Who were the first Irish to land on the American continent and the time of their arrival are perhaps matters of conjecture rather than of historical proof ; but that the Irish were there almost at the beginning of the colonial era is a fact support by historical records. The various nations of Europe whose explorers had followed Columbus were alive to the possibilities of land conquest in the new continent. For this purpose colonists were needed, and expeditions were fitted out under government protection, which brought over the earliest settlers. England was especially active in promoting these expeditions, and during the seventeenth century, various colonies, beginning with that of Jamestown in 1607, were planted with immigrants, most of them of English nationality. Irish names, however, are met with occasionally in the documents relating to these settlements; it is certain that there were Irish Catholics in the Virginia Colony prior to 1633. In the narrative of the voyage of the Jesuit FatherAndrew White and his associates in the "Dove and "Ark" from England to Maryland in 1633 in Lord Baltimore's expedition, we are told that on the way over they put in at Monserrat (one of the smallest of the Caribbean Islands) where they found a colony of Irishmen "who had been banished from Virginia on account of professing the Catholic Faith " (see Old Catholic Maryland, p. 14). The accepted history of that island attests the fact that it was originally settled by Irish, although at present the white population has largely disappeared. A modern traveller (Stark, 1893) says: "It is not surprising therefore that the descendants of the slaves who belonged to the Irish settlers all have Irish names, and speak a jargon of Irish, English, and African in which the brogue predominates. While Father White and most of his companions who first planted the cross in Maryland were of English origin, it is equally true that Ireland, as well as other Catholic lands in Europe contributed their quota of missionaries who nourished the Faith in the early Maryland settlement, and among the Jesuit missionaries of these times we find Fathers Carroll, Murphy, Hayes, Quinn, O'Reilly, Casey, and others whose names indicate their Celtic origin.
But the beginnings of immigration from Ireland to America, in such numbers and under such circumstances so notable as to become a matter of definite historical record, may be said to date from the subjugation of Ireland by Cromwell in 1651. Under that merciless conqueror the English policy of transplanting the Irish was ruthlessly carried out. The native Irish were deprived of their lands, routed from their homes, and ordered to remove their families and such effects as were permitted to the Province of Connaught in the west, where a certain territory, mostly wild and desolate, had been prescribed, within which they were to remain under military surveillance and establish a new residence. Those who refused suffered various punishments and sometimes death. In many cases the complaisant commissioners appointed by Cromwell ordered the deportation of the recalcitrant Irish to the American plantations, and enterprising merchants from Bristol and London carried on a lucrative business in shipping and transferring these unfortunate victims to their destination. In order to sustain their traffic, leave was granted to fill their ships which such destitute or homeless inhabitants (made such by their conquerors) as might be delivered to them by the military governor for transportation abroad, so that, as the records show, during the years 1651 to 1654, 6400 young exiles (mostly young men and women ) were carried away and delivered, some to Barbados, and some to the different English colonies in America. Two thousand more boys and girls were shipped the following year to Barbados and to the American plantations, and it has been estimated that in the year 1660 there were 10,000 Irish who had been distributed thus among the different English colonies in America (see American Catholic Quarterly Review, IX, 37). Of the total number thus shipped out of Ireland across the main, the estimates vary between 60,000 and 100,000 [ Lingard, "History of England ", X ( Dolman ed., 1849), 366].
Prior to this deportation there had been some voluntary emigration from Ireland to America; with the development of the colonies this emigration increased and later assumed such enormous proportions that, before attempting to trace its progress, it may be useful to inquire what were the causes which compelled over five million people, pouring out in a continuous stream for nearly two centuries, to abandon their native land, with all its associations, religious, domestic, and national, and seek homes for themselves and their families beyond the Western Ocean.
For over a hundred years before the Cromwellian era Ireland had been distracted by the frequent invasions of the English under desperate and unscrupulous leaders, whose professed purpose was to re-establish English supremacy in Ireland, and to force the new religion of Henry VIII upon her clergy and laity. The old religion which the nation as a whole had cherished for over a thousand years was proscribed, and her churches, monasteries, and other shrines of religion plundered. The lands attached to them were confiscated by the Crown, and parcelled out among the greedy adventurers, whose success in despoiling the true owners of their property meant their own enrichment. The adherents of the old Faith, comprising as they did much more than five-sixths of the population, were made outlaws, their homes destroyed, their estates forfeited and their liberties and life itself were the price they had to pay for their refusal to conform to the new religion. In aid of the policy of exterminating the Catholic Irish (of which no concealment was made) a system of penal laws was put into force, under which they were disfranchised, disqualified from acquiring or holding property, compelled to remain illiterate, fined, imprisoned, and many of them tortured with every refinement of cruelty. Their bishops and priests were classed as felons, a price set on their heads, and an incredible number of both clergy and people who adhered loyally to the religion of their forefathers were either put to the sword or hanged, drawn, and quartered. So cruel and atrocious was this code that Edmund Burke described it as "a truly barbarous system; where all the parts are an outrage on the laws of humanity and the laws of nature ; it is a system of elaborate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, imprisonment and degradation of a people, and the debasement of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man ". "The law ", says another writer, "did not suppose the existence of an Irish Roman Catholic, nor could they even breathe without the contrivance of government" (Lecky, Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, I, 246).
Concurrently with the enforcement of these laws various schemes were projected by the English adventurers, some as early as the reign of Elizabeth (1573), for the colonization of Ireland chiefly with English and Scottish settlers. For instance, in 1709, in pursuance of the policy of stamping out the Irish and replacing them with a more tractable race, 820 families of German Palatines, comprising 3073 persons, landed at Dublin at a cost to the government of £34,000 (Young, I, 371). Military expeditions were organized and sent over to take possession of the lands of the disaffected Irish. Great tracts of land, sometimes embracing whole counties, were declared confiscated to the Crown and were allotted to the "gentlemen undertakers" who financed these enterprises. Under James I 5,000,000 acres, and under Charles I about 2,500,000 acres were thus confiscated. The native Irish chiefs and their clansmen naturally resisted these attempts to dispossess them of their lands. If they remained passive some provocation was invented for goading them into rebellion. In either case, they were adjudged to be rebels who might lawfully be hunted and shot down on sight. The methods adopted to crush them were cruel in the extreme, their cattle were taken from them, their houses levelled, and their harvests burned. Men, women, and children were indiscriminately shot down and even hanged by a brutal soldiery, and the remnant which escaped found shelter in the neighbouring bogs and mountains where they were hunted to death as outlaws or perished from starvation.
In other parts of Ireland, where these methods of transplantation or extermination had not yet been attempted and where the inhabitants had escaped the horrors of this guerrilla warfare, there were hundreds of thousands of fertile acres. These were then and had been for over three hundred years in the undisputed possession of their owners, the native Irish, and were held under the tribal system of tenure. As a pretext for dispossessing these lawful proprietors from their lands and making them available for plantation, a Royal Commission, appointed for the purpose, declared the titles defective, and over ha;f a million acres of land not heretofore confiscated were adjudged to have reverted to the Crown. In consequence the true owners, against which no disaffection could be alleged, were forced either to retire, or were permitted to remain practically as tenants, upon onerous conditions, on a small portion of their former holdings, the balance being reserved in part to the Crown, and in part being distributed among the adventurers who had advanced money for carrying out the scheme, and the soldiers as a reward for services rendered. The reformers, or "discoverers" as they were called, who attacked these titles before the Commission, were likewise rewarded by grants of portions of the plundered lands. Speaking of these various changes in the ownership of the land, Arthur Young, an impartial Protestant observer, writing in 1776 (Tour of Ireland, Vol. II, p. 59), says: "Nineteen-twentieths of the kingdom (comprising 11,420, 682 Irish acres or nearly 21,000,000 acres, English measure) changed hand from Catholic to Protestant. . . . So entire an overthrow of landed possessions is, within the period, to be found scare within any country in the world. In such great revolutions of property the ruined proprietors had usually been extirpated or banished." While the enforcement of these laws and such methods of conquest bore heaviest on Roman Catholics, yet the Presbyterian Irish, chiefly in the north, and the Quakers were likewise made to suffer for their attachment to their country and to the religion which their consciences dictated, so that no element of the native population escaped the savage vengeance of their English conquerors. The periods of respite were few, and the calm was only the peacefulness of death and desolation.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the population of Ireland, as a result of this barbarous treatment, had been reduced to about one and a half million souls. Lest the survivors, in whom the native instinct of industry and enterprise still prevailed, should draw any measure of prosperity to themselves and away from England, the legislation for Ireland was steadily directed toward the restraint, if not the absolute ruin, of all her trade and commerce. Embargoes were laid on the exportation from Ireland of cattle, meat, and other food products, and the exportation of wool and woolen goods to any other country than England (which manufactured a supply sufficient for home consumption) was forbidden under heavy penalties so that in 1699 as many as 40,000 weavers were denied of the means of livelihood and many of them the forced to emigrate. Such trading as was not positively forbidden had to be carried out only in English built ships, to the ruin, of course, of the seaboard towns and the shipbuilding industries of Ireland, and in 1696 all import trade direct to Ireland, whether from foreign countries, or from the English colonies was prohibited; even the linen industry, then slowly growing, was checked by heavy duties imported on its sailcloth and other manufactures exported to England, where alone they were allowed to find a market. With the success of the American patriots and the re-establishment of the Irish Parliament in 1782, some prospect of improvement appeared, only to be dispelled by the Act of Union of 1800. Their legislative independence thus extinguished, their trade and commerce destroyed, with every avenue for honourable occupation closed against them, the Irish people were thrown back on the soil for their means of support and became victims of a system of landlordism with its rents, fines, and rack-rents, its tithes and other iniquitous conditions under which human beings could not live except by almost super-human industry and self-denial.
These, briefly stated, were the conditions which confronted the Irish yet remaining on their native soil at the close of the eighteenth century. That those who could should go elsewhere to find relief was most natural. As a result, a tide of emigration set in, to be continued during two centuries, carrying away millions of the people who were destined to become so important an element in the establishment and maintenance of the American Republic. It was no ordinary overflow of a surplus population, seeking new fields of industry, nor the enterprise of adventurous spirits induced, as had been other colonists, by the promise of rich rewards, but rather the mournful flight of a people seeking to escape the ruin which had overtaken so many of their fellow-countrymen, and which as surely was to be their lot if they remained at home. During the period of 1680 to 1720 thousands of woolen weavers, mostly Protestants from Ulster, deprived of their means of livelihood, and dissenters as well as Roman Catholics anxious to avoid persecution, had left Ireland for the American Colonies, where they "were changed into enemies who paid off old scores in the war of American Independence" (Gregg, "Irish History", 92). Other Catholic Irish from the middle and south of Ireland had likewise voluntarily emigrated to the different colonies, through which they dispersed, to find or make homes for themselves and their families where circumstances favoured.
In the early years of the eighteenth century we find abundant records of Irish emigration. Thus, in 1718, five ships arrived in Boston with 200 emigrants from Ulster. So considerable was the influx that, in 1720, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed an ordinance directing that "certain families recently arrived from Ireland be warned to move off", and, in 1723, another ordinance was passed requiring all Irish emigrants to be registered. During the years 1736-1738 ten ships arrived at Boston harbour bearing 1000 such immigrants, and hardly a year passed without a fresh infusion of Irish blood into the existing population. Irish names frequently appeared in the early records of many of the New England towns, showing how widely the immigration had distributed itself, and in some cases those emigrating from particular localities in Ireland were numerous enough to establish their own independent settlements, to which they gave the names of their Irish home places, such as the towns of Belfast, Limerick, and Londonderry in Maine, Dublin, Derryfield, and Kilkenny in New Hampshire, and Sullivan and Carroll Counties in the latter state, and this practice was followed in many instances by the Irish arriving in other colonies, notably Pennsylvania and New York, where the names of counties and towns of Ireland attest to the place of origin of the first settlers. It was from Irish settlers in New Hampshire that Stark's Rangers were recruited who fought the battle of Bennington and took part in the campaign leading to the surrender of Burgoyne. The official military records of the province of New York show that from early times Irishmen were there in large numbers. Thomas Dongan, the first colonial governor (appointed in 1683), who gave New York its first charter of liberties, was a native of the County Kildare and a Catholic. The muster-rolls of the various military companies which were maintained under British rule down to the time of the Revolution and participated in the French and Indian Wars show a large proportion of unmistakable Irish names, and there were some thousands of Irish soldiers in the various regiments of the line and of the militia of New York serving in the Continental Army.
On account of its reputation for religious tolerance and wise administration, William Penn's colony attracted Irish settlers in unusual numbers. Penn's trusted agent and administrator of the affairs of the colony during the period 1701-1751, James Logan, distinguished for his high character and the ability with which he discharged his trust, was a native of Lurgan, Ireland ; among the "first purchasers" who embarked with Penn on the "Welcome", arriving with Penn in 1682, we find the names of several Irishmen, who with their families had left their native towns of Wexford and Cashel respectively for America. (See list in Scharff and Westcott, "History of Philadelphia", I, 99.) Other early Irish immigrants arriving at Philadelphia were, Patrick, Michael, and Philip Kearney, natives of Cork, among whose descendants may be named General Stephan W. Kearney, first governor of California, Commodore Lawrence Kearney, and the dashing General Phil Kearney, the distinguished soldier of the Civil War, and, in 1719, George Taylor, later one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. In 1727, 1155 Irish landed at Philadelphia and in 1728, 5600 more. Holmes's "American Annals" states that out of a total of 6310 immigrants, arriving during 1729 by way of the Delaware River, 5655 were Irish. In one week alone, as reported by the "American Weekly Mercury" of 14 August, 1729, there arrived "about two thousand Irish, and an abundance more daily expected". In 1737 thirty-three vessels are registered as arriving at Philadelphia bringing passengers from different ports in Ireland, and although definite statistics are not available, there is sufficient evidence to show that this tide of emigration did not slacken for many years. So great was it that in 1735 a bill was introduced in Parliament to prohibit emigration from Ireland entirely. The great number of Irish in Pennsylvania at the beginning of the War of Independence, their high character, and important standing in that community indicate how large and valuable had been the immigration there.
Besides the Irish who had come into Virginia Colony before referred to, there was other emigration to it, as well as to the Carolinas, while as early as 1734 a colony of 500 Irish settlers planted themselves on the Santee River; among these are to be found such names as Rutledge, Jackson, and Calhoun, which a generation later were to be famous in the history of the United States. Other settlements in the United States were made by Irish immigrants who had come thither from the northern Colonies. From various town and other colonial records (see Hanna, "Scotch-Irish", II, 9 and passim ), it has been ascertained that Irish emigrants had settled in Pennsylvania in 1682, in North Carolina in 1683, in South Carolina and New Jersey in 1700. The historian of South Carolina (Ramsay) writes, "but of all other countries none has furnished the Province with so many inhabitants as Ireland " (Vol 1., 20). The disastrous famine of 1740, like that still more terrible one a hundred years later, greatly increased the immigration to America; besides those who left from Galway, Dublin, and other ports it is recorded that for "several years afterwards 12,000 emigrants annually left Ulster for the American plantations", and that "from 1771 to 1773 the whole emigration from Ulster is estimated at 30,000 of whom 10,000 are weavers". (Lecky, "History of England in the Eighteenth Century", II, 261; Froude, "England in Ireland ", II, 125.)
There are no official records of immigration to the United States prior to 1820. But with reference to the period from 1776 to 1820 the Bureau of Statistics has adopted an estimate, based on the most reliable data which could be obtained, showing 250,000 as the total immigrants of all nationalities arriving in the United States during that time. In his notebook for 1818, Bishop Connolly says, "At present there are here [ New York] about 16,000 Catholics — mostly Irish ; at least 10,000 Irish Catholics had arrived in New York only within these last three years. They spread", he adds, "over all the large states of this country and make their religion known everywhere." And beginning about this time, namely the close of the second war with England, 1812-1815, the stream of Irish emigration, which before had been largely Presbyterian, was changed, so that Catholic Irish have ever since constituted the bulk of such immigration into the United States. The number recorded as arriving from Ireland in the year 1820, the first year of the official registration of immigrants, is 3614, and judging from these figures and from the proportion of immigrants arriving prior to the War of Independence, we may safely say that, out of the above official estimate of 250,000 as the total number of immigrants during the period from 1776 to 1820, at least 100,000 were Irish.
Since the year 1820 the number of immigrants arriving in the United States from Ireland is shown by the official records as follows: —1821-1830: 50,724
and for the years 1901 to 1908 inclusive as follows: —1901: 30,561
(See Reports of Com. General of Immigration for 1906-7-8 and "Immigration", p. 4338), the above figures indicating that emigration from Ireland during the past eight years has been maintained at nearly the same average as during the last preceding decade. As a result the population of Ireland has diminished according to the censuses from 1861 to 1901 at the following rate per cent: —1861: 11.8 percent
(See Statesman's Year-Book, 1907).
The greatest immigration in any one year was in 1851 when 221,253 persons are recorded as arriving; next to this was the year 1850 with the arrivals numbering 164,004. The arrivals during the decade 1841 to 1850 were nearly four times greater than those of the preceding ten years, and this number in turn was exceeded by the figures for the next succeeding decade 1851-1860, when the highest level in the history of Irish immigration to the United States was reached. The statistics given above show a total immigration from Ireland between 1820 and 1907 of 4,144,262 persons, to which add 100,000, the number as above estimated for the years 1776 to 1820, making a total of 4,244,262, exclusive of the Irish who were in the United States prior to the Revolution. But there are reasons for believing that the figures thus given underestimate the actual volume of Irish immigration. During the decade 1841-1850 Irish labourers went in large numbers every year to England in search of employment, and many of them remained, especially in Liverpool, the population of which became in time to a large extent Irish. In 1846 alone, 278,005 Irish of both sexes were reported to have left Ireland for Liverpool, whence most of them embarked for America (see British Commissioners' Report", cited in O'Rourke's "History of the Great Irish Famine", pp. 487-8).
Many such emigrants sailed directory to the United States and arrived in largest numbers at the port of New York. During the years 1847-70, the State of New York through its Emigration Commission maintained a system of registration of aliens arriving at that port, and the records thus kept show the total of Irish immigrants largely exceeding the number reported by the National Bureau of Statistics. These variations may be explained by remembering that under the New York system immigrants were classified according to the country of their nativity, while in the Federal reports for the most part classification is made according to the "country of last permanent residence" of the immigrant, so that those who had left Ireland and had sojourned for a while in England were not classified as Irish immigrants. Again during the same period there was a large immigration to Canada, some of it officially promoted and assisted by public money (O'Rourke, op. cit., p. 483). Much of it was destined for America, but was diverted to Canada by English shipowners, who found it easier to deliver their human freight there than at the port of New York, where the condition and circumstances of the immigrant were more carefully scrutinized.
The United States Bureau of Statistics estimates the total immigration into Canada between 1821 and 1890 at 3,000,000, of which it is safe to assume that more than half came from Ireland. No official record has been kept of immigrants arriving in the United States from Canada, except in certain cases neither numerous nor important enough to be mentioned here, and it is impossible to state the precise number of persons of Irish birth who, sooner or later after their arrival in Canada, crossed the borders and thus increased the Irish element in the United States. That the number was very large there is abundant evidence. In an official statement presented in 1890 to the Canadian House of Parliament, the opinion was expressed that over one-half of the immigrants arriving in Canada ultimately removed to the United States. (See Immigration into the U. S., in U. S. Bureau of Statistics, 1909, p. 4335.) And it has been argued that if the 3,000,000 immigrants arriving in Canada had had to remain there, the total population of the Dominion must have increased far beyond 5,371,315, the figures officially reported in 1901. These considerations, we think, justify a revision and correction of the estimate of Irish immigration into the United States (for the period 1820 to 1903), which up to the present time has been officially quoted at "about four million"; we would say that, taking the entire period from the War of Independence (1776) to and including 1908, such immigration easily numbers five and a half million souls.
Recurring to the statistics of recorded immigration, we find the number of persons of Irish nativity included in the resident population of the continental United States at the close of each decennial period since 1850 to be as follows: —1850: 961,719
[see Abstract of 12th (1900) census, p. 9].
And the same census (1900) shows that in that year there were 4,968,182 persons resident in the United States of whose parents at least one was born in Ireland, including the 1,615,459 residents above specified, who were themselves of Irish birth. Of these 67 per cent were located in the states of the North Atlantic division and twenty-two per cent in the North Central division. About three-fourths of the above foreign-born population shown by the census of 1900 were comprised in the following eight states with the respective numbers set opposite:New York: 425,553
While the twelve cities having the largest population of Irish nativity were as follows:New York: 275,102
Beyond the immediate ancestry of persons comprising the population, no classification according to race origin has been made in any census, and there is consequently no official record showing what part of the native-born population (excluding descendants of the first degree) is of Irish origin. But various unofficial estimates have been made. In 1851 Hon. W.E. Robinson, M.C., in a carefully prepared disclosure (reported in the " New York Tribune", 30 July, 1851) refuting the claim then urged by various public writers and speakers that the population of the United States was chiefly Anglo-Saxon in character, presented statistics of emigration showing that not more than one-eighth of the population could be considered as of Anglo-Saxon origin and that out of a population then (1850) numbering 23,191,876 there were: —Irish born: 3,000,000
Rev. Stephen Byrne, O. S. D., author of "Irish Emigration to the United States ", puts the Celtic element at one-half of the present (1873) population, the Anglo-Saxon at one-fourth. The official census of 1870 gives the total population of the United States as 38,696,984. And the New York "Irish World" (25 July, 1874), speaking of the census, claims that two-thirds of the people are Celts by birth or descent and only about one-ninth are Anglo-Saxon, and in a tabulated statement of the components of the population, that journal estimates the "joint product in 1870 of Irish Colonial element and subsequent Irish immigration (including that from Canada ) at 14,325,000" (cited from O'Kaine Murray's "History of the Catholic Church in the United States", p. 611).
In 1882 Philip H. Baganel, an English writer, in his work "The American Irish ", p. 33, states: "the American Irish themselves lay claim to a population of between ten and fifteen millions. There can be no doubt that the amount of Celtic blood in the American people is very much greater than they themselves would like to allow." Since 1870, 1,749,460 immigrants from Ireland have arrived, according to the above-quoted official statistics, apart from those arriving through Canada, and if the estimated Irish element of that year has doubled itself and no more, during the forty years which have now elapsed, the number of persons of Irish birth or origin in the continental United States would appear now to be not less than thirty millions. We have referred to the Irish immigration for 1851 as the largest in history. The steady and extraordinary increase from 44,821 in 1845 to 257,372 in 1851 (figures of Thom's Almanac for 1853, cited in O'Rourke, "History, etc.", p. 496) compels attention chiefly on account of the tragical causes from which it arose and the distressing conditions under which the immigrants of that period established themselves ion the United States.
As is well known the potato blight appeared in Ireland in 1845, as it had appeared before, namely in 1740, 1821, and in several later years. By 1846 it extended over the whole country, so that nowhere in the land were there any potatoes fit either for food for human belongs or for seed. But side by side with the blackened potato fields there were abundant crops of grain which were in no way affected by the potato blight. These, however, were disposed of frequently by distraint, as the sole means of providing the rent for the landlord, while the unfortunate tenants by whose labour they had been produced were left without food. Famine which brought fever and other miseries in its train set in, so that tens of thousands of people sank into their graves, many of them dying within the shelter of the poorhouses. There were evictions without limit, many of them under heart-rending circumstances. Dr. Nulty, Bishop of Meath, tells of 700 human beings evicted in one day in 1847 from one estate (Parnell Movement, p. 114), and other appalling instances may be cited. In 1847 there were in the Irish workhouses 104,455 persons, of whom 9,000 were fever patients (O'Rourke, "History of the Great Irish Famine", p. 478). Nearly three-quarters of a million were employed on public works which had been devised as a means of relieving the distress, and 3,020,712 persons were receiving daily rations of food from the Government (ibid, 471).
Of the horrors of that time it is almost impossible to speak with moderation. "While myriads starved to death in Ireland " says O'Neill Daunt (Ireland and her Agitators, p. 231), "ships bursting with grain and laden with cattle were leaving every port for England. There would have been no need for the people to emigrate if their food did not emigrate. But the exhausting result of the Union had brought matters to a point that compelled Ireland to sell her food to supply the enormous money drain. The food is first taken away and then its price is taken away also." "The Union has stripped them" (the Irish people) "of their means and the only alternatives left to the perishing multitude were the work-house, emigration, or the grave." The condition to which the Irish people were thus reduced was extremely pitiable and excited the sympathy of the whole world. "The peoples of Europe sent alms, the Turks opened their hearts and hands, while ship after ship freighted generously from the American shores passed fleets of English vessels carrying away from a dying people the fruits of their own labour (see Lester, "Glory and Shame of England ", I, 161). 114 ships carrying provisions, the result of charitable contributions for a starving nation, landed their cargoes in Ireland in 1847 (O'Rourke, "History, etc." p. 512), and the United States, responding to the universal sentiment of the nation, sent its to ships of war, the "Jamestown" and "Macedonian", on these errands of mercy. From these causes the population of Ireland was diminished during the famine period by two and a half million souls : they disappeared by death and emigration. it was to America that by far the greatest number of emigrants went.
The transportation of emigrants in those early days was attended with such cruel conditions that reviewing them now after a lapse of fifty years, it seems almost incredible that they should have been tolerated by any civilized nation. The ships employed in this service were only too often broken-down freight ships, in which merchants were unwilling to entrust valuable merchandise. The humane provisions of modern times with respect to light, ventilation, and cleanliness were wholly unknown. More often than not the ships were undermanned, so that in case of a storm the passengers were required to lend a hand in doing the work of sailors. The provisions supplied were always uncooked, scanty in amount, and frequently unfit for use. With favourable weather the voyage lasted from six to eight weeks. Against head-winds and storms the old hulks were frequently from twelve to fourteen weeks on the way. With the emigrants already predisposed by famine and hardship, it is not to be wondered at that fever often broke out on board ship and that many died and their remains were tossed overboard during the voyage. This was especially true in the British vessels, in which the death-rate exceeded that of the vessels of all other nationalities (see Kapp, "Immigration", p. 34).
As a result these emigrant ships when reaching the United States were in many instances little else than floating hospitals. When they arrived in port the shipmaster made haste to discharge his human cargo, and the sick and dying, as well as those who had survived unharmed, were put ashore on the wharves and the public landing-places and were left to their fate. Some of the sick, when they reached New York, were fortunate enough to gain admission to the Marine Hospital ; others were carried to the sheds and structures which had been provided by the brokers and agents of the shipowners, under their agreement with the municipal authorities to provide for such sick emigrants as they might land. But the treatment of the emigrants in these institutions was little less brutal than they had experienced on shipboard. The food there was often unfit for any human being, still less for the sick. Sanitary conditions were ignored, and medical attendance was rarely adequate to the existing needs. Not only the sick and dying, but often the corpses of the dead, were huddled together. One instance is specified where the bodies of two who had died four to five days before were left unburied upon the cots whereon they had died, in the same room with their sick companions (see Maguire, "The Irish in America", p. 186). So fatal were these conditions that it has been estimated by medical statisticians that not less than 20,000 emigrants perished by ship fever and in the various emigrant hospitals in American ports in the year 1847 (Kapp, "Immigration", p. 23).
Those of the emigrants who survived the hardships of the voyage and retained strength enough to go about encountered troubles of a different kind. Boarding-house runners, ticker-sellers, and money-changers swarmed about the landing-places. Boarding-house charges were fraudulently multiplied, money-brokers practiced their calling at extortionate rates, while the selling of fraudulent railroad-tickets was one of the commonest practices by which the poor immigrant was plundered. As a result the able-bodied immigrant was compelled to remain in and around new York without means to help himself or his family, and this oftentimes became a charge upon the charity of the public. So gross did these abuses become that a number of the most prominent citizens of New York applied to the Legislature for relief. Included in these were Archbishop Hughes, Andrew Carrigan, John E. Devlin, Charles O'Connor, James T. Brady, John McKeon, Gregory Dillon, and other men of Irish blood who were identified with the Irish Emigrant Society, which had been organized for the purpose of aiding the Irish immigrants arriving at the port of New York.
The result of their exertion was the creation by Act of Legislature of the State of New York of the board generally known as the "Commissioners of Emigration", composed of men of the highest standing in the community, who served without compensation, and to whom was entrusted the general care and supervision of the immigrants as they arrived. Gulian C. Verplanck, distinguished alike as scholar and public-spirited citizen of New York, served during twenty-three years as president of this board, and although not of Irish blood, his long and faithful service in the behalf of the Irish immigrants ought not to pass without honourable mention in these pages. Under the watchful supervision thus established the evils complained of were gradually overcome, notwithstanding persistent opposition from shipowners and emigrant runners. In 1855 the first state emigration depot was opened in Castle Garden at the lower end of Manhattan Island, and since then millions of immigrants have streamed through this gateway, under the inspection and protection of the officials, on their way to the various places throughout the land where they were to make their homes. In 1874 the Congress of the United States assumed control of the question of immigration, and the admission and supervision of arriving immigrants are now in charge of a Commissioner of General Immigration appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury. In 1884 a Home and Mission House were established in close proximity to Castle Garden for the protection of Irish immigrant girls. This institution was founded by Cardinal John McCloskey, with the co-operation of other prelates, and was placed in charge of Rev. John J. Riordan, a zealous Irish priest who gave his life in its service. The beneficent work of the Home in sheltering unprotected women, and in promoting their moral and material welfare, is universally recognized.
Speaking of the distribution of the immigrants upon their arrival in the United States Bishop J. L. Spalding estimates (Mission of the Irish People, p. 113) that only eight in one hundred of the Irish emigrating to the United States have been employed in agricultural pursuits, a percentage smaller than that of the emigrants from any other country, the remaining ninety-two going to make up the tenement-house population in the larger cities. He asserts further (op. cit. p. 166) that the agricultural settlers became such more by accident than from choice, following the lines of the railroads or the canals on which they laboured, saving their wages and buying lands. This tendency of the Catholic Irish to congregate in the large cities was seen to be attended by consequences so injurious both morally and materially to the well-being of the immigrants, that efforts were made from time to time to withdraw them from the large cities in which they arrived and to settle them on the land. Bishop Fenwick of Boston planted a colony in Maine, and Bishop Reynolds of Charleston, S. C., diverted some of the immigrants from Liverpool to his diocese. About 1848-50, two French bishops, Mathias Loras of Dubuque and Joseph Cretin of St. Paul, induced and helped many of the Irish to settle in the states of Iowa and Minnesota, and in 1850 Bishop Andrew Byrne of Little Rock welcomed a colony of Irish Catholics brought over by Father Hoar of Wexford. Of these latter, only a small number remained in Arkansas, the rest going to Iowa, where they established a colony known as "New Ireland ".
After the Civil War the question of Irish colonization engaged the attention of various prelates, including Archbishop John Ireland (then Bishop ) of St. Paul, who established the St. Paul Catholic Colonization bureau; through his efforts various colonies were established in Minnesota. Later, in May, 1879, the Irish Catholic Colonization Association of the United States was established at Chicago, under the auspices of various archbishops, with the co-operation of eminent Irish Catholic laymen, and during the ensuing decade it assisted many immigrants to find homes in the Western states. Other parish or local societies took up the work of colonization in their own neighbourhood, and successful colonies were established in Minnesota and Kansas. In all these organized efforts at colonization the promoters have aimed to provide for the religious needs of the colonists, by securing the services of priests and the building of churches and schools, at the same time that homes and other material assistance were provided for them. These movements for the colonization of Irish immigrants differed from the ordinary schemes of emigration in that the promoters did not invite or encourage the Irish to leave their native land, but for those who had arrived or resolved to come they sought to provide homes free from the distressing and degraded conditions which so many of those who remained in the large cities had to face.
The entire white population of the Colonies at the outbreak of hostilities in 1775 has been estimated by various authorities, including the historian Bancroft, at 2,100,000, of which about one-third was settled in New England, and the remaining two-thirds in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Southern Colonies. Dr. Carroll estimated the Catholics in all the Colonies at that time at 25,000. It is well known that a considerable number of the colonists were adverse to the War of Independence, and these refrained from giving any support to the struggling Colonies. Lecky estimates (England in the Eighteenth century, IV, 153) that one-half of the Americans were either openly or secretly hostile to the revolution. Other writers are content to fix the proportion of those who were disaffected towards the cause of the patriots at one-third of the entire population. but the records show very few, if any, Irish, whether Catholics or Protestants, among those lukewarm patriots. On the contrary, Irish immigrants, and the sons of Irishmen in the various colonies were among the most active and unwavering supporters in the cause of liberty. Ramsay says, in his "History of the American Revolution", II, 31
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online