Immigration History

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Immigration History


Religious tolerance, economic opportunity, political freedom, forced immigration (Slavery


Northern and Western Europeans

Africans - Slaves: There were about 500,000 African Americans here by the time of the American Revolution.

New England - English (Puritans)

Middle Colonies - Quakers, Dutch, Germans, Scotch-Irish, Swedes, etc. – very diverse

Southern Colonies – English Protestants (Catholics in Maryland), Scotch-Irish, indentured servants, slaves


There were really no efforts to keep out immigrants in the 1600-1800's and in general, the presence of newcomers was accepted as yet another facet to America's diversity. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the control over the admission of newcomers was mainly in the hands of the individual colonies. In Virginia, laws encouraged newcomers by giving the "head-right" of 50 acres to each arrival if he/she paid for their own passage or to the master who paid for them. There was also an effort to keep out convicts and other undesirables whom the mother country might which to send to the provinces, except in the case of Georgia. After America's independence, all such restraints on immigration disappeared. The federal government simply regulated the conditions for naturalization. In the case of slaves, they were imported mostly through Charleston, but sold in all of the colonies. After statehood was achieved during the Revolution, some states abolished slavery in their state Constitutions.



The Alien and Sedition Acts permitted the President to deport any foreigner deemed to be dangerous. A revised Naturalization Act imposed a 14-year residency requirement for prospective citizens.  These laws were passed by the Federalists during Adams presidency, and were removed after the Democratic Republicans took office in 1801.

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