USA Immigration from the Beginning Part 2: The Period 1790 – 1820

Two farmers in a small community donated a portion of their land toward a park for their small community. A few years later a third farmer chose to donate a much larger portion of his farmland, virtually doubling the size of the park. Two years later, a fourth farmer donated a small portion of his farmland but also included a small lake for the use of the community park.

These donations amazed the community! Due to the immediate growth of the park, the community was now required to select a community park president. Once a president was chosen, a collection of staff members was selected. Under the direction of the park president, the staff was better suited to determine how to proceed with maintaining the park as well as coordinating plans for future park purchases. The number of opportunities for what could be held upon the park land appeared to be endless.

After the American Revolutionary War was won by the American colonies, a new nation was born. However, this new nation would be formed based upon the U.S. Constitution which legally took affect on March 4, 1789. Within this legal document, rules identified the branches of government and what type of power each branch could hold. In addition, under Article I, Section 8 is the line:

“To establish an uniform Rule of naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.

During the first State of the Union Address on January 8, 1790, George Washington stated: “Various considerations also render it expedient, that the terms on which foreignors may be admitted to the rights of Citizens, should be speedily ascertained by a uniform rule of naturalization.”

Later that same year, Congress pass the first Naturalization Act. Unfortunately, only Whites may receive citizenship. Blacks were not considered free on this continent. In summary, according to Shelby Englund,

“This article of legislation allowed an individual to apply for citizenship if they were a free white person, being of good character, and living in the United States for two years. Upon receiving the courts approval they took an oath of allegiance which was recorded. The individual’s citizenship was also extended to any children under the age of 21, regardless of their birthplace. If the applicant had never been a U.S. resident the application was disregarded.”

During the next several years, the amount of immigration was extremely limited. Based upon the numbers provided by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., there were on average 6,000 immigrants per year from 1790 – 1820. However, as the U.S. continued to grow in size in both population and land, there was mounting pressure placed upon the local Native Indian tribes. George Washington made every attempt to extend peace between neighbors. Unfortunately, some tribes did not understand peace as it was written upon a piece of paper. Some tribes were stirred into rebellion against the western edges of the states by England and France. But, there were a few tribes willing to live in harmony with the newly established government.

Immigration also was slow at the beginning as war was rekindled upon the European continent. In 1792, France declared war on Austria, Prussia, and Sardinia. The next year, France declared war on England and the Netherlands. France and England, the greatest sea powers of the time, created great risk of any immigrants willing to sail from Europe to the U.S.

March 22, 1794, Congress passed laws that prohibited slave trade with foreign nations. In addition, Congress banned the U.S. from sending slaves to other nations as well as accepting them. This was the first step toward eliminating the use of slaves in the U.S.

The next year while Napoleon Bonaparte became the French army’s commander, treaties were put in place between the U.S. and the tribes in the Ohio Territory and the Creek and Cherokee tribes near the state of Georgia. In order to maintain this peace, force was necessary on the western frontiers.

In 1795, a new Naturalization Act of 1795 was passed into law and became more stringent than the previous law. Unfortunately, the father of a child must have been a U.S. citizen not necessarily the mother. And, yes, Blacks were still not mentioned since they were not free. In summary, according to Shelby Englund,

“Any free white person could recieve citizenship providing they had renounced their allegiance to their previous state/sovereignty by name, lived in the United States for five years at least, behave as a man of good moral character, and renounced any title they possessed in the previous states. Once the applicant had been approved and recorded by the court clerk, all related children would receive citizenship whether they had been born in or outside the U.S. providing their father had at some point, resided in the U.S., and never been legally convicted of joining the army of Great Britain.”

During the latter part of the 1700s, although England had lost the war and reluctantly acknowledged the existence of the United States of America, its large fleet of ships continued to have a strong presence in the major harbors on the east coast. Additionally, the British vessels were given the authority to board and seize any neutral ships, especially if they were American. At the time, the U.S. did not have the strength to remove the British vessels from their naval borders.

While John Adams was president, the Naturalization, Alien, and Sedition Acts were passed by Congress and signed into law. Shelby Englund and Eric Svoboda summarized these laws as requiring

“applicants for citizenship to have declared intention to becoming a citizen five years prior to applicatoin, and lived in the United States 14 years when the application was admitted. This act was to be implemented on all new aliens providing they were no longer subjects of any nation the U.S. was at war with at the time of application.”

In 1799, Napoleon declared himself dictator and the wars in Europe had begun. The French spread their war dominance during the next decade throughout Europe, northern Africa, and parts of Asia. Once again, immigration was affected since great risk was placed upon any immigrant ships willing to travel among the French and English fleets throughout the North Atlantic Ocean. If a ship was captured by either the French or English, the occupants would become slaves for the crew who captured the ship.

While Thomas Jefferson took office as President of the U.S., much land was purchased including purchasing land from the Creek Indians in Georgia, establishing land boundaries with the Choctaw Nation, and the Louisiana Purchase from France. Napoleon was running out of money and needed some cash as he continued his assault upon Europe. He continued his reign until he was captured and exiled for the second time in 1815.

More land meant more growth and opportunities for the young nation. Of course, this created more problems with the native tribes in these areas. Once settlers began to push westward, there would certainly be confrontation.

In mid-1809, the mighty European power Spain began to lose its influence over Central America, South America, and Mexico. Eventually, Spain would lose everything in the Western Hemisphere, including western Florida to the U.S. in 1810 and eastern Florida in 1819.

Speaking of confrontation, the British continued to show their presence on the east coast of the U.S. With their presence, trade was hampered and citizens were unable to grow their businesses without the threat of an unwelcomed attack by the British. Finally, on June 18, 1812, Congress declared war on England. Enough was enough. The U.S. must have its harbors and coasts clear of British influence. Naturally, the British didn’t only fight the U.S. soldiers, they also managed to stir up some of the western native tribes to fight against the U.S. soldiers as well. The War of 1812 lasted until December of 1814 and the British began to part the eastern coast of North America; however, a military presence on the western frontier of the nation was still necessary to protect the citizens from harm.

Once the seaways were cleared, immigrant ships began to arrive. As a result, it was necessary for Congress to update its rules on immigration with the Steering Act of 1819, this time by establishing

“rules to be followed by carrying passengers to the United States.”

During the first three decades of our nation, there was tremendous growth, trial, and perseverance. Challenges upon the western expanses remained with the local tribes who felt threatened by the Whites. Challenges on the eastern coast by England threatened the economy and well-being of those who depended upon trade. In order to protect its citizens and provide the opportunity of commerce of these citizens, the borders on the east coast, the south, the north, and the western frontier must be protected by the government of the United States of America.

To be continued in part 3

Article by John Coder

Posted July 21, 2014

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