Causes of Irish Emigration

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXVII

The great tide of western emigration was undoubtedly caused, in part, by the sufferings of the famine year; but these sufferings were in themselves an effect, rather than a cause; and we must look to more remote history for the origin of the momentous exodus. It has, indeed, been well observed, that "when a man leaves his country for one subject to foreign rule, it must, in general, be that he does not care for it, or that it does not care for him; it must either be that he is so little attached to the institutions of his own country, that he is willing to submit to those of another; or that he despises the latter sufficiently to look forward to replacing them by those of his own."[9]

No unprejudiced person can for a moment doubt which of these causes has been most active in producing Irish emigration. The Irishman's love of home and of his native land, is a fact beyond all dispute: his emigration, then, can have no other cause than this, that his country, or the country which governs his native land, does not care for him; and when we find noble lords and honorable members suggesting "the more emigration the better," we cannot doubt that he is the victim to indifference, if not to absolute dislike.

Undoubtedly, if the Irishman did not care for his country, and if the Englishman, when planted in Ireland, did not become equally discontented and rather more indignant than his predecessors under English rule in Ireland, the arrangement might be a very admirable one; but Irishmen, to the third and fourth generation, do not forget their country, neither do they forget why they have been compelled to leave it. A work has been published lately on the subject of the Irish in America. It is much to be regretted, that the very able writer did not give statistics and facts, as well as inferences and anecdotes. A history of the Irish in America, should include statistics which could not be disputed, and facts which could not be denied. The facts in the work alluded to are abundant, and most important; but they should have been prefaced by an account of the causes which have led to emigration, and as accurate statistics as possible of its results.


[9] Own.—History of the United States, p. 3. Ludlow and Hughes; Macmillan, London, 1862. The title of this work is singularly infelicitous, for it is merely a sketchy and not very clear account of the late war in America.