Emigration and Immigrant Life - Subject Cards A-C


"The early 19th cent. saw the beginning of a great age of expansion & exploitation in the U.S. & the British colonies. In Canada there were considerable Irish settlements... & the emigration to the U.S., which began to assume substantial proportions after Waterloo, averaged between 1840 and 1845, 37,000 persons per annum. A large number of the emigrants went from the Protestant areas of the North, where in the '20s & '30s industrial depression replaced landlord oppression as a propulsive factor."

The Great Famine, p. 4-5

The repeal of the English Corn Laws (which protected Irish wheat) made grazing more profitable than tillage & the landlords & farmers decided to do away with the host of cotters & their little holdings. By 1848 the smallest cotters were practically extinct. They had constituted the bulk of the flight of 1847.

1848 - The urge to depart was accelerated by the heartless process known as "clearing." Most of those affected had not met their obligations since the autumn of '45, & when called upon the sheriff had no choice but to perform his official duty, though it was little to his liking. When families were evicted & their dwellings razed lest they move back in, it was the landlord's bailiffs & his agents who wielded the crowbars.

Despondency sank to its lowest depths in the winter of 1848-49. Continuation of disease, hunger, & unemployment seemed the lot of those who stayed in the land of their fathers, & even many of the Catholic clergy who had heretofore urged them to stay, recommended departure. From America came letters telling of plenty to eat, drink, & spend.

1849 - People neglected spring tillage to prepare for departure. The pawn-brokers got what little was left, pewter plates & dishes, brass candlesticks, & pieces of furniture. Remittances came from America for the "Emigration Fund." The great wave of departing Irishmen that reached its crest in 1852 began in 1849.

Another thing that encouraged emigration was the passage by Parliament of the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849. The landlords had such accumulated debts & unpaid taxes that it was hard for a buyer to get a clear title if they sold. This law created a special court with almost despotic powers over the transfer of land. Any arrangement the judges sanctioned wiped away all previous claims. In the next few years this court did its work. The buyers were English & Scots seeking a profitable investment. They had no sentimental attachment to the dwellers on the estate; they had no associations with the community; they did not have enough capital to tolerate tardy payments. Like the proverbial new broom they swept clean, increasing the number of evictions which the mounting emigration figures reflect.

- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Mig., p. 266-71

American Society

Mid-Nineteenth Century - Overview

The half-century after 1820 witnessed the unloosing of remarkable expansive energies that transformed the U.S. & remade the character of its people. In that period the territorial frontier reached the Pacific, the Rio Grande, & Oregon. The line of settlement moved from the Ohio Valley well into the trans-Mississippi west. Meanwhile, mounting population, fed by immigration, peopled these vast expanses; the number of inhabitants grew more than 4-fold between 1820 & 1870.

Internally, forces were at work modifying the basic conditions of life & the critical institutions of the people. In the South & in the North ancient labor systems felt the strain of new & unexpected burdens. The plantation economy, swelling to the demands of cotton production, confronted the nation with the prospect that a large segment of the population would remain permanently enslaved. The development of transportation by road, canal, & rail helped to integrate a great American internal market. But the same development dislocated the handcraft artisans who were ultimately displaced by the relentless spread of the factory. In their stead rose a proletariat new to American life. Everywhere growing cities faced enormous physical & social problems, & everywhere their residents wrestled with the tasks of supplying housing & public services to thousands of newcomers.

Men's ideas could not escape the consequences of these changes. The sense of power that came from great & visible achievements found expression in an overwhelming confidence in the capacity of human beings to mould their own destiny...

What was accomplished in realms other than purely material gave point & substance to the confidence that even more could be achieved. The extension of democratic control over politics, the creation of numerous educational, humanitarian, & social institutions, the conquest of yellow fever & smallpox, & the gradual lengthening of the lifespan seemed to this generation impressive evidence of progress. Until the tragic blow of fratricidal war, & its aftermath, there seemed no limit to the hopes of this society, nor any basis for questioning the assumptions on which it rested.

- Oscar Handlin, This Was America[1]

The Americans had always devoutly believed that the superiority of their institutions, government, & mode of life would eventually spread by inspiration & imitation to less fortunate & less happy peoples.

Year of Decision, p. 9[2]

John Quincy Adams, as Sec. of State, in a letter of June 4, 1818, embodies the first formal expression of the immigration policy of the nation. The Republic, he said, invites none to come; it will not keep out those who have the courage to cross the Atlantic; they will suffer no disabilities as aliens, but they can expect no special advantages; foreign-born & native alike face the same opportunities, & their success will depend upon their individual activity & good fortune.
(in a letter to Baron von Făśrstenwather, [who was] attempting to negotiate easier conditions for Germans to acquire land)

- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Mig., p. 97 (Wab.)

Among the few generalizations that can be made regarding emigration from Europe is that periods of greatest volume corresponded with eras of liveliest industrial activity in the U.S..

  1. Ibid., p. 16 (Wab. Lib.)

Depression of 1837 -
America was in the throws of one of the severest depressions the country had ever suffered. In 1833 had begun a period of unlimited speculation in western land. The rapid increase in banks & banknotes, the great activity in RR- & canal-building, & the tremendous expansion of western banks created by the shifting of government deposits to them from the tottering U.S. Bank, all contributed to the unprecedented boon. The bubble's burst in 1837 was precipitated by Pres. Jackson's specie circular of July 1836, which forbade the acceptance of any currency except specie in payment for public lands. This ended the speculation carried on by the aid of inflated bank issues, & produced a panic & depression among the most severe in our country's history.

- Capt. Frederick Marryat, Diary in Am. (Introduction by Jules Zanger), p. 12[3]

The period of the settlement of California [admitted to the Union, Sept. 9, 1850] marks the real commencement of a new era in the physical progress of the U.S.. The vast quantities of gold it produced imparted new life & activity to every portion of the Union.[4]

Preliminary Report of the 8th Census (1860), p. 104

Sale of Public Land -
From the Whig Almanac for 1849, published in New York:

The Land Office Report of Dec. 1848 mentions that the public domain...covers 1,584,243,000 A[cres], of which 142,026,003 have been sold... During 1847 the land sales were 2,521,305 A; also 1,448,240 A in the first 9 mos. of 1848.
38 years since (1811), Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, & Iowa contained but 42,564 inhabitants; they are now the home of 2,750,000 Americans. The RR, steamboat, & canal have been of infinite service to them.
- Achille Murat, America & the Americans (1849)5

With reference to the public lands, their sale forms by no means an inconsiderable part of the public revenue, the administration of which is conducted by a "Commissioner of the Land Office," who resides in Washington. The receipts, however, are collected by parties located in each separate district, & who, after having honored the different claims on the government, & received the commission of 5% on the sales (which must on no account exceed the sum of $2,000), deposits the remainder in various banks of the Union, to the credit of the Treasury.

- Ibid., p. 218

Turbulence & disorder stalked the land in the restless decade of the 1850s. The lawlessness of the Mississippi Valley frontier was permeating the seaboard, where tempers were already ragged & nerves on edge as a result of the slavery controversy. Reformers, drawn from the lunatic fringe of society & impatient of the rational attainment of their ends, encouraged physical violence to stamp out opposition. Bands of women were raiding barrooms, breaking glasses, staving in whiskey kegs, & pouring liquor into the streets. Mobs were hunting down antislavery agitators or turning with equal enthusiasm to fight for the freedom of a runaway slave. Amid such unrest, each anti-Catholic street-preacher became a potential mob-leader, inspiring his listeners to attacks upon Catholic churches or Catholics themselves.

Prot. Crusade, p. 305

1 Oscar Handlin, This was America: True Accounts of People and Places, Manners and Customs, as Recorded by European Travelers to the Western Shore in the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Centuries. Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1949.

2 Possibly Bernard De Voto, The Year of Decision, 1846. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, & Company, 1943.

3 Frederick Marryat, Diary in America. London : Nicholas Vane, 1960 (originally published in 1839).

4 Bracketed insert in original.

5 Achille Murat, America and the Americans. Buffalo, NY: G. H. Derby, 1851.


[See also Treatment by Authorities & Others]

A feverish bustle of preparations sweeps the steerage; the pilot comes on board. Clothes are washed & children put in order. Anxious eyes make out the approaching buildings. The ship anchors; this is quarantine. ([see story of] Hannah Veag's shoes)
The authorities survey the assembled passengers, ask if they are well, examine the vessel's records, allow it to dock if there is no sign of contagion. If there were? In 1847 84 ships were held at Grosse Isle, below Quebec. Of the Irish immigrants who sought shelter beneath the flimsy, exposed sheds, 10,000 died; of these, 3,000 so alone that their names were never known.

  1. O. Handlin, The Uprooted, chap. II;

Harpies (N.Y.). William Brown wrote in 1849 that when the vessel was tied to the wharf "a gang of 300 or 400 ruffians, calling themselves runners," jumped on board & seized all baggage & tried to persuade the passengers to go to such-and-such lodging-house... They received 6 1/2¢ per head for alluring travelers to the various inns & grog-shops, & made the remainder of their living by "stealing trunks from passengers... The steerage passengers of our vessel lost about 27 trunks to these gentry, & some contained all the money they had in the world."
The Castle Gardens immigrant clearinghouse, established in 1855, greatly improved conditions:
It was financed largely by a head tax levied on immigrants, together with a commission of 20% paid by transport companies on the sale of tickets. A guide book said, "No one can properly appreciate the assistance it gives the immigrant...unless he had been witness to the fearful scenes which occurred on the landing of a shipload of immigrants previous to its establishment." Here the stranger was given information to guide him to his destination, & sold the proper ticket; if he was sick he was transported to Ward's Island, where he was maintained at public charge until his recovery; while if he wished to obtain advice as to a suitable boarding-house or hotel, it was available without the questionable help of "runners." Upon a vessel's arrival, she was boarded by an official who issued checks for all baggage, this eliminating the previous loss to runners, & it was then claimed by the owner at his convenience. Many remained a few days at Castle Garden, rather than spending their remaining cash for accommodations, & at times 2,000 people slept on bench or floor, and used the washrooms, free hot water, & supplies of milk, bread, cheese, sausage, tea, & coffee at the lowest possible prices...The penniless were loaned sums varying from $2 to $50 on the security of their baggage, for terms from a few weeks to 2 years, without interest. Small children, sent to join relatives, "with a label fastened round their bodies showing their destination, were forwarded like express parcels."
There were, of course, plenty of cases of misfortune & disappointment, but every effort was made to assist the incoming stranger.

- Guillet, The Gt. Mig., p. 85-87

Prior to 1847 the subject of the care & support of immigrants was left either to general quarantine & poor laws or to local ordinances. Since 1797 a Marine Hospital on Staten Isl. was maintained for the quarantine of those with communicable diseases. Other sick were not provided for.
- Robt. Ernst, Immigrant Life in N.Y. City, p. 25

In 1848 a hospital opened on Ward's Isle for those sick with non-communicable diseases.

Runners - agents of individuals & companies in the business of forwarding immigrants to other parts of the country or agents of boardinghouses near the waterfront. The boarded the ships on entering the harbor. A contemporary report of the Commissioners of Emigration: "An enormous sum of money is annually lost to the emigrants by the wiles & false statements of the emigrant runners, many of them originally from their own country." Irish runners preyed upon Irish, German upon German, & American upon all.

- Ibid., p. 27

A young Irishman landed in 1848: "The moment he landed, his luggage (a box of tools, a bundle of clothes, & a few pounds in gold) was pounced on by 2 runners, one seizing the box of tools, the other the clothes. He assured the runners he could carry his own luggage, but no, they would relieve him - guest of the Republic - of that trouble. Each was in the interest of a different boarding house, & as each insisted the young Irishman go with him...not being able to oblige both gentlemen...and as the tools were more valuable than the clothes, he followed the man who had secured that part of the plunder... The two men wore very pronounced green neck-ties & spoke with a richness of accent that denoted special cultivation; & on his arrival at the boarding-house, he was cheered with the announcement that its proprietor was from "the ould country, o loved every sod of it, God bless it!"

- Ibid., p. 28

These boardinghouses fleeced their customers, & in 1848 the state legislature adopted regulations which resulted in some improvement. Charges grew less exorbitant, & some individuals were forced to deliver the luggage they held as "security." Theft became more frequent with this reform, & some boardinghouse keepers were suspected of active participation in the thefts.

- Ibid., p. 28

New York -
While still out - the first to arrive was the pilot.

The next arrival was the inspecting officer from the Quarantine Station. After inspection for illness, he ordered the passengers to wash all clothes... After his departure, old clothes were thrown overboard & clothes-washing continued through the night. Lines were set up between the masts, but the breeze carried away some of the wash & it became advisable to hire sailors to fasten clothing securely to the rigging, the usual payment being rum. The nearer the vessel approached the Quarantine Station the more ships were in evidence and the spectacle of clothes fluttering in the breeze was to be seen on all sides.

In N.Y., as in Canada, the care of the needy was left entirely to charitable persons during the first quarter of the 19th cent.; but in 1824 N.Y. led the way in protecting itself from the influx of the destitute by bonding shipmasters and subtracting from the bond the cost of the care of poverty-stricken passengers. The most prominent result of this legislation was the development of a racket - the disreputable trade of insuring captains against forfeit of any part of their bond. This was achieved by lodging the destitute in the worst & cheapest of boardinghouses, where they received the harshest treatment amid degrading conditions; but as their care did not fall upon the city the captains were saved a great deal of money that would have been forfeited, but the intent of the law was entirely evaded. In 1832 the bond was replaced by a direct tax of $2.00 levied against each passenger, which the captain collected or included in the price of the ticket. The trade of providing disreputable accommodations & insuring the captain against loss went on, over 3/4 of the money collected fining its way into the pockets of the captains or brokers. At the middle of the century the tax was $1.50.
The Quarantine Station on Staten Island, 9 miles from the city, was better organized and less congested than those in Canada...& the immigrants were thus not subject to the same inconvenience & delays... The sick were kept in quarantine until fully recovered, while on Ward's Island was the clearinghouse for healthy emigrants. In a day or two the well steerage passengers usually proceeded to N.Y.. In 1855 Castle Garden became the great immigrant depot, & Ward's was the site of the hospital for the sick & indigent who might become public wards. It was not until 1891 that Ellis Island became the quarantine station.

1847 - plague year. There was careful management by the Commissioners of Emigration that contrasted favorably with the congestion at Grosse Island [in Canada]. Stringent sanitary regulations were enforced at N.Y., & consequently many overcrowded vessels bound for N.Y. altered their destination to the St. Lawrence, where 2 or 3 times as many might be landed as in N.Y.. This save the city from the calamity that befell Quebec & Montreal, but the disease was still widespread. 1st all the quarantine hospitals were filled, then all spare rooms in the Alms House were rented. Special buildings were put up on Staten Island. Warehouses at the Quarantine Station were used; all hospitals, public & private, were requisitioned. Finally a large stone building on Ward's Island was leased & added to. Accommodations were found for all.

The Commissioners did not stop with shelter. Between May & Sept. 10,308 pieces of clothing were made & furnished to destitute immigrants, while hundreds of men were given employment in the interior of the state or were forwarded to the west free of charge. Over 100,000 immigrants entered N.Y. between May 5 & Sept. 30, 1847, of whom 43,208 were German & 40,820 were Irish. A total of 6,761 were sent to hospitals, & of these 60% were Irish. The deaths in the same period were 703.

- Guillet, The Great Migration, p. 179-84

Information not precise, but safe to say 75% of emigrants went to U.S..
50% of these landed in N.Y. City. The system of frauds here exceeded even Liverpool; the inland transportation was riddled with abuse, & the forwarding houses grossly overcharged for both RR & canal fare. The Irish Emigration Society here & also in Boston & New Orleans tried to help, but their scope was limited.

1847 - Alarmed at flood expected, adopted firm measures in N.Y.. Every passenger (no matter his age) was to be allowed 14 feet of space & the penalties for overcrowding were severe - master could be fined $150 for every excess passenger. No adequate machinery for enforcement, but it frightened the agents into raising fares considerably, thus diverting the most destitute to Canada.

Quarantine system reconstructed & placed in the hands of 10 experienced commissioners:
1. compelled passengers to disembark on their supervised lighters[?] to protect them
from "runners."
2. set up central relief office which served as an employment office
3. set up an immigrant hospital. The hospital a success (only 850 died of the 7,000
patients who entered) but still still emergency ________ had to be set up on Long
& Staten Islands, & typhus broke out in Philadelphia & Baltimore. Boston had
worst epidemic & set up such stringent requirements [that] immigration virtually
halted there in last half of '47. (Ships diverted to Canada, adding to their woes.)
1847 was the most disastrous season in U.S., but still spared the horrors of the
Canadian experience.
1848 - ship's fever
1849 - serious cholera epidemic, a harsh winter, & a depression. The New York Commissioners had to spend $380,000 for relief of the destitute. "We are obliged to keep supplies of provisions in our office to give to those who come in famishing."
1851 - another cholera epidemic
1853 1854 - another devastating epidemic

The Great Famine

Irish emigration has been described as "a movement from the known to the known." What is meant is that Irish emigrants tended to go where their relatives had preceded them; as a body they have not been pioneers into an unfamiliar country. Even when the famine of the 1840s was still in progress, it was noted that the first care of Irish immigrants in the U.S. was to save money to pay the passage of members of their families whom they had left behind. Throughout the period of American emigration these close ties between brothers & sisters or cousins on either side of the Atlantic remained unweakened. The intending emigrant was furnished with passage money by a relative who had already emigrated; he or she was met on arrival & was immediately placed in employment. Emigration to NewY. or Boston was much less of a journey into unknown territory than looking for work in an Irish city. At the beginning of this century Sir Horace Plunkett wrote that in Ireland children are born with their faces to their faces to the west.
- J. F. Meenan, in Economics of International Migration (1958),
Brinley Thomas, ed., p. 80 (Wab.)[1]

New York City boardinghouses - If the immigrant had no friends or relatives, he walked to one of the many boardinghouses in the vicinity of Greenwich St. or the dingy side-streets near the East River docks. Despite the evil notoriety of some of these, most were honestly-run. However, nearly all were in old buildings with damp cellars & little ventilation, poor sanitary conveniences, & flies, bedbugs, & wharf rats as permanent guests. The landlord usually sold liquor, & derived greater profit from its sale than from the rent of rooms. The room rents ranged from 50¢; to $3.00 per week, payable in advance.

The boardinghouse dwellers were mainly male, but entire families sometimes rented the small, single rooms for several weeks after landing. Immigrant families left as soon as possible & settled in the old private residences that had been converted into tenements.
[- no citation given for this entry]

The wharves of New York, during the business season, are densely lined with shipping of every maritime country under the sun. Merchantmen of every size are there, and for almost 3 miles they present an uninterruptedly continued forest of masts, and cordage, commingling, apparently, with the chimneys of almost innumerable steamers. More than a thousand sailing vessels, nearly a hundred steamers, about eighty tow-boats, and two-hundred canal boats, may usually be found in the noble harbor of New York during the busy time of the year. In the severest winter this harbor is never obstructed by ice.

- Lady Emmeline Stuart-Wortley, Travels in the U.S. (1851), p. 148

As we advanced upward, the variety of scenery presented continual charms, & the first sight of the City of New York, with the lofty spires of its numerous churches rising from the interior - the tall masts of its crowded fleets fringing the outline of the entire mass of houses, while distinctive signals were flying from the greater number of the mastheads - added to the ships of war forming the squadron now about to sail on an exploring expedition - the opening views of the East River, Long Island, & Brooklyn, which lie to the right of N.Y. - and the still greater expanse of the noble Hudson River, & the opposite city of Jersey, which are seen to the left - produce a coup d'oeil which few seaports could parallel, & none that I have ever entered could surpass.

J. S. Buckingham, America, Vol. I, p. 14[2]

1 Brinley Thomas, ed., Economics of International Migration; Proceedings of a Conference Held by the International Economic Association. London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1958.

2 Possibly James Silk Buckingham, The Slave States of America, Vol. 1 and 2. London, Paris: Fisher, Son, & Co., 1842.

Attitudes Toward the United States

The following anecdote is recorded by Mr. Hackett, the comedian -

"The 1st night of the performance of 'Rip Van Winkle' when in the midst of the scene where he finds himself lost in amazement at the change of his native village, as well as of himself and everybody he meets, a person of whom he is enquiring mentions the name of Washington. Rip asks, 'Who is he?' The other replies, 'What! Did you never hear of the immortal George Washington, the Father of his Country?'

At these words the whole audience from pit to gallery seemed to rise, & with shouting & huzzaing, clapping of hands & stomping of feet, made the very building shake. These deafening plaudits continued some time, & wound up with three distinct rounds.

To attempt to describe my feelings during such an unexpected thunder-gust of national enthusiasm is utterly impossible. I choked the tears gushing from my eyes - & I can assure you it was by a great effort that I restrained myself from destroying all the illusion of the scene, by breaking the fetters with which the age & character of Rip had invested me, & exclaiming in the fullness of my heart, 'God Bless old Ireland!'"
- Thomas Colley Grattan, Civilized America, Vol. II, p. 5 (W. Col. Lib.)[1]

(This book is by an Irish traveler in America, & was published in MDCCCLIX {1859}.)
Henry James Hackett, 1800-1871: He was in England in 1827, 1832, 1840, 1845, & 1851, & I presume on one of these trips he went over to Dublin; probably 1851. After 1854 he "led a retired life." (information from Encyclopedia of American Lives)

"However remote I might find the peasantry from society, however ignorant of books, however cunning or simple, they all knew something of America, and all were hoping some day or other to see it. Their questions would often be intelligent on the geography of the country."

Ireland's Welcome to a Stranger, p. 177

"But America is all the theme by the laboring classes of Ireland; glad was I that the free states of my own country have ever been an asylum to the foreigner, & the reward of his labor has been given him. The ragged laborer has soon exchanged his tatters for decent apparel, the bare feet of the cabin girl have been covered, & the basket has been taken from the back of the peasant woman. I would acknowledge with gratitude that, throughout the length & breadth of Ireland, the poor have required no letter of introduction, but the name of America."

- Ibid., p. 307-08

In the peat bogs & potato fields of Ireland the going wage was sixpence a day & the Irish workman lived on potatoes, milk, & fish. The news of cheap land & high wages in America went through Ireland like a sea wind.
- Walter Havighurst, Wilderness for Sale, p. 207[2]

1 Thomas Colley Grattan, Civilized America (2 vols.).London: Bradbury and Evans, 1859.

2 Walter Havighurst, Wilderness for Sale: The Story of the First Western Land Rush. New York, Hastings House. 1956.



The state felt a duty to help the destitute. Cornerstone of policy was a rigorous quarantine for each vessel. No immigrant to leave the station until passed by a government doctor. To enforce this, emigration officials were stationed at every port of embarkation. This was paid for by a grant from the Imperial Gov. & a 5s tax for each adult, which the shipping agents included in the fare.

1846 - Most of immigrants healthy & industrious, if poor. Plenty of work. 25,000 absorbed easily into economy (1/3 had gone to U.S. upon embarkation).

1847 - Within a week of 1st vessel's arrival hospitals filled. By end of May 12,000 on Grosse Island, & few had any shelter at all. Thousands had to __ the open, dying "like fish out of water" among the stones & mudflats of the beaches. Because of lack of space they had to send some on without quarantine, & typhus was spread to every town from Quebec to Montreal & father west. When the Irish arrived people fled from Toronto & Kingston into the countryside. In Montreal today is a great mound bearing the legend, "The remains of 6,000 immigrants who died of ship's fever." At the end of the season Canada could see the disorganization of their society - almost 20,000 immigrants, 30% of the entire Irish emigration, had died by the close of 1847. Another 30,000 had crossed over to the U.S., in spite of the barriers raised against them. Canada was left with the sick & infirm & destitute. In this somber picture shone the courage of those who
attended the sick. 23 or 26 doctors at Grosse Island contracted the fever; almost 40 of the staff died; 19 priests went down with typhus. At Montreal a whole congregation of nursing nuns succumbed to the fever; at Point St. Charles the Bishop himself was a victim.

1848 - Whole quarantine system set on a new basis. The stations were enlarged & put under military control, the inland transportation system overhauled. The emigration was smaller, only 25,000 to Canada. Mortality at sea averaged only one death per vessel, & up to midsummer only 50 people had died at Grosse Island. 8,000 it was estimated went on to the U.S.

1849 - Very small immigration. Fares had been inflated, so it cost less to go to the U.S.. The immigration to Canada continued to be small, although they needed & wanted added labor & colonists.

Nova Scotia (before the famine)

A small group of emigrants from Cork & Waterford came to Nova Scotia in the 1820s. The attorney general of the province stated that the first 5 families who settled in "Irish Town" (in the wilderness) had not 5 shillings among them when they entered "the bush." "They subsisted upon potatoes & herrings & other things which I gave them. About 40 or 50 bushels of potatoes & a half a barrel of herrings will be sufficient provision for one of these families for a year; & next year they are able to provide for themselves." So much better was this meager diet than the food upon which many thousands subsisted in Ireland that they "move heaven & earth to obtain a chance to emigrate to America."
- Guillet, The Grt. Mig., p. 225

Quebec & Montreal

The next stage of the immigrant's pilgrimage took him to Montreal, & as it was invariably made by river boat it sometimes differed from the ocean passage in little but length... In normal times the Quebec to Montreal lap of the journey took from one to two days. Later the steamboats were faster & some made the trip overnight. To the cabin passenger it was a pleasant, scenic trip. To the deck passengers, often different. In bad weather the lack of sleeping accommodations made the voyage miserable. William Peacock spent 2 nights onboard a steamship packed with 800 passengers.

- p. 160-61 [no source given; possibly Guillet, The Great Migration]

In the great ship fever year of 1847 many thousands of the most destitute were crowded into steamships as if they had been so many cattle, and forwarded at government expense into the interior, where they arrived more dead than alive. Citizens at lake ports recall with horror the sight of the sick, lying in groups on the open wharves, and actually overrun with rats.

- Guillet, The Great Migration, p. 163

Catholic Church

[See also Schools & Education]

Role of the Catholic Church (N.Y City) -
As in Europe, the churches provided consolation for the individual, & particularly among the Irish Catholics, a rallying point for the group. For thousands of Irish immigrants the only familiar aspect of life in America was the Catholic Church... In 1841 between 60,000 & 80,000, & by mid-century 100,000 Catholics lived in N.Y. City, of whom perhaps two-thirds were Irish.

The Church imported dignity. It was a symbol of strength with which the individual identified himself, offering escape from the poverty & cares of this world into the eternal bliss of the hereafter. Not the fine points of doctrine but the harsh realities of existence in N.Y. gave strength to the Church & made it the bulwark of the Irish community. Bishop Hughes wrote of the Irishman in N.Y., "It is only when he has the consolation of his religion, that he feels comparatively happy in his new position. If on the Sunday he can be present at the holy sacrifice of Mass, if he can only see the minister of his religion at the altar & hear the word of God in the language to which his ear was accustomed from childhood, he forgets that he is among strangers in a strange country."

- Robt. Ernst, Imm. Life in N.Y. City, chap. XII


The new constitutions of most states held anti-Catholic regulations, the most common barring Catholics from office & often the franchise.

The federal Constitution contained no such provisions, and gradually between its adoption & 1820 the state constitutions were revised to fall in line with the new toleration.

The Federalist Party inherited the "no popery" fears of the Tories, & under them the Alien & Sedition Acts were passed. Particularly the Irish immigrant was feared. He had recently organized "The American Society of United Irishmen." It was no accident that the first man to suffer under the Alien Act was Matthew Lyon, an Irish Catholic.

After 1800, when Jefferson was elected president, the nativist sentiment quieted down except in New England, where the Federalists were still strong. In the country as a whole the no-popery sentiment of colonial days had completely died out - there were only a handful of Catholics in the country - too few too fear.

- Billington, The Protestant Crusade, chap. [1]

In 1830, with the rise of immigration, the growth of nativism, & with it anti-Catholicism, accelerated. There had been virtually no immigration during the Napoleonic Wars, but with peace & post-war depression foreign governments hastened to remove all obstacles in the way of emigration. The introduction of machinery & the industrial revolution accelerated the movement.

In 1830 an anti-Catholic weekly was started in New York, the Protestant. It became the Protestant Magazine, a monthly. Its success led to the founding of others - Priestcraft Unmasqued, etc... The founder of the Protestant Magazine also started the "New York Protestant Association." Its sole object was declared to be "to promote the principles of the Reformation by public discussions." Catholic clergy accepted the challenge & the next few years saw a series of public debates in N.Y., Philadelphia, Charleston, & Cincinnati. These at times ended in riots, but as a rule the discussions were on a relatively high plain, concerned largely with theology.

By the end of the 1830s this type of attack was believed to be ineffective by the nativists & the character of their propaganda changed to charges of immorality in the Catholic Church, among the priests & nuns. Books with titles like Female Convents; Secrets of Nunneries Disclosed, &  Jesuit Juggling; Forty Popish Frauds Detected & Disclosed gained wide circulation & popularity.

The first mob attacks on Catholics occurred in Boston. In 1829 a group aroused by the exhortations of a revivalist preacher attacked the homes of Irish Catholics & stoned them for 3 days. In 1833 a group of drunken Irishmen beat a native [i.e. native-born] American citizen to death. The next night 500 natives marched on the Irish section & a number of houses were torn down & burned. Rumors flew about the Ursaline convent & school in Charleston.

A current anti-Catholic novel, The Nun, was popular. In Boston "an escaped nun," Rebecca Theresa Reed, began telling horror tales about the convent. In fact she was not a nun but had been a menial employee of the convent dismissed for incompetence. In July of 1834 a real nun, Elizabeth Harrison, did leave the convent in a state of temporary derangement. Realizing what she had done, she asked Bishop Fenwich to allow her to return. Her request was granted but the harm was done. Rumors became uglier. In the midst of the excitement Rev. Lyman Beecher delivered a series of violent anti-Catholic sermons in 3 churches on Aug. 10th, exhorting audiences to action against Popery. Probably the attack on the convent would have taken place without the sermons. A group of truckmen or bricklayers had several meetings & laid plans. On the night of Aug. 11th, they gathered on the grounds. By 11 p.m. a large crowd had gathered, led by the 40 or 50 organized men. They burst open the doors as a dozen sisters hurried the 60 pupils out a rear door. The torch was applied & the convent burned to the ground. The next night the mob returned & burned the fences & trees & anything else they could find. Boston & Charleston were in an uproar as rumors spread that Irish laborers from nearby railroad camps were descending on the city bent on revenge. Bishop Fenwich urged quiet & a dependence on the law for redress. He was heeded.

Anti-Irish sentiment

When we scan the official records of the New England colonies we find that the Irish were often called "convicts," & it was thought that measures should be taken to prevent their landing. ...In the minutes of the provincial assemblies & in the reports rendered to the General Court, as well as in other official documents of the period, are found expressions of the sentiment that prevailed against natives of the "Island of Sorrows." ...In 1655 the government of England was asked to provide a law "to prevent the importation of Irish Papists & convicts that are yearly pow'rd upon us & to make provisions against the growth of this pernicious evil." And the colonial courts, on account of what they called "the cruel & malignant spirit that has from time to time been manifest in the Irish nation against the English nation" prohibit "the bringing over of any Irish men, women, or children into this jurisdiction on penalty of 50 pounds sterling to each inhabitant who shall buy of any merchant, shipmaster, or other agent any such person or persons so transported by them." This order was promulgated by the General Court of Massachusetts in October 1654.

- Michael J. O'Brien, Historiographer, American Irish Society, in The Glories of Ireland, p. 201

Anti-Catholicism - Boston

1852 - "The feeling against Roman Catholics has much subsided here in recent times. A Convent would not now be burned down by a mob as it was 20 years ago."

- Ferens Pulsky, in Oscar Handlin, This Was America
(here with Kasseth in 1852)

[Irish temperance crusader] Father Matthew visited Boston in 1849 with some success. In 1865 at a procession after the death of Pres. Lincoln they paraded. The first temperance society had been non-sectarian (1836), but after 1841 they were affiliated with the Church.

  1. Oscar Handlin, Boston's Immigrants, p. 169

Anti-Irish sentiment - N.Y. -

Philip Hone showed deep-seated hatred & contempt for the Irish. "Irishmen," he wrote, were "the most ignorant, & consequently the most obstinate, white men in the world, & I have seen enough to satisfy me that, with few exceptions, ignorance & vice go together... These Irishmen, strangers among us...decide elections in the city of New York."
- Philip Hone was an aristocrat & the mayor of New York City, 1825-26;

[quote from his diary reprinted in] Robt. Ernst., Immigrant Life in N.Y. City, p. 229

Catholic Church

The mounting volume of immigration brought to the New World not only an ever-larger flock of communicants but also their pastors, made available from the old country. Already in the 1830s Irish names were prominent in the priesthood, although not yet among the bishops.

Soon thereafter the full impact of the great migration transformed American Catholicism. Church membership became overwhelmingly Irish in composition, & Irish-Americans assumed some of the most distinguished places in the hierarchy in the U.S.

- Oscar Handlin, The Uprooted, chap. V

Anti-Catholicism - History of

Maryland, founded 1632, by Sir George Calvert, Lord Baltimore

1654 - Toleration Act repealed; in its place a law stating that "none who profess to
exercise the Popish religion, commonly known by the name of Roman Catholic
religion, can be protected in this Province."


1647 - the General Court decreed that any Jesuit or priest coming within the Colony was
To be banished and, if he should return, executed. The Puritan fathers forbade the
Importation of Irish persons into the Colony.

Prot. Crusade, p. 6-8[1]

Only in Rhode Island & Pennsylvania were Catholics safe from persecution, & by 1700 only in R. Island could a Catholic enjoy full civil & religious rights.

- Ibid., p. 9

In 1690 began the French & Spanish Wars, which continued for 50 years, & the colonies feared the cooperation of Catholics with the Catholic enemies in Spanish Florida to the south & French Canada to the north & west. There was a stiffening of anti-Catholic laws. In Maryland in 1704 a law [was] passed levying a heavy tax on Irish servants, "to prevent the importation of too great a number of Irish papists."

- Ibid., 9-10


With outbreak of Seven Years' War, when French activity in the west was portrayed as Popish activity by the clergy, even the tolerant Quaker traditions broke down. The forbidding of Irish immigration was discussed but was not carried out, but Catholics were disarmed & were forbidden to serve in the militia & were burdened with additional taxation & forced to register so they could be closely watched.

- Ibid., p. 13

New England

Continued its already-severe laws with outbreak of French wars. Their fears not entirely unfounded - 1718 when Jesuit Sebastian Ralle "converted some Main[e?] Indians, who immediately began raids against Massachusetts settlements. He kept the area in turmoil for 3 years.

- Ibid., p. 15


In 1743 all protection which had previously been afforded Catholics was done away with.
- Ibid., p. 15

1774 - Quebec Act: designed to extend toleration to French Canadians, was the target of the pulpits & the pamphleteers of the colonies. One popular verse:
"If Gallic Papists have a right
To worship their own way,
Then farewell to the liberties
Of poor America."

The Quebec Act led to the spread of Pope Day throughout the colonies. It had long been celebrated in New England on Guy Fawkes Day with parades ending with the burning of the Pope in effigy. Early in the Revolution the army planned a Pope Day celebration in 1776, but Washington stopped it. Congress at this time was trying to get help from Catholic Canada against England. Anti-Pope feeling continued until the French Alliance in 1778, when the colonists saw their allies, the French soldiers & officers, & were forced to concede they had neither horns nor tails.
[- Ibid.? No citation given for this entry]

Even in colonies where immigrants were most needed the authorities stopped short of an open-entry policy. Certain classes of newcomers universally unwelcome, & popular prejudice against them found widespread legislative expression. Roman Catholics, for instance, were nowhere actually excluded, but were commonly discouraged from coming. Most of the colonies levied discriminatory taxes upon captains landing Roman Catholics, & even the colonies which attempted to promote immigration were careful to specify that only Protestants could qualify for bounties or other inducements offered.

- Maldwyn A. Jones, American Immigration, p. 43

Nineteenth Century

British travelers were Protestant & upper-class, biased against "democracy" & the Catholic Church.

Long before the vast German & Irish migrations of the 1840s & '50s, British travelers regarded Catholics as dangerous to America. C. A. Murray, in 1836, pointed out that Catholics in Missouri had gained ground so rapidly that they far outstripped all competition. Buckingham found 6 of 15 schools in St. Louis to be Catholic, in addition to the Jesuit college & the Sacred Heart Convent, which gave them overwhelming superiority in higher education. The Catholic clergy far outdid their Protestant brethren in zeal, learning, courtesy, & attention to the lower classes, he warned. In Chicago a similar situation existed, he reported, with 3 out of 5 schools being Catholic. Proselytizing went on not only in the west, but also in the Catholic institutions of Boston & Washington, Buckingham added. Marryat was even more alarmed. He thought it possible that all America would fall under the fascination of Papal ritual & turn Catholic. Certainly, he concluded, there was no doubt but that the west would do so, in as much as Catholics were already in the majority there. Alexander Mackay, otherwise a very sober & tolerant person, was also convinced that the Catholic Church was very deliberately intent upon conquering all America. It had abandoned the East to the Protestants & was concentrating on the interior...

The tremendous increase in numbers & importance of the Irish after 1845 gave the problem another twist. It tied up Catholicism with politics & immigration...

There were those who thought these fears exaggerated, notably Mrs. [Harriet] Marineau... It remained for a Protestant, Mrs. Maury (1848) to undertake a defense of Catholicism. She called it "the shield of America," chiefly, it appears, because the priests kept her Irish servants in hand.

- Max Berger, The British Traveller in America, p. 143-46

(1850-54) Citizens marched through the streets carrying an effigy of the priest, a gallows, and banners which proclaimed, "Down with Bedini," "No Priests, No Kings, No Popery," etc... The crowd planned to march by the house where he was staying & then burn the effigy in the yard of a nearby Catholic church. Special police broke up the demonstration & some 20 people were injured. The affair turned sentiment against Bedini throughout the nation, & when he finally sailed from New York the mob waiting at the dock to attack him was so large that the police were helpless & he had to be smuggled on board the ship after it was well down the harbor.

Protestant Crusade, p. 289-303
New York, 1850s -

[Daniel] Parsons gained his first notoriety in Nov, 1853, when he was interrupted in a vehement attack on Catholics by hecklers. On successive Sundays his audiences increased, until [on] Dec. 11th, 10,000 came to hear him. Police arrested Parsons in the middle of his address, & the enraged crowd laid siege to the mayor's home & threatened violence until the mayor ordered Parsons' release. Feeling ran high, & on the following Wednesday a mass meeting was held in Central Park that demanded the mayor's resignation.

Bishop Hughes issued a proclamation urging calmness on his followers, but went on to say that if their property was attacked, Catholics would defend their constitutional rights themselves if the proper authorities failed to defend them.
Protestants interpreted this as a declaration of war & feeling rose. The mayor issued a manifesto calling for peace. A crowd of 20,000 gathered to hear Parsons but dispersed without disorder.

In Cincinnati -
There were many itinerant rabble-rousers who traveled around arousing anti-Catholic hatred. One of the most ingenious was a Rev. Guistiniani, who traveled about with a group of Germans, "converting" them to Protestantism in each city. His tactics aroused so much resentment among Catholics that the Cincinnati church in which he was speaking was destroyed by a mob.

- Ibid., p. 307-08

Leopoldine Foundation

While traveling in Europe in 1827 Father Rose (Vicar General of Diocese of Cincinnati under Bishop Edward Fenwich) visited Vienna, where he was granted an audience with the Prince Archbishop, who secured an audience for him with Emperor Francis I... Francis I proposed a separate society (mission society) for Austria, patterned after the French organization (French Society for the Propagation of the Faith). He concluded the interview by stating that the new society would be known as the Leopoldine Foundation, named after his deceased daughter who had been Empress of Brazil.
No time was lost in forming the organization, which was to supply priests & funds for the N. American missions. In just 3 mos. the society had the formal approval of the Holy Father. To promote the objectives of the Leopoldine Foundation, Father Rose wrote a brief history of the Cincinnati diocese, wherein he outlined the dire need for missionaries & donations. This history was distributed throughout the Empire... With the distribution of the history Father Baraga received a copy... He wrote to the bishop in _______, asking permission to be relieved of his duties in the Ljubljana diocese so that he could make application to be received into the diocese of Cincinnati.

B. J. Lambert, Shepherd of the Wilderness, p. 45-46

The House of Representatives was petitioned by a group from New York State to decide whether there was not "a plan in operation, powerful & dangerous, under the management of the Leopoldine Foundation, for the subversion of our civil & religious liberties, to be affected by the emigration of Roman Catholics from Europe, & by their admission to the right of suffrage with us in our political institutions," dated Feb. 14, 1838. A similar petition, dated Jan. 5, 1838, was sent by a group of Massachusetts residents.

Billington, Protestant Crusade, p. 130

1835-1840 - Annual reports of the Leopoldine Assoc. were widely published in the religious press, with warnings of the fate awaiting America if these activities were continued. Catholic disavowals were brushed away as useless. The papal clergy, the propagandists maintained, had been taught to keep no faith with heretics, and ordinary Catholics were being kept in ignorance until the time to strike, when they would be released from their oath of allegiance to the U.S. by the Pope & establish the Inquisition in America. Already, it was claimed, the Papists were building inquisitorial chambers beneath their churches & arming their religious edifices for use in the final attack...
Propagandists directed much of their attention to foreign immigrants, who became, in their eyes, a Roman-directed group of Papal serfs, bent on the planned destruction of the U.S..

Billington, Protestant Crusade, p. 127

Boston Convent Riot

Because it served for many years throughout the country as an argument in propaganda for & against Catholics, the Charlestown Convent fire received a greater degree of notoriety than any other riot. The disturbance grew primarily out of the failure of the school & the rural community in which it was located to adjust themselves to each other. To the laborers nearby the convent was a strange & unfamiliar institution, with which it was difficult to be neighborly or to follow the customary social forms. In addition Catholicism meant Irishmen, & for non-Irish laborers the convent was a symbol of the new competition they daily encountered... Things came to a head with the appearance & disappearance of Elizabeth Harrison, a demented nun. The refusal of the Mother Superior to admit the Charlestown Selectmen the purported existence of dungeons & torture chambers until the very day of the fire inflamed the 40 or 50 Charlestown truckmen & New Hampshire Scots-Irish bricklayers who led the curious mob; & her threat that unless they withdrew she would call upon the Bishop for a defense contingent of 20,000 Irishmen precipitated the holocaust.

After the initial excitement, every section of public opinion in Boston greeted the fire with horror & surprise. Bostonians had not disliked the school, many had actually sent their children there... The press condemned the absence of adequate protection... A reward of $500 offered by Gov. Davis resulted in the arrest of 13 men, the trial of 8, & the conviction of one. The life-imprisonment sentence for the one, of whose guilt there seemed no doubt, was far more significant than failure to convict those who might have been innocent.

The convent, re-established at Roxbury, failed "because of lack of harmony among the sisters." But the legislature was petitioned for compensation repeatedly in the next 20 years. Despite persistent reluctance to grant public funds for religious purposes, $10,000 was voted in 1846, but rejected by the Ursulines.
- Oscar Handlin, Boston's Immigrants, p. 187-89

The street-preachers were everywhere, inciting disorder. Frequently crowds of excited Protestants, whipped to angry resentment by the exhortations of some wandering orator, rushed directly to a Catholic church, bent on its destruction. A dozen churches were burned in the middle-1850s; countless more were attacked, their crosses stolen, their altars violated, & their windows broken. In Sidney, Ohio & Dorchester, Mass. Catholic houses of worship were blown to pieces by gunpowder. In N.Y. City a mob laid siege to the prominent cathedral of St. Peter & St. Paul & only the arrival of the police saved the building. In Maine Catholics who had had one church destroyed were prevented from laying the cornerstone of a new one by hostile Protestants, & statues of priests were torn down or desecrated.

The Protestant Crusade, p. 309

John S. Orr was called the Angel Gabriel because he always spoke clothed in a long white gown & summoned his hearers by blasts on a brass horn. He leapt into prominence in Boston in 1854, where his followers clashed with a group of Irish laborers & then attempted to burn a Catholic church. Police arrived in time to protect the building, but the crowd refused to disperse until given the cross from the top of the steeple, which they then burned. An attempt was made to burn another church but troops were called & the rioters forced to disband.

Gabriel's fame followed him to N.Y., where more than 10,000 gathered to hear him in Brooklyn. The mob clashed with a group of Irish, but a whole army of special police managed to restore & keep order.

He returned to New England, where his path was one of continuous disorder. At Nashua, N.H., a mob rushed directly from his lecture to attack the Irish settlement. In Bath, Maine, his hearers stormed a Catholic church, displaying an American flag from the balcony, & then burned the building to the ground. A short time later he incited another church-burning in Palmyra, N.Y.. He returned to Boston, where he attempted to hold a meeting in Charlestown, but the authorities arrested him & charged him with creating a disturbance. The mob tried, unsuccessfully, to free him from jail. Other cities followed Boston's example & refused him permission to speak. In Washington he disregarded such a ruling & was clapped into jail for 2 weeks. Finally convinced that American audiences were denied him, he left the country.
- Ibid., p. 305-06

Philadelphia riot of 1844

Election riots were common & reached a peak in the spring of 1844, when Irish & Americans fought openly in the streets of one of the suburbs.

The spark that set off the controversy was educational. In 1842 Bishop Kenrick (inspired by Bishop Hughes of N.Y.) complained that the Prot. Bible [was used] & Prot. religious exercises were held in the schools. He asked that Catholic children be allowed to use their own version of the Bible. In January 1843 the school board granted the request.

During the following year the American Prot. Assoc. seized on this as an issue. Large public anti-Catholic meetings were held, notably on Mar. 4th, 1844. Tension mounted during April, & late in the month the 1st actual clash came. The American Republicans persisted, in spite of warnings, in holding a meeting in the 3rd ward on May 3rd. They were routed by an Irish mob. They insisted on holding the aborted meeting on May 6th. They marched through the Irish section and as they entered the Market House to hold the meeting shots were fired, either from the windows of the Hibernian Hose Company house, or from the mob itself. One marcher was killed. That night a crowd entered the Irish section & attacked Irish homes before the militia arrived.

The next day crowds gathered on every street corner, listening to speakers exhorting against the Catholics. In the afternoon crowds entered the Irish section; before midnight 30 Irish homes had been burned to the ground, as well as the house of the Hibernian Hose Company. The militia arrived tardily & stopped the destruction.

The third day of the rioting was the climax. Roaming the streets, rioters burned both St. Michael's Church & St. Augustine's.

The fourth day the mayor appointed special police officers, & an uneasy calm came to the city.

After the usual Fourth of July celebrations, with the usual inflammatory oratory, rioting broke out again. Gangs roamed the streets for 3 days & thousands of Catholic families left the city. When the city took stock of its 3 days of mob rule it found that 13 citizens had been killed and more than 50 wounded.

Philadelphia, returned to calm, showed little remorse; though publicly deploring the lawlessness, they were secretly exultant. Quaker merchants, who spoke indignantly in public, returned to their shops to express the sincere belief that "the Papists deserved all this & much more," and "It were well if every Papish church in the world were leveled with the ground."

Ibid., p. 220-30

That N.Y. remained outwardly calm was due to the efforts of Bishop Hughes. He publicly declared, "if a single Catholic church were burned in N.Y. the city would become a second Moscow." He felt that the Phil. Catholics should have defended their churches.

When the news of the Phil. riot reached N.Y. a large mass meeting was held May 7th which denounced the Irish & called for a second mass meeting to be held in Central Park May 9th. A delegation from Phil. was to be present to exhibit the flag that [had] allegedly been torn & trampled by the Irish.

Understandably alarmed at the prospect of this meeting, Bishop Hughes inquired of the authorities & found that the law did not require the city to compensate Catholics for any churches destroyed by mobs. Hughes promptly stationed between one & two thousand men, fully armed, about each church, & warned his watchers to keep the peace as long as possible but to defend their property at all cost.

These warlike preparations were viewed by the American republicans with both resentment & alarm. In a hasty conference with the mayor it was decided to abandon the May 9th meeting. Bishop Hughes deserves credit for saving N.Y. from a period of mob rule, such as that in Philadelphia.

- Ibid., p. 231-32


It is important to distinguish between general dislike of foreigners and a similar but more deep-seated antipathy based on emotions of fear & hate. The former, present to some extent in all societies, has been a constant factor in America from colonial days to the present... This sentiment has been essentially passive, probably reflecting no more than a general ethnocentrism. Much more, however, has been has been involved in the usually short-lived but highly-concentrated outbursts of mass xenophobia which have erupted in America from time to time. These have been the product of a loss of national confidence, owing to internal stress of one kind or another. Cyclical in character, strongly marked by hysteria & irrationality, & generally inspired by a specific political purpose, such nativist movements have been essentially attempts to safeguard American nationality from the foreign influences which were believed to threaten it.

The first to these anti-foreign outbursts came in the 1790s when, at a time of deep political cleavage closely related to the international conflict of the time, the Federalists sought to guard the new nation against revolution by proscribing radical immigrants. That the generation preceding the Civil War witnessed a recurrence of nativism was not so much because the period [was one] of heavy immigration, but that it too was one of internal crisis, when the national unity was threatened by sectionalism... The most prominent theme of pre-Civil War nativism was that of hostility to the R. C. Church. The astonishing growth of Am. Catholicism, mainly as a result of immigration, revived the fears of Popery that had been so widespread in colonial times. The steady expansion of Catholic membership, reflected in the amount of church-building, the creation of new dioceses, & the rise of a Catholic press, produced in the 1830s a mounting wave of anti-Catholic literature & oratory... The constant feature of Protestant nativism was its expressed fear that the Catholic influx threatened American institutions. The Catholic Church, because of its authoritarian organization, & its close connection with despotic monarchies of Europe, was regarded by many Americans as enemy of political liberty, and there were not a few who believed in the existence of a popish plot to subvert the government of the new republic.
Samuel F. B. Morse wrote a series of letters in 1834 to the New York Observer which were later published in pamphlet form. His attack was directed especially against the Leopold Assoc. of Vienna, a Catholic missionary society whose efforts were concentrated in the U.S.. The sending of money by this body to American Catholic bishops was, Morse believed, the first step in a papal conquest of the U.S.. Particularly alarming to Protestant nativists were the alleged designs of the Pope on the Mississippi Valley. Thus in A Place for the West (1835), Rev. Lyman Beecher described an alleged plot to win the U.S. for Catholicism by sending Catholic immigrants to the west in such numbers as ultimately to dominate the region.

- Maldwyn A. Jones, Am. Imm., p. 147-49

Anti-immigrant Sentiment

The foreign-born carried an active interest in the affairs of their homeland. This was particularly true of the Irish. They were constantly aroused in behalf of their countrymen who were trying to secure the repeal of Union with England. Societies of "Repealers" were formed throughout the east in the 1840s, money was collected to aid Daniel O'Connell, & the view was regularly expressed that America should intervene on behalf of Ireland. These demands assumed new proportions with the Oregon boundary dispute of 1846, Irish-Americans insisting that war with England would bring freedom to Ireland & a territory to the U.S.. Again during the Irish uprising of 1848 they tried to force American entry. This continued Irish insistence on war with a friendly power antagonized Americans.

Protestant Crusade, p. 328
Lawlessness -
The native laborers were aroused by the lawlessness of the aliens with whom they were forced to compete. The Irish particularly were a turbulent lot, & conflicts between them & the native factions were inevitable. Frequently the Irish were to blame for the trouble. In nearly every state armed conflicts between native & Irish or German workmen were common.

[- no citation given for this entry, but may be from The Protestant Crusade

1 Possibly Ray Allen Billington, The Protestant Crusade, 1800-1860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1963; originally published 1938.

Civil War

[See also Life in America - Coal Mines]

Boston - pro-Union
Aid from the Irish was not expected. They had opposed Lincoln, favored slavery, fought reform, & upheld the Democratic Party & the South. Moreover those who now called for their help were the very men who for the preceding 6 years, had sponsored the restriction of Irish rights & privileges.

Yet stronger ties bound the Irish to the Union. Complete acceptance of lawfully-established government was basic to the thinking of all Irish Catholics; that was at the root of their complaint that abolitionists were revolutionaries. But in April 1861 there was no doubt as to which section was revolutionary. The issue was not slavery but unity, & the Church in Boston agreed with Bishop Hughes that "It is one country & must & shall be one."

As the war unfolded more practical reasons drew the ranks of common Irishmen, the bounties that surpassed the average annual earnings of the common laborer rendered patriotism exceedingly profitable. In addition, Great Britain's southern sympathies, clear from the start, encouraged Irish hopes of a war with England that would free Ireland as well a slaves.

The government was quick to take advantage of Irish feeling. An Irish brigade was organized, & Meagher was advanced to the generalcy on the basis of dubious military qualifications but of undoubted popularity with his countrymen. Boston alone mustered 2 regiments. The Columbian Artillery, banned by Know-Nothings 7 years earlier, emerged from its disguise as a fraternal organization, & under its old commander Thomas Cass furnished the nucleus of the 9th Mass. Regiment. The 28th, also almost exclusively Irish, was formed later.

The war quickened understanding & sympathy. Serving with their own kinsmen & their own chaplain under their own green flag, assured of complete religious equality, the Irish lost the sense of inferiority & acquired a sense of belonging. They were no longer unwanted aliens.

At home, too, antagonisms grew less bitter. The community needed the Irish. The government relaxed its discrimination against them. The 2-year amendment was repealed & the foreign-born regained their full civic rights, with the result that the Irish politicians advanced to municipal office in even larger numbers. By 1862 Bible-reading had paled as an issue. The legislature revoked the law making it compulsory.

- Oscar Handlin, Boston's Immigrants, p. 208-211

Irish opposition to anti-slavery in Boston, 1854 -
The Burns case clearly linked the immigrants to pro-slavery forces & man-hunters. The [BostonPilot supported the rendition of the fugitive slave; & the selection of the Columbian Artillery & the Saarsfield Guards to protect him against indignant mobs seeking his freedom incited an inflammatory handbill:

Americans to the Rescue!
Americans! Sons of the Revolution!
A body of seventy-five Irishmen, known as the
Columbian Artillery
have volunteered their services to shoot down the
Citizens of Boston!
and are now under arms to defend Virginia in
Kidnapping a citizen of Massachusetts!
Americans! These Irishman have called us
"Cowards, & Sons of Cowards"!
Shall we submit to have our Citizens shot down
by a set of vagabond Irishmen?

- Oscar Handlin, Boston's Immigrants, p. 198

Relationship to Commerce

The first packets went into operation in 1815. They were vessels whose mail cargo was mail, passengers, & light freight, & they sailed at regular intervals. By 1829 sailing occurred 3 times a month between Liverpool & N.Y.. There were no accommodations for steerage passengers, so they only affected emigration indirectly.

In the 10 years 1830-40 the transport of emigrants became a regular feature of the Atlantic trade. Commerce accepted as a certainty that every spring tens of thousands of people would appear at European ports with money to pay their passage to America. The emigrant had become a leading article of commerce.

The transatlantic movement of European peoples filled a need in the economy of ocean transport. The exports from American were bulky, notably tobacco, cotton, & lumber. The goods sent in return were manufactured articles & smaller in bulk. Emigrants saved the westbound traffic from being a transport of ballast. The increasing trade of the 19th cent. helped reduce the price of passage to what the European peasant could afford to pay.

Consideration of the way shipping provided for emigration involves inquiry into the markets of the country. The 18th cent. Irish emigration was from Londonderry & Belfast - the ships brought over flax seed from Penn. for the linen manufacturing. By the 4th decade of the 19th century the trade with Ireland was largely lumber & woodenware. By that time the forests of Ireland had disappeared. The houses could not be constructed entirely of mud & stones, some beams were essential. The growing population demanded a continual importation of lumber, a demand intensified by the needs of the cooperage industry in the south & central counties where pork, eggs, & butter were shipped in barrels & crates. The St. Lawrence region was the principal producer of staves with which the coopers worked, & the number of vessels from Quebec rapidly increased. Spring was the time when the shipper found the winter's timber cuttings awaiting him. It was also the time when emigrants wanted to cross the Atlantic.

Since the supply of ships was great, the competition was keen, forcing down the price of passage. In 1816 emigrants had paid 10 pounds to reach the U.S.. In the early '30s the fare from Ireland to Quebec sometimes fell as low as 15 shillings, though it was usually 2 pounds, 10 shillings. This was 1/2 the price charged for passage to N.Y., which turned the tide to British America. Many who took advantage of the cheaper rate had done so with the intention of walking to the U.S.. What proportion followed this course is uncertain; at the time some maintained it was the majority. Land was easier to acquire in the U.S. & year-round employment more plentiful. There was a flourishing coast-___ trade. There was a demand in the eastern states for the only mineral fertilizer then used, gypsum, of which Nova Scotia had a large supply. From the mines in was taken to Eastport & Passamaquoddy, & there transferred to American coastal vessels. As these ships also carried deck passengers, laborers found it easy for a small sum to reach the U.S. ports.

As well as from Irish ports, emigrants also left from Liverpool, the port for the cotton-carrying ships for England's industrial midlands. At first these vessels had stopped at Irish ports on their western voyage to pick up the emigrants, but in the days of the sailing ship this often involved serious delays & financial loss. It was more reasonable to convey the Irish to Liverpool & the rapid expansion of steam navigation between Ireland & Liverpool facilitated this plan. As an inducement, the brokers bore the cost of the first leg of the journey. Especially in southern Ireland this roundabout way became the standard route. From 1832 onward, British authorities calculated that 9/10 of the emigrants leaving Liverpool were Irish.

American vessels were preferred, though few called at Irish ports, hence the trip to Liverpool. The most popular emigrant guidebook said, "Let the ship be American; remember, he is going home & the captain will probably never pull of his clothes to go to bed during the whole voyage" (S. H. Collins, The Emigrant's Guide to & Description of the U.S. of America, 18301). The many accidents on the Quebec route gave point to this advice.

- Marcus Hansen, The Atlantic Migration, p. 178-84

At first it was the captain (not a broker) who concluded the bargain with the emigrant. Advertisements in the newspapers repeatedly advised "Apply to the captain on board." Early guidebooks warned their readers against dealing with intermediaries. Perhaps because many of the vessels were commanded by the owners, a closer personal connection seems to have existed between capt. & passengers on ships departing from Ireland than elsewhere.

The Irish trade remained comparatively unorganized, though Liverpool houses endeavored, through agents, to turn the tide in their direction. The Irish, distrusting paper receipts, would not hand over their hard-earned shillings until they reached Liverpool & had seen the vessel with their own eyes.

- Ibid., 196-97

1 S. H. Collins, The Emigrant's Guide to the United States of America, Containing All Things Necessary to be Known by Every Class of Persons Emigrating to that Continent ... Including several authentic and most interesting letters from English emigrants now in America, to their relations in England: being the most comprehensive and useful description of the United States ever published. Hull: J. Noble, 1830.