Make your own free website on

The Other Immigration

Edited by Mrs. Paul H. Walker

After 1500 the nations of Europe sought wealth and strength through exploration and empire. Europe expected a renewal of life through the birth and nurture of colonial dependencies. The great attractor was those vast lands explored by Columbus, Cabot, and others. Oddly enough, children figured in the calculations as instruments and beneficiaries of colonization. In England especially, children were expected to play an important part in the creation of empire. Just how important, we will soon find out.

Later in the 1600s those same lands, some now under control of those same European nations, represented security, freedom and a new life beyond imagination to the masses inhabiting the nations of Europe.

Interesting for both the European nation and its citizens was the means of getting to and maintaining these new lands. Of course, that mode of travel was only by sea. It was an unknown entity to many and considered nnot only risky but long and arduous in the amount of travel involved. Consider that a ship of the day was at most, ninety feet long and twenty-six feet wide at its widest. In modern comparison a ship of that size was just twelve feet longer than our tennis courts and the width just under a recent world record long jump. Further, eleven ships of this size would not equal the length of the Queen Mary and it would take 450 such vessels to add up to the Queen Mary's tonage. Nevertheless, our ancestors thought the risk involved would be worth the end result and the Great Migration (to borrow Charles Robert Anderson's literary title) was on and would continue at a face pace until limited by Congress some 300 years later.

Our period of interest, the one which is qualifying for membership in Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims, are the years prior to 1700. This period, particularly the years 1620-1642, is a period in which it is estimated that 80,000 or 2% of the English population left Britain. Of that total 58,000 crossed the Atlantic to North America.

In this exodus, it is interesting to note that different areas of the Eastern seaboard were settled for totally dofferent reasons. For example, Virginia and Maryland settlers were members of the Church of England, royalist by inclination; and had fled no persecution. They settled to set up a colony and to make money and they had no particular expression of ideology.

In contrast, those who settled New England were different from their Southern counterparts by reason of being a large percentage, of a different English social strata. They were generally not establishment supporters. The land they settled was much different that that of Virginia and Maryland. The terrain and climate adapted itself to small clustered communities. Most immigrants had fled persecution; and they did have a decided idealogy which they enspused and practiced.

So, the immigrant pattern began in earnest and would eventually be known as the "melting pot" of the new world. It encompassed generally the entire Eastern seaboard and included the planters of Virginia, the gentry of Lord Baltimore, Scotsmen in the South, the Dutch of New York, plus the merchants, seamen, and farmers of New England. Their names were similar to thise common in the European nations they left, perhaps with some alteration for some reason or another.

But suffice it to say they were solid citizens, with firm convictions who founded cities and governments and moved on West--many leaving few records, if any, by which later generations could locate and learn about them.

The migration as we know it or imagine to be, is that of a family leaving an area or parish long inhabited by that family and traveling thousands of miles and settling in a strange land on the East coast of the New world. Each family had a well defined set of ideals and a firm determination to succeed. Many, many were in that category and flourished and alas, many also failed. However, in addition to this type of immigrant, there was another group, not so favored, not so well off, with little self-determination and certainly little or no choice in their lot in life. This category was the indentured, it contained a large number of children under the age of 14 and as young as 4.

The following are abstract summaries from documents of the time:

The transportation of the idle and deedy children from crowded England to labor-starved Virginia was regarded not only as a boon to the Virginia planters, but as a service to King and Country and a kindness to the children. From the early days of the colony, children were sent to Virginia as servants or apprentices. In 1619 efforst were made to put the importation of children on a systematic basis.

In another entry of 1619, the Virginia company requested the may, aldermen, and council of the city of London to send one hundred children to Virginia. After receiving the requested 100 children, the Council of Virginia, assembled in November 1619, appealed to London to renew favors and again furnish next spring (1620) one hundred children aged 12-years and upward to be apprenticed out until age 21for males and the same age for females unless they should marry sooner.

Also, the Virginia Company requested authority to coerce children of London to go to Virginia. The was in 1620 and appeared in a letter from Sir Eddwin Sandys to Sir Robert Naunton, principal secretary to King James I of England. The Council in turn (acts of the Privy Council, 1619-1621) noted that the city of London appointed 100 children out of the multitude that swarm in that place, to be sent to Virginia, there to be bound out as apprentices for a certain number of years.

A portion of the business of collecting young people for shipment was in the hands of "Spirits," commission agents of merchants and ship owners, who signed up young men, women and even children. The spirit, with his persuasive powers strengthened by promises of food, drink and small bounty for the enlistee, beguiled his prospect with the wonders of America. Accordingly, most went of their own accord, however there were charges of kidnapping.

As late as 1735 the Trustees for establishing the colony of Georgia in America ordered a new town to be established amd amd embarkation to be made for that purpose. Rules were: To every person age 12 and upward a sizeable annual allowance of everything from beef to soap; for everyone age 7 but under the age of 12, one half of the allowance for age 12 and up; for everyone age 2 and under age 7, one third of the allowance. The Trustees paid for the passage. At the expiration of service each person so indentured was granted 20 acres of land under the same agreement pertaining to other grantees.

This then, is a very short, cursory review of another side of early immigration. It is not my purpose to take and preconceived romance or gloss from immigration. I, personally prefer the family approach. It seems to fit the scheme of things and somehow present a better appeal...but, notwithstanding, the indentured, whether children, youth, criminals from jail, or others in unfortunate circumstances, posed a social problem for the English government that could not be ignored. They had to take action to relieve the "multitude that swarms." This type of deportation was apparently a good quick fix for the problem. This portion of our immigration is not fiction, but a part of our heritage, regrettable, but true.

[references" (1) Children and Youth in America, 1600-1861, Vol. I, Harvard University Press. 1970. (2) The Mayflower, Kate Caffery, Stein & Day, New York. 1974.]

Back to the Articles Index