The churches and emigration from nineteenth-century Ireland

The book knits together two of the most significant themes in the social and cultural history of modern Ireland - mass emigration and religious change - and aims to provide fresh insight into both. It addresses the churches' responses to emigration, both in theory and in practice. The book also assesses how emigration impacted on the churches both in relation to their status in Ireland, and in terms of their ability to spread their influence abroad. It first deals with the theoretical positions of the clergy of each denomination in relation to emigration and how they changed over the course of the nineteenth century, as the character of emigration itself altered. It then explores the extent of practical clerical involvement in the temporal aspects of emigration. This includes attempts to prevent or limit it, a variety of facilitation services informally offered by parish clergymen, church-backed moves to safeguard emigrant welfare, clerical advice-giving and clerically planned schemes of migration. Irish monks between the fifth and eighth centuries had spread Christianity all over Europe, and should act as an inspiration to the modern cleric. Tied in with this reading of the past, of course, was a very particular view of the present: the perception that emigration represented the enactment of a providential mission to spread the faith.

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spiritual and moral dangers at ports and at sea, were surprisingly lacking, however. At no time did the Irish Catholic Church as a body either originate or lend wholehearted support to adequate emigrant welfare initiatives, although individual clergy doubtless made a difference to the fate of many vulnerable migrants. This reluctance to commit what were acknowledged to be necessary resources to the departing extended also to the departed. While in purely numerical terms the Irish church’s pastoral efforts on behalf of the diaspora were extensive, as Chapter Three argues

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The clergy and emigration in practice

Acts of the mid-nineteenth century, eventually provided stringent protective laws, but not the resources necessary to enforce them.54 Into the breach stepped well-meaning private individuals like Caroline Chisholm, Stephen de Vere, Vere Foster and later, with a specific concentration on female emigrant welfare, Charlotte Grace O’Brien and Mary Townsend.55 Given the moral aspect to fears over emigrant welfare in transit, it might be expected that members of the clergy also found a role in attempting to mitigate these problems. To be sure, clergy based in port towns

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safeguard emigrant welfare, clerical advice-giving and clerically planned schemes of migration. These are examined with due regard to the patterns of opinion set out in the previous chapter and with the intention of assessing the extent to which clergymen were able to impose their views on the emigration process. The chapter relies for evidence on careful use of literary sources, the accounts of visitors to and travellers in Ireland, clerically authored pamphlets, parliamentary reports and manuscript material from religious archives. Chapter Three is an extensive

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Emigration and sectarian rivalry

. In fact this dismay was simply an alarming symptom of the primary malaise. Arnold Schrier has suggested, following Cusack and others, that fears over emigrants’ faith were of much greater concern to priests than loss of dues.34 Measured by print acreage alone, that might well be borne out. Worries over emigrant welfare of one kind or another dominated most public clerical commentary on the subject. However, as we have seen, the action following on from this powerful rhetoric left something to be desired. It was arguably, therefore, a more general, usually privately

in Population, providence and empire