Irish Emigration Statistics

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Preface to First Edition concluded

I conclude with statistics which are undeniable proofs of Irish misery. The emigration at present amounts to 100,000 per annum.

From the 1st of May, 1851, to the 31st of December, 1865, 1,630,722 persons emigrated. As the emigrants generally leave their young children after them for a time, and as aged and imbecile persons do not emigrate, the consequence is, that, from 1851 to 1861, the number of deaf and dumb increased from 5,180 to 5,653; the number of blind, from 5,787 to 6,879; and the number of lunatics and idiots, from 9,980 to 14,098. In 1841, the estimated value of crops in Ireland was £50,000,000; in 1851, it was reduced to £43,000,000; and in 1861, to £35,000,000. The number of gentlemen engaged in the learned professions is steadily decreasing; the traffic on Irish railways and the returns are steadily decreasing; the live stock in cattle, which was to have supplied and compensated for the live stock in men, is fearfully decreasing; the imports and exports are steadily decreasing. The decrease in cultivated lands, from 1862 to 1863, amounted to 138,841 acres.

While the Preface to the Second Edition was passing through the press, my attention was called to an article, in the Pall Mall Gazette, on the Right Rev. Dr. Manning's Letter to Earl Grey. The writer of this article strongly recommends his Grace to publish a new edition of his Letter, omitting the last sixteen pages. We have been advised, also, to issue a new edition of our HISTORY, to omit the Preface, and any remarks or facts that might tend to show that the Irish tenant was not the happiest and most contented being in God's creation.

The Pall Mall Gazette argues—if, indeed, mere assertion can be called argument—first, "that Dr. Manning has obviously never examined the subject for himself, but takes his ideas and beliefs from the universal statements of angry and ignorant sufferers whom he has met in England, or from intemperate and utterly untrustworthy party speeches and pamphlets, whose assertions he receives as gospel;" yet Dr. Manning has given statements of facts, and the writer has not attempted to disprove them. Second, he says: "Dr. Manning echoes the thoughtless complaints of those who cry out against emigration as a great evil and a grievous wrong, when he might have known, if he had thought or inquired at all about the matter, not only that this emigration has been the greatest conceivable blessing to the emigrants, but was an absolutely indispensable step towards improving the condition of those who remained at home;" and then the old calumnies are resuscitated about the Irish being "obstinately idle and wilfully improvident," as if it had not been proved again and again that the only ground on which such appellations can be applied to them in Ireland is, that their obstinacy consists in objecting to work without fair remuneration for their labour, and their improvidence in declining to labour for the benefit of their masters. It is the old story, "you are idle, you are idle,"—it is the old demand, "make bricks without straw,"—and then, by way of climax, we are assured that these "poor creatures" are assisted to emigrate with the tenderest consideration, and that, in fact, emigration is a boon for which they are grateful.

It is quite true that many landlords pay their tenants to emigrate, and send persons to see them safe out of the country; but it is absolutely false that the people emigrate willingly. No one who has witnessed the departure of emigrants dare make such an assertion. They are offered their choice between starvation and emigration, and they emigrate. If a man were offered his choice between penal servitude and hanging, it is probable he would prefer penal servitude, but that would not make him appreciate the joys of prison life. The Irish parish priest alone can tell what the Irish suffer at home, and how unwillingly they go abroad. A pamphlet has just been published on this very subject, by the Very Rev. P. Malone, P.P., V.F., of Belmullet, co. Mayo, and in this he says: "I have seen the son, standing upon the deck of the emigrant ship, divest himself of his only coat, and place it upon his father's shoulders, saying, 'Father, take you this; I will soon earn the price of a coat in the land I am going to.'" Such instances, which might be recorded by the hundred, and the amount of money sent to Ireland by emigrants for the support of aged parents, and to pay the passage out of younger members of the family, are the best refutation of the old falsehood that Irishmen are either idle or improvident.