Wednesday, November 25, 2015

America Discovered by the Irish by Edward O'Meagher Condon 1887

AMERICA DISCOVERED BY IRISHMEN by Edward O'Meagher Condon 1887

See also Who Really Discovered America? - 90 Books on DVDrom 

The history of the Irish race in America is one which those in whose veins its blood runs may read with pride and pleasure. It is, in the main, a record of privations endured with manly fortitude, of difficulties overcome by invincible determination, of unselfish patriotism often displayed under the most unfavorable circumstances, of unremitting industry, too seldom successful in obtaining its just rewards, and of unswerving fidelity and devotion to the cause of freedom and persistent attachment to the principles to whose successful assertion and maintenance this Republic owes, not only its origin but its glory, progress and prosperity. The desire on the part of Irish Americans to preserve the memory of the share taken by men of their blood, in establishing and building up this nation, is not an unworthy, but rather a laudable and patriotic one, and in order to gratify it to some extent, the following brief outline of the principal facts of American history, in which they may feel special interest, has been prepared.

From the earliest ages, the Irish have been remarkable for their love of adventure and travel. Their Phoenician progenitors swept westward in their galleys, along the Mediterranean to Spain, and past the pillars of Hercules, and like them, disdaining the slow mode of progress by land, the children of Milesius ere long sailed across the sea, to seek the Isle of Destiny, the western limit of the Old World, and the nearest land to this great, but then unknown, continent, whereon in God's good time was to be established the mightiest Republic upon earth, and where millions of their race were to find a home and freedom. For many centuries after the settlement of the Gaelic tribes in Ireland, the spirit of enterprise of the people found vent in commercial intercourse with the ports of southern Europe and the Mediterranean. At a later period, they became indignant at the near approach of the Roman eagles to their shores, and often their fleets~swept down on the coasts of Britain and Gaul, in defiance of those who claimed to be masters of the world. But when St. Patrick had declared to them the divine truths of the Christian faith, and they had embraced it with a fervor and a fidelity never to be chilled or shaken, their thoughts took a new direction. They devoted themselves to the duties of religion and the advancement of learning, with quenchless zeal and tireless industry. Not satisfied with welcoming to their monasteries and schools countless strangers from every land—who received gratuitously, not only education, but shelter, food and clothing— large numbers of Irish monks went abroad, through France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, as well as Britain, and throughout the whole extent of Europe their voices were heard proclaiming the dread mystery of man's Redemption, bringing the erring to penance, enlightening the ignorant, and building churches and monasteries for the glory and service of God, and schools for the diffusion of knowledge. With them it was declared "the habit of travelling had become a second nature." "What shall I say of Ireland," asks a writer of the period, "which, despising the dangers of the ocean, emigrates entirely with her troops of philosophers and descends on our shores"?

But the Irish missionaries did not confine their attention entirely to Britain and the Continent. They founded colonies and planted the Christian faith in Iceland and, before all others, crossed the Atlantic and trod the shores of America. Records still in existence show that when the Northmen landed in Iceland in the ninth century, they found already there settlements of Irish Christians. The latter, however, some time after withdrew from that island, leaving behind them books in their own language, bells and croziers, distinct indications of their origin and their faith, as well as of the presence among them of bishops and priests.

Owing to the wanton destruction of large numbers of ancient Irish archives by the English, our knowledge of the first discovery of America is not as exact as could be desired, but quite enough is known to justify us in claiming the honor of that achievement for St. Brendan, bishop of Clonfert, who flourished in the sixth century. According to the Irish annals this prelate, after investigating the traditions which even in his time were prevalent in Ireland respecting the existence of a great continent to the West, resolved to seek it out, and convert its people to the faith of Christ. Having made all necessary preparations, he set sail with some faithful companions, in 545, from the bay on the coast of Kerry which still bears his name, and after a difficult voyage landed, as is generally believed, upon the shores of Virginia. He then penetrated inland until he came to a large river flowing from east to west, supposed to be the Ohio. After having preached the Gospel for seven years, in various parts of the country, he returned to Ireland, and according to some authorities, remained there and founded several monasteries, but others assert that having obtained a reinforcement for his missionary company, he again set sail for the West, and was never heard of more. The latter statement appears the more probable, from the fact that we find no mention of a bishop filling the see of Ardfert, over which he presided at the time of his departure, until the middle of the eleventh century.

The story of St. Brendan's voyage and discoveries was soon made known in every part of Europe. There are still to be found in the libraries of Paris, several manuscripts containing accounts of it in Latin, and throughout France in various places, are preserved similar narrations in the Romance and old French dialects, while versions in Irish, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian are scattered in all parts of the continent. Wynkyn de Worde, the first English printer, published nine years before Columbus sailed from Palos, a relation of the Irish saint's voyage and adventures, but owing to the want of accurate information, his story was embellished with numerous imaginary incidents. In the Nova Legetida written by Capgrave, or as some believe by John of Tynemouth, and published in 1516, another sketch of St. Brendan's discoveries is given. Voraginius, Provincial of the Dominicans, and bishop of Genoa, in the latter part of the thirteenth century, speaks particularly of "St. Brandan's Land" in his Golden Legend, and Paulo Toscannelli the Florentine, who prepared for Columbus the charts used on his first voyage, gave this name to the territory which, in accordance with the custom of the Italian geographers of that period, he marked down as being opposite to "Europe and Africa from the south of Ireland to the end of Guinea." Otway, in a work published in Dublin, in 1845, gives an interesting account of the traditions preserved among the people of the west of Ireland respecting St. Brendan's voyage.

America was known to the Scandinavians as Irland it Mikla, or "Great Ireland." Their records contain accounts of three voyages made thither, after the time of St. Brendan, and before the advent of Columbus. The Ladnamabock, compiled in the thirteenth century, tells us that in 983 Ari Marson, a kinsman of Eric the Red, "was driven by a tempest to Huitramannaland or 'White Man's Land,' which some call Irland it Mikla, and which lies in the western ocean near to Vinland the Good, west from Ireland." Ari, it is said, on the authority of Thorfinn, Jarl of the Orkneys, was not permitted to return home, but was still held in great honor, by those who insisted on his remaining among them, and received the sacrament of baptism while living there, from which last fact we may perceive, that the seed sown by St. Brendan, had, up to that time at least, borne fruit. Another adventurer, Biorn, crossed the Atlantic, some time after Ari Marson's voyage, and, toward the middle of the eleventh century; he was followed by Gudlief, son of Gudlang, according to the statements found in the book above mentioned, which were based on the testimony of Rafn, a merchant of Limerick.

In the Scandinavian Sagas, "Great Ireland" is described in the following manner. "To the south of habitable Greenland there are uninhabited and wild tracts and enormous icebergs. The country of the Skraelings lies beyond these; Markland beyond this, and Vinland the Good beyond the last. Next to this and something beyond it lies Albania, that is Huitramannaland, whither formerly vessels came from Ireland. There, several Irishmen and Icelanders saw and recognized Ari (Marson), concerning whom nothing had been heard for a long time and who had been made their chief by the inhabitants of the land."

Eminent writers believe that "the country o£ the Skraelings" here referred to, was the Esquimaux coast, that "Markland" was, what is known to us as Labrador, that "Vinland" included what is now New England, and that "Huitrammanaland", or as it was usually called, "Great Ireland" extended from the last named territory to Florida.

The Irish would doubtless have turned the discoveries of St. Brendan to good account, and established, and kept up communication with America, were it not that the1r attention was drawn in another direction by the savage contest earned on between the Britons and their treacherous Saxon "allies," who sought to become masters of their country, and who it seemed not improbable, after their expected triumph, might endeavor to obtain a footing in Ireland. At a later period the long continued incursions of the Danes, and the confusion and excitement which they caused, brought about a condition of affairs extremely unfavorable for the carrying out of peaceful enterprises. From the final overthrow of the northern marauders at Clontarf, to the landing of the Normans, internal disputes similar to those which in that age disturbed the peace of almost all other countries, kept the minds of the Irish princes and people fixed upon incidents occurring on their own soil, and the consequences which followed the last named event were of such a character, as to compel thenceforth their almost exclusive and uninterrupted attention to be given to domestic affairs. So it was left for other nations to colonize permanently the "Great Ireland" across the Atlantic, though that was nevertheless destined to become in time, the chosen home and country of
the great majority of the Irish race.

Nearly nine hundred and fifty years after St. Brandan's voyage, Columbus sailed from Palos on his mission of discovery. The constant intercourse maintained between Ireland and Spain from the earliest ages, gives good ground for believing the statements made, with respect to the presence of Irishmen amongst his crews. An old Italian writer asserts, that one of these was the first to plant his foot upon the soil of St. Salvador, having presumed to leap ashore, even before the illustrious Admiral himself. However this may be, it is certain that among the forty men left by Columbus to guard the fort which he built on the island of St. Domingo, previous to his return to Spain from his first transAtlantic voyage, there was a native of Galway named William Eyres. The latter, of course shared the fate of his companions, who were all slain and the fort destroyed by the Indians, soon after the Admiral's departure. The list containing the names of the fated garrison was found by Navarrette among the archives of Seville, early in the present century, while searching for materials for his great history of Spanish maritime discovery.

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