To what extent was migration responsible for America's emergence as an economic power by WWI?
In our modern world, America's is one of the three poles of the Triad, which also regroups Occidental Europe and Pacific Asia. These three poles are the most influential economic powers of today. America however, created her wealth and influence during a mush shorter period of times thanEurope and Asia. During the 19th century and up to World War I, America experienced an undeniable boom in her economy. One can argue that this boom was due to three major causes: migration, ideology and raw material.
Migration in America pre-WW1 is of two distinct natures. The first is the east to west movement, commonly referred to as “the conquest of the west”. This movement started in 1760,but the first established colonies on the west coast weren’t before 1831. The conquest of the west, fueled by the profit motive, played a decisive role in America's emergence as an economic power. The Homestead Act of 1862, when the federal government started giving away 160 acres of land to farmers was a significant milestone in America's westward expansion: it pushed more and more people tomigrate to the west, where they could truly settle and create a new, more prosperous life. This Act enabled America to emerge as an agricultural power, however, if the act was the starting point, without migration, the “bread basket of the world” would never have reached the standing it has today in the agricultural world. On top of this, western settlers played an important role in the laying of thetranscontinental railroad, which enabled the west to be further settled once it was opened. The treacherous, two month journey was cut down to 7 days, making the West coast, still mysterious and pure, much more attractive than the overcrowded and industrialized East coast. In conclusion, the conquest of the west was not only responsible for the emergence of America as an agricultural power, butalso created a link between the East and West, enabling industrialization to spread across America.
The second type of migration was international immigration, which includes Chinese migrants who arrived on the west coast and European migrants who landed on the east coast of America. Chinese immigrants were well perceived by the Americans when they first arrived as they were hard and dependableworkers. By the year 1851, there were 25,000 Chinese laborers working, for minimum pay, in and around the California Gold Rush area. We can therefore say that the Chinese workforce played an important role in the development of America's economy. However, the unskilled Chinese workers, with their specific cultural rituals, aroused hostile racial attitudes from white settlers, which ultimatelyresulted in the Chines Exclusion Act of 1882. The Chinese immigrants clustered in Chinatowns, which were slums and often crime and drug ridden places. In the same way, immigrants arriving on the East Coast, who were uneducated and illiterate in English, had to settle in the slums of megalopolis, such as Boston and New York. However, like the Chinese immigrants, they provided a large and cheap workforcewaiting to be employed in factories that had adopted laissez-faire ideology. In conclusion, if immigrants provided the cheap workforce needed to develop America's industry, they were rejected by the Americans and the social Darwinism dogma.
It would be untrue to say, however, that migration was the only cause for America's emergence as an economic power. The strong beliefs that reigned in 19thcentury America, such as laissez-faire, the “Gospel of Wealth” and social Darwinism, greatly contributed to the rise of America. Laissez-faire ideology argues that, since the government does not interfere in re-distribution of wealth, it will stimulate competitive enterprise. Entrepreneurs, such as Carnegie and Rockefeller, take advantage of this ideology and greatly succeeded. For example, in...