Irish Story

Urban and rural scenes of Ireland

 Irish harp


The Irish in America

As early as 1636 some protestant ministers led an unsuccessful expedition to colonial America, following the example of the English Pilgrim Fathers. In the 1680s Francis Makemie and other Ulster Presbyterian ministers, mostly from the Laggan presbytery in the west of the province, became the founding fathers of American Presbyterianism. In the 18th century what had been a trickle of Ulster Scots emigrants to America became a flood. Thousands abandoned Ireland for the New World. Some of them became determined supporters of the American colonists' campaign for independence from Britain. Their experience and example had important repercussions amongst those who remained in Ireland. The philosophy of the American colonists as expressed in their Declaration of Independence - that all men had inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - had explosive effects on 18th century Ireland. This moral support was undoubtedly a factor in the 1798 uprising.

As a result of the Famine of 1846 to 1850, Irish immigrants poured into America. Unscrupulous ships' captains made their fortune by packing ships with refugees. So many died in transit that the ships became known as “coffin ships”. Canada was also a destination, but was not as popular as the US because it was still under British rule.

The Irish suffered religious discrimination in America, but not nearly as much as in their homeland. At least in this new land there were others who were lower on the social scale, particularly those with black skins, to take the brunt of prejudice. Many Irish men and women rose to high office, especially after the American Civil War, when Irish soldiers distinguished themselves in the armies of both sides. More perhaps than most immigrants the Irish retained a strong attachment to their homeland, sending money home and raising funds for “the cause” - even centuries later a large part of the funding for freedom fighters, including the IRA, continued to come from the US. For many, the culmination of their struggle for recognition of Irish Catholics was the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy as US President in 1960.






About Ireland

Irish History

Learn Gaelic

Irish Roots

    CopyrightSite MapContact Us