- Introduction:Mathew Carey, Ireland, and the Politics of Transatlantic Debate
The legacy of Mathew Carey frequently emerges in unexpected places. His vast and varied output as printer, economist, radical activist, and historian—to name a few of the activities he engaged in over the course of his career—ensures that scholars continue to uncover and interpret Carey’s life and influence. In 2014 the University of Notre Dame Library hosted a symposium to celebrate an important new addition to its Catholic America collection, the Badin Bible.1 Named for its owner Rev. Stephen Badin, the first Catholic priest ordained in the United States, the bible had been carried by the clergyman while he served in the early nineteenth century as a prominent circuit rider and evangelist helping to establish the Catholic faith on the Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois frontiers. That the bible possessed by Badin happened to have been the Douai version produced by Carey in 1790, the first of its kind printed in the United States, is surely notable. Published in a run of 500 copies, Carey’s edition of the Douai was an important milestone in the development of Catholicism as a permanent fixture in American society. It is symbolically important that this bible, printed by a man with a lifelong ambition to counter public misconceptions regarding Catholicism, accompanied Badin and his future flock of Catholic migrants—many of them Irish—on their journey to the west. [End Page 133]
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The essays published here provide a second installment of writings on the intersection of Mathew Carey’s career and the transatlantic history of print, ideology, Catholicism, Ireland, and America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Like the earlier essays, published in the Fall/Winter 2014 issue of Éire-Ireland, these contributions emerged from the 2011 “Ireland, America, and the Worlds of Mathew Carey” conference jointly sponsored by the Library Company of Philadelphia, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Program for Early American Economy and Society, and Trinity College Dublin.2 The contributors to the earlier 2014 issue—Padhraig Higgins, James Kelly, and Nicholas Wolf—focused on Carey’s apprenticeship in the radical politics of the 1780s, whether in the form of his role in the formation of a Catholic civil society, his founding of the Volunteers Journal and confrontation with reactionary authorities, or his immersion in the world of Catholic religious printers. With this latest set of essays old themes that are central to the study of Carey, such as the history of print and the transformation of radical politics in Ireland between the 1780s and 1790s, receive attention once again. As the object history of the Badin bible suggests, Carey’s primary career in both Ireland and America was that of a printer. His publishing career in Dublin was instrumental in the emergence of a Catholic public sphere in Dublin during the 1780s, and at one point in the early nineteenth century he and his partner owned one of the largest publishing houses in the United States. Although perhaps best remembered for the works he authored on the topics of American politics and economy, it is his print output of the early national period taken in its entirety that represents his most important achievement. Moreover, his status as a political exile from 1784 onward, a casualty of the Volunteer upheavals and penal-relief campaigns of the years during and immediately after the conflict over American independence, helped to shape Carey’s subsequent ideologies profoundly and therefore prompts further attention in the essays presented here.
These new contributions, however, also extend our understanding of Carey and his context in several new directions. In particular, they address topics that have not been as visible in...