Tuesday, June 29, 2010

two champions

Reading about Archbishop John Hughes, I noticed a few similarities between his life and that of my great-great-grandfather, Rabbi Abraham Sutro. They both were born in the last decades of the eighteenth century and both died in the seventh decade of the nineteenth. They were both religious leaders who attained a level of political influence.

Both were fierce enemies of second-class citizenship for people of a religious minority, both worked to overcome barriers to those peoples' social and political advancement, and both sought and achieved educational reforms to ensure that an alien "established" religion would not be forced upon the community's children.

Although they were each in their own way reformers, neither would be called a liberal. They both upheld traditional religious values, advocated traditional hierarchies of authority, and resisted ecumenism. They opposed assimilation, seeing it more of less as a form of capitulation to the entrenched power-structure.

They were somewhat similar in the education they received and in their rise to positions of authority. Hughes emigrated from Ireland to the U.S. at the age of 19, worked as a gardener and then advanced from student in a Catholic college, to priest, to bishop, to archbishop. Sutro was born in a town in Westphalia, Germany, and studied at the yeshibot of Fürth (Germany) and of Prague. Having completed his studies, he taught in Prague. After returning to Westphalia, he continued to teach and, while doing so, was named rabbi of the district of Warburg. Later, he was appointed "Landesrabbiner," or spiritual leader, for the districts of Münster and Dortmund (Westphalia), and finally chief rabbi of the district of Paderborn (also Westphalia).

Both engaged in power struggles with members of their own confessions. Hughes battled trustees for priestly control of Church administration while Sutro battled leaders of the Reform movement.

They also shared a failure: both were unsuccessful in efforts to obtain public funding for religious education.

Some of the differences between them were trivial and obvious: the one Irish Catholic, the other Westphalian Jew; the one a man of action and the public forum; the other a man of contemplation and the schoolroom. Their greatest difference lay in the cohesion of their followers and their respective constituency's force of numbers. Established authorities both feared and respected Hughes, while Sutro could only use moral suasion and his skill in administration to win himself political favor.

Hughes left behind enduring monuments that attest to the power of his influence: He built an orphan asylum and numerous churches. He began construction of St. Patrick's Cathedral. He started the independent Catholic school system in the U.S. He founded Fordham University and three Catholic colleges in New York. His legacy was described by the historian Richard Henry Clarke: "His varied and gigantic services to religion, and his bold, able, and successful championship of the faith in the United States, at a time when such services were most needed, seem to mark him out as a man raised by Providence for great purposes, as the man for the times and country in which his lot was cast, and as one whose influence is destined long to survive him."[1]

Sutro's legacy was three-fold: establishment of religious education for Jews in Westphalia, emancipation of the Jews throughout Prussia, and the mentoring of a man who would become one of the most famous of American rabbis. Thus he created and administered as system of instruction for Westphalian Jews and he stubbornly petitioned the Prussian Diet to repeal the ordinances declaring the Jews ineligible for public office and only a few months before his death saw passage of a law removing all the disabilities that had been placed on the Jews. The American rabbi was Isaac Leeser, who, both as publisher and preacher, helped mold the scattered Jews of America into a community of faith.

Sutro's leanings were not entirely conservative. He was the first rabbi to preach in the German language. If Hughes had a progressive side, it lay in his actions in defense of a persecuted people. He was fearless in confronting bigots and he battled the Protestant School Association for abusing the pubic trust by using tax money to teach anti-Catholic and anti-Irish doctrine in supposedly non-denominational schools.

There are relatively few biographic essays on Sutro and none of them gives a succinct appreciation of his accomplishments. I'll let this small tribute stand for more than it says. Of Sutro's accomplishments as an educational administrator, the historian, Jacob Raphael, wrote this of Sutro's influence within the town of Beckum in Westphalia:
The turn of the century became an epoch of historic development, with an abundance of new ideas, hopes and ambitions. Moses Mendelsohn, the Descartes of the Jews, opened new avenues for German Jewry, that finally also penetrated into the remoter regions. It is evident that the influence of this philosopher from Berlin, also reached Beckum. The desire for spiritual learning and cultural activity within the community prompted the appointment of religious leaders, rabbis, and skilled religious officials. The first groping attempts were made at educating the young generation in Jewish subjects according to pedagogic principles. Those were first attempts, because Jewish schooling was still in its early stages, and there was not yet any systematic training of teachers and educators. It was thanks to the energetic efforts of Rabbi Sutro of the Münster region that the religious affairs of the Beckum community became supervised, and compulsory religious education was initiated. He made sure that the Jewish youngsters of Beckum would have competent teachers.
There is an abundance of eulogistic summaries of Hughes' life and works, but, among them all, one stands out as not coming from a source that anyone could consider to be biased in his favor. It appeared in the issue of Harper's Weekly for Saturday, January 16, 1864. You expect obituaries to celebrate the positive influence given the world by the deceased person, but it's nonetheless a surprise to find this paper praising the man. During his life it published a large number of vicious — bigoted and unprincipled — attacks in Thomas Nast's cartoons and accompanying text. I showed some of these in my last blog post. Here is what the obit writer for Harper's Weekly had to say about Hughes:
The Catholic Archbishop of New York, the Rev. JOHN HUGHES, died on Sunday evening, January 3, aged about 65 years. Few men of his day exercised so wide an influence, social, moral, and political, and few men have exercised it, upon the whole, so honestly and wisely. He was born in Ireland in 1798, the son of a respectable farmer. He came to America in 1817, and soon after became a student at the Catholic College at Emmetsburg, Maryland. In 1825 he received ordination, and was appointed to the charge of a church in Philadelphia, and became recognized as a man of mark in his Church. In 1838 he was appointed coadjutor to the venerable Bishop Dubois of New York, who was fast sinking under age and infirmity. A fortnight had hardly passed before Bishop Dubois was struck down by paralysis, and the oversight of the Diocese fell upon Mr. Hughes, who four years later, upon the death of his superior, became Bishop of New York. In this position he had full scope for the exercise of his great administrative powers. To the general public he was best known by the various controversies in which he was at several times engaged, prominent among which were those with Dr. John Breckenridge, that upon the Public School Question, that with his fellow-countryman, Dr. Nicholas Murray (Kirwan), and one with the Hon. Erastus Brooks. But his true work was in the organization of the affairs of his diocese, and the establishment of its educational and religious concerns upon a firm basis. It would require a volume to detail his labors. It is sufficient to say that he gradually gathered into his own strong hands the entire control of the Catholic schools and churches of his Diocese. The amount of church property nominally vested in him has been stated at fully five millions of dollars. He found his Diocese weak and disjointed; he left it strong and consolidated. His position gave him great political influence; this he rarely used except when he thought the interests of the Church were in question, and then always with telling effect. In 1850 the Diocese of New York was divided by the erection of the Sees of Albany and Buffalo, while that of New York was raised to the dignity of an Archbishopric. After the breaking out of the insurrection, Archbishop Hughes, at the desire of our Government, went to Europe on a mission to aid the Union cause; for his exertions in this mission he received the official thanks of the authorities of the City of New York. Within a few months his health began to give way, and his public appearances became more rare. His last notable effort was his speech to the Catholics of New York, at the time of the riots of last July. This speech was sharply and, we think, justly criticised. Its intent was good; but we thought at the time, and must think still, that it contained some highly objectionable features. We apprehend that the mental, as well as the physical, strength of the Archbishop was impaired when he made this speech, which we are confident was heard or read with regret by the best and wisest of his friends. Apart from this speech, conceived and delivered when the venerable prelate was not his old self, we think it would be difficult to point to a single important act in his long administration that was not wise and politic, and which, viewed from his own standpoint, was not right and honorable. He died as he had lived, a true man, and a sincere Christian. There will probably be a sharp contest, open or concealed, as to who shall succeed to the post left vacant by his death. It will be well for the Church and the country if the second Archbishop of New York be, all in all, a worthy successor of John Hughes.
-- Harper's Weekly, Saturday, January 16, 1864


{John Hughes with his "dagger John" signature; source: virtualogy.com}


{Abraham Sutro; source: wikipedia.de}

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This blog post is one of a series on the Five Points district of Manhattan. Here are others in the series. The Five Points series began with a set on Mulberry Street. Here are the posts in that series. This post is also in a series giving stories from my family history. Here are others in that series. Unlike the two preceding lists, these are given in newest-to-oldest order: ---------

Some sources on John Hughes and Abraham Sutro:

A History of Public Education in the United States by Deeptha Thattai

A PRAYER FOR THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS by Kevin Baker

Anti-Catholicism and the History of Catholic School Funding

Elementary Education: History

The cyclopædia of education edited by Henry Kiddle and Alexander Jacob Schem (E. Steiger & co., 1883)

Archbishop John Hughes The Irish Catholic Who Helped Shape American Catholicism by Kyle Sanders

John Hughes article in the New Advent Encyclopedia

"Bishop Hughes versus the Public School Society of New York," by Joseph J. McCadden, The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Jul., 1964), pp. 188-207, retrieved from jstor: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25017420

SUTRO, ABRAHAM article in the Jewish Encyclopedia

Isaac Leeser and the Making of American Judaism by Lance J. Sussman (Wayne State University Press, 1996)

Revolution and evolution, 1848 in German-Jewish history edited by Werner Eugen Mosse, Arnold Paucker, and Reinhard Rürup (Mohr Siebeck, 1981)

The greatest rabbis hall of fame by Alex J. Goldman (SP Books, 1987)

History of the Jewish Community of Beckum by Zeev Raphael

Lives of the deceased bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States, Volume 2, by Richard Henry Clarke (R. H. Clarke, 1888)

Abraham Sutro in wikipedia.de

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Notes:

[1] Quoted in: John Hughes (archbishop): Episcopacy

[2] Paraphrased from Jacob Raphael: Die Synagogengemeindein (1924) in History of the Jewish Community of Beckum.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dagger John

By the middle of the nineteenth century anti-Catholic and anti-Irish hostility was common in New York and the New England states. Americans aped the British in their fear of Popery and condemned the Irish as a sub-human species. Below the text I've reproduced some bigoted cartoons that reflect these prejudices.

Catholics in general and the Irish in particular resisted these attacks and eventually overcame them. They did this partly by assimilation — demonstrating to the Protestant ascendancy that there was nothing to fear — and partly through self-assertion — demonstrating the power of their solidarity, discipline, and force of numbers.

And they did it with the impassioned leadership of an Irish-American priest, John Hughes. This was much more than a spiritual leadership. Hughes gained authority within the Church by his determination, polemical skills, and a large measure of bullying. Stubbornly, he overcame resistance to men who wished to deny him a Catholic education, and those, later, who wished to deny him the priesthood, advancement into the ranks of New York's bishops, and selection as the city's archbishop. As he forcefully attacked those who would resist his advance, so also he attacked those he considered to enemies of the Church and of the hundreds of thousands of Catholic immigrants who arrived from Ireland during his lifetime.

His feisty demeanor, along with a habit of putting a cross by his signature, earned him the nickname "Dagger John" in the local press, but he was not so fierce in private. If Dagger John was utterly fearless, possessing an indomitable will, unwavering resolution, firmness of purpose, he was also warm and generous. Equally able to express both genial humor and cutting sarcasm, he had a sensitive nature and a gift for establishing and nurturing close friendships.[1]

To my mind this detail from a portrait shows empathy and the nurturing side of his character.


{Matthew Brady made this portrait of Hughes after he became archbishop; source: wikipedia}

Further down this page I've given a short biography of the man and his works; the Sources section (also below) gives links for lots more information about him. His achievements are extensive. One of his biographers says "It is an understatement to say that John Hughes was a complex character. He was impetuous and authoritarian, a poor administrator and worse financial manager, indifferent to the non-Irish members of his flock, and prone to invent reality when it suited the purposes of his rhetoric."[2] But as another says, "Dagger John Hughes proved himself a formidable force in an era when a fighting bishop was needed. When the Vatican nuncio, Archbishop Bedini, asked an American priest to explain why people in America held Archbishop Hughes in such esteem, the answer was: 'It is because he is always game.'"[3] And a third calls him "a master-builder of the Church in the United States and one of the most helpful and sagacious of the makers of America" and "a prelate and citizen whose strong personality, indomitable courage, and invaluable service constituted him the man needed in his day to meet critical conditions."[4]

Hughes had no illusion about the state of Irish immigrants in New York, calling them "the poorest and most wretched population that can be found in the world — the scattered debris of the Irish nation."[5] He said this to describe not condemn. His feelings for Irish-Americans and the Irish homeland were as strong as was his commitment to his vocation and the Church.

You can see this deep compassion in a speech he gave at the height of the Irish famine. It is an oration in the classical mode -- majestic, Ciceronian, persuasive, articulate, and impassioned. In it he condemns the British state for its evil policies, gives no quarter, and takes no prisoners. He does not praise the starving Irish for the patient endurance and Christian forbearance they have shown under unmerited English durance, but says they have the right to seize for themselves the food that their landlords were sending out of Ireland in the midst of the potato famine.

He condemns the English governing class for imprisoning itself in "a defective or vicious system of social and political economy" and he tells his listeners that this system has become the "great cause of Ireland's peculiarly depressed condition."

He says, "The fault that I find with [this system of social and political economy] is, that it provides wholesome food, comfortable raiment and lodgings for the rogues, and thieves, and murderers of the dominions, whilst it leaves the honest, industrious, virtuous peasant to stagger at his labour through inanition, and fall to rise no more."

He tells us of an "admirable resignation," praised by Ireland's overlords: "This same political economy authorises the provision merchant, even amidst the desolation, to keep his doors locked, and his sacks of corn tied up within, waiting for a better price, whilst he himself is, perhaps, at his desk, describing the wretchedness of the people and the extent of the misery; setting forth for the eye of the first lord of the treasury with what exemplary patience the peasantry bear their sufferings, with what admirable resignation they fall down through weakness at the threshold of his warehouse, without having even attempted to burst a door, or break a window."

But he does not himself praise this patient fortitude: "The rights of life are dearer and higher than those of property; and in a general famine like the present, there is no law of Heaven, nor of nature that forbids a starving man to seize on bread wherever he can find it, even though it should be the loaves of proposition on the altar of God's temple."[6]

And he concludes by describing the impersonal obliteration of a people: "The vice which is inherent in our system of social and political economy is so subtile that it eludes all pursuit, that you cannot find or trace it to any responsible source. The man, indeed, over whose dead body the coroner holds the inquest, has been murdered, but no one has killed him. There is no external wound, there is no symptom of internal disease. Society guarded him against all outward violence; it merely encircled him around in order to keep up what is termed the regular current of trade, and then political economy, with an invisible hand, applied the air-pump to the narrow limits within which he was confined, and exhausted the atmosphere of his physical life. Who did it? No one did it, and yet it has been done."

At end, he calls upon the spirit within the Irish which will survive and again flourish: "There was this one sovereignty which they never relinquished — the sovereignty of conscience and the privilege of self-respect. Their soul has never been conquered; and if it was said in Pagan times that the noblest spectacle which this earth could present to the eye of the immortal gods, was that of a virtuous man bravely struggling with adversity, what might not be said of a nation of such men who have so struggled through entire centuries? Neither can it be said that their spirit is yet broken. Intellect, sentiment, fancy, wit, eloquence, music, and poetry, are, I might say, natural and hereditary attributes of the Irish mind and the Irish heart; and if no adversity of ages was sufficient to crush these capacities and powers, who will say that such a people have not, under happier circumstances, within themselves a principle of self-regeneration and improvement, which will secure to them at least an ordinary portion of the happiness of which they have been so long deprived?"[7]

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This is the how John Hughes signed himself. The cross by his name gave the excuse for his nickname.



Here is the full portrait by Matthew Brady.



Here are some anti-Catholic and anti-Irish cartoons from nineteenth century America. Many were by Thomas Nast and appeared in Harper's Weekly, a paper with Republican, and thus anti-Democratic, anti-Irish, and anti-Catholic sympathies.

1. Showing Irish-Americans as anti-assimilationist. For many of them, as for Hughes, Irish solidarity was a source of strength, in resistance to American prejudices, in development of a political and economic power base, and in insuring close ties with the old homeland.


{The Mortar of Assimilation and the One Element that Won't Mix, Puck, June 26, 1889; source: museum.msu.edu}

2. The LC caption to the cartoon reads: The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things, a savage anti-Irish cartoon by Thomas Nast, depicting a drunk Irishman lighting a powder keg and swinging a bottle. Published 1871-09-02 in Harper's Weekly.


{Political cartoon titled "The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things" by Thomas Nast (1840-1902) published in Harper's Weekly on 1871-09-02; source: wikipedia }

3. This savage caricature shows Irish-Americans as sub-human beings as its caption states.

{source: salon.com/blog/marygrav (reviewing: Race: A History Beyond Black and White by Marc Aronson (2007)}

4. This is a complex cartoon by Nast on the city's cancellation of a parade by Protestant Irish-Americans because of expected disruption by Catholic ones.[8]

{Harper's Weekly, July 29, 1871: Thomas Nast, “Something That Will Not ‘Blow Over'” source: assumption.edu}

5. New York's Irish-American vote grew increasingly potent as the nineteenth century proceeded. At first most Irish-Americans voted against the Tammany Hall political machine, but they later exploited it to their great advantage. Tammany's party were the Democrats. This cartoon shows an Irish-American thug and a Catholic priest carving up the Democratic Party, shown as the goose that laid the golden eggs.


{By Thomas Nast; source: latinamericanstudies.org}

6. This vicious Thomas Nast cartoon speaks for itself.


{Nast depicted the Irish as violent ape-like creatures; source: latinamericanstudies.org}

7. It's 1868 and a Southern rebel, the Democratic Party presidential candidate, and an Irish thug are joining forces to defeat the Republican Party's Reconstruction policies and stomp on newly freed slaves. Notice that the Irishman has "5 Points" written on his hat.


{Harper's Weekly, Sept. 5, 1868}

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Brief biography of John Hughes:
The embodiment of this trend toward an authoritarian clergy and hostility to evangelical Protestant reform was John Hughes (1797-1864), bishop of New York. Born in County Tyrone he came to the U.S. in 1818 and soon entered Mount St. Mary’s seminary in Maryland. Ordained in 1826 he soon achieved a national reputation as a fiery pro-Catholic polemicist, engaging in several high profile “debates” in the pages of leading Protestant and Catholic newspapers. His detractors took to calling him “Dagger John” because of his personality and the fact that he always drew a dagger-like cross under his signature.
              He was made Bishop of New York in 1842 (and Archbishop in 1850). He became a leading figure in the reshaping of the American Catholic Church along Irish lines – that is a militant brand of worship that emphasized obedience, piety, regular worship, and reception of the sacraments -- backed by an authoritarian clergy. Central to this plan was a program of institution building designed to insulate Catholics from the corrupting influences of American culture. This included not just parish building, but the establishment of a vast system of parochial schools, hospitals, and orphanages, plus separate fraternal societies to compete with American ones. On more than one occasion, Hughes mused that it might be more important to build a parochial school first, followed by the parish church. This outlook was understandable, given the hostile environment of his era. However, critics then and in subsequent generations have argued that in the long run Hughes’ model of defensive Catholicism hindered the full participation of Catholics in American life until the mid-20th century.
-- "Dagger John" Hughes by Edward T. O'Donnell
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Some sources:

DEATH OF ARCHBISHOP HUGHES.; HIS SICKNESS AND LAST MOMENTS. SKETCH OF HIS LIFE, New York Times, January 4, 1864

Complete works of the most Rev. John Hughes, archbishop of New York: comprising his sermons, letters, lectures, speeches, etc edited by Lawrence Kehoe (Lawrence Kehoe, 1866)

Complete works of the most Rev. John Hughes, archbishop of New York: comprising his sermons, letters, lectures, speeches, etc, Volume 2 edited by Lawrence Kehoe (Lawrence Kehoe, 1866)

Life of the Most Reverend John Hughes, D.D.: first archbishop of New York. With extracts from his private correspondence Volume 257 of American culture series by John Rose Greene Hassard (D. Appleton and company, 1866)

Biographical sketch of the Most Rev. John Hughes, D. D. archbishop of New York by the Office of the "Metropolitan record", 1864

Archbishop John Hughes by William J. Stern

Archbishop John Hughes and Irish Catholicism in New York by Richard McCarthy

New York's Catholic Century, New York Times, by Peter Quinn, June 4, 2006

Archbishop John J. Hughes (1797-1863) by the Lincoln Institute

John Hughes (archbishop)

Refractive History: Memory and the Founders of the Emigrant Savings Bank
Author(s): Marion R. Casey
Source: Radharc, Vol. 3 (2002), pp. 55-96
Published by: Glucksman Ireland House, New York University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25114415

Immigrants in the City: New York's Irish and German Catholics
Author(s): Jay P. Dolan
Source: Church History, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Sep., 1972), pp. 354-368
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Society of Church
History
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3164221

The New York Irish ed. by Ronald H. Bayor and Timothy J. Meagher (JHU Press, 1997)

Irish American Solidarity

The Irish (in countries other than Ireland) In the United States

From Famine to Five Points: Lord Lansdowne's Irish Tenants Encounter North America's Most Notorious Slum by Tyler Anbinder, American Historical Review, Vol. 107, No. 2, April 2002.

The Catholic encyclopedia: an international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church

How Dagger John Saved New York's Irish by William J. Stern

Archbishop John Hughes and the Church in New York by Thomas J. Shelley

CITY LORE; New York's Catholic Century by Peter Quinn, New York Times, June 4, 2006

Harper's Weekly, July 29, 1871: Thomas Nast, “Something That Will Not ‘Blow Over'”

Anti-Irish racism

Nativism and Bigotry Thomas Nast

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Notes:

[1] Paraphrased from Biographical sketch of the Most Rev. John Hughes, D. D. archbishop of New York
Office of the "Metropolitan record", 1864. Here's the extract:
The brave heart of the Bishop throbbed as evenly when his home and life were threatened by a bigoted and insensate mob, as it did when presiding over a Diocesan Convention in his own episcopal city. Indeed, his utter fearlessness, his unwavering resolution, his indomitable will, and his firmness of purpose, gained him the esteem of generous opponents, and awakened in meaner minds a salutary dread of coming in conflict with him. Not in the United States alone was his preeminence acknowledged and his lofty qualities appreciated — in every part of the Catholic world his name was a household word. Ireland placed him high among her noblest and most gifted sons, and Rome regarded him as one of the staunchest pillars of the Church of God.

The love and pride that Ireland felt in him he repaid in kind. Throughout all his life he took a deep and abiding interest in everything that concerned her, everything that affected her for weal or woe. Next to his devotion to the Church, and his love for the people committed to his spiritual care, was his love for Ireland, the land from which he derived his most striking characteristics — his genius, his intellectual combativeness, his force of will, his quick perception, his pride of race, his cutting sarcasm and his genial humor, his generosity, his warm feelings, and his sensitiveness on the point of fame or reputation. His generosity was as unostentatious as it was untiring. The writer of this was cognizant of many and many an act of munificent generosity so delicately bestowed that to the recipients it seemed rather a friendly gift than a charitable donation.
[2] Found in Archbishop John J. Hughes (1797-1863) by the Lincoln Institute

[3] Quoted in Pope at St. Patrick’s in New York: We Owe Bishop Hughes

[4] By J. B. wainewright in The Catholic encyclopedia. Here's the whole paragraph:
He lived and passed away amid stirring times; it was providential for Church and country that he lived when he did. His natural gifts of mind and heart, independent of his education, were of a high order and made him pre-eminent in leadership; not only was he a great ruler of an important diocese in a hierarchy remarkable for distinguished bishops, but also a master-builder of the Church in the United States and one of the most helpful and sagacious of the makers of America. Church and nation are indebted forever to the prelate and citizen whose strong personality, indomitable courage, and invaluable service constituted him the man needed in his day to meet critical conditions. He was resolute, fearless, far-sighted, and full of practical wisdom based on the sanest and soundest principles. To bring out the innate power within him required but the opportunity presented by the Church struggling for a footing in a rather hostile community, anoby the nation endeavouring to cope with harassing questions at home and impending trouble abroad. His failures were few; his achievements many and lasting. He was feared and loved; misunderstood and idolized; misrepresented even to his ecclesiastical superiors in Rome, whose confidence in him, however, remained unshaken. Severe of manner, kindly of heart, he was not aggressive until assailed.
[5] Archives of the University of Notre Dame, (hereafter referred to as AUND), Bishop John Hughes to Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Paris, June 26, 1849, f. 104; Browne, "The Archdiocese of New York a Century Ago," p. 165. This is quoted in: "Immigrants in the City: New York's Irish and German Catholics" by Jay P. Dolan, Church History, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Sep., 1972), pp. 354-368, retrieved from jstor: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3164221

[6] The Loaves of Proposition were the "Hallowed Bread" of the Hebrews' tabernacle. They were specially prepared, unleavened, and are also know in English as show-bread and presence-bread.

[7] Here's more of the context of this part of the speech.
I have not come here to enlarge upon the feelings of sympathy that have been aroused in our own bosoms, nor yet on those of gratitude that will soon be awakened in the breasts of the Irish people. I come, not to describe the inconceivable horrors of a calamity which, in the midst of the Nineteenth Century, eighteen hundred and forty seven years after the coming of Christ, either by want or pestilence, or both combined, threatens almost the annihilation of a whole Christian people. The newspapers tell us that this calamity has been produced by the failure of the potato crop; but this ought not to be a sufficient cause of so frightful a consequence; the potato is but one species of the endless varieties of food which the Almighty has provided for the sustenance of his creatures; and why is it that the life or death of the great body of any nation should be so little regarded as to be left dependent on the capricious growth of a single root? Many essays will be published; many eloquent speeches pronounced; much precious time unprofitably employed, by the State economists of Great Britain, assigning the cause or causes of the scourge which now threatens to depopulate Ireland. I shall not enter into the immediately antecedent circumstances or influences that have produced this result. Some will say that it is the cruelty of unfeeling and rapacious landlords; others will have it, that it is the improvident and indolent character of the people themselves; others, still, will say that it is owing to the poverty of the country, the want of capital, the general ignorance of the people, and especially their ignorance in reference to the improved science of agriculture. I shall not question the truth or the fallacy of any of these theories; admitting them all, if you will, to contain each more or less of truth, they yet do not explain the famine which they are cited to account for. They are themselves to be accounted for, rather as the effect of other causes, than as the real causes of effects, such as we now witness and deplore. ...

I have ventured to suggest a defective or vicious system of social and political economy as the other great cause of Ireland's peculiarly depressed condition. By social economy I mean that effort of society, organized into a sovereign State, to accomplish the welfare of all its members. ... The fault that I find with the system is, that it not only allows but sanctions and approves of a principle, which operates differently in two provinces of the same State, divided only by a channel of the sea. It multiplies deposits of idle money in the banks, on one side of that channel, and multiplies dead and coffinless bodies in the cabins, and along the highways, on the other. The fault that I find with it is, that it guarantees the right of the rich man to enter on the fields cultivated by the poor man whom he calls his tenant, and carry away the harvest of his labour, and this, whilst it imposes on him no duty to leave behind at least food enough to keep that poor man alive, until the earth shall again yield its fruits. The fault that I find with it is, that it provides wholesome food, comfortable raiment and lodgings for the rogues, and thieves, and murderers of the dominions, whilst it leaves the honest, industrious, virtuous peasant to stagger at his labour through inanition, and fall to rise no more. ...

They call its God's famine! No! no! God's famine is known by the general scarcity &mdash there has been no general scarcity of food in Ireland either the present or the past year except in one species of vegetable. The soil has produced its usual tribute for the support of those by whom it has been cultivated; but political economy found the Irish people too poor to pay for the harvest of their own labor, and has exported it to a better market, leaving them to die of famine, or to live on alms; and this same political economy authorises the provision merchant, even amidst the desolation, to keep his doors locked, and his sacks of corn tied up within, waiting for a better price, whilst he himself is, perhaps, at his desk, describing the wretchedness of the people and the extent of the misery; setting forth for the eye of the first lord of the treasury with what exemplary patience the peasantry bear their sufferings, with what admirable resignation they fall down through weakness at the threshold of his warehouse, without having even attempted to burst a door, or break a window.

The rights of life are dearer and higher than those of property; and in a general famine like the present, there is no law of Heaven, nor of nature that forbids a starving man to seize on bread wherever he can find it, even though it should be the loaves of proposition on the altar of God's temple.

The vice which is inherent in our system of social and political economy is so subtile that it eludes all pursuit, that you cannot find or trace it to any responsible source. The man, indeed, over whose dead body the coroner holds the inquest, has been murdered, but no one has killed him. There is no external wound, there is no symptom of internal disease. Society guarded him against all outward violence; it merely encircled him around in order to keep up what is termed the regular current of trade, and then political economy, with an invisible hand, applied the air-pump to the narrow limits within which he was confined, and exhausted the atmosphere of his physical life. Who did it? No one did it, and yet it has been done.

There was this one sovereignty which they never relinquished — the sovereignty of conscience and the privilege of self-respect. Their soul has never been conquered; and if it was said in Pagan times that the noblest spectacle which this earth could present to the eye of the immortal gods, was that of a virtuous man bravely struggling with adversity, what might not be said of a nation of such men who have so struggled through entire centuries?

Neither can it be said that their spirit is yet broken. Intellect, sentiment, fancy, wit, eloquence, music, and poetry, are, I might say, natural and hereditary attributes of the Irish mind and the Irish heart; and if no adversity of ages was sufficient to crush these capacities and powers, who will say that such a people have not, under happier circumstances, within themselves a principle of self-regeneration and improvement, which will secure to them at least an ordinary portion of the happiness of which they have been so long deprived? The charity of other countries, and among them pre-eminently of England herself, the sympathy of distant and free States, on this occasion, will themselves have an effect. They will show Ireland that she is cared for; they will inspire her with the pleasing hope that she is not to be always the down-trodden and neglected province, the outcast nation among the nations of the earth.

-- A Lecture on the Antecedent Causes of the Irish Famine in 1847. Delivered Under the Auspices of the General Committee for the Relief of the Suffering Poor of Ireland, by The Right Rev. John Hughes, D. D., Bishop of New York, at the Broadway Tabernacle, March 20, 1847, in Life of Archbishop Hughes, with a full account of his funeral, Bishop McCloskey's oration, and Bishop Loughlin's month's mind sermon. Also Archbishop Hughes' Sermon on Catholic emancipation and his great speeches on the school question : including his three days' speech in Carroll Hall ..., Volume 1 (American News Co., 1864)
[8] Here's a full explanation of the cartoon.
Unlike present-day editorial cartoons, which typically feature a single, immediately recognizable image, Thomas Nast and his contemporaries assumed that readers would spend the time needed to completely "read" their works. In "Something That Will Not 'Blow Over'" students encounter one of Nast's most complex and most compelling cartoons, one that says much about the racial and ethnic tensions of the period surrounding the Civil War and how they were complicated by New York City politics.

Nast's double-page cartoon on the July 12th Orange Riot appeared only a few days after the New York Times began its exposé of the Tweed Ring. The Times editorialized on July 20 that: "Everybody should see, and seeing, retain Nast’s great 'Riot Cartoons' in the New Number of Harper's Weekly."

The Orange parade commemorated the victory of the Protestant William of Orange, the new king of England, over the Catholics in the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in 1692 and was celebrated annually by Protestants in Ireland and, starting in 1870, in New York. Both Nast and Harper's Weekly thought that the Irish Catholics were a bane and that the Protestant Irish deserved the full protection of the city, state, and nation in their expression of their loathing of the Irish Catholics. The Catholic Irish had rioted during the 1870 parade. In 1871 they petitioned New York City officials to ban the Orange parade.

On July 10, Police Superintendent James J. Kelso denied the Orangemen a permit on the grounds that the parade would threaten public safety, an ironic tribute to the previous year's riot, and that obscene or violently derogatory language or gestures in public were misdemeanors. In 1870 both groups had engaged in such behavior before getting down to physical measures. Irish Catholics praised the decision, which was endorsed by William "Boss" Tweed of Tammany Hall, the Democratic political machine that controlled city government. Irish Protestants of course objected. They pointed out that not only did Catholic Irish routinely receive a permit for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade but also that the mayor and others routinely attended it. They claimed a right to equal treatment. Governor John Hoffman intervened, the permit was granted, and the parade and the riot got underway just after noon on July 12.

Nast's title drew upon the initial response of "Boss" Tweed to the Times stories of municipal corruption, that they were much ado about nothing and would soon "blow over." The central image, under the heading "Has no caste, no sect, no nation, any rights that the infallible, ultramontane Catholic is bound to respect," portrays gorilla-like Irish thugs assaulting a parade that includes not just Orangemen but virtually every other group in America. They include Chinese, Native Americans, blacks, Free Masons, liberal Catholics, and Germans. The burning orphanage and the lynching recall two of the most notorious excesses of the 1863 Draft Riot. The heading paraphrases the Dred Scott Decision in which Chief Justice Taney ruled that blacks had no rights that whites were bound to respect. Many New York Democrats, including the Irish, had supported the decision. The "infallible, ultramontane" modifiers of Catholic refer to the recent proclamation of papal infallibility in matters of faith and morals at the 1870 Vatican Council and to the allegiance all Catholics owed to the Pope in Rome (over the mountains from a German perspective; Nast was a German Protest immigrant). Note that the American flag is flying upside down while the new standard of "Centralization" with Tammany and Popery flanking an Irish harp proudly waves from a flagpole topped with a cross.

The upper left panel shows Columbia rewarding the police and National Guard troops who protected the Orangemen. Just below the "people" rise up, led by Columbia before whom cower members of the Tweed Ring. Below that Columbia speaks. In the opposite corner is "Pat's Complaint." In between is another caricature of the Tweed Ring, this time portrayed as "slaves" of the Irish. The header — "Well, what are you going to do about it?" — turns another Tweed response to the corruption allegations into a taunt aimed at the Ring. The "slaves" description complements the panel just above "Pat's Complaint" in which Tweed and his cohorts give in to the Catholic demand that the city ban the Orange parade. The upper right panel indicates the significance of July 12 to the Orangemen and highlights their offer to discontinue their parade if the Catholic Irish would cease marching on St. Patrick's Day. A haughty Irish "pope" replies: NIVIR!

-- July 12th Orange Riot

Saturday, June 26, 2010

doing well

Last Sunday's NYT had a Father's Day op-ed dialogue, an exchange of emails, between the admirable Tony Judt and his 15-year-old son, Daniel. It's short and worth the read. Regarding his part of the piece, Daniel has been attacked and has responded well.[1]

Father and son challenge each other to believe that the generation that Daniel represents will be able to turn around all that we see around us that is going wrong, this generation that is unable to vote and deeply pessimistic about the ability of the elder generations who currently wield power to make things better. Tony says "Nothing manmade is inevitable: Chinese capitalism — unregulated profit accompanied by serial environmental catastrophe — is not the only possible future. ... If you want to change the world, you had better be willing to fight for a long time. And there will be sacrifices. Do you really care enough or are you just offended at disturbing pictures?" Daniel responds "We have no choice but to care enough. The sacrifices you foresee are nothing compared to the ones we will be forced to make if we sit back and wait." It's a good read: Generations in the Balance.

It also brings forth a topic that's been on my mind.

The Irish emigrants who came to New York City in the 1830s, '40s, and '50s had far less reason to hope for a better future than the young generation of which Daniel Judt is a member. While they lived in Ireland they knew only poverty, ignorance, and subservience. They had no experience of urban life, no political acumen, no knowledge of the many ways of earning and saving money. Yet within the span of one generation, from the 1850s to the 1880s, they managed to move well up from their starting point at the bottom of New York's social and economic scale.

They not only earned and saved their pennies from menial labor for New York's wealthier classes, but they also organized and carried out battles for equitable treatment. This transition did not come easily. They were failed subsistence farmers, rural paupers without knowledge of the world. Finding work that paid enough to support themselves and learning to survive in a big city were, each of them, huge accomplishments. That they could also eventually overcome prejudice against their habits, culture, and religious beliefs shows them to have had great persistence, resilience. They had the moxie which Daniel Judt seeks in his generation.

The remittances they sent back to the homeland shows their progress in gradually overcoming barriers to economic advancement. In rough orders of magnitude, the amounts Irish-Americans sent to Ireland grew from something less than $40,000 in 1834 to more than $3 million in 1870 and the cumulative amount for the period from 1850 to 1870 was not much less than $100 million. These amounts are not weighted to today's valuation, but the actual currency values of the time.[2] Even the poorest of the poor, those "assisted emigrants" from Lord Lansdowne's vast holdings in Kerry (about whom I wrote not long ago), were able to send money to family and friends they had left behind. So, for example, in 1851 Lansdowne's agent in Ireland was able to write to him: "The most cheering accounts are daily reaching us of their success in New York. Considerable sums of money have been already sent over in very small remittances of 20s or 30s each, and every letter which arrives brings new accounts of how well they fare and urging others to come over if they can."[3]

The social and political successes of the Irish-Americans in New York are well known. No group holding power gives it up gracefully, but the Protestants ascendant in New York society and politics were particularly resistant to pressures from Irish Catholic immigrants. British-American New Yorkers, so-called Anglo-Saxons, joined together in "nativist" attacks on the Irish whom many of them saw as competitors for low-paying jobs and whom they stigmatized as degraded, hopelessly immoral, and idolatrous. Their attacks bore great similarity to attacks made on freed slaves in New York a decade or so before. These bigots formed the core membership of the "native" American and Know-Nothing movements during the antebellum period. Partly in resistance to these attacks, Irish Catholics, more than any other European ethnic group, emphasized economic solidarity, collective action, and politics as keys to resisting discrimination and increasing their prominence in the political, cultural, and economic aspects in their newly adopted homeland.[4]

By the 1870s, with immigration having continued over the middle decades of the nineteenth century, New York had become the most Irish city in the US with more Irish-Americans than the population of Dublin. By the end of the century, they had become a dominant factor in many, perhaps most, aspects of life in the city.

One man's story helps illustrate this massive transition. As you read this extract from an inventive reconstruction by Rebecca Yamin notice that her subject, Peter McLoughlin, is a resident of the Five Points district who arrived before the famine Irish of the 1840s and '50s. As they would later on, he managed to save enough money to achieve a modest level of prosperity, but — belying the image of improvidence with which the Irish were tagged — he used his savings as capital to expand his wealth and also, through collective action, to help his fellow countrymen in their quest to follow the example he had set. His story was not typical since he was able to amass a fortune during his lifetime, and most immigrants considered themselves fortunate to have achieved much less. Still, it is an exemplary one since they, like him, advanced their condition through hard work and self-denial. They saved pennies, sent remittances back to Ireland, and stood together to give one another support.
Peter McLoughlin purchased 472 Pearl Street in 1839 for $16,400, running a liquor store on the ground floor of the old wooden house from 1838 until he replaced the building in the late 1840s. McLoughlin lived a few blocks away on Madison Street and apparently treated the Pearl Street property as an investment, the first of many he would make in the burgeoning city. By 1848, he had built a five-story brick tenement on his Pearl Street property, just in time to receive impoverished Irish immigrants who had fled their country in "Black 47," the most desperate year of the famine.

McLoughlin was concerned with the mass immigration and had been working since 1842 on the executive committee of the Irish Emigrant Society. By 1850, McLoughlin's tenement held about 20 households headed by either Irish women or men. Among them was McLoughlin's brother, Michael, who arrived in New York from Sligo in 1832. He eventually settled at 472 with his wife, Mary Fox, and like practically every other resident took in boarders to make ends meet in spite of the fact that most apartments included only two rooms. A mason, a grocer, and a laborer brought the number of souls in the McLoughlin household to five, but it was far from the largest. In addition to his wife and children, Thomas Peppard's household included four boarders, two probably working with the head of the household at shoemaking; Catherine Connell's household included five women in addition to herself; and Maurice Callaghan, a food vendor, and his family boarded Thomas Conner, fruit dealer, and Francis Bernard, a tailor. Widow Johnston had at least four women living with her, and Widow Berry shared her humble abode with a married couple, in addition to her two daughters.

For the greatly expanded number of people living on the lot (there were at least 100 in 1850), McLoughlin significantly upgraded the sanitary facilities. Following new and improved ideas about "convenience," he built an 11-foot diameter cesspool about 15 feet behind the tenement. Some sort of water system flushed wastes from adjacent privies into the cesspool, which was not hooked up to a sewer although water and sewer lines had been laid in Pearl Street in 1848, just about the time the tenement was built. A brick lined drain ran from an iron grate in the wall of the cesspool into a small sump located to the south, presumably to prevent overflow from going into the tenement basement.

McLoughlin died a rich man in 1854, leaving six house lots at Five Points and four vacant lots uptown at 109th Street and 2nd Avenue. He had been renting his liquor store on the ground floor of 472 Pearl Street since the late 1840s, turning his efforts to banking and good works. He worked as controller of the Citizens Savings Bank and served as the treasurer of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum for a number of years. At his death, his properties passed to his executors, John McLoughlin and Thomas Muldoon, but brother Michael apparently inherited some of the money since, a year later, he opened a savings account at the Emigrant Savings Bank with the not insubstantial sum of $2,000.

William Clinton bought 472 Pearl Street in 1864. Clinton, also an Irishman, increased the property's value by constructing a second tenement at the back of the lot. To do this, he transformed the already crowded backyard into a mere 20-x-25-foot courtyard, turning a deaf ear to health reformers' complaints about miserable sanitary conditions and the lack of air in New York's tenement districts. Although the number of residents did not increase appreciably, the ethnic mix changed over time. In 1880, a significant number of Italians lived alongside both first and second-generation Irish.

-- "Lurid Tales and Homely Stories of New York's Notorious Five Points; Archaeologists as Storytellers" by Rebecca Yamin. Historical Archaeology, Vol. 32, No. 1, 1998, pp. 74-85. Retrieved from jstor: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25616594
Tyler Anbinder tells a similar tale regarding the next generation of immigrants. His subject is the well-known Tim Sullivan. Sullivan's story interests partly because, like many of his fellow countrymen, he saw politics as the best way to take advantage of both the solidarity and numerical preponderance of the city's Irish-Americans.
Here's part of Tim's story, as related by Tyler Anbinder. As Anbinder points out, Sullivan was a "Lansdowne emigrant" who settled in Five Points.
The fate of young Tim Sullivan, the bootblack and newsboy, reflects the myriad opportunities that New York offered to the Lansdowne immigrants and their children. In his various jobs delivering newspapers, Sullivan developed a network of contacts among the city's newsboys and periodical dealers. Even though by his teenage years he worked in the news plants themselves, he simultaneously became a newspaper distributor, because the distribution managers knew that Sullivan, through his web of newsboys, could guarantee that their papers would be sold throughout the city. "Every new newspaper that come out, I obtained employment on, on account of my connection with the news-dealers all over the City of New York," Sullivan recalled in 1902. His income from these operations must have been significant, because by his late teens he was ready to open his first saloon, and by his early twenties he purportedly had interests in three or four. Sullivan was also very popular, and at twenty-three, without any prior legislative experience, he was elected to the New York state assembly. Although first chosen for office as an insurgent running against the city's "Tammany Hall" Democratic organization, "Five Points Sullivan" soon began cooperating with Tammany and quickly moved up through the ranks. He eventually served in the state senate and the United States House of Representatives. By the turn of the century, this child of Lansdowne immigrants had become "Big Tim" Sullivan, "the political ruler of down-town New York." Some observers considered him the second most powerful politician in the city, after Tammany "boss" Richard Croker. Sullivan also became quite wealthy. Critics charged that his fortune had been built from payoffs exacted from gambling and prostitution syndicates in his district. But "Big Tim" insisted that he had never taken a bribe in his life and that his substantial income derived from shrewd investments in vaudeville theaters and other legitimate businesses. No matter what the origin of his fortune may have been, Sullivan remembered his humble origins and shared his wealth with his less prosperous constituents, giving away thousands of pairs of shoes and Christmas dinners each year.
-- From Famine to Five Points: Lord Lansdowne's Irish Tenants Encounter North America's Most Notorious Slum by Tyler Anbinder, American Historical Review, Vol. 107, No. 2, April 2002.
During excavation for a public building in what had formerly been the Five Points district, an enormous number of artifacts were unearthed by archaeologists searching in what had been cess pits. Only 18 of these hundreds of thousands of items survive today; the rest were being stored in the basement of Six World Trade center and were lost during the 9/11 attacks. The 18 pieces come from places were Irish-Americans made their homes in Five Points. They survived because they had been loaned out to the archdiocese of New York for an exhibition. The exhibition was canceled due the untimely death of Cardinal O'Connor's death. They're now on display at the South Street Seaport Museum. Here are images of two:


{This teacup found in a cesspool behind the Irish tenement at 472 Pearl Street is one of the few surviving artifacts from the Five Points collection. Father Mathew was the founder of Ireland's temperance movement; source: archaeology.org}


{A child's cup, one of the artifacts found in cess pits in the Five Points archaeological dig; collectively, these artifacts show a greater wealth of material possessions among impoverished residents than was expected; source: archaeology.org}


{A Five Points tenement like John McLoughlin's on Pearl St; source: urbanography.com}


{Backyard view of another Five Points tenement; source: urbanography.com}

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Some sources:

Immigrants in the City: New York's Irish and German Catholics by Jay P. Dolan, Church History, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Sep., 1972), pp. 354-368, retrieved from jstor: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3164221

The New York Irish ed. by Ronald H. Bayor and Timothy J. Meagher (JHU Press, 1997)

Irish American Solidarity

The Irish (in countries other than Ireland) In the United States

From Famine to Five Points: Lord Lansdowne's Irish Tenants Encounter North America's Most Notorious Slum by Tyler Anbinder, American Historical Review, Vol. 107, No. 2, April 2002.

The Catholic encyclopedia: an international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church

----------

Notes:

[1] Judt, the elder, is a British historian, descendant of Lithuanian rabbis, professor at NYU, and frequent contributor to NYRB. He suffers from ALS and has written and been interviewed about the effect the disease has on him. Regarding Daniel's response to the attack on his integrity, see also: Shots Returned! Tony Judt's 15-Year-Old Son Just Schooled Michael Wolff and "Who Is This Clown?" NYU Prof. Tony Judt Asks, Denying Michael Wolff Allegation That He "Made Up" Son's Contribution To NYT Op-Ed Piece..

{Tony and family; Daniel is lower left; source: moveforals.com}

[2] See the article on the Irish in New York in The Catholic encyclopedia: an international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church

[3] Quoted in From Famine to Five Points: Lord Lansdowne's Irish Tenants Encounter North America's Most Notorious Slum by Tyler Anbinder, American Historical Review, Vol. 107, No. 2, April 2002. Here's the context:
We do know that the Lansdowne immigrants had undergone a remarkable transformation in a few short years from destitute Irish peasants to moderately successful New Yorkers. In Ireland, they had been among the most wretched of that nation's inhabitants. The Lansdowne tenants survived six years of unrelenting hardship in Ireland during the famine, a period of privation far longer than that of the typical famine-era emigrant. In a period when hundreds of thousands of desperate and impoverished Irish men, women, and children fled to North America, the Lansdowne immigrants were singled out by observers on both sides of the Atlantic for their particularly dire circumstances. Many apparently perished in the "Lansdowne Ward" of New York Hospital, so-called because many of the marquis's former tenants died there soon after their arrival. Yet while these immigrants may have first settled in Five Points because they could afford nothing else, they chose to stay even after they could have easily moved to more respectable neighborhoods. In just a few years in New York, many of these once "unfortunate creatures" achieved a modicum of financial security. While Trench may have exaggerated the immigrants' fortunes when he talked of them returning with chains of gold, by 1860 a large number of the immigrants had in fact saved enough to purchase such baubles had they chosen to do so. ...

A few things are certain. First, the degree of financial success achieved by the Lansdowne immigrants despite their decrepit surroundings suggests that the famine immigrants adapted to their surroundings far better and more quickly than we have previously imagined. After the initial year or so of adjustment, the Lansdowne immigrants stayed in Five Points not because they had to but because they chose to. In addition, the Lansdowne immigrants' story demonstrates the value of tracing the lives of famine-era immigrants back to Ireland, adding a transatlantic perspective that has generally been lacking in the field of immigration history. That Five Pointers from the Lansdowne estate achieved their modicum of financial security despite the extraordinary hardships (even by Irish standards) that they faced before, during, and immediately after their arrival in New York makes those monetary accomplishments all the more remarkable. Their saga demonstrates that we still have a lot to learn about how nineteenth-century immigrants adjusted to—and were transformed by—life in modern America.
[4] See Back to Ethnic America Irish American Solidarity.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

exodus

Lord Lansdowne's Assisted Emigration plan brought starving paupers from the workhouses of Kerry to New York's Five Points district and other North American slums. The plan was costly but it was also cost-effective. The aristocrat both avoided the expense of feeding and maintaining thousands of unproductive tenants and moved them far enough away that they would never trouble him again. In fact, there was the prospect of a bonus to him, since it was the practice of Irish emigrants to save pennies and send them back to those of their impoverished relatives who remained in the homeland. Much of this donated money ended up in Lansdowne's pockets in the form of payment for arrears of rent.

There were plentiful complaints from Irish commentators about the "forced" depopulation of the country, but I've found no complaints from the emigrants or those to whom they sent their few saved-up sawbucks. It's also a Malthusian fact that post-exodus Ireland was more prosperous than it was before.

Unfortunately, though willing to go to America, the beneficiaries of "assisted emigration" did not make the passage easily; in fact the sufferings of many continued unabated until sometime after they finally settled in the new land (assuming they survived that long). Their trek from the hovels in which they lived, to the overcrowded workhouses where their starvation was only partly alleviated was difficult and painful. So too the trek from the workhouses to the docks at Cork where they set sail for Liverpool. Their experience on these docks and those of Liverpool was no less degrading. The trans-Atlantic voyage was likely to be even worse and their reception at New York no better.

All in all, as one contemporary noted: "These wretched people were flying from known misery into unknown and tenfold aggravated misfortune."[1]

Here's an extract from a history, taken largely from public records, made a half century afterward. It's written from the English point of view and is mainly about English attempts to cope with gross exploitation of a desperate people.
In 1851 the entire business connected with the carriage of emigrants had become so corrupt that a Royal Commission was appointed to enquire into the matter. The Commission directed its attention more particularly to the conditions which prevailed on voyages to North America rather than to other parts of the world; first, because this quarter of the globe attracted the largest number of British emigrants, and, secondly, because the people who journeyed there were "ignorant, helpless, an easy prey to fraud, and least able to obtain redress." The emigrants as a class were uneducated and lacking in mental training, and therefore were easily imposed upon. They arrived at the port of embarkation with various bundles which unmistakably proclaimed their mission. Here dishonest porters and crimps seized upon them, more by force than persuasion, and took them to boarding-houses kept by equally dishonest landlords. As lights were prohibited on board ships that were lying in dock, no one was allowed to embark until within a few hours of the sailing time. The interval between the moment of setting foot in the port and the time for weighing anchor was thus necessarily spent in the clutches of the evil boarding-house keepers. These latter used every device for extorting money from their guests. Affecting the role of a friendly adviser, they would provide the gullible traveller with all sorts of useless utensils at exorbitant prices, telling him that they were necessary articles for the voyage. They would change English into American money, and, needless to say, "dollared" their victim, as frauds connected with money changing were technically termed. Passage tickets were also pressed on to the bewildered emigrant, but naturally at an enhanced figure. In some cases, even, the landlords drugged their lodgers, and took from them the savings with which they had intended to start life afresh in the New World. No form of theft or extortion seemed too mean to be undertaken by these rapacious people.

Unfortunately, acts of dishonesty were not confined to the keepers of boarding-houses. Once out at sea, the harassed traveller found that the ship's captain was no more dependable than the crimps and the runners on shore. The rations which he distributed were inferior in quality and less in quantity than those stipulated by the Government regulations, and frequently they were unfit for consumption. Overcrowding was usual, and, more often than not, the passengers were bullied and ill-treated by the crew. It must not be thought that proper food and humane treatment were unobtainable; they were procurable by those who cared to pay handsomely for them. Extortion was as rife aboard as on shore, and few dared to complain, as it was common knowledge that the working of the law was slow and costly.

Though the home officials worked strenuously to ensure the shipment of the proper kind and the necessary quantities of food, it was a simple matter for a captain to evade the vigilance of these men, were he so minded. Stores of an unsound nature were freely shipped with the knowledge that, though feeding passengers on decayed food was an offence at law, no penalty could be imposed for merely shipping unsound supplies. Were the nature of the food to be detected by the authorities, the only punishment was that incurred by a waste of time and labour in providing a fresh cargo. For many years it was a frequent practice for certain captains to put into one of the many obscure ports on the coast of Ireland, and there to exchange good barrels of oatmeal for unsound ones. Their log-books recorded a halt at such and such a port owing to stress of weather. Captains who wished to sail with short supplies, complained that their ships when fully laden were unable to ride over the sill of the dock. A clearance was then given them on condition that they took aboard whatever supplies they lacked when the exterior of the harbour was reached. On reaching a point without the harbour, they were met by small boats carrying the necessary provisions, but these were left unshipped.

Once out on the open sea, the lot of the emigrant was usually a terrible one. Mr. Vere Foster, a philanthropist who sent, at different times, no less than sixteen thousand women to Canada at his own expense, embarked in 1850 on the Washington as a steerage passenger. His identity he kept a secret, wishing to obtain a true insight into the treatment of the poorer classes who travelled across the Atlantic. In a letter written to a friend, he said, the medical examination consisted of What's your name? Are you well? Hold out your tongue. All right. It was all said in one breath, and lasted one or two seconds. On the first day, the nine hundred people mustered on deck for their water. While it was being pumped into their cans, the mates cursed, abused, cuffed and kicked the people without any provocation, and only served thirty of them; the others having to go without. In spite of what the contract promised, no provisions were served on that or on the following day, and, as many people were almost starving, a letter of complaint was written to the captain. The man who composed it was knocked down by a blow in the face from the first mate. The next day half rations were served. Supplies were always given out raw; to get near the cooking fires many people bribed the sailors; those who were too poor to offer them money only managed their turn once in two or three days. Several serious injuries were wantonly inflicted on the passengers by the mates. Twelve children died from dysentery or, more truthfully, from want of nourishing food. From this letter, we may picture, not the life experienced on board an isolated ship managed by an exceptionally brutal master, but the existence endured by hundreds and thousands of people, many of them ill, underfed and wretched, who left Britain for North America during the first half of the nineteenth century. It is interesting to know that, on reaching the United States, Mr. Vere Foster took legal proceedings against the defaulting captain, but withdrew them when he discovered how much time and money they would entail if pursued. We can but conclude that the law was in a very useless state if Mr. Foster, a wealthy man, felt himself beyond its protection.

On landing in America, the emigrant was required to face yet further troubles. Awaiting him on the quays were gangs of porters known as runners, who pestered him with even more audacity than was displayed by the crimps of the old country. Seizing his baggage, they led him to a lodging-house kept by a confederate, and there began over again the extortion which was practised at the port of embarkation. Not until he had purchased a transportation ticket to some distant inland town, probably at a fabulous price, was he rid of the terrors inseparable from an Atlantic passage.

-- A history of emigration from the United Kingdom to North America, 1763-1912, Issue 34 of Studies in economics and political science, by Stanley Currie Johnson (Routledge, 1914)

{I've reproduced this before; it shows "assisted emigration" paupers enroute to New York; source: victoriana.com}


{interior of a cabin, 1846, A contemporary lithograph drawn by A. S. G. Stopford; source: vassar.edu}


{caption: "The accompanying is a sketch of a party of emigrants who have arrived on the quay after a long journey, in some cases close upon one hundred miles:-- They are stretched and tumbled about upon boxes and straw to seek some few moments' repose; source: vassar.edu}


{Cork: departure of the Nimrod and Athlone Steamers with Emigrants on Board for Liverpool, Illustrated London News; source: munsterbusiness.ie}


{caption: The embarkation, Waterloo Docks, Liverpool -- The Illustrated London News, 1850; source:quarantotto.altervista.org}

W.S. Trench described the Lansdowne migrants at quay-side:
It must be admitted that the paupers dispatched to America on such a sudden pressure as this, were of a very motley type; and a strange figure these wild batches of two hundred each — most of them speaking only the Irish language — made in the streets of Cork, as well as on the quays of Liverpool and America. There was great difficulty in keeping them from breaking loose from the ship, not only in Cork but in Liverpool, where the ships touched before they left for the West. Their chief device was to escape out of the ships almost naked, to hide all their good clothes which had been furnished them as an outfit, and to appear only in their worst rags. In this costume they took delight in rushing through the streets of Cork and Liverpool in large bodies, to the real terror of the inhabitants. In short, I do believe that so strange, unmanageable, and wild a crew had never before left the shores of Ireland. But notwithstanding their apparent poverty, they were all in the most uproarious spirits; there was no crying nor lamentation, as is usual on such occasions; all was delight at having escaped the deadly workhouse.
-- -- Realities of Irish life by William Steuart Trench (Roberts Brothers, 1880)


{caption: Sketch of the row at the office-door, where some of the emigrants are seen paying their passage-money, will show the extent to which the ruffianly touters and mancatchers carry their interference, and from which they are only obliged to desist upon the application of superior force; source: vassar.edu}


{caption: Having thus shown you what was picturesque in the passage of the group of emigrants from the home of their infancy to the office of the emigration agent who provides them with a ship direct from the port, it may not now be out of place for me to send you a sketch of the interior of one of those vessels, which I accordingly do, and which I trust will readily explain the mode in which those vessels are fitted up, and where each party gets so many square inches to her or his share of ship, as the case may be, and where, if I am given rightly to understand, man woman, and child are obliged to huddle together like pigs at a fair. But then the ship is partitioned, divided, and formed exactly according to the strict letter of the law, and none can grumble, yet few can go on board one of them without being instantly struck with the chances tat appear of the complete demoralization of the whole group; and what it must be when the sea rolls heavily, when the hatches are all closed, and the ship heaves and labours in the storm, can be much better imagined by others than described by me. The answer given to a party who, upon seeing the way in which these unfortunate beings were left toss and tumble about, asked if even a plank in the shape of a table was not to be provided for them was, 'Cock them up with it, indeed! How badly off they're for a table!' And yet this man is known to be a kind, generous-hearted man in other respects. Every inquiry or remonstrance is answered by the allegation, that all is according to the Act of Parliament, or 'the Act so directs it;' so that you will perceive what little chances of extra comforts the emigrant has who emigrates in the smaller vessels belonging to men, some of whom are making lordly fortunes by their new trade. Before one emigrant left our ports, and when thoughtless and selfish men were first beginning to talk of a great systematic plan of emigration, we called the attention of the Legislature to the dreadful scenes that would be witnessed on board the emigrant fleet, crowded with wretches already at death's door, predisposed to almost any malady, and certain victims to the first existing cause of disease. We subsequently exposed the wickedness of transporting our pauperism to shores where no provision was made for its reception, and to a climate where the necessities of life were at least as indispensable as our own.
-- The Times of London wrote a lead editorial about the plight of famine immigrants on Friday, September 17, 1847' source: vassar.edu, munsterbusiness.ie, and rootsweb}


{Between decks, Illustrated London News; source: heritagecanterbury.org}


{Emigrants at dinner, Illustrated London News; source: heritagecanterbury.org}


{caption: Steerage in a "coffin ship." In 1851 there were often as many as fifteen ships a day sailing to America from Liverpool. In the first half of the century conditions on the trans-Atlantic ships were often appalling. The worst death rates occurred during the famine on the notorious “coffin ships” with death rates a high as 30% on some of them. Some idea of the conditions endured by people on the coffin ships of the famine period can be gleaned from the story of the "Elizabeth and Sarah", which sailed from Co. Mayo in July 1847. She carried 276 persons, instead of the 212 listed, and had only 8,700 gallons of water for the voyage, instead of the 12,532 gallons she should have had. Each passenger was entitled to be given 7 lbs of provisions each week, but none was ever distributed. The 276 passengers shared 32 berths, and there was no sanitary facility of any kind. The voyage took eight weeks, because the captain took the wrong course, and by the time the ship broke down and was towed into the St. Lawrence River in September, 42 people had died. Source: emigrantletters.com}

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Some sources:

THE TIDE OF EMIGRATION

Coffin Ships

Assisted Emigration from the Shirley Estate in County Monaghan, 1846-1853 on bytown.net

Emigration

Emigration from Europe, 1815-1930 Volume 11 of New studies in economic and social history, by Dudley Baines (Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Emigration and immigration: a study in social science by Richmond Mayo-Smith (C. Scribner's sons, 1912)

A history of emigration from the United Kingdom to North America, 1763-1912 Issue 34 of Studies in economics and political science, by Stanley Currie Johnson (Routledge, 1914)

Irish Immigrants in America during the 19th Century

From Famine to Five Points: Lord Lansdowne's Irish Tenants Encounter North America's Most Notorious Slum by Tyler Anbinder

Lansdowne's Estate in Kenmare Assisted Emigration Plan, Shea Family History in Ireland, Dick Shea, December 2009

Eyewitness Accounts of the Famine

The Great Famine of 1845 - 1849

Irish Views of the Famine

Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquis of Lansdowne

The Night side of New York. A picture of the great metropolis after nightfall by Frank Beard (New York, J.C. Haney & Co. 1866)

Interpreting The Irish Famine, 1846-1850

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Notes:

[1] From Robert Whyte, The Ocean Plague: The Diary of a Cabin Passenger (1848). "Robert Whyte's immigrant diary, The Ocean Plague: The Diary of a Cabin Passenger, appeared in print in 1848, one year after the author said he made his journey from famine-stricken Ireland to Canada. Whyte later crossed the boarder into the United States. Nothing is known about Robert Whyte, including whether such a person even existed; the name could very well be a pseudonym. All that is left is this diary, published in 1994 by Mercier Press and edited by James Mangan under the title Robert Whyte's 1847 Famine Ship Diary. Mangan also edited the fictionalization of Gerald Keegan's famine journal. Unlike this earlier work (1991), however, Robert Whyte's 1847 Famine Ship Diary is an authentic reproduction of the original text, rather than a dramatization. One could assume, therefore, that Whyte's diary is a relatively more trustworthy account of the ocean crossing." -- from the curator of the Mary anne Sadlier Archive at U. of Virginia.