Necessity for Constant Vigilance

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER X (18) start of chapter

There may be other features of this unpaid Commission to which I should have referred, inasmuch as it has afforded to the whole country an example of what practical benevolence and public spirit are capable of accomplishing; but other subjects of interest demand my attention. It is, however, satisfactory to know that the active attention of Congress and the Government of the United States has been directed to the protection of foreign emigrants, and that an efficient organisation may be expected in the most important of the seaports. From the Report of the Government Commissioner of Emigration, presented to Congress on the 28th of February, 1866, one may learn how formidable is the evil against which it is necessary to combat with unabated energy, as well for the protection of the helpless stranger, as for the interests and the honour of the great country to which, from many motives and causes, he is attracted. The Government Commissioner states that upon entering upon the duties of his office he found himself in conflict with a host of persons who had been long accustomed, in the various ports, to prey upon the immigrant.

Companies, boards, and agencies, with sounding titles and high professions, were ready to deceive and plunder him at every turn, and it required prompt and decisive action to meet this great and growing evil. Many organisations, proper in themselves, but representing special interests, were simply subserving their own plans and the views of some single locality, regardless of the welfare of the immigrant. He states that through the appointment of a superintendent at New York, his bureau has been enabled to break up many swindling agencies with their runners, and protect thousands of emigrants; and he adds: 'This work, however, never ceases. New schemes of fraud spring up whenever occasion offers, and they require continued vigilance to suppress them.' The 'passenger laws' would appear, from this Report, to be systematically violated, indeed boldly set at defiance; and more stringent powers are demanded for their enforcement.(12)

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