Distant Magnets: Expectations and Realities in the Immigrant Experience, 1840-1930

By Dirk Hoerder; Horst Rössler | Go to book overview

. . . and never enjoyed better health" in her life. "I never once thought of going home," she admitted, and "you know when I was home I often wished myself in this Country and now to return I think would be quite a folly." However, she faltered, "I would say more on this subject but I feel so nerv[ou]s I do not know from what effect," and so terminated the letter rather abruptly, in handwriting whose increasing unsteadiness showed the effects of growing strain. 69

In fact, few recently arrived migrants dared to be as "bold" as Anne Flood, and whether sincerely or calculatingly it was thus much easier -- and, perhaps, kinder to all concerned -- to obscure motivation by claiming or implying that migration was either fated and unwilling exile or informed solely by filial piety and self-sacrifice. "For God's sake and for ours," begged one harassed migrant of his parents at home, "endeavor to shake off your sorrow and do not leave us to accuse ourselves of bringing down your grey hairs with sorrow to the grave by leaving you when we should have stayed by you. Our intentions were good and still continue -- and, if God prosper our endeavors, we will soon be able to assist and cheer you." 70 As that plaintive plea indicates, although its practical resolutions financially sustained "holy Ireland's" family farms and nationalist movements, in personal, psychological terms Paddy's Paradox could be a painful and an oppressive burden.


Notes

This paper was presented to the conference " Ireland and the United States: The Transatlantic Connection, 1800-1980," held at the University of. Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, 10-11 Apr 1987.

Although argued and presented here in novel ways, the information on, and analysis of, Irish history, society, and culture contained in this essay reflects some fifteen years of research and writing that culminated in the publication of Kerby A. Miller, Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1985). Consequently, to economize on time and space, many of the following citations merely refer to the relevant pages of that work (and their accompanying notes). However, direct quotations are fully cited.

1.
At least 4 million Irish people emigrated between 1856 and 1921, compared with 2.1 million during the period of the Great Famine ( 1845-55), approximately one million in 1815-44, and less than one million during the two centuries preceding 1815. See Miller, Emigrants and Exiles, 137, 169, 193-201, 291-93, and 346-53.

-289-

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