A Surprising Account of the Origins of Most Americans
From a broad perspective, the people of America were motivated by the love of liberty and economic opportunity. During the seventeenth century, the people of the Old World brewed dissatisfaction with the " old ways." Since Martin Luther presented his ideas of religious freedom, an awakening enlightened Europeans with a yearning to cast off the oppressive control of the state church and its orthodox power. Rumors of virgin land in the English colonies attracted true adventurers and idealists. We should acknowledge the part that James Edward Oglethorpe played in such a resurrection after discovering that an artist friend had been cast into Fleet Prison for failure to pay his debts and died there from exposure from a cellmate having a contagious disease.
Oglethorpe wrote pamphlets and articles and distributed them in the streets of London. The cause of Oglethorpe resulted in several religious migrations into Georgia.
Meanwhile, Louis XIV would not allow Huguenots to settle in New France. Spain barred foreigners from her colonies, and even the Spaniards might only go there with a permit from the Crown. For nearly three centuries, the Inquisition in Mexico put to death only forty-one unreconciled heretics, a number surpassed in some single days (in Spain)" during the reign of Philip II. Is it any wonder that Spanish-American history shows men swayed by greed, ambition, pride, or fanaticism but rarely by a moral ideal? The struggle to exist in the colonies was surmised as " When you empty a barrel of fish fry into a new stream, there is a sudden sharpening of their struggle for existence. So, when people submit themselves to extraordinary conditions of life, death whets his scythe, and those who survive are a new kind of offittest."
Probably no stock ever came here so gifted and prepotent as the French Huguenots. Although only a few thousand immigrated, their descendants furnished 589 of the fourteen thousand and more Americans deemed worthy of a place in AppletonsCyclopedia of American Biography. When the census was taken in 1790, only one-half of one percent of Americans bore a French name, yet this element contributed 4.2 percent of the eminent names in our history, or eight times their due quota. Similarly, compared to the Puritans and the Quakers, the Huguenots were of an element that met the test of fire and made supreme sacrifices for the sake of the conscience. They had the same affinity for ideals and the same tenacity of character as the founders of New England. Yet, their French blood delivered a unique fervor or sensibility and an artistic endowment. This study stock of immigrants presented themselves worthy of their place when, during the early times of settlement, it was not unusual for parties to walk from New Rochelle to church in lower New York, a distance of twenty-three miles. As a rule, they walked this distance with bare feet, carrying their shoes.
When seeking settlers for his new colony in America, William Penn gained much publicity for it in Germany, where he had a wide acquaintance. The German Pietists responded at once, and a stream of select families mingled with the English Quakers who founded the City of Brotherly Love. The first Germans to come were well-to-do people. Nearly all had sufficient money left after paying their passage to purchase land. And by 1710, a veritable furor arose in parts of Germany to reach the New World. The people dwelling in the ravaged Palatinate became agitated over the lure of America, and ship after ship breasted the Delaware River filled with Palatines, Hanoverians, Saxons, Austrians, and Swiss. The cost of passage from the upper Rhine was high; however, despite that, many needy Germans got over the barrier by contracting with the shipowner to sell themselves into servitude for a term of years. These were " redemptioners." Their service was commonly for four to six years. The same situation occurred with many immigrants to Virginia, but they were called " indentures." Before the Revolutionary War, at least 60,000 Germans had debarked at Philadelphia, to say nothing of the thousands who settled in the South. Although not without a sectarian background, this significant immigration bears an economic impress. The virtues of the Germans were the economic virtues; invariably, they were quiet, industrious, and thrifty. Candler's Colonial Records of Georgia are replete with this sort of explanation of the emigrants to Ebenezer.Scotch-Irish
The flailing of the clans after the first Jacobite Insurrection of 1745 motivated Scottish Highlanders to seek homes in America, a migration that took them some 20,000 people first to Pennsylvania and North Carolina and ultimately to South Carolina and Georgia. But most of our Scottish blood came by way of Ireland. Early in the eighteenth century, the discrimination of Parliament against the woolen industry of Ireland and Presbyterianism provoked the most significant immigration that occurred before the American Revolutionary War. The Ulster Presbyterians, descended from Scotsmen and English, had been induced between 1610 and 1618 to settle in the north of Ireland and were, in Macaulay's judgment, " as a class, superior to the average of the people left behind them." At the beginning of this outflow, Ulster had less illiteracy than anywhere else. Entire congregations came, each headed by its pastor. " The whole North is in a ferment," lamented an Irish archbishop in 1728. " It looks as if Ireland were to send all her inhabitants hither," complained the governor of Pennsylvania. On the eve of the revolution, about 200,000 came and constituted one-sixth of the whole population of the colonies. They were the true frontiersmen and bore the brunt of the warfare with the savage. The Quakers and Germans of Pennsylvania were left undisturbed to live up to their ideals of peace and non-resistance. In eminence, the lead of the Scotch-Irish has been in government, exploration, and war; however, it had little to offer in art and music. Their prowess and skilled guerrilla warfare prompted James Edward Oglethorpe to select Highlanders from the Isle of Skye to fight his war with Spain in the colony of Georgia. The outstanding trait of the Scotch-Irish was well. No other element was so masterful and contentious. In a petition directed against their immigration, the Quakers characterized them as a " pernicious and pugnacious people" who " absolutely want to control the province themselves." The stubbornness of their character is probably responsible for the unprecedented losses in the battles of our Civil War. They fought not only the Indians but also the British in two wars and were at the front rank in the conquest of the West. " More than any other stock has this tough, gritty breed, so lacking in poetry and sensibility, molded our national character."
Source: The Old World in the New by Ross