Written by T.D. Thursday, 23 February 2006 15:55
The Irish Diaspora
One such reason for the massive exodus from Ireland during this period was the Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger or An Gorta Mor, as it is known in Ireland--being the Irish Gaelic translation. The Great Hunger in Ireland occurred between 1845 and 1849, which led to around two million Irish immigrating and about another million dying. The Potato Famine is often thought of as the only reason for the influx of Irish to the Americas in the nineteenth century; however, there were other reasons. One of these was the fighting and political instability caused by the rebellions for the Irish independence from the English crown.
The turmoil that plagued the Emerald Isle, and led directly to the immigration of millions of people to the Americas, can be traced back centuries before the mass immigration of the nineteenth century.
It is clear to see the historical significance of Ireland and the effects it would have in the mass immigration of the nineteenth century to America from Ireland. This also shows why the Irish are rebelling, not for only a sense of nationalism but against blatant oppression of their values in religion and other beliefs. In addition, they rebelled against laws that forbade them from making any social gains. The English and Irish hatred for one and another would reach a significant level during the Potato Famine, and during the Irish rebellions of the nineteenth century. These factors would therefore lead to the influx of Irish to America during this time period.
One of the early reasons for immigration during the Nineteenth century was a growing economic crisis in Ireland. This seemed to be caused by the Union of Ireland and England in the eighteenth century. All the factions in Ireland, had to work together to try and stabilize the growing economy, while still being ruled by the English Parliament. This program clearly shows that the economy could not be in good health with a Parliament that is not concerned with the economic conditions of Ireland, as Ireland did not factor much in the economic conditions of mainland Britain. The Acts of Union only aided a few groups in Ireland and was not enough to improve the economic conditions of Ireland. Ireland was allowed to trade freely with England and its colonies and, even though that seems favorable for the economic conditions of Ireland; it was not. Ireland suffered from few outside investments in its infrastructure, and this resulted in the same basic Irish economy, which was agricultural. The agricultural economy was not developing and led to some tough times for many Irish.
The poor economic conditions of the Irish economy had a great influence on the immigration to America in the early part of the nineteenth century. The economy of Ireland caused starvation, poverty and a lack of income for the wealthy. The boom of the population directly led this non-diversified economy into this crisis. The practice of the government was to ignore the economy and this did not help the situation. This, of course, caused many to flee their homeland in the pursuit of wealth and happiness that America seemed to promise.
The massive legendary emigration of the Irish to America during the Potato Famine were mostly the lower classes of Ireland, mainly the native Catholic Irish. During the time period, it is estimated that ninety-percent of those who left during the famine were manual laborers. Before the famine, immigration was mostly reserved to the Irish that were more prominent, and therefore not laborers. Many people, who emigrated from Ireland, hated doing so as they loved their land but it was the only way to sustain their livelihood. The immigrants were aided by lower fares to immigrate to America compared to the past. The fares were also cheaper as many Irish relied on what would later be coined, "Coffin Ships," which offered cheaper passage to America then other ships of the time. These ships were labeled as such because they were overcrowded and plagued with disease that resulted in many deaths aboard.
After reaching the New World of America, many found work in several institutions. As most of the immigrants were manual laborers, they mostly did manual work. Most notably, the Irish worked in mining and in the creation of the railroad. Some who stayed in the city became police officers and worked in political offices. This was the result of many knowing politics from their fight for freedom and their sense of justice that they felt needed to be given to all people. After reaching and establishing themselves in the new world, many sent back money to pay for the passage of their family and friends to America. As evidence of this claim, over three million pounds was sent from America to Ireland during the Famine, to pay for the passage of their families and friends. Immigration was not strictly from the hardest hit areas of the famine but from better off areas as well. Some left as they were evicted from their land as their crops could not support the rent the landowner required for the use of the land. This proved that even in the less-hard hit areas of the famine, the need of immigration to escape the famine was still great.