Irish Immigration Thesis

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Capitalist development and economic downturn eroded American workers sense of pride and progress throughout the sixty years leading up to 1840. Beginning after 1844, mass immigration from Europe to the United States gave American business owners and employers a new source of cheap human labor, which further undermined organized American labor. Most of these immigrants were unskilled Catholic Irish and German agricultural workers. American working class Protestants despised them for their faith and heritage, in addition to their poverty. Likewise, by the 1840s, the free black population in the U.S. had expanded due to the emerging belief that slavery was immoral. Much like the newly arrived immigrant, the free black lacked skills outside of agriculture, as well as capital needed to buy land. Because of their low economic status, immigrants (especially Irish), and free blacks congregated in urban areas and racial and ethnic tensions spilled over into…show more content…
The Irish did have a resource that free American Americans lacked: an ability to organize and a penchant for violence honed through 200 years of clandestine resistance to British occupation of Ireland. In order to gain acceptance into mainstream American society, Irish immigrants embraced American racism as a way of establishing its whiteness and engaged African Americans in street violence that usually ended with the Irish victorious. Since Irish immigrants at times were viewed as inferior to African Americans, especially in New Orleans where Irish workers performed tasks such as dock building deemed dangerous to slaves. The rationale was that if a slave was injured or killed, his owner would have to be compensated. If an Irish labor was killed, another would just as quickly take his place. The Irish quickly recognized there was disagreement over which side of the color line they belonged
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