How light was immigration soon after the United States became a country? It was only about 6,000 people per year leading up to the war of 1812. However, it’s interesting to note that the reasons people moved from Europe to the US were similar to the reasons of today’s immigrants. They include religious/political freedom, job opportunities, and better quality of life.
It’s interesting that the War of 1812 that took place between the US and England slowed down immigration even more. However, that changed when immigration started again in 1814. Immigration sky-rocketed from Western Europe and the countries of Great Britain and Ireland. It was a tough journey and many of the new immigrants were sick or dying when they arrived in the US due to the difficult journey.
By the early 1800s, the Industrial Revolution had started and the slave trade was ending. The US push westward due to the belief of “Manifest Destiny” provided work for thousands of immigrants on the trans-continental railroad. They settled in the cities that were included in the network of train tracks. More immigrants also moved to the US from Asia and Europe after learning about the California Gold Rush. It not only provided an opportunity for work but also to become wealthy.
Many of the new immigrants dreamed of a better life in the US. However, almost all Irish immigrants moved from the 1840s/1850s moved to the US due to the Irish potato famine. The event known as the “Great Hunger” resulted in 1.5 million deaths.
Many other Europeans immigrated to the US due to issues like industrialization. They affected people like artists and peasants. The immigrants arrived at different ports like Boston, San Francisco, and New Orleans.
During this era, there were anti-immigration and pro-immigration groups in the US. Immigration received the most support when the US economy was strong but was opposed greatly when the economy slowed down. For example, pro-immigration groups argued that newcomers increased the US’ resources, wealth, and power so it should be supported.
Immigration increased by the 1880s since steam-powered ships had made crossing large bodies of water significantly faster. This resulted in people traveling to the US from regions like Southern/Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Canada. The largest immigrant groups were from Europe during this time.
During this era, Ellis Island became a symbol of US immigration. There are many accounts bout the many people who were processed at the US port. Families often traveled together during this time period. However, young men were usually the first family members who found work. Some requested their wives, kids, and siblings to move to the US with them. Others returned to their home countries with the earnings they saved.
Meanwhile, the US also discriminated against Asian immigrants during this period. It passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 that greatly limited immigration from China. In addition, the country’s “Gentleman’s Agreement” with Japan (1907) was hostile towards Asian workers and their families. Many Japanese immigrants were unable to get past the US port of San Francisco Bay.