Donald Akenson, in his paper entitled "What is known about the Irish in North America" tried to qualify who the "Irish" people are. He stated that "Irish-born" pertains to people who were born in Ireland and "Irish in North America" as pertaining to the collective experiences of the migrants and their descendants…
Ireland once belonged to England as one of its oldest colonies. It became officially absorbed as part of United Kingdom after the Act of Union on January 1, 1801 (Moving Here Ireland in the 19th century, par2). English was the official language of the country. Statistics showed that the percentage of people speaking in Irish decreased to less than 15% by 1891. In terms of economy, Ireland was largely agricultural. People largely depended on potato crop as their main source of livelihood. "By 1840, it has been estimated that 3 million people depended upon the potato, sometimes supplemented by buttermilk, with an adult male consuming up to 6.3 kg (14lbs) a day." (Moving Here Agriculture, par.4). Poverty is evident in their social class- the laborers who depended on the success of their crop harvest and the unemployed who live in wretched cabins and miserable huts. The living conditions of Irish in the 19th century can be depicted in the common notion of what an Irish notion is. It was stated in an article in the website of Moving here Gallery that the miserable hut of an Irish man consists of "an unpaved clay floor below, a roof of straw and weeds, dank, and soak, and rotting overhead, miserable bed in the corner, an iron pot over a peat fire, a black and filthy sink before the door." (Moving Here Living Conditions, par.3). To say that Irish people only have a meager amount of income is an understatement. The uncertainty of their lives was similar to the uncertainty of nature where most of them depended.
The potato crop failure known as the Great Famine which hit Ireland from 1845-1850 left many people starving to death. This compelled Irish to leave their country and look for their fate and luck to other countries, mostly in the United States and Canada. "It is estimated that almost one million people died, and almost the same emigrated." (Moving Here, par.3). Ireland's population dramatically decreased by 2 million which was from 8 million to 6.5 million from 1841 to 1851. "Early 19th century emigrants tended to come from the more prosperous northern and eastern countries, including Wexford and Dublin." (Moving Here Other Parts of Ireland, par1). Hence, immigration can be characterized as the people's mechanism to survive although later discussions would show that the early Irish immigrants or the early settlers experienced poverty, oppression, social injustice, and inequality. To illustrate this, an article entitled Irish Immigrants in America during the 19th Century found in the website of Kinsella indicated that "even as the boat was docking, these immigrants to America learned that life in America was going to be a battle for survival. Hundreds of runners, usually large greedy men, swarmed aboard the ship grabbing immigrants and their bags trying to force them to their favorite tenement house and then exact an outrageous fee for their services. As the poor immigrant had no means of moving on, they settled in the port of arrival. Almshouses were filled with these Irish immigrants. They begged on every street" (par.2). Early settlers in both countries experienced most of the struggles and hardships in establishing their lives in another country but their efforts paid off as their descendants became better educated and skilled.
Irish migrated to prosperous countries such as the United States ...
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