Margaret Fuller, Critic: Writings from the New-York Tribune, 1844-1846

By Judith Mattson Bean; Joel Myerson | Go to book overview

The Irish Character

Since the publication of a short notice under this head in The Tribune several persons have expressed to us that their feelings were awakened on the subject, especially as to their intercourse with the lower Irish. Most persons have an opportunity of becoming acquainted, if they will, with the lower class of Irish, as they are so much employed among us in domestic service, and other kinds of labor.

We feel, say these persons, the justice of what has been said as to the duty and importance of improving these people. We have sometimes tried, but the want of real gratitude which, in them, is associated with such warm and wordy professions of regard, with their incorrigible habits of falsehood and evasion, have baffled and discouraged us. You say their children ought to be educated, but how can this be effected, when the all but omnipotent sway of the Catholic religion and the example of parents are both opposed to the formation of such views and habits as we think desirable to the citizen of the new world?

We answer first, with regard to those who have grown up in another land and who, soon after arriving here, are engaged in our service.

First, as to ingratitude. We cannot but sadly smile at the remarks we hear so often on this subject. Just Heaven, and to us how liberal! who has given those who speak thus an unfettered existence, free from religious or political oppression, who has given them the education of intellectual and refined intercourse with men to develop those talents which make them rich in thoughts and enjoyment, perhaps in money too, certainly rich in comparison with the poor emigrants they employ, what is thought in Thy clear light of those who expect in exchange for a few shillings spent in presents or medicine, a few kind words, a little casual thought or care, such a mighty payment of gratitude? Gratitude!—Under the weight of old feudalism, their minds were padlocked by habits against the light; they might be grateful then, for they thought their lords were as gods, of another frame and spirit than theirs, and that they had

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