How the Irish came to America

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER II (2) start of chapter

People rarely migrate to a strange country, and face the hardships incidental to a new existence, from the mere love of change; nor do the comfortable and the well-to-do usually quit their agreeable homes from a spirit of adventure. Necessity is the grand stimulus which impels the European to sever with rude hand his old ties of home and kindred, and quit his native land to cross the ocean in search of a new home. Of all people in the world the Irish are—rather were—most intensely, even passionately, attached to the land of their birth, and the least willing to leave it for another country, whatever its attractions. But the mass of the Irish who quitted the shores of the old country had no choice left them: what the process of law, too often accompanied with the pomp and parade of armed force, but partially effected, was accomplished by the resistless influence of blight, famine, and pestilence These were the chief impelling causes of that rush across the ocean which has been one of the most extraordinary phenomena of the present century, and which may yet bring about events well worthy of the gravest consideration of the patriot and the statesman.

A wave of this tide of human life broke upon the shores of Prince Edward Island, over whose fair and fertile bosom were scattered thousands of men and women, the majority of them poor, pinched with hunger, scantily clad; but hardy, patient, enduring, and willing to toil. A few, a very few, brought with them a little capital, perhaps half a dozen pounds, probably not more than as many dollars; whereas the majority had scarcely sufficient to purchase their first meal on landing. 'For one who has come out with a dollar, ten have come out with a shilling,' says the estimable Bishop of Charlottetown, Dr. McIntyre, a mild and genial Scotchman, who loves and is loved by his Irish flock. Many of those who thus commenced had been flung on shore from fever-infected emigrant ships in the time of the Irish Famine, and, scattering: over the island, had worked their way by honest labour to the position of independent settlers, even owners in fee of the farms they now occupy.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America