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Title: P. Mulligan, Liverpool to Rev. James Birmingham.
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileMulligan, P/38
SenderMulligan, P
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationunknown
Sender Religionunknown
OriginLiverpool, England
RecipientRev. James Birmingham
Recipient Gendermale
Relationshipprob. not acquainted
SourceThe Nation (Dublin), 15 May 1852
ArchiveThe Central Library, Belfast
Doc. No.201126
Partial Date
Doc. TypeLET
LogDocument added by LT, Td by Peter Best, 07:01:02.c
Word Count904
Note(writes about emigration)
We wish this letter could reach our whole people. It
ought to be posted in all our seaport towns by the League
as a warning to emigrants whither they are rushing. It
ought to be heard of on every hustings as an incitement to
electors to settle the Land question, and maintain a hold
on the country. The Rev. gentleman to whom it is addressed
and who has sent it to us for publication, is a surety for
the writers good faith; his facts, being facts, speak for

70 Devon-street, Liverpool, May 4, 1852.

Rev. Sir - Having seen a paragraph in one of this town's
newspapers, in which it was stated that you had cautioned
your parishioners against emigrating to America, and that
emigration to that (or any other country, I presume,) led
to heresy and atheism, I beg leave to obtrude upon your
notice the following, which may, perhaps, should you make
use of it, deter some of your flock from crossing the
Atlantic. I have been in America, and have only lately
returned from it, (last March) and from what I have seen of
the country I must say, so far as I am capable to give an
opinion, that your caution was just. I have been in the
cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore,
Cincinnati, Washinton, Pittsburg, Harrisburgh, Jersey City,
Cleveland, Charleston, and several other places, in every
one of which I have witnessed as much misery and want as I
have seen in any part of Ireland. There are tens of
thousands in that country who would gladly return if they
could but raise the required funds. About seaport towns
in particular, there are swarms of idle persons who cannot
get employment, and who resort to any and every scheme
for obtaining a livelihood - murder and robbery, even
in the open streets and in broad daylight. Of course,
thousands, on the contrary, find employment in America,
particularly at farming, upon railroads, and in the loading
and unloading of the vessels of all nations. But if some
are successful, there are many who are not, and who wander
about, from state to state, without bettering their condition.
On the railways they have their parties of Corkonians and
far-downs, who, instead of pulling on peaceably together,
leave their work and commence regular faction fights, using
every sort of weapon they can lay hands upon. On the shipping
wharves one must be strong, active, and powerful, and capable
of enduring every sort of abuse and ill usage, before he has a
chance of making a dollar. In the farming you have to learn
all from Jonathan; he is the "schoolmaster abroad," and knows
everything, whereas you know nothing - not alone in farming,
but upon any and every other subject.
In the case of the emigrant, suppose he lands in America
possessed of some money, and that he should go "out west,"
purchase a farm and cultivate it, what is his position?
In the state of Ohio, for instance, he buys, say one
hundred acres of land at the government price of 2s. 6d.
per acre, all wood. In the space of four or five years
he clears half of it, lays it under cultivation, raises a
crop then gathers it, then - yes, what then? - he is perhaps,
500 miles from a market; he has neither boats to run down the
river (if one be near him) with his produce, nor horses and
cars with which to convey it to the nearest market around him;
he is obliged to consume it himself, or barter for implements,
clothing, &c., at a great loss, as those things cost him three
times as much as he could have them for ready money. He toils
on year after year, under a burning sun in the summer, and an
intense cold winter, to earn a miserable subsistence, and is
not so happy in his position as he would be in his own country
with a single acre to raise potatoes for himself and family.
Many parties in America send money to their friends in
Ireland to assist them at home, and others send it to carry
their friends out. Now, a great portion of that money is
the hard earnings of those parties, and more of it is got very
easily. Wages are good in America; and when those parties get
employed they live cheap - a week's provisions and lodging not
costing many of them one dollar - and lay up as much as they
can to send home. Others resort to raffling goods of every
description to raise money, which they send home, accompanied
with lying letters as to their prosperity. Numerous are the
stratagems to which recourse is had to raise a few dollars to
induce people to join their friends in America; but when arrived
out they find a different scale of things to what they expected.
I would advise the Irish people to stay at home, for truly
miserable must be there condition if it be not as good as what
it would be in America.
Some twenty years ago, and perhaps later, there was an opening
for industy in America; but its sea-board - nay, three or four
hundred miles inside it is now satisfied with labour. There is
food, but not work, for all in America.
As to the Irish becoming heretics and atheists when they
inhabit another land than there own, I have nothing to say. I only know
that they imbibe new ideas, both political and religous, when
they mix with the people of other countries. Perhaps you can find a
reason for there apostacy. It may be that your New York
was right.
My excuse for writing this is that I am an Irishman, and that
I wish all my countrymen well, and hoping, if you should make use
of it, they might be induced to stay at home. I therefore finish it by
writing myself.
Rev. James Birmingham

Transcribed by Peter Best