A Thanksgiving Remembrance

 

Harvard Professor and historian Arthur Schlesinger once called prejudice against the Catholic Church . . . the deepest bias in the history of the American people.  American historians are reluctant to admit to such bias, so it is understandable that no history books carry the story of Ann Glover.  Ann was an American Martyr, and her story puts an entirely different slant on the holiday that we celebrate in November.

The story begins with the Puritans, who were probably the most intolerant Christians to ever crack a bible.  They overthrew the monarchy in England, beheaded the King, and attacked Ireland under the ruthless Cromwell.  Any Irishman knows the result of Cromwell’s incursions into Ireland.  His fanatically anti-Catholic Puritan religion denounced any who enjoyed the simple pleasures of life such as singing, dancing, games of chance and drinking.  When they got to Ireland, they were horrified by the life style of the Irish which basically included all of the above, and hundreds of thousands of Catholic men, women, and children were slaughtered in the name of Christ.

After the monarchy was restored, the Puritan’s descendants were chased to America where, modern revisionist historians would have us believe that they befriended the Indians and hosted the first Thanksgiving.  In the years that followed, they have become the icons of civilized Christian behavior.  But hold on!  Let’s go back to the history books!  Aren’t these the same benevolent Christians who turned on those in their own community who were different, and hanged them or burned them at the stake as witches?  It sure is, and one of them was Anne Glover, an Irish laundress who was caught up in a witch mania that was part of the rigid Puritanism of the time.  The superstitious Puritans attached supernatural causes to anything they couldn’t explain – even medical conditions.

Glover had been an Irish slave, sold to the Barbados by Oliver Cromwell after his wars in Ireland in the 1650s. Persecuted for his religious beliefs, her husband died there.  By 1680 she and her daughter had either escaped or were sold, but ended up in Boston, employed as housekeepers by a Puritan, John Goodwin.  In the summer of 1688, four of the five Goodwin children fell ill.  Their doctor, who was unable to diagnose a legitimate cause, covered his own inability by concluding that nothing but a hellish Witchcraft could be the origin of these maladies.  Martha, the 13-year-old Goodwin daughter, confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis by claiming she became ill right after an argument with ‘Goody’ Glover.

Glover was accused of practicing witchcraft by the infamous Reverend Cotton Mather, pastor of the old North Church, – a name familiar to most school children who never heard of Anne Glover.  She was arrested and tried as a witch.  Mather alleged that Anne was a witch because, among other things, she had the artifacts of a witch.  The truth is that she was Irish and Catholic and that put her at a decided disadvantage among the bigoted Puritans who denounced the veneration of images.  Of necessity, Ann Glover had practiced her religion in secret, but when accused, her home was searched and pictures of Jesus Christ were found.  These artifacts were enough to condemn her in the eyes of Cotton Mather, but the final argument against her was given when a witness said that she overheard Ann speaking in a strange language.  Her accuser assumed that Ann was conversing with the devil.  The truth is that the poor woman was simply praying in private in the way she knew best – in her native Irish tongue.  During the trial Cotton Mather called her a scandalous old Irishwoman, very poor, a Roman Catholick (sic) and obstinate in idolatry.   In the courtroom there was confusion over Glover’s testimony, since she refused to speak English.  According to Mather, the court could have no answers from her, but in the Irish, which was her native language.  The court convicted Glover of witchcraft and sentenced her to be hanged.

Robert Calef, a Boston merchant who knew her, said Goody Glover was a despised, crazy, poor old woman, an Irish Catholick (sic) who was tried for afflicting the Goodwin children. Her behavior at her trial was like that of one distracted. They did her cruel. The proof against her was wholly deficient. The jury brought her guilty. She was hung. She died a Catholick (sic).   The cause of her ‘distraction’ at trial was no doubt due to the torturous treatment she had undergone during her pre-trial confinement.  Author James B. Cullen wrote, she was drawn in a cart, a hated and dreaded figure, chief in importance, stared at and mocked at, through the principal streets from her prison to the gallows . . . The people crowded to see the end, as always; and when it was over they quietly dispersed, leaving the worn-out body hanging as a terror to evil-doers.

A decade after Glover’s death, Mather was still preaching against idolatrous Roman Catholicks, trying to preserve a dying society in a world that was quickly changing.  Many other Irish immigrants came to America as slaves, indentured or otherwise; some were not as firm in their Faith as Goody Glover, and drifted into Protestantism.

On November 16, 1988, the Boston City Council finally recognized the injustice done to Ann Glover 300 years earlier and proclaimed that day “Goody Glover Day”, condemning the injustice done to her.  They even erected a memorial to her.  Maybe this Thanksgiving, when we gather around a table heaped with the bounty of the harvest, instead of remembering the Puritans, we can remember Anne Glover, who when offered freedom by Cotton Mather if she rejected Catholicism, refused and became Massachusetts first Catholic martyr.  Isn’t it curious that eight of America’s early 17th century martyrs were canonized, but not Anne?  But then the eight canonized were all killed by Indians and Anne Glover, who died for her faith in Boston, was murdered by Englishmen.  Is that why her memory is suppressed by history and by her church?

Father Theobold Mathew

October 10 is the birth date of Father Theobold Mathew, yet sadly there will be very little, if anything, about this remarkable Irishman in the media.  In his day, however, he was internationally known as the Apostle of Temperance. This is his story.   Born in 1790 at Thomastown, Co Tipperary, young Toby Mathew grew up with 11 brothers & sisters on the estate of the Earl of Llandaff, who employed his father.  Educated at St Canice’s Academy and Maynooth, he joined the Capuchin Order in 1810 and was ordained in 1813.  His first assignment was a small church in Kilkenny which was no easy task in early 19th century Ireland where Catholics were second-class citizens and clergy were severely restricted.

From Kilkenny, he went to a chapel in Cork where his remarkable generosity and love for the poor soon became legend. He served them heroically during a Cholera epidemic; secured cemetery space so they would not end up in pauper’s graves; he even rented vacant rooms and lofts to set up schools for their children.  He soon had over 500 students.  During his ministry, Father Mathew came to understand that drink was a common ailment among the Irish poor.  Unable to achieve any measure of success in their native land, depressed Irish workers and farmers lived in terrible poverty, barely able to provide for their wives and children. The only solace from the unfair lot they had been born into was found when their minds were dulled by intoxicating spirits. As the line from one Irish song said “when Paddy has Powers, all the weeds look like flowers.

Landlord’s and factory owners were no help either.  They often paid their wages in Pubs in which they held an interest, so that their money – what little was paid – was not out of their pockets for very long.  Father Mathew saw the results of relying on drink as a remedy for despair: families destroyed, homes forfeited, and often a life of crime.  With the aid of a Quaker merchant named William Martin, Father Mathew began a crusade for total abstinence.  He held 3 meetings a week administering a pledge which stated, “I promise with Divine assistance to abstain from all intoxicating liquors and to prevent as much as possible, by advice and example, intemperance in others.”  Instead of asking to give up drink forever, he asked that the pledge be kept for just a day.  If that was successful, then a week, then another, until constant renewal led to a life of sobriety for many.

Within 3 months, 25,000 had taken the pledge. The number grew to 131,000 in 5 months, and 200,000 in 9 months. Father Mathew’s story spread, and he was invited to preach in other dioceses. 80,000 signed up in Waterford, thousands more in Galway; in Dublin a rain-soaked audience gave 46,000 signatures in a single evening and 700,000 before his mission there was concluded.  He traveled the length and breadth of Ireland administering the pledge.  Crime decreased, rioting at fairs & festivals declined, and government officials gave Father Mathew full credit!  That is not to say he had no enemies, for his steadfast refusal to throw his support to political goals – like those of Daniel O’Connell or the Young Irelanders – earned him a few.  There were some who said he was too liberal with Protestants, and of course there were the tavern owners, distillers, and the moderate drinkers who felt that they were being scandalized by the priest’s attacks on alcohol.  But these were the exceptions.

As most of Ireland flocked to him for inspiration, he was invited to Scotland; then to England where 70,000 Londoners joined his total abstinence society.  He was succeeding in every way but two: his travels, medals, staff salaries, free bibles, postage, rental, and countless personal donations to the poor left him deeply in debt; and his demanding schedule began to affect his health.   Another blow came when the Irish potato crop failed in 1845, and the Irish were denied any of the other bumper crops grown by the landlord.  An artificial famine was produced which killed millions by starvation and disease. The despair created by this tragedy was absolute, and many gave in to temptation and turned their backs on the Pledge. Then Father Mathew had a stroke which left him partially paralyzed; his abstinence society began to deteriorate.

After his recovery, he threw himself wholeheartedly into reorganizing the society and decided to visit America. The journey was long and difficult, and the ailing priest spent hours in steerage hearing the confessions of Irish immigrants.  He visited New York and Boston in 1849 and was struck with paralysis again.  After a 2-week rest he toured Philadelphia and Washington where he was honored by the House and Senate, and President Zachary Taylor held a formal dinner in his honor.

He continued his strenuous journey covering 300 cities in 23 states by back road, wagon and stagecoach.  By the time he took ill again in Little Rock, over 600,000 had taken the Pledge across America.  On Dec 6, 1855 he arrived back in Cork after a difficult 4 week sea voyage.  Despite his successes in America, the situation in Ireland had demoralized and his society was failing. He continued to work against his doctor’s advice and had several more bouts with ill health until November 1856, when he suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed and speechless.  On Dec 15, 1856 the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the 67-year old Apostle of Temperance mercifully died.

After the loss of its leader, his abstinence society declined rapidly, but it did not fail.  It had brought the message of the dangers of drink to millions, and banished forever the image of the drunkard as a jolly companion.  It also gave impetus to the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart, which exists to this day.  It was founded by Fr. James Cullen in 1898, who gave full credit to the inspiration of Father Theobold Mathew.  Perhaps the best epitaph to this remarkable man is the statement of one of his contemporaries who said, “He has wiped more tears from the faces of women than any other being on the globe except the Lord Jesus, and thousands of lisping children will bless the providence that gave them an existence in the same age as he.”

A Month For Bravery

On September 13, the members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians celebrate one of the major holidays of their Order – Commodore John Barry Day. It is not a day unique to that Order, for it has been commemorated on the American national calendar more than once. There were even statues erected in his honor back in the days when Americans remembered with gratitude the contributions of this dedicated man. Today, few remember his deeds. The American Heritage dictionary doesn’t even list his name, and his statue in front of Independence Hall, Philadelphia, is just a platform for pigeons unnoticed by passers-by. It is truly unfortunate that so few remember because, during his lifetime, Barry gave so much to America at a time when she needed it most. It has even been said that had it not been for John Barry, the American Revolution would have been lost. Dr. Benjamin Rush said in his eulogy at Barry’s grave side, “He was born in Ireland, but America was the object of his devotion, and the theater of his usefulness.” A sea captain in colonial America, he seemed destined for a prosperous career in the colonies, but his integrity and sense of justice led him to risk all in the patriot cause. With nine years experience as a seagoing Captain, and five successful commands to his credit, the young Irishman was warmly welcomed, and given command of a ship under the authority of the Continental Congress. Eight months after the first shots were fired at Lexington, Captain John Barry took the helm of a new 14-gun vessel aptly named, Lexington. He quickly trained a crew, and began the task of supplying and supporting Washington’s ground forces.

He captured British ships and took their cargo for the patriots. He captured an armed British vessel when ammunition was scarce, and a supply ship when food was at a premium, he then came to Washington’s aid when the leader was planning to cross the Delaware. He organized seamen and joined the land forces which crossed the river in boats supplied by his friend, Patrick Colvin. Barry was held in such high esteem that Lord Howe made a flattering offer to Barry to desert the patriot cause. “Not the value or command of the whole British fleet,” Barry replied, “can lure me from the cause of my country which is liberty and freedom.” The last sea battle of the American Revolution took place as Barry was returning with a shipload of bullion from Havana, and was set upon by three British ships. He destroyed one and outdistanced the other two, returning with the precious cargo which was used to establish a National Bank for the new nation. Even after the war, this courageous seaman assisted America by transporting Virginia tobacco to Holland to repay America’s war debts.

In recognition of his experience and bravery, Washington asked the popular naval hero to form and train a class of midshipmen, who would form the nucleus of the new American Navy. Barry himself was named the ranking officer, and granted Commission number one making him Father of the American Navy. He died on Sept 13, 1803.
Years later, in 1920 to be exact, another Barry bravely fought the Brits. This time in Dublin during Ireland’s War of Independence. On Sept 21, a British lorry, heavily guarded by armed soldiers, was being loaded with supplies as a voice from the street called, “Drop your rifles and put up your hands.” It was a group of Irish Volunteers. Suddenly, one of the soldiers fired, then a fusillade erupted as Volunteers and soldiers dueled with revolvers and rifles. When it was over, one soldier was killed and four wounded, and the Volunteers fled. The British spotted one young man hiding under their lorry and pulled him out. They threw him into the back with their wounded and sped off. An official statement that day from British HQ stated that, “One of the aggressors had been arrested.”

The aggressor, as it turned out, was an 18-year old medical student named Kevin Barry. Kevin had joined the Irish Volunteers when he was only 15. His job was to cycle to various parts of the city delivering orders and correspondence between officers of the movement. In his position as courier, young Kevin knew all of the leading figures, and the British knew they had a prize catch in young Barry. Questioning and persuasion began in earnest: Kevin refused to betray the movement. He was offered amnesty and freedom, yet he refused. He was tortured for days on end, and still he refused. Finally, he was charged with murder and sentenced to death by hanging.

Late at night, Kevin was taken to see the scaffold that would end his life the following morning. With incredible cruelty and mental coercion, he was again pressured to reveal the names of his officers and comrades. In return he was promised a full pardon, his tuition paid at any Medical school in the world, and a pension of 2,000 Pounds Sterling a year for life. Kevin, visibly shaken, listened to the officer in silence, then glanced up at the beam from which hung the noose. “Yes,” he said, “I think that should hold my weight.”

On November 1, at 8 AM, his hands tied behind him, a slender 18-year old boy was led to the gallows at Mountjoy Jail where his short life was ended. Later Father Albert, one of Kevin’s last visitors, reported that Kevin’s last words were, “Hold on to the Republic.”

In this month of September, as we are reminded of two Barrys and Bravery, we are also asked to remember the bravery of those whose stories – unlike the Barrys – may never be known. They lie forever in the rubble of the Twin Towers that were destroyed on September 11. We’ll never know how many Irish died in that horror, but we do know that in the rubble were found close to six hundred Claddagh Rings. Remember them all in your prayers.

Did You Know About The Mitchels of Dungiven?

John Mitchel was born to a radical Presbyterian minister, in Dungiven, Ireland, in 1815. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin and became a lawyer and journalist. An outspoken nationalist, his love for Ireland led him to establish the United Irishman newspaper in 1848, but his impassioned articles soon led to his arrest on a charge of treason. Found guilty, he was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania). In 1853 he escaped and made his way to the United States. He settled in the south where he published a newspaper, and gave three sons to the Confederate cause in the American Civil War. His eldest son, Captain John C. Mitchel, served in the South Carolina Regular Artillery, which opened the barrage on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 which started the war. Later on July 20, 1864, he was killed commanding a battery at Fort Sumter. As he lay dying, he uttered, in paraphrase the last words of Patrick Sarsfield, the Earl of Lucan (killed at Landen, Holland, 1693), I willingly give my life for South Carolina. Oh, that I could have died for Ireland! Those words are inscribed on his headstone in nearby Magnolia Cemetery, in a plot surrounded by a replica of Fort Sumter.

His youngest son, Willie, was killed in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. After the battle, members of the Union Army’s Irish Brigade, learned from Confederate Irish captives that John Mitchel’s son had fallen on the field. They left a detachment behind to locate the body. It was discovered in a shallow grave – one of the only ones to be buried during the fierce battle – wrapped in a blanket secured with three pins and a note attached that read, Willie Mitchel, son of an Irish patriot. Another son, James, survived the war but lost an arm in combat.

Old John himself returned to Ireland in 1874 and the following year was elected to the House of Commons from Tipperary. Denied his seat because he was considered a felon, he returned to his constituency and was overwhelmingly re-elected. However, he died before he could take his seat.

After the Civil War, John’s only surviving son, James, relocated to New York and settled in the Fordham section of the Bronx. There he had a son whom he named after his father. Somehow, the family had become Roman Catholic and young John Purroy Mitchel was raised with the same strong sense of patriotism and civic duty that marked his grandfather’s family. After graduating Law School, he became an incorruptible reformer fighting the graft of Tammany Hall. His successes led him to become the youngest man ever elected Mayor of New York City (1914-1917) at age 34.

While in office Mitchel cut waste, improved accounting practices, and professionalized the city’s civil service by standardizing salaries and work guidelines for municipal employees. Widely known as the “Boy Mayor,” he also fought police corruption, instituted the nation’s first zoning guidelines, and appointed the first woman to lead a major municipal agency in any U.S. city.

After his term as Mayor, World War I was raging and young John joined the new Army Aviation Service. Sadly, he was killed in an accident during a training flight in Louisiana; he was only 38 years old. New York and the nation responded with a flurry of eulogies and memorials, including a memorial at the entrance to New York’s Central Park on 5th Avenue at 90th Street. The next time you end the NY St. Patrick’s Parade at 86th and Fifth, walk up a few blocks and check it out. Also named in honor of this beloved public servant and American patriot was Mitchel Square, a small triangular park in Manhattan, at St. Nicholas Avenue and 166th Street; and Mitchel Field, a former Army Air Service airfield on Long Island from where Charles Lindbergh took off on the first trans Atlantic flight to Paris. As he flew over Ireland, I wonder if Lucky Lindy realized he was flying over the resting place of the grandfather of the man for whom his point of departure was named. Among the many eulogies given at Mitchel’s passing, President Theodore Roosevelt was moved to say,…”No stauncher American, no abler public servant, and no finer natural soldier than [John] Purroy Mitchel was to be found in all our country.”

John Purroy Mitchel’s patriotism for America was a reflection of his grandfather’s patriotism for Ireland. It seems that the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

It’s Your Heritage – Defend It!!

Have you seen the advertisement in an Italian newspaper for a Racketeering Convention where the price of admission is four stolen hubcaps? No? Per-haps you’ve seen the ad in Ebony magazine for a Martin Luther King Memorial Water-melon Eating competition? No? How about the open invitation to our Jewish brethren to attend a Nazi Barbeque? No? And I hope to God that you never will! That is vulgar and degrading ethnic stereotyping at its tasteless worst. But brace your-selves, for the season of Paddy Bashing is upon us and we are about to be assaulted by similar tasteless and insulting slander aimed at our heritage in the name of freedom of cultural expression.

One sad example is the release of a new whiskey bearing the name of one of Ireland’s greatest heroes – Michael Collins. Not only is the product not Irish, but the firm promoting it knows little or nothing about the glorious name it chose to degrade. Shame on the member of the Collins Clan who sold the rights to that name, for that name was not his to sell; it be-longs to the Irish people!

Another classic example of ethnic slander can be found in the insulting Irish Music ‘Drinkfest Weekend’ presented by the Villa Roma Resort on March 31 – a 3-day dip into debauchery with such attractions as body art and pint-drinking contests amid the advertised safety of No Driving. Sadly, the ad does not mention the dangers of binge drinking or the drive home. As host Ed Ryan is quoted as saying, “If you can’t find me drunk, I’m out drinking somewhere!” The sad part of this one is that it is Irish – at least some of the bands are Irish, and they’ve made a decent living from Irish audiences, but then it has been said that if you put an Irishman on a spit, you can always find another to turn him. In history, we know such characters as Gombeen Men who take advantage of their own to benefit themselves. The only thing green that they value is the almighty dollar.

None of this is new for history shows that in order to subjugate the Irish, the Crown had to destroy their culture. The powerful nature of that culture drove England to mock its expression, parody it significance, and ridicule its supporters. Enter the comic lush known as the stage Irishman – an individual so captivated by booze that no one could take him seriously. When that image followed them across the ocean to America, the Irish opposed it, as they could not do in their British-dominated homeland. One N.Y. Times article dated May 7, 1902 was entitled, “War on the Irish Comedian: AOH starts a crusade against publications which cartoon Irishmen.” It reported that, “John T. Keating, National President of the Irish organization, brought the news to Chicago when he came back from the East today (that a) crusade will be directed against newspapers and other publications which cartoon the Irish-man.” Among the Stage Irish who were chased off the burlesque boards with fruit and vegetable missiles were the Irish-American Russell Brothers who portrayed Irish maids as bumbling buffoons always into the master’s liquor cabinet after which they would dance a jig or perform some other nonsense. The anti-defamation campaign was soon picked up by other Irish groups and continued for years. As late as 25-years later the N.Y. Times noted on Oct 5, 1927 that the American Irish Vigilance Committee was filing charges against MGM for producing several anti-Irish films. Would that we had such Irish in our midst today! But, we can dream.

We can dream of Michael Collins Whiskey going bankrupt, or at least changing its name. And while I pray that no one gets hurt there or on the way home, I can dream of a massive clean-up effort required by the Villa Roma to repair the damage caused by the riff-raff to whom they are catering. I also dream of Irishmen writing bags of letters: letters to the Villa Roma to express their out-rage; letters to the entertainers appearing at the ‘Drinkfest Weekend’ putting them on notice that they will no longer be supported by the Irish community – no more concerts and no more record sales; and letters to our Irish radio programs urging no more air play for these of-fenders.

Somehow this always seems to happen around the feast of our Patron Saint whom some still insist on calling St. Paddy. The truth of the matter is that the difference between Paddy’s Day and St Patrick’s Day is the same as the difference between the office Christmas party and Midnight Mass. There’s a lot more I could say on this subject, but I have some letters to write. Won’t you join me; IT’S YOUR HERITAGE – DEFEND IT!!!