January 3, 2009

ONCE YOU LET THE KRAUTS IN, WHAT'S THE POINT OF DENYING ANYONE ELSE?:

Immigration through the ages (Stephen Kenney, January 3, 2009, Bostoon Globe)

In the mid-18th century, the Province of Massachusetts Bay recruited German immigrants to work as printers and glassmakers. A lottery was established to finance the project, and skilled workers were exempted from military service.

It was hoped that the Germans would "prove honest and reasonable" and provide "Books for Churches and Schools and to promote a Christian life." An elite group of immigrants would even benefit Harvard College, that "ancient and renowned University of Cambridge."

Although some Germans were welcome, authorities worried about others who came uninvited and the merchants who brought them. According to a German document at the Massachusetts Archives, the merchants "take all sorts of Beggars they find on the Road. . . Should every one be inspected, I dare say, a great many would be found to carry the Mark of Infamy on their backs or to be mark'd with an hot Iron for having committed infamous Crimes."

In 1750, the Massachusetts General Court crafted an immigration reform measure: "An Act to prevent the Importation of Germans and other Foreign Passengers in too Great a Number in one Vessel." It reflected a fear of disease. "Through want of necessary room and Accommodations," aboard ships, "they may often Contract Mortal and Contagious Distempers [and infect others] on their arrival."

According to the legislation, accommodations for passengers over the age of 14 should be "at least six feet in length and one foot and six inches in breadth." For those under 14 "the same length and breadth for every two."

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 3, 2009 8:00 AM
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