Attitudes Toward the United States
The following anecdote is recorded by Mr. Hackett, the comedian -
"The 1st night of the performance of 'Rip Van Winkle' when in the midst of the scene where he finds himself lost in amazement at the change of his native village, as well as of himself and everybody he meets, a person of whom he is enquiring mentions the name of Washington. Rip asks, 'Who is he?' The other replies, 'What! Did you never hear of the immortal George Washington, the Father of his Country?'
At these words the whole audience from pit to gallery seemed to rise, & with shouting & huzzaing, clapping of hands & stomping of feet, made the very building shake. These deafening plaudits continued some time, & wound up with three distinct rounds.
To attempt to describe my feelings during such an unexpected thunder-gust of national enthusiasm is utterly impossible. I choked the tears gushing from my eyes - & I can assure you it was by a great effort that I restrained myself from destroying all the illusion of the scene, by breaking the fetters with which the age & character of Rip had invested me, & exclaiming in the fullness of my heart, 'God Bless old Ireland!'"
- Thomas Colley Grattan, Civilized America, Vol. II, p. 5 (W. Col. Lib.)1
(This book is by an Irish traveler in America, & was published in
Henry James Hackett, 1800-1871: He was in England in 1827, 1832, 1840, 1845, & 1851, & I presume on one of these trips he went over to Dublin; probably 1851. After 1854 he "led a retired life." (information from Encyclopedia of American Lives)
"However remote I might find the peasantry from society, however ignorant of books, however cunning or simple, they all knew something of America, and all were hoping some day or other to see it. Their questions would often be intelligent on the geography of the country."
- Ireland's Welcome to a Stranger, p. 177
"But America is all the theme by the laboring classes of Ireland; glad was I that the free states of my own country have ever been an asylum to the foreigner, & the reward of his labor has been given him. The ragged laborer has soon exchanged his tatters for decent apparel, the bare feet of the cabin girl have been covered, & the basket has been taken from the back of the peasant woman. I would acknowledge with gratitude that, throughout the length & breadth of Ireland, the poor have required no letter of introduction, but the name of America."
- Ibid., p. 307-08
In the peat bogs & potato fields of Ireland the going wage was sixpence a day & the Irish workman lived on potatoes, milk, & fish. The news of cheap land & high wages in America went through Ireland like a sea wind.
- Walter Havighurst, Wilderness for Sale, p. 2072
1 Thomas Colley Grattan, Civilized America (2 vols.).London: Bradbury and Evans, 1859.
2 Walter Havighurst, Wilderness for Sale: The Story of the First Western Land Rush. New York, Hastings House. 1956.