The temperance movement among Catholics was, from the visit of Father Mathew in 1849, largely Irish. The societies first formed were united by no bond until 1871, when the Connecticut societies formed a State Union. Other States formed unions and a national convention in Baltimore in 1872 created a National Union. In 1878 there were 90,000 priests, laymen, women, and children in the Catholic Total Abstinence Benevolent Union. In 1883 the Union was introduced into Canada, and in 1895 there were 150,000 members on the American continent. From the C.T.A.B.U. were formed the Knights of Father Mathew, a total abstinence and semi-military body, first instituted in St. Louis in 1872.
The Catholic Knights of America, with a membership chiefly Irish-American, were organized in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1877, and the advantages offered for insurance soon attracted 20,000 members. The decade of the ’70’s was prolific of Irish Catholic associations. The Catholic Benevolent Legion was founded in 1873, shortly followed by the Catholic Mutual Benevolent Association, the Catholic Order of Foresters (which started in Massachusetts and spread to other States), the Irish Catholic Benevolent Union, and the Society of the Holy Name, which latter, although tracing its origin to Lisbon in 1432, is yet dominantly Irish in America.
In the large industrial centres there are scores of Irish county and other societies composed of Irishmen and Irish-Americans, organized for the service of country and faith, beneficence and education, and all dedicated to the uplifting of humanity and to the progress of civilization. The ancient genius for organization has not been lost, the spirit of brotherhood pulsates strongly in the Irish heart, and through its powerful societies the race retains its place in the advance of mankind.
John M. Campbell: History of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and Hibernian Society; Maguire: The Irish in America; McGee: Irish Settlers in America; John O’Dea: History of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies’ Auxiliary in America; Michael Davitt: The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland; Cashman: Life of Michael Davitt; T.P. O’Connor: The Parnell Movement; Joseph Denieffe: Recollections of the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood; Articles in the Catholic Encyclopedia; Report of the Knights of Columbus, 1914; The Tidings, Los Angeles, 7th annual edition.
By MICHAEL J. O’BRIEN,
Historiographer, American Irish Historical Society.
Students of early American history will find in the Colonial records abundant evidence to justify the statement of Ramsay, the historian of South Carolina, when he wrote in 1789, that:
“The Colonies which now form the United States may be considered as Europe transplanted. Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden, Poland, and Italy furnished the original stock of the present population, and are generally supposed to have contributed to it in the order named. For the last seventy or eighty years, no nation has contributed so much to the population of America as Ireland.”