Thursday, 29 March 2012



This article 'Land of Opportunity' will, hopefully, shed more light onto the reason why the Native American lost their land and their way of life. Although the reason does not justify the means.

In the second half of the 19th century about half a million immigrants a year flooded into the United States. They came from poverty, hunger and persecution and hoped to find a better way of life.
People came from so many countries and spoke a multitude of languages. They endured hardship on the voyage because they were crammed in stinking holds of immigrant ships. In the days of sailing ships, the fastest journey was a month from Europe but the notorious weather of the Atlantic added another month to it. Whole families died of hunger and/or diseases. Some families had their possession stolen by the crew members or, it was said, the Captain threw them into the sea if they weren't willing to pay their fare again.

When they arrived in America the immigrants found work in cities like New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh. They worked in clothes manufacturer, stoked furnaces in steel mills, packed meat or worked on assembly lines. They lived in the worst slums because they took the lowest wage just to be employed.  In the Manhattan district of New York lived 1,5 million in 43,000 tenements.
Lured by the promise of the federal Government of 65 hectares of free land for any applicant and having to farm it for five year, they left for the territories of the West. At the end of the century half a million families took the opportunity and turning 32 million hectares into farms. The Government really pushed white people into the territories of the Native Indians and it led to bloodshed on both sides.
The Federal Government again offered land to immigrants who would serve in the Union armies during the Civil War. By the end of the war one in five of the Northern soldiers were an immigrant.
Immigrants helped to build the American railroad. The railroad started in 1863 and crossed the continent. Most of the workforce was Chinese and the Central Pacific was built to the east from California. Irish built the Union Pacific west from the Mississippi River. 10 May 1869 the lines joined at Promontory Point, Utah and a ceremonial golden spike was driven in.
A Scotsman Robert Louis Stevenson who then became famous with his book 'Treasure Island' made a journey from New York to California. When he made this journey in 1879 on top of a fruit wagon he was 29 years old. He describes the plains of Nebraska as a world almost without feature. An empty sky, an empty earth. The line of railway stretched from horizon to horizon.
The first immigrants came from Ireland, Scandinavia and Germany. When 750,000 Irish people had starved to death because of the Potato Famine; many of the survivors sailed to America. In 1880 immigrants came from Italy, Poland, Greece, Russia and Hungary. Many Jews were fleeing from persecution.
Because they had such an influx of immigrants they set up a special reception centre on Ellis Island in New York harbour. They had to go through an examination for health and to proof they weren't criminals.
Between 1892 and 1921 there were as many as 12 million people gone through. After 1921 the Government limited the number of foreigners.
The immigrants met often hostility from native-born Americans. The immigrants were accused of taking jobs away and preaching communism and anarchy.
Chinese labourers, who were brought in to built the railroad, met with great resentment. They were willing to work for less pay, had different appearance and spoke different languages. The Chinese community was attacked in the west and their property destroyed.
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