The Plight of Immigrants to Boston
Since its conception in the early 1600's, Boston, the so-called 'City on a Hill,' has opened its doors to all people of all ethnic and religious background. At times there were many who fought to prevent the immigrants, while other people, at the same time, helped those who made it to the Americas, more specifically, Boston to make a new life for themselves. The immigrants from Ireland were not unfamiliar with this trend in American history. More often than not, the Irish immigrants were met with adversity from the 'native' Bostonians.
Founded by the Puritans in the late 1600's, Boston and its people were not completely open to immigrants, at first, which seemed odd, considering they were once immigrants. Before the American Revolution, the majority of the predominately Protestant citizens of Boston were "fairly inhospitable to persons of any different religious persuasion…especially the Irish who were regarded by most Anglo-Saxons as members of an inferior race…" Because of these sentiments, many of the first immigrants from Ireland settled in the less populated areas of New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. With one glance at the names of the towns they settled -- Dublin, Belfast and Limerick, to name a few -- you would think of their Irish counterparts in Ireland.
Many of the Irish who immigrated to Boston during the years before the American Revolution were part of "a poor, hardworking class." Most could not even afford to pay their way over and came as indentured servants instead. They came from all walks of life and many different backgrounds. There were tailors, cabinet-makers, carpenters, shoemakers, and bricklayers, as well as farmhands and laborers. The one thing they all had in common was their desire to try new things, their sense of adventure, and the desire to make a new life for themselves in the New World.
Unfortunately, the Irish-Catholic immigrants were not looked very-highly upon at first. The Puritan citizens of Boston often looked those that actually expressed their religious, "papist" beliefs in public with suspicion and fear. These Puritans "continued to regard Catholicism as both a subversive political menace as well as a fearsome religious heresy." This, considering the fact that those same Puritans and Protestants came to the Colonies in search of religious freedom, was quite bold on their parts. For example, many Roman Catholics were excluded from liberties and rights that other citizens had. They were "often placed under unusually severe limitations on their everyday life especially on those actions where religious believes played and important role." Following the Revolutionary War, some tolerance for Catholics was present -- "there was a sufficient atmosphere of forbearance in Boston to accommodate the handful of Roman Catholics who had now begun to practice heir religion openly."
This new found tolerance could not have come at better time. After the...