Simple Pat as an Agriculturist

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER VII (4) start of chapter

Something may here be said of the Irish agriculturist, as compared with his brethren from the sister kingdoms. As may be supposed, by those who know anything of the state of things in different parts of the United Kingdom, the Scotch and English farmers who settle in America bring with them—have brought with them—besides more or less capital in money, a knowledge and skill not possessed by those who emigrated from Ireland. It must be admitted that in Great Britain the science of agriculture has advanced to a degree of perfection to which, even under the most favourable circumstances, Ireland cannot aspire for many years yet to come. Thus it necessarily follows that while the Irishman is in no way inferior to the Englishman or Scotchman in industry or energy, capacity for labour or power of endurance, he is so in theoretical knowledge, and the management of land on the principles of 'high farming.'

Considering the relative condition of the three countries, this is what may be looked for. But the Irishman, even though he may not be able to write his name, is wonderfully shrewd and observant; and before his self-complacent neighbour imagines that simple Pat has even perceived what he was about, simple Pat has borrowed his improvement, and actually made his own of it. It is amusing to hear a poor fellow, who had little inducement for enterprise in his own country, dealing in the most daring manner with scientific terms, picked up from his Lothian or Yorkshire neighbour, and calling things by names that would puzzle a Liebig. But still there is no mistake in his application of the principle; for though he makes a fearful hash of the name, simple Pat has caught fast hold of the thing, as witness the appearance of his land and the abundance of his crops. It occasionally happens that townships belonging to the three nationalities adjoin; and wherever this is the case, the result is a healthful rivalry, productive of general advantage. In the new county of Victoria, in Central Canada, there is an instance of this propinquity. Three townships, almost exclusively belonging to English, Scotch, and Irish settlers, lie alongside each other; and between the three there exists a spirit of emulation, keen but amicable, as to which produces the largest crops, and cultivates the land in the most skilful manner. The result is told by an eminent Irishman, a man much respected in his district, and whose most cherished ambition is to see his countrymen raise themselves higher In the estimation of the world by the exercise of their great natural gifts:—'I am happy and proud to say that our countrymen have proved themselves to be equal in every respect to those from the sister kingdoms. To my mind, the Irish township, according to its numbers, produces the largest crops.' And he adds, 'Rely on it, if your countrymen at home had the same freedom of action, the same sense of security and certainty of reward, that they have in our free Canada, they would enjoy in their own country the same prosperity which they enjoy here.'

To me, the proposition seems consistent with reason and common sense, though fanatical sticklers for imaginary 'rights of property' may regard it as little better than rank blasphemy.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America