A Little Bit of Ireland

By Chevalier W.H. Grattan Flood, Mus. D., K.S.G.


     The pioneer work of Mr. Michael J. O’Brien, Historiographer of the American Irish Historical Society, in regard to Irish emigration to America, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is deserving of all praise. He has amassed and presented in attractive form a remarkable array of facts in his wonderful book, “A Hidden Phase of American History,” as also in his researchful articles in the Journal of the Society, facts that are indisputable and that serve, incidentally, to kill the “Scotch-Irish” myth. In that connection, I have been looking through the files of the Dublin newspapers, and gladly send this short article dealing with Irish emigration to the American Colonies in the years 1723-1773, containing data secured from this source.
     Although emigration from Ireland to America had gone on, spasmodically, from 1670 to 1715, yet in the latter year we find large numbers flying from all parts of Ireland, owing to the intolerance of the Penal Laws. Between the years 1725 and 1727 there are records of about 5,ooO persons emigrating, including 3,500 from Ulster, many of whom had contracted with masters of ships for four years’ servitude. The Protestant Primate, Boulter, in 1728 wrote to the Duke of Newcastle, that as a result of canvassing for emigrants by American agents, vast numbers had gone from Ulster, “deluded with stories of great plenty and estates to be had for going for in these parts of the world.” He added “there are now seven ships at Belfast that are carrying off 1,000 passengers hither, and if we knew how to stop them, as most of them can neither get victuals nor work at home, it would be cruel to do it.”
      In the Dublin papers of the years 1728 and 1729, I find several references to emigrants for Philadelphia. On one vessel alone, 200 embarked. The bare record is as follows: “April 8, 1728. Sailed the Elizabeth of Dublin to Philadelphia with 200 servants and passengers.” Similar records are given for succeeding months, and it is safe to say that during 1728 and 1729 more than 2,000 left Dublin for Philadelphia. These “Exiles from Erin” came from all parts of the island.
   The Dublin papers published a fetter from a correspondent in Philadelphia, dated July 31, 1728, which may here be quoted:
     “Our Assembly have passed a law to lay a Duty of Forty Shillings per Head upon all Aliens that shall be imported into this Province, and Twenty Shillings per Head upon all Irish Servants that shall be so imported. About ten days ago (July 20) a ship arrived here from Ireland with 200 Servants, and to avoid paying the Duty they are put on Shore at Burlington and Trent Town in New Jersey. There are now four vessels more arrived here from Ireland with Passengers.”
     Passing over twenty years, during which there was a constant stream of emigration from Ireland to America, I find another interesting document chronicled under date of May, 1751:
     “One hundred and fifty Passengers, including 50 Irish Servants (many of them Catholics who were bound as Servants before the Lord Mayor of Dublin) sailed for Philadelphia, on board the Homer, Captain John Slade, Commander.” The list of names is not complete, owing to damp, but I have made out the following as among those who sailed on the Homer from Dublin, in May, 1751: John O’Toole, Thomas Cassidy, James Fennell, James O’Neill, James Hickey, Edward Doran, John Callaghan, Catherine Cullen, Eleanor Cody, John Connery, Catherine Lawler, William Coffey, John Slattery, Philip MacNeill, Giles Power, Anne Connolly.
     An advertisement in the Belfast News Letter of June 3, 1766, announced that the Snow Buchanan had arrived safely in New York, after a passage of eight weeks and six days, on August 24, 1765, and the passengers advised any intending emigrants to sail on such a seaworthy vessel. To quote from the advertisement : “Passengers from the north of Ireland will recommend their friends who have an inclination to come to this country (where freedom reigns) to come by her.”
     In the year 1771, thirty-two ships sailed from Derry, Belfast, Newry, Portush and Lame, Ireland, each with a full complement of passengers, to America, while in 1772, thirty ships (8,450 tons) sailed from the same ports. During these two years it is computed that close on 20,COO people left Ulster, Ireland, for America. Again, in 1773, thirty-nine ships sailed from Belfast, Newry, Derry and Lame for America with about 12,000 passengers. During these years, as the newspapers relate, there were frequent sailings with Irish passengers for America, from the ports of Dublin, Cork and Waterford.
     Thus, it is safe to state that in these three years, 1771, 1772 and 1773, close on 32,000 people left Ulster alone for America, while at least 20,000 emigrated from Dublin and 10,000 each from Cork and Waterford, not taking into consideration the occasional sailings from Galway, Kilalla, Limerick, Sligo, Youghal and other ports. In all, during these three years, the total number of Irish emigrants may be taken, as Mr. O’Brien writes, to be “not far short of one hundred thousand !” In fact, I would venture to say, from a careful study of the emigration returns published in the Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Galway and Waterford papers, that it would not be rash to assume that 150,000rish emigrants went to America within a few years before the outbreak of the war in the Colonies. And since these emigrants were comprised largely of the young, and they left their native land with no love for the oppressor, these facts serve to support the proofs already presented by your Historiographer, that the Irish must have had an important part in the achievement of American independence.



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