Sarah Roddy
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The emigrant’s friend?
The clergy and emigration in practice

The belief that clergymen had the power to influence individual emigration decisions had considerable currency in nineteenth-century Ireland. Radical constitutional and economic reform aside, this influence was long thought to be the best weapon in the anti-emigration armoury. A great deal of practical involvement was expected of Irish clergymen when it came to emigration from their congregations. The image of the grave featured heavily in the clergy's anti-emigration rhetoric, and in poetic laments and Catholic periodical fiction. Clergy were also apt to remind would-be emigrants that the city slums of America and Britain were already clogged with those who had gone before, their own hopeful journeys ending in misery and degradation. Worst of all, as Archbishop John Joseph Lynch of Toronto later claimed for North America, and as a private survey of England contemporaneously revealed, Irish Catholic immigrants, both male and female, tended to be over-represented in the prison population.

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Population, providence and empire

The churches and emigration from nineteenth-century Ireland


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