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A Letter to the Editor Attempts to Explain Crime in Five Points

This letter to the New-York Daily Times, published on June 14, 1854, attempts to explain the high rate of criminality among Irish immigrants in terms of environment rather than temperment. The Irish-surnamed writer argues that the Irish are not innately criminal but instead suffer from lack of education and the squalid conditions in Five Points and other overcrowded urban areas.

NEW-YORK, Thursday, June 14, 1854.
To the Editor of the New-York Daily Times:

DEAR SIR: I ought to be ashamed again to trespass on your space. One of your correspondents asks me how I account for the large proportion of crimes committed by Irishmen in this country, as compared with Americans.

I answer thus, without questioning the accuracy of the facts.

The American people have been, for the most part, born free. They have been educated under free institutions, and have enjoyed all the advantages of a practical system of training. . . . their pride, their national honor, all conduce to the elevation of their character.

But even so, the Irish as a nation at home, do not exhibit criminal records more sanguinary or disgraceful than those of any country in the world. There is less crime, less murder, less robbery, less forgery, less theft, in the city of Dublin than in any city of the same population in Europe or America. I know Counties in Ireland containing a population equal to half this city, where the Circuit Judge has not had a single case to try for years.

But why then are the Irish addicted to crime here?

Until lately, the class or Irishmen that emigrated to this country, were, in general, servant boys and servant girls, almost universally uneducated. To this class you may add another even still larger, consisting of persons disgraced at home. These latter were compeled to fly, because they were shunned, despised, and detested. Here and in other large cities, the scenes to which they had to resort were not much calculated to redeem them; hence, there is more crime in the Five Points than in the six Irish counties, containing a population of two millions. . . .

I am, dear Sir, yours sincerely,

Source | The New-York Daily Times, 14 June 1854.
Creator | Michael Doheny
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | Michael Doheny, “A Letter to the Editor Attempts to Explain Crime in Five Points,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed April 15, 2024,

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