Irish Immigration in the 18

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Irish Immigration in the 18th Century

In just a decade (1841-1851) the Irish population fell from eight million to a measly 6.5 million (Irish Origins). Many Irish left because of political unrest. Catholic’s were not allowed to vote, and because many Irish were Catholic, they could not voice their own opinion (Irish Origins). When the potato famine hit in 1845, the biggest wave of immigration to the United States and many other places was from Ireland’s most rural southern and western counties (Irish Origins). One of the greatest destinations for the Irish was New York and Philadelphia (Native Tension). Today, there are more Irish Americans than there are Irish nationals (Irish Immigration). Because of the famine, lack of equality between the Irish and others, and religious oppression many Irish were pushed to leave their homeland.

The great potato famine caused the greatest amount of death and was the biggest push to leave Ireland in the 1800’s. Through 1800 to 1845 there were sixteen food crises, most being caused by the adverse weather conditions (Duffy, Sean). By 1840 three million people depended on the potato. They would sometimes supplemented by butter milk (Irish Origins). When the potato famine struck later that year the biggest wave of immigration began (History in Context). People started pouring into neighboring countries because 1.5 million people died already and they didn’t wish to die from the famine or fever and disease exposure during the potato famine (Irish Origins). The famine was caused by an incurable disease that came from Europe called Phytophthera infestans, it decimated their valuable potato crop (Potato Famine). 40% of the crop was destroyed plunging the country into crisis (Potato Famine). In three of the following four years the potato famine took a heavy toll on the rich and the poor. Even private and official sources were having trouble (Potato Famine). As many Irish stumbled into countries such as America they found that there was no failure in the potato crop. They could grow any crop you wanted to (Irish and German Immigration). They also had no need to feed their pigs in America, you would let them out into the woods and they would feed themselves until you wanted bacon (Irish and German Immigration). If the potato famine had never occurred in Ireland it would be a more populated and prosperous country.

There was a lot of discrimination in Ireland, between men and women, Irish and British, even the rich and the poor. In Ireland women weren’t allowed to vote and early promise of voting rights in other countries such as America helped with the push (Irish Origins). Thousands of pregnant single women emigrated to close countries such as England to escape the censure of Irish society, and because other countries offered adoption faculties decades before Ireland (Irish Origins). In addition, abortions weren’t allowed, divorce was illegal, and there was a lot of family friction (Irish Origins). In Ireland daily executions took place and they had to give all their hard earned money to greedy tax collectors (Immigration from Ireland). Furthermore, to poor Irish it seemed as if rulers in London wanted to destroy their homeland (Immigration from Ireland). Land lords were neglectful and very parasite (Immigration from Ireland). 2,385,000 Irish people lived in poverty and needed help both economically and physically (United States History). America offered equality amongst everyone so many Irish who had come advised all their friends to quit Ireland, the country most dear to them, because as long as they were there they would be in bondage and misery (United States History). There was poor pay, lack of jobs, and to top it all off horrible conditions (Irish Origins). Once Irish arrived they became formidable competitors for employment in many branches of industry (Native Tension). All the jobs they had were equal and paid well compared to what they were used to (Native Tension). An Irish man “purchased 120 acre of land at five dollars an acre. Bear in mind that he has purchased the land out, and it is to him his estate forever. The economical state Ireland was in and many other reasons forced Irish to rethink living in Ireland and to experience a better way of life by immigrating.


One of the greatest reasons for departure other than the famine and equality was religious freedom. Although most Irish were Catholic there were Presbyterians, Protestant, and Jews in Ireland. Catholics weren’t allowed to have churches and Catholic Priests were forbidden to hold mass in Ireland. Furthermore, Catholics would go to mass in secret if possible (atlas of Irish History). Presbyterians were Scotch-Irish who emigrated from Scotland to Ireland in the early 17th century. The Presbyterians were allowed churches but didn’t have the right to vote (Peoples of North America). They were double taxed because they had to spend their own money on their churches yet still pay taxes for the Anglican Church which was the national Church of England, Scotland, and Ireland (Peoples of North America). There were a few Jews in Dublin who couldn’t vote or own land. Their primary destination was the United States and to a much lesser extent Canada and Australia. In all these countries they had complete religious freedom. The United States was a beacon of freedom for religion (Atlas of Irish History).

The famine, lack of equality, and desire for religious freedom caused the greatest wave of Irish Immigration that has ever taken place. The famine that took place in 1845 was a troubling and difficult time for Irish all over the world. Even if they were located in America and had a job, they would probably still have a family back in Ireland that still couldn’t afford to join those (Irish Origins). In addition to the famine, the Irish had to live under British rule which resulted in giving the Irish another reason to leave Ireland. Under their harsh rule, the political and economic parts of the country suffered, making Ireland look like a charity case to other countries (Atlas of Irish History). Almost all Irish suffered from all three problems and many more which might have affected their lives less or more (John Doyle). Many people believe that this event is just another dot on the time line of history, but really it’s an event that this world should never forget. It caused so many deaths and so much pain. As a result of the Irish leaving, Ireland was never the same and probably never will be.

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