10/16/07 - immigrants!

In today's excerpt - Scottish, German and Irish immigrants. Philadelphia, populated almost exclusively by Englishmen—Quaker and otherwise—since its inception in the late 1600s, is rudely awakened in 1717 by the arrival of unwanted immigrants. These immigrants brought the change disruption and increase in crime that is the lamentably typical result of large population shifts and the juxtaposition of different ethnic groups. Seen from the distance of three centuries, almost none would protest this inclusion of the Scots, Irish or Germans in the U.S. population, but at the time xenophobia ran high:

"In the summer of 1717, the mayor of Philadelphia Jonathan Dickinson was surprised at the number of immigrants arriving at the city—more than he had ever seen before. ... We are being 'invaded', [James] Logan sighed, by 'shoals of foreigners come and set down.' ... [He] wondered why English administrators had not forewarned them that these voyagers, some of whom could not speak English, would be deposited on their doorstep. ...

"After the surprising appearance of immigrants in 1717 and 1718, there was a lull in the traffic of the early 1720s, after which it surged, beginning in 1727: one thousand in 1727, three thousand in 1728, and as many as six thousand in 1729. These were only the arrivals from Ulster—the men and women whom Americans labeled the Scotch- or Scots-Irish. Almost two thousand German-speaking immigrants arrived in the same three years. ... In 1730, Philadelphia was a city of only 7,000 people, and it is little wonder that its residents were variously shocked, dismayed and unhappy. ...

"Nervous xenophobic assemblymen tried to staunch the disorder. In the fall of 1728, they passed a bill to restrict immigration by levying a duty on foreigners 'Irish' (Scots-Irish), servants, and Negroes. ... Even before the [immigrant] riots of 1726 and 1728, Logan complained, 'The Quaker Countrey, as this is called abroad, is become a scene of the vilest, most extravagant Licentiousness.' ... The alien behaviors that the [Quakers] referred to included singing, fiddling and dancing, gambling, drinking and reveling, celebrating St. Patrick's Day, and shooting off guns on New Year's Eve.


Jack D. Marietta and G.S. Rowe


Troubled Experiment: Crime and Justice in Pennsylvania, 1682-1800


University of Pennsylvania Press


Copyright 2006 by the University of Pennsylvania Press


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