The Irish-American Press
The Irish-American press helped guide many Irish from rural Catholic Ireland into urban, industrial, Protestant America. It filled various needs of the Irish community, the most important being the providing of practical information on the United States. Irish Catholic clergymen often spoke through this medium to instruct their displaced flock in a confusing new world. By 1830 the Irish had assumed command of the urban American Catholic Church and had made its diocesan newspapers vehicles for an Irish point of view. Irish nationalists also saw in the press the opportunity to generate interest in a movement to liberate Ireland from the shackles of British colonialism.
Irish Catholics began their exodus to America in significant numbers in the 1820s. By 1922 as many as 7 million Irish had found refuge and a new home in North America. 1 Although the majority of Irish immigrants were peasants, their primitive farming skills, their poverty, the communal nature of Catholicism, and their desire to live together made the industrial cities of the North and East a more fitting place to settle than the vast and lonely farms of the Midwest. As an urban proletariat they helped generate America's industrial and transportation revolutions. While cities offered the Irish unskilled jobs, urban life and poverty forced many into crime, alcoholism, mental illness, and slum living. 2
Anglo-American Protestants were unprepared for and alarmed at this unprecedented influx of aliens into their country and the social problems they seemed to create. Although the Irish culture, with its crude manners, social misconduct, and disease-ridden slums, irritated Anglo-Americans, Irish Catholicism seemed even more threatening to American institutions and values. To Anglo-Americans, it contradicted the liberal, democratic principles of the American Enlightenment expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Catholicism represented Old World despotism, idolatry, ignorance, and superstition. Many Americans doubted the ability of Catholics to be loyal to the United States when their faith demanded allegiance to the pope, who was both a spiritual and temporal ruler infamous for meddling in the affairs of states. 3 Some thought this Irish Catholic invasion involved a popish plot designed to destroy American freedom.