Remittances from North America by Irish Emigrants

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Document ID 9803660
Date 01-04-1873
Document Type Diaries and Journals
Archive Linenhall Library
Citation Remittances from North America by Irish Emigrants;Journal of the Statistical Social Inquiry Society of Ireland Vol VI 1871-1876; CMSIED 9803660
April to November 1873
Page 280

IV.-On the Remittances from North America by Irish
Emigrants, cosidered as an indication of character of the
Irish race, and with references to some branches of the
Irish Labourer's Question.

    By Dr. Hancock.
  [Read 18th November, 1873.]
A quarter of a century has elapsed since the remittances
from North America by the Irish settlers there first
attracted attention.
    The late Mr. Robert Murray, a Scotch gentleman of
great financial ability, who was so long chief officer
in Ireland of the Provincial Bank, in a letter to the
late Sir Robert Peel, which was published in January,
1847, first gave a detailed account of these remittances;
he says:-
    "The remittances from Irish emigrants in America
have been annually increasing for the last ten years
[from 1837 to 1847] until they have attained their
present number and amount.
    In referring to the appendix containing the particulars
of the remittances that had come under his own observation,
he says:-
    "These figures are large, powerfully large, in reading
letters of instruction to the statesman and the
philanthropist in dealing with a warm hearted-people for
their good, and placing them in a position of comparitive
comfort to that in which they now are."

In another passage he says:-

    "These offerings are send (sent?) from husband to wife-
from father to child-from child to father, mother and grand-
parents-from sister to brother; and the reverse-and from
and to those united by all the ties of blood and friendship
that bind us together upon earth."

    The amount of remittances that so impressed Mr. Murray
were those that came under his own notice in the Provincial
Bank of Ireland in 1846-œ41,000-and he estimated the entire
amount through all channels for one year as œ125,000.
The New York correspondent of the Times estimated them at
    In the same month that Mr. Murray published his letter,
Mr. Jacob Harvey of New York (the great promoter of the
American contributions for the relief of distress in
Ireland, that were entrusted to the Central Relief
Committee of the Society of Friends) addressed a letter
to Mr. Jonathan Pim, one of the secretaries of that
committee, dated 30th January, 1847, afterwards published
in the transaction of the committee.  From that letter
it appears that he was as much impressed as Mr. Murray
with the large amount of the remittances, and attached
an equal importance to them as indications of the
character of the people who sent them.  He says:-

    "The small drafts remitted by our Irish emigrants
became of importance, and I am glad to tell you  that
they are sent forward by every packet.  Since I wrote
last I have received returns of the whole amount sent
home by those poor people out of their wages, from
Philadelphia and Baltimore as well as New York, and
the grand total sums up one million dollars or

    Such being the earliest accounts of these remittances,
I will now proceed to give you the latest account.
    The Emigration Commissioners, in their 32nd report,
for 1871, say:-

    "The amount returned to us, as remitted from the
United States and Canada in  1871, was œ702,000, of
which œ311,000 was in the form of pre paid passages.* *
Assuming, as we believe to be the case that the above
remittances were made almost exclusively bt Irish
emigrants to their relations in Ireland.* *
the amount remitted in the shape of pre-paid passages
would have been sufficient to take out more than three-
fourths of the whole.  It is obvious that the total
sum remitted was much more than was necessary to pay
the passages of all the Irish that went last year to
north America."

    In their 33rd and final report, before their duties
were transferred to the Board of Trade, the Emigration
Commissioners, speaking of the year 1872, say:-

    "The amount returned to us as remitted from the
United States and Canada to persons in this country,
during 1872, was œ750,000 of which œ302,000 was in
the shape of 58,044 pre-paid passages from Liverpool.
This return, however, is more than usually incomplete;
some of the principal houses in Liverpool, who have
hitherto supplied us with returns of the remittances
though their hands, having declined on the present
occasion to do so.  Even however, with these deductions,
it is clear that if the remittances are to be considered
as made for Irish emigrants exclusively, they were far
more than sufficient to take out the whole number of
the Irish who emigrated last year."
    Assuming that the Emigration Commissioners included
in their returns the balance of remittances in post-
office orders-as we have every reason to think they
must have done (as the money-order business with the
colonies commenced as far back as 1856), and the
greatest amount of colonial business was with Canada-
I do not think the ommission of the returns of some
of the Liverpool houses for 1872 really affects the
figures, as there is great reason to suppose that
the business of many houses must have been entirely
replaced by the post-office money orders with the
United States.
    The Postmaster-General in the report for 1871
(Par. Pap. 1872, C.645) states that the money order
convention with the United States commenced on the
1st of October, 1871.  In the first quarter the
remittances from the United States was œ48,000,
and to the United States œ11,000-showing a balance
of œ37,000, or at the rate of œ148,000 a-year.
For 1872 the Postmaster-General reports that the
greatest amount of colonial business was still with
Canada, where orders amounting to above œ100,000
were sent home against œ29,000 sent out, showing
a balance remitted from Canada of œ71,000.  Of
foreign business of 1872 the Post Master General
reported that the greatest amount was with the
United States, from whence œ215,000 was received,
and to which œ36,000 was sent; leaving a balance
of œ179,000 remitted home.
    This makes the total emigrants' remittances
protected by the Governments of the United Kingdom
and the United States, in 1872 amount to at least
œ250,000.  If the Emigration Commissioners' estimate
of the cash remittances (above the œ302,000 in pre-
paid passages) be correct, viz œ448,000, it follows
that the establishment of the money order system
between this country and the United States has been
so rapidly successful, as in a year and a-quarter,
ended 31st December, 1872, to protect more than
half the remittances.
    To the courtesy of Mr. Henry B. Hammond, the
United States Consul in Dublin in the years 1861-
65, we, are indebted for having the subject of
international money orders brought under the notice
of the American government.  When Mr. Monsell
(our President) was appointed Post-General the
council of this Society brought the subject of
post-office orders with the United States under his
notice, and the convention was completed by him.
    It is a matter of satisfaction to all those
who have taken an active part in promoting this
reform, to learn that it has so promptly succeeded
in protecting the emigrants' remittances.
    In the present financial crisis in America,
when thousands of American citizens travelling
in Europe have suffered the most serious inconvenience,
from their circular letters on American firms turning
out worthless, it is a matter of no small importance
to have secured for the Irish emigrant a means by
which his remittances to whatever commercial crisis
occurs, and be paid as certainly as the dividends
on the funds of the United Kingdom, or as the
coupon of a band of the United States.
    Having noticed the earliest and latest accounts
of the remittances, I propose now to supply the
intervening variations from the statistics of
the Emigration Commissioners.  To simplify the
figures I take averages for five years-giving,
however, the first three years and the last two
years separately, so as not to interrupt the usual
decennial division.

  Table showing Remittances from settlers in North
  America to their friends in the United Kingdom.

  1846, Times Correspondent's estimate,     Average
                                            Annual Amount.
  With œ40,000 added for Canada.            œ200,000
  1848-50, average of 3 years               œ652,000
  1851-55             5 years              1,287,000
  1856-60             5                      614,000
  1861-65             5                      386,000
  1866-70             5                      587,000
  1871-72             2                      726,000

    The first matter to notice in this table is the
very large amount of the remittances.  Mr. Murray
was surprised at his own estimate of œ125,000 in
1846, he lived to see them reach ten times that
amount.  The averages, for a period of five years,
from 1851-1855, being œ1,287,000.
    In the years 1871-72 they have, after the fall
in 1861-1865 to œ356,000, again risen to a higher
figure-an average of œ726,000, or about six times
Mr. Murray's estimate.
    In order, however, thoroughly to appreciate the
largeness of the figures, we have to select some
standard of comparison.  For this purpose I will
first compare the amount with what has been expended
by the Irish Guardians of the Poor in aid of emigration
out of local rates.

    Table showing amount expended on Emigration out
              of Irish Local Taxes.

Years ended 25th March.             Average Annual Amount
1851-55 average of five years,       17,000
1856-60                               3,000
1861-65                               2,000
1866-70                               2,000
1871-72                               2,000

    It appears from the comparison of this table
of remittances, that when the assistance from local
taxes was at the highest point, in the five years
1851-55-œ17,000 a-year-the remittances varied from
two hundred to three hundred and fifty times the
assistance from local taxes.
    In order to get figures at all comparable with
the emigrant's remittances we have to take such
large figures as the whole of the expenditure on
poor relief in Ireland.
    Taking the expenditure on relief of the poor,
given in the last report of the Local Government
Board for twenty-one years from 1852 to 1872
inclusive, it amounted to œ13,167,000.  The
emigrants' remittances for these twenty-one years
were œ14,830000, or nearly a million and three-
quarters above the entire expenditure on relief
of the poor.  If the expenditure under the Medical
Charities Act, œ2,239,000, be added, the total sum
expended on Medical Charities added to direct relief
(œ15,406,000), on slightly exceeds the amount of
the remittances.
    The extraordinary proportion of the remittances,
as compared with the total expenditure on poor relief,
is as true for the year 1872 as of the early years
when Ireland was suffering from the effects of the
famine.  The total expenditure on relief of the poor
in Ireland was in that year œ729,000, whilst the
estimated remittances were œ750,000.  We have to
add the expenditure under the Medical Charities
Act, œ142,000, to get a larger figure (œ871,000).
    It is impossible not to perceive what a
gigantic social force these remittances are; whether
we look at them as a characteristic of the Irish
emigrants, who, according to the Emigration
Commissioners alone make remittances  in such
amounts as to require notice, or whether we look
at them as affecting many questions connected
with the labouring classes in Ireland.
   Having got a definite conception of the absolute
amount and importance of the remittances, it is
necessary in the next place to notice the variations
that have occurred in the amounts.
    The high average for 1851 to 1855 of œ1,287,000,
was the result of the prosperity of the emigrants,
as contrasted with the pressure of the famine, which
affected the agricultural classes in Ireland, from
poverty, arrears of rent, and of taxes for some years
after 1848.
    The diminution in the amounts from 1861 to 1865,
when the remittances reached a minimum, was entirely
unconnected with anything in Ireland (as the years
1861, 1862, and 1863 were years of great pressure
here), and arose entirely from the civil war in
America, which had a serious effect in discouraging
    In corroboration of the view that the increase
of remittances arises from the prosperity of the
emigrant classes in America, and not pressure here,
I may refer to the Reports of the Emigration
Commissioners for the remarkable fact that the number
of Irish emigrants in 1871-72 (72,000 on an average),
are about half the annual number in 1863-4 (115,000),
while the remittances have almost doubled, œ362,000
being the average in 1863-4, against œ726,000 in
    The attractiveness of America at the latter
period, is further shown by the change in the
proportion of Irish and English emigrants.
    In  1863-64 the English emigrants were 59,000
(and the Irish 115,000), or about one-half the
number of the Irish; but in 1872, when the Irish
were only 73,000, the English were 118,000, so that
the proportions were reversed.
    This change took place in 1868; up to that year;
since the statistics were collected, the Irish
emigrants had always exceeded the English; but in 1869,
1870, 1871, and 1872 the English have exceeded the
Irish, and the excess has now reached the proportion
I have referred to, of the English being nearly
double the Irish.
    The increase of remittances in recent years
differs from the increase which took place in 1851-
1855 in a marked feature, indicating absence of
pressure now.  The former increase was concurrent
with an increased stringency in the administration
of poor relief in Ireland.
Under the pressure of high poor rates, out-door relief
in Ireland was greatly restricted.  The expenditure
was reduced from œ11,100 in 1851 to 3,640 in 1854,
whilst the remittances increased from œ990,000 in
1851, to œ1,730,000 in 1854.
    The present increase of remittances from the
minimum of œ332,000 in 1864 to œ750,000 in 1872
has been accompanied by an increase of expenditure
in out-door relief from œ25,000 in 1865 to œ80,000
in 1872.
    The most conclusive statistics however to test
whether the increase of remittances arises from
pressure in Ireland or prosperity in America is
the number of able-bodied men relieved in the
    In the case of able-bodied women it is
necessary to take into account the increase of
out-door relief to widows with two or more
children; in the case of young persons, it is
necessary to allow for not only the increased
out-door relief to orphans with their mothers
but the increased relief to children boarded
out, and the number of children in industrial

             Number of able-bodied men         Emigrants'
               in receipt of relief           remittances

1852                14,918                    œ1,404,000
1853                10,569                     1,483,000
1854                 7,114                     1,730,000
1862                 3,039                       361,000
1863                 3,237                       383,000
1864                 2,849                       382,000
1870                 2,037                       727,000
1871                 1,852                       702,000
1872                 1,769                       750,000

    The contrast shown by this table is very great.
In the ten years between the first group of years with
1853 for a centre, and the group with 1863 for a centre,
the number of able-bodied men that were driven to seek
the shelter of the workhouse decreased, while the
remittances also decreased.  In the eight years between
the second and third group of years, the number
of able-bodied forced to seek the shelter of the
workhouse is reduced to a very low amount-the
number in 1872 being the lowest in any year since
the famine; and yet the remittances have undergone
a remarkable increase. It is impossible to account
for this increase in the past three years on any
other hypothesis than the extraordinary welfare
and prosperity of the Irish emigrants in North
    Before tracing the conclusions which naturally
follow from the statistics of remittances, I wish
to notice some very erronous impressions commonly
existing as to the results of emigration.
    The first is that the population in Ireland is
undergoing a decrease at an accelerated ratio,
and that the accelerated decrease is still going
    It is exactly twenty-eight years since the
population of Ireland attained its maximum in
1845.  The total average annual reduction in
each seven years since is shown in the following

Years    Estimated Population   Decrease in each  Average
            Of Ireland          seven years       Decrease in
                                                  Population per
1845       8,595,000
1852       6,337,000            2,258,000         323,000
1859       5,862,000            475,000            68,000
1866       5,523,000            339,000            48,000
1873       5,337,000            186,000            27,000

    It is impossible to consider this table without
seeing that all ground of alarm at accelerated reduction
of the population may be dispensed with.  The great
reduction took place in the first seven years.  The
reduction has now come to so low a figure that with
the checked tendency to emigration, notwithstanding
the large remittances, it would at the present rate
of decrease, take twelve years to reduce the population
to 5,000,000.
    When the country is in a satisfactory state as
to investments, and as to poor requiring relief
at the present population, the necessity of a
reduction to 4,000,000, as advocated by some writers,
and 3,000,000 as advocated by others some years
since, appears to be unsupported by the statistics
of the past seven years.  The tendency now is towards
a stationary limit at or about five millions.
    Another common impression of the result of
emigration has to  be cosidered.  It is supposed
by some that the emigration has been confined to
the ancient Irish race, and to the members of the
Roman Catholic Church, and that consequently
the proportions of race and religion in Ireland
are so changed as to simplify the solution of
all the questions into which these elements enter.
Some ten years ago I pointed out, from a comparison
of the religious census of 1861 and 1834, how
mistaken this impression was.  The religious
census of 1861 and 1871 corroberates the view
I then put forward: that the proportions
of Protestants (taken, notwithstanding some
exceptions, as representing, the English and
Scotch races in Ireland), to Roman Catholics,
(taken with like exceptions, as representing
the ancient Irish race), had been very
slightly changed by emigration.  The proportion
of Roman Catholics in Ireland was, in 1834,
80.9 per cent., in 1861, 77.7 per cent, and
in 1871, 76.6 per cent.
    Such changes of proportions are too slight
to affect any important question.  The tenacity
of the Irish race in holding and maintaining
their position in Ireland, is very marked even
in the Ulster plantation.  Notwithstanding the
policy of favouring English settlers in the towns
adopted by the early planters, and subsequently
favoured by the corporation laws for so many
years, the Roman Catholics are now a majority in
Londonderry, in Enniskillen, and in Armagh,
and they form nearly one-third of the population
in Belfast; the largest town in Ulster.
   The migration of the Roman Catholics in to
the towns of Ulster is only a part of the movement
consequent on the education they have received
for a whole generation in the National schools,
which has led the Irish to form an appreciable
Irish quarter in so many of the cities and
manufacturing towns of England and Scotland,
and which led to the existance of 602,000
of Irish birth in England and Wales in 1861.
Allowing for those in Scotland, and for
descendants of earlier settlers, there are
probably not less than 1,500,000 of Irish
race in Great Britain.  The remittances of these
and the harvest labourers through the post
office alone, for 1872, may be estimated at
œ648,000.  The English and Scotch orders paid
in Ireland being œ919,481, and the Irish paid
in Great Britain, œ523,944 *

 The small remittances on account of a retail trade
or private payments from England to Ireland are not
likely to be any more than half those from Ireland,
or œ262,000.  This deducted from œ292,000 gives
œ658,000 for remittances from irish labourers in
Great Britain.

    The result of all these changes of a generation
since 1834 is that we have to deal with a population
of which 76.6 per cent are of ancient Irish race,
instead of with one of which 50.9 per cent are of
that race in 1834.  The 76.6 per cent., however,
are in a much more stable position; they are taking
more advantage of the National schools than the
Protestants, as they form 80.46 per cent of the
scholars.  The speaking of Irish only, which extended
to 2,000,000 in 1821, has diminished to a few
thousand old people.  The wholly ignorant are
confined to the very poor and the neglected.
Through the family and clan instincts the 40,000,000
ancient Irish in Ireland are guarded against the
vicissitudes of their lot, and have a chance of
advancement and of assistance through the aid of
the 1,500,000 of their race in Great Britain
and 5,000,000 *

(*The Irish born in United States in 1870 were 1,855,827)

in the United States.
    The clanship of the Irish is, like the Jewish,
as much a matter of race as of locality.  The
Scots, when they  colonized Argyle and the Highlands
from Ulster, carried over their name and gave it to

The Irish exiles, after the revolution of 1688,
maintained for near a century an Irish brigade
in the service of France; they fromed an Irish
college at Paris, and a similar feeling founded
an Irish college at Rome. The Irish cling together
in The English and Scotch towns; their movements
in the United States is the subject for a distinct
column in the American census. The gigantic
proportions of the remittances of the Irish
emigrants, and which they alone of emigrants
send in such proportions, is thus not an ephemeral
or passing movement arising from temporary
pressure; but is a consequence of the wonderful
and strong family and clan feeling of the race.
    It remains to state the conclusions I would
draw from the various matters I have referred
to for the solution of some branches of the
Irish labourers' question.
    One of the great difficulties of dealing with
this question is the prevalence amongst influential
classes of the remains of the old theory that has
caused so much bitterness in Ireland, that the
evils of Ireland are to be  ascribed to the
peculiar  tendency to over population in the
ancient Irish race. Because the Irish race, when
deprived of education and oppressed. by unjust
laws, multiplied in poverty, and were unable
by that very ignorance and poverty to emigrate,
then it came to be received as a theory, that no
matter what education or improvement in their
circumstances would effect, the tendency to
over population was so fatal, that it would
require the constant and active interference
of others to check it.
    Mr. Nassau Senior, who adopted this view
so strongly in 1852, admits in his preface written
in 1861, that he did not expect the cost to be so
largely defrayed by emigrants' remittances. When
the passage to New York costs œ6 10s, when
ninety-eight per cent of the emigrants go in
steam-ships, and œ300,000 is contributed in
pre-paid passages, it is in vain to have any
exaggerated or undue fear of Ireland suffering
from over population. If this logical consequence
of the facts of the emigration and remittances
could be only completely received and acted on by
all persons of influence, one of the chief
remaining causes of bitterness between classes
in Ireland would be removed.
    Connected with the theory of over population
was another theory, that it was the specific
duty of the proprietors  of land to keep down
    To stimulate them to perform this supposed
duty, the principle of electoral division rating
was grafted on the Irish Poor Law in 1838, against
the views of the English Poor Law reformers of
that period, who were prompting the Irish
Poor Law. After elaborate inquiries the English
Poor Law authorities were able to carry union
instead of parochial rating for England and
Wales in 1865.
    The extension of union rating to Ireland
is supported by the Poor Law authorities in
Ireland, and was recommended for Ireland by
a select committee in 1871, though by a narrow
    It was in the interest of the labouring
classes in England, and to prevent their
habitations being removed too far from their
work, that union rating was adopted in England.
    The importance of the adoption of union
rating in Ireland, as a condition precedent
to all successful legislation on the labourers'
dwelling question, is strongly pointed out by
Mr. W.P. O'Brien, one of the Poor Law Inspectors,
in his official Report on Labourer's Dwellings
in Ireland. He says:-

    "In my Report in 1870, I took occasion to
observe that the wretched condition of the house
accommodation of the labouring classes, and the
extent to which they were crowded into the lanes
and lodgings of the towns, was largely attributable
to the opposition manifested since the famine period
by the landlords of the country to the existence
of the cottier tenemants of old of the rural
districts; and when I had the honour of being
examined as a witness before a Committee of the
House of Commons on the subject of Poor Law Rating
in Ireland, I stated that I attributed this unhappy
state of things, in a great part, to the baneful
effects of that system.
    "Since then I am glad to think that the
Committee referred to recommended that union
should henceforth be substituted for electoral
division rating, and it appears to me not to be
out of place that I should here, before closing
this Report, reaffirm the opinions I have already
expressed on this subject, and add my firm
conviction that, unless legal effect be given to
that recommendation of the Committee, any
enactment that may be passed, however well devised
for encouraging the construction of improved
dwellings for the labouring population of the
country will, as a general rule, prove perfectly
delusive and inoperative."

    It appears plainly from this report that the
removal from the public mind of the fear of over
population, and the adoption of union rating,
are the two steps that lie at the root of all
legislation  for the improvement of labourers'
    They lie too at the root of the still
unsettled question of poor-removals-the
frequency and harshness of which has been much
mitigated by the adoption of uniform rating,
so far as workhouse relief is concerned, in
the metropolitan unions in London, a reform
much wanted in Dublin.
    They lie also at the root of the other
poor law reforms that have been proposed for
securing equal treatment of the labourers
under the poor law in all parts of the United
    The continuance of the fear of over population
explains some of the delay in adopting reforms
so long advocated in this society, for complete
cheapening and facilitating the transfer of the
land in small portions suited to the Labourer
and the peasant.
    The character of the Irish labouring
classes, as shown by these remittances, has no
small bearing on the unsettled parts of the Irish
education question. The satisfactory economic
results of the policy of the State, now
pursued for an entire generation, of encouraging
education of the labouring classes, shows the importance
(apart from all higher views of the connection of
religion with education)  of extending that encouragement
to the classes not similarly provided for.
    When it appears that 56 per cent of the children
committed to reformatories can neither read nor
write, there is some great want in the provision
for the education of the helpless and neglected classes.
    Again for the development of our resources,
for the pursuit of agriculture in the same degree
as in Scotland, some provision is required for
the encouragement and organization of the education
of those capitalists and employers of labour,
where education lies as intermediate between the
labourers' education of the national schools, and
the professional education of the universities.
    The complete education of all the poor is
the true way to check the economic results from the
growth of the population. The education of the
capitalist is the true way to secure the full
development of our resources, so as to maintain
the balance between production and population
at a high level of comfort and prosperity.
    Some twenty years ago, in a paper published
in the transactions of this Society, I referred
to the remittances of the Irish emigrants at
their commencement, to refute the prevalent
fallacy that there was a want of self-denial and
saving power in the Celtic race, and that Ireland
was consequently suffering from want of capital.
When the statistics of investment were collected
in 1863, my favourable opinion of the economy
and savingness of the Irish race, placed under
favourable circumstances, was bourne out, as it
had been in the statistics of investments of
each subsequent year.
    To the remittances of the Irish emigrants for
the past quarter of a century I again appeal to
refute the notion, that with the Irish people,
educated as they now are, there is now any
tendency to over population in Ireland that
requires any legislative provision or any
active interference to control.
    If I can succeed in influencing public
opinion, and in removing the fears of over
population, which are now so groundless,
as successfully as I have succeeded in removing
the fears of want of capital in Ireland
that prevailed twenty years ago, I will
have the satisfaction of having done all that
is in my power to facilitate the legislation
that is required to promote the welfare of
the labouring classes, who, with those
supported by and dependent on them, we
must never forget form the majority of
the population of the country.
    The great English tribune, who has recently
been restored to public life, tells his fellow
countrymen that measures only can be passed
in Parliament, as to which, after full
discussion, public opinion has been somewhat
well founded.
    It is on this principle that our Society,
since its formation twenty six years ago, has
so generally acted. We endeavour on the questions
whhich perfectly fall within the province of the
statist, the economist, or thr jurist apart
from all party, political, or religious bias
or prejudice-to impart the knowledge we can
acquire, and opinions we arrive at as
contributions to the formation of a calm
but still deliberate and strong public
opinion so as to facilitate the statesman's task
in dealing with the deep social questions,
such as labourers' dwellings, poor laws, and
education upon which, no less than the more
markedly political ones, the welfare of our
country so largely depends.