Preview the Contents for September 2021

Preview the Contents for September 2021

Volume 11, Number 3
June 2021

IMMIGRATION IN THE CIVIL WAR ERA: A SPECIAL ISSUE

Guest Editors’ Note
Katherine Carper and Kevin Kenny

Introduction: Immigration in the Civil War Era

ARTICLES
Michael A. Schoeppner

Black Migrants and Border Regulation in the Early United States

This article frames the dozens of state-level laws regulating the mobility of free Black people during the antebellum era as part of the history of American immigration law. While historians have shown the importance of antebellum antecedents to postbellum federal immigration law, they have primarily focused on the handful of laws regulating European migrants. But it was free Black migrants, both African American and foreign born, who faced closed or regulated borders from Florida to Oregon. Whether to protect slavery, to eliminate Black labor competition, or simply for racism’s sake, lawmakers across the country and in Congress legislated against Black mobility and criminalized these “illegal immigrants” from the 1780s to the 1860s. Enforcement of the laws may have been uneven, but their effects were profound. In their ideological origins and effects on migrants, border regulations targeting Black people formed an important opening chapter in the history of American immigration law.

Katherine Carper

The Migration Business and the Shift from State to Federal Immigration Regulation

The US Supreme Court’s decision in Henderson v. Mayor of New York (1876), which transferred control over the admission of immigrants from the states to the federal government, marked the culmination of a fifty-year effort by shippers to abolish state passenger fees that made conducting the transatlantic migration business more expensive. It was also a departure from merchants’ more recent efforts to work within state governments to influence immigration law. This article investigates how shipping merchants involved in the migration business created, and then dismantled, a New York State law regulating the admission of immigrants. After taking control of immigrant processing at the state level in the 1840s and 1850s, shipping merchants lost economic and political influence during the Civil War. This disruption galvanized merchants to reassert their control over immigration policy in the decade following the Civil War. The result of these efforts, the Henderson decision, shifted control over the passenger trade to the federal government and put the migration business in a position to influence immigration law at the federal level.

Kevin Kenny

The Antislavery Origins of US Immigration Policy

Congress played almost no role in regulating the entry of immigrants before the Civil War. The states passed their own laws controlling the admission, exclusion, and expulsion of foreigners, as well as the movement of free and enslaved African Americans. When a national immigration policy began to emerge for the first time during the Civil War, it was shaped by the dominant ideology of antislavery. In 1862 Congress passed legislation prohibiting American involvement in the so-called coolie trade, equating the transportation of unfree Chinese laborers with slavery. Legislation passed in 1864, by contrast, gave federal recognition to the recruitment of European workers on short-term contracts. The 1862 law led indirectly to the exclusion of Chinese laborers in 1882, which was justified as an antislavery measure. The 1864 law, meanwhile, generated opposition to immigrant contract labor, also on antislavery grounds, culminating in the prohibition of immigrant contracts under the Foran Act of 1885. In this way, Chinese migration was coded as inherently unfree, and European workers, liberated from the shackles of contract, emerged as America’s archetypal immigrants. Together, these two developments during the Civil War laid the groundwork for the federal immigration system of the postbellum era.

Lucy E. Salyer

Reconstructing the Immigrant: The Naturalization Act of 1870 in Global Perspective

The Republican Congress in 1870 joined an international effort to redefine laws of citizenship, resulting in the Naturalization Act. While previous histories of the act focus on the domestic origins of the law, this article places the Naturalization Act in a global context, seeing it as a response to international and domestic disputes sparked by global migration. The success of US-backed treaties guaranteeing freedom of movement and the right to change one’s citizenship (i.e., the right of expatriation) triggered new concern about the allegiances of immigrants and fueled Republican calls for greater federal control over the naturalization process. The bills that ultimately resulted in the Naturalization Act of 1870 sparked bitter debate as policymakers, diplomats, and foreign-born Americans negotiated the racial, ethnic, and political boundaries of American citizenship. Targeted by Republican naturalization reforms, European immigrants and their allies shifted legislators’ attention to Chinese immigrants to reinforce the racial borders of citizenship and deflect Republican attacks on their own loyalty.

BOOK REVIEWS

BOOKS RECEIVED

NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS