“Class work together and even had battles in the

“Class Conflict on the Canals of Upper Canada in the 1840s” by Ruth Bleasdal, published in Canadian Committee on Labour History and Athabasca University Press primarily speaks about the hardships and discrimination Irish migrants faced at the hands of the British and ways they rebel against the societies norms. Bleasdal speaks of a society that believed the Irish were “tumult even without cause” then goes on to redirect the reader’s attention by speaking of the starvation and violence the Irish endure and caused during their relocation to Canada. During the 1840’s, a mass amount of southern Irish immigrants came surging into Canada with hopes of employment with little to no skill in the labor market. With the experience and skill, the Irish brought to the table, they had no choice but to accept whatever wages they were granted which were usually low. Many found employment as laborers along the St Lawrence River, Welland Canal, Cornwall Canal and Williamsburg Canal, others weren’t so lucky. Since there was such a large amount of people searching for employment, many others were left scavenging for opportunities, food, and shelter. Many stole materials from surrounding areas to build a small home. During winter, unemployment was at an all-time high. Hundreds of laborers were laid off due to weather conditions and those who could find employment only worked very few hours barely making enough to feed themselves. The people were also constantly being taken advantage of whether it was from their contractors who didn’t pay them or the government who didn’t do anything do help them.   With very few homes and little space, the large group of canallers lived together in a tight-knit community. They bonded over their experiences and shared their fear of starvations and poverty together. They became a working class that supported one another and their faith. Although they were becoming a community, there was a division between the Munster Country and Connaught Country. The Munster lived in Cork while the Connaught Country lived in Connaught. These two fractions couldn’t work together and even had battles in the streets that resulted in death. They would battle each other then plan their counter-attacks that led to a cycle just as Power stated: “one riot is the parent of many others, “. These men thought they were fighting due to a long-standing feud that dated back to what could be the medieval times, but it was actually the fear of unemployment caused havoc. The poverty that swept the increasing Irish community caused starvation, homelessness, disease and also violence. Each fraction believed the other was taking all the jobs which caused them to fight constantly. But in certain instances, the two fractions worked together to demand jobs and food. They would stop anyone from taking jobs along the canals until their strike was over bringing construction to a standstill. These strikes and battles between each other caused the government and public to believe the Irish were unstable and wild. In reality, this community of Irish immigrants simply wanted jobs, food, and shelter to support themselves and their families just like everyone else. Instead of people seeing why they were acting this way or trying to understand them, they put them aside and branded them as a nuisance. I believe the thesis in this article is “In the letters and reports of government officials and law enforcement agents on the canal works in Upper Canada the violence of the labourers appears not as the excesses of an unruly nationality clinging to old behaviour patterns, but as a rational response to economic conditions in the new world.”, which appeared in the second paragraph. I found the way this article was written a bit confusing. Bleasdal wrote this article as if the reader would automatically understand what she’s talking about and what’s going on. Before reading this article I’ve never heard of many things she has talked about and she doesn’t explain anything. For example, Bleasdal spoke of conflicts between the Irish community and the Anglo-Saxon and conflicts between the Irish and Orangemen with giving an explanation or background. As I kept reading, I caught up myself and felt that the article was beginning to flow smoothly. After about four paragraphs many things were starting to make sense and the article became interesting. I liked the article and thought the author did a great job with the structure and keeping the reader’s attention. I also found that the footnotes helped with understanding the article a bit more and brought a better understanding to the article. As for the thesis, I found it rather hard to find. At first, I thought it was “But the objective basis of the social disorder along the canals was, primarily, class conflict. With important exceptions, the canallers’ collective action constituted a bitter resistance to the position which they were forced to assume in the society of British North America.” Then I read the conclusion and introduction paragraphs again and settled on the second paragraphs, second sentence. Also, I think the author should have included the Rebellion of 1837. She completely dismissed this uprising that took place at the same time she describes and the affects its aftermath had. The Rebellion did have an impact on the Irish and surrounding communities, therefore she should have included it in her argument. The first part of the article Bleasdal focuses on the migration of the immigrants, how the Irish immigrants were treated poorly and how they struggled to survive. For example, people not hiring them as farmers because they believed they carried diseases and the government not really intervening to help the decaying community. While the second half she focuses on how the Irish community fought endless against each other, the government and others with authority. She spoke of how the government nor their employers could tame them. For instances when two fractions would work together to hold a strike and stop construction from continuing till an agreement was made.