Books: The Oddities of Isolation

THE AMERICAN IRISH by William V. Shannon. 458 pages. Macmillan. $7.95.

In the late 1800s, long lines formed outside saloons all over New York City. But the queuers were not thirsty; they were there to be naturalized, a process that Irish-controlled Tammany Hall had made easy. Inside the saloon, everybody was handed a red card stating: "Please naturalize the bearer." Card in hand, the bearer went to court, where Tammany judges naturalized as many as 150 at a time. Tests were unheard of.

In the banner year of 1868, Tammany naturalized 41,112 New Yorkers.

To Author William Shannon, able columnist for the liberal New...

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