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The Experience of the Irish Immigrant in America. The perseverance of the Irish in the search for a better life of liberty, opportunity, and equality. Colonial America. Irish population in America was second in number only to the English Most early immigrants were of “Scotch-Irish” origins

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The Experience of the Irish Immigrant in America

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the experience of the irish immigrant in america
The Experience of the Irish Immigrant in America

The perseverance of the Irish in the search for a better life of liberty, opportunity, and equality

colonial america
Colonial America
  • Irish population in America was second in number only to the English
  • Most early immigrants were of “Scotch-Irish” origins
    • Irish Catholics arrived in small, but significant numbers
  • Numbers immigrating varied
    • Depended on increase or decrease in Irish prosperity
    • Irish economy tied to England
    • Downswings in English economy exaggerated in Ireland
who are the scotch irish
Who Are the Scotch-Irish?
  • "Scots-Irish" refers to
    • Settlers who were born in or resided in Ireland
    • Whose earlier origins were in Scotland
    • Also called "Ulster Scots," and "Irish Presbyterians”
  • Left Ireland because of
    • Religious conflicts
    • Lack of political autonomy
    • Dire economic conditions
  • Large scale immigration
    • Began in 1718
    • Stopped during Revolution
    • Resumed in reduced numbers after 1789
irish presbyterians
Irish Presbyterians
  • Most Scotch-Irish settled in the middle colonies
    • Philadelphia was a major port of debarkation
  • Scotch-Irish settled in
    • All 13 colonies
    • Many moved on to Kentucky and Tennessee via North Carolina
  • Most Scotch-Irish immigrants were educated, skilled workers
  • Presidents Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan were of Scotch-Irish Ancestry
catholic immigration
Catholic Immigration
  • Immigration of Irish Catholics increased after the American Revolution
  • Lack of legal rights for Catholics
    • Denied land ownership
    • Lived on land only as tenants
    • No legal standing in Irish courts
  • During downswings in English economy
    • Surplus goods dumped in Ireland
    • Irish skilled and mercantile classes were ruined
    • Many homeless - tenants evicted when unable to pay rent
exodus from ireland
Exodus From Ireland
  • Irish immigration increased rapidly after 1820
    • Living conditions in Ireland were deplorable
    • The 1845 Potato Blight was not the first famine, but the culmination of five years of crop failures
    • Numerous other serious, regional and island wide famines had occurred before the 1840’s
irish flood to america
Irish Flood to America
  • Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish composed over one-third of all arrivals in America
  • Population in Ireland due to starvation and immigration declined
    • From 8.1 million in 1841 to 4.7 million in 1891
    • Four and one-half million Irish came to America in 19th Century
land of opportunity
Land of Opportunity?
  • Often entered the workforce at the bottom of the occupational ladder
  • Endured fierce competition to obtain low-paying, menial and dangerous jobs
    • Building railroads
    • Mining coal
    • Digging canals
  • Many women became servants or domestic workers
  • Railroad construction was so dangerous it was said, “an Irishman [was] buried under every tie”
living conditions
Living Conditions
  • Many immigrants found themselves unprepared for industrialized, urban centers
  • Most were destitute – forced to settle in ports of debarkation
    • Often crowded into subdivided homes that were intended for single families
    • Cellars, attics and make-do spaces in alleys became home
  • Lacked adequate sanitation and running water
  • Cholera, typhus, tuberculosis, and mental illness became rampant
conflict and discrimination
Conflict and Discrimination
  • Verbal assaults and mob violence were common due to:
    • Poor living conditions of the Irish
    • Their willingness to work for low wages
    • Long standing religious tension between Irish Catholics and Protestants
    • Replacing of native-born workers with lower paid Irish
  • Anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiments in the 1840s produced groups such as the American Party – “The Know Nothings”
    • Fought foreign influences
    • Committed to "…elect to all offices, …no one but native born citizens of America, …to the exclusion of all Foreigners, and to all Roman Catholics, whether they be of native or Foreign Birth…
    • Nominated Millard Fillmore for president in 1856
  • Over time, many Irish climbed occupational and social ladders
    • Often through politically appointed positions such as policeman, fireman, and teacher
  • Second and third generation Irish were better educated, wealthier, and more successful than were their parents and grandparents
  • The ultimate example was the Kennedy family
    • The first Kennedy who arrived in the United States in 1848 was a laborer
    • His son had modest success in this country
    • His grandson, college educated Joseph P. Kennedy, became a millionaire
    • And his great-grandson, John F. Kennedy, became president
irish political influence
Subjugation and strife gave rise to an unmistakable Irish identity and a sense of cohesion (in Ireland and America)

Became a powerful political force

Huge numbers lived in U.S. cities

Excellent organizational ability

Transformed politics in cities

Put power in the hands of men of working class origin

Political machines built on loyalty to the individual and the organization

Influence resulted in increased power for the Democratic Party as well as the Catholic Church

Irish Political Influence
the five points riot
The Five Points Riot
  • In 1857, the Republican-controlled

New York State Assembly

attempted to force “genteel”

behavior on the Irish

    • Disbanded the New York City

police department

    • Created Metropolitan Police

(answered only to state assembly)

    • Reduced the number of licensed

saloons, limited the amount a person could drink, and closed all saloons on Sundays

  • Many Irish working people saw this as a direct attack
  • Riot broke out on July 4th – Irish led by gang known as “Dead Rabbits” – there opponents were the Metropolitan Police and the “Bowery Boys” (a “native” gang)
the irish brigade
The Irish Brigade
  • In late 1861, Thomas Francis Meagher organized a group of Irish volunteers into the Union Army
  • Brigade was formed from
    • The 63rd, 69th, and 88th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiments
    • Later augmented by the 28th Massachusetts, and 116th Pennsylvania
    • Meagher was appointed Brigadier General commanding February 5, 1862
  • Fought with great distinction at
    • Antietem, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, and many others
    • Over 4,000 officers and men were lost in four years of combat – more than the total enrolled in the brigade at any one time
    • Eleven members were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor
draft riots
Draft Riots
  • Violence broke out in several major Northern Cities
  • Worst riots in New York City with over 100 killed
  • Combat troops used to quell riots
  • The Conscription Act of 1863 subjected all white men from 20 to 45 years of age to the draft
  • In practice draft only affected poor - those with money could get a substitute or a deferment
  • African-Americans took brunt of violence during riots
    • Competition for same jobs as poor whites (par. Irish) caused racial tension
    • Blacks exempt from draft
molly maguires
Molly Maguires
  • Subjugation of the Irish often led to the use clandestine means to fight injustice
  • Movement began in early 18th Century Ireland
  • Named for an unfairly evicted widow
  • Mollies would dress up as women, rob and sometimes kill landlords
molly maguires18
Molly Maguires
  • Reached peak in America about 1870
    • After a six month strike in Mauch Chunk, PA
    • Workers forced back at reduced wages
    • First coal miner’s union – the WBA - outlawed
  • Operated mostly in West Pennsylvania coal fields
  • Used violence to avenge abuses by mine owners
  • To Be a Molly Maguire:
  • You had to be Irish
  • You had to be Catholic
  • You likely worked in a mine
  • You were probably a
  • member of the AOH (The
  • Ancient Order of Hiberians)

The Irish immigrants changed America, just as they were changed by it. They have been coming since before the United States was founded and have assimilated into its mainstream. Their achievements and contributions have been great in spite of great adversity. Yet, they still retain pride and identity in their Irish heritage.