Immigration is Positive for the USA


I observe with regret that the law for the admission of foreigners was not passed during this session (of the legislature), as it is an important moment to press the sale and settlement of our lands. From a letter written by William Bingham to Gen Henry Jackson, April 9, 1793*


     From the birth of the United States into the present time, immigration has had advocates. In the 1790s, immigration was supported by land speculators, who hoped to make it rich by settling their lands with immigrants.


     My interest in immigration issues was piqued during my research for a historic journal paper and a historic romance novel, both set in the 1790s. Many of the characters in my novel—including Gen. Henry Knox, Col. William Duer, Gen. Henry Jackson, Madame Rosalie de Leval, even Pres. George Washington—were land speculators. Except for Washington, they favored immigration to supply the settlers to fulfill their land purchase contracts.

     In Roy L. Garis’s book on immigration** I discovered the “great immigration” controversy that existed in the decades immediately following the American Revolution.

     My intention is not to indicate any personal preference or bias in the immigration issue. It is to present both sides of the issue as found in early United States documents. This post offers immigration pros. To read arguments against immigration, click on: Immigration is Negative for the USA .


     In Penn’s time (starting 1682), all immigrants, regardless of their religious or ethnic background were welcomed. Quaker immigrants arriving in need of financial assistance were given or lent money interest free, but the others (who were not Quakers) became the responsibility of the city. The Friends established the first alms house in the city in 1713…Poor of all faiths lived there in cottages and were encouraged to work. In 1717 the Assembly ordered that a “workhouse” for the colony be built in Philadelphia within three years. With the Friends’ alms house meeting much of the need, public officials continuously delayed construction. The first public alms house finally opened in 1732…it had separate facilities for the indigent and the insane, and also an infirmary…#


Marker for 1620 Immigrants

     As early the 1730s, Samuel Waldo encouraged immigration: (due to) certain difficulties having arisen in regard to the Muscongus Patent (Maine)…thirty miles square—about a million acres…between the Penobscot and Muscongus Rivers…one-half the patent…set off in 1762…was bestowed on (Samuel Waldo)…he subsequently became proprietor of five-sixths of the entire patent…thereafter known as the Waldo Patent…he planned and executed measures for peopling (this land)…(he) invited immigration with the most liberal promises, and as early as 1736 had brought to the St. George’s river a sturdy population of Scotch Irish… Four years later he planted a colony of forty German families at Broad Bay… the present town of Waldoborough.#


    The 1787 Scioto Land Grant was a sub-grant of the Ohio Company. The Rev. Manasseh Cutler, who represented the Scioto Associates (secret land speculators), wrote in his journal: Mr. Osgood… highly approved of our plan, and told me he thought it the best ever formed in America…( He suggested) that we might depend on accomplishing our purpose (of land sales) in Europe… that it was a most important part of our plan… On October 24, 1787, the preempted/option to purchase Ohio land was “ceded and conveyed” to William Duer and associates, including Gen. Henry Jackson (agent for Gen. Henry Knox) 497. It was agreed that four parts… were to be disposed of in Holland or France  Ultimately, in France, over 100,000 acres of land was sold to several hundred emigrants, who sailed (to the United States).***


     Madame Rosalie de Leval, who planned to develop a community in Downeast Maine, told Gen. Henry Knox that she must have convinced him, by her manner of action, of her surety that French émigrés will settle in Maine’s French Colony…****


     In March 1793, when Bingham was “in a position” to actively sell his Maine lands, “the young nation (United States) had limited capital to venture, and the panic of the previous year had dampened the enthusiasm of many speculators.” ** The best opportunity to sell “a large portion of the lands…at a fair profit” lay in Europe, where the “political convulsions of Europe will inevitably draw to this country an immense emigration…particularly from Ireland, France and Germany. Already they arrive in great numbers, and as soon as it is generally known that lands can be obtained on such easy terms” they would come to be landholders of property that would be inherited by their children.

     …to carry into proper effect a plan of purchasing and peopling these lands so as speedily to draw a considerable profit from them…Whoever views the happy situation of the Germans in this state, who have emigrated here at different periods, must discover so great a change for the better, that he could not hesitate in calling that, an act of humanity, which so essentially betters the condition of man, according to Bingham.

     In March, 1793, Jackson wrote to Bingham: The resolve respecting foreigners…(is) before the legislature, and I hope to have them terminate this session agreeably on our wishes…to which Bingham responded I observe a committee have reported a bill in favor of aliens holding lands, as well as to remove all restrictions on their emigrations. It will be a most favorable circumstance for the concerned, if this bill should pass, and will be highly advantageous to the interests of the State. I have no doubt that the members from the Maine will advocate it, as they will derive such benefit by means of an increased population in their district. …The affairs of Europe will be very favorable to the sale of American lands. The discontents and divisions that are so generally prevailing, will occasion many persons to turn their attention to making purchases in this country. 

     Unfortunately, the legislature have adjourned without making a law for the admission of foreigners… It was referred it to the next session. Jackson informed Bingham.   

     Jackson had waited with impatience for a law that would facilitate the admission of strangers. He wanted to make proposals to numbers of German families in this state to remove on these (Maine) lands…settlers that would do credit and cause [?] profit to any state that would receive them. They are frugal, industrious good farmers, and from strength of constitution, fit to encounter the difficulties that the first settlers are enjoined [?] to, in a new country. I was taking measures to insure success in this undertaking…(to) encourage the admission of their countrymen…” He felt that the inability of immigrants to purchase sizable lands would inhibit their selling their surplus lands which they do not occupy to their countrymen, whom they mean to allure from Europe.   

     Jackson fully expected the next legislature to repeal all former acts, and pass a law fully opening the door for the admission of foreigner emigrants. After all, he had the influence of Madame Rosalie de Leval’s friends, which would forward the business greatly.  ((Read Madame’s character sketch by clicking on MADAME ROSALIE BACLER de la VAL: A Character Sketch )                        


      In 2010, those who favor immigration do so because they consider it a blessing to the culture of America, which has always been a nation with a large immigrant population. The expanded variety in foods, music, art, and traditions is one of the things that make America the great country it is.  

     As the memory of incidents of September 11, 2001, fades, the natural inclination of cheap-labor employers and ethnic pressure groups reasserts itself.*****



#The Maine Historical Magazine, Vol. 8: Oration Delivered at the Centennial Celebration of the Incorporation  of the Town of Thomaston, July 4, 1877, by Hon. Edward Bowdoin Nealley of Bangor

* William Bingham’s Maine Lands 1790-1820, edited by Frederick S. Allis, Jr. Publications of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Vol. XXXVI Collections. 235-236, 256, 259, 261, 266, 270, 278

** Immigration Restriction: A Study of the Opposition to and Regulation of Immigration Into the United States by Roy L. Garis, 1927.


***Life Journals and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, LL.D. by William Parker Cutler and Julia Perkins Cutler, 300, 505

****132   Knox Mss. XXXIII. 172. Letter from Bacler deLeval to Henry Knox, March 12, 1793. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania: Microfiche.




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