History of Immigrants in America

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The significant inflow of immigrant throughout the globe in the new world, America resulted in a diverse population; mainly from Europe and Africa.  “According to Gjerde (1998), among the 3,929,000 population in the census of 1790, forty eight percent English, twenty percent African and the remaining percentage from diverse parts of part of the world which include Spain, Irish, French, Dutch, Scottish and German” (Gjerde, 1998, p. 90). This composition of the population meant diverse culture and ethnic identity, signifies a lack of in such sense. Identifying the vital need for a defined national Identity and citizenship, Americans therefore, forged a national identity during the eighteenth century.

According to Gjerde (1998), “A nation was then regarded as the sum, and therefore as the custodian and the captive, of its parochial past” (p. 92). Before the eighteenth century, the new world, America lacked a sense of shared background due to its diverse population. The lack of universal background defied traditional definition of a nation. The lack of ethnic background or ancestral land disputed an attainment of a collective national recognition by  the American.  The American’s persistently strived for an identity regardless of their diverse background.

In the eighteenth century, American’s recognition as a nation and defined citizenship was birth in the revolutionary period. Although it did not conform to the mutual definition, a conjoint ideology of what they stand for, emerged as they strive to attain a national. A cohesive association was formed through which they created a “nation-state” notwithstanding anything other “than traditional prerequisites for nationhood” (Gjerde, 1998, p. 89). The American nationality during the eighteenth century was dependent on collective ideology as a diverse group of what they stood for and wanted as history. According to Gjerde the founders of the revolution gave ideological answers to the question of an ideal American citizen. They cohesively combined ideas that created a distinct way of life and beliefs independent of any ethnicity by defining “the doctrine of citizen-rule legitimized both the War of Independence and the foundations of the American state.” (Gjerde, 1998, p. 94).

The journey of the Americans to find a national identity emerged the need to define their citizenship and naturalization of immigrants. Due to the large populace of the English in the new world, most ideologies of the American such as language, national identity and judiciary system were of “English root” but the English were not as their ethnic identity. (Gjerde,1998, p. 90). The American, base their characterization of naturalization on that of the English, however, they shifted from English definition through their practice and queried ideas and created one that conforms to their ideology. They described naturalization as a consented contractual connection between the society and the citizen and not “deemed natural, personal and perpetual.” This meant the individual whether alien or native had ties with the society. In the case of an alien, he/she pledge allegiance to the community that accepts him (Gjerde, 1998, p. 84).

The Naturalization act of 1790 specified what race can obtain citizenship. This law serves as a foundation to race and ethnic disparity in the nineteenth century due to its exclusion of Africans and Indians. As described by Gjerde (1998), “the principle of citizenship clashed with deep-seated prejudice” (p. 85). As stated vividly in the law, only white people were included in the law to the privilege to an American citizen and be able to naturalize, leaving out any other race.

This young nation through her revolutionary leaders founded a nation-state based on their ideology which turns out to be a yardstick for other countries as these countries praise the national identity of this young nation. The national identity that is characterized by a willingness and confers equal right failed to count all persons as equal in its law of naturalization, hence, became a breeding ground for the race and ethnic disparity in the nineteenth century. The disparity failed the ideology of the founders.


Gjerde, J. (1998). Major problems in American immigration and ethnic history: Documents and essays. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Cite this paper

History of Immigrants in America. (2020, Aug 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/history-of-immigrants-in-america/

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