How were 17th century vs. recent immigrants received?

Three-mast ship of the 17th century

In grade school we celebrated the immigration of the Mayflower’s European Pilgrims to Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, in 1620 and the first encounter with the Native American tribes, conveniently forgetting the latter had lived in the hemisphere for 1,000 years.

This month historians also recognize the arrival of The White Lion in 1619 near Jamestown, Virginia, (ironically then Point Comfort) carrying the first twenty blacks from Africa, who were pressed into service that August.

Nearly twenty years later near the beginning of the Great European Migration, the British three-mast Rose crossed the Atlantic Ocean carrying the ancestor of Abraham Lincoln, reaching Massachusetts’ coastal beaches in 1638.

First immigrants without freedom

The captain of an English privateer ship White Lion captured twenty Africans from a Spanish slave ship in the Caribbean and bartered them for food in Jamestown, Virginia. Most of these Africans were later found to be freemen or indentured servants kidnapped from their homes in Africa, double-crossed by rival warriors.

The usual travel route from Africa was to the West Indies and South America, where humans would be sold in exchange for their knowledge of warm-weather crops, like rice and tobacco. The Africans’ experience with tobacco planting and curing would prove to be invaluable to Southern plantation owners well into the future, but it didn’t free the Africans from the backbreaking work. Many Africans aboard White Lion could already read and write, being taught by the Jesuit missionaries.

Native American-Colonist relations collapse

Disagreements between Colonists and Native Americans over valuable fishing rights along the Virginia coast launched the 1622 massacre. The loss of trust that began between the inhabitants of the Virginian outpost and the Powhatan tribes would be repeated with others and continue for centuries, move to the nation’s interior with migration, cost hundreds of thousands of lives, foster America’s reputation for horror, and create unimaginable suffering among both.Yet as the years progressed, settlers coveted the vast resources of America, realized its internal beauty, and risked their lives for a rung on the ladder to America’s success. European diseases and the government policies decimated the Native population and pushed most of the tribes off Eastern land and into the interior, where battles ensued until after the Civil War.

Great Migration builds a nation

Orphan Samuel Lincoln, like others 400 years later, took a chance that life would be better in America than it was in 17th century England. He walked aboard the Rose on April 8, 1638, leaving the Port of Great Yarmouth for Salem, Massachusetts. A 15-year-old weaver, Samuel launched the Lincoln family in America, later participant in the nation’s debate and eventual war over slavery. A Puritan, he may also have fled the British monarch’s reign of terror against his religion, part of a continuous loop of persecution to be repeated over centuries. After raising his family, Samuel lent a hand to help build Boston’s Old Ship Church, which still stands.

2019: Immigrants come in caravans, buses, and on foot

Today there’s vastly more knowledge about the language and customs of those coming to America today–a more populous, wealthy nation thought to be more sophisticated than in the 17th century. Yet instead of making it easier to complete immigration respectfully, through inquiry, paperwork review, and court decisions where needed, it has become mangled, stalled and abused.

Today developing trust between people who don’t speak your language, look or dress like you, and/or practice a different religion, requires an open mind, makeshift communication, fair dealing, and takes more than one season to accomplish. Trust and friendship developed carefully over time can be destroyed within an instant.

Now in place of tolerance we have built up a dangerous barrier of fear, suspicion, and prejudice greater than any eight-foot wall. The nation that coveted a reputation for freedom has separated parents from their children and created a toxic environment anxious that small children would step onto American soil, least they get accustomed to liberty.

Changing perceptions

It wasn’t until after 1660 or 1700 in America that an African would be determined on sight to be a slave. Prior there were a range of possibilities. Later in the 18th century racial categories and working classes hardened. A man or a woman’s skin color would determine their status. In the earlier years whites and blacks, particularly those without resources, would work together in the fields or manor houses without distinction, according to Tim Been, Professor of American History, Northwestern University.

The slave trade did not exist in 1619 between the American colony and Africa. While the work performed by the initial 20 African men may have qualified as slavery, it wasn’t technically until 1623 when John Tucker became the first “slave for life.” His African parents, Anthony and Isabel, were indentured to Captain William Tucker. John, not seeing the future he desired, ran away with two white indentured servants. When they were captured, John was sentenced was to a life of “perpetual slavery,” as a punishment and deterrent to others. The white indentured servants returned to serve out their time, then be freed.

Are Greed and Intolerance baked in?

Millions have followed Abraham Lincoln’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather in braving the perils of the North Atlantic, the Pacific, turbulent flights, and perilous deserts to reach these shores. The talents and skills of these immigrants have created the wealth and liberties we have today, but now it is time to apply what we have learned and once again become a fearless country based on justice and fairness for all.

This planet appears smaller than it did in the 17th century now that 7.7 billion people reside upon it, according to the United Nation’s World Report, August 2019. Humans using their intelligence, will, and power to solve, not create, problems will begin to realize the possibilities in a world managing human potential, not abusing it.

Party Politics is a Blessing and a Curse

America has held its reputation as a leader in democratic thought and voter participation, despite the fact that just 58 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2016 Presidential Election. Mainly because much of the rest of the world hasn’t been able to boast a longer democratic tradition. Now the world seems to be sorely in need of a booster shot of democracy, the nation faces new challenges around the world that press on us with instant electronic stories from far-flung spots like China, North Korea, India, Russia, and Israel.

Much earlier, Americans born between 1776 and 1800, who knew of the Revolutionary struggle for freedom, though they had not participated first hand, worked optimistically to shape a new nation, but clung with sharp claws to their own vision of the future.

Lest we forget in 1790 party politics were viewed with suspicion by the Framers of the Constitution, including George Washington (who would live until 1799). After Alexander Hamilton announced his plan for a National Bank, those in support or opposition immediately chose sides. Political legends, like Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican  Party) and John Adams (Federalist) led their parties in different directions. In 1796 Federalist John Adams, who preferred a loose interpretation of the Constitution and a strong federal government, gained the Presidency. Jefferson, who developed the Democratic-Republican party of strict Constitutionalists and states rights, came in second—providing Adams with a VP representing the opposite political views.

Thomas Jefferson – Scanned 1855 Engraving

Four years later, by 1800, the tables turned and Jefferson gained the Presidency in a brutal campaign. In the runoff between Jefferson and Aaron Burr, who voted even with him even though he was the intended vice president, the House of Representatives voted 36 times.

Voting started on February 11 while a snowstorm raged outside, but only one Congressman missed the vote despite the lack of snowplows. Burr sent a note bowing out of the race to Jefferson and “your administration,” but then worked behind the scenes to garner votes for himself.

Disabuse yourself of any ideas that campaigns were less divisive in 1800. Jefferson wanted to lay claim to the “spirit of 1776” in part because he supported France in the ongoing European battles vs. the British. During this period Jefferson uttered the phrase that now rims the interior of his memorial’s dome in DC: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” These noble words are tarnished a bit by the vehement sentiments of the political brawl then being conducted.

According to Jefferson’s followers, Adams, Hamilton and the Federalists were conducting a “reign of witches” and acted “adverse to liberty,” which was a potent scourge 17 years after the Revolution’s end. There were reasons for voters to question the Federalists, particularly the Ultra branch that swept the 1798 election and proceeded to establish a provisional army, approved Hamilton’s bank, imposed higher taxes to pay for the army, and passed the Alien and Sedition Acts against “any false, malicious or scandalous” statements against the government, stomping on the Bill of Rights.

John Adams struck back with a bit of humor when challenged that he would bring in the French to support him: “There’s no more prospect of seeing the French Army here than there is in Heaven.” His proponents saw Jefferson as a coward who fled rather than fight the British as Virginia’s governor and falling back on the question of religion, referred to Jefferson as a “howling atheist.” Once the smoke cleared, it became apparent that the line in the Constitution counting each slave as three-fifths of a man tilted the vote to the Democrat-Republicans just enough for the Federalists to lose.

An exhausted Federalist Speaker of the House said “enough” after the delegate from Delaware agreed to abstain from voting to move forward, “The gig is up.” This pleased House members who’d heard rumors that a mob had stormed the arsenal in Philadelphia and were planning to come south to Washington once they were well armed.

Background negotiations with Jefferson continued to the last vote, but Jefferson denied he’d made any concessions to the Federalists. His record might resolve that question. Once in office, Jefferson acquiesced to the Bank of the United States and did not limit continued borrowing by the government, and he did not remove most Federalist office holders. His Vice President Aaron Burr may not have been able to bargain with ancient adversaries, perhaps part of his animosity carried into his final showdown with Alexander Hamilton three years later, which destroyed Burr’s political future as it took Hamilton’s life.

America has held its reputation  2016 and 2012 reported the same percent..

People born in America (Joyce Appleby, Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans,  June 18, 2000, C-SPAN Boston: Belknap/Harvard)

Four years later

I have sworn (Ibid)

Federalists  (Ibid)

The gig is up.

There were reasons  (Ibid)

Summer is for Traveling, Seeing and Thinking

Frederick Olmsted tromped through old growth forests on his tour of the South reporting for the New York Daily Times before the Civil War. What came after along his route might provide insight into the world in which we live today.

He said he ”was born for a traveler.” Frederick Law Olmsted

Until recently I thought of him as the architect who laid out New York’s Central Park, the U.S. Capitol grounds, and much of America’s urban landscape for future generations to enjoy.  This summer I realized he also provided us with reporting on the antebellum South as he rode paddle wheels and horses up and down the territory along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers reporting for the New York Daily Times as the nation was pulling apart .

Like an “errant” modern day son unwilling to take up the first occupation he came across, Olmsted tested himself and his father’s patience before determining the talent he would pursue. In the meantime, he worked as a merchant seaman to China, an experimental farmer in New Hampshire, the proverbial wander through Europe, and as the Yankee roaming the Cotton Kingdom (the title of Olmsted’s volume combining his travel trilogy).

This reminder of Olmsted’s travels comes in a modern tale by an American storyteller, the late Tony Horwitz. Readers savor Spying on the South, which he termed “An Odyssey across the American Divide,” chasing Olmsted’s route, as the author suffered a fatal heart attack on the book’s tour.

In selecting the original author, The Times sought an unbiased reporter–one who would be fair on the issue of slavery– and believed that Olmsted was the one. Olmsted admitted he was not an abolitionist, but considered himself a Free Soiler like Lincoln in 1852, who sought to limit slavery’s extension rather than seek its immediate end.

In picking up Olmsted’s trail and reopening his works, Horwitz reveals a visionary who foresaw the coming Civil War. He saw it as the beginning of a long struggle that we realize today might not be over yet. Olmsted believed that postwar Reconstruction would continue to exact a toll equal to, if not worse than, what the nation had already suffered.

President Andrew Johnson, an 1860s Democrat who took over the White House after Lincoln’s death, vetoed Civil Rights legislation supported by Republicans– a bill that defined native-born Americans as citizens and provided equal protection under the law to emancipated blacks, including voting rights. This veto moved the House to vote to impeach Johnson. He barely escaped impeachment—by a single vote.

Providing suffrage (the vote) to the emancipated, the arrival of northern “carpetbaggers,” and the free labor economy, all infuriated the supremacists of the day, who instigated violence and supported the Ku Klux Klan. President U.S. Grant came to office in the middle of a violent response in the South, including murders of Republican officeholders, between 1867-69 and sent in federal troops in an attempt to quell the mayhem.

Easter Sunday 1873, a replay of the war occurred when a Rebel officer, who fought under Stonewall Jackson, and his minions got hold of a cannon they used to intimidate, then outright massacre blacks and their supporters. A Union veteran and his followers sided with blacks, joining around a firepit outside the Colfax, Louisiana, Courthouse. With greater firepower, a cannon and superior rifles, the Rebels won the day. So much for resurrection day—the closest count they could manage after some bodies were burned–between 100 and 150 blacks who formed up with the Union lost their lives.

Grant had seen more than enough bloodshed during the war, but called Colfax “a butchery” inflicted on “citizens” in an unlawful act to seize power by force of arms. A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court further stripped blacks of their right to protection under the law. The highest court left enforcement up to the individual Southern states rather than the federal government. Grant protested that “no way can be found in this boasted land of civilization and Christianity to punish the perpetrators of this bloody and monstrous Crime (in Colfax).”

The story did not end then, but rose again 48 years later, as citizens gathered at a marble obelisk in the Colfax cemetery to once again remember what some saw as the glory days of the South.


(Three names are listed),



APRIL 13, 1873   (p. 183 Spy)

After a proper ceremony at the marker, they proceeded to a pecan tree that “afforded protection and shelter” to white combatants—the 1873 Riot Tree, where twenty-five blacks were overtaken and killed, some by hanging. A plaque then tacked to the tree and a student choir sung “Dixie,” involving the next generation in the “tribute.”  The Riot Tree fell to a lightening bolt sometime before 1951, but the obelisk remained for Horwitz’s visit and a Louisiana historical marker was placed by the rebuilt courthouse that read:

     “On this site occurred the Colfax Riot in which three white men and 150 negroes were slain, This event on April 13, 1873 marked the end of carpetbag misrule in the South.”

Throughout the South, but particularly in Louisiana’s parishes and Mississippi’s marshes, whites defeated by the war used other means to retain “authority”—with voter fraud, KKK terror, coups against the black leaders in Reconstructed counties. Long after Lincoln’s assassination The Panic of 1873 scared voters and aided Democrats, with assistance of voter fraud and intimidation, helped topple Republican candidates in the South and some in the North to aid Southern Democrats in a take over the House of Representatives in 1874.  

While for years the community had a natural racial divide at the railroad tracks, like many places north and south, by 2006 Colfax had a black mayor, perhaps after the white population dropped as jobs moved away. An effort in the 2000s to correct the sign concerning the ‘riot” to better explain the execution of a black man mending his fence prior to the 1873 “Riot” failed, despite a full report in the Colfax investigation. Neighbors did not want to upset the community mending that had taken place over 125 years. The signs remain for visitors and youngsters in the community to piece together their own ideas about what took place—with no historical correction from either 1921 or 1951.

Until recently... Tony Horwitz, Spying on the South, (New York: Penguin Press, 2019, p. 4)

Cotton Kingdom (Ibid. Notes p. 419)

In selecting the original author.(Horowitz, p. 19)

Olmsted believed (Ibid, p. 175)

Easter Sunday 1873, Horwitz,p. 181-2)

Grant had seen enough (Ibid, 182)

On this site Ibid.

While for years (Horwitz, p. 184)

Hot! Hot! Hot! Or Frigid!

1777 Valley Forge in sub-freezing temperatures the men struggled to remain warm with little to eat. By Granger

When the temperature rises above 100, I like to think about historic times when it wasn’t. When George Washington led his soldiers into Winter Quarters at Valley Forge December 19, 1777 the temperature sat at eight degrees. Shortly the deepest snows of the season feel on these bedraggled men and their discouraged leader, who’d just heard from Congress no more funds would be coming—because they had none to give.

Just off a defeat at Brandywine, hungry men came into camp without proper clothing, many with bleeding feet. Typhus began to move into this camp that lacked a hospital to treat them or the wounded coming from battle. Without casualties from the battlefield, five solders per day were dying—some starving, some freezing for lack of blankets.

 Horses were faring no better than the men, falling from lack of fodder or protection from the sub-freezing temperatures. Men were forced to take on the harnesses to pull what few supplies were available.

Memories of the previous December, when victory at Ticonderoga warmed their thoughts, then made victory seem within reach. Now desperation set in among the troops and even their leader began to wonder if their push for independence could be over before 1778.

No Madeira for Christmas

Some of the soldiers “celebrated” Christmas with vinegar and rice, others managed to feast upon burnt mutton and watery grog. Even Washington ate his mutton without Madeira wine as none was to be had at Valley Forge, but that was the least of his worries. Madam Washington left the warm fires of Mount Vernon to join in the misery, attempting to raise the spirits of her spouse and his camp.

Yet all looked bleak for the Colonists, perhaps they would be forced to bow to the Europeans.

Today when Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and the Midwest join Texas and the South in suffering through 100-degree temperatures, millions of people share in the misery. People are dying without any understanding or recognition that this is not “just another summer.” This is not something that goes in cycles…with sea-levels rising around the globe. It’s not possible to believe  “if we just wait another year or two”—the temperature will reverse itself. For the last five years, the average temperature worldwide each year has been warmer than the prior one.

Rediscover American Spunk

As Americans we set an example—to show each other and the world we’re not blind to the atmosphere and the suffering around us. No matter our politics, surely no one among us wants to leave a molten planet for the future–our relatives, our children, and grandchildren. Change won’t come overnight, nor will it be painless, but we are capable of helping each other to move forward.  Several steps can make a difference–if we set our indoor thermostats higher, reduce the amount of waste—food, glass, aluminum—recycle, bike to our errands during lower temperatures, reduce our use of plastic bags, and use transit whenever possible.  

Valley Forge proved to be the transition turnaround time for General Washington. Congress eventually came through with some funds and Martha and the governor’s wives joined to raise money for the troops ($300,000 in 1778 funds), General Green took over scouring for food to feed the army, Washington recruited a Prussian General to train the troops, and a sanitary hospital helped revive his men. By March 1778 the American troops were prepared to take on the British—not instantly—the Treaty of Paris didn’t conclude the war until 1783.             

Today? Let’s demonstrate American spunk to insure the future. What we deliver to the next generation rests in our hands. Our independence and frankly the shorelines that surround our continent depend on it.