Irish Immigration: American Reaction

Figure 1.--The Irish were the first major immigrant group in America to be wdely dispairged. Note the way the family in the upper right is looking unconfortably at the immigrant children playing. The children look to be mostly Irish, notice the caps. Unfortunately we do not know where this illustration appeared and when. We believe it probably appeared in an illustrated magazine during the 1880s. Click on the image for a discussion of the scene.

There was considerable adverse reaction to the arrival of the Irish. Colonia Ameicans had received various foreign groups as was the case of the early Republic. But the Irish were different. The sheer numbers of Irish who arrived were certainly part of the problem. But it was not the only problem. Most of the Irish who arrived were destitute, unskilled, illiteret tenant farmers. Even more of a shock was they were Catholic. America until the 1840s was largely a Protestant country. There was no established Church. Tht had been expresselly prohibited by the First Amendment. Yet most Americans were Protestants. While Amerucans during the Colonial era had become increasingly tolerant of other Protestant sects, the same tolerance did not generally extend to Catholics. Especially after the Irish began arriving in numbers, student condemnations of "Popery" became common in American newspapers. Catholcism was of some importance in Maryland, but the vast proprtion of Ameruicans were Protestants and many shared the English prejudice and fear of Catholics. The Irish Catholics were a shock to many Americans, giving rise to the first nativist movement and in large measure the No Nothing Party. Signs appeard in shop windows, "No Irish need apply."


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Created: 2:54 AM 9/18/2006
Last updated: 1:22 PM 9/18/2006