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An Irish Emigrant to New York Writes Home

This letter home from 23-year-old Irish emigrant Margaret McCarthy captures both the opportunity and adversity awaiting arrivals to a new land. McCarthy sailed from Liverpool on the Columbus on September 7, 1849, and arrived in New York on October 22nd of that year. Addressing her "Dr." (dear) parents, McCarthy's letter offers both optimistic and pessimistic assessments of economic prospects in the United States, but she still urges her family to join her and provides detailed advice for doing so.

I write these few lines to you hoping That these few lines may find you all in as good State of health as I am in at present thank God. . . . My Dr. Father I must only say that this is a good place and A good Country for if one place does not Suit A man he can go to Another and can very easy please himself But there is one thing that’s Ruining this place Especially the Frontirs towns and Cities where the Flow of Emmigration is most, the Emmigrants has not money Enough to Take them to the Interior of the Country which oblidges them to Remain here in York and the like places for which Reason Causes the less demand for Labour and also the great Reduction in wages.

For this Reason I would advise no one to come to American that would not have Some Money after landing here that (would) Enable them to go west in case they would get no work to do here but any man or woman without a family are fools that would not venture and Come to this plentiful Country where no man or woman ever Hungered or ever will and where you will not be Seen Naked, but I can assure you there are Dangers upon Dangers Attending comeing here but my Friends nothing Venture nothing have.

Fortune will favour the brave, have Courage and prepare yourself for the next time that worthy man Mr. Boyan is Sending out the next lot, and Come you all Together Couragiously and bid adieu to that lovely place the land of our Birth. . . I am now Told its Gulf of Miserary oppression Degradetion and Ruin of every Discription which I am Sorry to hear of so Doleful a History to Be told of our Dr. Country. This my Dr. Father Induces me to Remit to you in this Letter 20 Dollars that is four Pounds thinking it might be Some Acquisition to you until you might Be Clearing away from that place all together and the Sooner the Better for Believe me I could not Express how great would be my joy at our seeing you all here Together where you would never want or be at a loss for a good Breakfast and Dinner. . . .

Bring with you as much Tools as you can as it will cost you nothing to Bring them . . . as for Mary She need not mind much as I will have for her A Silk Dress A Bonnet and Viel according and Ellen I need not mention what I will have for her I can fit her well. . . . Well I have only to tell My Dr. Mother to Bring all her Bed-Close and also to bring the Kittle and an oven and have handles to them and do not forget the Smoothing Irons and Beware when you are on Board to Bring some good flour and Ingage with the Captain Cook and he will do it better for you for very little and also Bring some whiskey and give them to the Cook and Some Sailors that you may think would do you any good to give them a Glass once in a time and it may be no harm.

So no more at present from your Ever Dear and Loveing Child

Margaret McCarthy.

Source | Margaret McCarthy, 1850; in Ruth-Ann M. Harris, "Come you all courageously": Irish Women in America Write Home," Eire-Ireland: Journal of Irish Studies, Spring/Summer 2001.
Creator | Margaret McCarthy
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | Margaret McCarthy, “An Irish Emigrant to New York Writes Home,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 2, 2023,

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