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Emigration To North America In 1847

When they were building Victoria Bridge (Montr...

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The year 1847 was a unique year for emigration. Famine in Ireland leads the list of reasons for the increase in the number of emigrants in that year. However, if one reads newspapers of the day other facts soon come to light.

There are reports of vessels leaving various parts of the United States and Canada (this will be used to describe New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Upper and Lower Canada) with supplies for Europe. For example, on March 4, 1847, the Constitution andSarah Sands had unfurled their sails, while at Boston, the Tartar sailed in April. These vessels were on their way to Ireland. A New York paper reported that in March some $1,250,000 of supplies a week were leaving from that port for Ireland and about $5,000,000 from all parts of the U.S.

On April 24, 1847, the vessel Morea was leaving Boston for Scotland with food stuffs for relief of the starving. There is also a report of the French government buying up thousands of pounds of food to alleviate the situation in that country. Reports also came from Holland, Germany and Switzerland about fever and hunger.

A report from England stated that the emigration of 1847 would probably go to 200,000 or 300,000 from Ireland alone. Government agents in other countries were also reporting large increases in the number of people heading to the port cities of the continent. Ships were being hired at an every increasing pace and Captains were carrying full compliments of passengers, some exceeding the legal limits. Some 6,000 Germans, the papers reported, were already at the ports of Breman, Harve and Antwerp preparing to sail.

medical inspectors office

Just to add to the misery, the northern U.S. and Canada had a hard winter in 1846-7 and the snow and ice were causing delays for many of the vessels. There are reports of gales and of vessels being stuck in the ice for weeks. The Albion, from Greenock, for example, sailed on March 25, 1847 and on April 10 hit the ice about 40 miles off Cape Ray. The vessel did not arrive in Quebec until June 4, 1847!

Even knowing that they were to receive more emigrants than in former years did not prepare the agents in the ports of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Saint John, Quebec, and others for what was to come. By May 5, New York stated that they had already received 17,668 emigrants since the 1st of April. Boston had turned away a vessel, the Mary, carrying 46 passengers from Cork, Ireland because, “the city authorities would not suffer them to be landed, owing to their destitute condition, unless the master gave bonds that they should not become a burthen to the city.” Quarantine stations in various US ports were running out of space. In New Orleans they reported they were, “doing all in their power to make them [the emigrants] comfortable.”

Quebec began to receive emigrants in May as the ice finally left the St. Lawrence river and ships were able to make their way up to the city. Grosse Isle, the quarantine station, began to feel the strain within the first few weeks of May. On May 11, Mr. Buchanan, the Chief Emigrant Agent at Quebec, reported that “From the above statement it appears there are now on their way to this port, 31 vessels, having on board 10,636 passengers.” Before the year was out Grosse Isle would be completely overwhelmed.

arrival at cork

The Virginius, from Liverpool on May 28, had 476 passengers on board but, by the time she reached Grosse Isle, “…106 were ill of fever, including nine of the crew, and the large number of 158 had died on the passage, including the first and second officers and seven of the crew, and the master and the steward dying, the few that were able to come on deck were ghastly yellow looking spectres, unshaven and hollow checked, and without exception, the worst looking passengers I have ever seen…” wrote Dr. Douglas, Medical Superintendent at Grosse Isle, in the 1847 Immigration Report.

The fever they spoke of was Typhus Fever, more commonly known as “ships fever.” Typhus was spread by body louse and within ten days of a person being bitten they would start to show symptoms of high fever, pain in muscles and joints, cerebral disorders, and headache. By the fifth day, a dark-red rash with elevated spots would appear on the trunk and shoulders, spreading to the rest of the body. Delirium would often set in by the second week. If the patients survived to the third week, they would often recover but would soon have a relapse with high fever, from which they would recover very quickly. The death rate was often as high as 50-70 percent of those infected.

The Irish were in the worst condition upon arrival at Grosse Isle. “An eye-witness called it the Isle of Death, and found a strange contrast of beauty and suffering, of levity and sorrow”, wrote Guillet, in his book The Great Migration. One cabin passenger described the difference between the Irish and German immigrants:


…all of them, without a single exception, comfortably and neatly clad, clean and happy. There was no sickness amongst them, and each comely fair-haired girl laughed as she passed the doctor, to join the group of robust young men who had undergone the ordeal…As we repassed the German ship, the deck was covered with emigrants, who were singing a charming hymn, in whose beautiful harmony all took part; spreading the music of their five hundred voices upon the calm, still air that wafted it around….As the distance between us increased, the anthem died way until it became inaudible. It was the finest chorus I ever heard,–performed in a theatre of unrivalled magnificence….Although it was pleasing to see so many joyous beings, it made me sad when I thought of the very, very different state of my unfortunate compatriots; and I had become so habituated to misery, disease and death that the happiness that now surrounded me was quite discordant with my feelings.
Page 151 of Guillet but taken from The Ocean Plague by Robert Whyte.

the departure

As the emigrants continued to cross the ocean the US ports began to reject vessels thus forcing them to make their way to Quebec or New Brunswick ports. It was not just the passengers who suffered as Boston reported the arrival of the Jas. H. Shepherd from Liverpool with 228 passenger of which 26 died on the voyage and 105 were ill upon arrival. They also reported that, “…part of crew sick and for the last 10 days has had but 6 men all to do duty.” In the end, Grosse Isle reported 9,572 deaths for the 1847 season and New York 703. (from Immigration Report of 1847)

With the terrible conditions on board ship some children arrived in Canada orphans. Others lost their parents, or remaining parent, at the quarantine station or on the way inland. Due to conditions on Grosse Isle, those in good health were removed by steamboats to Quebec and Montreal as quickly as possible, often leaving behind sick members of the family. This became such a problem that the emigrants began to remain at Montreal and Quebec instead of moving on to their destination. Mr. Buchanan, the Emigrant Agent at Quebec, took over some facilities to house these emigrants as they awaited word from Grosse Isle about loved ones and ads, such as this one, began to appear in the newspapers. Some of the orphans remained in the province of Quebec (partial lists) but some were sent on to Upper Canada. A list of 197 orphans and widows was kept by the Asylum in Toronto, set up specifically to care for the widows and orphans of 1847.

Quebec immigration increased from 32,153 in 1846 to 97,953 in 1847; New Brunswick reported 9,765 immigrants in 1846 and 16,251 in 1847; while that to New York increased from 97,843 in 1846 to 145,890 in 1847. Boston’s increase was 6,666 souls while Philadelphia doubled the number of emigrants. New Orleans went from 22,148 emigrants in 1846 to 40,442 in 1847. (The Ocean Plague, published in 1848) Between 1846 and 1847 the number of emigrants to America from the British Isles increased fom 125,678 to 251,834. (Carrothers, Emigration From The British Isles, p. 305.)

Surely the Government will not allow the feeling for the disasters attending the poor Irish in a foreign land to pass away with the miserable deaths of the victims? Will there be no enquiry into the causes, mediate or remote, which produced all this loss of human life? —into the modes of transport— the state of emigrant vessels— the abominations of emigrant agents, and all the etceteras which have become, and are, accessory to the deaths of the Irish poor? Out of 2,235 who embarked for Canada in those wretched hulks, called emigrant vessels, not more than five hundred will live to settle in America.

“From information recently given to us,” says the Quebec Gazette, “the quarantine at Liverpool is not only worse than useless as regards this country, but absolutely murders the emigrants intending to embark hitherward. We are told that from 15 to 16 hulks are stationed off the port for the reception of the refugees from Ireland, who, when sick or doubtful looking, are transferred to them from the Irish steamers and from whence, after a short probation, shipped on board vessels destined for Canada; and that, too, as may be naturally conceived, in a worse state than if allowed to proceed on their voyage at once. The passengers in the Triton were of this class, among whom disease appeared the day they left the docks. Her deaths before reaching Grosse Isle numbered 83, including all the officers of the ship and several of the crew; the master, also, being very sick.”

It can hardly be believed that affairs in Liverpool are conducted, as to the shipment of emigrants, as represented. The imputation is boldly made, and if untrue, an immediate contradiction is necessary. The report from the office of her Majesty’s chief superintendent of emigration to Canada, dated Quebec, 24th July, states the numbers of emigrants who had arrived this year there, were 56,855. In the same period of last year, 24,576 settlers reached the port, showing an increase this year of no less than 32,279. August 18, 1847 Cork Examiner

The following is an extract from the letter of an emigrant, addressed to one of his friends in this city, and received by the last mail from Boston. It contains a vivid and painful picture of the emigrant catastrophe in Canada. The letter is dated from the barqueBridgetown, lying off Grosse island, in front of Quebec, which, it appears, was converted to a vast burial place:–

We arrived here on the 22nd from Liverpool. I regret to tell you that fever broke out, and that seventy passengers and one sailor were committed to the deep on the voyage. There are several more ill. We buried six yesterday on shore. The carpenter and joiner are occupied making coffins. There are six more dead after the night. I cannot say when we can go to Quebec, as we cannot land the remainder of the sick at present, there being no room in the hospitals for them, though the front of the island is literally covered with sheds and tents.

The accounts from the shore are awful, and our condition on board you can form no idea of— helpless children without parents or relatives, the father buried in the deep last week, and the mother the week before,— their six children under similar unfortunate circumstances, and so on. I trust God will carry me through this trying ordeal— I was a few days sick, but am now recovered. Captain Wilson was complaining for a few days. It is an awful change from the joyous hopes with which most of us left our unfortunate country, expecting to be able to earn that livelihood denied us at home— all— all changed in many cases to bitter deep despair.
September 17, 1847 Cork Examiner

October 10, 2010 Posted by | culture, freedom, history, immigration, naturalization | , , , , | Leave a comment

Unpacking the “Mexican Suitcase”: The Mystery of Robert Capas Long-Lost War Trove >

A 1937 image by Ms. Taro of Republican soldier...

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Unpacking the “Mexican Suitcase”: The Mystery of Robert Capas Long-Lost War Trove >.
The mystery of the “Mexican Suitcase” has long had the makings of a fine tall tale. It is a Hemingway-esque story of vigorous expat men and women leading spare and often luckless lives in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, engaging in earth-shaking romances, throwing themselves into the fray with Republican armed forces, and bonding with native villagers. The difference between Hemingway’s yarns and this story, however, is that this one is true. Its protagonists are a small group of scrappy photographers whose work disappeared in 1939 as Nazi forces prepared to invade Paris and remained missing for almost 70 years, until it showed up at New York‘s International Center of Photography.

The 126 long-lost rolls of film feature some 4,500 snapshots of wartime scenes taken by the swashbuckling Robert Capa, the pioneering Gerda Taro, and the compassionate Chim (David Seymour) and are now finally going on display in the form of contact sheets and a digital slide show at “The Mexican Suitcase,” an exhibition curated by Cynthia Young at the ICP that will run through January 9, 2011. The works — which were stored in three cardboard boxes, not in a suitcase, it turns out — had a long and meandering journey to the midtown Manhattan museum, and represent a history that is only now being explained and understood.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | art, history | , , , , | Leave a comment

How Religious Diversity Enriches Our Lives

Amplify’d from

How Religious Diversity Enriches Our Lives

The debate over the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ misses an important potential virtue of the project: what non-Muslim New Yorkers and visitors will gain from its presence.

The atheist son of nonpracticing Jews, I’m about as far from a Christian as you can get this side of paganism. And yet I love churches.

When I was a child, it was a Roman Catholic church—St. Augustine’s, the massive jumble of stone and wrought iron that takes up half the city block adjacent to that of my parents’ house in Brooklyn—that anchored my sense of place. On the return leg of car trips, St. Augustine’s spire appearing on the horizon told me we were almost home. The fence provided an outfield wall for Wiffle-ball games, and the bells chiming on the hour reminded me to get out of bed (not that it did much good).

The summer after my freshman year of college, I was showing off my neighborhood to a friend from out of town when she asked whether I had ever been inside the church. I was ashamed to admit that I had not. “Ben!” she exclaimed, with genuine horror at my lack of curiosity toward such a beautiful building that I passed every day. Ever since then I have made a point of ducking in every few years. I have stumbled upon masses in Creole for Haitian-American parishioners, and services in Spanish. I have yet to actually witness one in English, although they do occur.
I revel in my native Brooklyn’s identity as “the borough of churches,” from the imposing Gothic Episcopal and Catholic edifices to plain little Baptist storefronts and modest Pentecostal signs in Spanish.

One summer night many years ago, while walking home from work, I heard the most joyous music emanating, like an aural glow, from the basement of a church a few blocks from the house where I grew up. I wandered down in time to catch the very end of the African-American gospel choir filling the basement with their uplifting song. The moment they finished, I planned to leave, but the pastor was such a pleasure to watch—with his passionate and playful delivery a decided counterpoint to my previous experiences with clergy of all faiths—that I stayed.

Perhaps my favorite is Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, its unadorned, modest New England Congregationalist architecture a striking, peaceful counterpoint to the Victorian grandeur of its surrounding neighborhood. Plymouth was the home of the great abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher and a stop on the Underground Railroad.

And then there is St. Ann’s, the Episcopal congregation that incubated my progressive high school, and still lends its large and riveting, if somewhat worn-out, space to the school for major events. There, in the pews, under the stained-glass windows, were the sources of some of my fondest and most poignant memories of high school: a teacher leading us all in an acoustic rendition of The Wall by Pink Floyd at the annual Christmas assembly, a recent memorial service for a social-studies teacher who mentored me.



September 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hamas Leader: Mosque Near Ground Zero Must Be Built

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Letter to the Jews of Rhode Island Applies to the Muslims of New York

George Washington sums it up.

Amplify’d from
Ed Koch

Ed Koch

Former Mayor, New York City

Posted: August 16, 2010 04:10 PM

Letter to the Jews of Rhode Island Applies to the Muslims of New York

President George Washington’s

President Obama was right to express his views on constructing a mosque near Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 catastrophe:

As a citizen and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances.

The president is also right to oppose as he does the efforts by some to amend the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution to bar babies born to illegal immigrants from becoming citizens.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was first to take up the fight to protect the legitimate rights of American Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero, was right and courageous to lead the way and point Americans in the right direction.

President Obama, according to the New York Times of Aug. 15, is now “faced with withering Republican criticism of his defense of the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near Ground Zero.” Those leading the charge against the president, according to the Times, “including Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, Representative John A. Boehner, the House minority leader and Representative Peter King of New York, forcefully rejected the president’s stance.”

The president’s position will be remembered by later generations of Americans with the same high regard as President George Washington’s letter in 1790 to the Jews of Rhode Island who built the Touro Synagogue in that state. Moses Seixas of the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, wrote to George Washington:

Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People — a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance — but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: — deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental Machine: — This so ample and extensive Federal Union whose basis is Philanthropy, Mutual confidence and Public Virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the Great God, who ruleth in the Armies of Heaven, and among the Inhabitants of the Earth, doing whatever seemeth him good.

President Washington responded as follows:

… The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy. G. Washington

Let us not do again, albeit in different form and to a different group, what we did to Japanese-Americans during World War II when we rounded them up without cause. No Japanese-American was ever charged with treason, notwithstanding that they were placed in internment camps for the balance of the war.

I am a proud Jew. Proud of my religion and my culture. Columnist David Brooks, also Jewish and similarly proud, in a New York Times article of January 12, 2010, wrote of our people’s accomplishments:

Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates. Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.

We Jews also have our share of thieves, predators, child molesters, Ponzi-schemers, traitors and profiteers. Muslims have their share of great world accomplishments — the concept of zero, advancements in mathematics, medicine, chemistry, botany and astronomy. They also have their share of crazies, tyrants, homophobes, those holding hostile and irrational attitudes towards women, vilification of Jews, Christians, Hindus and other so-called infidels.

Let’s be calm now and not need the passage of time to bring us to our senses and years later apologize. Of course, those who suffered the loss of loved ones, and those exposed to the catastrophe of 9/11 have every right to hold opinions opposing the building of the mosque. They are grieving and rightfully enraged at anyone associated in any way with the 19 Muslim terrorists who were responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11, and all of us must sympathize with them and their feelings.

But Americans must never forget who we are and why our Founding Fathers and those who built the original 13 colonies came here. It was primarily to find and create a new country in which they could practice religious freedom, denied them in England. Jews found that freedom of religion in New Amsterdam, where the East India Company of Holland directed the first public anti-Semite in that city — its Governor, Peter Stuyvesant — to let them in, he first refusing to do so.

I believe we are locked in battle with fanatical Islam and will be for the foreseeable future. I do not believe the vast majority of Muslims, and American Muslims in particular, are fanatics or enemies of the American people.

Government should neither favor nor hinder the efforts of religious institutions, other than to protect their rights to engage in carrying them out as permitted under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

A final word on those seeking to end the concept of American citizenship by virtue of birth, led by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC): Don’t they understand that the concept of citizenship by birth is one of the great American ideas of which we have been justly proud and which distinguishes us from many other countries and has served us well? They should not fear the Know Nothings, whose voices are loud, but whose numbers are small. They should not shame themselves by joining these violators of American values and traditions.



August 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Armenia’s lavash can only be found in Sheepshead Bay at Brooklyn Bread House

August 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment