History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.

The melting pot had begun its historic mission.


Considered from one side, colonization, whatever the motives of the emigrants, was an economic matter.  It involved the use of capital to pay for their passage, to sustain them on the voyage, and to start them on the way of production.  Under this stern economic necessity, Puritans, Scotch-Irish, Germans, and all were alike laid.

=Immigrants Who Paid Their Own Way.=—­Many of the immigrants to America in colonial days were capitalists themselves, in a small or a large way, and paid their own passage.  What proportion of the colonists were able to finance their voyage across the sea is a matter of pure conjecture.  Undoubtedly a very considerable number could do so, for we can trace the family fortunes of many early settlers.  Henry Cabot Lodge is authority for the statement that “the settlers of New England were drawn from the country gentlemen, small farmers, and yeomanry of the mother country....  Many of the emigrants were men of wealth, as the old lists show, and all of them, with few exceptions, were men of property and good standing.  They did not belong to the classes from which emigration is usually supplied, for they all had a stake in the country they left behind.”  Though it would be interesting to know how accurate this statement is or how applicable to the other colonies, no study has as yet been made to gratify that interest.  For the present it is an unsolved problem just how many of the colonists were able to bear the cost of their own transfer to the New World.

=Indentured Servants.=—­That at least tens of thousands of immigrants were unable to pay for their passage is established beyond the shadow of a doubt by the shipping records that have come down to us.  The great barrier in the way of the poor who wanted to go to America was the cost of the sea voyage.  To overcome this difficulty a plan was worked out whereby shipowners and other persons of means furnished the passage money to immigrants in return for their promise, or bond, to work for a term of years to repay the sum advanced.  This system was called indentured servitude.

It is probable that the number of bond servants exceeded the original twenty thousand Puritans, the yeomen, the Virginia gentlemen, and the Huguenots combined.  All the way down the coast from Massachusetts to Georgia were to be found in the fields, kitchens, and workshops, men, women, and children serving out terms of bondage generally ranging from five to seven years.  In the proprietary colonies the proportion of bond servants was very high.  The Baltimores, Penns, Carterets, and other promoters anxiously sought for workers of every nationality to till their fields, for land without labor was worth no more than land in the moon.  Hence the gates of the proprietary colonies were flung wide open.  Every inducement was offered to immigrants

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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