Originally published in 1868, The Irish in America is still a fascinatingly informative and highly readable book today.
The author, John Francis Maguire, sat as Member of Parliament for Cork City (1865-72) and was created a Knight Commander of St. Gregory by Pope Pius IX. Although he is understandably sometimes a little guilty of tending to view his fellow countrymen and co-religionists through rose-tinted spectacles, his account of the Irish emigrant settlers in 19th century America is nevertheless an invaluable and truly entertaining source of social history. It provides a gripping insight into the conditions that the emigrants faced, from the horror of the famine ships and quarantine on Grosse Isle in Canada to the squalor of New York tenements and lodging-houses.
It tells of the dangers awaiting new arrivals, the trials and tribulations of settling in a foreign land, and covers a wide diversity of other matters such as 'perils to female virtue', cannibalism in the Californian mountains, the Irish soldier in the American Civil War, slavery, religious riots in Philadelphia, and how the Irish were viewed by other settlers.
Yet, despite the author's desire to have his countrymen appear in a most favourable light, he doesn't shrink from touching upon the Irish reputation for excessive drinking and love of fighting, and he examines the trait and attempts to explain why it is so.
This is a thoroughly absorbing chronicle of the Irish in the New World and a must read for every Irish-American interested in his or her heritage.
The book is available in .epub format, suitable for most e-readers, .mobi format for Kindle, and as a .pdf.
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