Immigration to the United States after 1840.
A case study of Irish immigrants after 1840, why they left Ireland for the United States and why their failure to assimilate in to American society, led to changing opinions of ‘the Irish’.
In 1860, German social scientist Friedrich Engels, who was horrified by mass immigration of Catholic Irishman, stated that ‘if this calamity continues on for another 30 years, there will only be Irishmen in America’.[footnoteRef:1] Although it can be argued that Engels prediction was considered to be somewhat of an over exaggeration, French sculptor and philosopher Paul Dubois reverberated Engels sentiment over half a century later. In his statement, Dubois argued that ‘emigration will soon cause it to be said that Ireland is no longer where flows the Shannon, but rather beside the banks of the Hudson River’.[footnoteRef:2] For some historians, the mass emigration of Irish immigrants to the United States was in some way, far more extensive than Engels and Dubois could have predicted. Mary Lee Dunn for example, infers that although America had experienced high levels of Irish immigration in the early 1820s, the enormous wave that arrived after 1840, caused considerable political, social and economic unease amongst American nativists[footnoteRef:3]. However, it wasn’t just American nativists who found the emigration process to be a difficult and challenge adjustment. For many Irish immigrant, the prospect of moving to a foreign land left them feeling uncertain about their future. In this essay I will investigate the origins of Irish immigrants who arrived after 1840 and how this effected their ability to integrate in to American society. Additionally, this essay will explore why American nativists considered Irish immigrants who arrived after 1840, to be a considerable threat to their ideas of American nativism. [1: Engels, Friedrich. 2008. The Conditions of the Working Class in England. 2nd edition. New York: Cosimo Classics. 90-93] [2: Bayer, Ronald H. and Meagher, Timothy. 1997. The New York Irish. USA: John Hopkin University Press. 91] [3: Dunn, Mary Lee. 2008. Ballykilcine Rising: From Famine Ireland to Immigrant America. USA: University of Massachusetts Press. 1-36]
Predating the Great Famine of 1845-1849, there was a considerable immigration culture in Ireland. It is estimated that between 1825 and 1830, over 100,000 emigrants had left Ireland; with a majority of them traveling to North America, while a small minority joined colonies in New Zealand and Australia.[footnoteRef:4] For Bryan Fanning, it is highly likely that Irish immigrants who took this journey were lower members of Irish society who were able to use their limited resources to scrape together enough money to pay for their passage.[footnoteRef:5] Moreover, these people were more concerned with making their fortune and seeking out adventure than laying down roots. Although it is often assumed that many Irish immigrants who travelled to...