Immigration. Falling Off in Ship Building.

From Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Jan. 12, 1856


In our issue of Dec. 29th we gave illustrations of Castle Garden as an immigrant depot; in our present number we present the striking scenes incident to emigration occurring in foreign lands. The reader is thus enabled at a glance to go through the history of the emigré, from the agent’s office in his own country, to his landing upon our shores. The immigration returns for the years ‘54 and ‘55 present some striking peculiarities. The total number of aliens arriving at the port of New York in ‘54 was 319,223; total number in ‘55, 134,987. The decrease in Irish immigration is nearly fifty per cent., while the immigrants from other portions of Great Britain are much more numerous in proportion to those of last year than was generally anticipated.From Germany and States bordering on and sympathizing with her, the decrease is most marked— ranging from fifty to seventy per cent. From Belgium there is considerable increase; also from Norway, while the decrease from Sweden may, to some extent, be attributed to the occupation by the fleets of the Allies of the waters along her coasts.

To show how intimately our industrial interest is related to our commercial interest, we find that the returns of ship building in this vicinity for the past year, exhibit a ratio of decrease in tonnage exactly corresponding to the falling off in immigration.

That useless and expensive body known as Commissioners of Immigration, held their last meeting on the last Wednesday of December. As usual there was no quorum, and of course not a legal meeting for business.


It appears by an examination of the books of the Commissioners, that one year ago they had a balance of $65,166, which, with the receipts of the past year, make the sum of $421,066. The expenditures of the year have been $480,987— an excess of $58,879, in which sum the Commissioners are indebted to the Mechanics’ Bank. If immigration should cease altogether, the expenses of the Commissioners would not only run on, but would probably accumulate to an extent, that would demand additional taxation to our already over-burdened city.

We have already given what we conceive to be the cause of this falling off in immigration. It results from no political cause whatever. The Know Nothing excitement and similar currents of public opinion have not kept a single person away from our ports. The war in the Crimea has had its effect; but the supply of immigrants heretofore has been greater than the demand, and the falling off is simply the result of the fact being known in Europe, that our resources of home industry have become glutted by laborers. Immediately following the revival of national industry, and a newly created demand for labor, will succeed the increase of immigrants upon our shores; for the very reason (which we have previously explained) that the reports reaching the Europeans’ ears of a revived demand for their industry in this country, will direct the human current, now flowing through other channels, in our direction. That the causes operating upon our present diminished immigration are purely economical and industrial— as opposed to political— we have the returns from Canada showing a greater ratio of decrease in immigration than is felt in the United States. This we hold as unmistakably confirmatory of our position, since there is no recent political agitation to deter foreigners from Canadian shores, but simply a surplus of labor in the market, which is reported throughout Europe, and thus serves effectually to intermit the supply.