The Immigrant Experience

In a nation of immigrants, picking 10 books about the immigrant experience is no easy task. One could plausibly argue that any book about post-Columbian America concerns the immigrant experience. Therefore, I established a few basic guidelines in order to make the job a little more feasible. Some of these, I think, rest on pretty solid ground. I have not, for instance, included any books on slavery.Read more »


A walk with my great-grandfather through the last foreign country in New York City


Mott Street is like the spine of a dragon. Its head lies on Canal, at the pagoda-roofed headquarters of a secretive tong society; its back curves down beyond Bayard, past restaurants and trinket salesmen; its forked tail whips through Chatham Square and loops back around the Bowery to reach toward Mott again as two tiny lanes called Pell and Doyers.

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A Nation Of Immigrants

It’s a politician’s bromide—and it also happens to be a profound truth. No war, no national crisis, has left a greater impress on the American psyche than the successive waves of new arrivals that quite literally built the country. Now that arguments against immigration are rising again, it is well to remember that every single one of them has been heard before.

The uproar over Zoë Baird has subsided by now, and readers with short memories may profit by a reminder that she was forced to withdraw as President Clinton’s first nominee tor Attorney General because she and her husband had hired two “illegal aliens” for babysitting and housekeeping chores.Read more »

Does A Freeborn Englishman Have A Right To Emigrate?

Just before the Revolution, newly studied documents reveal, the flight of British subjects to the New World forced a panicky English government to wrestle with this question

In the early 1770s it still seemed likely that the struggle between Britain and her American colonies would be peacefully resolved. If it had been, history would have recorded far more clearly a remarkable development that was temporarily cut off by the Revolution. This development was a flood of immigration to British mainland North America and a sudden and immense spread of settlement in the backcountry of the coastal colonies and in the trans-Appalachian West.Read more »

A Look At The Record:

The Facts Behind the Current Controversy Over Immigration

Im-mi-grate—To enter and settle. … —The American Heritage Dictionary God sifted a whole Nation that He might send Choice Grain over into this Wilderness. —The Reverend Mr.Read more »

The Green Flag In America

For more than a century, Irish-Americans were whipsawed between love for their tormented native land and loyalty to the United States. But no more .

The Honorable Hugh L. Carey, Democratic governor of the state of New York, made a speech in Dublin on April 22, 1977. After declaring himself unalterably part of “that segment of the human family called Irish,” Carey denounced extremists on both sides of Northern Ireland’s guerrilla war as practitioners of the “politics of death.” Read more »

The Colossus Of Staten Island

A ponderous memorial to a people who refused to vanish


Had one man’s grandiose vision been realized, the first sight to greet immigrants arriving in the New World after 1913 would not have been Bartholdi’s graceful, torch-bearing Goddess of Liberty, but something more nearly resembling the world’s largest cigar-store Indian. Read more »

Asylum In Azilum

Refugees from the French Revolution, many of them of noble birth, built a unique community in the backwoods of Pennsylvania—and hoped their queen would join them

On October 7, 1798, the streets of Philadelphia were ominously deserted. A yellow-fever epidemic was at its height. Anyone who could had fled the city, and few would enter it voluntarily. Nevertheless thirty-three-year-old Aristide Aubert Dupetit-Thouars, a captain in the French navy, arrived there on foot from Wilmington and was anxiously seeking The Mansion at Spruce and Third streets.Read more »

The Children’s Migration

It moved more boys and girls than the Children’s Crusade of the Middle Ages—and to far happier conclusions

Among the thousands of homeless children deposited at the Children’s Aid Society in 1875 by orphan asylums, courts, and other institutions was a four-year-old named Willie, sent by the New York Prison Association. “Almost beyond hope” was the verdict of the society’s agent into whose care the “irrepressible young Irishman” was placed. Read more »