Iran Review|Davoud Zameni: One week after his inauguration at the White House, Donald Trump, the new president of the United States, signed a controversial executive order, which bars citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries as well as other immigrants from entering the United States for a period of 90 days. Prior to that, Trump had taken aim at the United States’ southern neighbor Mexico by announcing that his administration would build a wall along the country’s border with Mexico in order to prevent unchecked entry into the United States by Mexican nationals.
He had also noted that entering the United States is a privilege not a right. Inside the United States, a great number of citizens, on the one hand, and many political, cultural and social figures, on the other hand, have described Trump’s decision as wrong, irrational, foolish and racist and have protested at it. In making this decision, Trump has presumed that the United States is an original country, which belongs to American citizens. Therefore, according to his argument, any country has the right to pass laws in order to regulate entry and exit of other nationals to be able to boost security and protect itself. It will take time and needs the public opinion to judge whether this decision is right or wrong from the viewpoint of international law or political mores. The writer of this paper neither dreams of traveling to the United States, nor is unhappy with this decision by American political leaders.
What has been referred to in this piece of writing represents an effort to review the way that the United States, as a country, came into being from a historical angle and in view of the role that immigrants played in creation of this country. I wish those who had immigrated to the United States from any nationality could go back to their countries of origin, so that, it would become clear what share did immigrants have in shaping scientific, commercial, economic, social and technological structure of the United States and what share goes to the so-called original Americans? Ignorant teachers raise ignorant pupils. I am willing to take the addressees of this paper back a few centuries in time and introduce them to the role that American immigrants played in shaping the so-called magnificent United States!
There is a lot of historical proof to show that the United States lacks an original history, but its history is a colonialist one. The first Americans were born from European immigrants. This has been confirmed by historical reports written by American historians. The first Spanish explorers, who traveled to the new continent with and after Columbus, brought back with them many stories about the wealth and grandeur of the Aztec empire.
The idea of getting their hands on that immense wealth galvanized many Spanish adventurers into action, who wanted to increase the wealth, grandeur and territory of Spain. On the other hand, Portuguese explorers, who were active along the western coasts of Africa, embarked on exploring the eastern coasts of South America in the present-day Brazil. As a result, the two European empires gradually reached a point at which they clashed over determination of their influence spheres and borders between them. Therefore, Spanish and Portuguese kings asked the Pope to arbitrate between them about their differences and set the limits of each country’s sphere of influence.
Subsequently, through mediation of the Pope and in 1494, a treaty known as the Treaty of Tordesillas, was signed between the two sides along a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands. Apart from Spain and Portugal, France, the Netherlands, and the UK took steps to develop colonies in South America in the distance between the present-day countries of Venezuela and Brazil. However, due to their small size, their colonies were not comparable to those of Spain and Portugal.
Jacques Cartier was a French sailor, who became the first European to sail through the Strait of Belle Isle and enter the present-day Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Following Cartier’s exploration, France gradually increased its influence in North America and in 1540, the first French trade agency was established in North America. In 1682, Robert de La Salle made a trip to lower parts of the Mississippi River and continued his journey to where the Mississippi reached the Gulf of Mexico. De La Salle then declared all territories along the Mississippi basin as belonging to France and in homage to then French monarch, King Louis XIV, he called all those territories as Louisiana. He also established the American city of East Saint Louis in the present-day state of Illinois. Of course, the number of French immigrants to America was much lower than Spanish and British immigrants.
Expansion of colonialist policies by the UK, France, Spain and Portugal tempted the Dutch to follow suit with other European powers and establish colonies around the world, especially in the Americas. In order to strengthen the Netherland’s foothold in the new continent, the Dutch recruited an adventurous British sailor called Henry Hudson. In 1609, he explored the Atlantic Ocean for finding a northwestern pass and reached the northern coasts of the present day United States of America. There, he discovered the mouth of a big river, which is currently called the Hudson River after him. Like Portugal, the Netherlands, however, was limited by its small population and area and could not send a large number of migrants to other territories. Therefore, Dutch colonies in North America remained limited to the mouth of the Hudson River.
On the other hand, Britain’s interests in North America spurred the country’s colonialist motivations. The first permanent British colony was established in 1607, known as Jamestown, in the present-day state of Virginia.
James I, the king of England, encouraged the migrants to engage in discovery and extraction of gold, silver and copper mines. The second British colony was called Plymouth, which was established in 1620 in the present-day state of Massachusetts. About 60,000 British people had immigrated to North America by 1640. Some of those migrants were poor farmers, who had lost their lands at home due to their inability to repay loans. Some other migrants belonged to such groups as Puritans and Quakers, who were persecuted in England because of their special religious beliefs. This latter group migrated to the United States in a bid to find freedom of expression there. Puritans became vanguards of migrants who settled in the New England.
On the whole, unlike other colonialist plans, which had been previously put in motion by other countries, immigration to the United States was not an official development and was not supported by governments, but took place by people and nongovernmental entities in a free manner and on their own free will.
For example, the first colonies in the states of Virginia and Massachusetts were built by two nongovernmental companies, whose budget came from private sources. Other colonies such as New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, North and South Carolina, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania belonged to people from the middle class or upper class of Britain, who spent their personal capital on developing those lands, which had been given to them by the king of Britain. They also undertook to pay the cost of travel and settlement of their workers and tenants according to the same conditions, which were common in England.
Charles I, the king of England, granted about seven million acres (about 3.5 million hectares) of land to Cecil Calvert, who was known by his nickname as the Second Baron Baltimore. He established the city of Baltimore in later years. In the same manner, territories in Carolina and Pennsylvania were granted to other people by Charles II, the subsequent king of England. In this way, thirteen colonies had been established along the eastern coast of the present-day United States of America up to the end of the 17th century. Until that time, regular and well organized colonies had not gone past these coasts and had not developed into the mainland of the United States. The limits of these colonies were not very clear too. However, the issue of setting borders gave rise to various problems and disputes only when development of colonies and discovery of new lands started toward the west. On the whole, the years between 1600 and 1776 can be considered as the period in which the United States was colonized by Britain.
*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review’s viewpoints.