How the 'Outlaws' resisted Reform

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER X (11) start of chapter

A profitable fraud is not to be suppressed without much difficulty; and even in 1857—nine years after—we find the iniquity of the bogus ticket in active operation. In a letter addressed to the Secretary of State, the Commissioners assert that the chief operators in this system of fraud have not only opened offices in the several seaports where emigrants usually embark, but have also established agencies in towns in the interior of those countries, and in the very villages whence families are likely to emigrate. Excluding Hamburg and Bremen from their observations, the Commissioners add that 'very many of those from other ports are first defrauded of their means by being induced to purchase tickets for railroad and water travel in this country, at high prices, which, when presented here, are found to be either quite worthless, or to carry the holders to some point in the interior far short of their destination, where they are left destitute.' Mr. Marcy, in reply, states that he has addressed a circular letter to the diplomatic and consular agents of the United States in those countries of Europe from which emigrants chiefly proceed, and instructed them to bring the subject to the notice of the Governments to which they were accredited, or of the authorities of the place where they reside, and to ask for the adoption of such measures 'as may be required by the claims of humanity and the comity of nations.'

What a gauntlet the helpless emigrant had to run before he was fairly on the road to his land of promise! Many were strong enough to break through, or fortunate enough to slip through, this net-work of fraud; but it may well be doubted if, for some years at least, those so strong or so fortunate were the greater number. It is lamentably true, that many, many thousands had their wings so effectually clipped—nay, so utterly plucked were they by the patriotic gentlemen with the green neckties, or the ladies with the green ribands, that they could not get beyond New York, into which, though perhaps altogether unsuited to the life of a city, the miserable victims of heartless fraud and pitiless robbery sank down to a lot of hardship, it might be of degradation and of ruin. It is heartrending to think of the tremendous consequences of these systematic villanies, and to reflect how thousands of people were thus fatally arrested on their way to places specially suited to their industry, and where, most probably, after the usual probationary hard work, they would have established themselves in comfort and independence. Better for many of them, old and young, the high-spirited boy and the innocent girl, that they had become the prey of the sharks of the deep, than that they had fallen into the clutches of the sharks of the land.(6)

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