The Irish ran wild, lynching blacks and burning black establishments to the ground. As described in Leslie M. Harris’ book “In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863,” the Irish rioters “made a sport of mutilating the black men’s bodies, sometimes sexually. A group of white men and boys mortally attacked black sailor William Williams—jumping on his chest, plunging a knife into him, smashing his body with stones—while a crowd of men, women and children watched.”
Luckily for the Irish, there were no ethnic activist groups leaping in to excuse their bad behavior. President Lincoln sent in federal troops to crush the savage uprising. (Hey, President Trump! Lincoln is a very popular president!)
And these were European immigrants, most of whom spoke English, contrary to the claptrap you’ve heard in reaction to Kelly’s remark this past week. Today we’re getting peasants who not only don’t speak English, they don’t even speak Spanish and are also illiterate in their own dialects.
The Irish were driven out of their country by a one-time calamity—the potato famine. This wasn’t how they always lived. Starving poverty wasn’t their culture.
Still, the Irish were—at one time—among the poorest immigrants we ever got and the slowest to assimilate. It took 120 years, by political analyst Michael Barone’s estimate. (Imagine a time when our worst immigrants were the Irish!)
And they might still be a problem if The New York Times had demanded special rights for them, the ACLU had brought lawsuits on their behalf and the Southern Poverty Law Center had screamed “racism” whenever anyone noticed their bad behavior.
Instead, no-nonsense Irish priests knocked them upside the head and told them to sober up and go home to their wives. (Back then, the Catholic Church was not about “immigrant rights”; it was about cleaning up their own bums.)
By the 1950s, the Irish were outearning other Americans. Many reformed so well that they became Republicans.
That was then, this is now.