Tag: New World
English: source: Immigrant Servants Database a...
Immigrant Servants Database author: signed by Henry Mayer, dated 1738 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the 1600s, English courts had relied on the colonies to alleviate the overwhelming criminal population. Jails were filled to capacity as crime rates burgeoned. Because the criminal justice system was so overwhelmed, convicts were often offered a choice between death or exile. While many obviously chose emigration over death, the colonies quickly became unhappy with the arrangement. By 1697, many colonial ports simply refused entry to convict ships.

To compound the problem, the justice system was wildly unregulated to the extent that criminals were often expected to arrange and pay for their own transportation. No one kept track of where they went or how they got there; so many convicts simply hopped a boat to Ireland and came back as soon as the coast was clear.

Despite the problems, Parliament still saw the colonies as a viable solution to Britain’s overwhelmed justice system. To that effect, they drafted and passed the Transportation Act of 1718. This act offered a systematic, standardized process by which criminals could be sentenced and shipped to America and the West Indies.

Under this new legislation, merchant companies were paid a fixed sum to ship boatloads of convicts to the New World colonies. Upon arrival in the New World, merchants and ship captains were free to sell off the convicts as indentured servants.

While the Transportation Act standardized the processing and exile of convicts, there was little regulation once ships set sail. Many captains treated the convicts brutally, keeping them chained below decks and subjecting them to horrible abuses. It was fairly common for a cargo of convicts to mutiny and try to kill the captain and crew.

Depending on the severity of their crimes, convicts were sentenced to seven or fourteen years of indentured labour in the colonies. A few richer convicts were able to simply buy their freedom upon arrival; however, most convicts were penniless, unskilled and uneducated. One boatload of felons was surveyed and out of ninety-eight convicts, forty-eight had no marketable skill, and the rest were either too young to have learned a trade or too old to work.

These unskilled felons were forced to serve the duration of their sentence under whoever paid their purchase price. Most were put to work by small plantation owners; however, others were bought by shipbuilders, manufacturers and tradesmen.

Once a convict had served his sentence, he was set free to start a new life for himself. Some of the ex-convicts established themselves throughout the colonies and became productive in society. Many, however, went right back to criminal activities. In the West Indies in particular, a released convict had very little recourse for survival, as by law he could never have land of his own.

The Transportation Act resulted in more than 52,000 convicts being forcibly transported to America and the West Indies. About 80 percent were sent to Maryland and Virginia, while the rest were scattered throughout other New World colonies.  The flow of convict labourers continued unabated for decades, and only stopped with the advent of the American Revolution in 1776.

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Early Welsh Quaker Migration to Pennsylvania

William Penn Deutsch: William Penn († 1718) ??...
William Penn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welsh Quakers were some of the earliest emigrants to Pennsylvania. Through their industrious habits, they made significant contributions to the colony’s development and played a key role in its political, social and economic formation.

Religion was the primary push factor for most of these early Welsh emigrants. The Quakers had been harshly persecuted in their homeland. Parliament had passed stringent laws forbidding their public worship, and enforcing fines and imprisonment on any who disobeyed.

William Penn, an English Quaker with Welsh roots, had recently been granted a charter from King Charles II to establish a colony in the New World. This colony was to be called Penn Sylvania, or “Penn’s Woods”.  In establishing this colony, Penn’s goal was to provide a safe religious haven for the persecuted peoples of Europe.

Faced with trying circumstances in England, the Welsh Quakers saw Pennsylvania as a secure haven from English religious oppression. Penn’s Welsh ancestry and Quaker heritage gave the Welsh Quakers the resolve and confidence needed to emigrate to his colony.

With the promise of great economic opportunity and the assurance of complete religious liberty, a committee of Welsh Quakers met with William Penn in London to negotiate the purchase of a tract of land. The Welsh committee, headed by John ap John, approached Penn with their desire to buy a piece of land where they could form a distinct Welsh settlement where they could maintain their own language and customs. They proposed a self-governed settlement in which they would handle any quarrels or crimes in their own way and their own language.

An agreement was reached between Penn and the Welsh committee; however, it was a fully verbal agreement (which would later lead to some controversy). Nonetheless, the committee was satisfied at the time, and arrangements were made to purchase forty thousand acres.

Thirty thousand acres were put in the names of select Welsh leaders who acted as “company heads”. Some of these men purchased the land for themselves, while others acted merely as trustees and eventually parted the land out to settlers. The other ten thousand acres of the Welsh Barony were to be distributed by Penn himself to additional settlers.

The Birth of Pennsylvania, 1680, by Jean Leon ...
The Birth of Pennsylvania, 1680, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. William Penn, holding paper, standing and facing King Charles II, in the King’s breakfast chamber at Whitehall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Settlement took off rapidly, and the Welsh Barony was quickly populated by numerous Quaker families. Estimates show that between 1662 and 1700, the Welsh made up the largest immigrant body in the state. The original townships of Merion and Haverford soon overflowed into new townships in Radnor and Goshen. Soon Tredyffrin and Uwchlan were established, and before long, the rest of the barony was settled.

The Welsh Quakers were typically well-to-do, industrious folks. They built up and developed their land quickly, and lived fairly luxurious lives for early pioneers.

For some time, they did indeed govern themselves as the Welsh Barony; however, the system soon disappeared as the Welsh merged into the general population. Over the next few generations, the Welsh language died out as the Quakers took to speaking English. Nonetheless, the relatively small group of Quakers gained surprising eminence in the region, and to this day, their influence can be felt.

The Great Migration of Canada

Between 1815 and 1850, population growth was soaring throughout Europe. Though the Industrial Revolution was making the continent wealthier overall, jobs were scarce and many were forced to look toward the New World for economic survival. During the first half of the century, over 800,000 European immigrants left their homes and settled throughout Canada.

Ireland Park in Toronto, Canada
Ireland Park in Toronto, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seeing as the Industrial Revolution started in England, nearly 60% of these immigrants came from Britain. Immigrants came from other countries as well. Americans and Chinese came looking for gold. Many Irish came to escape the great Potato famine. The British were the first to set out for Canada, however, and were the largest cultural group at the end of the migration.

This Great Migration was spurred by a number of factors. Obviously, the Industrial Revolution was an overarching factor; however, individual motivations and reasons for leaving varied greatly. Lower classes were obviously facing a severe job shortage. Unemployment was rampant, and the poor felt suppressed by the government. Industrialization was in its infancy and regulations were practically non-existent, so towns were made filthy with soot and fumes. The Irish were facing a unique struggle with the great Potato Famine, and thousands were starving and desperate for a solution.

England’s wealthy classes were also looking toward Canada, though for different reasons. Canada was fresh new territory, ripe for the taking. Enormous opportunities existed for new business ventures, and those who could get in early stood to make a fortune.

Regardless of why the immigrants left Britain, each was hoping for a chance at a better life. Most felt that the better life they were hoping for would be attainable if they could find a job, enough food to sustain their family, a healthier environment, and a greater voice in their government.

Following the promise of cheap or free land in Canada, the immigrants left England with high hopes. They endured expensive, arduous sea voyages, only to have those hopes crushed in many cases. Many arrived sick from the long voyage, and if they were too ill, they were often deported, quarantined, or even simply left to die.

Canada (Photo credit: palindrome6996)

Success didn’t come easily to the immigrants. There was opportunity aplenty, but the settlers had to fight for every inch. The climate was harsh, and the British settlers were not prepared for the bitterly cold winters. During certain seasons, insects invaded in force, and caused serious trouble for the newly arrived settlers. Though the immigrants found jobs, education, equality in government representation, freedom of language, and freedom of religion, the path to success wasn’t smooth sailing by any means.

In spite of the struggles, many immigrants did succeed, and the British settlers have since made a huge impact on the culture and development of Canada. The English language is the national tongue, thanks to the British immigrants, and many place names and traditions, principles and even religion were brought in with the British settlers of the Great Migration.

Economic Migration: Jamestown, Virginia

In May of 1607, three British ships landed on the shores of Virginia. On board the Discovery, the Godspeed and the Susan Constant were men, boys and crew members who hoped to better their fortunes in the New World. The ships were loaded with all the supplies they thought might be needed in establishing a colony. The settlers had high hopes as they set out, spurred on by visions of the “mountains of gold” that the Spanish had found. Little did they know what hardships they were set to face.

Obverse and Reverse of the Seal of the Virgini...
Obverse and Reverse of the Seal of the Virginia Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While other settlements across America had been largely spurred by other (primarily religious) factors, the colony of Jamestown was established entirely for economic purposes. The economic climate of 16th and 17th century England was undergoing great changes. Many farmers had lost their rented lands and had moved to the cities looking for work. Jobs were few and far between, however, and many of these migrants were forced to beg or steal to survive.

A number of enterprising folks began looking for a solution to the problem, and migration to the New World seemed like a viable and practical option. Establishing new colonies abroad was risky and expensive; however, in many ways it seemed the risks were outweighed by the political and economic benefits.

Early in the 17th century, a group of merchants approached King James as the joint-stock Virginia Company of London. In 1606, they were granted the right to establish colonies in Virginia. Rather than the crown footing the bill for the venture, wealthy men put up the money to buy the ships and supplies needed for the voyage and initial settlement.  A large number of Englishmen became stockholders in the venture, and held high hopes that they would see great returns on their investments in the form of gold and other goods like tar, pitch, oil, and citrus fruits.

Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, comme...
Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, commemorated on the Virginia State Quarter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first 104 settlers arrived in Virginia in 1607. A third of these settlers were “gentlemen” who had been recruited by the financers of the expedition. Many were military men who had fought the Spanish or in the Irish wars. Aside from these came a number of skilled craftsmen, bricklayers and carpenters, a blacksmith, a mason, a minister, a barber, and two surgeons, along with other unskilled workers and common seamen.

Upon arrival, Captain Christopher Newport, commander of the largest ship, opened the sealed orders from the Virginia Company and declared the names of those who had been appointed to run the colony. Edward Maria Wingfield was named president of the colony, and the settlers began the arduous task of establishing themselves in the new land.

Others soon arrived; however, life in the colony was more difficult than expected. Soon the colonists were starving, and over eighty percent of the immigrants died within a year. The Virginia Company was still hoping for a return on their investment, so they put out propaganda to entice more Britons to join the new colony. Another 3,750 were sent off to the supposed land “of milk and honey” in the hope of finding profit.

Unfortunately, the Virginia Company saw very little profit for many years. The settlers struggled to find a profitable product that could be exported. Their search for gold was fruitless, lumber was too expensive to ship, and other small ventures saw little success. The settlers established a fur trade with the Indians; however, even this was not financially lucrative until many years later.

It wasn’t until John Rolfe began to experiment with tobacco that Virginia finally began to turn a profit. Once they had learned to grow and cure the leaves, the colonists gave up all other products to meet the rising demand for tobacco in England. The economy in Virginia was revived as this great cash crop finally brought financial success.

Palatine Migration into England

Within a few short months in 1709, 13,000 “Poor Palatines” landed on English soil. They had arrived from the Electoral Palatinate in Southwest Germany, with the intention of eventually settling in the New World. Little did they know, their arrival in England would cause an unprecedented political debate over the merits and drawbacks of immigration.

Illustration of the four lay electors of the H...
Illustration of the four lay electors of the Holy Roman Empire (from left: King of Bohemia, Count Palatine of the Rhine [or Elector Palatine], Duke of Saxony [or Elector of Saxony], Margrave of Brandenburg [or Elector of Brandenburg]) with their insignia (Photo credit: Penn Provenance Project)
Many reasons were to blame for the mass emigration. The most prominent, however, was the devastation left by years of war. The Thirty Years’ War had decimated the Palatinate; however, due to hard work and fertile land, the region was making a remarkable recovery. Unfortunately, the time of prosperity was cut short by the armies of Louis XIV.

The province was devastated in 1674, as Marshal Turenne and his troops laid the country to waste. Conditions were worsened by ongoing spats and struggles between neighboring princes in the region. From 1688 to 1689, the Grand Monarch vented his wrath on Protestants by ordering the Palatinate laid waste yet again.

The Nine Years’ War and the War of Spanish Succession brought years of terror for Southwest Germany. French troops thundered and plundered across the region, requisitioning freely and bringing widespread devastation and famine to the people of the Palatinate.

To the man-made devastation, nature brought a final blow. The winter of 1708 was the worst of the century, bringing intense cold as early as October, with temperatures reaching bone-chilling depths by early November. Of that winter it is said that firewood would not burn in the open air and birds fell dead in flight. Orchards and vineyards were destroyed, and men froze to death before the snow stopped falling on February 6th in 1709.

A final burden on the Palatines came from their own petty rulers. These princes lusted after the extravagant lifestyle of Louis XIV, and turned to heavy taxation in order to finance their lavish living. So heavy were the taxes that peasants were often left without sustenance.

To this impoverished crowd came a number of English agents with the enticing offer of free land in the American Colonies. Pamphlets were distributed, advertising the wonderful life that could be had in the New World and offering free passage through England to the plantations of Carolina and Pennsylvania. The books and papers distributed often bore the Queen’s picture and bore gold lettering on the title page.

The prospects offered in the pamphlets must have seemed a dream come true to the suffering Palatines. These “golden promises” led many of the poor people to believe that they would receive assistance after their arrival in England. Encouraged by the success of families who had gone before them, many thousands of Germans set off for England and the New World.

In May 1709, the first boatloads of “Poor Palatines” began arriving in England. Throughout the summer, thousands more arrived. While the first 900 immigrants were provided for by a group of benevolent wealthy Englishmen, the thousands of refugees that followed quickly overwhelmed the capacity to provide for them.

Army tents were set up in Blackheath and Camberwell fields as a temporary solution while a committee was frantically seeking ideas for employment and settlement of the thousands of refugees. Unfortunately, the Palatines were largely unskilled and poorly educated, greatly narrowing the opportunities for employment.

Of course, the situation provided excellent fodder for political debate – particularly because immigration had been a hot-button topic for some time. The Whigs felt that immigrants would prove to be a benefit to England’s workforce, and made great effort to raise sympathy and support for the Palatines. The Tories, on the other hand, felt that the Palatines were already placing an unbearable financial burden on the country and strongly opposed naturalization of the immigrants.

The Board of Trade was commissioned with finding a solution to the problem, and unfortunately for the Palatines (who still had dreams of reaching America), many were initially dispersed to neighboring towns and cities. Eventually, however, the Board gave in and began sending many families on to New York.

Over the summer of 1710, ten ships carried around 2800 Germans to New York. While not all the Palatines made it to America, groups of Germans did eventually succeed in establishing successful communities and making significant contributions in the New World.


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