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” (p. 90). The new nation of the portrayed diverse culture and ethnic identity, which signifies a lack of identification. Recognizing the vital need for a national recognition and citizenship, Americans, 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). America lacked a sense of common ethnicity due to its various ethnicity of her inhabitants. The lack of universal background flouted traditional characteristics of a nation. It felt impossible to attain a collective national recognition by the American due to nonexistence of a shared ethnicity or ancestral land. The American’s persistently endeavored for an identity ignoring the nonexistent common ethnicity.
In the eighteenth century, American’s recognition as a nation and defined citizenship was birth in the revolutionary period. Although it did not suit 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 amidst the eighteenth century was dependent on collective ideology as a diverse group of what they stood for and wanted as history. According to Gjerde (1998), in response to the query of an “ideal American Citizen”, the pioneers of the revolution provided “ideological” responses (p. 94). 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 forge an identity erupt the need a defined citizenship and naturalization of foreign inhabitants.
Due to the vast English occupancy in America during the during the eighteenth century, Americans imitated most ideologies from the English, but the English were not as their ethnic identity. (Gjerde,1998, p. 90). The American’s defined naturalization is based on that of the English, however, they adjusted from English definition as they became proficient in their practice and queries. They defined citizenship that ties to their ideology. They classified citizenship and 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. Thus, an alien pledges allegiance to the community that accepts him (Gjerde, 1998, p. 84).
The Naturalization act of 1790 made mention of race, identifying a single race that qualifies for citizenship. The mere mention of a single race gives individuals the fortitude to dwell on race and ethnic prejudice. Hence, serving as a foundation to race and ethnic conflict in the nineteenth century due to its exclusion of Africans and Indians. According to Gjerde (1998), “the principle of citizenship clashed with deep-seated prejudice” (p. 85). As stated vividly in the law, only white race enjoyed such privilege, leaving out any other race.
The young nation through her revolutionary leaders founded a nation based on their ideologies. This new identity based on ideology became a yardstick for other countries. This new identity that is characterized by will power and confers identical right, was unsuccessful to count all persons as equal with its law of naturalization. Therefore, served as a breeding ground for the race and ethnic inequality in the nineteenth century. The disparity failed the ideology of the founders.