Why European Immigrants Travelled to America Essay
Progressing through the 1800’s to the turn of the nineteenth century, there were dramatic social and societal changes marking a new path for the future of America. The population increased by millions as more and more immigrants sought new lifestyles to match the luxurious ones Americans were rumored to have, due to their industrial, democratic system. Through the eyes of both Americans, and those of foreign soils, America, particularly between the years 1870 to 1900, was a land of endless opportunities that seemed to constantly be growing both economically and socially.
In this time, titled the Gilded Age, the population reached towering numbers as the U. S. transformed. There were clear reasons for the name historians selected as the title for the thirty year period of time between 1870 and 1900. Filling the short half of a life time mentioned, was a flood of events that helped the United States progress, and changed both the general views of Americans, as well as those of foreigners who were drawn in by the luxuries that U. S. citizens seemed to now possess.
The name that was decidedly chosen for the period of time described above was the, “Gilded Age. ” Something can be referred to as gilded when it beams with gold covering its exterior, but is truly made with a cheaper material internally. For this reason, the term “gilded” meant that, although the United States radiated in its prosperous time of social and economic progression, it was important to recognize that this positive view of the country left much room for the concealing of underlying corruption.
Although it was originally used to refer to how the United States was thriving, but, perhaps, housed corruption beneath the surface, there was more recognition placed upon the more positive views of the country at that point, hence the term “gilded”. The benefits of being a U. S. citizen went on and on. The transcontinental railroad was constructed by the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific in the year 1869, giving manufacturers the ability to expand the shipping of their products to new distances, which esulted in an increase in both demand and customers, encouraging the making of catalogues, new inventions, large companies and corporations, and mass production. America was known far and wide for its wealth and rapid industrialization. The idea of Individualism was also a growing belief that sprouted within this era and progressively gained popularity.
This belief is still held by many modern Americans, and is simply defined as the idea that regardless of whether a person’s background is stained with misfortune and maltreatment, or beaming with wealth and the guarantee of infinite potential, each individual could become successful because circumstances were less impacting than personal strength of character. This philosophy gave U. S. citizens the benefit of hope for personal, social, and financial progression. Other countries recognized this, and for a number of reasons, the United States drew the attention of many.
Masses of immigrants came seeking prosperity, freedom, and the same hope for progression that Americans seemed to be presented with. Europeans were accustomed to a class system. The gap that divided the wealthy from the poor had grown to be deep and ominous. Poverty swept across Ireland as the Potato Famine took more and more lives. Starvation was a cold, hard reality of the time, and people were desperate for jobs when their crops wouldn’t grow, though they were rarely available. The population was high, job openings were low, and the requirements for immigration to the United States were surprisingly reasonable.
America was a land of opportunity under its democratic system, rather than the class system that many Europeans felt victimized by. Also, land was affordable, and could be attained easily. The Homestead Act of 1869 allowed citizens to acquire up to 160 acres of land for $1. 25 for each acre, as long as the individual remains settled there for five years. The option of migrating to the United States was appealing in their time of struggle, to say the least. There were other reasons to explain the massive amounts of European immigrants that travelled to the United States during this time period.
Forced military service, at this time, became a painfully realistic fear that settled over many Europeans. Military drafting could last for years in some nations, and many decided that immigration would be a solution to this problem. Although avoiding such obligations was deemed socially incorrect, and was frowned upon, it became one of the main reasons for the rise in the European-American population. Along with military drafts, there was also a significant portion of the population that came to the United States in an effort to flee the political or religious persecution that towered over them back home.
This factor was frequently responsible for the increase in Jewish immigrants descending from Poland and Russia. America was not only a land of possibilities, but it also developed the image of a safe ground. There were many factors that supported the common urge among Europeans to resettle themselves among the U. S. population. However, one of the most encouraging elements in such a decision was how simple the process had become. Of course, immigration comes with obstacles and complexities along the way, but the restrictions placed upon immigrants had been reduced from their previous states.
Immigration became much less intimidating in general. There were old laws that bound Europeans, stating that peasants were to remain settled in their villages, and skilled workers were to remain settled on the soils of their country. These laws, in many European countries, were dismissed, and upon their repeal, millions of doors were opened, and horizons had become increasingly broad. As the nineteenth century came to a close, immigrants poured through America’s open doors.
The, “Gilded Age,” is simply a title consisting of two words; a brief, summarizing label for a time of massive growth, a transformation that molded the country’s structure, and a time where America, indeed, sparkled as though its surface beamed with gold. Poverty swept foreign soils, crop failures left people penniless, jobs slowly became commodities, and military drafting and religious persecution left Europeans eager for resolutions. As the United States rapidly industrialized and countered class systems with its democratic economy, and benefits increased, so did the population of Europeans who chose to make immigration their resolution.