The Comparative Approach to American History

By C. Vann Woodward | Go to book overview

7
Immigration

JOHN HIGHAM

In the late 1770's a well-to-do French farmer who had settled in the Hudson River Valley posed a question that has fascinated every subsequent generation and reverberated through American history. "What then is the American, this new man?" asked Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur in writing an affectionate sketch of his adopted country. Crèvecoeur's answer elaborated a claim already advanced by another recent arrival from Europe, Tom Paine. Paine famous revolutionary pamphlet, Common Sense ( 1776), was the first stentorian call for independence from Britain. It declared, and Crèvecoeur heartily agreed, that the Americans are not transplanted Englishmen. They are an inter- mixture of many European peoples, a nation of immigrants.

The idea that all Americans (except possibly the Indians) once were immigrants has sometimes been sharply challenged. It has not appealed to everyone. It is not, as we shall see, entirely true. It partakes rather of the rich combination of reality and myth from which national legends arise. The idea is no less important for that, no less a shaping fact of American life. For almost two centuries it has provided one standard response to a collective need for self-definition. It persists today in the meanings that cluster around the Statue of Liberty. In a posthumous work written for and attributed to President John F. Kennedy, a little book entitled A Nation of Immigrants ( 1964), one can find a classic

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The Comparative Approach to American History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • The Contributors vii
  • Introduction to the New Edition xi
  • 1 - The Comparability of American History 3
  • 2 - The Colonial Phase 18
  • 3 - The Enlightenment 34
  • 4 - The Revolution 47
  • 5 - The "Newness" of the New Nation 62
  • 6 - Frontiers 75
  • 7 - Immigration 91
  • 8 - Mobility 106
  • 9 - Slavery 121
  • 10 - Civil War 135
  • 11 - Reconstruction: Ultraconservative Revolution 146
  • 12 - The Negro since Freedom 160
  • 13 - Industrialization 175
  • 14 - Urbanization 187
  • 15 - Political Parties 206
  • 16 - The Coming of Big Business 220
  • 17 - Socialism and Labor 238
  • 18 - Imperialism 253
  • 19 - Social Democracy, 1900-1918 271
  • 20 - World War I 285
  • 21 - The Great Depression 296
  • 22 - World War II 315
  • 23 - The Cold War 328
  • 24 - The Test of Comparison 346
  • Index 359
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