In which we see that while the demographic dynamics of immigration have changed over the course of the past two centuries, the way some Americans have talked about immigrants has not.
You know, kids, we have enjoyed talking about any number of subjects in this class. And there have been any number of individuals we’ve had good reason to admire. But I need to take a moment now to talk about a set of people who are now a real problem in American life.
—Let’s see what Mr. K. is going to come up with now.
I’m talking, of course, about the Irish.
—The Irish, huh?
—He’s kidding. I think he’s really talking about Mexicans, or Muslims , or people like that.
I only wish this was a ruse, Ethan. And I realize that the Irish Problem is not really a topic of polite conversation. But sometimes, you must be candid about a situation, and this is one of those times.
—I think there were a lot of Irish immigrants like a hundred years ago.
—He’s making some kind of analogy or something
Afraid not, Ethan. And recent developments have made the Irish situation all too serious. I have nothing against them personally or individually, mind you. And the way the British have treated these people is absolutely horrid. And maybe it would have been all right if they came over in small, discreet batches. But things are really getting out of hand.
—So what is it that these Irish people have supposedly done?
There is no “supposedly” about it, Jonah. We all know what the Irish—not the Scotch-Irish, who are good Protestants and generally respectable people—are like. Poor, dirty, Catholic. Brutish and lewd: their women reproduce like rabbits even when they have no obvious means of providing for them. That’s not all their fault. They’ve been terribly oppressed by their English brethren. And the whole business about the potatoes is simply tragic.
—I think he’s referring to the Potato famine.
—What was that?
—It was like a bad crop.
Indeed it was. It’s ironic: the potato is actually indigenous to North America. But the Irish have become totally dependent on it. Not surprising, in a way. Potatoes are highly nutritious, and easy to grow. (Unfortunately, they can also be distilled into alcohol, and we all know the Irish like their drink.) But when some kind of infection took hold there in the last couple years—this would be 1846 or 1847—the crop was wiped out. Unable to find land, work, food, millions of these benighted Celtic souls have fled to Canada, Australia, and, of course, here to America. They simply overwhelm the communities they infest, among them cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and New York.
—You know, you don’t sound very nice about these people, Mr. K.
Kylie, I am trying to be fair. I understand these people have experienced real adversity, and I recognize that there are good and bad seeds in every race. But I’m afraid that if left untreated, the Irish will be a blight on our society no less than that which has afflicted the potato.
—You’re a racist, Mr. K.
I don’t understand, Sadie.
—You’re talking about the Irish like they’re an inferior group of people.
Well, isn’t that obvious? Of course they’re an inferior group of people. We can speculate as to why that might be. Certainly there’s a scientific basis for thinking so. For example, Dr. Agassiz at Harvard has done research indicating that Negroes have smaller brains than Europeans, which of course explains a great deal. But culture can also warp people. As we all know, Catholicism fosters blind obedience and superstition. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter why these people are inferior, only that they are. That might not matter if they didn’t threaten our way of life. But I’m afraid they do.
Of course! Do I really have to explain it to you?
—Um, yeah, you do.
We can start with the public health threat. They bring disease wherever they go. Then there’s their riotous rowdiness. That, of course, is a product of their drinking. As a good temperance man, I can only be appalled at they way the foster the very worst of vices. I assume you share my consternation.
—Oh yeah. Sure we do. All that riotous rowdiness.
That’s all bad enough. But the most alarming threat posed by the Irish is that which they pose to our republican institutions. They can’t really be good Americans.
—This I gotta hear.
Is that sarcasm?
—You tell me.
I am not saying anything a fervent Irish Catholic would not. Their primary loyalty is to the Whore of Babylon.
—The Whore of Babylon?
—I think he means the pope.
These are not people who are interested in, much less prepared for, our republican way of life. They’re tribal, and clannish, and habituated to defer to superstitious authority.
—So what do you want to do? Send them back to Ireland?
If that were at all possible, yes. I am among those who would like to send the Negroes back to Africa; why not the Irish to Ireland? In any event, I think the important thing is to prevent the Irish from seizing control of our nation’s political machinery. That is why I think we need to organize politically to stop the spread of the Irish scourge. The Democrats have by now been totally infected by them. There was a time when Tammany Hall in New York was a bastion of native strength. But no longer. My fear is that the Whigs will waver in their commitment to White Anglo-Saxon Protestantism. In which case we will need to found another political organization.
—And what will you call that?
I think “the American Party” has a nice ring to it.
—Yes. Very subtle.
Thank you. We can move on now. But I thought it necessary to broach this subject. We need to keep it in mind as we move on to more pleasant topics.
Really, Adam. I would rather not talk about that. Too divisive.
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