U.S. Colonization v Immigration

As previously mentioned the first great wave of settlement in what was to become the 13 Colonies was the Puritan wave of 1629-41. In the rest of the 13 Colonies, settlement came in waves followed by troughs: one peaking in the 1720’s, another in the early 1750’s, and another from the late 1760’s until the outbreak of the American Revolution, the pauses between them were due to wars in Europe.

Here is some population data from 1720: Boston 12,000; Philadelphia 10,000; New York 7,000; Charlestown 3,500; and finally Newport 2,800 for a total of 474, 388; interestingly only 8 percent were urban dwellers. 

After the revolution, there was a great lull in immigration for nearly 70 years — two whole generations — until the Irish started arriving in the 1840’s in flight from the potato famine. This makes sense: we were weeks away from Europe by an expensive, unpleasant, and dangerous sailing-ship voyage. There was no TV to broadcast the charms of America to the world, and nothing but hard work to do when immigrants got here.

After the Irish came Germans fleeing the failed revolution of 1848 and the general poverty and authoritarianism of Germany in this period. For the next 40 years, immigration surged and plunged as wave was followed by trough time and again. As the century wore on, the main source of immigrants moved from northern Europe to Southern and Eastern Europe.

Transportation became cheaper as railroads penetrated every corner of Europe and steamships grew in size, making the passage more available to the poor. Immigration became a well-organized corporate business. There were peaks in 1851-4, 1866-73, 1881-83, and 1905-7. Specific events, like the 1881 pogrom (genocide) in Russia or regional harvest failures, triggered waves of people who eventually subsided, at least until some fresh cause emerged.

My point here is that our heritage is not just immigration; it is also periods of little or no immigration. Whoever who would justify on historical grounds ceaseless mass immigration like we have had since 1965, is lying about history. (It is further noted that people who appeal to tradition to justify immigration are not particularly interested in conserving our other traditions, and that our tradition of immigration is actually a tradition of European immigration, to be quite factual about it.)

These pauses in immigration were key to the process of Americanizing the immigrants, or the wayward process of assimilation. Without them, as we may observe among Hispanics today, a continual flow of newcomers keeps immigrants poor and sucks them back into the culture from which they came. The Internet and Spanish-language TV only make things worse, as does the fact that Mexico is next door and has already sent 30 million immigrants. (Italy, for example, sent only 3 million total.) Thank you for reading…

More coming…