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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Presentations and Activities > Immigration
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Immigration Irish
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Colonial Immigration

In colonial times, the Irish population in America was second in number only to the English. Many early Irish immigrants were of sturdy, Scotch-Irish stock. Pushed out of Ireland by religious conflicts, lack of political autonomy and dire economic conditions, these immigrants were pulled to America by the promise of land ownership and greater religious freedom.

Most Scotch-Irish immigrants were educated, skilled workers. Even those who financed their emigration by becoming indentured servants were well equipped to lead successful, independent lives when their period of servitude ended. They were readily assimilated into the life of the new nation.

The Scotch-Irish settled in the middle colonies, especially in Pennsylvania where the city of Philadelphia was a major port of debarkation. Over subsequent decades, the Scotch-Irish migrated south following the Great Philadelphia Road, the main route used for settling the interior southern colonies. Traveling down Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, then south into the North Carolina Piedmont region, they reached South Carolina by the 1760s. Settlers here often became frontiersmen and Indian fighters.

Presidents Andrew Jackson and Ronald Reagan traced their roots to these early Americans.



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