The New System

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER X (12) start of chapter

At length, in 1855, the Commissioners succeeded in establishing Castle Garden as the landing-place for all emigrants arriving at New York; and among other benefits which, in their Report of that year, they enumerate as resulting from the possession of this grand convenience, they include 'the dispersion of a band of outlaws, attracted to this port by plunder, from all parts of the earth.' The 'outlaws' were perhaps not so effectually dispersed as the Commissioners fondly imagined them to be; for so persistent were the attacks upon the system established at Castle Garden—attacks made generally through the public press—that the Grand Jury of the County of New York was formally appealed to. Nominally investigating certain charges made against the employés of the railway companies doing business in Castle Garden, the Grand Inquest really enquired into the entire system; and the result of that timely investigation was of the utmost consequence, in strengthening the hands of the Commissioners, and confounding their interested maligners.

On inquiry (they said) into the causes of certain published attacks on the Emigrant Landing Depôt, the Grand Inquest have become satisfied that they emanate, in the first instance, from the very interested parties against whose depredations Castle Garden affords protection to the emigrant, and who are chiefly runners in the employ of booking-agents, boarding-house keepers, and others, who have lost custom by the establishment of a central depôt, where the railway companies have their own business done by their own clerks, without the intervention of passage-brokers, &c.

This class has thrown great difficulties in the way of the proper development of affairs in Castle Garden, by constituting a noisy crowd outside the gates, whose behaviour is utterly lawless, and endangers the personal safety, not only of the passengers who have to leave the Castle Garden to transact business in the city, but also the employés of the Landing Depôt, and of individual Commissioners of Emigration, who are continually insulted in the public grounds surrounding the depôt, and have been obliged to carry loaded fire-arms in self-defence against the violence which has frequently been offered to them.

The Grand Inquest, after administering some hard hits to the local authorities, for the culpable remissness of the police in preventing the disorders which they describe, thus conclude:—

Having become satisfied that the Emigrant Landing Depôt, in all its operations, is a blessing, not only to emigrants, but to the community at large, they would feel remiss in the performance of a sacred duty if they failed to recommend this important philanthropic establishment to the fostering care of the municipal authorities; and they had dismissed the complaints preferred against certain employers of the Castle Garden, satisfied that they are not sustained by law, and have their origin in a design to disturb, rather than to further, the good work for which the establishment has been called into life by an Act of Legislature of April 1855.

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