Monday, March 18, 2019

Friendly Persuasion: Why Don't the Quakers Need to Remember

“Over four hundred voted for a Catholic priest, one hundred and fifty-four, for any kind of a Protestant minister; eleven, for a Mormon elder; and three hundred and thirty-five said they could find their way to hell without the assistance of clergy.”  - Father Joseph O'Hagan, President, College of the Holy Cross, on being elected chaplain of the 73rd Regiment, Excelsior Brigade

For decades journalists and historians, some with Pulitzer Prizes to their names, have reminded the Irish to remember their past collective sins.  Clarence Mr. Page of the Chicago Tribune told the Irish they needed to remember that they and their gangs kicked blacks off America's ladder of upward mobility, preventing slavery from going away by itself (as if John Calhoun, Samuel Morse, Eli Whitney, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were Irish immigrants).  Bob Herbert of the New York Times reminded the Irish of their blame for the NYC draft riots of 1863 when he alleged poor immigrants refused to fight to free poor blacks (never mind that the commander of the Union army at Gettysburg was Irish).   Professor James McPherson said the Irish were to blame for Civil War skulkers and deserters, earning "inglorious late war visibility" ... even though the Irish won more Civil War Medals of Honor than any other immigrant group, indicating their presence and commitment throughout the war.

Why don't the Quakers need to remember?   All these years I've been wondering if someone would bring that up.   Never happened.   Doesn't any group besides the Irish need to remember?

The Quakers were among the first, if not the first, to support abolition.  Fair enough, but they came up short on action, limiting themselves to "friendly persuasion"  and being among the lacunae when others signed up to fight in the likes of the Excelsior Brigade.

I thought my favorite historian, Eric Foner, had lost his marbles some years ago when he claimed blacks built New York City.  Huh?  New York City had a very tiny black population back in the day.  Immigrants dug the Erie Canal and built New York City!   I've ruminated on that and now older and wiser, realize America had more than one frontier and now think I misunderstood Dr. Foner.   

The Atlantic Ocean was America's other frontier and the cotton-trading Quakers, the Wrights and the Thompsons, helped conquer it with their Black Ball Line packet shipping system between New York City and Liverpool.   The social and business relationships between the Quakers and their packet shipping system facilitated the flow of information, exports and imports that turned New York City into a powerhouse and led along with the cotton gin to industrialized slavery.  If the Quakers really wanted to do something about slavery, they should have gotten out of the cotton business.

So how come only the Irish need to remember and how come nobody remembers:

"Gen. MEADE, the new leader of the Army of the Potomac, is the grandson of GEORGE MEADE, of Philadelphia, an eminent Irish-American merchant, whose firm (MEADE & FITZSIMMONS) contributed in 1781 $10,000 to a fund for the relief of the famishing army of Gen. WASHINGTON."
-- New York Times, July 2, 1863