154. The Second War with England. Yet finally President Madison and Congress came to believe that war against England was necessary. Only by war, they thought, could she be compelled to stop seizing our ships and our seamen and stirring up the Indians to attack our frontier. Nearly half of our people opposed the war as unnecessary, yet war was finally declared. What an unhappy event that the two great Englishspeaking nations should once more be unable to settle their differences by any other means than bloodshed and destruction!

In the War of 1812 the American navy won great victories over the superior fleets of Britain. In the land battles our hastily raised armies did not do so well. Yet the world was surprised when at New Orleans we defeated the trained British forces which had just borne a leading part in Napoleon’s downfall, and for the first time we began to be regarded as a strong nation.

While this unfortunate contest between kinsfolk was still raging, the great war in Europe came to an end with the overthrow of Napoleon. England had therefore no longer any reason to interfere with our ships or commerce, and as a result she made a treaty of peace with the United States at Ghent (1815). This treaty restored good relations with our cousins across the Atlantic and in Canada. Though since the Treaty of Ghent we have had many difficulties with our British kinsmen, we have always been able to settle them without war. Never again, we hope, will shots be exchanged across the Canadian border or war fleets sweep across the Great Lakes.

155. The Monroe Doctrine. After the second war with England our people felt more than ever that we wanted nothing to do with Europe except in the way of peaceful trade and commerce.

Our statesmen were anxious also that the nations of Europe should not interfere any longer in America. To keep them away, the United States had already (1803) bought from France the great territory called Louisiana, lying between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains. Later we purchased Florida from Spain (1819).

But the strong military nations of Europe cast longing eyes on the rich territories of the New World. The Czar of Russia had already sent fur traders to Alaska and desired to extend his claims to Oregon and California.

Yet the greatest danger was in South America and Mexico. These countries had been colonies of Spain. While the wars with Napoleon were raging in Europe their people revolted and tried to set up republics just as our own forefathers had done. For years Spain struggled to subdue the South American patriots, but in vain. Naturally our people sympathized with those who were fighting for liberty, and rejoiced in the victories of Bolivar, the great South American leader.

At last it seemed that Spain, unable to conquer her former colonists, was about to call upon France and Russia to send their forces to help win back her lost empire. The United States was much disturbed. Fortunately Great Britain felt as we did and said that she would stop the action of the "Holy Alliance," as it was called, by means of her powerful navy. Yet England needed support.

Then it was that our President, Monroe, in his message to Congress (1823), made a declaration which has been very dear to Americans ever since as the "Monroe Doctrine." He Set forth that in European affairs the United States would take no part, but that this government would regard any attempt made by the nations of Europe to oppress the countries of North and South America or to limit their independence as an act unfriendly to the United States. He said also that as all the land in this hemisphere was already occupied there was no longer any place here for new European colonies.

Fortunately the Holy Alliance did not try to send armies to South America, and the independence of the new republics was recognized.

Often indeed it has been hard for us to carry out the "Monroe Doctrine," for the republics of South America at first seemed too weak and unruly to manage their own affairs in a civilized way. But our people have never ceased to believe that in time the inhabitants of Latin America, as it is called, would learn better methods of government. And it now appears certain that we have been right. The most progressive South American countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, now have- governments which are able to take their own part in the world, and nearly all the Latin-American countries are improving wonderfully in political matters.

But without the Monroe Doctrine there is little doubt that most of these peoples would soon have come under European rule.

156. Immigration to the United States—the "Old Immigration." When the United States became independent it did not mean that no more people were to come from Europe to dwell among us. On the contrary, our country needed strong men and women to help conquer the wilderness; we welcomed all who wished to come. We were indeed proud that all who were oppressed by their kings or princes might find a refuge under the stars and stripes. According to our laws the newcomers might not merely live here, but in a short time might become citizens by taking an oath to uphold our government.

And many thousands, nay millions, came. But at first nearly all the immigrants were from the British Isles. They were so much like Americans that in a very short time they learned American ways of government, and their children were just like those whose ancestors had come in the colonial days. Such people were always welcome.

Later, thousands began to come from Ireland and from Germany. Most of the Irish were very poor people who had been driven from home by starvation when the potato crops, which supplied the chief food in Ireland at that time, failed. But some came because of oppression by the Eritish government. Nearly all the early German immigrants came because the wars and revolutions at home made life hard or unsafe.

Some native Americans at first did not like these newcomers because they were so different from ourselves. They had different customs and different ways of looking at things, and the Germans even spoke a different language. Some demanded that the foreigners be kept away, and there were even mobs against them in certain large cities. But in the end both the Irish and the Germans have shown that they had the stuff to make good Americans.

Still later, immigrants began to come from other countries in northwestern Europe. Prominent among them were the Scandinavians from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, who settled chiefly in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas. These strong and industrious people proved valuable citizens, for they settled on farms and aided greatly in making our northwestern states prosperous. Up to about the year 1885 it seemed that the United States could not have too many immigrants.

157. The New Immigration. But now there came a change. The peoples of the "Old Migration"—the British, the Irish, the Germans, and the Scandinavians— continued to come, but in smaller numbers. The British government was encouraging its people to go to Canada or Australia, where they would still be under the British flag, while the Kaiser of Germany did his best to keep his subjects at home where they could be made into soldiers to carry out his plans, instead of letting them come to the United States where they would in time become Americans and cease to do his will.

In place of these came peoples from far-off lands who seemed to Americans strange—Italians, Poles, Russians, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Armenians, Greeks, and the many nationalities of southern and eastern Europe. What an oddly mixed company they appeared as they poured down the gangways of the steamers and stared in amazement at the sights and sounds of a new land so different from anything they had ever dreamed of! Many Americans would not believe that these people ever could learn to think and act as citizens of this great republic should.

Now many of the people of this "New Migration," as it has been called, were just as brave and strong as those who came before. But for them the problem was much harder. The British, the Germans, and the Scandinavians belong to races not so very different from our own, but the new immigrants were not at all like us. Their speech was totally strange; they knew nothing of American ways; a great many of them had never had a chance to go to school in their own country or to learn even to read and write. Some among them hated all government or order because they had never known anything but tyranny at home.

Moreover, since much of the best land in the West was now occupied, the new immigrants usually had to go to the great cities in order to obtain work in the gigantic factories and mills. In these cities they lived huddled together with other immigrants and had little chance even to learn English. Many had to work long hours for little pay.

No wonder, then, that though many among them have done splendidly and become good citizens, others have understood little of what America really means. It is a great question what should be done to help them and to prevent our country from being greatly injured by the ignorance and violence of some of these newcomers.

Some of our statesmen believe that further immigration should be stopped. A greater number think that it should only be limited somewhat, and that there should be a stricter way of finding out which persons among those who apply for admission are intelligent. Still others believe that there is room for all under the flag of freedom.

After the World War, Congress passed a law that each year only a certain small fraction of the number of people from any one country already settled here should be allowed to enter. But already we have in our country a large slice of Europe which we must think about. Though as a nation we have tried to keep away from wars and treaties with European states, we are learning to know the people of Europe as never before. It is our present problem to make those who have come to live among us good and useful Americans.

Back to Table of Contents.

© 2001 by Lynn Waterman