The Immigrant Experience

In a nation of immigrants, picking 10 books about the immigrant experience is no easy task. One could plausibly argue that any book about post-Columbian America concerns the immigrant experience. Therefore, I established a few basic guidelines in order to make the job a little more feasible. Some of these, I think, rest on pretty solid ground. I have not, for instance, included any books on slavery.Read more »

The Tragedy Of Bridget Such-a-one

A hundred and fifty years ago famine in Ireland fostered a desperate, unprecedented mass migration to America. Neither country has been the same since.

Walking through the woods outside Concord, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1846, amid his solitary experiment in living close to nature, Henry David Thoreau was driven by a sudden storm to find shelter in what he thought was an uninhabited hut. “But therein,” Thoreau recounts in Walden , he found living “John Field, an Irishman, and his wife, and several children,” and he sat with them “under that part of the roof which leaked the least, while it showered and thundered without.” Read more »

A Nation Of Immigrants

It’s a politician’s bromide—and it also happens to be a profound truth. No war, no national crisis, has left a greater impress on the American psyche than the successive waves of new arrivals that quite literally built the country. Now that arguments against immigration are rising again, it is well to remember that every single one of them has been heard before.

The uproar over Zoë Baird has subsided by now, and readers with short memories may profit by a reminder that she was forced to withdraw as President Clinton’s first nominee tor Attorney General because she and her husband had hired two “illegal aliens” for babysitting and housekeeping chores.Read more »

The Green Flag In America

For more than a century, Irish-Americans were whipsawed between love for their tormented native land and loyalty to the United States. But no more .

The Honorable Hugh L. Carey, Democratic governor of the state of New York, made a speech in Dublin on April 22, 1977. After declaring himself unalterably part of “that segment of the human family called Irish,” Carey denounced extremists on both sides of Northern Ireland’s guerrilla war as practitioners of the “politics of death.” Read more »

The Last Of The Bosses

Part hero, part rogue, Boston’s Jim Curley triumphed over the Brahmins in his heyday, but became in the end a figure of pity.

For the first half of this century and beyond, James Michael Curley was the most flamboyant and durable figure on Boston’s political scene. Mayor off and on for a total of sixteen years, he spent four terms in Congress and two in jail, and for two depression years he was governor of Massachusetts. At his death he lay in state for two days in the State House Hall of Flags, the fourth person in the history of the Commonwealth to be so honored.

The Know-Nothing Uproar

Maria Monk’s lurid “disclosures” and Samuel Morse’s dire warnings launched a crusade of bigotry that almost won the White House

The congressional and state elections of 1854 and 1855 witnessed one of the most remarkable political upheavals in the nation’s history. Candidates whose names were not even on ballots were thrust into office; others who had been given no chance to win triumphed over long-established favorites; and a political party that had operated in such secrecy that few knew its name and still fewer its true purposes was catapulted into control in a half-dozen states, won a strong minority place in several others, and seemed destined to capture the White House in 1856.