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Essay on the Nature of Opposition and Hostility to Immigrants Throughout Much of American History

6 pages
1435 words
Boston College
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The immigration history of the United States extends from the 19th century to the present times. Immigrants to America have always been hated and feared by the Native Americans. Germans are considered the largest group of immigrants to America, being more numerous than the Irish and the English by a wide margin (Sakia 56). Most English settlers particularly those in Pennsylvania found the growing number of immigrants quite disturbing.  Most immigrants came as wage earners and this led to opposition and hostility towards them and demand for legislation restricting immigration.  For example, in 1710, the Menists, religious people from Holland immigrated to Pennsylvania and purchased lands at low rates (Sakia 57). There reception by the locals was encouraging so they invited their friends and relatives. However, with the increase of immigrants, there have been inspections for immigrants and measures to restrict their number.  Most immigrants come to America because of the call of the dollar or for economic motives. Coming as unskilled laborers, it is ranks of organized labor that first felt their impact. However, there was evidence of hostility throughout much of American history, into colonial times, and this hostility seems to only increase under the presidency of Donald Trump. This paper analyses the nature of this opposition and hostility to immigrants throughout much of American history.

Franklin and the Pennsylvania Germans

The massive influx of Germans in Pennsylvania attracted hostile attention and expressions in 1723. Benjamin Franklin states that when Pennsylvania Germans manufacturers immigrate into their country, where labor is better paid than in England, their industries diminishes. However, with the German laborers who now receive higher wages, they accumulate wealth and become rich (Franklin, 1753). With a large number of German settlers in Pennsylvania, it was feared that it would become a German colony, and they would establish their language and manners to the exclusion of Americans (Franklin, 1753). The central question was that, why should Pennsylvania become Aliens colony and later Germanize our people, instead of us assimilating them to adopt our customs and language? (Franklin, 1753). Benjamin Franklin warned about German immigrants overrunning America. Franklin writes, "Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their Nationand a few of the English understand the German Language, and so cannot address them either from the Press or Pulpit, is almost impossible to remove any prejudices they once entertainNot being used to Liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of itI remember when they modestly declined to intermeddle in our Elections, but now they come in droves, and carry all before them, except in one or two Counties...In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so outnumber us, that all the advantages we have will not, in My Opinion, be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious (Franklin, 1753)."

With a large number of German immigrants, many measures were taken to ensure their allegiance, by distributing them across British America. It was suggested that German children be taught English and mixed with the English in attempts to assimilate them (Franklin, 1753). However, it is important to note that Franklin did not refuse entirely to accept the Germans. He proposed that Germans have their virtues and their frugality and industry are exemplary, and they contribute to the development and improvement of the country (Franklin, 1753). Thus, the only animosity that Franklin had towards Germans was that the Germans would outnumber them, making it difficult to preserve their language and customs or take over political leadership in future.

Protest against Chinese Immigrants

The discovery of Gold in California in 1848 lead to a massive influx of migrants hoping to make their fortunes (Sakia 259). Immigrants came to the goldfield from across the world leading to an increase of immigrant population from 15,000 in 1848 to 360,000 in 1860 (Sakia 259). The Chinese immigrated to California between 1849 and 1852, most of them young men who had signed contracts to work in the railroads and mines. In 1852, anti-Chinese sentiments developed leading to the restriction of Chinese immigration (Sakia 259). Miners and rail builders of European descent were angered because the Chinese were finding gold and given mining permits on what was rightfully theirs. Such a strong Anti-Chinese feeling made the Chinese intellectually and morally inferior because they were blamed for any ills within the community. The Chinese were robbed and hunt down to steal the rewards of their toil (Sakia 260). Despite the labor union outcry, the sentiments against the Chinese continued because the Chinese kept working for lower wages and taking potential jobs from the Native Americans (Sakia 260). Cultural stereotypes and differences such as gambling, prostitution, and opium smoking were some of the negative influences of the Chinese immigrants on American community. An ant-Chinese movement was developed to focus on Chinese already living in the US (Sakia 260) and the laws against emigration were passed to restrict Chinese immigrants to move to the United States. Most Chinese laborers left the US to return to their country (Sakia 260). The reproved of their rights despite their due credit for their richness and variety of their works of art (Sakia 261). The Chinese only came as traders or mechanics, but instead of following every honorable business of life, they received hostility from Native Americans.

The Fear that Immigrants will Ruin American Inequality

With the effect of our democratic republican institutions, the benevolence and kindness shown to immigrants lead to the acts of public spirit, unwearied effort to lessen the obstacles by affording them both education and employment (Sakia 330). Migrants feel that equality is opened to all to rise in the same rank of independence in mind and condition, but the Americans feel ill-will, bitterness, and envy towards the wealthy and educated immigrants. Such a society in its two extremes should be knitted together by mutual interest and trust (Sakia 330).

In Austria, the poor and illiterate are considered as natural slaves of the wealthy and learned (Sakia 330). A line of separation is drawn between these two classes. There may be an elevation of one class and no condescension on the other class. One class is characterized by wealth, learning, polished manners and strengthening the hands of the arbitrary power while the other class is characterized by poverty, ignorance, boorishness and irretrievable subjection (Sakia 330). Thus, with the increasing host of immigrants, they need to serve the interest of their imperial masters. By keeping them unenlightened as in the countries that they came from rather than putting them out in the light, nourishing them for turbulence and riot at political meetings, they would soon become knowledgeable, wealthy and have political experience refusing to be undeceived and gaining political power (Sakia 331). They would develop motives of self-preservation and fight to alienate the feelings of the wealthy class. By the natural envy of the poor towards the rich, occasions of violence will occasionally be experienced. The hostility between these two classes can increase leading to a civil strife that will instigate the change of systems. Since outrages must be quelled by military force for the public peace, the civil arm would have become too weak because the majority of them are the people from the lower class (Sakia 331). The people who would suffer are the rich and wealthy class. Although the rich can pay for their soldiers and protection, it is still the poor that they will have to pay to offer them protection. Thus, it is the poor and ignorant not the enlightened and educated class that has everything of hope and liberty (Sakia 331). This results in a moral and intelligent democracy where the poor and the rich are equals and friends. The liberty of the laboring class and the working men remain in danger but can only be preserved through education and good order (Sakia 331).


It is not a myth that immigrants have always been hated and feared by the Native Americans. Most Americans find the growing number of immigrants quite disturbing because most immigrants came as wage earners and with their increasing number they can establish their language and manners to the exclusion of Americans. By becoming an Aliens colony, immigrants can outnumber them, making it difficult to preserve their language and customs or take over political leadership in future. However, by assimilating both immigrants and the natives together, there would be hope and liberty for everyone. Creating a moral and intelligent democracy where the immigrants and the natives or the poor and the rich are equals and friends is important. Immigrants have their virtues and frugality, and they contribute to the development and improvement of the country.


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