The Work of the Enemy

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XXVII (5) start of chapter

It has been computed that, at a low calculation, 30,000 children of Catholic parents, mostly Irish, have been sent to 'kind Christian homes,' through 'Sectarian Reformatories,' and institutions of a kindred spirit. I have heard 50,000 given as a possible average; and considering that one institution lately boasted of having sent 10,000 Catholic children to the West, the number, though great, is not altogether improbable. Children are at a premium in the West, especially if healthy and robust; and dealing in this description of 'live stock' is not by any means a losing speculation. I was confidently informed that thirty children—one a plump infant of a year and-a-half—had been sold, in Michigan, to the highest bidder, not two years previous to the time at which the circumstance was mentioned to me. The children must be disposed of in one way or other; and if a profit can be made for the institution, or for the individual, through the keen rivalry of Western farmers, who look approvingly at the sturdy thews and sinews and strong limbs of a brawny young 'heathen' of Irish birth or blood, who can be unconscionable enough to object to an operation so legitimate, or so strictly in accordance with the entire system of—kidnapping maybe too rude a term to apply to such institutions and such men,—so we shall say, of gathering little children in?

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