The Irish first started to immigrate to the United States in the 1820s and between 1820 and 1860 the Irish were never less than a third of all immigrants. The immigrants were coming straight to the United States but in 1864 The British Passenger Acts was passed. The Acts attempted to deflect the immigration from the British Isles to Canada instead of the United States by making the fare cheaper. It was 15 shillings to go to Canada compared to four-five pounds fare to go to New York. Many Irish bought the tickets to go to Canada and simply walked over the border into the United States. By the 1840s the Irish constituted nearly half of all entering immigrates. This was due mostly to the Great Potato Famine in 1845.
From 1845 to 1850 the crops in Ireland were undependable and many perished, the survivors, destitute of hope, wished only to get away (Handlin, 1972). The Americans had an anti-Catholic tradition dating back to the Puritan eras and many of the Puritan descendants viewed the growing influx of Roman Catholic Irish with increasing dismay. The ports along the United States eastern seaboard required a bond to be posted by the captain of a ship guaranteeing that his passengers would not become wards of the city.
The Irish immigrants that came to America during the famine were the first big wave of poor refugees ever to arrive in the United States, and Americans were simply overwhelmed (The History Place, 2000). The immigrants settled into enclaves near the Boston waterfront along Batterymarch, Broad Streets, and then in to the North End and in East Boston. They fell victim to unscrupulous Boston landlords who charged the Irish family $1.50 a week for a nine-by-11 foot room with no water, sanitation, ventilation, or daylight. The Irish would huddle together in musty cellars, gardens, back yards, and alleys surrounding the house. The unsanitary conditions were a breeding ground for disease, particularly cholera (The... [continues]
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