Author: "Josef J. Barton" <>

Date: Mon, 1 Jul 1996 07:15:37 -0500

[Richard Jensen <H_NET_DIR@APSU01.APSU.EDU> writes:]

I'm reviewing Fox and Kloppenerg "A Companion to American Thought" for H-Net, and came across this passage in an excellent essay by David Hollinger on "Cultural Pluralism and Multiculturalism."

"American political ideology and constitutional doctrine so emphasized individuality that the pluralists of the early twentieth century inherited very few tools for talking about the claims of groups. The notion of legally protected territorial enclaves for nationality groups was rejected by Congress-first for Irish immigrants in Ohio, and later for German immigrants in Texas...." [page 163]

It's the second sentence that bothers me-I never heard tell of anything remotely like that. Were such enclaves" ever proposed? (by whom? when?) Did Congress ever consider them?

Richard Jensen

U of Illinois-Chicago

Date: Tue, 2 Jul 1996 05:44:31 -0500

[Joern Broendal <broendal@COCO.IHI.KU.DK> writes:]

Maldwyn A. Jones (_American Immigration_, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1960, p. 123), dicusses a phenomenon which seems closely related to what Hollinger mentions.

Jones writes that in 1817 the Irish Emigrant Society of New York petitioned Congress to set aside part of the unsold lands in Illinois Territory for exclusice Irish settlement on extended terms of credit. Congress, however, refused to do so, seeing no reason why Irishmen should be treated on more favorable terms than Americans; besides, Congress was opposed to any scheme that might threaten to slow down the process of Americanization.

Jones further notes that Congress in 1834 actually agreed to allot thirty-six sections of public land in Illinois to the refugees of the Polish revolution of 1830. The Poles, however, dispersed, and the colony never materialized.

Joern Broendal

University of Copenhagen

Department of History

Date: Wed, 3 Jul 1996 06:06:02 -0500

[John Radzilowski <JRadzilow@AOL.COM> writes:]

The question of ethnic colonies and planned ethnic enclaves is somewhat different from that of an actual government-sponsored set-aside for one ethnic group. I have never heard of the federal government attempting such a scheme.

Many state and local governments did have colonization bureaus, which sought to bring settlers of many ethnicity. I have never heard of them setting aside pieces of land for the exclusive use of one ethnic group.

Railroads in combination with churches and ethnic organizations did offer special incentives to members of this group or that to settle a particular piece of ground. For example, the Winona and St. Peter Railroad (i.e. the Chicago Northwestern) set aside 35,000 acres of its land in southwestern Minnesota for Danish settlers for a period of three years in the late 1880s. This was done in conjunction with the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church and resulted in the creation of the well-known Danish colony around Tyler, Minn.

Railroad companies seem to have taken the lead in finding ethnic settlers. The settlement of Russian Germans in the Central Plains is a good example. The railroads did have clear preferences for some groups over others: blacks, Chinese, Poles, and Italians were less desirable than Scandinavians or Germans. (Despite this, groups like the Poles did establish rural settlements, although often by taking poor land or buying up the farms of Yankees, as happened in New England. At the end of the day, the railroads preferred "undesirables" to no people at all.) Railroad-created towns (most towns and cities in Great Plains regions) were to be settled by native-born migrants, who were seen as a better choice for running businesses than immigrants of any kind.

Nevertheless, all of this seems quite different than what was described earlier. Setting aside land for ethnic settlement and only ethnic settlement by the government would have been a problem even for those Americans who advocated more immigration, esp. as opposition to immigration increased in the late 19th century. Those active in bringing and settling immigrants were well aware of the opposition. A perusal of the James J. Hill's papers (the railroad tycoon) indicates that he kept tabs on groups opposed to immigration. (Obviously this was due the monetary benefits he derived from immigration, not out of love for the huddled masses.)

John Radzilowski

Date: Wed, 10 Jul 1996 05:54:19 -0500

[Marion R. Casey <acpmpf@INCH.COM> writes:]

Richard Jensen and Joern Broendal, as well as other H-ETHNIC members, may be interested to know that the original sources for the early 19th century settlement of Irish immigrants in the Illinois Territory are as follows:

U.S. Congress. House. Encouragement to Irish Emigrants. 15th

Congress, 1st sess. 1818. Doc. 499 [American State Papers, Serial

038, fiche 8]

This is a petition of the New York Irish Emigrant Association asking Congress to set aside lands on the frontier of Illinois to be settled by emigrants from Ireland "on an extended term of credit."

U.S. Congress. House. Report of the Committee on Public Lands

on Petitions of the Irish Emigrant Associations of New York,

Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. 15th Congress, 1st

sess. 1818. Doc. 119. [CIS Serial Set; series 9, fiche 4 & 5]

Contains details of the petition which sought lands in the Illinois Territory for settlement by Irish emigrants; to be sold at $2 per acre on credit, with a contract to improve 20 of each 100 acres, including building a "tenement suitable to his abode." The petition was denied.

There is some new research being done on this early effort to settle Irish men and women in the west. Scholars of the New York Irish speculate that the petition, drawn up by political exiles of the 1798 United Irish uprising in Ireland, was actually an effort to establish a kind of utopian community based on the anti-sectarian, non-denominational principles of the United Irish political movement. While the 1798 uprising was a failure in Ireland, its roots in the American and French revolutions made the United States a fertile soil in which to prove that the ideals of the United Irishmen could in fact be realized.

I'm not sure calling this an "ethnic enclave" is historically accurate, since none of the men behind the idea of the Illinois Territory settlement were separatists, or anti-American.

Marion R. Casey

History Department

New York University