Another circumstance that has had a serious and lasting effect on Irish population has still to be mentioned. At first the emigration movement was largely a flight from starvation, a movement that would have come to an end under normal circumstances with the end of the famine crisis. But as we have seen, the conditions were not normal; the crisis was artificially protracted by injurious financial legislation. And, in addition, although many of them perished by the way owing to the abominably insanitary conditions of the coffin ships employed for the journey, the emigrants arriving at New York or Boston soon found conditions unexpectedly favourable for the class of labour which they were best qualified to supply. America was just then opening up and turning to the new West, and the demand for unskilled labour for railway work was unlimited. The Irish emigrant seldom or never takes to the land when he goes to America, and navvy work just suited him. To a man accustomed to sixpence a day the wages offered seemed to represent unbounded wealth, and as the news spread in Ireland the move to America, which at the first seemed hopeless exile, presented itself as a highly desirable step towards social betterment. Emigration is now the result of attraction from America rather than of repulsion from Ireland, a fact which explains the failure of more than one well-meant attempt to check the movement by action on this side of the Atlantic.
A word should perhaps be given to the position of the industrial portion of Ulster, which has flourished so remarkably since the Union. This of itself affords sufficient proof that that Act, whatever its defects, cannot be held accountable for any lack of prosperity that may still exist in other parts of Ireland. It is sometimes stated that Ulster was favoured at the time when the commercial jealousy of certain English cities succeeded in securing a prohibition of the Irish woollen industry. The southern wool, it is alleged, was checked, and the Belfast linen was favoured—hence the prosperity of the northern capital. This is a really curious perversion of quite modern history. The linen industry was at the time in question in no sense confined to the North and was by no means prominent in Belfast. It was distributed over many districts of Ireland, for whilst Louis Crommelin was sent to Lisburn to look after the French colony settled there, and to improve and promote the industry, his brother William was sent on a similar errand to Kilkenny, and stations were also started at Rathkeale, Cork and Waterford. When, later on, the Irish Parliament distributed bounties through the Linen Board, the seat of that Board was in Dublin, and its operations included every county in Ireland.