What Immigrants of the Irish Great Hunger Can Teach U.S.

Breise! Breise! Extra! Extra!

Posted on December 9, 2015 by breisebreiseleighgoleire1969

In a recent conversation regarding the present migrant crisis in Europe, and the current fear mongering against Muslims, I began to see a similarity between the mass exodus of the Irish due to the Great Hunger in the years after 1845. Is there anything we can learn from a comparison?

Grosse-Île (Picture via Grosse-Île-et-le-Mémorial-des-Irlandais)

Marginalisation of immigrants is a pattern that repeats throughout history. Europe and now America are continuing that pattern. Fear, always the main ingredient of marginalisation, is now at an all-time high. “Who are we letting in?” being the question most people ask.

There are some similarities between the current European migrant crisis, our US terrorist situation and the Irish who managed to survive the treacherous trans-Atlantic ocean crossing in the years after 1845.

I’ve written here before about coffin ships and the horrible conditions Irish emigrants endured. Not every ship was a “coffin ship.” There were a few ships, such as the Dunbrody, and the Jeanie Johnston that made the journey with minimal or no loss of life. Most quarantined ships during the Great Hunger years brought emigrants to the Canadian port of Grosse Île in Quebec.

Grosse Ile quarantined the sick, controlled the spread of disease and the flow of immigrants into Canada and the United States.

If Irish immigrants did survive the journey on the coffin ship, and many did not, it was the first in a series of hurdles that they would need to clear.

(Picture via The Dunbrody Irish Emigrant Experience)

Approved for entry into their new homelands, the migrants did not look healthy compared to the natives. The skeletal immigrants were looked on as sub-human and diseased. They’d saved what they could for the long journey in a time when food and money were scarce. What little money they did have was put aside for passage fares on coffin ships, not food.

It was not long before “No-Irish Need Apply” signs began to appear in shop windows and lodging houses throughout the US.

(Picture via Dennis MA Public Library)

The Irish, a starving people, did not fit in and were treated poorly because of it. They looked “sick.” Why was there a shortage of food in Ireland during the years 1845-1852? Ireland is a farming country. Lots of good farmland for growing crops and grazing livestock, so why not eat what you grow?

Christine Kinealy, in History Ireland magazine, says, “Almost 4,000 vessels carried food from Ireland to the ports of Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool and London during 1847,…The food was shipped under military guard from the most famine-stricken parts of Ireland;… A wide variety of commodities left Ireland during 1847, including peas, beans, onions, rabbits, salmon, oysters, herring, lard, honey, tongues, animal skins, rags, shoes, soap, glue and seed.”

Though popular opinion at the time alleged the Irish to be sick, lazy and half-witted, nothing could have been further from the truth. The Irish worked hard to assimilate into a new culture. Were all immigrants perfectly behaved? Of course not. But the larger population of Irish did work hard, making a respectable life in their new homelands.

Here’s a few  notable Irish-Americans who made a difference. There are a few gangsters in there too, I won’t revise history, but the positive immigrants and their lagacies by far out weigh the negative ones.

The Irish were not the only immigrants to go through a rough transition period. Italian, Chinese, German, Jewish and Mexican immigrants have all endured growing pains in the US. In 1875 the US government began to regulate immigration and only a few years later the US banned immigrants from certain countries.

I am not against increased security checks for immigrants. I myself was interviewed, fingerprinted, TB tested, lung x-rayed and AIDS tested, yes I was. And so was every other Donnelly Visa Lottery winner. Determined to get a visa for the US, I was willing to jump through every hoop presented in order to get my legal visa, eventually a Green Card, and then citizenship.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

(Picture via New York City Wallpapers)

In fact, I have nothing against comfortable and humane quarantine stations either, the cost of which should be burdened by all countries of processed immigrants. If we are taking in the tired, poor and huddled masses, share that burden with us.

There are a lot of ways  to do background checks and prevent undesirable immigrants from entering the US presently. Detaining immigrants until they have been fingerprinted and have background checks and deporting the ones who refuse is a good start.

Gun control is another excellent step in the right direction to protect us from terrorists at home and abroad. Despite what Donald Trump is saying, not every Muslim is a terrorist. Anti-Muslim sentiment is nothing more than Donald Trump’s scare-mongering for votes. Hitler did it and Oliver Cromwell did as well.

History. Sometimes we can learn from it, more often than not we learn nothing more than we are doomed to repeat it.

Views: 669

Tags: An, Anti-Muslim, Boats, Coiffin, Crisis, Diaspora History, Donald, Donnelly, Emigrants, European, More…Famine, Gorta, Great, Hunger, Immigrants, Ireland, Irish, Migrant, Migration, Mor, Muslim, Pro-Muslim, Refugee, Sentiment, Ships, Terrorists, The, Trump, Visa, racism


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Comment by That's Just How It Was on December 11, 2015 at 11:48am

It was still the same between the 1930 - 1065 . My father and brother ent to work in England and that was the clear message eve the, No Irish No Blacks No Dogs  . 

Whats changed,,, now its the Muslims of the world , History repeating itsself all over again , Do people or Governments never learn .... 

Not sure that I prescribe to the Gun Laws however !!

Comment by Lonnie on December 11, 2015 at 12:44pm

Thanks for commenting! So much history can teach us.

Comment by michael dunne on January 10, 2016 at 7:49am

Thank you Lonnie for an enjoyable and interesting read. After the Famine of 1847, Britain introduced the Land Commission which identified subsistence farmers through their Baseline Reports. This questionaire identified the neediest and in 1922 Ireland got a loan of thirty million pounds to continue this work. When these Irish farmers were given better land normally under thirty acres it meant being transferred to the less populated and wealthier lands in the east of the country. If you like this was a reversal of British colonizing policies which included the deliberate pauperization of our nation with policies like "to hell or to Connaught" These Congests (removed from the Congested Districts) were resented and I suppose feared by the locals who saw part of these Landed estates being redistributed to "migrants". These people had to take out thirty year mortgages and work hard to make a go of it. They were very successful because of their industry and committment and begrudgingly accepted into their new communities.

It should be remembered that the displacement of thousands of cottier farmers and labourers after the notorious Gregory Clause was seized upon by grasping opportunist Irish land agents and snug farmers by taking their homesteads and five acre farms. This is a case of Irish Catholics ruthlessly exploiting their own. So unlike the US, we dont have an 'e pluribus unum' philosophy. Most of the Irish who went abroad headed for Canada because it was less expensive and also part of the commomwealth. My understanding from accounts of New Brunswick Chamber of Commerce is that the Irish were also seen as a health threat there as in the US. Gross Isle and Ellis Island had similar portfolios regarding emigration and had to protect their interests. The healt hazard posed by these Irish was very serious and had to be contained. the causes can be traced back to the suppression of this race of people over centuries which caused the general malaise. The failed potato could be seen as the trigger.

Today, many Irish people would be glad to be shipped off or commuted to the colonies of Van Diemens Land, New Zealand or Australia. Congrats on your Visa and spare a thought for the youthful jetsam and flotsam of the tiger economy. I have no proof or much to go on, but I have been told the Greeks and the Irish are the two least sought after European citizens for US citizenship. Is this the case and if so where are its origins?

Comment by michael dunne on January 11, 2016 at 5:25am

Just heard an uplifting national radio interview with Bruce Morrison (Morrison Visa's) He was so positive and praising of all those statesmen and women who helped bring the peace to northern and all of Ireland. Great way to start off Monday mornings...thank you Bruce.

Comment by michael dunne on January 14, 2016 at 9:45am

Some quaint questions have been asked from time to time about why for instance did the Irish not eat what they grew? Well the truth is they did, and that was the monocrop of the lumper potato. This was supplemented with buttermilk a very healthy sugar free diet. In those times, most Irish peasants/cottiers rented the two acres annually. In fact it was for 11 months and they were tenants at will, reliant on the good will of the Landlord or his agent. Everything else they raised or grew was on the landlords estate and for the payment of the rents and Anglican church tithes. So with the rare exception of some cured bacon everything else had to be sold to survive on the two acres.

Other questions relate to why we did not eat fish. This can be likened to Marie Antoinette when told the paisans had no bread to give them cake. To be able to fish and have the equipment and the proximity to the sea might make this feasible for the few who knew how to do so.To visualize an exuberant well fed frontiersman chopping down trees, lashing the branches together with readily available waterproof ropes, sail and netting and heading out on his seafaring craft, to return with fish loaded to the gunnels like some character out of Daniel Defoe novel, is the utopian vision of people that just don't get it.

The few Irish peasants that owned some land, had to sign over their homesteads to the keeper of the poor house to gain access. This requirement was under the Gregory quarter acre Clause. Inmates often and anonymously died in these establishments. The land ownership however would have been carefully recorded. Other accounts relate where the father left this poorhouse,  trudging back to this homestead, now no longer his,carrying the surviving children inside to die. His last deed might be to board up the single window to prevent roaming dogs from entering and devouring the children should he be first to pass away. 25% of our anonymous population was lost to this famine; one million through immediate starvation and another million to emigration in the decade that followed. Culturally our greatest loss was our native language and our people. The effects are still being felt today through the chronic emigration of our youth up to the present day. Englands repressive colonizing policies denied the Irish nation the opportunity of becoming her loyal and supportive neighbours.

It has been calculated by economists that while Ireland was always England's food basket, the produce exported would have postponed the famine but not have been sufficient to prevent it

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