St. Patrick’s Day is one of those holidays that brings a smile to everyone’s face — a day when everyone is Irish for a day.
St. Patrick’s Day actually is a significant one in American history, marking the date in 1776 on which the British armed forces evacuated Boston (hence the official nomenclature, Evacuation Day, in this area) in the face of the the cannons of General George Washington that sat atop Dorchester Heights overlooking the British positions in the city below.
Washington’s artillery, which had been captured by American forces from Ft. Ticonderoga and transported during the winter to Boston, could have blown the British warships to smithereens. Instead, Washington worked out a deal with the British General, William Howe, that spared Boston the certain devastation of a major battle, though allowing the British army to leave intact.
Boston never again was threatened by British troops for the remainder of the war. A plaque atop Dorchester Heights, also known as Telegraph Hill, commemorates the American victory.
The intertwining of St. Patrick’s Day with a major event from American history encapsulates everything that has made the United States the nation that we are today.
In the 1840s, when a famine induced by the policies of the despotic British government was imposed on the Irish people, they set sail for America, crossing the Atlantic ocean in order to find a better life for themselves and their families.
When the Irish arrived on our shores, they faced discrimination to the utmost degree. “Dogs and Irish need not apply” exemplified the feeling of Americans who themselves were the descendants of immigrants.
But over the course of a few generations, including another huge migration from Ireland at the turn of the 20th century, the Irish were among those immigrant groups who formed the backbone of our nation and who helped make America the greatest country on earth.
It is sad and tragic that so many in our nation’s capitol today have failed to learn the lessons of history. When they discriminate against those from cultures that are different than ours, they not only are denying immigrants the opportunities that our leaders’ forefathers enjoyed, but they also are failing to understand that the infusion of immigrants is what is needed to revitalize our nation.
The great lesson of American history is that assimilation is a two-way street. America brings out the best in those who come to our shores and we become stronger from their contributions.
We wish all of our readers of our Irish descent — including those who are Irish for a day — a happy, and safe, St. Patrick’s Day.