USA Immigration from the Beginning Part 1: The Colonial Period

Ships at bay

The Discovery, the Godspeed, and the Susan Constant, Copyright Pure Imagineering

One day two farmers made the decision to donate a small portion of their farmland to their community and build a small neighborhood park. Many families and children in particularly kept an eye on it during its construction. There was a lot of preparation that went into building a neighborhood park. Architects needed to design the park, engineers developed the park, merchants supplied the equipment, and the neighborhood community paid the bills for the park.

The children didn’t care how the park came to be; instead, they just couldn’t wait for it to open. For months, they have watched the cement trucks provide cement for the foundation of two slides, a jungle gym, and one pair swing sets. Although the size of the park was not significant, when the park finally opened, children from the local and nearby neighborhoods rushed to enjoy the new park!

Similarly, the foundation of the United States of America was first laid even before the country began to take form. Let’s go back to the year 1607 and the first English settlement in Jamestown in what would eventually become Virginia. Imagine the excitement and nervousness of those original pioneers and settlers after crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Several years later in 1620, the Pilgrims completed their journey from England, landed on Plymouth Rock, and established the Plymouth Bay Colony in what would become Massachusetts. The Pilgrims were attempting to escape persecution in England because they didn’t agree with the Church of England. The immigration from England to North America had begun!

Word began to spread back to Europe that the land was fertile and seemingly endless. Soon, immigrants began to come to America by the shipload because it offered a fresh start and new opportunities of success. Many of these early immigrants were indentured servants, needing to pay off debt while the worked the new land. Once their servitude was complete, they were debt free and ready to start a new life. By the year 1700, several English colonies had been formed totaling over 250,000 residents. Virginia had the largest population of 58,600 followed by Massachusetts Bay with 55,900.

From 1754 – 1763, the French and Indian War was fought between the English Colonies and the French with the help of the Native American Indians in an effort to rule much of North America. The English and French had brought their personal European battle upon another continent. They really didn’t like each other. Once this incredibly bloody war was concluded and won by the British, the Colonies were stuck with the bill. The Stamp Tax, Tea Tax, and a large multitude of other sorts of taxes were charged to the colonists which resulted in high tensions between the colonists and the British.

Meanwhile, with the addition of the Quakers, Scottish, Germans, Swedish, Dutch, and even more English, by 1770 the population of the thirteen English colonies was over 2.0 million! The immigrants continued to land onto the coastal shores of North America. Unfortunately, the slave trade out of Africa began to flourish for benefit of the southern colonies.

The Tea Party, the invasion by the British into Massachusetts, and the march to confiscate guns and ammunition secretly stored in Lexington and Concord led ultimately to the Shot Heard Around the World. The Revolutionary War had begun!

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 brave colonists who risked their lives and immediately went into hiding for fear of being tarred and feathered. A new problem arose: how would a new nation survive when a large number of colonists within the cities supported the English King George.

There were two sides actively involved within each colony: the Tories and the Rebels. The Tories believed in continued faithful support of the king even though the colonists had very little voice in Parliament in England. In contrast, the Rebels were in open retaliation against the king and wanted a smaller, separate government with fewer taxes and a stronger voice in government.

On April 11, 1783, the British surrendered to the Continental Army at Yorktown, Virginia and a new nation was born. In 1788, the Constitution of the United States of America was officially ratified after the ninth state, New Hampshire, voiced its approval.

Just like the new park that was ready to be stormed by children from neighborhoods miles around, a new nation was born. A nation born upon a continent that continued to accept immigrants primarily from Europe and slaves from Africa and the Caribbean. A new nation with currency worth little value. How could this nation survive the massive population growth due to immigration while maintaining order between the Tories and the Rebels?

To be continued in part 2

Article by John Coder

Posted July 12, 2014


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