O'Dwyer, George. "Irish Migrations to America (1861-1865)". Journal of the American Irish Historical Society, 1932. Vol XXX. New York: American Irish Historical Society , 1932

     In the American Civil War (1861-1865) there were large migrations of Irish laborers and tradesmen from English and Irish ports to America. Various reasons were assigned for this exodus of able-bodied men. Confederate agents and English sympathizers ascribed it as the work of Federal Army agents in Queenstown, Galway, Cork, Dublin, and other port towns in the Emerald Isle. The United States Government repeated, again and again, through its Minister, Charles Francis Adams in London, that it was a migration of able-bodied men to fill the places of those drafted into the Northern armies. These draftees were put to work on farms, in the wheat fields, in factories, on railroads, and in the mines; wherever labor was necessary for the building of new enterprises. Their passages were paid from Irish and English ports to New York. From New York, they scattered to different points; some, attracted by the settlements and enterprises of the West and Middle West; others, by the fact that their relatives were in the cities and towns in and near the Eastern seaboard.
     So many migrated in 1862 and 1863 from England and Ireland, that it attracted the attention of Parliament, and debates on its probable effect occupied the attention of members of the English governing body in the spring of 1863. In March, that year, the member from Liverpool rose in his place in Parliament and read from Custom House reports that, for the current year, "up to the last day of March, l863, 24,800 Irish laborers had left Liverpool for America. Between March 31st and April 24th, 14,648 had sailed. Many were recruits for the Northern Army for their passage had been paid to America."
     Lord Russell then complained to Minister Charles F. Adams in London that "the large migration from British ports in 1863 was the work of Federal agents who induced able-bodied young men to go to New York that they might be tempted to enlist in the Union army." Adams denied that "agents of the United States were seeking recruits; he declared that he was authorized by his Government to deny the charge. Scarcity of labor, high wages, distress of the people of Ireland, explained the migration. Railroads in the United States were seeking alien labor because of the liability of the men in their employ to be drafted." (History of the People of the United States, McMasterr; as also Claims of the United States against Great Britain vol. II, pp. 396-405.) The Confederate Secretary of State, Benjamin, instructed Mason, the Confederate agent in London to "report on this charge of recruiting in Ireland." Mason found that "great numbers had gone to Liverpool. Their passages had been paid, and from this," he inferred, "they were for military service, although they were engaged to work on railroads or on farms. Detectives employed by him could find nothing on which to base a representation to the British Government." Lieut. Capston of the Confederate army was next sent to Ireland by the Confederate Secretary of State, Benjamin, and his work was supplemented in England by de Leon, another propagandist.
     Lieutenant Capston in Ireland sought the aid of men, powerful in the press and in political circles. But his support was negligible for most of the men who emigrated had relatives in the North and in the Northern armies. He did find some newspapers and printers, however, who gave him their aid in printing posters and broadsides which were circulated in boarding-houses and hotels in Dublin, Cork, Galway, and other towns in southern Ireland. Capston, in his broadsides, appealed to the religious prejudices of the migrating laborers. One of his posters bore the caption: "Caution to Emigrants." In large display type were the statements : "Persecution of Catholics in America," "The Tabernacle Overthrown," "The Blessed Host Scattered on the Ground, " "Benediction Veil Made into a Horse-Cover," "All the Sacred Vessels Carried Off, " "The Monuments of the Dead Defaced, " "The Priest Imprisoned and Afterwards Exposed on an Island to Alligators and Snakes."
     All of the above-named outrages were said to have been committed by bigoted soldiers in the Northern armies. Some were alleged to have been perpetrated by Union soldiers in Louisiana, while Butler had charge, and men from bigoted Massachusetts companies were blamed.
    Father John Brannon followed Lieutenant Capston. The reverend gentleman put up at the Angel Hotel in Dublin in 1863. This hotel was a favorite resort of middle-class farmers and priests from small towns in and near the city. Father Brannon had only indifferent success. The cause of the Confederate Government received scant sympathy, for the priests concerned had repeatedly urged their flock to go to the cities and towns in the northern part of the United States where the Irish Catholic influences were great. "He had struck off 2000 copies of a handbill which was distributed in boarding-houses in Queenstown and Galway where young emigrants put up before sailing for America." (Pickett Papers-letters of Brannon to Benjamin, November 17,1863, and December 15,1863.)
     Secretary of State Seward in Washington, mindful of the effect of the Irish migrations to the North, showed conclusively, and instructed Minister Adams in London to inform those affected by Confederate propaganda, that "the mass of European emigrants, not sensibly lessened by the abstraction of a few recruits, scattered, as soon as they reached our shores, and might be found prosperously and happily employed in our marts, our wheat fields, our factories, our forests, or our mines, or, if they wished, in the army and navy, now maintaining the integrity and freedom of the country which they have adopted as their own. This emigration has been wrongly treated in the British Parliament as something new and anomalous. On the contrary, it was but the continuation of that process, begun in the 16th century, by which society in Europe is relieved, and civilization in America instituted." (Seward to Adams-Claims of the United States against Great Britain, vol. II, pp. 457, 458.)
     This protest of the English Government in reference to Irish participation in the armed struggles of the United States, is not new. In 1779, the British Parliament, alarmed at the repeated reverses of the British forces in the Revolutionary War in America instituted an investigation into the reasons. Sworn witnesses deposed in London that one-third of Washington’s army was composed of Irish emigrants, and others declared that they were one-half.
     The Official Records of the Union and Confederate armies, published by the United States Government, show, in startling array, commanders of companies, regiments, battalions, corps and divisions, whose names indicated their Irish origin. The rank and file of the Union armies were largely men of Irish and German extraction. The army and navy rolls, from 1561 to 1865, show this fact conclusively.
     As for Irish migrations to Northern port towns, they have been continuous from the earliest period of settlement. The Irish pioneers upheld the destinies of the colonies in the Colonial Period ; they were in every hall of state, and in every regiment in the Revolutionary Period; in the Formative Period (1757-1850) their worth was evident in the deeds of the army and navy and in constructive civil life; and when the Civil War Period came, the descendants of the Irish pioneers, and the later migrations. were in the front ranks of every battle!  

Fitzgerald, James. "The Causes that Led to Irish Emigration". Journal of the American Irish Historical Society, 1911. Vol X. New York: American Irish Historical Society , 1911




    I am very thankful to my old and valued friend, your distinguished Chairman, Hon. Morgan J. O’Brien, for his more than kindly introduction, and deeply grateful to you for the cordiality of your reception. We are all to be congratulated upon the opportunity afforded us of participating in the Silver Jubilee of the Mission of the Holy Rosary. The good work the Mission has accomplished for immigrant girls during the past twenty-five years has earned international recognition,  and as we listened to the highly interesting and very eloquent address of Father Henry, the history and details of the splendid services performed by himself and his lamented predecessors on behalf of morality and religion, were deeply impressive. We wish the Mission God-speed for the future, and ardently hope that as long as young Irish girls must emigrate, they may find to greet them at the portals of the New World, the good priests of the Mission ready to guard them against the pitfalls of the tempter and profligate, and to point out to them the secure roadways over which they may unfalteringly advance by industry and virtue to win fortune and friendship on these hospitable shores. I have been requested to speak this evening on the causes that led to Irish emigration, and in opening, can truthfully say that with the vast majority, emigration was not a matter of choice.
    The love of Irishmen for Ireland, their devotion to her history and traditions, their loyalty to her cause under the most discouraging circumstances, their unshaken faith in her future, are all matters so universally recognized as to be considered well within the common knowledge of mankind. The Irishman loves his native soil, he clings to it with tenacity, he parts from it in sorrow. The valleys and mountains, the woods and rivers of his beloved country are endeared to him by the honest of memories, as he is bound to them by the strongest and most enduring of ties. There are no people on earth more deeply rooted in their affection for their native land and the blue sky above it than are the children of the Island of St. Patrick. These qualities have long characterized them; they constitute the indisputable evidence of their patriotism; they are the Heaven-set marks of racial demarcation which make of the Gaels of Ireland a people distinctive and indestructible. When we begin to consider what the causes are that led to Irish emigration, we must eliminate from among those causes any disposition upon the part of the Irish people to voluntarily forsake Ireland; we must look for other reasons to account for that vast out-pouring of the Irish nation which has contributed so largely to the population of North and South America, of Australia and its outlying islands, of South Africa, and, in lesser degree, to that of many other lands, for there does not seem to have been a discoverable spot upon the surface of the earth too remote for the Irishman to settle in; he and his descendants are to be found in far Western isles, as they are traceable throughout all European countries, and the account which they have given of themselves in war and peace, in field and forum, in Church and State, throughout civilization constitutes as proud a record of achievement as is to be found in history. The question of involuntary Irish emigration is an old one; we do not have far to wander in our search for some of its causes, and in tracing them, we must arraign the sister isle, in other words, call England to the bar, for, when we strike the root of Irish trouble, we find it is mainly attributable to injustice and misgovernment.

The Penal Laws.

    Religious persecution, as exemplified by the Penal Laws, hardly tended to make Ireland a desirable place to live in for Roman Catholics. By these statutes, a person professing that faith was prohibited from acquiring land in fee or by leasehold; his tenure was at sufferance; he could not hold an estate in land, nor of personal property, nor could he be the owner of a single chattel worth more than five pounds; he could not educate his children under penalty of transportation; he could not worship in the sacred sanctuaries of his Church without rendering himself liable to persecution. He had no property rights, no personal rights, So completely were Irish Catholics, who constituted the vast majority of the population, bereft of their civil rights, so absolutely were they without legal redress to prevent or remedy wrongs that the Lord Chancellor and Chief Justice of Ireland in those days solemnly declared from the bench that "the law does not contemplate the existence of any such person as an Irish Roman Catholic."

Restrictive Trade Laws.

    These Penal Laws, which were directed against conscience were supplemented by industrial statutes which were directed against industry and trade. When it was discovered that Ireland could undersell England in woollen fabrics, and thus became her dangerous competitor in the markets of the world, the exportation of woollen cloth from Ireland to any part of the earth other than England and Wales was absolutely prohibited, and a prohibitive tariff was laid upon manufactured woolen goods entering English or Welsh ports. Under those circumstances, is it any wonder that the woolen industry died out in Ireland, and is it surprising that English woolen factories flourished? And then there were the Navigation Laws. With the character of these Navigation Laws, Americans are somewhat familiar, but, thank God, their pernicious effect was summarily ended here when the British connection was severed and the sovereign independence of the United States established in the glorious era of the Revolution. But, to return to Ireland, the English merchants and ship owners wanted no Irish competition in Colonial trade, and by these Navigation Laws, direct trade between Ireland and the Colonies was prohibited. Nothing could be imported into Ireland from the Colonies, except by the way of England, and nothing could be exported out of Ireland to the Colonies except in the same manner. In other words, Ireland could only do business with the Colonies through the agency of English middlemen, and when these middlemen were selfish and avaricious competitors, the prospects of the Irish manufacturer must have been the reverse of encouraging. In theory, Englishmen would have us believe that the relationship maintained between great Britain and Ireland is a kind of mutually beneficial partnership. From their point of view, it is theoretically sublime and practically superb. From the Irishman’s point of view, this relationship is not only galling to national and personal pride but absolutely ruinous to individual advancement or national progress. Under the peculiar articles of this co-partnership, it is provided that all of the benefits and profits shall be received by and paid over to the party of the first part-England, and that all of the disadvantages and losses are to be suffered and borne by the party of the second part-Ireland. This is not an over-statement of the proposition ; it is historically true. Charles II. prohibited the export of cattle, pork, bacon or dairy produce. The Irish people then resorted to wool raising and the manufacture of woolen fabrics, with the result, as I have told you, that it was decreed that Ireland could neither export woolen fabrics nor raw wool. Any attempt to build up industry with promise of success was immediately frustrated by a prohibitory act of Parliament until unjust and arbitrary legislation accomplished the utter annihilation of Irish trade. For over two hundred years, such were the conditions prevailing in Ireland, and is it surprising that the Irish became dissatisfied? English writers throughout all of this time accused them of being lawless. Deprived of property rights and of personal rights, prohibited from trade, persecuted in their religion, without opportunity for investment of capital, without market for labor, subjected to indignities and insults, with the jail and the gibbet as the penalty of even protest, and all of these infamous measures enacted and administered in the name of the law and carried out with all of its pomp and circumstance, is it any wonder that the people of Ireland looked upon the law of the land as an infamous iniquity, and plotted and planned and fought with a fury often wild and irresistible to rid themselves of a system which upon principles of natural justice, it was criminal mockery and sacrilege to dignify by the sacred name of law.

The Dublin Parliament.

    We are told that Ireland had a Parliament in those days. True, there was an institution in Dublin called by that name, but it was the Parliament of the English garrison-not the Parliament of the Irish people, and poor and miserable as this moribund body of place holders and autocrats was, to further insure British interests, the Poyning Act of George I. was enacted, by which all laws passed in the Parliament of England were made operative in Ireland, while not only the Irish people, but not even the English garrison in Ireland had a single representative at Westminster. And, talking of representation, it is interesting to consider the character of the Dublin Parliament as a representative body. Eighty per cent. of the population of Ireland were Catholic, yet no person belonging to that faith was eligible to membership in Parliament. Not only was this so, but until 1793 no Catholic could vote at any election held for the purpose of electing members to Parliament. Further than this, many of the members were virtually appointed by the Crown, the established Church, or the landlords, and of the people who lived in Ireland, native and settlers, not more than a fraction of one per cent. were even privileged to vote at Parliamentary elections. Vast numbers of Catholic artisans and laborers, thrown out of work in Ireland, went over to England in search for employment, and in Cromwellian days, Irish peasants, men and women, were deported by the tens of thousands to the Barbadoes and Jamaica, to work in the sugar fields, a doom infinitely worse than that of negro slaves in the cotton fields. At this period, too, the flower of the young manhood of Ireland, baffled and betrayed by successive English claimants and pretenders, followed their patriotic chiefs upon the Continent and took service under foreign flags. The subsequent achievements of these Irish regiments and brigades form some of the most brilliant chapters in the military history of France, Spain and Austria, and in the providence of Heaven they were afforded many opportunities of destroying the resources of England and causing humiliation to her monarchs, as they beheld their scarlet legions stagger and fly before the irresistible onslaught of the exiles from the banks of the Shannon, the Liffey and the Lee.
    In those days, too, emigrants from Ireland, came in large numbers to the American Colonies, not only of Catholics, but of Presbyterians and dissenters, for these non-conformists were persecuted and suffered for conscience sake, though not to the same extent as their Catholic fellow-countrymen. but yet to a degree sufficient to cause their manhood to revolt against the aggression, and it is a recognized fact of history that Catholic and Protestant Irishmen, bringing with them to the New World, in the language of Bancroft, "no submissive love for England," were among the first to raise their voices in protest against the aggressive acts of King George and among the bravest and most capable of the soldiers of the Continental Army.

Grattan’s Parliament.

    Now, there was a brief period of comparative prosperity in Ireland following the repeal of the Poyning Act, and of the establishment of the Parliament of Grattan. The rapid and splendid revival of prosperity during the following eighteen years was remarkable. The fishing trade, the linen trade, the iron trade, and the shipping trade flourished; great public works were inaugurated ; splendid public buildings erected and progress made in all lines of national life, with the result that British jealousy became again aroused and the infamous plot was entered into which resulted in the passage of the Act of Union eighteen years after. One of the worst libels directed against Ireland was that her sons were corrupt and bartered away her legislative rights for the bribes paid them by the infamous agents of Pitt and Castlereagh. When we recall how this so called Irish Parliament was constituted, we should feel proud of its patriotic record and glory in the fact that its dying hours if marked by scenes of infamy and disgrace, were also illumined by acts of heroism and sacrifice, and witnessed indignant protests expressed in words as thrillingly eloquent and sublimely defiant as ever assailed the ears of tyranny and oppression.

The Union.

    The Act of Union was, however, unfortunately and shamefully passed and Ireland was deprived of legislative power. There was no department of her government, administrative or judicial, over which her people had the slightest control. They had no initiative; the building of a bridge or the repairing of a road, the pavement of a street, the construction of a sewer or water system, were matters which could not be undertaken except by permission of some central government board with offices in Dublin, the members of which held life places directly under the Crown and were neither in sympathy with nor responsible to the people. Nothing was done by Parliament to revive industry; the landlords, the owners of the soil, were entrenched in privileges, the tenants or occupants thereof were bereft of rights. The government of the island seemed to have had but two functions; to levy taxes; to collect rents. The industrious were worse off than the thriftless, for the more by their toil they improved their holdings, the greater the rents they were forced to pay, until it became manifest that no matter what  the objects were British statesmen had in view, the result of their policy was to impoverish upon the one hand and to squander upon ,the other. Agricultural lands were mortgaged and rent racked to the last penny that could be extracted to enable the proprietors to spend with lavish hand the blood money of a people to uphold their social prestige, or worse, in foreign society. We who enjoy the rights of freemen know how vigilant and ceaseless must be our efforts to restrain official extravagance and prevent squandering of public funds, and we are consequently in a position to appreciate the unfortunate position of the taxpayers of Ireland, who were taxed without representation and plundered without redress. To move the imperial Parliament to consider or enact remedial laws, to meet or remedy Irish grievances, was a useless waste of energy and a total loss of time, but, it must not be imagined from this that Ireland was neglected by the law-making power; on the contrary, Parliament in some respects was more than generous to her. It was very liberal in passing coercion acts, in passing acts to suspend the privilege of habeas corpus, to proclaim martial law, in passing acts to facilitate jury packing, to stifle free speech, to muzzle the press, to deny the right of assembly. The Irish people never had to petition for the passage of such laws. One of the first fruits of the Union was the reduction of Dublin to a provincial city, and this in turn became the fruitful cause of what has been described as absenteeism,-that terrible drain upon the revenues collected in the shape of rent from the tillers of the soil, the greater part of which was expended abroad without contributing a penny by way of return to home industry or trade. The tenant farmer left without security of tenure became now the prey of a class of middlemen, each of whom became a petty oppressor and licensed local tyrant. The proctor and the bailiff became familiar figures, and darkness and evil invariably followed in their shadow. The Irish Constabulary was organized ; the Crow Bar Brigade was called into requisition. The home of the disarmed farmer, the hovel of the defenceless peasant were the fortifications these drilled and armed warriors attacked, and their attacks soon became matters of daily occurrence. Famine was beginning to spread over the land threatening death to millions of the inhabitants, and what did the Parliament of the United Kingdom do now ? It did something; it appointed a commission to inquire into the condition of the Irish peasantry, and this commission, after long delay, many hearings and deep consideration, reported what every member of the commission and of the Parliament that created it knew long before its appointment, that the Irish agricultural laborer was the worst housed, the worst fed, the worst clothed, and was undergoing greater suffering than any of his class in Europe; but nothing was done further, and soon the anticipated famine became a frightful reality; that famine which was the direct result of conditions traceable to Parliamentary union with Great Britain and the destruction of Irish legislative independence. From 1800 to 1840, the population had grown from five to eight millions of souls, and ever since Catholic emancipation was granted, as Wellington admitted as the only means of preventing a revolution, the matter of the reduction of Ireland’s increasing population was the subject of much Parliamentary debate and anxiety. In ‘45 and ‘46, the failure of a single product deprived hundreds of thousands of the Irish peasantry of the one article of food which their limited resources had forced them for many years to mainly depend upon. The government of England apprehended danger but took no step to avert it, and now that men, women and children were starving by the tens of thousands, the Government stood supinely by and exercised none of the extraordinary governmental functions which are always resorted to upon the ground of humanity in the face of extreme emergency to avert dire calamity, to reduce to a minimum unutterable woe. All of the powers, revenues and resources of Ireland had been transferred to London over forty years before, and the co-relative duty was on the Prime Minister and the Parliament to take effective measures to prevent the threatened holocaust. O’Connell and other thoughtful men appealed to the government at least not to permit the export of grain from Ireland until the minimum of food was secured for the starving multitude. This could not be done, said the Minister; it was a wrong proposal upon economic grounds; it would be an unwarrantable interference with the natural law of supply and demand. Imagine a city invested by a powerful enemy who are endeavoring to break through its ramparts, and a starving people inside, what would be thought of the governor who would not protect such provisions as were within its walls for the use of the besieged upon the ground that by doing so, he would be interfering with the theoretical operation of the law of supply and demand.
      The first duty that rested upon the Government of England was to feed the famished people; full compensation could have been subsequently made to those whose property rights might have been temporarily interfered with. The emergency, however, was not met, and in 1846, three hundred thousand Gaels of Ireland perished of starvation and resultant diseases. England, however, was beginning to see the question of the surplus population of Ireland approaching solution, for, as a consequence of the famine years, the great tide of emigration set in, which so swelled in numbers and augmented from year to year, that now there are more men and women of Irish blood within these United States alone than are in the Ireland of to-day. In forty years from 1851 to 1891, four millions of emigrants sailed from the shores of Ireland. The vast majority of these millions of emigrants were driven out of Ireland by force more ruthless than had it been done at the point of the bayonet or before the muzzles of loaded guns. Famine, infinitely worse than war, accomplished the work; it was war; a war of extermination levied upon men, women, and children; neither decrepit age nor helpless infancy were spared its horrors. Every effort of the unarmed people to defend their homes was seized upon as an opportunity for the perpetration of additional outrage; then it was that the Bailiffs, the Constabulary and the Crow Bar Brigade accomplished their most prodigious achievements, throwing whole families upon the wayside and applying the torch to the empty cabins lest the unfortunate victims of agrarian tyranny might seek the shelter of the empty walls for protection against the inclemency of the wind and rain, In one district alone, six thousand houses were levelled within a period of six months. The Parliament at Westminster was not entirely bereft of humanity and is entitled to recognition for the efforts it made to mitigate the misery of those awful days, A law was enacted forbidding evictions on Christmas Day and Good Friday. Kindly, Christian Parliament! what impious, unchristian ingrates the Irish tenantry must have been that they did not rise up and call you blessed. There is assuredly no trouble in finding causes for Irish emigration at this time, and it is not surprising that every form of floating craft, seaworthy or unseaworthy, which afforded an opportunity of escape from these wretched conditions was availed of.
    Thank God, however, the Gael is still in Ireland, and although the population is not more than half of what it was before this period of vast emigration set in, the race is virile, hopeful, resolute, struggling bravely against adverse conditions and strong in the national faith, as were their fathers in the days of old. Irishmen are self-reliant and courageous as they always were; Irish women are ever virtuous and fair; Irish family life is pure and wholesome; Irish marriages are contracts for life; the divorce court, thank God, is not and never was an Irish institution. The race has outlived the persecutions of Elizabeth and Cromwell, the union of Pitt and Castlereagh, the famines of Peel and Russell, the evictions and coercion acts of later times, and is still hopefully awaiting the dawn of freedom when the causes of involuntary emigration will be removed: normal and natural conditions restored; industries built up; unnecessary burdens abolished; opportunity for individual enterprises afforded and national prosperity attained. It is vain to expect these results under alien rule. The first prerequisite for their achievement is self-government, and to secure self-government for Ireland should command the united efforts of the Gaelic race resident upon her shores or dwelling in distant lands, for, no matter what seas divide the children of the Gael, they are "one in name and one in fame."