John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER XVI (4) start of chapter

An Irish girl in Buffalo, who had been but four years in the country, had within that time paid for the passages of two brothers and two sisters, besides sending 40l.; and, when lately sending another remittance through the Irish Emigrant Society of New York, she said she 'would not rest until she brought out her dear father and mother,' which she hoped she would be able to do within the next six months.

In populous cities the women send home more money than the men; in small towns and rural districts the men are as constant in their remittances, and perhaps send larger sums. Great cities offer too many temptations to improvidence or to vice, while in small places and rural districts temptations are fewer, and the occasion for spending money recklessly less frequent; hence it is, that the man who, amidst the whirl and excitement of life in a great city, but occasionally sends $10 or $20 to the old people at home, sends frequent and liberal remittances when once he breathes the purer air of the country, and frees himself from the dangerous fascination of the drinking-saloon.

Whether the money is given as the price of the passage out, or in the form of a ticket paid for in America, and thus forwarded to Ireland, or is sent as a means of supplying some want or relieving a pressing necessity, practically there is no more thought of it by the donor. It not unfrequently happens that tickets are returned to the donors, the persons to whom they were sent having changed their minds, being unwilling or afraid to leave the old country for a new home. But the money—recouped through a friendly agent—is almost invariably sent back, with a remark somewhat in this form: 'I intended it for you any way, either in ticket or in money; and if you won't take it in ticket, why you must in money. It is yours, anyhow, and no one else is to have it.'

A large amount is annually expended in the purchase of tickets at the American side; but this, large as it is, bears only a small proportion when compared with the enormous amount sent in the shape of assistance to relatives at home. For instance, there was sent last year (1866) by one firm in Lowell $44,290; and of this amount $32,000 were for the material assistance of the friends at home, and but $12,000 in passage tickets out. The total amount, though small in comparison to the vast sums sent from the great cities, is still not a little surprising, when it is considered that the Irish population, consisting for the most part of young persons working in mills and factories, is now about 15,000. From another emigration agent in the same place, and who is but recently in the business, a striking instance of liberality is obtained. He says—'The most I received at any one time was 20l., or $140, from an industrious Irish girl in one of our mills.'

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