Some Notes on Makers of America Irish

Notes CH 14 Part 2

Some notes on Makers of America – Irish

War raging in Europe, 1793 -1815, French Revolution & the Napoleonic Wars, brought prosperity to the poor landsmen of Ireland….Ireland’s fields fed the war torn continent…growing grain and potato, prices for many who only rented their land, “sharecroppers,” were high and for most they could survive and prosper.

After 1815, and the end of the wars, European lands formerly torn by war now grew huge crops….prices plummeted for agricultural goods, by ½, returning British soldiers now swept into Ireland to keep the peace, both of these occurrences would be bad for the average Irish tenant farmer. In 1845, the potato crop was ruined by disease…. These 3 changes brought the Irish to their knees…more than a million people died of starvation…. Another million sailed for America, and began the pattern that continued for decades….those looking for “opportunity” turned to a place that promised that and FREEDOM…

Most Irish immigrants were young and literate in English, most remained in the growing urban centers of the Northeast due to their lack of $$$ to venture West. They found life difficult in the cities… working in the expanding factories and serving as domestic servants…most toiled as day laborers…

The Irish were devout Roman Catholics…and this caused conflict, often violent, and discrimination; among their new Protestant neighbors…they constructed their own schools to make sure their children stayed true to their faith.

The Irish did have a skill that they brought with them….Politics…this readied them to participate in the “boss” system and political machines in America’s northeastern cities., like “Tammany Hall” in NYC. The “Boss” would meet each newcomer off the ships, ask only for his vote, and in return the “Machine” provided a place to live, a job, and help with the law…Most large cities had issues with the pace of growth and services were rarely provided to the slums were most new immigrants lived… so working together to protect themselves they easily adapt to the “Boss-Machine” system already established in these cities…Due to their abilities, soon the Irish controlled these machines…and it opens up more employment opportunities on the “city” payroll- Policemen for example. Irish voters ALWAYS VOTED DEMOCRATIC.. the party controlled the machines of the eastern cities, and they became a reliable large VOTING BLOCK that controlled city politics for a century after…

This evolution of the Irish political power and their Roman Catholicism caused many “natives” that lived in these areas…to protest their continuing success…This competition for jobs and votes leads to discrimination and violence often….even new groups form to oppose them such as the “Order of the Star Spangled Banner=American Party-“know-nothings”…. or the American Protective Association… The immigration laws that we are familiar with today…are not passed during this time period…due to the immigrants valuable labor that was growing the industrial revolution so quickly in the urban northeastCheap Labor was hard to find and the industrial leaders were not going to restrict immigration until much later in the 19th century….if they could keep this fresh supply of workers coming our expansion was unlimited, profits, too.

The Germans

From 1820 – 1920 more German immigrants came to America than any other immigrant group. The Germans did not cause as much panic in nativists most likely due to their movement out of the cities and into the middle of the continent, as well as the fact that often they were more educated and had more money than the Irish.

They prospered, building towns in Wisconsin, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Their contributions to reform and community building matched the age. “Germans” were often misidentified as the “Dutch” due to the spelling of their homeland, “Deutschland.” The term German is loosely used, Germany in fact does not unify until 1871…they were a loose set of independent principalities, kingdoms, and duchies. They came as Prussians, Bavarians (my ancestors), Hessians, Rhinelanders, Pomeranians, and Westphalians.

Many came after the failed “liberal” democratic revolution of 1848, 48ers. Jews, Amish, and Mennonites, all came for a hope of religious freedom.

Wisconsin Germans helped to build Milwaukee…it became the German Athens…boasted beer gardens, theatre, schools, and became a model German Town.

In Texas, Fredericksburg, was built. Mixing high German culture with Texas ruggedness, bringing to the south a more liberal view opposing slavery and still surviving. Religious communities also were built in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana were the Amish found utopia’s. In these areas they found they could live how they wished; shunning modern conveniences as they are invented and living simple lives focused on their faith. These enduring communities still hold an attraction in the modern world, tourists flock to many of these places to see a glimpse of past life, a living testament to the religious ferment and social experiments of the antebellum era.

Examining the Evidence – The invention of the Sewing Machine

In 1845, Elias Howe, invented a sewing machine that could make 250 stitches per minute…5X what the fastest hand could do. Howe received a patent for his device, but it had limited commercial appeal due to the fact that it could only stitch straight seams for a short distance. He later works with Isaac M. Singer and improves his device and combines his patent with Singer and others. Hundreds of thousands were produced in the 1850’s for manufacturing of clothes, books, shoes, and many other products, especially home use. Due to its high cost, The Singer Co. introduced INSTALLMENT BUYING, making payments over time. This helped place sewing machines in most middle-class households. Later this allowed for the commercial ready-made clothing industry to boom, especially after the Civil War, when standardized sizing is introduced to fit the many soldiers during the war.

Marvels in Manufacturing

-The 3 trade laws [embargo, non-intercourse, and Macon’s] and the War of 1812-1815 invigorated the building of factories in America due to the loss of manufactured goods from overseas. After the war, the British unloaded their surpluses of goods at ruinous prices in America. In Rhode Island over 150 mills were forced to close, all except the original Slater mill. Congress provided some relief with the 1ST PROTECTIVE TARIFF in 1816, among the earliest actions to control the shape of the economy. Also remember the re-chartering of the 2nd Bank of the USA in 1816…. Madison and Congress had not re-charted it in 1811 when it was due to be re-charted… in opposition, yet after the war of 1812…due to economic troubles… it was seen as necessary to reinvigorate the US economy and keep it stable… ***

-The factory system was applied to more than TEXTILES (the basis of the 1st industrial revolution) Eli Whitney, interchangeable parts, applies this idea to the mass production of firearms, muskets, for the U.S. Army. Just like most machines up to this time if a part broke you would have to attempt to re-fashion the part and hoped it worked, or build another machine completely…The concept of interchangeable parts allows for just the part to be replaced…revolutionary and it leads to the assembly line production method. This idea was widely adopted by 1850 and became the basis for modern mass production [specialized division of labor]-assembly line methods.

Whitney gave Slavery new life with his Cotton Gin, due to short-staple cotton being made useable and could be planted throughout the South--which brings on the Civil War and then gave the North the advantage due to the principles of mass production that were applied to the factory system that flourished in the North.

Invention was tailor made to the expanding and growing American economy during this period. From 1790 -1800 only 306 patents were granted, but from 1850 -1860 there were over 28,000. The Head Patent Clerk for the U.S. Government resigned in 1838 due to his belief that all worthwhile inventions had been discovered J .

These technical advances happened concurrently to the changes in the forms of business organizations-THE CORPORATION. LIMITED LIABILITY allowed in cases of incorporation for the business owner only to put at risk the amount of $ he put into the business not his personal assets AND allowed for the pooling of Capital, $, to create and expand businesses. In NY, in 1848, the state created FREE INCORPORATON laws that allowed businesses to create corporations without having to apply to the legislature, and this expanded opportunities for entrepreneurship to everyone, not just the politically connected or wealthiest. The Boston Associates are identified as being one of the earliest investment capital companies in America. 15 Boston families come to dominate the textile, railroad, insurance, and banking industries –really the first monopolistic corporate mega company in America.

The Communication Revolution --was begun by Samuel F.B. Morse when he invents the telegraph allowing for instant communication. Morse’s “Talking Wires,” in 1844, were demonstrated when he sends his first message from Baltimore to Washington DC, 40 miles, “What hath God Wrought.” This amazing transformation affects the business industry, the stock ticker and more, the News industry, with instant news, and eventually spans the continent building telegraph lines along the railroad lines, as well as eventually, due to amazing Cyrus Field, WHO STRETCHES A CABLE across an ocean to Europe, certainly affecting diplomacy from that point forward. THE TELEGRAPH IS STRETCHED ACROSS THE USA WITH THE EXPANISON OF THE RR AND MANIFEST DESITNY…AN AMAZING CHANGE—TRANSFORMING.

Workers and Wage Slaves

The transition from the skilled Artisan making his item in is home to the unskilled industrial factory worker was a difficult one. The impersonal nature of the factory created “Wage Slaves.” This transformation caused much reflection and conflict among Americans who saw this development dramatically changing the independent self-reliant citizen to a dependent WAGE slave to the wealthy owners of the factories… a system that was not very democratic.

This conflict between worker and owner is still played out today. Both reliant on each other yet early on most workers were paid very little and worked in horrifying conditions, even women and children. The new Jacksonian Democratic spirit was in conflict with this system and it led to workers attempting to organize early on. However, it was deemed illegal for workers to organize it was deemed a “criminal conspiracy,” due to the factory owners ties to politicians….(locofocoists come out of the working-men’s parties in the 1820’s). Only 24 recorded strikes occurred before 1835, and most often women led them due to the fact that most of the early factory workers were young women recruited off the farms. This valuable experience in organizing bleeds into the many reform movements of the period that women often lead such as abolition, women’s rights, and temperance societies.

By 1820, ½ of the nations factory workers are children under 10 !!! Wow!!! (note: this trend continues until the early 20th century, it was deemed to be the Parent’s prerogative…and this hampers the education of many poor children for over 100 years) and eventually becomes a target of many reformers. Children were often abused; starved, physically damaged, and even brutally whipped in special rooms.

By the 1820’s and 30’s most Adult wage earners lives improved, despite the difficult conditions of work. As Working men receive the vote in the Jacksonian period he forms workingmen’s parites (locofocoist-Democrats) who appreciate Jackson’s attack on privilege and the Bank of the US. They attempt to get laws passed for a shorter working day, 10 hours, higher wages, better working conditions, Free Public Schools, and an end to debtors prisons. Employers opposed these laws, but some were successful due to the increased # of poor voters at this time. Martin Van Buren, hero of the loco focos, creates the 10 hour day for federal workers and this soon spread across the country.

In the 1830’s and 40’s an increasing # of strikes occurs due to the workers new found strength at the ballot box and an increasing republican mood and attitude. The workers generally lost more strikes than they won, employers could employ strikebreakers called “scabs,” often --new immigrants, not helping the conflict among “natives.” Owners of factories could also count on the fact that most of these jobs required a low amount of skill so the workers could be more easily replaced. 300,000 Trade Unions formed by 1830, but after the depression (often repeated) of 1837, unemployment took away their leverage as high immigration #’s in the coming decades would do as well. However a landmark victory for union workers occurs in the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1842 in the case COMMONWEALTH V. HUNT, where LABOR UNIONS WERE RULED NOT TO BE ILLEGAL CONSPIRACIES PROVIDED THEIR METHODS WERE HONORABLE AND PEACEFUL. This does not legalize strikes overnight throughout the country, and it is not until the next Century that workers gain the ability to really protect themselves.

Women and the Economy

New England factories recruited farm girls to move to factories, live in dormitories that were supervised by adult women, were escorted to church on Sundays, and earn a wage…often this money was used to support their families on the farms, for brothers to go to school, or to save as a dowry-money paid to their husbands when married. However, as time passes, many women find that financial independence allows them more choices and begins to encourage women to question their place in their society leading them to want to participate in this new age of Jacksonian democracy.