A Nation of Immigrants – History of U.S.A.

Basically the peoples inhabiting the land of the United States of America, are a nation of immigrants. The Indians whom the first white settlers found there, had originally emigrated from Asia across the Bering Straits. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, 35 million Europeans crossed the Atlantic to our shores while thousands of Chinese, Japanese, and other Asians entered our western parts. Two additional groups of Americans were also immigrants: Negro slaves from Africa and our pioneer ancestors who settled the colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. With the exception of the American Indians who brought their own culture into an empty land, all these immigrants shared a common experience: they were uprooted from one way of life and forced to adopt another. The seventeenth-century farmer left the settled English countryside for the danger and opportunity of free land on the edge of raw wilderness. The nineteenth-century peasant from Ireland or Italy left his familiar village for the strange streets of a vast new city. Today Americans migrate within our country. Thousands of people move each year from farms in the South to take factory jobs in Chicago, New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, or other large cities. The experience of growing up in one culture and moving to another tie the Americans and millions of their ancestors together.

1. The Pilgrims

In 1607, a band of Englishmen left the small town of Scrooby to settle in the Netherlands. They objected to the Anglican church, the official church in England, in which they were supposed to worship. Like many other English men, they were “Dissenters”, a term applied to those who disagreed with one or more of the principle or practices of the Anglican Church. Because they wanted to separate from the Anglican Church and establish their own congregation, they were also sometimes called “Separatists” Hoping to establish a new life in keeping with their religious principles, they settled in Leyden, Holland. In 1620, some of these same people and their descendants took to ships again, heading for Virginia on a small vessel called the “Mayflower“. Eventually, after a harrowing passage, they landed just south of present-day Bostan in a place which they called Plymouth”. Those early immigrants were called “Pilgrims”, from the name which their great leader, William Bradford, gave them in his journal. He became governor of Plymouth colony.

2. Other Settlers

Society in seventeenth-century England was changing rapidly. Swept along by the wave of religious reform which began in Germany with Martin Luther early in the sixteenth century, England was divided among supporters of the Anglican church, a number of Dissenters, and some Catholics. These three groups all competed for control of the government and tended to persecute each other when they were in power.

Moreover, the economy was undergoing fundamental changes. In the past, most Englishmen had lived on manors, large agricultural holdings controlled by a lord and worked by a number of peasants, each of who farmed small plots of land scattered about the estate. Late in the Middle Ages lords began to enclose all the lands of a manor with fences in order to establish large farms or to graze sheep for the increasingly profitable wool industry. Here a large number of peasants were forced off the land to find jobs in trade handicrafts or to join the ranks of the unemployed.

Finally, intense political rivalry broke out. The Tudor monarchs, like Queen Elizabeth, had learned to get along with the elected members of Parliament. However, their successors, the Stuart kings, who came to the throne in 1603, were determined to rule as they saw sit. They began to do things without the consent of parliament and eventually to do as they wished even in the face of Parliamentary opposition. In the midst of this turmoil religious economic, and political the New World colonies were born.

Many Americans have been taught that New World ancestors came to the New World only to seek religious freedom. One of the issues involved is whether all of the New England settlers were members of religious groups like the ones which settled Plymouth and Boston. Another is whether the “Puritans” – Dissenters who wished to “purify” the Anglican Church of some practices which resembled Catholicism came to Massachusetts Bay for religious reasons alone.

3. Criteria of Colonization

The discovery, exploration, and settlement of America grew out of centuries of European history. No one event and no single trend can explain these dramatic developments. Instead of growing from a single cause, the discovery and settlement of America resulted from four closely related movements which together triggered the expansion of Europe and filled the oceans of the world wit’ European ships.

The first of this development, an economic revival, began during the tenth century. In the centuries following the collapse of the Roman Empire the people of Europe had come to live on isolated, self-sufficient manors. Then the Italian cities began to increase their trade with the Far East. As merchants pushed to India and China and Europeans began to demand their goods, a vigorous international trade developed Cities grew up as trading and manufacturing centres. Stories of new lands, often circulated by Crusaders who had fought to free the Holy Land from the Turks, stirred interest in travel and trade.

The economic revival led to voyages of discovery and colonization in a number of ways. It stirred men’s desires for new products from the Far East and have encouraged them to look for new routes around Africa or across the Atlantic. It displaced many men from their traditional role in the economy. Former serfs or free peasants, driven from the countryside when owners of manors turned their estates into more efficient large farms or sheep runs, moved to the cities, where they flooded the labor market. These extra workers could be turned into colonists. The industry began to develop and with it came an increased demand for raw material which colonics could satisfy. Moreover, the Companies formed to carry on trade with the Far East, or later with the American Colonics, developed ways to raise large sums of money to finance colonies and worked out methods of governing new colonies while they were being established All these developments growing out of economic revival contributed to the discovery and settlement of America.

The Renaissance also played an important role. Beginning in the fourteenth century, men turned their attention increasingly from thoughts of religion which had dominated the lives of medieval men, to secular concerns of the world around them. Some men of the Renaissance gained distinction as non – religious painters, architects, sculptors or writers. Others developed new maps and charts and invented the navigational instruments essential to later voyages of discovery. They also perfected fast new ships capable of sailing in the direction from which the wind was blowing Renaissance scholars, and explorers also spurred interest in new lands, leading to the discovery of a new route around Africa to the East Indies and eventually to the discovery of America.

During and immediately after the Renaissance, further, development helped to prepare Europe for its American adventures. This development was the growth of the five nation-states which did most of the exploring and settling: Portugal, Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands. Stretched along the coast of the Atlantic, these states sought new routes to the Indices, partly so that they might compete for trade with the Italians based in the Mediterranean. These unified nations sometimes provided government funds to finance voyages. A spirit of a national rivalry which grew up among them spurred some explorers and colonists to greater efforts. In part, the rush to find a Northwest Passage through the Americas developed because, England, France, and the Netherlands wanted routes to the Far East which were under their own control. Practically every promoter of colonies mentioned national rivalry as one of the motives which he thought should drive his country’s citizens to colonize.

Finally, the development of the protestant reformation and of the Catholic Reformation which accompanied it, helped to contribute to the settlement of the Americas. Early in the sixteenth century, a movement to reform the Catholic church, led by such men as Martin Luther and John Calvin, resulted in the establishment of many Protestant churches. Religious wars and religious persecution followed. To escape these ills a large number of Europeans left their homes, seeking religious freedom elsewhere. Many of them came to the Americas where they settled largely in New England and the Middle Colonies. In the meantime, Catholic explorers and missionaries also came to the New World. They played key roles in the exploration and settlement of both Canada and Latin America.

4. Process of Settlements

1. Portugal

Although the five exploring and colonizing nations Portugal, Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands — were influenced by these four developments, they entered the race for colonies at different times and for somewhat different reasons. Portugal was first. The most westerly of the five nations, its long coastline beckoned its people to the sea. For centuries foreign sailors had crowded its ports. A wealthy king ruled Portugal, a nation united since the (thirteenth) century.

During the fifteenth century, Prince Henry the Navigator (1394)1460) rallied the resources of the Portuguese crown to push exploration. Prince Henry was anxious to find the legendary Christian kingdom of Prester John, a kingdom supposedly located somewhere in the middle of the African continent. Also, as an ardent student of science, he wanted to develop new navigational instruments and to extend the boundaries of knowledge of geography. Finally, Prince Henry was a practical businessman interested in trade. All these interests and motives helped to whet his appetite for voyages of exploration down the coast of Africa.

Year after year, his sailors pushed back the boundary of the unknown seas. They rediscovered the Maderia Islands and the Azores islands, sailed down the coast and found the Cape Verde islands before Henry’s death. In 1488, Bartholomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope in search of the kingdom of Prester John, only to be turned back by his religious crew. Ten years later, Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape and sailed all the way to Calicut, in India, returning to Portugal with a rich cargo of spice and precious stones.

At this time, Portugal was a tiny nation with a small population made up largely of farmers, fishermen, and sailors. Since the Protestant Reformation never reached it, no religious dissension drove some of its peoples abroad. Nor did fundamental economic changes reach its farms and villages until well after the period of colonization. Moreover, its energies were devoted to exploiting the ready wealth of the East Indies. Although one of its captains, Pedro Cabral, stumbled upon Brazil in 1500 when his fleet was driven westward before a storm, Portugal lacked the resources to enter the contest for American colonies. Its influences in the New World never extended beyond Brazil, whose people still speak the language of the Portuguese captains who landed on her shores.

2. Spain

The Spanish had a larger role in colonizing the Americas. Before 1450, five distinct kingdoms, including Portugal, existed on the Iberian Peninsula. The population was divided among Christians Jews and Muslims. Each king found his authority challenged by great nobles and by independent military organizations designed originally to fight the Muslims. By 1450, some of these organizations had become more powerful than the kings. In the next sixty years, however, four of the five kingdoms were united under the joint monarchy of Ferdinand of Aragon and his wife Isabella of Castile. Together these two monarchs broke the strength of the nobles, organized a powerful central government, established Catholicism as the state religion, set up the Inquisition to see that all jews and Muslims had either become genuine converts to Catholicism or had left the country, took over the military organizations, and filled the royal coffers with money. For a country thereafter Spain was the most powerful state in Europe.

It also dominated the Americas. Starting with the four voyages of Columbus, its soldiers and sailors opened up all the Americas from Florida to Cape Horn. Bent everywhere on the pursuit of gold and the extension of Christianity, the Spanish conquerors subjected the Indians and sent vast fortunes back to the homeland. But the Spanish Colonies turned out to be very different from the English settlements that appeared later to the north. The motives of their settlers and the resources of the home country account for some of these differences.

Like Portugal, Spain was thinly populated. Moreover, many of its best merchants and artisans were driven out of the country after 1492 because they were Jews or Muslims. But the countryside was filled with thousands of restless men, sons of petty nobles, without estates and with slim hopes for the future. Spain obtained its soldiers and settlers from among these men. Captains recruited them formed them into armies, and conquered not only much of Europe but also most of the Americas. Hence, the Spanish could spread only a thin population over the lands they conquered. They were never able to export their society wholesale since they emigrated as conquerors in small numbers and left their women at home. The population in Spain remained stationary. Spain’s natural resources were limited, its commerce fell into the hands of foreigners — particularly after the jews and Muslims were expelled — and its kings wasted their money in a long series of costly wars. Spain’s American colonies became sources of gold and silver for the king and of free land which allowed displaced aristocrats to recover their fortunes.

Along with the soldiers went a host of priests who intended to Christianize the natives and bring them within the fold of the Catholic Church. More than any other country in Europe, Spain succeeded in reforming the Catholic Church. Beginning in the late fifteenth century, the Spaniards proceeded to put an end to one abuse after another. Missionary zeal matched the efforts to reform. All over the Americas, Catholic priests from Spain explored the country, ministered to settlers, and converted the natives. But since the priests came primarily as missionaries and as members of religious orders who could not marry, they did not build settlements of people of European origin like those which Protestant ministers and their congregations established in English-speaking colonies further to the north.

3. France

France entered the race for colonies in the seventeenth century. United by mid-century under a powerful monarch (Louis XIV) and having a growing economy, France was developing into the most powerful nation in Europe. The voyages of North America sponsored by the king and by trading companies were undertaken to find a Northwest Passage through the Americas to the Far East. When the French, discovered the wealth of the fur trade, & few restless souls settled in Canada, in particular along the banks of the St. Lawrence River, where they established trading posts.

But no hosts of dispossessed peoples, ready to settle, populated France. French farmers remained secure on their lands and artisans could find plenty of work in growing crafts and industries. The one group which might have formed the bases of settlements. French Protestants called “Huguenots”, were forbidden by Catholic monarchs to live in France’s colonies abroad. Hence the French colonies, like the Spanish, were lightly settled largely by single men who took Indian girls for wives and made their living in the fur trade.

4. The Netherlands

The Dutch, who became Protestants in the sixteenth century, fought long and costly wars against the Spanish Catholics who ruled them. Eventually, they drove out the Spanish and established a republic. Their economy was based on trade with Europe and the Far East. Since Holland’s small population was occupied with far-flung trading and manufacturing enterprises, few Dutchmen wanted to emigrate with their families to the New World. After Henry Hudson sailed up the Hudson River early in the seventeenth century, a few Dutch traders established posts from Manhattan Island to Albany, but only a few thousand settlers followed. Religious toleration at home, combined with an industry which was developing and which absorbed the labor supply, limited the number of potential settlers. In the 1660s, when England and the Netherlands were at war, the Dutch Colonies were conquered by the English, and Dutch colonizing ended in North America.

5. England

Seventeenth-century England was in the midst of economic and social changes which had a marked effect upon the. American colonies. The manorial system began to break down as lords enclosed their lands. Uprooted from the soil of their ancestors, farmers flocked to the cities. By 1680, London alone counted 5,00,000 souls out of a total English population of 5,00,000. These footloose men flocked the labor market. Cast adrift in society, thousands of them looked across the wide Atlantic for the opportunity.

So did many of the wealthy. Some wanted grants of land to establish themselves in the new World as gentry. Others wanted to trade. They had learned to form joint-stock companies in which a number of investors bought- shares of stock and, as a result, obtained a vote in company decisions. The new World seemed to offer a fertile ground for profit for these companies. Both the pilgrims and the puritans were sent out by joint-stock companies. The charter under which the companies governed themselves provided for control by a governor and a group of assistants elected by the stock-holders. Eventually, several charters were turned into governments.

Seventeenth-Century England was racked with religious dissension. The Tudor king, Henry VIII, had swept his country into the Protestant Camp in 1539 when he established the Anglican Church. But not all Englishmen followed Henry in his beliefs. A small cluster of faithful Catholics continued to worship in their own way. Several Protestant groups urged the Anglican Church to rid itself of the remnants of Catholic practice and belief. As persecution of one group by another mounted, Protestant groups like the Puritans and Separatists decided to settle in New England which Catholics and Quakers moved to the Middle Colonies.

All these changes buffeted the men of seventeenth-century England simultaneously. No one lived in such isolation that only religious dissent or economic change touched his life. The documents which the New England settlers have left behind indicate the complexity of their motives for emigrating to the New World. For the puritans, the desire to form a Bible Commonwealth provided a clearly dominant motive. As we have seen, even John Winthrop mentioned, as secondary motives for emigration, the economic, political and social changes which were sweeping his homeland. The entire movement leading to the discovery, exploration and settlement of America illustrate the general rule that major developments in history arise from a number of complex causes rather than from a single cause or from the influence of a single man.

Democratic values and democratic institutions came into being after the acceptance of Magna Carta by the British monarchs which gradually developed with the passage of time. Englishmen who emigrated to America took with them their belief in the supremacy of law, their devotion to political institutions in which they were represented their adherence to the Common Law, and their unstated assumption that the rich and powerful should influence political affairs the most. As English Colonists traveled across the Atlantic, they took with them many additional beliefs and practices from their homeland, among them the belief that men are born to a certain station, or position in society, and must be content to remain in that station. This belief, however, was not so firmly embedded in the minds of Englishmen that it could not be changed with changing circumstances. As a new economy had developed in England, some men had risen in society while others had fallen. The new life in America encouraged this sort of social mobility. Englishmen believed too in hard work, and even the aristocrats were unashamed to enter the business, an ethic which helped to shape the American economic system. The English Protestants who made up the majority of seventeenth-century colonists believed firmly in education could read his own Bible. And finally, their strong Community spirit led them to expect to settle to congregations which could govern themselves and regulate the lives of the settlers.

6. Africa

As the Portuguese sailed down the coast of Africa in the mid-fifties century, they began to purchase slaves and to send them back to the homeland. Soon all the major colonizing countries entered the slave trade. It focussed in West Africa, particularly on the southern coast of the great bulge of the sub-continent where the Negro population was concentrated in the tropical rain forests and in the grasslands further inland toward the Sahara. These people fell easy prey to the advanced technology of the Europeans. In previous eras, great kingdoms had grown up in this area of Africa. Slowly, under the attacks of Arabs from the north, they decayed. By the fifteenth century, the kingdoms along the coast had broken up into small tribes unable to offer much resistance to European invaders. The Portuguese, along with other Europeans who followed, began to offer to trade well unobtainable there in exchange for slaves needed to work in the new World. The men and women who were bought and shipped to America became the ancestors of the present Negro population in the United States.

Negroes from this part of Africa had for centuries lived in villages. Most of them made their livings as farmers. They were also excellent · artisans accustomed to the idea of division of labor and to buying and selling goods in a market. Many of them owned slaves of their own; all knew about the institution of slavery lay in the hands of the gods. “Even their religion – a belief in a supreme god and his messenger who could change the fate of mortals — resembled the idea of the Christian God and his Son, Jesus Christ. This cultural heritage — the Africans patterns of living and their beliefs was an important factor in the Negroes’ adaptation to the culture of the plantation system in America.

7. Original inhabitants – Indians

No one knows how many indians once lived in the area that is now the United States. Historian? estimates of the Indian population at the beginning of European exploration range from a low 840,000 to a high of 12 million. The Indians are made up of hundreds of tribes, many with separate languages. Variations in climate, land, and resources affected tribal lifestyles.

Some tribes, like the Hope and Zuni, were primarily agricultural. Others, including the Shoshone, gathered plants seeds, and roots and caught small animals for food. Many of the northeastern tribes farmed, hunted, and fished. In the Pacific Northwest, where fish were plentiful, there was little need to practice agriculture, for the rivers, lakes and ocean held plenty of food.

Social and political organization varied. Among the Hope and Zuni, for examples, families were organized into clans. Relationships were traced through the women, who owned the crops and houses. Political activities were directed by male religious leaders.

Perhaps the most far-reaching Indian political organization was the league of the Iroquois, composed of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora tribes. In these Six Nations, political powers rested with the female leaders of “Ohwachiras”, groups of related families. These women appointed men as delegates to the ruling council of the League. The league Council did not interfere in a tribe’s internal affairs, but it did intervene in serious disagreements among tribes. The Six Nations sometimes United against common enemies.

All of North American tribes were greatly affected by European and African immigration. By the nineteenth century, Europeans called the “Choctaw”, “Chickasaw”, “Creek”, “Cherokee”, and “Seminole” the “Five Civilized Tribes” because their culture reflected the European notions of “civilization”. Most Indians valued some of the introduction valued some of the introductions from the old World, including iron tools, horses, oxen, and guns. But with these additions and others, indian cultures lost some of their unique qualities.

Geographical Scenario and Particular Environment

As to the American environment which posed challenges to the newcomers, it seems appropriate to have a brief survey.

Three features of the New World assumed important roles in the development of the colonies. The first was the natural environment. to the far north, Canada stood cold and inhospitable except to the fur traders and trappers who exploited its animals. In southern Canada and throughout the new England and Middle Colonies, winters were harsh and the land rocky; but soil, rainfall and temperature were suited to agriculture. Here, any industrious farmer could make a good living. Most of the land was covered with trees which could provide masts, lumber, pitch, and tar for sale in England. The forst – product industries encouraged shipbuilding and trade.

To the first English settles, America was trees. Even before they sighted land, the early voyagers to the colonies could sometimes smell the fresh forest scent. When they stepped ashore, they entered a land with rich and seemingly endless resources. The good soil minerals and inland waterways had barely been touched. The forests and waters teemed with animal life. The land had a long growing season and good rainfall.

The Indians, scattered but numerous at the start of colonization, were soon decimated by European diseases and by battles. Many bands had cleared patches of land where they cultivated a variety of Crops, including corn, beans, squash, and tobacco. Indian farming techniques were soon copied by the colonists.

First the indians cleared the land by girdling or cutting the trees and burning the underbrush. Then they planted seeds between the stumps in soil enriched by the ash. Some tribes — and some colonists — would use fish as fertilizer, but often the land went unfertilized. The colonists also neglected the European practice of planting clover to enrich the soil.

Though the colonists borrowed the indian’s farming techniques, they retained European notions of land ownership. Unlike the indians, who would use a patch of land for a few years and then move on to another patch, the colonists stayed out. Once they had cleared an area, they viewed it as their own. they did not give up this land but worked a field again after allowing it to be fallow. To make up for the low yield from overworked fields, they acquired more land. The colonists had draft animals like horses and oxen and thus were able to farm extensively.

The territory that later became the United States included almost two billion acres, nearly half of it in forest. The same colonists who were awed when they first saw the forest soon came to regard it with less friendly eyes. The forest held animals that would prey on their livestock it also concealed the whereabouts of indians. Moreover, England needed timber, for its woods were almost depleted. Thus the colonial period was one in which the forest receded under the relentless fall of the axe.

The rich fishing and whaling waters off the coast furnished the basis for another industry. These resources provided the foundation for a diversified economy in which farming, manufacturing, and trade all played their parts. Such an economy demanded skilled workers who could turn their hands to many tasks.

The southern part of what is now the United States, the islands of the Caribbean, and much of the northern half of South America were warm throughout the year. In many of these areas, rich soil and plentiful rainfall encouraged the production of staple crops like sugar, tobacco, indigo or cotton. All these crops required large numbers of labourers, and their cultivation did not demand the variety of skills essential to success in the North. Hence the natural environment of the southern areas encouraged the use of slaves who did not have to be trained in a variety of skills new to them.

The presence of indians represented a second feature of the American environment which played an important role in the development of the colonies. All the American Indians migrated across the Bering Straits from Siberia perhaps 25,000 years ago and then dispersed over the entire continent over a period of many centuries. Despite their common origins, those indians northern of the Rio Grande differed radically from Indians in Central and South America.

Since their emigration across the Bering Straits, the stone-age cultures of the indians of North America had shown little change. Neither their primitive tribal organization which permitted the whites to play one tribe off against another nor their crude bows and arrows could match disciplined Europeans armed with muskets. If indians of the north got in the way of colonists, the Europeans could either push them further west or kill them.

Most of the indian men were hunters and warriors, accustomed to moving from place to place. They looked upon farming as Squaw’s work, they preferred death to slavery. When taken as slaves, they soon ran away or died. Nevertheless, despite their primitive culture, they taught the whites many skills, including methods of raising new crops such as corn and tobacco, and of trapping fur-bearing animals from the lakes and streams.

South and Central America, on the other hand, were homes of several advanced indian civilizations. Unlike their relatives of North America, these indians had become farmers who built large cities and complex cultures. However, since they had not learned to smelt iron, had never invented the wheel, and had no horses, they were helpless in the face of European soldiers mounted on horses covered with armour, and carrying guns and swords. The Spanish captured them easily, carried off their gold and silver and forced many to labour in the mines and on the plantations.

But these indians were too numerous to exterminate and too settled to be pushed out of the way. Spanish soldiers took indian women as wives, and soon Spaniard, Indian and Negro inter-married to form the basis for racially mixed nations of Latin America Traces of preColumbian indian civilizations dot the face of Latin America, they have disappeared almost completely from the area month of the Rio Grande.

Thus, the physical terrain and the type of indians, encountered north of the Rio Grande differed markedly from the terrain and indians to the south. These differences combined with the differences in the types of settlers who came to the north and to the south to create vastly dissimilar kinds of settlements in the two areas.

A third feature of the American environment is more difficult to define. In one sense, that feature was space: land free for the taking, a vast wilderness waiting for the plow. In another sense it was distance: the thousands of miles separating the colonists from the source of authority and from the band of custom in Europe. Extensive lands meant that a son need not, from fear of disinheritance obey his father, for he could obtain land of his own. It meant too that a king might reward his servants with generous grants of land, even though eventually such gifts might, by 19 making men rich, tend to encourage independence from European control. Both long distances and slow communications forced colonial rulers to make a decision without consulting the home government, and colonists who grew up in the sight of the forest and never saw the mother country became more and more inclined to make their own decisions. In addition, the harsh conditions of the new land required new type of decisions about different issues than those which occupied the days of European legislators. Taken together, the rich natural resources, the presence of the indians, and the stretch of free land on ocean removed from Europe played key roles in the process of americanizing the European, Briefly other nations, among them England, challenged the Spanish claim to a monopoly of the New World. Because of its success, England rather then Spain, was to be the “mother country” of the United States.

Ahmad Ali

My Name is Ahmad Ali.

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