Discrimination against German and Irish Immigrants Essay

The Declaration of Independence states, All men are created equal,, but, taking a look at our nations history, we can clearly see that this statement is not valid. This was not accepted by the thousands of slave owners based in the South and the people who enforced oppression upon womens rights as equals. The nation’s relatively newly-established independence, escalating prejudices against blacks, differing viewpoints regarding slavery, monetary inflation, and antagonism to womens basic rights created an uncomfortable, unstable time for minorities and a colorful history for our nation.

During the Revolutionary War, people from diverse backgrounds and religions fought for freedom, liberty, and equality. After they had achieved their objective and built their new way of life, others had the same dream too. People in the mid 19th century had the same desire to have equal rights without subjugation by an overpowering government that the original settlers had had. Emigrants from all parts of the world came to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and many other cities.

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Most had heard about the line that read, All men are created equal, and many discovered its doubtful validity upon arriving in the United States. Two of these groups were the Irish and the Germans. After their arrival in America they endured social, political, and economic discrimination. Although, it can be said that the Irish endured more prejudice then the Germans. Irish immigrants faced more economic, political, and social obstacles than the Germans, who faced few.

Between 1800 and 1900, five million Germans immigrated to the United States. They left their home country due to over-population, a search for political freedom, and a desire to own their own land. They were also plagued with revolutionary ideas that aimed to unite the German states under a republican form of government like that of the United States. The German Unification process began in 1849 to form one complete country. Many werent pleased with this idea, having created their identities with German states such as: Hannover, Bavaria, and Prussia. The provisional government could not decide on a form for the new Germany, and the old order was restored. The failure of the ideas of unification caused the frustrated, defeated upper/middle class Germans to immigrate. (Encarta, German Unification) Many moved to the frontiers in Ohio and Mississippi valleys, others settled near Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati, while others still joined their fellow Germans in Pennsylvania Deutsch Country. They were skilled farmers and artisans who helped to make important contributions to agriculture, business, and industry. They were easily accepted into American society and were a useful addition. They were active in the government and hardly opposed mainstream ideas, with exception to prohibition and slavery. Before the immigrants had arrived in the United States, the Americans had initiated a strong temperance (non-alcohol) movement. For moral reasons, and because they thought that self-denial would make them better people and more hard working, capable, and upright citizens, they did not engage in drinking. Irish and German immigrants, however, began to arrive in the U.S. and brought with them their love for pubs and taverns. When the Irish and Germans brought the liquor establishment with them to America, instead of proving that they could introduce a new enjoyment to the country by using alcohol moderately, they abused the drink, and caused a great increase in drunkenness, fighting, and crime among themselves as a result. Prohibitionists then proposed state laws to ban the manufacture and sale of alcohol altogether. Germans opposed prohibition not only because of their fondness of liquor in their old country, but also because they had a strong hand in the manufacture of it. The negative repercussions of alcohol in the U.S. created off-putting view of Germans as well as the Irish. But because of their support of the government and contributions to agriculture, Germans experienced little discrimination in politics. (Encarta, German Americans) When they arrived in America, much of the German population, being mostly upper and middle class, had already a lot of money and obtained a considerable amount of power. The European-natives who had immigrated years ago and had worked hard to establish a good life resented the easiness of their adaptation to a new way of life. Also, the Germans, stuck in their old ways or rather preferring them, tended to stay within their own communities and rarely became social. This also created hostile feelings between the German Americans and people outside their communities. Politically and economically, the Germans were for the most part accepted, but socially they were discriminated against extremely and faced preconception. Irish immigration to the United States increased during the 1840s when Ireland suffered through the Great Potato Famine, a disastrous failure of the nations staple food crop. Disease and starvation ripped through the countryside and killed at least one million people, forcing another million to flee the country. Before this catastrophic incident, the poor Irish would use potatoes to pay their landlords. Having nothing to requite their debt, they were forced to leave the country. Throughout the 19th century, agriculturally and technologically unskilled Irish immigrants, who could not make their living at home, moved to America in search of opportunity. They settled in large cities on the eastern seaboard of the United States, especially in New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston. (Encarta, Irish Americans)Early religious and cultural differences separated the immigrants into two groups, Protestants and Catholics, which would create some trouble for them later on (being that Catholics were a minority). Catholic values and schools, although, did much to overcome poverty and hardship that troubled early Irish American Society greatly. Despite the hostility their religion generated, the Irish regarded their faith as a link from the Old World to the new one. This comforted them emotionally and spiritually in their new environment.

As they attempted to find their new way of life, they frequently experienced discrimination in housing, education, and employment. Anti-immigrant groups, such as the Know-Nothing Party, regarded the Catholic Irish as an insubordinate, subversive religion and culture. The Irish were stereotyped as uncivilized. Their aim was to prevent foreign-born citizens from holding political office and to curb foreign ideas. The group became powerful because there was a great fear that the immigrants were growing in number as well as strength and might try to change or overpower the already existing way of life. Impoverished and unskilled, Irish typically lived in ethnic ghettos and worked the least desirable occupations. Irish men usually took jobs as manual laborers and Irish women found employment as domestic servants.

Mob violence was incited in New York City in July 1863, during the American Civil War, by opponents of conscription and individuals sympathetic to the Confederate cause. Because of the usual hostility of the American people to mandatory military service, the federal government had relied, during the early stages of the war, on voluntary enlistment to obtain recruits for the Union armies. The need for more soldiers forced Congress to pass the Enrollment Act, which imposed military duty on all able-bodied males between the ages of 20 and 45. Opponents of the administration attacked the bill, criticizing in particular a part that enabled draftees to be exempted from service by giving the government $300. As the date for enforcement of the act approached, dissatisfaction with this became widespread among the poor of New York City, especially Irish immigrants. An unruly crowd soon attacked and burned the draft headquarters. The rioters, joined by additional thousands of sympathizers, roamed freely through the city, destroying. These were directed especially against blacks, whom the mob considered responsible for the Civil War. On that Monday afternoon the rioters sacked and burned the Colored Orphan Asylum, a charitable institution housing nearly 800 black children. This lasted for 3 days. Blacks were murdered, black neighborhoods were burned, and general pillaging took place. The Irish felt that the Rich Mans Exemption was a direct attempt to exterminate them from the U.S. population since they didnt have much money to pay off the government. In conclusion, the Germans were politically and economically accepted for their agreeable attitude towards the government and their rich status, but socially discriminated against for their exclusive habits and prohibition issues. The Irish Americans were economically discriminated against for being agriculturally and technologically unskilled as well as poor. They were socially unaccepted because of their affiliation with drinking and politically faced with prejudice because of their opposition to prohibition and riots in 1863. There was a definite presence of discrimination for Irish and German immigrants between 1820 and 1860 in America. It is evident that the Irish endured more hardships than their fellow immigrants, the Germans. And that the Declaration of Independences line that states, All men are created equal,, clearly applied to the men who created the Constitution and those White Anglo-Saxon Protestants males alone.

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