The first century of American independence saw great population growth, particularly from the new immigration of Germans and Irish, as the federal government gradually developed a coherent national immigration policy.
During the nineteenth century, the U.S. government began collecting statistical information on immigration and took its first steps toward formulating a national immigration policy. Although immigration did not attain the levels it would reach toward the end of that century, economic opportunities in the new nation and problems in other countries attracted many immigrants who settled new regions and helped build the country’s infrastructure.
Until the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the new federal government was content to leave control over immigration policy to the individual
Congress did not move to impose federal controls over entry into the country until the second half of the nineteenth century. Several of the earliest federal immigration laws were directed against Chinese immigrants, who had begun arriving in the United States in significant numbers during the 1850’s. These Asian immigrants came to be seen as
Meanwhile, the first attempt to centralize control of immigration in general in the hands of the federal government came in 1864 with a law that authorized the president to appoint an immigration commissioner under the secretary of state. That law established provisions for contracts in which immigrants could be bound to use their wages to pay off the cost of their transportation to the United States. That law was repealed in 1868.
In 1875, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that
The earliest decades of the new nation saw relatively little new immigration. During the 1780’s, while the nation was governed under the
During that same period, the same political conditions that made leaving European more difficult also motivated some Europeans to emigrate. For example, during the 1790’s, English radicals and Irish opposed to English rule fled their homelands to America. The
The year 1820 is the first year for which detailed immigration statistics for the United States are available, thanks to the
The rate of immigration quadrupled during the 1830’s, from a total of 143,439 arrivals between 1821 and 1830 to 599,125 between 1831 and 1840. New immigrants came from a wide variety of European countries, but most of the 1830’s expansion was driven by a dramatic growth in arrivals from Ireland (207,381) and Germany (152,454). New arrivals jumped suddenly from 22,633 in 1831 to 60,482 in 1832 and continued at levels roughly equal to that of 1832 through the rest of the decade.
The 1840’s saw yet another surge in the tide from Europe, with 1,713,251 newcomers reaching U.S. shores from 1841 to 1850. This figure was almost triple that of the 1830’s and twelve times that of the 1820’s. Once again, the most important sources of new immigrants were Ireland (780,719 people) and
At the approach of the mid-nineteenth century, some immigrants were drawn by the availability of land in the vast reaches of North America. Economic development also offered opportunities beyond agriculture for newcomers. Industrialization created jobs in mills and as manual laborers in cities. The expansion of
Economic hardships and political disorders in the sending countries also helped stimulate emigration to the United States. The most significant event was the
By the middle of the nineteenth century, first-generation immigrants made up one-tenth of the total population of the United States. The 1850
New York State
Many of the immigrants in both Louisiana and neighboring Texas in 1850 were Germans, who had entered the United States through New Orleans. Of the one in ten Texans who were foreign born at midcentury, over two-thirds came from Germany. These German Texans settled chiefly in the southeastern part of the state.
Most of the southern slave-holding states had low rates of immigration during the first half of the nineteenth century. The
Immigration continued to climb through much of the third quarter of the century, with people from Germany and Ireland making up most of the new arrivals. For the first time, though, immigrants from China, pushed by political and economic problems in the home country and by opportunities created by the California gold rush and jobs on a railroad that was expanding across the country, began to enter the United States in significant numbers. From 1841 to 1850, only thirty-five newcomers to the United States came from
As the nation faced and entered
The Civil War was enormously destructive, but it also helped to stimulate the national economy and to push the nation toward more industrialization. In 1869,
The railroads encouraged settlement of the farmlands of the Midwest and made possible the shipment of crops to the spreading cities. Scandinavians were among the immigrant groups that arrived to plow the newly accessible lands. Minnesota
Editorial cartoon from a late nineteenth century California newspaper expressing the fear that the United States would be overwhelmed by foreign immigrants–particularly the Irish and Chinese immigrants caricatured in the cartoon.
As the nation entered the 1880’s, it entered into a remarkable period of economic expansion that would make the United States into one of the world’s greatest industrial powers by the time of World War I (1914-1918). It also began a dramatic rise in immigration as part of this economic expansion. Numbers of immigrants increased from 2,812,191 in the decade 1871 to 1880 to 5,246,613 from 1881 to 1890, in spite of the exclusion of Chinese immigrants following 1882. Sources of immigration also began to shift, from the northern and western European countries to southern and eastern European countries, so that immigration from Italy grew from 11,725 during the 1860’s to 307,309 during the 1880’s and immigration from Russian and Poland grew from 4,539 to 265,088. The United States was beginning the great immigration wave of the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.
Brancaforte, Charlotte L., ed. The German Forty-eighters in the United States. New York: Peter Lang, 1990. Eighteen essays covering a wide range of topics, including a reappraisal that many of the immigrants were not radicals or revolutionaries. Gleeson, David T. The Irish in the South, 1815-1877. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. One of the few modern studies of southern immigrants. Laxton, Edward. The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America. New York: Henry Holt, 1998. Drawing on research in Ireland and compilations of stories passed down to descendants of Irish immigrants in America, the author tells the histories of Irish immigrants during the years of the great potato famine. Mahin, Dean B. The Blessed Place of Freedom: Europeans in Civil War America. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2003. Comprehensive examination of the views of European immigrants and visitors on America during the U.S. Civil War and of their participation on both sides in the fighting. Silverman, Jason H., and Susan R. Silverman. Immigration in the American South, 1864-1895. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2006. Account of southern efforts to market the region to prospective immigrants. Van Vugt, William E. Britain to America: Mid-Nineteenth Century Immigrants to America. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1999. Offers a portrait of immigration from the islands of Great Britain to the United States from 1820 to 1860. Weaver, John C. The Great Land Rush and the Making of the Modern World, 1650-1900. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003. General work on how European colonization of other lands transformed the world economy and society.
California gold rush
Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
Great Irish Famine
History of immigration, 1620-1783
Immigration Act of 1882
Philadelphia anti-Irish riots