This path was created by Derek James Rachel.  The last update was by Erika Strandjord.

Star of the Sea : A Postcolonial/Postmodern Voyage into the Irish Famine

United States: A Reluctant Emigrant Admitter

The United States was a popular destination for Irish emigrants, because it provided a new life and more opportunities for them. Between 1849 and 1850, “the numbers leaving for America exceeded 200,000 per annum” (Gray, The Irish Famine 100). Not only was America a large country, but it also had a multitude of ports that were accessible to the immigrants. However, the journey across the Atlantic was rough due to the bad ship conditions and horrible weather. According to Kerby A. Miller, “nearly a tenth of those who went directly to the US perished on the ‘coffin ships’ or shortly after debarkation” (“Emigration” 215). There were attempts to keep as many of the passengers alive, but the many attempts failed over the famine years. 

Because of the large increase of starving and disease-ridden immigrants, the United States felt forced to find a way to control how many were admitted into their ports. In the early months of 1847, Congress passed two Passenger Acts that “[raised] the minimum fare from Ireland to America to £7 and [regulated] the numbers who could be carried on ships” (Keneally, Three Famines 176). Due to this raise of fare, many emigrants were forced to travel to Canada instead. And the regulation on number of passengers forced several ships to turn around half way, or even at the port. Occasionally the captain would stop at a random island and let off a certain number of passengers.

However, the Irish immigrants were not welcome at many American ports due to the poverty and diseases they carried with them. Joseph O'Connor's Star of the Sea, illustrates how cities started sending coffin ships back because they had no way of accepting them: "To add to the heavy news, there had been rumors that the authorities at New York and Boston might turn back all ships deriving from Ireland, those ports being now choked with many vessels unable to go to Canada, and the authorities at New York greatly fearful of epidemics" (O'Connor 263).They had many reasons to not accept the Irish, but one of the main reasons was their sickliness after starvation in Ireland. Partly due to their weak state after the famine, “they had no suitable skills or trades, and most of them were so weakened they were unfit for work of any kind” (Litton 108). Therefore, the American population felt they were taken advantage of by an idle group of people. Therefore, many of the Irish emigrants drifted to the slums and spent their time doing cheap and unskilled labor.

Works Cited 
Gray, Peter. The Irish Famine. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc. Publishers, 1995. Web. 

Keneally, Thomas. Three Famines: Starvation and Politics. New York: The Serpentine Publishing, 2011. Print.

Litton, Helen. The Irish Famine: An Illustrated History. Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 1994. Print.

Miller, Kerby A. Emigration to North America in the Era of the Great Famine, 1845-55.” Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. Ed. John
Crowley, William J. Smyth, and Mike Murphy. New York: New York University Press, 2012. Print. 

O'Connor, Joseph. Star of the Sea. Florida: Harcourt Books, 2002. Print.
Researcher/Writer: Ellen-Marie Pedersen
Technical Designers: Derek Rachel and Amanda Lundeen

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