This Upcoming Week in Immigrant History: June 27-July 3

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XpatNation’s weekly immigrant history report looks to examine some of the lesser talked about moments in history in the US and around the world. Immigrants and expatriates have been contributing to the US and the world as a whole for centuries, bringing culture, knowledge and expertise as they adapt and thrive in the new worlds they enter.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo Claims California for Spain – June 27, 1542

BarilUSA2704Cabrillo9-28-92WicksImage Source: Photobucket

When we think of the settlement of the United States, we tend to think of people arriving on the eastern seaboard and traveling westward. The Spanish explorers, however, arrived in what is now the United States from the south, foreshadowing the arrival of a wave of Latinos in this century.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo claimed California for Spain having sailed north from Navidad, near modern-day Manzanillo on Mexico’s Pacific coast. He was an old hand in the Americas: in 1502, he was part of a 30-ship expedition to colonize Cuba; he was part of the conquest of the Aztecs; and he settled in Guatemala in 1532, where he started to build a fortune from gold and exploiting the indigenous population.

“Cabrillo was commissioned by Antonio de Mendoza, the Viceroy of New Spain, to explore the Pacific coast in hopes of finding rich cities and the water passage. He was also instructed to meet with Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who it was believed was crossing overland to the Pacific. Since Cabrillo built and owned his flagship, the San Salvador, he stood to profit from any trade or treasure.”

He discovered a very good port he called San Miguel (now San Diego), sailed north to what is now San Clemente, Santa Cruz and Catalina Island. His expedition made it all the way to the mouth of the Russian River, and thanks to the fog, missed San Francisco Bay. He died on the return trip from gangrene. What I find particularly interesting was how far ahead the Spanish were in their New World Efforts — England sent a settlement to Virginia in 1607, but California had been claimed by Spain 65 years before.

First Quakers (Mary Fisher/Ann Austin) Arrive in Boston — July 1, 1656 

Early Quaker MeetingImage Source: Quaker

Americans are taught that their first European, the British ones anyway, came here for religious freedom. This is not quite a complete lie – but it’s awfully close. Most of the colonies had one single established faith, and either you prayed that way, or you were in trouble.

Massachusetts was settled by some seriously grim puritans who sought refuge from the Church of England by coming to the New World. But, when two Quakers (one of the most gentle versions of Christianity) turned up in 1656, the puritan refugees wasted no time in abusing the newcomers.

“The first known Quakers to arrive in Boston and challenge Puritan religious domination were Mary Fisher and Ann Austin. These two women entered Boston’s harbor on the Swallow, a ship from Barbados in July of 1656. The Puritans of Boston greeted Fisher and Austin as if they carried the plague. The two were strip searched, accused of witchcraft, jailed, deprived of food, and were forced to leave Boston on the Swallow when it next left Boston eight weeks later.”

“Almost immediately after their arrival, Fisher and Austin’s belongings were confiscated, and the Puritan executioner burned their trunk full of Quaker pamphlets and other writings. Shortly after they arrived in Boston, eight more Quakers arrived on a ship from England. This group of eight was imprisoned and beaten. While they were in prison, an edict was passed in Boston that any ship’s captain who carried Quakers into Boston would be fined heavily. The Puritan establishment forced the captain, who had brought the group of eight Quakers to Boston, to take them back to England, under a bond of £500.”

Not exactly freedom of religion, was it?

US Immigration Law of 1924 Takes Effect – July 1, 1927

Immigrants standing outside of building with young gir in front covering her eyes, 90-G-125-9 10453_2004_001Image Source: Ellis island

The Immigration Law of 1924 set quotas for immigrants from particular countries. Also known as the Johnson-Reed Act, this law was a response to the wave of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe that was only partially slowed by World War I. The 1924 law enhanced the restrictions on immigrants put in place by the 1921 Immigration Law, which set a quota of 3% of any nationality’s presence in the US as of 1910.

The 1924 legislation “identified who could enter as a ‘non-quota’ immigrant; this category included wives and unmarried children (under 18 years of age) of US citizens, residents of the Western hemisphere, religious or academic professionals, and “bona-fide students” under 15 years of age. Those not in any of these categories were referred to as a ‘quota immigrant’ and were subject to annual numerical limitations.

For quota immigrants, the Act stated that preference would be given to family members of US citizens and to immigrants who were skilled in agriculture.

During congressional debate over the 1924 Act, Senator Ellison DuRant Smith of South Carolina drew on the racist theories of Madison Grant to argue that immigration restriction was the only way to preserve existing American resources. Although blatant racists like Smith were in the minority in the Senate, almost all senators supported restriction, and the Johnson-Reed bill passed with only six dissenting votes.

Quotas would be part of US immigration policy until the 1960s.

Continental Congress Approves Independence Resolution – July 2, 1776

AP_Documents_DeclarationofIndependenceImage Source: Bill of Rights

No, that isn’t a typo. The Fourth of July may not really count as the day the United States was born. It kind of depends on how you view the process.

“Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Britain on July 2, 1776, when it approved a resolution and delegates from New York were given permission to make it a unanimous vote.”

John Adams himself wrote of July 2, “The most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival… It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shows (18th century English for ‘shows’), Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

However, the declaration needed some edits; the musical 1776 has an argument between Adams and Thomas Jefferson over whether the word is “inalienable” or “unalienable.”

“It had been proposed in draft form by the Committee of Five (John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson) and it took two days for the Congress to agree on the edits. Once the Congress approved the actual Declaration of Independence document on July 4, it ordered that it be sent to a printer named John Dunlap. About 200 copies of the Dunlap Broadside were printed, with John Hancock’s name printed at the bottom. Today, 26 copies remain. ”

So, the printer put “IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776,” at the top of the document.

Samuel de Champlain Founds City of Quebec – July 3, 1608

quebec 1_anadabijou_samuel_de_champlainImage Source: Herodote

The French influence in North America is relatively light compared to that of the Spanish and British. However, Samuel de Champlain ensured that there would be a French America. William Carlos Williams wrote of him, “This was a great adventurer, a tremendous energy, one of the foremost colonizers of our continent.”

The Canadian Encyclopedia stated, “Until Champlain, the entire New World adventure had brought only disappointment and death for France. Explorers from Jacques Cartier to the Sieur de Monts had all failed to leave any permanent mark.”

Champlain established the City of Quebec, building a fortress of sorts there in 1608, and that insured a Francophone foothold on the Continent. The other great French City of North America, New Orleans, was not founded until 1718.

Because of the success of Quebec, of New France, French immigration to the US was light relative to other nations. Frenchmen wanting to start over in the New World would head for New France, not New England.

Indeed, many of French ancestry in the US actually came from Quebec. “Between 1840 and 1930 roughly 900,000 French Canadians left Canada to emigrate to the United States. This important migration, which has now been largely forgotten in Quebec’s collective memory, is certainly one of the major events in Canadian demographic history. According to the 1980 American census, 13.6 million Americans claimed to have French ancestors.

While a certain number of these people may be of French, Belgian, Swiss, Cajun or Huguenot ancestry, it is certain that a large proportion would have ancestors who emigrated from French Canada or Acadia during the 19th and 20th centuries. Indeed, it has been estimated that, in the absence of emigration, there would be 4 to 5 million more francophones living in Canada today. Around 1900, there would scarcely have been a French-Canadian or Acadian family that did not have some of its members living in the United States.”


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