchants.
Other gold-fields are soon discovered all along the American coast, on the Pacific, from Lower California to Alaska, inviting men to go thither and settle, just opposite to the Asiatic Continent, separated from it only by the broad but easily- navigated Pacific Ocean.
Soon also, far away south in the antipodes, opposite to another portion of Asia, rich gold-fields are opened up in the newly- discovered Continent of Australia, attracting immigration toward another spot, whence the Asiatic nations may also be reached with greater facility and dispatch.
Whoever believes that Providence has something to do with the affairs of men; whoever is wise enough to see that this universe is not the result of chance, and that its destinies are ruled by a superior power, must admit that when events as unexpected as they are unprepared by man come to pass—events which are so connected together as to reveal the workings of a single mind and a great object at once, foreshadowed if not positively foretold, God is the designer, and a stronger hand is at work than the combined power of men and devils could successfully oppose. This is a truth which was not unknown to Homer, centuries ago, when he described Jove holding our globe suspended in space at the end of a chain, and defying all the inferior gods to move the world in a direction contrary to that given by his mighty arm.
The image, striking and poetical as it is, for a Christian is too material. We speak more correctly when we say that Mind — the Divine Mind—is the great invincible and invisible Force of which all material forces are but the created agents, and by which all inferior minds must stand or fall, conquer or fail. A man must be blind with that incurable blindness—of will—who cannot see it acting in and on the universe, and even controlling the lower designs of puny intellects. The reverent eye which sees the vastness of the plan, the multitude of its agents, aiding and seconding it consciously and unconsciously, recognizes it, and the supreme object of its workings, Love, infinite Love.
And we distinguish with grateful surprise all those circumstances visibly appearing in the great fact which has just been so imperfectly sketched, and which will come home to us still more forcibly when the workings of its lesser details come to be examined. Here, for instance, at the moment of writing these lines (March, 1872) we learn from the morning newspapers of the recent arrival of the Japanese embassy at San Francisco; that its members had been dispatched to this country to study European, or, as we call them, Japhetic institutions, for the purpose of copying and adapting them to their own wants. The embassy, detained at Salt Lake City by the snow-blockade on the Pacific Railroad, refused to go back, temporarily, to California, and made up their mind to wait in Utah, until it is possible for them to proceed.
Pacific Railroad, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Japanese embassy, adoption of European manners by the Mikado and daimios— who can fail to gather from these words and details the conception of means to an end, and that end the one we now begin to study?
The first circumstance coming under our review and indicative of a loving design on the part of Providence, a circumstance not marked sufficiently at the time, is the preservation by the English themselves of the poor remnants of the Irish race, which the first working of the plan had so frightfully decimated and left in danger of being utterly wiped out. Had they disappeared, would Japhetism have become a blessing to the Asiatic nations? The Catholic, looking abroad and casting his mind's eye over the vast European field, to all seeming so rich in every production, yet in reality so sterile morally, peering with awe and horror into the Japhetic caldron—for such it is—seething and bubbling to the brim, full of the most deadly poisons and noxious substances, ready at any moment to overflow in infected waves and sweep over the unfortunate countries which look to it so anxiously for blessings, a torrent of black destruction, spreading around naught but desolation and barrenness—the Catholic eye, seeing all this, can find but one answer to our query. The Asiatic races cannot hope to be benefited by the introduction of European manners among them, unless the same great movement carries in its train the holy Catholic Church: and as that introduction must be brought about by English- speaking leaders, the only English-speaking Catholics of numerical significance must be the instruments of the adorable designs of Providence.
That this assertion may not appear too sweeping, it is only enough to instance the example of India, which England has held long enough to convert, at least in part, had she so desired and been moved by the Spirit of God, yet to-day India stands in a worse relation toward Protestantism than when Protestantism in the name of Christianity, but in the person of a British trader, settled down in its midst. What good has Hindostan derived?
But, at this very moment, the whole Irish race is at the mercy of the English Government and people. Only let the same kind of vessels continue to be dispatched filled with Irish emigrants, and the whole race must disappear within a short period, or become so reduced in numbers that its operations as a race, on a large scale, will be unproductive of sufficient results.
And it is well to mark that at the time of this outpouring of the race, as long before, and almost constantly since, there were Englishmen rejoicing at the glorious result which death by plague and famine was about to produce. It were easy to quote many a barbarous passage from the London Times, expressive of the most satanic joy, not only at the departure of the Irish from the "United Kingdom," but at the prospect of their ultimate, or rather proximate disappearance out of the world altogether.
Yet it was the same English Government and people which, feeling, let us hope, some compassion at the sight of this new woe of the "Niobe of nations," determined to try and save her children, as, if they must cast them out, at least it should he alive and full of health on a foreign shore.
Laws, therefore, were passed, regulating the quantity and quality of provisions, particularly of drinkable water, the number of the crew and working-men, the ventilation of the vessel, the number of passengers to be received, etc.
Still, these first attempts at humanity seem to have been rather faint-hearted, as the following passage from Mr. Maguire's "Irish in America," showing how they were carried out, and how inadequate was the remedy applied in 1848, will explain:
"The ships, of which such glowing accounts were read on Sunday by the Irish peasant near the chapel-gate, were but too often old and unseaworthy, insufficient in accommodation, not having even an adequate supply of water for a long voyage, and, to render matters worse, they, as a rule, were shamefully underhanded. True, the provisions and the crew must have passed muster in Liverpool; . . . but there were tenders and lighters to follow the vessel out to sea; and over the sides of that vessel several of the mustered men would pass, and casks, and boxes, and sacks would be expeditiously hoisted, to the amazement of the simple people who looked on at the strange and unaccountable operation. And, thus, the great ship, with its living freight, would turn her prow toward the West, depending on her male passengers, as on so many impressed seamen, to handle her ropes or to work her pumps in case of accident. What with bad or scanty provisions, scarcity of water, severe hardship, and long confinement in a foul den, ship-fever reaped yet a glorious harvest between-decks, as frequent splashes of shot-weighted corpses into the deep but too terribly testified. Whatever the cause, the deaths on board the British ships enormously exceeded the mortality on the ships of any other country. According to the records of the Commissioners of Emigration for the State of New York, the quota of sick per thousand stood thus in 1848 British vessels, 30; American, 9 3/5; German, 8 3/5. It was yet no unusual occurrence for the survivor of a family of ten or twelve to land alone, bewildered and broken- hearted, on the wharf at New York; the rest, the family, parents, and children, had been swallowed in the sea, their bodies marking the course of the ship to the New World."
It would seem, then, that those first English regulations, by which British ships were to pass muster at Liverpool before sailing, were not very efficient; the figures of mortality quoted by Mr. Maguire are too eloquent; and it would be a pleasure to us to be able to say with certainty that the more stringent and better executed laws afterward enforced did not proceed from the Commission of Emigration, which originated in New York with some generous-hearted Irish-Americans.
Our readers will have noticed that, even in 1848, with all the apparent desire on the part of England to save the remnants of the Irish nation, the mortality on board British ships was more than three times that on board American vessels, and nearly four times greater than that on board German ships. Why this difference? And why should it be so enormous?
It is possible that to the Legislature of New York State chiefly, and soon after to the Congress of the United States at Washington, which enacted stringent laws for the protection of immigrants at sea, belong the chief honor of saving hundreds of thousands of Irish lives, and that England, whether urged by the effects of good example, or for very shame, soon followed in their wake.
But, whatever the cause may have been, it is a heart-felt pleasure to record the fact that from 1849, when an act of Parliament, entitled the "Passengers Act," imposed on ship- owners and captains of vessels strict conditions for the welfare of emigrants, government control on this subject became every year more immediate and severe.
Not only were the vessels, provisions, water, medicine chests, etc., more carefully examined, but the passengers themselves were compelled to undergo a careful inspection as to their health and wardrobe.
And, a thing which had never been done before, the space allotted to each emigrant on deck and between-decks was determined and subjected to serious control, so that no overcrowding of passengers should take place. The penalties, also, on delinquents became even severe; heavy fines were imposed, and in some cases transportation to a penal settlement was decreed against the more offensive outrages on humanity.
If all abuses failed to be corrected by such laws, it is because the most stringent enactments can, to a greater or less extent, always be evaded by those desirous of evading them; but there is every reason to believe that the legislators were honest in their intent of remedying the glaring evils which previously obtained, and, to a great extent, their efforts met with success, as is evidenced by the fact that the mortality on board of British vessels has shown yearly a remarkable diminution since that time. According to the "Twenty-fourth General Report," the mortality was: In 1854, 0.74 per cent., already a very remarkable diminution on previous averages; in 1860, it was reduced to 0.15 per cent. This was the percentage for vessels going to North America only.
The first operation of the missionary people was to plant the living tree of Catholicism in the United States, and so powerfully forward its growth, that other spiritual plants of a noxious kind, and weeds that go by the name of creeds, should gradually be choked up; finally, let us hope, to disappear. While speaking on this subject, and laying before the reader the necessary details, we desire not to be held forgetful of the efforts made in a like direction by Catholic immigrants of other nationalities. A word has already been said of the early influence of the French in the North and of the Spaniards in the South, in establishing the Church in North America. The German children of the true Church, though at first not so conspicuous, have for a long time taken, and are now particularly taking, an active part in the dissemination of the faith, and there can be no doubt that, with the daily increase of German immigration, their large numbers must in course of time make a lasting impression on the territory where they settle. But the French, the Spaniards, and the Germans, must forget their language before they become widely useful in the great work before them; and thus the Irish form the only English-speaking people on whom the brunt of the battle must fall. Moreover, we treat only of the Irish race.
The wonderful history of the spread of Catholicity in North America by the Irish, in the northern part of the United States particularly, would call for an array of details which it would be impossible to furnish here in extenso. An imperfect sketch must suffice.
First comes the consideration that, when the wave of immigration touched the continent, it might have been feared that, by its absorption into a dry and parched soil, the aggregate loss would have reduced to a mere nothing the ultimate gain. There were no churches for the new worshippers, no priests to administer to them the sacraments of Christ, no Catholic school-teachers to train their children. That is to say, these means of preservation and of propagation were so few and so far between, that many of the newly-arrived immigrants were forced to establish themselves in places where they could find none of those, to them, priceless advantages.
The spiritual dearth was not indeed so great as that previously described. The zeal of bishops and priests, and teachers from regular orders, had been so active in its labors, that, aided by the liberty which the institutions of the country afforded, results, astonishing indeed, had already rewarded their efforts. But, after all, what were these compared with the demands so suddenly laid upon them by such a rapid increase of numbers? It might be said with truth of multitudes of immigrants, that the position in which they then found themselves was very little different from that of their predecessors at the beginning of the century.
As late as 1834, Archbishop Purcell, of Cincinnati, wrote: "There are places in which there are Catholics of twenty years of age, who have not yet had an opportunity of performing one single public act of their religion. How many fall sick and die without the sacraments! How many children are brought up in ignorance and vice! How many persons marry out of the Church, and thus weaken the bonds that held them to it!"— (Annals of the Propagation of Faith, Vol. viii.)
To the same annals, three years later, Dr. England, of Charleston, sent the long letter in which he detailed the innumerable losses sustained by the Church in America in consequence of the want of spiritual assistance. The letter was, in fact, a cry of anguish wrung from him by the sight he witnessed.
Such was the universal feeling among those who could rightly appreciate the fatal consequences of the rush of Catholics to the New World without any provision prepared for their reception. And yet all these laments and apprehensions preceded the vast inpouring of immigrants subsequent to the year 1846. What must have been the consequent losses then? Yet, looking now, in 1872, at the present state of the Church in the Union, who can say that this inpouring and rush, unprepared as the country was for its reception, was not one of the greatest means devised by Providence, not only for establishing the Catholic Church in this country for all time, but likewise as a preparation for further developments, not only on this continent, but on the part of many a nation now sitting in "the shadow of death!" Deplorable, indeed, were the losses, but permanent and wonderful the gain.
The first effect of the great calamity which occurred along the St. Lawrence and its tributaries, in 1847, was to reduce the immigration to Canada to insignificant numbers, and, proportionately increase that to the United States in a quadruple ratio. Massachusetts and Connecticut, in New England, and the great States of New York and Pennsylvania, were now the chief places of resort for the new-comers; and from New York, principally, they began to pour, in a long, steady stream, away by the Erie Canal, westward to the great lakes.
All along these lines, congregations were, providentially, already formed; and, in the passage of the stream, they were immediately, as by magic, increased in some instances, to a tenfold proportion. The labors of the clergy were correspondingly multiplied, and efforts were immediately made to obtain new recruits for its ranks. Then appeared a very strange fact, which, at the time, was remarked upon by everybody, but has never been satisfactorily explained. Wherever the number of worshippers in a church induced the chief pastors to have another constructed in the neighborhood, upon the completion of the new edifice, the old one seemed to suffer no diminution in attendance, and the congregation attending the new one gave no evidence of having hitherto been uncared for. This very remarkable fact was of such frequent occurrence that it could not be a delusion, or an exceptional case having its origin in some extraordinary cause; it was evidently a providential dispensation, akin, in a spiritual sense, to the miraculous multiplication of loaves, twice mentioned in the Gospel.
There have certainly been numerous examples of this, in the city of New York particularly, for more than twenty years; and probably the same thing is occurring at the time of the present writing.
Then, another fact occurred, deplored by many, chiefly by Mr. Maguire, in the interesting work already quoted from, yet, evidently of a providential character also, and consequently eminently fruitful, and, it may be said, adorable in its depth. The Catholic immigrants, although in their own country agriculturists for the most part, forgot the tilling of the soil as soon as they reached their new home, and settled down in great numbers in all the large cities, on the line they pursued toward the West. Many special evils resulted from this, detailed at length by those whose wonder it excited, and who strove, for excellent motives, to thwart this providential movement. But the immense good which immediately followed from it, and which, within a short time, was to be greatly increased, was never mentioned in reply to the reasons advanced by these well-meaning complainants. The first result of it was the sudden and necessary creation of many new episcopal sees in all large cities, where churches were being rapidly built, or had already been erected in astonishing numbers.
Suppose the Catholics had, following the old bent, turned themselves chiefly to the tillage of the soil, and buried themselves away in scattered country villages and farms, how long would the creation of those new sees have been delayed? Who is ignorant of the effect of a new see on the propagation of Catholicity? Cities which otherwise would have numbered among their population only a few hundred Catholics, scarcely sufficient for the filling of one small edifice, saw at once one- third, one-half, or even the larger portion of their population clamoring for a Catholic bishop, and all the institutions a bishopric brings in its train. It is unnecessary to furnish examples of this; they are around us.
Yet one difficulty seems to cast some doubt on this view of the subject, and strengthen the opposition of those who ardently advocated the country as the true home for Irish Catholics; and, as the point involves a universal interest, it is better to discuss it at once in its chief bearings.
At the time when those wonderful events were being enacted, any one opening a copy of those general State Directories, with which New England is particularly blessed, wherein not only the great commercial and industrial enterprises of each State are enrolled, but also correct lists of the educational establishments and various churches of all cities, towns, and villages, are given —a cursory glance, even, would show him the striking fact that, as far as the great centres of population were concerned, Catholic churches, educational establishments, and primary schools were found in respectable numbers; but many a page had to be turned when the reader came to places of lesser importance, to rural populations chiefly, before he met with any indication of the Catholic Church entering yet upon that large country domain. This experience was encountered by the writer at the time, and caused him a moment of doubt.
But beyond the reflection that, in matters of this kind (of the propagation of a doctrine or a creed), the first thing to be looked to is the centre, and that this, once mastered, will in course of time draw under its influence the outer circles; that all things cannot be effected at once, and the best thing to be done is to begin with the most important; that, moreover, those statistics are often incorrect with respect to Catholic matters, whether from malicious design, or inadvertence, or want of knowledge, on subjects to which the compilers attached very little importance, so that, if their statements be compared with Catholic official intelligence with regard to the same places, it will be found that many towns and villages which, according to the State Directories would seem to have been altogether forgotten by the Church, were actually in her possession, at least by periodical or occasional visits; apart from all these considerations, there is one more important remark to be made, which includes in its bearing not only the present point of consideration, but, it may be said, the whole life of the Church from the beginning; so that it is really a law of her birth, existence, and propagation.
To illustrate our meaning, let us see how the Christian religion first forced its way in heathen lands, throughout the whole Roman Empire, whether in its Oriental division where Greek was spoken, or among its Western, Latin-speaking populations.
All the apostles fixed their sees in the largest or most important cities of the ancient world; St. Peter, under the special guidance of God, taking possession of the capital and mistress of the whole. All the bishops ordained by the first apostles did the same by their direction; and it is needless to add that the like law has been followed down to our own times whenever the Church has had to spread herself in a new country.
In accordance with this plan, the cities of the Roman world were the first to be evangelized, and their populations were converted with greater or less difficulty, according to the dispositions of the inhabitants, before almost an effort had been made for the conversion of the rural populations, except as they happened to come in the way of the "laborers in the vineyard." Hence the result, so well known: heathenism remained rooted in the country for a much longer time than in the cities, so that the heathen were generally called pagans—pagani—as if it were enough, when desiring to convey the intimation that a man was a worshipper of idols, to designate him as a dweller in the country. 1 (1 Another meaning is given to the word paganus by some writers; but the old and common interpretation is the surest, and is confirmed by the best authorities.) And if the word "pagans" became synonymous with heathens in all European countries, it is a proof that the fact underlying the name was universal wherever Christianity spread. It is known, moreover, that the dissemination of the Gospel in those rural districts was a work of centuries, and that, for nearly a thousand years after Christ, pagans were to be found in villages of countries already Christian.
The fundamental reason which governs and regulates these strange facts is that already given, namely, that Christianity— that is, Catholicity—is a growth, and follows the laws of every thing that grows. True, its first increase is from without, by the conversion of infidels or erring men; but even in that first stage of its existence, its growth is the faster where the numbers are greater; hence its establishment invariably in large cities. But when it has passed beyond this first stage, it increases from within, like all growths, and the work is accomplished by the increase of families agglomerated in the same large towns.
How true is it that the Church, once firmly planted in the midst of one of those agglomerations of men called cities, is sure in the end to invade the whole as "the yeast that leavens the whole! "How easy is it to see that in the course of time those cities of the Union, among which a large proportion of Catholics is found, will belong almost exclusively to the true Church, if for no other reason by the births in families, even supposing that the flow of immigration should finally cease! If any one entertains some doubt on this point, he has only to consult the records containing the number of children baptized in her bosom, and compare it with the corresponding number in families still outside her.
Hence the really astonishing fact, whose truth is recognized to- day in all the Northern States along the Atlantic coast, that suddenly almost in the cities of New England, for instance, where the number of Catholics was simply insignificant, they took an apparently unaccountable prominence, and in the course of a few years, increasing steadily by birth as well as by immigration, the fact became the most curious though evident of the times, completely changing the moral and social aspect of the country, and foretelling still greater changes to come. For, in the face of this wonderful increase to the ranks of Catholicity, appears another significant fact, but very different as to direction and energy— the gradual disappearance of names once prominent in those parts, and the daily narrowing area of Protestantism in the numerous sects of which it is composed.
At the same time a great danger was averted (or at least wonderfully lessened and modified), from the whole country, by the settlement of those immigrants in the large centres of population. The manufacturing enterprises, which at that time assumed such vast developments in North America, received among their workers, men and women, a large proportion of Catholics, and the fear of future political and social peril to the peace and security of society at large could never, on this continent, reach the extreme point witnessed in Europe to-day. The great danger of the European future nestles principally in those vast hives of industry with which that continent abounds. Our eyes have witnessed, our ears have been affrighted at those stupendous plans and projects in which, not only the great questions of capital and labor are involved, but the whole fabric of society is threatened with downfall. Religion, government, property, the family, the state—all those great principles and facts on which the security of mankind depends, enter now into the programme of artisans and laborers enlisted in gigantic and many-ramified secret societies, while the whole world trembles at the awful aspect of this unwelcome phantom, that no government, however powerful, can lay.
Suppose that on this continent the numerous bands of workingmen, so actively engaged everywhere in developing the resources of the country, should aim at extending their solicitude beyond their immediate and material welfare to the reformation and reorganization of mankind on a new basis; and suppose that, with this aim in view, they should combine with those of Europe, and enter into an unholy compact with them, what hope or refuge would remain in the whole world for harmony, peace, justice, and happiness? And when the great upheaval, so generally expected in Europe, and which sooner or later must take place, shall come to pass, where could those men fly, who cannot but look upon those satanic schemes with horror? Where on this earth would be found a spot consecrated to the acknowledgment of the only social principles which can secure the real good of mankind, by rendering safe the stability of society?
It is our firm belief that the vast number of true children of the Church, occupied honestly and actively in the many factories of the North, will, when the contest commences, even before it commences, when the question of connecting the "unions" of this country in a band of brotherhood with those of Europe shall be gravely mooted, make their voices loudly and unmistakably heard on the right side.
Enough has now been said on the locality chosen by preference as the dwelling- place of the Irish immigrants at the period under consideration. Let us now see those armies of new-comers at work. They have been called a missionary people; let us see how they understand their "mission."
In this new country every thing had to be done for the establishment of religion, education, help for the poor, the aged, the infirm, on a lasting and sufficiently broad basis. And, strange to remark, it was found that the previous persecutions they had undergone fitted them admirably for their work, not only by giving them a strong faith, the true foundation of Christian energy, but in a manner more curious, if not more effective. It fitted them to give money freely and abundantly, poor as they were! One may smile incredulously at the conceit; but it has become a most powerful and incontestable fact.
Suppose the Irish never to have been persecuted in their own country: suppose that they had found there a benevolent government to supply them with churches, schools, hospitals— homes for the poor—every thing that they, as Catholics, could desire. Suppose them to have been in a similar position with the Frenchmen, Spaniards, and Italians, of those days, how bitterly would they have felt the inconvenience of building all these things up for themselves in their new homes with the labor of their own hands, by their own individual efforts, unaided by the government! Their ardor would have been damped, their energy cramped, their inclination to give would have fallen far below the necessities of the time: for money was sorely needed—no niggard offerings, but immense sums.
But happily—happily in the result, not in the fact—not only had the British Government never done any thing of the kind for them in their old home; not only, on the contrary, had it been particularly careful to rob them of all the buildings and estates left by their ancestors for those great objects; but, until very recently, the passing of the Emancipation Act of 1829, it had studiously and most persistently hindered them from doing voluntarily for themselves what it refused to do for them. There were numerous penal statutes enacted, in the course of two centuries, to prevent them from building churches, opening schools, erecting asylums and hospitals of their own, nay, from possessing consecrated graveyards for their dead. Thus did fanatic hatred pursue them even to the grave, and, as far as it could, beyond the gates of death. Every one had to surrender the mortal remains of his relatives to the Protestant minister for burial; as though what the government called its religion would snatch from them whatever it could lay hands on—the body at least since the soul had escaped and passed beyond its reach.
But in their new country they found every thing altered. Not only was prohibition of this kind utterly unknown, but there existed there the greatest amount of liberty ever enjoyed by man for acting in concert with a religious, educational, or charitable object in view. No law devised by the old Greek republics, by the Roman fisc, by modern European intermeddling was ever attempted in the country which with justice boasted of being the "asylum of the oppressed." Thus as the liberty so long denied to the Irish was at last opened up, as no barrier existed to cramp and confine the natural generosity of their hearts, no sooner did they find that they might contribute as they chose to those great and holy objects, than they rushed at the chances offered them with what looked like recklessness.
We hope that the reader may understand, from this, our meaning in saying that persecution had admirably fitted them for the mighty work that lay before them. It was the first time for centuries that they were allowed to give for such sacred purposes.
Another thing which disposed than toward it was, the lingering fondness for the old customs of clanship, still harbored in their inmost soul, never entirely dead and ready to revive whenever an opportunity presented itself. There can be no doubt of this; the great adjuration of the clansman to his chieftain— "Spend me, but defend me"—tended wonderfully to consecrate in their eyes the act of giving and giving constantly, as though their purse could never be exhausted. The chieftain has been replaced by the bishop, the priest, the educator; the nobility has gone, but these have come; and unconsciously perhaps, but none the less really, does this feeling lie at the bottom of their hearts, which are ever ready to burst out with the old expression, though in other form: "Spend me, eat me out, but help my soul, and save my children."
This feeling has always run in the blood of the race. St. Paul long ago detected it in the Galatians, a branch of the Celtic tribes, when he wrote to them: "You received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. . . . I bear you witness that, if it could be done, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and given them to me."—Epistle to the Galatians, iv. 15.
Few, perhaps, have reflected seriously on the large sums required for the establishment of the Catholic Church in so vast a country, with all her adjunct institutions; therefore the stupendous result has scarcely struck those who have witnessed and lived in the midst of it. The same is the case, though on a much smaller scale, with respect to the money sent back to Ireland by newly-arrived immigrants. People were aware that the Irish, women as well as men, were in the habit of forwarding drafts of one, two, or three pounds to their relatives and friends, but in such small amounts that the whole could not reach a very high figure. But when it came to be discovered that many banking associations were drawing large dividends from the operation, that new banks were continually being opened which looked to the profit to be derived from such transmission as their chief means of support, some curious people set to work collecting information on the subject and instituting inquiries, when it was found that the aggregate sum amounted to millions, and would have become a serious item in the specie exports of the country, if what was transmitted did not in the main come back with those to whom it had been forwarded.
So was it, but in much larger proportions with respect to the amounts annually spent in the purchase of real estate, the building of churches, schools, asylums, hospitals, for the support of clergymen, school-teachers, clerks, officials, servants, which were called for all at once, over the surface of an extensive territory, for the service of hundreds of thousands of Catholics arriving yearly with the intention of settling permanently in the country. Could the full statistics be furnished, they would excite the surprise of all; the few details which we would be enabled to gather from directories, newspapers, the reports of witnesses, and other sources, could give but a faint idea of the whole, and are consequently better omitted.
One single observation will produce a more lasting impression on the reader's mind than long statistics, and the enumeration of buildings and other undertakings. It is a fact, without the least tinge of exaggeration, that in the States of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and several other Western States, nearly every clergyman, who had the care of a single parish before 1840, if alive to-day, could show in his former district from ten to twenty parishes, each with its own pastor and church, now flourishing, and attached to each a much larger number of useful educational and charitable establishments than he could have boasted of in his original charge. Let one reflect on this, and then imagine to himself the sums requisite to purchase such an amount of real estate, for the erection of so many edifices, and for placing on an efficient footing so many different establishments.
It is true that, to-day, a number of these institutions are still in debt; but, if the list of what is actually paid for be made out, and separated from what still remains indebted, the result would stand as a most wonderful fact.
The question will naturally present itself, "How was it possible for newly- arrived immigrants, who often landed without a penny in their pockets, to become all at once so easy in their circumstances as to be enabled to contribute, so generously and enormously, to so gigantic an enterprise?" The details in reply to this might be given very simply and satisfactorily; but, as it is a real work of God, who always acts simply and satisfactorily, though in a manner worthy of the deepest attention and gratitude, it is proper to examine the question in all its bearings, and then even those who have seen, and can account for it very easily, will wonder, admire, and thank, the infinite Providence of God.
First, it is certain that nowhere else in this world could it have been accomplished at all; and nowhere else in this world has any thing like it been accomplished in a like manner. This may appear strange, but it is so; let us see.
All know how, in infidel countries, every thing necessary for the material help of Catholic missions must be supplied by the missionaries themselves; that, in fact, they have not only their own support to consider, but, often also, the feeding, clothing, and education of the natives at their own expense. It is thus in all the barbarous countries of Asia, Africa, and the new continent and islands in the South Sea. It is thus in the old, effete, but once civilized countries of Asia, such as Syria, Hindostan, China, and others. In all those countries, money must come from without, not only to begin, but to continue, the work of evangelization, even when it has been going on for centuries. Details on this subject are unnecessary, the truth of what has just been said is so well known.
In Christian countries, as in Europe, the various governments have so far contributed to the aid of the mission of Christianity, or have been gracious enough to allow such of the wealthy classes as were willing to take this task off their shoulders and set it up on their own, the lower classes being scarcely able to help toward it. What the case will be when the halcyon days come of the separation of Church and state, and the latter succeeds in the object at which it seems so earnestly striving now, of making the people godless like itself, when the rich will no longer be willing to undertake this work, God only knows. But in those countries, as is well known, the government, formerly, and latterly up to quite recent times, or rich families by large contributions laid down at once, have built churches, founded universities, colleges, and schools, erected hospitals and asylums; founded— such was the expression—all the religious, charitable, or literary institutions in existence. The "people" have scarcely effected any thing in this direction, for the very good reason that they were unable to do so.
In the United States alone, and among Catholics alone, it is "the people," the poor, who have taken and been able to take this matter into their own hands.
That they—the Irish particularly—have done this, redounds to their honor, and it will receive its reward from God; nay, has already in a great measure received it, by filling the land with the temples of their faith, with schools where their children are still taught to believe in God and grow up a moral race, and with the various Catholic asylums and institutions established for the glory of religion, or the comfort of those who are comfortless. That they have been able to do this is owing to the unique, exceptional, marvellous prosperity of the country which offered them an asylum. And let us add with reverence that the country owes this singular prosperity, which has been the source of so many blessings, to the designs of a loving Providence, who looks to the welfare of the whole of mankind, and has therefore endowed this young and gigantic nation with the necessary qualities of energy, activity, "go-aheaditiveness," as it is called, added to the fixed principle that every individual throughout these vast domains shall enjoy liberty, facility of acquiring a competency, and the right to make what use of it he pleases, as well as generosity enough to applaud the one who devotes his surplus earnings to useful public undertakings.
In no other country of the world has this been the case, and in no other country is it the case at the present moment. And, as the fact is mighty in its results, unprepared by man, unlooked for a hundred years ago, requiring for its fulfilment a thousand agencies far beyond the control of any man or inferior mind, following the line of reasoning previously indicated, we ascribe, are constrained to ascribe, it all to the great infinite Mind, to God himself, and to him alone!
And now we turn to the workings of the Irish, and to a consideration of a few of the details. The first crying need was churches and orphan asylums: churches for the all-important worship of God; orphan asylums to receive the numbers of children left homeless by the death of immigrants soon after their arrival, and who were immediately snatched up by the proselytizing sects.
The style of architecture displayed in those first temples of the great God was homely indeed and humble. Nevertheless, it might favorably compare with similar buildings erected by wealthy Protestant congregations. This fact alone is sufficient to convict Protestantism of want of faith, namely, that its adherents have never been struck by the thought that the majesty of God, if really felt, calls for a profusion of gifts on the part of those who have superabundant means. Not that man can by his feeble exertions in that regard give adequate honor to the divine Omnipotence, but that love and gratitude are naturally profuse in their demonstrations, and whoever loves ardently is ever ready to give all he has for the object of his love, even to the sacrifice of himself. The reflection that God is too great, and that it is useless, even presumptuous, to offer to him what must seem so infinitely mean in the light of his greatness, is but the flimsy pretext of an avaricious soul, and can be nothing but a lie, even in the eyes of those who utter it. From the beginning all truly religious nations have endeavored to make their external worship correspond with their internal feeling, and give expression, as far as man can do, to their idea of the worth and majesty of God; and that thought is a true measure of a religion; for, when the external is but a cold and sordid worship, we may be sure that the internal corresponds; and, when little or nothing is done in that way, it is clear that the heart feels not, and the mind is empty of true convictions and of faith.
And what has been the invariable conduct of Protestant nations in this regard? They became possessed of splendid churches built by their Catholic ancestors, and, after stripping them of all their beauty, they retained them as "preaching-halls" or "meeting- houses." The number of those who remained attached to a frigid and unattractive service gradually diminished; the edifices were found to be too large, and in many instances what had been the sanctuary, where art had exhausted itself in embellishment, partitioned off from the rest of the church, was kept for their dwindling congregations, while the vast aisles and roomy naves went slowly to ruin, or became deserted solitudes. As for the idea of building new religious edifices, the old ones were already too numerous for them, or if, as was not unfrequent, a new sect started into spasmodic life, and its votaries found it necessary to open a new "place of worship," the temple they erected to God generally took the form of a hired hall. Let the floor be carpeted and the benches covered with soft, slumber-inviting cushions, the room wear a general air and aspect of comfort, the "acoustics" duly considered, so that the voice of the preacher might reach to the door and half- way to the galleries, and nothing more was required. The man who asked for something more solemn, and answering better to the cravings of a religious heart, would be laughed at as a visionary, if his person did not distil, to the keen-scented organs of these religious folk, a strong flavor of "popery " and of "the man of sin."
So that in the United States at the time spoken of, although the number of churches was extraordinary, because of the number of sects, they were mere shells of buildings, capable of accommodating from three to eight hundred people (very few of the latter capacity); and, although many of the members of the congregations who built them were rich men, adding to their wealth daily, one seldom encountered any of the structures, then common, showing much more than four walls, enclosing four lines of clumsy pews.
Consequently, the Catholic Church had no reason to blush by comparison at the poverty of her children; nay, the extreme simplicity of the edifices raised by them was in keeping with every thing around, and what they did in the hurry of the moment, with the scanty means at their disposal, at least might vie with what wealthy Protestants had done deliberately with all the leisure and wealth at their command.
Already, even at that epoch, in the centre of Catholicity in this country, the love of the true worshipper of God began to display something of that feeling which is naturally alive in the heart of the sincerely religious man; and the Cathedral of Baltimore, long since left so far behind by other monuments of true devotion, created throughout the country a genuine excitement and admiration, when its doors were first opened for the worship of God. It was clear, from the universal acclaim of the people, non-Catholics included, that at least one class of men in the country had a true idea of what was worthy of God in his worship, and what was worthy of themselves in their worship of him.
But, though, with some rare exceptions, the architecture displayed in those edifices constructed by the children of the true Church was poor indeed, the number of those which were commenced and so speedily completed and devoted to their holy use was so extraordinary, that it is doubtful if the annals of Catholicity have ever recorded the same thing occurring on the same scale, in the same extent of country. If the ecclesiastical history of the United States ever comes to be written, it is to be hoped that, in the archives of the various episcopal sees, authentic documents have been preserved, which may furnish future writers with comprehensive statistics on the subject, that the posterity of the noble-hearted men and women who undertook and carried out, with such a wonderful success, so arduous a task, may be stimulated to religious exertion of the same kind by the memory of what their forefathers have accomplished. The reflection already suggested by another idea may serve here likewise, and be usefully repeated. If, in the course of twenty-five years, over the surface of at least ten of the largest Northern States, every clergyman who, at the beginning of that period, officiated in a very small church, is, to-day, supposing him living, gladdened by the sight of ten to twenty collaborators, with a corresponding number of newly-built churches, it is easy to judge of the vastness of the effort made by the greatness of the undertaking and the unexampled success with which God has been pleased to crown it. The other States of the Union are omitted here, not because the Catholics residing in them were then idle, but because, their growth being less remarkable, the external result could not be so striking. Nevertheless, the actual increase among them would compare favorably with that of other growing Catholic countries.
Could details, at this present time, only be gathered from all the States, in the area referred to, the vast diffusion of Catholicity by the influence of immigration would come home to us with far greater force, as would the conception of the corresponding work demanded of the immigrants for the creation of all the objects of worship, charity, and education. Let the reader look to what is related in the "Life of Bishop Loras," who was at that time charged with the founding of religion in Iowa and Minnesota. It will at the same time bring under our notice the march of the Irish toward the West, after having seen them solidly established in the Atlantic States.
"He was consecrated at Mobile by Bishop Portier, assisted by Bishop Blanc, of New Orleans, on December 10, 1837. His diocese was a vast region unknown to him. The unfinished Church of St. Raphael, at Dubuque, was the only Catholic church in the Territory, and the Rev. Sam. Mazzuchelli, its pastor, was the only Catholic priest. The Catholic population of Dubuque was about three hundred. . . . But there must be, thought the new bishop, some members of the flock in distant, isolated, and unfrequented localities, who were in danger of wandering from the faith; besides, the future waves of population would certainly set in toward this fine expanse of meadow, prairie, and forest. . . . With prudent foresight he purchased land . . . . three acres at Dubuque; later, St. Joseph's Prairie, one mile square, near the same city. . . . A valuable property was acquired in Davenport, on the Mississippi, with the view of applying the revenue from it to the support of the missions.
"To his regret he saw large numbers of the European immigrants tarrying in the Atlantic cities, where want, sickness, and crime, beset their path, and he became deeply interested in giving to this worth population the more healthful and vigorous direction of the West. . . . Articles were prepared and published, setting forth the attractions of the country. . . . An immense correspondence, with persons in this country and in Europe, resulted from the well-known interest Bishop Loras took in these subjects. . . . He undertook the settlement of colonies. . . . Germans in New Vienna, in 1846 . . . Irish on the Big-Maquokety. . . . He organized them in congregations and commenced in person the work of building for them churches. . . . establishing schools and academies, laboring for the temporal and eternal welfare of the people."
Thus did the tide of Catholic population begin to flow into Iowa and Minnesota, to be brought under the influence of the Church as soon as it arrived.
Meanwhile associations were being formed in the East, in New York chiefly, for the purpose of inducing Irishmen to go west as far as Illinois, and the Territories west of the Mississippi. Several zealous clergymen placed themselves at the head of the movement. Their main object was to rescue the Catholic immigrants from the dangers surrounding them in large cities, and to make farmers of them. We have seen why these plans, though prompted by the best intentions, failed to succeed; their immediate effect was to give a fresh impetus to the great movement westward, and, by relieving the Atlantic coast of a sudden excess of population, to extend the Church along the line marked out by Providence toward the coast of the Pacific.
At the same time, on the very shores of that vast ocean, California was receiving directly from Europe large detachments of the voluntary exiles who were then leaving Ireland in a compact body in the full tide of the "Exodus." The Catholic Church was thus early taking up a commanding position at the extreme point whither the main "army" was tending, and soon to arrive with the completion of the great Pacific Railroad.
The following extract, taken from the "Life of Bishop Loras," will be sufficient to give an idea of the rapid increase of the Catholic population in the West, in consequence of the workings of so many agencies employed by God's providence for his own holy ends:
"In 1855, the Catholic population of Iowa increased one hundred and fifty per centum in a single year. It seems almost incredible to relate, that the churches and stations, provided for their accommodation, increased in the same time nearly one hundred per centum. The Catholic population reported in 1855 was twenty thousand, and the churches and stations fifty-two; the Catholic population in 1856 was rated at forty-nine thousand, and the churches and stations at ninety-seven.
"Bishop Loras commenced his episcopate (in 1837) with one church, one priest, and the only Catholic population reported, that of Dubuque, was three hundred. In 1851, Minnesota was taken from his diocese, yet in 1858, the year of his death, the diocese of Dubuque alone possessed one hundred and seven priests, one hundred and two churches and stations, and a Catholic population of fifty-five thousand."
There can be little doubt that, if similar statistics were drawn up for all the Western States of the Union during a corresponding period, they would give very similar results; and it is only by reflecting and pondering over such astonishing facts as these, that the mind can come to grasp the idea of the magnitude of the work assigned by Providence to the Irish race. This, we have no hesitation in saying, will form one of the most remarkable features of the future ecclesiastical history of the age, and will appear the more clearly when all the consequences of this stupendous movement shall stand out fully developed, so as to strike the eyes of all.
It may be well to reflect a moment upon the activity displayed by that zealous hive of busy immigrants, who, soon after landing, when the thoughts of other men would have been exclusively and, as men would think, naturally, occupied by the thousand necessities arising from a new establishment on a foreign soil— while not neglecting those necessities—found time to enter heart and soul into projects set on foot everywhere for buying up landed property, making contracts with builders, supervising the work already going on, attending above all to the collection of money, forming lists of subscribers to that end, visiting round about for the same purpose, and attending to the fulfilment of promises sometimes made too hastily, or with too sanguine an expectation of being able to accomplish what in the future was never realized to the extent expected.
But, much sooner than might have been hoped, the desire, so congenial to the Catholic heart, of beholding more suitable dwellings erected to the honor of God and to the reception of his Divine presence, was fulfilled, or aroused, rather, in a quarter least expected, and consequently more in accordance with the (to man) mysterious ways of Providence. The sudden increase of the Church in England, in consequence of remarkable conversions and principally of the little-remarked flow of emigrants thither from the sister isle, induced some pious and wealthy English Catholics, now that they found themselves free to follow their inclinations unmolested, to devote their means to the construction of churches worthy of the name. The splendid structures, now the lifeless monuments of the old faith, which their fathers had raised, rested in the hands of the spoiler, and they could not worship, save privately and inwardly, at the shrine of Thomas of Canterbury, or before the tomb of Edward the Confessor. Yet were their eyes ever afflicted with the presence of those noble edifices, that resembled the solemn tombs of a buried faith, yet still cast their lofty spires heavenward, while the structure beneath them covered acres of ground with the most profuse and elaborate architecture. They looked around them for a builder, who might raise them such again. But there was none to be found capable of conceiving, much less building such vast fabrics as the old churches, which owed their existence not to the ingenuity of a designer, but to the inspired enthusiasm of a living faith. Nevertheless, a man, full of energy and reverence and love for the beauty of the house of God, came forward at the very moment he was wanted. Welby Pugin soon became known to the world, and was still in the full vigor of his enterprising life, when all over the American Continent the immigrants were engaged in satisfying the first cravings of their hearts, and covering the country with unpretending edifices crowned, at least, by the symbol of salvation. Among them arrived pupils of Pugin, who speedily found Irish hearts to respond to theirs, and Irish purses ready to carry their designs into execution.
There is no need of going into details. Puritan New England even has seen its chief cities one by one adorned with true temples of God, and its small towns embellished by stone edifices devoted to Catholic worship, their form pleasing to the eye, and their interior spacious enough, at least temporarily, for the constantly-increasing congregations. But perhaps the most remarkable result of all has been the sudden zeal which sprang up among the sectarians themselves, who had hitherto expressed such contempt for any thing of the kind, of outstripping the Catholics in Christian architecture. They have even gone so far as to discover that the cross, the emblem of man's salvation, is not such a very inappropriate ornament, after all, to the summit of a Christian temple, and that the statues of angels and of saints are possessed of a certain beauty. So that what in their eyes hitherto had borne the semblance of idolatry—such, according to themselves, was their way of looking at it— suddenly became an aesthetic feeling, if not an act of true devotion.
And, singularly enough, it was just at the time when the erection of so many episcopal sees necessitated the building of cathedrals, that the thought, natural to the Catholic heart, of making the house of God a place of beauty and magnificence, could begin to be realized by the arrival of true artists and the increasing wealth of the Catholic body.
It is in the true Church only that the meaning of a cathedral can be fully grasped. Those sects which acknowledge no bishops and deride the title certainly can form no conception of it, and even those who imagine that they have a bishop at their head, have so little idea of what are true episcopal functions, of the greatness of the position which a see occupies, of the importance of the place where it is established, that in their eyes the pretended dignitary can scarcely rank much higher, either in position or degree, than a wealthy parish minister, and the church wherein "his lordship" officiates is very much the same as an ordinary parish church. If in England a show of dignitaries is attached to each of those establishments, it is merely a form well calculated to impress the solemn Anglo-Saxon character; but even that very form would scarcely have existed were it not one of those few semblances of the Catholic reality which the wily founders of the Protestant religion found it convenient to retain for the purpose hinted at. The Catholic Church alone can understand what a cathedral ought to be.
This is not the occasion to enter upon an explanation of all the meanings and uses of a cathedral, least of all to penetrate the sublime mystical significance embodied in its conception. Here it is enough to insist upon the least important, yet most sensible and more easily-recognized object of the building, which is, not simply the seat of honor of the first pastor of the diocese, who is a successor of the apostles, but likewise the place of adoration and sacrifice common to all the faithful of the diocese. Strictly speaking, no special congregation is attached to it; but it is the spiritual home of all the faithful; its doors are open to all the congregations of that part. There the common father resides and officiates; there his voice is generally to be heard; there he is to be found surrounded by all those whose duty it is to assist him in his sublime functions. When he appears in any parish church, the clergy of that special temple are his only attendants, unless others flock thither to do him honor. But the cathedral is his fixed seat and permanent abode; there the appointed dignitaries of the diocese find their allotted places, and there alone are his officers permanently attached to him by their functions.