Boston’s Immigrants: A Study in Acculturation
Problem: Boston, with the makeup of a promising city, was struggling significantly toward the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century. What factors helped alleviate Boston from the middle of the rankings for American cities and guided it to become a model city for other Americans to view? With the mass arrival of people from Europe, why did people of Irish decent seem to be the frontrunners for work in the Boston area? Finally, even though the Irish became the crème of the crop in Boston, why were they frowned upon by both other Europeans and the native Americans?
Theses: Handlin throughout the text explains to us in great detail how Boston’s economic scene struggled greatly, due to the fact that people were taking their businesses outside of the city’s boundaries and that the population was at a standstill. As the city struggled to prosper, an enormous movement that swept across western and central Europe created a mass exodus that led to Europeans settling in Boston; therefore, leading to Boston’s social and economic reconstruction. Of these many different Europeans that fled to Boston, Handlin points out that the Irish were the foundation of capitalism and growth of the city. Because of the Irish’s essential role in the rebuilding of Boston, many Europeans had to find employment elsewhere, and the Americans who had maintained the jobs before their arrival, were pushed aside. This led to divided social classes within the neighborhoods of Boston, but the city learned to survive through tolerance (Handlin 228).
Argument: In the year 1790, Boston was ranked third amongst American cities population wise, but its population began diminishing due to its extremely slow growth rate. On top of its declining growth rate, people who called Boston their home took their work outside of the city due to the fact that they were not willing to work for the extremely unappealing labor rates the manufacturers offered. With the population and economy struggling, Boston looked for a change. Between the years 1750 and 1850 Europe underwent an Industrial Revolution that shifted its population from rural to urban areas. Landlords no longer found it necessary or profitable to keep migrant workers on their lands which led to only one option for peasants—emigration to America. There were many different groups of Europeans fleeing Europe at this time, but the most significant groups of people that relate to the city of Boston are those of Irish decent. Due to what the Irish went through back in Ireland, they had no choice but to settle in unfavorable Boston. Because Boston lacked many job opportunities, many of the Irish were forced into unemployment and struggled as best they could. Struggling to make a living as a skilled laborer, the Irish turned to jobs that required unskilled labor just to make a pretty penny. As word spread throughout the city of this “Irish help” many...