The American Irish: A Political and Social Portrait

The American Irish: A Political and Social Portrait

The American Irish: A Political and Social Portrait

The American Irish: A Political and Social Portrait

Synopsis

This work is a history of the Irish in the United States. The aim of the author is to explore those areas in which the Irish have made a contribution to American culture, including politics, religion, literature, drama and such specialized activities as prizefighting and law enforcement.

Excerpt

From their earliest years in America, the Irish have been identified in American politics with the Jeffersonian tradition and, as it emerged, with the Democratic Party. This strong identification came about by grace of the shortsighted hostility of the Federalist Party. When England took the lead in organizing a coalition against revolutionary France in the 1790's, American conservative opinion took the English side. This meant that the Federalists were also against Ireland, which hoped to win its independence, as the Americans had, with French aid. the Jeffersonians, who were favorable to revolutionary France, were by logical extension also sympathetic to Ireland. the Protestant colonists had brought to America the ancient English stereotype of the Irish as a wild, barbarous, superstitious, rude people. the Federalists under the stress of events in the 1790's gave this stereotype a specific political content. They pictured the Irish as the natural allies of the French revolutionaries, as naturally turbulent and disorderly, as "the most God-provoking democrats this side of Hell." After the Irish revolt of 1798 failed, many rebel leaders fled to the United States. the Federalists received them with suspicion, while Jefferson and the Clintons, his allies in New York, welcomed them.

The Naturalization, Alien, and Sedition Acts, which the Federalist‐ controlled Congress passed and President John Adams signed in 1798, were directed against not only French but also Irish emigrants and what was deemed their radical tendencies. the Naturalization Act extended the waiting period before an immigrant could be naturalized from five years to fourteen years. the Alien Act, which was never used, gave the President the power to deport foreigners by executive decree. the Sedition Act had among its provisions a section making it a misdemeanor to write or say anything "with the intent to defame" Congress and the President or likely to bring them "into contempt or disrepute." Twenty-five persons were prosecuted under this section . . .

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