Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Where an Irish Catholic should never, ever, set foot..."

Thomas O'Connor's book The Boston Irish: A Political History tells the story of the Irish in Boston from many different angles, both politcal and otherwise.

I found these comments in the introduction very interesting in light of what I have learned about Patrick Tierney and his family and their lives in Boston's North End in the late 19th-century:

O'Connor writes:

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, and an economic system that precluded most forms of unskilled labor. Boston was a city that rejected the Irish from the very start and saw no way in which people of that ethnic background could ever be fully assimilated into the prevailing American culture. Other major American cities, to be sure, shared many of Boston's social, cultural, and religious characteristics, but few to the same extent and none to the same degree. Yankee Boston was unique in the depth and intensity of its convictions. The generations of bitter and unyielding conflict between the natives of Boston and the newcomers from Ireland would forever mold the social and political character of the Boston Irish in ways not found elsewhere.

What a commentary on the world in which my great-great-grandfather lived!

What I would like to know is what he had heard about Boston before his arrival there, and what his personal experience was in this world so difficult for people of his background, religion and socio-economic status.

Boston has come a long way... and so has our family.

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