Historic context about Irish Immigration
How did the Irish migrants integrate in the United
States from the 19th century until today ?
The four main domains of the Irish integration in
the United States
The Irish workforce
The catholic religion in the United States
The Irish migrants in the American politic
The Irish influences on the American culture
We gonna show you how the Irish migrants integrated in the
United States during the nineteenth century until today. We’ve
chosen this subject because we think that’s very important to
associate the history and his result today to understand the
actual world. To understand better the subject, we are going to
explain the historic and the geographic context and then we
gonna speak about the integration in general and the four main
domains of the Irish integration in the United States : economic,
politic, religious and cultural. And finally, we are going to
conclude this subject.
The Irish are one of the largest ethnic group in the
United States. Before 1820 and the industrial
revolution which has begun in the United Kingdom,
only teachers, rich artisans or other rich
professionals could afford the Atlantic crossing
because it was really expensive. These earlier
immigrants generally got a good fortune in the new
However the main wave of Irish immigrants
in the United States was between 1820 and
1880 because more poor people could
afford the trip who was less expensive but
in horrible conditions. This wave peaked
from 1846 to 1851 because of the Great
Famine which forced millions of Irish to
leave their homeland. Besides, for the
majority of them, at first their life in the USA
wasn’t really pleasant but then they grew
up in the society and became mayor of big
In this main wave in the 19th century, a lot
of Irish migrate in the United States
because of the Great Famine, the poverty,
the religion war and bad conditions of life
like epidemics (plague). They believed that
the life was going to be better in the new
continent, that the American were more
tolerant about Catholics and that they were
going to grow rich because of the myth of
the Eldorado: the American Dream. Thanks
to the transport revolution who decreased
the time of the route and the risk of danger.
The migrants left Ireland by the ferry,
however the trip was very difficult because
the migrants were piled up and they didn’t
have enough food to feed themselves.
Many of them didn’t survive to the Atlantic
crossing. From 1892, the Irish migrants
arrived in the USA in Ellis Island, situated
next to New York.
Ireland is a country separated in two : Nothern Ireland which is a part of United Kingdom
and the Republic of Ireland which is independant.
Démographic evolutions : in the 19th century, the population growth began thanks to
the fall with the mortality rate and was possible
thanks to the progress of the medicine, the
hygiene and the farming (agriculture) which
avoided the famine. Nonetheless from 1846 to
1851, potatoes rotted in the farmland. Thereby the
population suffered from hunger and about a
million died. It was the Great Famine. It caused a
Crisis of abnormally high death rate
Religion : in the 19th century, the catholics were in minority in a protestant country. So
they were intolerated and not accepted by the protestants. It caused many
religious conflicts which killed thousands.
Economics problems : Some Irishes didn’t paid the rents of lands to the English lords.
As a consequence, they were evicted and had to sleep in
Emigration : Because of this problems, many Irish went to another country to have
better condition of life like France, United States or Australia.
This country is composed by 50 states leading by a president.
Economic prosperity : in the 19th century, this country was known for its good conditions of
life. Many forward countries qualified this as the American Dream or
the myth of Eldorado. In 1858, there was the gold rosh in California.
Moreover the USA looked for more workforce. Thereby, the USA
government favored the immigration. The country develop the
capitalism system and a great economic prosperity began without
Emigration : Lots of Irish or Italian went to the United states hoping better life conditions.
Thanks to this immigrations, the USA became the fouth permanent settlement.
Before 1892, the immigration wasn’t really controled but many of the migrant
brought epidemics like prague or smallpox . So then, the government opened
Ellis Island, a place situated next to New York where the migrants had a
medical examination to know if they were carrying the epidemics. If they were
not, they were allowed to enter in New York. However, if they carried a virus,
they were refered in their native country.
Before 1840, only rich Irishes
who wants to discover the
new continent migrate to the
USA because the trip was
really expensive. So the first
wave of migrants integrates
very well in the United States
because they could paid their
food, their house and what
they wanted like a normal
american. The rich Irishes
didn’t exposed their culture
and their traditions so they
considered as an American
At first, the Irish migrants were victims of poverty while the American were growing rich because
when the first migrants arrived; no installation like water, electricity or place to live was planned
for them. So they had to live in shantytowns. Many of them lived in a district called "Five points"
situated in the South of Manhattan in New York. Charles Dickens describe this district as a place
of horrible and dirty buildings where thefts and murders were omnipresent. Irish weren't really
accepted by the American. Other Irish migrates lived in basements, cellars or for the luckiest in
flat where there is no water, no windows, no electricity and no ventilation. Nevertheless that was
dirty and intolerable. Thereby there are a lot of rats and the Irish suffered from typhoid fever,
pneumonia and tuberculosis. Because of these epidemics, lots of Irish migrants died and
contaminated the American. The alcohol made worst this epidemics and Irish drank all the day.
As a consequence, lots of Irish migrant were admitted in hospice and in hospital and other were
arrested by the police and condemn to imprisonment or to pay a fine for having disturbing the
peace. In New York, in 1859, 55 % of the people arrested were Irish. So many of American were
afraid of being attacked by an Irish migrant.
The Irish migrants were also victims of many stereotypes. They were imported from England
characterizing the Irish as pugnacious, drunken, semi-savages were common and endured for at
least the rest of the nineteenth century. Multitudes of cartoons depicting the Irish as small, ugly,
simian creatures armed with liquor and a shillelagh pervaded the press; and such terms as
"paddy-wagons," "shenanigans," and "shanty Irish" gained popularity.
Despite of those bad stereotype, the Irish migants had more avantages than the other one.
They spoke English, they were in great number and they had a culture which was similary to the
Irish weren't qualified so they accepted to work for a miserable salary and they
replaced the American who asked for a higher salary. The migrants served as an industrial
workforce. As a consequence Irish and American were in competition. So the majority of the
American was afraid that their salary lowered and that they were going to loose there job.
The catholic Irish migrant arrived in a protestant country, so they weren’t very accepted
because the American thought that they wanted to impose their catholic religion. There were lots
of riots. Then the Irish migrants wanted to prove that they could be "good American" by keeping
their culture. In any case they spoke English so according to their religion they managed the
catholic Church. However the American continued to be intolerant until 1960 when John Kennedy
was elected as a president because he is a descendant of an Irish migrant.
But in spite of this intolerance, the Irish Migrants became "Good American" and they succeed
in keeping their tradition and in sharing it. The American adopted Saint Patrick's Day. The Irish
had an influence on the American culture. Over the years, the life condition of the migrants
became better and they were more ambitious, so to have better salaries they went in the West of
the USA. And they concentrated in the urban circles. The Irish migrants participated to the
American politic. The Know Nothing Party were always criticizing them because of their influence
during the elections. Thereby the local political life was influenced by the Irish migrants and
municipalities like Boston or New York were lead by them.
John F. Kennedy showed that the Irish are a part of the America and that it is possible to
admit all the religions in a country. From this time, the Irish were totally accepted in the United
States with their culture. Today, the United States are composed of people from all
nationalities, that’s the melting pot. This country has a rich culture and adopted Irish customs.
The Irish ethnic group is one of the most prosperous in the United States. The Irish have a
good economic situation, now they are qualified, have a high educational level and a high
salary. For the majority, they are married with American. Now the American celebrate St
Patrick’s day, here is a picture
a) The Irish
In the 19th century, the United States need cheap
industrial workforce. Besides, the Irish migrants didn’t ask
a good salary. The Irish accepted all type of job to arise
the needs of their families. So they stood in for the
American worker who want high salary and for the strikers.
All the American were afraid of loosing their job, of having
starvation wage and of loosing the assured of the trade
unionism that they have won. They also thought the Irish
weren’t capable to work one’s way to the top in the society
and that they were going to form a permanent proletariat in
the United States which could ruin an American principle
which was the upward social mobility thanks to personnal
efforts. Nonetheless the Irishes hold majority of the jobs,
and they served as industrial workforce. It has permitted
the arrival of larges companies in particular in the field of
siderurgy, coal, motor, textile. The United States became
one of the biggest economic power in the world.
b) The catholic religion in
the United States
The majority of the Irish migrants
migrate because of the religion war in
protestant. So the Catholic one arrived
in the United States, a country where
the people are for the majority
protestant. Many of American were
afraid that the catholic wanted to
change their religion and that they
wanted to impose their worship. There
were lots of riots between the two
religion like in 1834 when a protestant
burnt the convent of Urselines in the
Massachusetts or in 1844 when
another American burnt a catholic
church in Philadelphia because of a
dispute to know the version of the Bible
which was going to be used in school,
the protestant one or the catholic one.
Finally, the Irish found their real place
in the American worship and lead the
c) The Irish migrants in the
At first, the Irish migrants couldn’t express their politic
opinion. But after having the American nationality with the
right of naturalization, they were allowed to vote during the
local election and the presidential one. From 1870, the
Irish migrants were mainly concentrated in big city like
Boston, Philadelphia or New York. In these place, the Irish
migrant formed politic organisations to conquer
municipalities. The Irish migrants were for the American
right-hand people and also safe pair of hands. The
American could count on the Irish. The catholic church
which wanted to be more considered and to have bigger
building voted for the Irish politic party during the local
election. Because of the large cohort of Irish people in
these cities and because of those reasons, lots of Irish
migrant became mayor of big cities.
Then, the Irish didn’t want to succeed in the politic thanks
to their nationality and their worship. They wanted to be
elected for their ideas. That’s the case of John F. Kennedy
in 1920, a descendant of Irish migrants. He said that he
was the democratic candidate in the presidential election
but that he was cathlolic instead of being the catholic
c) Irish influences on the
The Irish migrant had a Western European culture which is similar to the American one.
However they had lots of Irish traditions, customs that they wanted to keep. Over the
years, the American learnt more about them and accept them. They adopted some
traditions and considered these as an Irish’s cultural heritage. The American love
celebrating Saint Patrick’s day which is the most important day for the catholic Irish
because that is an annual celebration of catholicism in Ireland. This feast had a catholic
signifiance. At the root, only the catholic celebrated but now it is a part of the American
culture because when the Irish catholic were in the United States they continued to
celebrate this feast. The Irish also brought their culinary traditions like the Irish coffee. All
of these Irish American customs formed a cultural pluralism in the United States and the
Irish formed their ethnic identity.
Saint Patrick’s day is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on March the 17th from
the early seventeenth. This day is a public holiday in Ireland and in Nothern Ireland but it
is also celebrated by the Irish dispora especially in Britain, in theUnited States, in
Canada, in Australia, in Argentina and in New Zeland. Originally the color of this feast
was the blue but over the years it became the green. And this day, the Irish wear green
clothes and normally with a shamrock because it is the symbol of St patrick’s day and of
After suffering from difficult conditions of life in
shantytowns without water, or food and after
working for a miserable salary, the Irish catholic
migrants who at first suffered from intolerance of
the American protestant began leading the catholic
church. They were more accepted. And thanks to
their great number and to the English language,
they formed politic organisations and conquered
municipalities like Boston or New York. The
American criticized them because of their influence
in the local politic. Over the years, the Irish began
being accepted with their culture. And the
American adopted some Irish customs like St
Patrick’s day. The Irish left a cultural legacy in the
United States. Thanks to the election of John F.
Kennedy who is a decendant of Irish migrants, the
Irish American people were totally accepted and it
showed that all the religion could be admitted in a
country. Now the Irish American people have good
economic condition and they celebrate each year
Saint Patrick’s day with their American friends.