What percentage of the population in the Thirteen Colonies in 1776 were first/second generation immigrants?

What percentage of the population in the Thirteen Colonies in 1776 were first/second generation immigrants?

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Besides British immigration, did the thirteen colonies see a lot of immigration from other European states?

UPDATE: Aaron Fogleman estimates that 585,000 people "immigrated" (many involuntarily) to the 13 colonies between 1700-1775. If they all survived until the time of the Revolution, then 24% of the population at the time of the Revolution would be foreign born (585,000/2,400,000 = .244). Of course this is an absurd assumption, so treat this estimate as an extreme upper bound.

Here is the breakdown by ethnicity:

Source: Fogleman 1992. "Migrations to the Thirteen British North American Colonies, 1700-1775: New Estimates." Journal of Interdisciplinary History.

New England: New England was the most ethnically homogenous region and had the fewest new immigrants in 1776. New England always had the highest rate of family immigration, giving it a high birthrate. It had the lowest death rate, due to a healthy climate. Its low rates of non-English immigration are due to its cultural intolerance. However, far northern New England had a French splash from Acadia.

The South: The tidewater South was more ethnically diverse than New England, but that's mostly due to the presence of slaves. It initially had a lower birthrate, due in part to the immigration of single men looking to make their fortunes. Southern states had the highest death rates, due to malaria, yellow fever, and (some argue) physical violence. Still, these colonies had been settled early enough that they were still dominated by established families and third-plus generation yeomen.

Slaves, of course, succumbed to overwork--especially in South Carolina, which learned a crueler version of plantation management from the Caribbean colonies. In the upper south, slaves had been in the colonies long enough that we might speak of "African-Americans," whereas in the deep south the slave population had to be "replenished" at such a rate that we might still speak of "Africans" (which is why there are more vestiges of African culture there than elsewhere).

Appalachia: Little ethnic diversity here, as it was largely settled by Scots-Irish and others from northern England in the 18th century. At the time of the Revolution, this region would have been dominated by 1st to 3rd generation Americans.

Middle States: This is where all the ethnic diversity was. The Dutch were prominent in New York (around a quarter of the population), especially along the Hudson River Valley. Most Jews in colonial America were of Dutch Sephardic descent. "New Sweden" (running along the Delaware River Valley) initially had a sizable contingent of Swedes and Finns, though this was of diminished importance by 1776. Perhaps the most important non-English group in the Middle States was the German Palatines, who made up about a third of Pennsylvanians. Finally, maybe around 5% of the Middle States population were black slaves. As in the upper South, they were likely to have been descendants of several generations of slaves. Most of the immigration to this region had occurred by the early 18th century, so the Middle States too were dominated by third-plus generation Americans.

As a final aside, if you believe that the origins of the American Revolution were largely ideological, then it's no surprise that the Revolution occurred at a time when such a large percentage of the population was third-generation or older. The development of institutions and philosophies of governance incompatible with those in Britain doesn't happen over night, but over multiple generations.

Sources: Albion's Seed, American Colonies, American Nations, and Wikipedia. I'll update if I ever find firmer estimates of the native-born/immigrant breakdown.


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Loyalist, also called Tory, colonist loyal to Great Britain during the American Revolution. Loyalists constituted about one-third of the population of the American colonies during that conflict. They were not confined to any particular group or class, but their numbers were strongest among the following groups: officeholders and others who served the British crown and had a vested interest in upholding its authority Anglican clergymen and their parishioners in the North, who had likewise taken vows of allegiance and obedience to the king Quakers, members of German religious sects, and other conscientious pacifists and large landholders, especially in the North, and wealthy merchant groups in the cities whose businesses and property were affected by the war. The most common trait among all loyalists was an innate conservatism coupled with a deep devotion to the mother country and the crown. Many loyalists at first urged moderation in the struggle for colonial rights and were only driven into active loyalism by radical fellow colonists who denounced as Tories all who would not join them. Loyalists were most numerous in the South, New York, and Pennsylvania, but they did not constitute a majority in any colony. New York was their stronghold and had more than any other colony. New England had fewer loyalists than any other section.

The loyalists did not rise as a body to support the British army, but individuals did join the army or form their own guerrilla units. New York alone furnished about 23,000 loyalist troops, perhaps as many as all the other colonies combined. The loyalist fighters aroused a vengeful hatred among the patriots (as the American Revolutionaries called themselves), and when taken in battle they were treated as traitors. George Washington detested them, saying as early as 1776 that “they were even higher and more insulting in their opposition than the regulars.”

Congress recommended repressive measures against the loyalists, and all states passed severe laws against them, usually forbidding them from holding office, disenfranchising them, and confiscating or heavily taxing their property. Beginning in March 1776, approximately 100,000 loyalists fled into exile. (This was between 3 and 4 percent of the total number of settlers in the colonies, which is estimated at 2,500,000–3,000,000 during the Revolutionary period.) The largest portion of those who fled ultimately went to Canada, where the British government provided them with asylum and offered some compensation for losses in property and income those who met certain criteria (based, in part, on when they left America and their contribution to the British war effort) were known as United Empire Loyalists in Canada. Public sentiment in the United States against the loyalists died down significantly after government began under the new U.S. Constitution in 1789. In fact, one member of the Constitutional Convention, William Johnson of Connecticut, had been a loyalist. The remaining state laws against them were repealed after the War of 1812.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy McKenna, Senior Editor.

Colonial America – Colonial Immigration: An Overview

The population of the American Colonies, until the end of the 17th century, was almost entirely English. Except for the Dutch in New York, the English population had managed to maintain or impose their institutions on all other competing cultures. The 18th century saw the arrival of large numbers of Swedes, Germans, Swiss, Scotch-Irish, Africans and other cultures as they arrived or were brought into the colonies.

Most immigrants arrived from Europe in waves following some episode in Europe, such as a drought or famine, a period persecution against a particular group or an economic recession in Britain. Immigration to the Colonies after 1683 since Europe was at war for almost thirty years, but picked up after 1710 with a wave of Scotch-Irish and German immigrants. Regardless of when they came or where they cam from, almost all immigrants arrived in the colonies in an effort to leave something behind and a hope to better their circumstances in the new American Colonies.

In the colonies, there was plenty of land for the wealthy landowner, but always a lack of labor. One answer to this problem was to import indentured servants. A landowner would pay the price of passage for an indentured servant and that passenger would work to pay off the cost of his voyage, usually for seven years. Often, the landowner would be given 50 acres for each person he paid to transport. Most of these indentured servants were young, unmarried men, who often had been in service in England. Both the poor and the middle class immigrated as indentured servants. These indentured servants were the primary migrant to the British settlements of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, Jamaica and Barbados. However, the death rate was very high in these colonies as many servants died before they were “acclimatized” to the region. This kept the demand for labor high.

In the 18th century, slave labor came to supplant the demand for indentured servants. About 2,300,000 Africans arrived in the American Colonies between 1600 – 1800.

Family migrations usually occurred among dissenters of the crown (Puritans, Quakers) and during depressions that hit the British economy. These dissenters were usually awarded land in the northern colonies (which were seen as being less profitable to the crown). This type of migration fostered the growth of towns and cities since the newly arrived families were looked after by local merchants, not by a landowner holding an indenture, thus boosting the town economy.

The British government also took care of overcrowded prisons by sending “pardoned” prisoners to the colonies for a certain period of time.

The immigration of German immigrants was first encouraged by William Penn . Around 1683, the first group of Germans settled at Germantown, not far from Philadelphia. By 1775, it was estimated that around 100,000 Germans had settled in Pennsylvania, making up about one third of it’s total population. A large group of Germans fled persecution along the Rhine around 1708 and settled in the Hudson Valley in New York. Before the Revolution, there were Germans settled in the valley of Virginia, in parts of western Maryland, and in western North Carolina. By the Revolution, Germans had settled all along the eastern seaboard, as far north as Maine.

The largest non-English ethnic group to immigrate to the American Colonies before the Revolution was the Scotch-Irish. These were neither Scots nor Irish, but Ulstermen from Northern Ireland. In 1713 a few Scotch-Irish settlements had been established along the frontier land in New England, but the New Englanders gave a cold reception to the new immigrants. After a less than successful start in New England, the Scotch-Irish turned their attention to the colony of Pennsylvania. They pushed westward through Pennsylvania and formed a large settlement near what would become Pittsburgh. They were a people well suited to frontier living, being rugged, fearless and combative. During the 1730’s, they were encouraged to settle on the Virginia frontier. The movement of Scotch-Irish continued south through the Carolinas and into Georgia.

The Scots were another immigrant group and were definitely distinguishable from the Scotch-Irish. Constant poverty in Scotland caused a large migration in the middle of the 18th century. It is estimated that about 25,000 Scots immigrated to the colonies in the twelve years before the Revolution. Unlike the Scotch-Irish, the Scottish immigrants rarely ever settled in the frontier regions and were considered to be passive people.

There were several other minority groups settled in the colonies. The Dutch settled New York and there was a large settlement of Swedes in the Delaware Valley. In 1732, Swiss immigrants established the settlement of Beaufort, South Carolina. The Huguenots (French Protestants) had established settlements in South Carolina and southern Virginia in the early 18th century.

Africans were imported as slaves primarily into the southern colonies. In 1761, about 284,000 Negroes lived in the southern colonies (Maryland to Georgia) and about 41,000 lived in the northern colonies (Delaware to New Hampshire). Nearly 60 percent of all slaves were found in Virginia and Maryland, with another 30 percent in North Carolina, South Caroline and Georgia.

Immigrants who were looking for an opportunity to increase their wealth, to escape persecution, or to serve out a prison sentence settled the early American colonies. In the 17th century, the colonies were populated almost entirely by the English. From the turn of the 18th century through the Revolution, the arrival of minority immigrant populations including the Dutch, Germans, Scots, Scotch-Irish, Swedes, Irish and Africans imported as slaves, have helped to shape identity of America. Whether is was setting an example of solid living and good husbandry (as in the case of the Germans) or setting the stage for centuries of turbulent race relations (as in the treatment of Africans), the immigrants who populated the American Colonies provided the foundation for who we are today.

Family Life and Population Growth in the Colonies

The American colonists were both industrious and especially prolific. Vast areas of easily obtained, agriculturally rich land encouraged early marriages and large families. Needing partners and children to maintain their farms, most colonists married in the teens, and families of 10 or more members were the rule rather than the exception.

Even in the face of hardship and disease, the population of the colonies grew rapidly. Eager to move to what they viewed as a land of opportunity, immigrants from Europe and Great Britain itself streamed into the colonies. Both the colonies and Great Britain encouraged immigration, with English Protestants especially welcome. In in its drive to populate the colonies, Great Britain also sent many people—including convicts, political prisoners, debtors, and enslaved Africans—to America against their will. For much of their history, the original 13 American colonies doubled in population during every generation.

Settlement patterns in the New World

About 40 percent of the New World settlers from Germany established homes in Pennsylvania, while others scattered throughout the Middle and Southern colonies. The Germans were known as hardworking and thrifty farmers. The Scots and Scots-Irish (Scots who moved to Ireland in the 1600s) settled in the backcountry (away from cities) of North and South Carolina and along the Hudson River Valley of New York. The Irish settled in the backcountry extending from South Carolina northward to Maine.

The backcountry was a remote and unsettled wilderness. People who set up lodgings there were tough and independent-minded and wanted nothing to do with the burgeoning colonial government. They lived ruggedly and survived by hunting, fishing, and picking wild fruits and greens.

New France [ edit | edit source ]

Map of the furthest extant of New France (in blue), about 1750

New France was the area colonized by France from the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River, by Jacques Cartier in 1534, to the cession of New France to Spain and Britain in 1763. Giovanni da Verrazzano had given the names Francesca and Nova Gallia to that land between New Spain (e.g. Mexico) and English Newfoundland (e.g. Canada), thus promoting French interests. Β] At its peak in 1712, the territory of New France extended from Newfoundland to Lake Superior and from the Hudson Bay to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The territory was then divided into five colonies, each with its own administration: Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and Louisiana. Tens of thousands of French settlers came, and concentrated in villages along the St. Lawrence River, New Orleans and Acadia. The area around New Orleans and west of the Mississippi passed to Spain, which ceded it to France in 1803, allowing France to sell it as the Louisiana Purchase to the United States.

The Middle Colonies

The Middle Colonies were located in the area now described as the Mid-Atlantic and included Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. While the New England colonies were made up largely of British Puritans, the Middle Colonies were very mixed.

Settlers in these colonies included English, Swedes, Dutch, Germans, Scots-Irish, and French, along with Indigenous peoples and some enslaved (and freed) Africans. Members of these groups included Quakers, Mennonites, Lutherans, Dutch Calvinists, and Presbyterians.

What percentage of the population in the Thirteen Colonies in 1776 were first/second generation immigrants? - History

The Canary in the Coal Mine?

The great oak trees of Anti-Semitic prejudice and disdain though transported to the New World was not able to sink deep roots. The concept that Jews should serve as soldiers in the common defense in the 1655 world of New Amsterdam was rejected with a sneer and a heavy tax - less the Jews should benefit with no cost. But just two years later, 1657, the point was moot. The tax was a not enforced.

Asser Levy and other Jews were serving side by side with Christians in the defense of their common homeland. The rights to trade, act as retail merchants, achieve the rights as Burghers or citizens, own land, were not simply granted but were struggled for one by one. Each step forward was met by resistance toward the Jew but each step forward toward equality opened the world to New Freedoms for all people. It was not that the anti-Semitic European mindset with all its preconceptions, discriminations and limitations were not there but the realities of the American frontier did not permit the European world to be readily transplanted.

New Amsterdam, as did eventually all the English Colonies of North America, became a center of attraction to immigrants from all cultures and religious interpretations. As the Colony grew larger and expanded the ability of the central government and church to control what happened in outlying areas declined. The human character of New Amsterdam was organic and changing as new peoples came and trade expanded between the Caribbean, North America, Europe and the Indians.. The single most powerful pull that shaped the world of New Amsterdam was the open, alluring call of land and opportunity for the brave, for the adventurous, for all who wished to reach for their dreams in the dark interiors of America to the West. In the West there was room for all, Christian and Jew, there was room for all, except for the Native American.

Dutch New Amsterdam vanished September, 1664, just ten years after the first Jewish refugees had landed. New Amsterdam became a possession of England and was renamed New York, after its proprietor James the Duke of York. North America, from French Canada to Georgia became a unified, virtually unpopulated, undeveloped wilderness under the King of England - an open door of potential.

Individual Jews had been part of the American experience long before the establishment of the community of New Amsterdam in 1654. Jews were part of the failed settlement efforts of the infamous "Lost Colony " of Roanoke Island, Virginia in 1597 under Sir Walter Raleigh. Jews arrived on the second boat after the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Mass. In 1607. Jews were part of the early colonial efforts at Jamestown, Virginia - 1620's. By 1700 there were an estimated 250 identifiable Jews in American English colonies.

The Dutch Burghers of New Amsterdam made a fundamental demand on Jews living in New Netherland and that was that they should not become financial burdens on the greater Christian community. Jews had to establish themselves economically. Within a year of 1654, Jewish fur traders had ventured as far South as present day southern New Jersey and Delaware and North, high up the Hudson river.

Luis Moses Gomez, a Jew of Sephardic background, purchased 6,000 acres of land on the frontier in 1714 Shortly afterward he built his home as a trading center there. The home is five miles from present day Newburg, N.Y. where he and generations of his descendents lived. The Gomez house is still occupied today 284 years later. The house is on the National Registry of Historic places as the earliest surviving Jewish residence in North America.

Religious toleration and freedom for Jews were not defined in Jewish terms but rather American. Jewish Political freedom and inclusion was even longer and more difficult in coming. Political equality was not to be universally realized until well into the second half of the 19th century - long after the American revolution when the 14th Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution. It was freedom of conscience and differing religious views between Catholic and Protestant, Protestant and Protestant, Atheist, Agnostic and Freethinkers that created the tensions that eventually resulted in toleration of Jewish religious expression.

The earliest request of the New Amsterdam Jewish community was for burial grounds. The approval was given reluctantly. The question of a Jewish permanent house of worship was out of the question for the Dutch ruling council. The English struggled with the same issue in the late 1680's and 1690's but essentially restricted open Jewish Religious worship to private homes and only if kept modest and quiet. It was not until 1730 that the Jewish community was permitted to buy land and build a small simple structure - the first permanent Jewish House of Worship in North America. The synagogue known as the Mill Street Synagogue is better known as Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portugese Synagogue of New York City. Today, the important original historic site is almost forgotten, marked by a parking garage in a canyon of dark forbidding, soot covered buildings.

The path to American freedom of Religious expression was not easy. The founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, known as the Puritans, were themselves religiously persecuted. They established themselves in Massachusetts pushing the frontier westward and pushing the Native Americans further west as the two cultures collided while at the same time forcing out non conformists for their religious interpretations.

Jewish influence was limited to the Old Testament, respect for the Hebrew language and an occasional accidental Jewish traveler. Generally, Jews were not welcome in Massachusetts Bay Colony and would not be welcome in reality in Massachusetts until well into the 19th century. Puritan intolerance to alternative Protestant thinking banished Roger Williams, himself a Puritan minister, from the village of Salem, Massachusetts in 1635. Williams proposed a heretical belief to the Puritans, "A permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or anti-Christian consciences and worship be granted to all men in all nations and countries."

Williams proposed toleration of other religious beliefs. Driven from Massachusetts, Williams established Rhode Island and created the American precedent that would be carved in stone letters later in the American constitution - religious toleration and the separation of Church and State. Jews would find a home in Rhode Island. The Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island traces its origins to 1658 when Mordecai Campanal and Moses Pacheco arrived from Barbados. They sent back favorable reports to the British West Indies and were soon followed by 15 Jewish families looking to relocate to the tolerant religious and opportune economic environment of Newport.

Congregation Jeshuat Israel, formed in 1702, dedicated its permanent house of worship in 1763 in Newport. It was built with a secret escape passage behind the bemah if needed. The building is still in use today as a synagogue. It is the oldest standing permanent Jewish House of Worship in North America.

In all of the English colonies as well as the earlier, Dutch and Swedish colonial experience, the problems were the same, how to attract settlement. The focus was to develop the land and increase the wealth not just of the inhabitants but also of the proprietors of the colony and of the Crown. Restricting immigration, denying economic development because of European bigotry was counter productive in an increasingly "enlightened" period of thought in the 17th and 18th centuries. How can people be encouraged to go live in the colonies?

The second colonial charter of South Carolina, 1665 was heavily influenced by the English philosopher John Locke. The charter called for religious toleration of Jews and protected them from attack or libel because of their faith. The charter was rejected five times by the local legislature. Essentially the ideal of toleration was adopted by the people they simply ignored official discrimination. The practical need for people and human resources was too great. The earliest record of Jewish presence dates from the 1695. Kehilat Kadosh Beth Elohim organized in 1749 dedicated its synagogue in 1797 in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Colony of Georgia was not chartered until 1732 under Governor Ogelthorpe His problem was the same as in all the other colonies, how to get people to come. Georgia was partially populated as a dumping ground for the petty criminals of London's jails. The Jewish community of London viewed the opportunity of Georgia in much the same way.

In 1733, the Jewish community of London feeling threatened by the burdens of caring for an increasing influx of poor German and Polish Jews sent 83 of their brethren to Georgia. When the ships arrived the 83 Jews represented almost 20% of the total population of Georgia. Congregation Mikve Israel, Savannah, Georgia, dates from July, 1733 but did not build a permanent synagogue until years later. From almost the beginning of Jewish settlement in Savannah conflicts between Ashkenazik and Sephardic Jews erupted into extreme tensions that refused to form a united Jewish community. This characteristic tension between the "common" Ashkenazik Jew and the "aristocratic" Sephardic Jew presaged another 250 year struggle within in the Jewish community for definition as to who is and what is an American Jew.

The earliest Jewish presence in Pennsylvania dates from the early 1710's when Isaac Miranda settled near Lancaster and became an Indian Trader. Though one of the earliest colonies it was late to develop a Jewish community. Philadelphia because of its physical location far up the Delaware River was the furthest west of the major colonial American cities. Philadelphia soon not only became a major port city but became the gateway to the west. Business and opportunity gravitated to Philadelphia so much so that it quickly became one the biggest cities in Colonial America.

The first Jew to live in Philadelphia was Nathan Levy in 1735, who came as a merchant and shipper. Levy acquired a small piece on land between 8th and 9th streets on the North side of Walnut Street which became the first Jewish cemetery in Pennsylvania. During the revolutionary war the British continued the European custom of executing deserters at the gates of Jewish cemeteries. The gate of the Walnut Street cemetery still has the marks of British bullets.

The first minyan in the American West was held at the home of Joseph Simon in the frontier community of Lancaster in 1743. Simon himself a frontiersman and Indian trader and one of the largest land owners in Pennsylvania employed expeditions led by the famous Daniel Boone to open the Western trading routes. Simon entered into partnerships with William Henry who developed the famous Henry frontier rifle. At the Simon and Henry forge, the young Robert Fulton learned the metal trade that helped him develop the first steam powered boat in history. In 1752, the famous American Liberty Bell was brought over on the Myrtilla, a ship owned by the Jewish firm of Simon, Levy and Franks of Philadelphia. A permanent Jewish house of worship in Pennsylvania, Mikve Israel, was not dedicated until 1782.

Jewish immigration to Colonial America was not planned or systematic. It was random as opportunities were presented to individuals or small groups of Jews in Europe and the Caribbean. For the most part, the small Jewish American communities that were developing along the British Eastern seaboard enjoyed remarkable freedom of religious expression and economic opportunity. Jews in colonial America enjoyed freedoms that had not been realized for over two thousand years. That is not to say that Jews were welcomed and loved wherever they went but rather the explosive growth of the frontier and the American economy did not focus on the Jews.

Political repression of the Jew as well as the Catholics and many other religious and non-conformist sects where to continue as part of the American struggle long after the American revolution had been fought. Some argue that political freedom was not achieved by Jews until after the second American Revolution (the Civil War 1861-1865). The first American Revolution was yet to be fought in 1770.

Today, there are more than 300,000 Quakers around the world, by some estimates, with the highest percentage in Africa.

There are different branches of Quakerism some have “programmed” worship services that are led by pastors, while others practice “unprogrammed” worship, which is done in silence (those who are inspired can speak) without the guidance of a pastor.

Unprogrammed Friends refer to their congregations as “meetings,” while programmed Quakers use the term meeting as well as 𠇌hurch” to refer to their congregations. Many, but not all, Quakers consider themselves Christians.

Most Quakers have abandoned the plain style of clothing they once wore, unlike the Amish, with whom Quakers are sometimes confused. (The Amish, who live separate from society and reject modern technology, are a Christian denomination whose origins date back to 16th century Switzerland.)

The Shakers are another religious group with whom the Friends are sometimes mistaken for. The Shakers (officially the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearance) were founded in England in the 18th century. The Shakers, who were pacifists like the Quakers and Amish, came to America lived in communal settlements and were celibate. Children and other new members joined by adoption or conversion. The Shaker sect has almost died out.


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