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We The People, part 2 – Origins

In Federalist 2, John Jay wrote of the land and the people of America:

“It has often given me pleasure to observe that independent America was not composed of detached and distant territories, but that one connected, fertile, widespreading country was the portion of our western sons of liberty. Providence has in a particular manner blessed it with a variety of soils and productions, and watered it with innumerable streams, for the delight and accommodation of its inhabitants. A succession of navigable waters forms a kind of chain round its borders, as if to bind it together; while the most noble rivers in the world, running at convenient distances, present them with highways for the easy communication of friendly aids, and the mutual transportation and exchange of their various commodities.

With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people–a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

Map of U.S. territorial acquisitions

U.S. Territorial Acquisitions

It is important to note that his America was not the diverse and sprawling country that we have all grown up in. They began as British colonists, with King and state Church. It was the abuse and misuse at the hands of the Crown and the East India Company that spurred them to rebellion and independence. To be sure, there were factions that disagreed on various issues, but the country was predominantly monocultural. They populated lands left unspoiled by the native population for thousands of years.

As we expanded west, we acquired land from Native American, French, Spanish, and other sources. Through Ellis Island, we absorbed immigrants from all over Europe. Japanese and Chinese came to California. Cajuns came south, and Latin Americans came north.

The New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus, 1883

Immigrants entering the United States through ...

Ellis Island Immigrants

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

More than any other country, we have welcomed and absorbed a multitude of immigrants and the diverse cultures they brought with them. The land of “E pluribus, unum”, the great “Melting Pot” society. From St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo, to Kwanzaa, Mardi Gras, Oktoberfest, and Chinese New Year, we have assimilated culture as well as people.

Demographically, culturally, geographically, technologically, socially, economically, militarily, politically, and religiously, America has grown and changed enormously from the days of the original Thirteen Colonies.

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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in We The People

 

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