The Sharks and Cormorants

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER X (9) start of chapter

So long as the Commissioners were unable to obtain the compulsory landing-place for all emigrants arriving at New York, the runners, and brokers, and ticket-sellers, and money-changers, had everything their own way; and terrible were the consequences of their practical immunity. Swarming about the wharves, which they literally infested, all—the emigrant passenger, his luggage, his money, his very future—was at their mercy. The stranger knew nothing of the value of exchange, nor how many dollars he should receive for his gold; but his new-found friend did, and gave him just as much as he could not venture to withhold from him. Then there were the tickets for the inland journey to be purchased, and the new-found friend with the green necktie and the genuine brogue could procure these for him on terms the most advantageous: indeed, it was fortunate for the emigrant that he fell into the hands of 'an honest man at any rate'—'for, Lord bless us! there are so many rogues to be met with now-a-days.'

An instance of ready reckoning, most favourable to the ingenious arithmetician, is recorded in the evidence taken in 1847. Pat had but a poor chance against such a master of finance. The writer says, 'I was in a boarding-house in Cherry Street; a man came up to pay his bill, which the landlord made out 18 dollars. "Why," says the man, "did not you agree to board me for sixpence a meal, and threepence for a bed?" "Yes," says the landlord, "and that makes just 75 cents per day; you have been here eight days, and that makes just 18 dollars." At three-quarters of a dollar per day, the bill should have been six dollars: so the ready reckoner made twelve dollars by his genius for multiplication.

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