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.
Hence it is the cardinal church upon which the whole spiritual edifice called the diocese is hinged. Therefore is it the natural resort of the whole flock, as well as of the pastor himself. This will explain the vastness of those edifices which strike us with wonder in old established Catholic countries. In accordance with their primitive intention and purpose, there should be in them standing and kneeling room for all who have a right to enter there; and it is purely on account of the impossibility of exactly fulfilling this intent that the edifice is allowed to be built smaller. We are thus enabled to understand why the great temple which is the centre-spot of Catholic worship can contain only fifty thousand worshippers at a time, and why many other sacred edifices consecrated to episcopal functions can find room for no more than twenty or thirty thousand.
But even those structures, which strike with wonder the puny minds of this "advanced" age, have consumed centuries in their construction, and the number and the faith of those who raised them were, we may say, exceptional in the life of the Church. There were no dissenters in those days; and, as all were possessed of a firm faith, all labored with a common will and contributed with a common pleasure to their construction.
Times having changed for the worse, the same ardor and generosity could not be looked for; but something at least was required which should give some idea of the old, splendor and vastness. So, throughout all the new dioceses projects were set on foot for raising real cathedrals, which should quite overshadow the buildings hitherto known by that name.
Thus, a cathedral was promised to New York City, three hundred and thirty feet in length, and one hundred and seventy-two in breadth across the transept; while that of Philadelphia was soon completed, and all might gaze on the massive and majestic edifice, by the side of which every other public building in a city containing eight hundred thousand souls appeared dwarfish and unsubstantial. Boston was soon to behold within its walls a Catholic cathedral, three hundred and sixty-four feet long, and one hundred and forty broad in the transept, though the same diocese was already filled with large stone churches, built solely by the resources of the immigrants.
The Archbishop of New York, when preaching the sermon at the laying of the foundation-stone of this edifice in 1867, was able to say in the presence of many who might have borne personal testimony to the truth of his words: "There are those most probably within the sound of my voice who can remember when there was but one Catholic church in Boston, and when that sufficed, or had to suffice, not alone for this city, but for all New England; and how is it now? Churches and institutions multiplied, and daily continuing to multiply on every side, in this city, throughout this State, in all or nearly all the cities and States of New England; so that at this day no portion of our country is enriched with them in greater proportionate number, none where they have grown up to a more flourishing condition, none where finished with more artistic skill, or presenting monuments of more architectural taste and beauty."
Had any one predicted this to the good and gifted Bishop Cheverus, when leaving America for France, he might perhaps have not refused altogether to believe or hope for it, but he would certainly have pronounced it a real and undoubted miracle of God, to happen within a century.
But the Archbishop of New York, in that same sermon, pointed out the true cause, when he attributed it to "God's blessing," and to "the never-ceasing tide of immigration that has been and still continues to be setting toward the American shores."
The history of the Church certainly contains many a page where the traces of the finger of God are clearly marked; nay, we may say that such traces are apparent throughout, as we know that God alone could have originated, spread out, supported, multiplied, and perpetuated the Church through all the centuries of her existence; but it is doubtful if in all her annals a single page shows where the action of Providence is more clearly visible, as it was least expected, than in the few facts just cursorily and briefly enumerated.
Yet have we mentioned only a part of the work to which the poor immigrants were called to contribute immediately after their arrival, and at the vastness of which they never murmured nor lost heart, as though a greater burden had been laid upon them than human shoulders could endure.
The worship of God and the care of souls were the first things to be attended to, and, with these, other necessary objects were not to be neglected. There was the care of the poor, whom the Church of Christ was the first public body to think of relieving; the tending of the sick in hospitals, where their own clergy might not only have access, but where it should be made sure that the management be one of true Christian charity and tenderness; the orphan children, always so numerous under circumstances like those of the present, were to be saved from falling into the hands of sectarians, and being educated by them, as were formerly the Catholic wards, in hatred of their own faith, and of the customs, habits, and modes of thought of their ancestors. This last great and incalculable source of loss to the Church was to be put a stop to at once, if not completely-- for that was then impossible--at least as perfectly as zeal, generosity, and true love of souls, could effect. All these works required money, an incalculable amount; as it was not in a single city, not in a small particular State, but throughout the whole Union, through as many cities as it contains, that the undertaking was to be straightway set on foot and simultaneously acted upon.
Nor was the question one of the erection of buildings merely, but also of the support of an immense number of inmates, and of their constant support without a single day's intermission. Who can calculate the sums required for such immediate and most pressing needs?
In a nation where Christianity has been long established, taxes imposed upon all for the constructing, repairing, maintaining, and carrying on so many and such large establishments are easily collected. For all are bound by law to contribute to such purposes, and the question generally reduces itself merely to a continuance of the support of institutions long standing, and which can be no longer in need of the large disbursements necessary at the first period of their existence. But here it was a question of providing, without any other law than that of love, without the help of any other tax-gatherer than the voluntary collector, for all those necessities at once, including the vast outlays requisite for the first establishment of those institutions, and imposing, by that very act, the necessity and duty of supporting forever all the inmates gathered together at the cost of so much care and expense, within those walls consecrated to religion and charity. The government had no share whatever in it; too happy were they at the government interposing no obstacle to its carrying out! That was all they asked for on its part--non-interference.
On this subject, Mr. Maguire remarks justly, without, however, bringing the matter of expenditure into sufficient prominence:
"For the glorious Church of America many nations have done their part. The sacred seed first planted by the hand of the chivalrous Spaniard has been watered by the blood of the generous Gaul; to the infant mission the Englishman brought his steadfastness and resolution, the Scotchman, in the northeast, his quiet firmness, . . . the Irishman his faith, the ardor of his faith. And, as time rolled on, and wave after wave of immigration brought with it more and more of the precious life- blood of Europe, from no country was there a richer contribution of piety and zeal, of devotion and self-sacrifice, than from that advanced outpost of the Old World, whose western shores first break the fury of the Atlantic; to whose people Providence appears to have assigned a destiny grand and heroic--of carrying the civilization of the Cross to remote lands and distant nations. What Ireland has done for the American Church, every bishop, every priest, can tell. Throughout the vast extent of the Union there is scarcely a church, an academy, a hospital, or a refuge, in which the piety, the learning, the zeal, the self- sacrifice, of the Irish--of the priest or the professor, of the Sisters of every order or denomination--are not to be traced; there is scarcely an ecclesiastical seminary for English- speaking students in which the great majority of those now preparing for the service of the sanctuary do not belong, if not by birth, at least by blood, to that historic land to which the grateful Church of past ages accorded the proud title, Insula Sanctorum."
To this may be added the remark that it is still further beyond doubt that all the establishments mentioned, almost without one exception, owe their existence, at least partially, and very often entirely, to the generous and never-failing contributions of the Irish.
The Rev. C. G. White, in his "Sketch of the Origin and Progress of the Catholic Church in the United States of America," which is appended to the translation of Darras's "History of the Catholic Church," says still more positively:
"In recording this consoling advancement of Catholicity throughout the United States, especially in the North and West, justice requires us to state that it is owing in a great measure to the faith, zeal, and generosity of the Irish people who have immigrated to these shores, and their descendants. We are far from wishing to detract from the merit of other nationalities; but the vast influence which the Irish population has exerted in extending the domain of the Church is well deserving of notice, because it conveys a very instructive lesson. The wonderful history of the Irish nation has always forced upon us the conviction that, like the chosen generation of Abraham (previous to their rejection of the Messiah, of course), they were destined, in the designs of Providence, to a special mission for the preservation and propagation of the true faith. This faith, so pure, so lovely, so generous, displays itself in every region of the globe. To its vitality and energy must we attribute, to a very great extent, the rapid increase in the number of churches and other institutions which have sprung up and are still springing up in the United States, and to the same source are the clergy mainly indebted for their support in the exercise of their pastoral ministry. It cannot be denied, and we bear a cheerful testimony to the fact, that hundreds of clergymen, who are laboring for the salvation of souls, would starve, and their efforts for the cause of religion would be in vain, but for the generous aid they receive from the children of Erin, who know, for the most part, how to appreciate the benefits of religion, and who therefore joyfully contribute of their worldly means to purchase the spiritual blessings which the Church dispenses."
To this we may add that what Mr. White so expressly states of the generous support given by the Irish people to the clergy is equally true when extended to the thousand inmates of orphan asylums, reformatories, schools, convents, and of all the charitable institutions generally which are specially fostered by the Church for the common good of humanity. To quote only one fact recorded in a note to Mr. Maguire's book, a Sister of Mercy tells us what the Irish working-class has done for the order in Cincinnati: "The convent, schools, and House of Mercy, in which the good works of our Institute are progressing, were purchased in 1861 at a considerable outlay. This, together with the repairs, alterations, furnishing, etc., was defrayed by the working-class of Irish people, who have been and are to us most devoted, and by their generosity have enabled us up to the present time to carry out successfully our works of mercy and charity."
It may be stated, without fear of contradiction, that the same thing might be asserted by the superior of almost every Catholic establishment in the country, were an opportunity afforded them of coming forward in like manner.
All this is well known to those who are in the least acquainted with the history and workings of those institutions; but very little noise is made about it, according to the rule of the Gospel which recommends us to do good in such a manner that "the left hand may not know what the right hand doeth." Nothing is more Christian than such silent approval, and the eternal reward, which must follow, is so overwhelmingly great that the applause of the world may well be disregarded. But as constant good offices are apt to beget indifference in those who benefit most by them, there are not wanting some good people who seem to labor under the impression that really the Irish deserve scarcely any thanks; that every thing which they do comes so naturally from them, it is only what one could expect as a matter of course, and that, it being nothing more, after all, than their simple duty, it becomes a very ordinary thing.
It may be superfluous to say that if all this was expected from them, and if it be, as it really is, after all only a very ordinary thing on their part, this fact is precisely what makes them a most extraordinary people, as expectations of this nature which may be most natural are of that peculiar kind of "great expectations" magnificent in prospect, but very delusive in fact; and certainly they would not be looked for as a matter of course in any other nation. Let any one reflect on the few details here furnished, let him add others from his own information, and the whole thing will appear, as it truly is, most wonderful, and only to be explained by the great and merciful designs of God, as Dr. White has just indicated-- designs intrusted on this occasion to faithful servants whose generous hearts and pure souls opened up to the mission intrusted to them, to its glorious fulfilment so far, and to a greater unfolding still in time to come.
In order to understand, as ought to be understood, more fully the weight of the burden they so cheerfully undertook to bear, a few reflections on the subject of religious and charitable institutions will not be considered out of place.
The Romans--those master-organizers, who reduced to a perfect system every branch of government, legislation, war, and religion--never abandoned, never intrusted to the initiative of the people, the care of providing the means for any thing which the state ought to supply. The public religious establishments were all endowed, the colleges of the priests enjoyed large revenues, and the expenses of worship were supplied from the same source. To the fisc in general belonged the duty of supporting the armories, the courts of law, and the large establishments provided for the comfort and instruction of the people, the baths, libraries, and regular amusements. The private munificence of emperors, great patricians, and conquerors, undertook to supply occasional shows of an extraordinary character in the theatres, amphitheatre, and the circus.
There was no room left for charity in the whole plan. Indeed, the meaning of that word was unknown to them; for it cannot be properly applied to the regular distribution of money or cereals to the plebs; as this was one of those generosities which are necessary, and was only practised in order to keep the lower orders of citizens in idle content and out of mischief, as you would a wild animal which you dare not chain: you must feed him. The really poor, the saves, the maimed, the helpless, were left to their hard fate, they being apparently unworthy of pity because they excited no fear.
Yet the system was fruitful in its results. As soon as Christianity was seated on the throne, nothing was easier than to transfer the immense sums contributed by regular funds, or which were the product of taxes, from one object to another; and thus the Christian clergy and churches were supported as had been the colleges and temples of the pagan priests, by the revenues derived from large estates attached to the various corporations. Thus did Constantine and his successors become the munificent benefactors of the Church in Rome and through-out the whole empire.
Meanwhile, the 11 collections of money" among the faithful, which were first organized, as we read in the epistles of the apostles, and afterward systematized still better in Rome under the first popes, soon grew into disuse, at least to the extent to which they once prevailed; the new charitable institutions, such as the care of the poor, of widows and orphans, being under- taken by the Church at large, while the expenses of the whole were defrayed by the revenues accruing from the donations of princes, or the bequests of wealthy Christians.
The consequence was that, throughout the whole Christian world, all religious, literary, and charitable institutions enjoyed large revenues, and there was no need of applying to the generosity of the common people for contributions.
After the successful invasion of the barbarians, the same system held good; and history records how richly endowed were the churches built, the monasteries founded, the universities and colleges opened, by the once ferocious Franks, Germans, or Northmen even, tamed and subdued by the precepts and practices of Christianity.
We know how the immense wealth, which had been devoted to such holy purposes by the wise generosity of rulers or rich nobles, became in course of time an eyesore and object of envy to the worldly, and that the chief incentive to the `~ Reformers" for doing their work of 11 reformation" thoroughly was the prospect of the golden harvest to be reaped by the destruction of the Catholic Church.
But the very large amounts required to satisfy the aspirations introduced into the heart of humanity, by the religion of Christ, may give us an adequate idea of what Christian civilization really costs. It is foolish to imagine a sane man really believing that those generous founders of pious institutions, who devote by gift or bequest, such large estates and revenues to the various
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We cannot afford to transfer any more of his experiences among the Irish. From all his accounts, they are the same in London as everywhere else, most firmly attached to Catholicity, and, as a general rule, most exemplary in the performance of their religious obligations.
It is fitting, however, to give the conclusion of a long description of what he saw among them while visiting them in the company of a clergyman: "The religious fervor of the people whom I saw was intense. At one house that I entered, the woman set me marvelling at the strength of her zeal, by showing me how she continued to have in her sitting-room a sanctuary to pray every night and morning, and even during the day when she felt weary and lonesome."
"As regards the fidelity of these women, I was assured that in any thing like good times they were rigidly faithful to their paramours; but that, in the worst pinch of poverty, a departure from this fidelity--if it provided a few meals or a fire--was not considered at all heinous."
Further details may be read in the book quoted from, which would scarcely come well in these pages, though quite appropriate to the most interesting work in which they appear. From the whole, it is only too clear that the class of people referred to is profoundly immoral and corrupt, their very poverty only hindering them from indulging in an excess of libertinism.
On the other hand, when Mr. Mayhew speaks of the street Irish in London, he is most emphatic in his praise of the purity of the women in particular, and the care of the parents in general to preserve the virtue of their daughters, in the midst of the frightful corruption ever under their eyes. The only remark he passes of a disparaging character is the following:
"I may here observe"--referring to the statement that Irish parents will not expose their daughters to the risk of what they consider corrupt influences--"that, when a young Irish woman does break through the pale of chastity, she often becomes, as I was assured, one of the most violent and depraved of, perhaps, the most depraved class."
It is evident, from the mere form in which this phrase is put, that such a thing is of very rare occurrence, and that the violence and depravity spoken of offer all the stronger contrast to the general purity of the whole class, and are merely the result of the open and unreserved character of the race.
But the whole world knows that chastity is the rule, and perhaps the most special virtue of the Irish, a fact which their worst enemies have been compelled to confess. In this same work of Mr. Mayhew's a still more surprising fact than the last--for that is acknowledged by all--is brought into astonishing prominence; a fact opposed to the general opinion of their friends even, and yet supported by incontrovertible evidence. It relates to another contrast between the English and Irish costermongers on the score of temperance.
It is true that an innkeeper told Mr. Mayhew that "he would rather have twenty poor Englishmen drunk in his tap-room than a couple of poor Irishmen, who will quarrel with anybody, and sometimes clear the room." But this remark, if it shows any thing, shows only how and why the Irish have obtained that reputation of being a nation of drunkards, which is slanderous and false.
But the general result of his observations is clear: that the Irish are most provident and far-seeing; a surprising statement, doubtless, to the generality of Mr. Mayhew's readers, but one which, after all, only accords with the testimony of many unexceptionable witnesses of their life in other countries. And, if in England, in London especially, they at times appear sordid in their economy, is not this the very natural result of the misery they had previously endured in their own impoverished land, and therefore a proof that, at least, they have profited by the terrible ordeals through which they were compelled to pass?
We have spoken only of the Irish in London; the same facts are most probably true of them in all the large cities of Great Britain. Unfortunately, Mr. Mayhew's most interesting work has found no imitators in other parts of the kingdom. F. Perraud's remarks, however, in his "Ireland under English Rule," extend almost over the whole country.
After giving his own experience, and that of many others whom he had consulted, or whose works he had read; after having set forth the dangers which beset the Irish in that (to them) "most foreign country"--England--and also the success which had attended the labors of many proselytizing agents among them, and even in some cases the progress of immorality in their midst resulting from the innumerable seductions to which they were exposed, a success and a progress which Mr. Mayhew's personal observation would lead us to think the good father has exaggerated, he concludes as follows:
"We must not overlook the fact that the Irish emigration to England and Scotland produces in many individual cases results which cannot be too deeply deplored.
"But there, also, as well as in America and Australia, through the economy of an admirable providence, God makes use of those Irish immigrants for the propagation and extension of the Catholic faith in the midst of English and Scotch Protestantism. What progress has not the Catholic religion made within the last thirty years in England? And might not the Catholics say to their separated brethren what Tertullian said to the Caesars of the third century: 'Our religion is but of yesterday; and behold, we fill your towns, your councils, your camps, your tribes, your decuriae, the palace, the senate, the forum . . . . You have persecuted us during centuries, and behold, we spring up afresh from the blood of martyrs!'
"At the beginning of the reign of George III., England and Scotland scarcely contained sixty thousand Catholics who had remained true to the faith of their fathers. Their number in 1821 was, according to the official census, five hundred thousand. In 1842, they were estimated at from two million to two million five hundred thousand. At present (1864) they number nearly four million, and of this total amount the single city of London figures for more than two hundred and fifty thousand."
In a note he adds the following figures, furnished him by Dr. Grant, the late Bishop of Southwark:
Total No. of Catholics. No. of Irish. Manchester . . . . . . . . . . . 80,000 . . . . . . 60,000 Liverpool . . . . . . . . . . 130,000 . . . . . . 85,000 Birmingham . . . . . . . . . . . 30,000 . . . . . . 20,000 Preston . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24,000 . . . . . . 4,300 Wigan . . . . . . . . . . . 18,000 . . . . . . 6,000 Bolton . . . . . . . . . . . 12,000 . . . . . . 4,000 St. Helen's (Lancashire) . . . . 10,000 . . . . . . 6,000 Edinburgh . . . . . . . . . . . 50,000 . . . . . . 35,000 Glasgow . . . . . . . . . . 127,000 . . . . . . 90,000
"Finally, we must not forget that about one-half the army and navy is composed of Irish Catholics.
"In 1792 England and Wales counted no more than thirty-five chapels; in 1840 the number amounted to five hundred, among which were vast and splendid churches, such as St. George's, Southwark, and the Birmingham Cathedral. At present (1864) the number is nearly one thousand.
"In connection with the movement of individual conversions, which yearly brings within our ranks from those of Protestantism the most upright, the sincerest, the best-disposed souls, the Irish immigration in England is then destined to play an important part in the so desirable return of that great island to the faith which she received in the sixth century from St. Gregory the Great and St. Austin of Canterbury," and, let us add, from Aidan and his Irish monks of Lindisfarne and Iona, as Montalembert has shown.
If we examine closely the figures just furnished by F. Perraud, and consider that the number of Catholics in Great Britain was only five hundred thousand in 1821, which, following his calculation, mounted to four million in 1864, if we look closely into the gradations of the increase marked in the various censuses taken between those dates, we shall find that the Irish immigration has indeed played a most important part in the return of England toward Catholicity. We are surprised to find that he seems to estimate the number of Irish in England at only one million; there can be no doubt that they and their offspring compose the majority of Catholics there, and that many of the Englishmen who come back to the true faith are induced by their example and influence, particularly among the lower orders, and that the real work of the conversion of the English nation rests in the hands of the Irish immigrants. Mr. Mayhew has informed us of the disposition of the English costermongers on religious matters.
We have now examined the three great waves which bore the Irish to foreign countries; the lesser streamlets, which wandered away into other English colonies, may be dismissed, as to trace and follow up their course would involve more time and trouble than they really call for. We now see the Irish race disseminated in large groups over many and vast territories; and, although the home population has been considerably diminished by that great exodus, and is now reduced to about five millions, nevertheless, to count them as they are dispersed throughout the world, their number is far higher than it has ever been before; and we now proceed to offer some considerations tending to show the effects of that vast emigration on the resurrection of the race, and on the future progress of the country from which the race comes.
First, then, emigration has given Ireland and Irishmen an importance in the eyes of the world which they and it would never have acquired unless that emigration had taken place; so that England, on whom in a great measure their future fate depends, is now compelled to respect and render them justice; and justice is all that is wanting to bring about their complete resurrection.
In order to form a true idea on this point, it is necessary to consider them in their twofold aspect, as emigrants to the United States, residing under and citizens of a government distinct from that of England; and, secondly, in countries which are under the control of Great Britain, one of these being England itself.
In the Union they become for the greater part citizens of the country which they have made their home, and the first condition necessary for the obtaining of this right of citizenship is the renunciation of all allegiance to their former English rulers. The readiness and joy even with which they perform this task need no mention. But, as Christians, the new obligations under which they bind themselves involve something more than the mere oath of allegiance; the spirit no less than the letter of the oath prescribes that they acknowledge no other country as theirs than that which offered them a refuge, and consequently, by the very fact of becoming American citizens, they cease to be Irishmen.
But their oath does not bind them to forget their former country, as little as it forbids them to benefit it as far as lawfully lies in their power. Far otherwise. Their new allegiance would indeed be a poor thing if, in its very conception, it could only bind hearts so cold as to renounce at once all affection for the land of their birth, and banish in a day memories that the day before were sacred. This is not required of them; and, were it, they could never so understand their allegiance. They remain, and justly, firmly attached to Ireland, and look anxiously for any lawful occasion on which they may manifest their affection by their acts.
Meanwhile, in their new country, position, influence, wealth, consideration, often fall to their lot; their numbers swell, and they become an important factor in the republic. Something of the power wielded by the great nation of which they are now citizens attaches to them, and shows them to the astonished gaze of England under a totally new and unexpected aspect. In war, the effect is most telling, and, even so far back as 1812, the part played by "saucy Jack" Barry, for instance, already gave rise to very grave considerations and forebodings on the part of British statesmen. But, even in time of peace, the high position held by many Irishmen in the United States, and the aggregate voice of a powerful party, where every tongue has a vote, cannot fail to tell advantageously on questions referring to their former country.
Can it be imagined that this exercises no influence on the treatment of Ireland by the ruling power? To afford a true conception of the alteration brought about by Irish emigration, suppose for an instant the ruling power using again its old recklessness in abusing Ireland--not that we imagine the English statesmen of to-day capable of such a thing and anxious to restore what, happily, has passed away forever--but merely to show the utter impossibility of such a contingency again arising, suppose one of the old penal laws to be again enacted and sanctioned by a British sovereign, what would the effect be on the multitude of Irishmen now living in America? What, independently of the Irish, would be the effect on all the organs, worthy of the name, of public opinion in America? How would the great majority of the members, not of Congress only, but of the Legislature of each State, speak? Public opanion is now the ruler of the world, and when public opinion declares against a flagrant and crying injustice, its voice must be heard, its mandate obeyed, and lawlessness cease. This extreme and, as we believe, impossible example, is merely adduced as a proof of the advantage which Ireland has reaped from the dispersion of her scattered children--an advantage falling back on her own head, in return, perhaps, for the mission they are working.
But, over and above the supposition of such an extreme case, there is surely a silent power in the mere standing of millions of free men who would resent, as done to themselves, a recurrence of an attack on their old country. And there are, beyond question, three millions of former Irishmen, citizens to- day of the United States, on whom the glance of many an English statesman, with any just pretension to the name, must fall. Therefore do we say that now England must respect Ireland.
That respect is daily heightened by the greater comfort and easier circumstances, though still far too wretched on the whole, of the Irish at home, which have been mainly brought about by the help received from their exiled countrymen. As was seen, the old policy of their oppressors had for chief object the pauperization of the country, and, as was also seen, that policy was eminently successful. We know how deeply the effects of that former policy are still felt, and how far from completion still is justice in that regard; how they still complain, and with only too much reason, of many laws which are as so many gyves still binding them down in their old degradation; but, of this, the following chapter will speak.
Yet, it is undeniable that their situation is considerably improved, and that the excessive sufferings which formerly seemed their privilege, are scarcely possible in our days. This change in their circumstances for the better may be ascribed to a variety of causes, one of which, we acknowledge, has been the repairing of many previous injustices. But we must acknowledge also that the main lever in a nation's resurrection, once the ground is cleared round about--her treasury--has, as far as Ireland is concerned, been chiefly replenished from abroad. Absentee landlords still drain the country; but the money which has gone into it has been certainly owing greatly to the immense sums transmitted yearly from America by the exiles, all of which has certainly not returned to the place from which it went out. It is impossible to estimate the amount which was kept in Ireland and that which floated back, but the balance must be considerably on the side of what remained, as the distress at home was so great, and in millions of instances immediate relief came from the distant friends who had acquired a competency in their new country, and, knowing the dire distress of their relatives at home, sent generally what they could spare, by the speediest means at their command.
There is no doubt that thousands of families have thus been benefited by that first sad emigration of their friends, and that the visible improvement in the condition of the Irish at home is in a great measure due to it. We hear, moreover, that the working of the new "Encumbered Estates Court " has already placed in the hands of native Irishmen many parcels of the lands of their fathers, and probably many of the ample estates belonging to what was the Irish Church Establishment, which are to be sold, will find their way back in the same manner.
The Irish are thus being slowly reinstated in possession of their own soil, and, that once accomplished, the respect of England is secured--respectability in England being in its essence equivalent to real estate.
Thus is the uprising of the nation being gradually, silently, but surely brought about by the emigration to the United States; and this effect is considerably heightened when the emigration to countries under English control is taken into consideration-- Canada, Australia, England itself.
In those places the same results followed which we have just witnessed in the United States, but another and far greater result remains for them. Not only did they slowly aid in awakening the respect for their countrymen at home in the English breast by their own rising importance and improved condition, but in Canada and Australia they possess a privilege which, in the British Isles, is theirs only in theory, but abroad becomes a very powerful fact.
Ever since the Union of 1800, the Irish are supposed to form a part and parcel of the empire at home, and to have fair representation of their native country in the members they return to the Imperial Parliament. But it is well known that the Irish influence in that Parliament is almost null, and that their presence there frequently is productive of no other result than to countenance laws injurious to their own country. Does, can Ireland hope to derive any political or social benefit from her representatives in London beyond whatever may accrue to her from their vain remonstrances and ineffective speeches? But in the colonial Parliaments the case is very different.
It is not our desire to be understood as saying that Irishmen, by meddling with politics, can effect a certain improvement in their condition and that of their country, beyond giving tokens of the life which is in them. We believe, on the contrary, that too great an eagerness in such pursuits has injured them on many occasions; and they ought to beware of flattering themselves that they are rising because their votes are clamored for, and they themselves exhorted to enter into the contest as fierce partisans. This, too often, leads them into making themselves the mere tools of shrewd men.
But, in the colonies, they muster in considerable force, and, with prudence and sagacity, may have their desires and measures fairly considered and conceded; for, unfortunately, the style of measures fair and favorable to them as Irishmen and Catholics, is completely at variance with that of those opposed to them, whom, go where they will, they encounter, and always in the same form. In Ireland, they are at liberty, apparently, to do the same by reason of their superiority in point of numbers; the result of the late Galway elections proves what a farce is this show of liberty, and even the members whom they would and do sometimes elect possess a very feeble influence, or none, in what is called the Imperial Parliament. But, in the colonies, if they, as electors, outnumber their political opponents, they can and must return the majority to the House of Representatives and of officers to the various departments of the colonial administration. Such is the law of election in really representative governments which are truly free; the majority of electors returns the majority to the government; and rightly so. Of course, there is room here, particularly where the majority happens to be Irish, for a vast quantity of frothy bluster about drilled and intimidated voters, and all that sort of thing. With that we have no concern at present, and merely remark en passant that it is a pity a little more of it was not wasted on the recent Galway elections, already alluded to, on both sides; and for the rest, that the world has not yet been apprised of Irish majorities in the Australian Parliament abusing their power by either accidental or systematic misrule; and it may, therefore, be safely conceded that, on the whole, the government has rested in safe hands. However, what concerns us at present is the state of Canada and Australia, where, among the highest public dignitaries, are found men who are Irish, not simply by birth, but in feeling and in truth. And the conclusion which we wish to draw from that fact is, that Ireland is greatly benefited by the high positions which her sons assume in those distant colonies; and probably no one will be rash enough to deny or controvert in any way this point.
The truth is, that by emigration Ireland has suddenly expanded into vast regions formerly ignorant of her name; regions which swell the power and wealth of England, and which are destined to play a very important part in her future history. In these districts Irishmen have found a new country; something of the ubiquity of the English belongs to them, and the influence, power, and weight, thus thrown into their hands, need no further comment. To show this in extenso would be only to travel over ground already trodden in previous pages, enumerating the various countries they have touched upon in their Exodus. Thus have our seemingly long digressions had a very direct object in view, and served powerfully to solve our original question. We may now see that the resurrection of Ireland was intimately involved in the emigration of her children; that much of what has already taken place to aid in that resurrection may be ascribed to this emigration, and that much brighter days are yet in store for the nation, resulting mainly from this constant and powerful cause. Let no one, then, lament the perseverance of those hardy wanderers who, though their country has already been depleted by millions, still leave her to the figure of seventy thousand annually. It seems that in Ireland much surprise is expressed at the movement never ceasing. Providence will end it in its own good time; if God still allows it, it is surely for the accomplishment of his own mighty and benevolent designs.
To conclude, then, this long chapter, there is only one question to be put, which demands a few words, but words, in our opinion at least, of vast importance, and which we would give all that is ours to give, to see promptly and energetically attended to: Has Ireland profited by this so-often mentioned emigration to the extent she should have profited? And what ought Irishmen to do in order to increase the advantages derived from it?
We must confess that, up to the present, the benefit is far from what it ought to have been, and the cause of this lies in want of organization and association. They have seemed to let God work for them without any cooperation on their part; for God's, as we saw, was the plan, and he forced them, as it were, to carry out his design. They went at the work blindly, merely following the impulse of circumstances, with no preparatory organization, and less still of association. And even now, when they are spread out over such vast territories in such mighty multitudes, as yet they have given no sign of the least desire of attempting even something like a combined effort to accelerate the work of Providence. The only signs of life so far given have been violent and spasmodic, directly opposed to the genius of the race, which, as we have endeavored to prove, has nothing revolutionary in its character, and is not given to dark plots and godless conspiracies.
Unfortunately, also, they do not seem naturally adapted to a spirit of steady and long-continued or systematic association. In this, chiefly, does their race differ from the Scandinavian stock, which is grafted on system, combination, and steadiness, in pursuit of the object in hand.
But why not begin, at least, to make an effort in that direction? The Latin races, in which runs so much Celtic blood, are powerful to organize, as the Romans of old, and the French and Spaniards of to-day, have so often proved. The Irish have been infused with plenty of foreign blood, after their many national catastrophes, although we believe that their primitive characteristics have always overcome all foreign elements introduced among them; and, what the race could scarcely attempt ages ado, is possible now. Moreover, there is nothing in the leanings of race which may not be overcome, and sure without any radical change a nation can adapt itself to the necessities of the time, and to altered circumstances. Let the Irish see what they might effect toward the resurrection of their native country, if they only seriously began at last to organize and associate for that purpose. They would thus turn the immense forces of their nation, now scattered over the world, to the real advantage of their birthplace. In union is strength; but union can only be promoted by association, particularly when the elements to be united are so far apart.
For such an object do we believe that God gave man in these late days the destroyers of space--the steam-engine and the electric telegraph. Those powerful agents of unification were unknown to mankind until God decreed that his children dispersed through the earth should be more compactly united. To the Catholic they were given, in the first place, to serve God's first purpose by making the Church firmer in her unity and more effective in the propagation of truth; but, after all, the mission of the Irish to-day is only a branch of the mission of the Church, and, if only on that account, are the missionaries deserving of all honor and respect.
If in the designs of Providence the time has at last arrived for the dwelling of the children of Japhet in the tents of Sem, and for putting an end to the terrible evils dating from the dispersion at Babel and the confusion of tongues, the object of these great scientific discoveries is still more apparent. At all events, organization and association are clearly needed for the resurrection of Ireland, and the sooner a step is taken in that direction the better.
But, what association would we propose? What should be its immediate and most practicable objects? These questions we do not feel competent to answer. Let Irishmen be once convinced that organization is the great lever to work for the raising up of their down-trodden nation, and they will know best how to use this powerful instrument. The leaders of the nation in that holy enterprise should, in our own opinion, be its spiritual leaders. They know their country, and they love it; they undoubtedly possess the confidence of their countrymen: they, then, should be the natural originators of those great schemes. And what other leaders does Ireland possess, what body like them, acceptable to the nation, and neither to be bought by money nor office?
This first remark naturally presupposes another: that the object of those associations, being approved of by the religious guides of the people, cannot be other than holy, and consequently require no secrecy of any kind. They must be patent to the world, as not being antagonistic to any established law or authority. Every man desirous of becoming a member of the association should know beforehand what is proposed to be done, and how far his consent is to be given.
One other important point strikes us: the centre of organization should be in Ireland. Ireland is to be benefited by it, and there the effort should naturally begin, where its results will fall. As for the particular direction which those efforts should take, the detail of the whole enterprise, the plan of the campaign--all this lies beyond us, and a sketch of it would most probably be a mere chimera.
One concluding word may be said, however, on a subject which has often been present to the writer's mind: The fearful oppression of the nation began by robbing the people of their lands and making them paupers: one of the first aims of association, then, should evidently be the raising of the people up by the restoration, in great part at least, of the soil to the native race.
It is not our purpose to propose a new confiscation now, by way of remedying the old ones; but England has allowed them to buy back the land of their fathers in the "Encumbered Estates Courts, "and by the law recently passed which disestablished the Irish Protestant Church? Is there no room for a plan whereby Irishmen, who have grown rich in foreign countries, may become purchasers of the land thus offered for sale? And, in reply to the natural and powerful objection to such a plan on the score of distance from their native land, and the natural repugnance to return and live there, and break up new ties, which are now old, and have made them what they are, could not the fathers spare one son at least, whom they might devote to the noble purpose of becoming Irish again, and settling on an Irish estate, and marrying there? This would seem an easy and simple manner of recreating a Catholic gentry in the island.
This is merely a hint thrown out to exemplify what we mean by associations for the purpose of raising Ireland up again; the many possible objects of national organization will occur to any mind giving a moment's reflection to it. This subject will occupy our attention at greater length in the next chapter.