Saturday, September 15, 2018

The South and the West, Part 2


It seems my mission here is to bring to your attention unfamiliar and unfashionable truths about American history. Let me give you another one. The American West, the frontier, was NOT conquered and settled by a “Nation of Immigrants.” George Washington was already the fifth generation of his family in Virginia, as were most of his neighbours.

There was a wave of Scots-Irish immigration before the Revolution. Thereafter, for almost a century, there was a trickle of immigrants but no wave. Not until the late 1840s, with the Irish potato famine and the Continental revolutions of 1848, was there another wave of immigrants large enough to change the character of the people. During that low-immigration century, the American population quadrupled—by natural increase of the original settlers—and civilised an immense area. Americans were a vigorous people with big families. For every son to inherit the family farm in the East there were four or five others who might look west for setting themselves up in life. The only Melting Pot going on was some mingling of different groups of the pre-Revolutionary settlers. The idea that a constant flow of foreigners was needed was absurd. Immigration was promoted not by the need to populate the West. Then as now the reason was the corporate thirst for cheap labour.

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