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Depopulation

The emigrants of 1848 were farmers of a good class. "A new emigration is developing of the most fatal kind," wrote Lord Monteagle on Oct. 30, and he gave an example of a man who had just announced his intention of leaving, an excellent tenant of 30A[cres] on his estate who paid his rent regularly & put up good buildings on his farm. In Sligo & Donegal a Poor Law inspector reported that "the better & more energetic farmers are selling up & going."
- C. Woodham Smith, Hunger, p. 371

Between 1848 & 1864 13,000,000 pounds was sent home by emigrants to America to bring relatives out, and it is part of the famine tragedy that a steady drain of the best & most enterprising left Ireland, to enrich other countries.
- Ibid., p. 412

Information derived from "official statements of emigration & customs officers at the ports" (these are obviously incomplete):

Port 1846 1847 1848
U.S. Canada U.S. Canada U.S. Canada
Donegal 177 804
Killeybegs 81
Westport 371 385 447 817 376

- Halls, Vol. III, p. 447

 

1845 - [population] not affected
1846 - 1st time in Irish history a heavy autumn exodus - winter passage. Canadian officials
astonished at the numbers. 1st to flood Liverpool - the cotters who had nothing
to lose, followed by small landholders.
1847 - By spring it had assumed the aspects of hysteria, & certain communities lost as much
as 1/3 [of their] population in Mar. & Apr.. Probably 25% were of the relatively
better-off. "Grave disasters" were reported - 40,000, or 20%, died at sea or upon
arrival.
1848 - Autumn & winter showed a wave of renewed activity, & there was social
disorganization in the country; even those who could did not prepare land for
tillage.
1849-52 - 200,000 persons annually migrated; peak year 1851, when a quarter-million left for
N. America alone. In 1849 the last restraining force snapped; a mood of reckless
desperation in those who left, a feeling "they could not be worse off in America;"
gone was the fear of a winter crossing. By 1849 a rapid growth in remittance
migration - many from the workhouses.
1852-1855 - migration still the result of the cataclysm of 1845-49.

The famine movement swept away a whole segment of society, rather than an aggregate of individuals: its basic unit was the family. It was the whole family that went, not the surplus individuals. According to the figures, 42% of the emigrants were either under 20 or over 50, a proportion extraordinarily high by the common standard of migration.
- The Great Famine, p. 328-29

The sudden effect of this fearful trial [the famine and insufficient relief efforts] was to increase the total emigration from the British Isles from 93,000 in 1845 to 130,000 in 1849, to nearly 400,000 in 1852. In ten years from 1846 2,800,000 had fled in horror from the country once so dear to them. From May 1847 to the close of 1866, the number of passengers discharged in New York alone amounted to 3,659,000.
- Thebaud, The Irish Race, p. 426-27

1851-1861: 1,227,710 emigrated from Ireland
1861-1871: 819,903 emigrated from Ireland
- Sherlock, Case of Ireland, p. 24

Emigration to U.S. & Canada (Scotland & England not included):
1841 - 71,392
1842 - 89,686
1843 - 37,509
1844 - 54,289
1845 - 74,969
1846 - 105,955
1847 - 215,444
1848 - 178,159
1849 - 214,425
1850 - 209,054
1851 - 257,572
1851-1871 - 2,604,292 (av. 130,215)
- Ibid., p. 194

Statistics on Irish wages are very deficient, so that a correlation with emigration over a long period of years is not possible. However there is evidence that between 1843-44 & 1860 the wages of agricultural laborers rose by more than 57%, and this, it has been maintained, was mainly attributable to emigration... As early as 1851 there were reports of the difficulty of obtaining agricultural workers.
Emigration also led to a depletion in the ranks of domestic servants. This fact was noted by the Poor Law Commissioners in 1854. About 30 years later the London Times correspondent reported from Donegal that female domestic servants were becoming scarcer everyday, because as soon as they saved up enough money for their passage they went out to America "in search of service & husbands." Less generous was the Tuam Herald, which wrote that no sooner did young girls attain working age than "away they head to slave & scrub & stifle in American cities."
- Franklin D. Scott, ed., World Migration in Modern Times, p. 29-30

Granted the existing agrarian framework, the Ireland of the early 1840s was grossly overpopulated, & now at last the overpopulation was reduced. A comparison of the censuses of 1841 & 1851 bears this out spectacularly. By 1851, the total population of Ireland had declined by 20%, & the rural population by almost 25%. The cotter class had virtually disappeared. The number of holdings under 1A[cre] had dropped from 134,000 to 36,000.
- The Great Famine, p. 328

1851 - more emigrants than [in] '50.
1852 - established a record that stood for all time.
The original causes had spent their force. The tenant known as the "small holder" had disappeared - the landlord leases farms of 20-50A[cres] instead of 4-10A. The cotter who now had no land & was a farm laborer had no trouble getting work, & in 1850 a wage was paid which had never been equaled. The potato regained its position as a dependable crop.
In spite of this steady improvement, emigration continued & the higher wages only made it easier to get the passage money. If conditions at home were good, elsewhere they were better. The emigrants merely did what seemed rational, what many had done so successfully before them.
- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Mig., p. 282-83

The emigrants headed for America numbered about 10,000 a year up to 1825, said Alexander Buchanan; but Redmond O'Driscol told of the "incredible extent" of emigration in the spring of 1826; on one day he had seen 3 vessels sailing out of Cork for British N. Am. & 3 ready to go with passages paid. This Cork emigration was the product of the gov.- assisted emigration to Canada in 1823 & 1825; it had the effect, said Alexander Buchanan in 1828, "of opening the eyes of the peasantry of the south of Ireland" to the advantage of emigration, & he estimated for every 1,000 assisted by the government, 2,000 would follow voluntarily.
From 1825 through 1830 upwards of 125,000 migrated from Ireland to Am.:
1830-1832 - 130,000 left (a famine & epidemic in 1830-31)
1830-1839 - 341,000 left (average 38,000 a year)
(the numbers in 1833 & 1835 reduced by 1/2 each from preceding year by cholera
epidemic)
1838 - only 11,000 went because of political disturbances in Canada & 1837 [economic]
panic in U.S.
1842 - 92,000
1843 - 38,000 (Repeal year of political hope)
1845 - 77,000
1846 - 106,000
1847-1854 - 1,656,000 (of whom 1,321,725 entered U.S.); 1851 was peak year:
254,500 - never since topped.
1855 - 78,000; exodus exhausted
- Patton, To the Golden Door, p. 133-34

From May 1847 when the N.Y. Commissioners of Immigration first met & started to keep accurate records to the end of 1860, Europeans to the number of:
1847-1860 - 2,671,891 Europeans entered by Port of N.Y.
1,107,034 Irish (45%)
1848-1853 - 715,291 Irish (75% of Irish above)
1851 - 163,256 Irish (peak year, exceeding by 36,911 the whole number from other
countries)
- Ibid., p. 463

 

Immigration to U.S. (statistics):
1846 - 92,484
1847 - 196,224
1848 - 173,744
1849 - 204,771
1850 - 206,041

1860 - 1,611,304

- Carl Wittke, We Who Built Am., p. 131