by Lindsey Malko
Leaving home can be the result of a multitude of different things. Many times it is forced, but in other instances it is by choice. Sometimes the grass really does seem to be greener on the other side and this is what makes immigrants want to move to America. But it does not only involve physically moving from one place to another. It involves the full embrace of another culture and to move on mentally as well. Immigrants are making the choice to move to another place, specifically the United States, and with that they are accepting their own homesickness and moving on. They are searching for something better than what they are experiencing and just hope that they will find this in another country.
One reason for emigrating from one’s homeland, or moving to somewhere new they want to call home, was as very much a physical process as an emotional one. In Homesickness, Susan Matt writes that “ideally, when an individual moved, he realized that ‘new adjustments must be made, old brain paths must be dropped and new ones formed. He must fuse with a new stratum ’” (Matt, 122). One can not just move and expect everything to be dandy and great; there has to be some thought put into it. There has to be some sort of acknowledgement and appreciation for their new place of living, their home. Occasionally it takes longer for some to get used to their surroundings, but ideally it would be better if it were quicker.
In other cases, such as those of the Native Americans, they were thrown into the new American lifestyle and expected to get used to it quickly. That is not a very fair way to overcome leaving home, however. In the words of Richard Henry Pratt, “I suppose the end to be gained, however far away it might be, is the complete civilization of the Indian and his absorption into our national life, with all the rights and privileges guaranteed and to be made to feel that he is an American Citizen” (Archuleta, Child, and Lomawaima, 58). It definitely takes some time to get over any hard situation, especially being forced to live somewhere else. Boarding schools were no exception. They were fast paced and set in motion on getting the Native Americans to be American Indians and learning American ways. Because of the schools, some were learning to be like Americans and after attending, many more decide they wanted to stay and adopt that lifestyle (Archuleta, Child, and Lomawaima, 58).
“The Reverend Isaac Fidler left England in 1831 with the intention of becoming a citizen of the United States. Like many emigrants he was dissatisfied with conditions in his own country and had formed a high admiration for the American way of life.
Although educated for the church, he had been unable to find a parish in England and had been forced to remain a “mere teacher.” With the hope of bettering his prospects he emigrated but was unable to find a position in the United States. After another try in Canada, where he spent some years doing missionary work, he was forced to return to England. The Reverend Fidler belonged to the small number of immigrant failures.
I observed an uniformity of statement quite surprising, among persons from England and Ireland. The same difficulties and privations and dislikes had befallen most of them. But, perhaps, where almost every one is complaining of grievances, these become magnified beyond their due proportions. We find this frequently in England.”
Excerpt from “America’s Immigrants: Adventures in Eyewitness History,” March 1st, 2014. Text courtesy of North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories.
This passage is featured in America’s Immigrants: Adventures in Eyewitness History and the quotes are from an interview with Isaac Fidler. It addresses his particular experience with emigrating from Europe; it talks about why he moved, his experiences with certain Americans, a young gardener in particular, and his thoughts about living with Americans. Actually wanting to move somewhere other than home is a really big step in a person’s life. It has even more importance to immigrants who are looking for something new. As indicated above, the immigrants were constantly searching for something better, somewhere new with bigger and better opportunities. The passage relates to the fact that the people of other countries such as England were expecting life to be grand once they came to America. They had mentally prepared themselves for a better life and more ways to prosper. He had wanted to be a part of the American way of life, but instead had to return home and live with the fact it did not work out for him. Once immigrants actually lived in the United States, they were not prepared for what came next. Sometimes staying in America was successful, but one did not know until they tried.
“Troy, State of New York, 7th May, 1804.
“My dear Child,
“You must excuse my not writing sooner, my journal being swelled to too large a size to be contained in a letter, and so many advantages have arrested my attention: I have not at present satisfied myself with any. I have been doing business this winter for a merchant, who has shown in every respect great friendship, which I believe to be real. Farming appears to be so advantageous, that I cannot sit down with any thing short of it — an industrious man renders himself independent in about three years, and in seven secures for himself what will make a large family comfortable. Land, at some distance from a river or market, I can have for one day’s work as a carpenter, per acre: near a market it runs high to buy it out, but I can have it on a lease for ever at about sixpence per acre, or buy it out for about eleven shillings per acre. The custom is to give to lease about five, six, or seven years’ rent-free. I and another man of serious good character, are going each of us to take up a lot in a newly erected township, each lot containing about 250 acres, and as good land as any I have seen in England; it is common to get the first year 25 to 30 bushels of wheat per acre sowing but one, without ploughing; nothing is done but cutting down and burning the trees, the root never sprouts again. Land is let to clear at 20s. per acre.”
“I FEEL THANKFUL TO God, THAT HE EVER PUT IT INTO MY MIND TO COME TO A COUNTRY OF GOOD LAWS, RELIGION, AND PLENTY. In regard to a family, we are hard set to keep our children with us: on our arrival at New York, some ladies and gentlemen came to view the passengers, and solicited of me my children, on snch terms as I can never make out to them; they were to be bound no longer than till they were 18 or 20 years of age, and then to choose for themselves. Poor men need not be afraid to come with a large family, for children of industrious parents are riches, and English children are sought after.”
“I never had a winter of better health, or business more easy, my hardest work being to cut wood for our fire, and the rum barrel to run to, which some who loved it better than me, grudged me.”
“The Emigrant’s Guide to the United States of America,” March 1st, 2014. Text courtesy of North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories.
Despite some immigrants having difficulty getting adjusted to the American way of life and becoming a citizen, some found success. As this anonymous author mentioned above, he had very good luck with traveling from England into Troy, New York. In coming to the United States he found work and not only that, he was thankful for God, who “put it into [his] mind to come to a country of good laws, religion, and plenty”. The United States had proven a better economy for those willing to do the work, and along with work, these immigrants were able to find the success they were looking for. He successfully passed through the hard stages of leaving home, and mentally accepted that Troy was a new and exciting place for him. He could do all that he wanted and more because of his new found freedom.
“An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera,” March 2, 2014. Courtesy of Library of Congress.
This photo from the Library of Congress, highlights the statistics of immigration from the years 1902 and 1903. Included in this image are the percentages of not only the different types of nationalities of the immigrants, but their literacy, and the number of them that were turned away and sent back home. From 1902 to 1903 all of the numbers in each of the categories increased, except for literacy percentages in those 14 years of age and older. Those who wished to come and settle in the United States may or may not have achieved their goal.
“Castle Garden – their first Thanksgiving dinner,” March 2nd, 2014. Courtesy of Library of Congress.
Shown above is an image of a man, woman, and a boy who are eating on a picnic bench in New York City. It was published in Harper’s Weekly in 1884. The title of this photo sets the mood of the picture. Upon first glance, one would not have looked into it too much, but in a closer look, the family seems to be in poor stature and not in high spirits. Thanksgiving dinner should not be spent on a street bench, but in a nice warm home. But undoubtedly, leaving home and moving to America was better, no matter what the outcome, and better than what came next.
This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.” A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/assignments-the-concept-of-home-spring-2013/
It is interesting to see the different sides of immigrants in America. As you stated, not every immigrant had success in America and returned home. Also, it is interesting to see the photo where the immigrant family seems poor, but is still enjoying their time in America.