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Irish And Irish American Transatlantic Struggles To The American Civil War

1537 words - 6 pages

From the time of the Protestant Reformation in Europe during the 1500's until the American Civil War of the 1860's and beyond, Irish and Irish Americans continually saw themselves greatly oppressed by the ruling British in Ireland, and later the Anglo-Americans in their Transatlantic meeting point in the United States of America. In Ireland before the Great Irish Famine of the 1840-50's, the Celtics saw oppression in many forms, including political, economic, and religious. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Irish-American immigrants met religious discrimination and racism well into the end of the nineteenth century. In America, the opposition did not stop with the Anglo-Americans, however, as they also faced difficulties with African-American slaves.For centuries, the British had a strong grip around the Irish in all aspects of life. Transformed by the Protestant Reformation of the 1500's, the King Henry VIII of England attempted to convert his Irish subjects to Protestantism. After the Irish did not obey, harsh penal laws were put into place, which forbade Catholics from doing many things they were able to do in the past, including hold office, attend mass, or operate schools (Nardo, 12). The British relegated the Irish to tenants of their own land, in which they were to grow crops and farm animals as their rent payments to Britain. This made the Irish increasingly dependent on the potato crop, which made more economic use of the land (Nardo, 13).However, these famine emigrants were not the first group of people to leave Ireland for America. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, about 250,000 Ulster Protestants emigrated to the New World (Watts, 35-37), many of whom became indentured servants (Griffin, 36). Additionally, in the thirty years preceding the Great Irish Famine, more than one million emigrated from Ireland to the United States. Emigration from Ireland was then established as a practical means of leaving Ireland (McCaffrey, 60-61). However, these Ulsterians were still shared more in common with the Anglo-Americans they were joining in America than the Irish they were leaving behind, including social and cultural customs, and most importantly, religion (Fallows, 1).During the prosperity following the Napoleonic Wars of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Ireland experienced a great population growth, which led to partitions of this farming land for the increasing size of families (Griffin, 128). This shortage of land led the Irish people to rely solely on one crop that could feed an entire family with such a short plot of land -- the potato (Nardo, 24). Although it was nothing new to the Irish, blight infected potatoes all over Ireland and across Europe starting in the late summer of 1845. There was nothing the Irish could do but falter to starvation and subsequent disease (Fallows, 17).Clearly, the only way to ensure a future was to emigrate. Between 1847 and 1860, over 1.2 million Irish immigrants...

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