A Sincere Reply Regarding 'America's Birthday and the Irish'

It been a while since anyone held my feet to the fire over what I wrote, but Patrick O'Toole questioned some of the facts in my 7/5/16 blog America's Birthday and the Irish. I can assure you that none of the information I provide is fabricated. However that story was one I originally wrote back in 1976 for the bi-centennial and updated in 2000 for the millennium. As you can imagine, the notes and references for that data are somewhere in the vast archive of my library and after spending a good deal of time (two days) I either found them or otherwise verified the questions asked hoping he was sincerely interested, so here goes:

1. With regard to the number of Irish children sold into slavery, go to: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-irish- slave-trade-the-forgotten-white-slaves and you will find: From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers. The exact number of 400 in 1652 is in there somewhere, and since this was done over a decade, I think you can consider it ‘common practice’ at the time.  For more detailed dates and numbers, refer to To Hell or Barbadoes by Sean O’Callaghan.

2. As for the reduction of Ulster’s population, Irish Contribution to American Independence by Thomas Maginniss (Doire Pub, 1913) records: When the exportation of cattle into England was placed under prohibitory duties, the Irish turned to sheep-raising and the manufacture of woolen goods, an ancient Irish industry began to flourish.  The English Parliament at the demand of selfish English interests, then crushed the Irish woolen industry (1698) by heavy export duties, and suggested the substitution of linen manufacture. When this had become profitable, laws were enacted in 1708 to discourage it, hence we find thousands of men employed in the linen trade emigrating to New England where they introduced the spinning wheel and the manufacture of linen in 1718.

3. With regard to the prohibition of Irish in the American colonies, Notre Dame’s website nd.edu verifies that: Evidence of anti-Irish attitudes was present in British America throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Many colonies enacted laws seeking to limit the immigration of the Irish. In 1704 the Maryland legislature passed a law placing a tax of twenty shillings on Irish servants “to prevent the Importing of too great a number of Irish Papists into this Province.” A South Carolina law of 1716 forbade the immigration of people “commonly called native Irish, or persons of scandalous character or Roman Catholics.” Pennsylvania passed a law in 1729 that taxed the importation of Irish servants and three years later Georgia did the same. Massachusetts own website massmoments.org adds: The penal laws of the early eighteenth century have become a key part of Irish historical memory.

(Below: An Ursuline Convent outside of Boston is burned by a nativist mob in 1834.)

What is perhaps overlooked is that such legislation was also enacted in British America.Today many people regard Boston as the capital of Irish America. But in the first half of the nineteenth century prejudice against the Irish in Boston was unparalleled.  An historian of the Boston Irish put it this way:“If there had existed in the nineteenth century a computer able to digest all the appropriate data, it would have reported one city in the entire world where an Irish Catholic, under any circumstance, should never, ever, set foot; that city was Boston, Massachusetts. It was an American city with an intensely homogeneous Anglo-Saxon character, an inbred hostility toward people who were Irish, a fierce and violent revulsion against all things Roman Catholic, ... A city that rejected the Irish from the very start. During the winter of 1732 a newspaper reported that an Irish priest had celebrated Mass "for some of his own nation" on St. Patrick's Day. Bostonians were alarmed enough for the governor to order the sheriff and constables to break into homes and shops and arrest any "Popish Priest and other Papists of his Faith and Persuasion.

The referenced legislation in my piece came from the manuscript copy of a Massachusetts Colonial Committee, dated 29 Oct 1654, which read: This Court, considering the cruel and malignant spirit that had from time to time has been manifest in the Irish nation against the English nation, does hereby declare the prohibition of any Irish men, women or children brought into this jurisdiction on the penalty of 50 Pound Sterling to each inhabitant that shall buy of any merchant, shipmaster or other agent, any such person or persons so transported, which fine shall be by the county’s marshall (sic), on conviction of some magistrate or court, levied, and be to the use of the informer one-third and two-thirds to the county. This act to be in force six months after the publication of this order. Signed by Dan Gooken, Thomas Savage, Roger Clap, Richard Russell and Francis Norton. This can be found in (Maginnis op cit, page 44) and on page 45 he mentions that in order to survive, their old Irish names were replaced by English ones and goes on to mention a number of them like Hancock, Patrick and Peake among others.

4. The chapter on the Irish and the War of Independence in The Irish Contribution to American Independence by Maginnis also notes that The seventeenth century writing of Molyneaux, a Dublin Irishman, in defense of Irish liberty, became a textbook of American freedom and while Burke and Barry, Irishmen in the English Parliament, were influencing English sentiment in favor of the colonies, Matthew Lyons, Patrick Henry and other orators of the Irish race were using their eloquence to convince Americans of the desirability of separation.  

5. He did get me on one. The Hibernian club in Philadelphia was formed in 1759, not 1729. Obviously a typo, but you can verify the date at www.familysearch.org/Pennsylvania Emigration and Immigration. Actually they grew out of the Hibernian Fire Company formed in 1752.

6. With regard to the Irishman, Patrick Carr, being killed in the Boston Massacre, that information is easily found on the internet at sites like www.revolutionarycharacters.org/patrick-carr and www.bostonmassacre.net as is the information that the tea party was planned at Duggan’s Inn, that Griffin owned the wharf where the tea was dumped and that men of Irish, Scottish, French, Portuguese, and African ancestry are documented to have participated.  You can find that and more at http://www.bostonteapartyship.com/the-secret-plan

With the story of Barry’s Compellors in just about every biography of Barry, I’m beginning to believe that he was putting me through this exercise on a whim.  However, on the possibility that he was serious, I conclude with his questioning Washington’s quote and offer the following:

In speaking of Ireland’s support during the revolution, Washington wrote, Ireland, thou friend of my country in my country's most friendless days, much injured, much enduring land, accept this poor tribute from one who esteems thy worth, and mourns thy desolation.  Verification can be found at  //www.Ireland-fun-facts.com click on ‘quotes’.

He also wrote in a letter to Edmund Newenham on 29 August 1788, As you observe, if Ireland was 500 miles farther distant from Great Brita[in] the case with respect to the former would be as speedily as materially changed for the better. That can be found at //gwpapers.virginia.edu/documents/constitution/1788/newenham.html

On March 16, 1793, George Washington’s General Order to his troops granted St. Patrick’s Day to be a holiday. See www.georgewashingtonwired.org/2011/03/16/on-this-day-in-1780-st-pat...

There is also the statement, The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.  And that is attributed to Washington’s letter to the members of the Volunteer Association and other Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland who have lately arrived in the City of New York, December 2, 1783 and it can be found at The Writings of George Washington, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, vol. 27, p. 254 (1938).  The Washington excerpts were prepared by Ken Dow member of AOH Div 11 Hampton Bays, NY

Other quotes I have used have also been used by IrishCentral on Twitter and on Facebook, namely:  When our friendless standard was first unfurled for resistance, who were the strangers who first mustered around our staff? And when it reeled in fight, who more bravely sustained it than Erin's generous sons?  I also used a quote from a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette in which he wrote that the people of Ireland need that critical moment to shake off the badges of slavery they have so long worn. Further the text of his grandson’s speech is in so many books like  The Irish Race in America by Edward Condon and in the Journal of the American Irish Historical Society, Vol 13 as well as on the internet that its hard to believe that one cannot find the text of his speech.  Further, the fact that the AOH annually make a pilgrimage to his grave at Arlington and place shamrocks on his grave on St Patrick’s Day as he requested is something to which I can personally attest since I was given that honor in 2007.

At first I took the questioning serious and spent a good deal of time trying to find old, notes, books, and other references to satisfy them. After two days in the effort, I must conclude by saying, I have been reading, studying and then researching the history of Ireland and the Irish for more than 50 years and made it my total purpose to promote and preserve that history and the history of Irish contributions.  Knowing fully that if one factual error is found in any of my writings, all are suspect.  Since my blog was questioned in a public forum (TheWildGeese.irish on July 5) I went through this exercise to satisfy all questions, but I pray that they were not just a lark since most of what I wrote is readily available for verification on the worldwide web if one just had the time to look it up.

Views: 540

Tags: American Revolution, Colonial America, United States, War

Comment by Joe Gannon on August 5, 2016 at 2:21pm

Mike, you certainly don't have to prove yourself to anyone around here. None of us are infallible, of course, and can sometimes get something wrong, but I'm sure we are all impressed with the just how much time and effort you put into making sure you have solid historical backing for what you write. And I wouldn't worry about whether the questions about your original post were a "lark" or not, as what you have posted here is highly educational for anyone who will take the time to read it. So even if this is by way of explanation of the facts regarding your previous article, you are still accomplishing the goal you set up in your last paragraph, i.e. trying to " promote and preserve that history and the history of Irish contributions." Sure and it's God own work. ;-)

Comment by Patrick Kevin O'Toole on August 15, 2016 at 3:06pm

Hi, everyone. I am the Pat O'Toole to whom Mike replied. I just want everyone to know that I wasn't questioning Mike. I just asked for some references so that I could familiarize myself with the primary resource materials. I have been reading a lot about the Irish role in the American Revolution. I found Mike's original information very informative and helpful, and his reply above is even more so. I am grateful to Mike--and we all should be--for his good and hard work in this important area. If you read "How the Irish Won the American Revolution" you'll find out the untold story how the Irish were here from our country's beginning and what an important contribution the Irish made to our becoming a free country. Again, thanks, Mike. If you ever come to San Diego, drinks are on me!


You need to be a member of The Wild Geese to add comments!

Join The Wild Geese

The Wild Geese Shop

Get your Wild Geese merch here ... shirts, hats, sweatshirts, mugs, and more at The Wild Geese Shop.

Irish Heritage Partnership


Extend your reach with The Wild Geese Irish Heritage Partnership.

Congrats to Our Winners

© 2022   Created by Gerry Regan.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service