Advantages of an American home

Book Excerpt

Transcription of Primary Source

It is no longer either so dangerous or so toilsome a task to cross the Atlantic as it once was. The legislatures of both England and of American have taken important steps to abolish the most flagrant abuses of the emigration system; and the very competition now existing between rival lines of steamers turns to the advantage of the emigrant.

But it is not merely the facilities of crossing the Atlantic that have increased; but, what is more important still, the facilities of making a home on this side of it. The whole country is now checkered with railroads; and one of them actually spans the continent—making a link of iron between the shores of the Atlantic and those of the Pacific. The advantages thus accruing to the American people in general, and to the immigrant portion of them in particular, are incalculable. Forty years ago, it was a more sad and dismal fate than we can at present realize for a poor immigrant to transport himself and those depending on him to the vast and unbroken forests of the West. There was little to cheer him on the way, and scarcely a ground of hope for a return. Besides, the want of such civilizing influences as churches and schools made it difficult to retain for any long time the rudest elements of civilized life. All this is changed in our day; and, not to speak of the older States, it is quite true to say that even the remote Territories are fairly supplied with the essential appliances of civilized life.

The blank and dreary horror of never again returning among the scenes and friends of early youth is also greatly diminished. From Chicago and St. Louis to New York, it now takes less than two days in time and not more than twenty-five dollars in money; and from San Francisco, the trip is made in six or seven days, at a total expense of about one hundred and fifty dollars. The inference is plain that the emigrant of to-day has many advantages over his predecessor of some years back.

But the advantages here alluded to are trifling when compared with the increased facilities of obtaining good and cheap land in every State and Territory of the Union. The proper development of this subject is a matter of the utmost importance, not only to those who have not yet come, but also to those who, having come, made the great mistake, owing, doubtless, to causes apparently beyond their control, of remaining in the large cities of the Eastern or Western States. To my mind, the all-important want with these people is the want of correct and reliable information regarding the price of land, its particular products, wages, etc.; and that want should be supplied either by official documents of the different States and Territories, or by those whose residence in a particular place for a number of years, and whose character for intelligence and disinterestedness, entitle them to a hearing […]

[…]  Besides, let us, in a brief way, consider the vast extent of the country. According to the official statistics of 1870, thirty-seven States and twelve organized Territories constitute what is known as the United States. The thirty-seven States have an area of one million nine hundred thousand square miles, or an extent of territory sixteen times as large as that of Great Britain and Ireland, which is one hundred and twenty thousand square miles. The same States contain, by the census of 1870, only thirty-eight millions of souls; whereas, the population of Great Britain and Ireland amounts to thirty-one and a half millions. Even allowing that the land of the United States is no more than one-fourth as productive as that of Britain, still it would be capable of supporting four times the population of that nation. But in this calculation, nothing has been said about the twelve Territories, which will one day be sovereign States, and which cover an area of one million six hundred thousand square miles, with a population of only six hundred thousand souls.


Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
Irish Emigration to the United States: what it has been, and what it is
Rev. Stephen Byrne
Catholic Publication Society
Place of Publication: 
New York City, NY
American Antiquarian Society
Catalog Code: 
G470 B995 I873