European Americans


An estimated 250,000 immigrants came to the US between 1783 and 1815. Scotch-Irish were among the most numerous. There were fewer German immigrants after the Revolution, either because conditions at home had improved or because emigration was more difficult. More French immigrants arrived in the US in the 1790s, due to the violent aftermath of the French Revolution. The number of French aristocrats and royalists arriving in the US remained small, while most French immigrants settled in Eastern cities or towns, becoming urban workers, entertainers or professionals. They upper-middle class French immigrants assimilated relatively easily into the general population. In addition, in 1791, a black revolt (largely of slaves) in Santo Domingo, in the Caribbean, forced 10,000 - 20,000 French-speaking whites to escape, many to the US.
There was relatively little immigration between the 1780s and 1815. This made the assimilation of immigrants more of a priority, since it was difficult for immigrants to maintain their contact with the culture of their homelands. In addition, the use of languages other than English waned. The Dutch-Americans and German-Americans began to consider Dutch and German as second languages, or to stop using them at all. In 1794, the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church chose English as their official language. Other churches, increasingly led by American-born ministers, followed this trend. The number of foreign-language newspapers also declined.
While the United States was clearly an immigrant nation, some Americans expressed concerns about threats to Anglo-American culture. The Naturalization Act of 1790 required immigrants to wait for two years before they could apply for citizenship. In 1795, due to fear of French immigration after the French Revolution, the waiting period was increased to five years. Other Americans, especially Federalists, disapproved of Irish immigration, especially considering the generally strong anti-British sentiments of most of the Irish.
In 1798, with the Federalists in power, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which limited the personal freedoms of aliens and dissenters. One of the laws required aliens to live in the US for 14 years before they could apply for citizenship. Another one of the laws gave the President the authority to deport any alien whom he believed to be a threat to the peace and security of the nation. The laws were passed with the French in mind, since the US and France seemed to be on the brink of war. Although the laws were not enforced in many cases, hundreds of French immigrants left the country the year the law was passed. The Sedition Acts were not aimed at immigrants, were often applied to Irish-American and French-American newspaper publishers. Some journalists were imprisoned, but the press continued to criticize the Adams Administration, contributing to the success of Jefferson's presidential campaign. After Jefferson's victory in the 1800 presidential election, the residency requirement for citizenship was pushed back to five years.