Immigrant Voices
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Immigrant Voices

New Lives in America, 1773-2000

Thomas Dublin, Thomas Dublin

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eBook - ePub

Immigrant Voices

New Lives in America, 1773-2000

Thomas Dublin, Thomas Dublin

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A classroom staple, Immigrant Voices: New Lives in America, 1773-2000 has been updated with writings that reflect trends in immigration to the United States through the turn of the twenty-first century. New chapters include a selection of letters from Irish immigrants fleeing the famine of the 1840s, writings from an immigrant who escaped the civil war in Liberia during the 1980s, and letters that crossed the U.S.-Mexico border during the late 1980s and early '90s. With each addition editor Thomas Dublin has kept to his original goals, which was to show the commonalities of the U.S. immigrant experience across lines of gender, nation of origin, race, and even time.

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CHAPTER 1
The John Harrower Diary, 1773–1776
THE DIARY OF JOHN HARROWER offers a remarkable early account by an immigrant to the British North American colonies. Like the majority of British immigrants to the colonies, Harrower had to sign away his freedom to finance his ocean crossing.
Poverty and desperation led him to leave his native Shetland Islands in December 1773. The first third of the diary traces his southward wanderings. He traveled first to Scotland, seeking work or, failing that, passage to Holland. Since no ships were departing for Holland, he took coastal vessels to Newcastle and then Portsmouth. He walked the final eighty miles to London, where he desperately sought employment. Finally, down to his last shilling, Harrower signed up as a servant on a vessel bound for America. Only in this roundabout way did this down-on-his-luck Shetland Islander find himself en route to Virginia.
Like many immigrants who left accounts, Harrower was far from a typical indentured servant. His literacy set him apart from his comrades, and even before the ship, the Planter, had left the Thames, its master had sought Harrower’s aid in dealing with disgruntled servants.1 During the trip, he helped the master in numerous ways, caring for the sick and keeping up the ship’s journals. Just before the vessel landed, Harrower copied the names and occupations of all the servants.
Once settled in Virginia, Harrower enjoyed a variety of privileges that distinguished him from fellow servants. First of all, he worked only occasionally in the fields. Hired by William Daingerfield as a tutor for the planter’s children, he was treated more as a member of the family than as a servant. Moreover, he was encouraged to teach other children in the area and was permitted to negotiate payment from their families. These earnings and the gifts he received from the parents of his pupils set him apart from the typical indentured servant in tidewater Virginia.
Despite these differences, we can see elements of the archetypical immigrant experience in Harrower’s diary. Aboard the Planter and in Virginia, he sought out fellow Scotsmen and information about events back home. He complained in one letter of the difficulty he had in speaking “high English.” As a Shetlander, he was something of an outsider in Virginia society, despite the good treatment accorded him because of his education and skills.
Over the course of the diary, we see the process of assimilation at work in Harrower’s life. His attitude toward the colonial struggle for independence, for instance, shifted over time. By the end of his diary, it is clear that he intended to bring his family over and to see his wife become an “American” like himself. His diary offers a view of the Americanization process that is repeated in later immigrant accounts.
Munday, 6th Decr 1773. This morning I left my house2 and family at 4 OClock in order to travel in search of business and imediatly went on board a sloop ready to saile for Leith, Oconachie
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3 and at 5 OClock he sailed Accordingly with the wind at N. At this time I am Master of no more Cash but 8Âœd and stockins4 &c. to the amount of ÂŁ3 str5 or thereabout, a small value indeed to traviel with.6
Munday, 27th. Wind at S. E. with heavy rain. Both the Smacks7 in the River yet. This evening it being
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John’s night the Free Masons made a very grand procession through the high street.[
]
Tuesday, 28th. Wind at E. fine weather. this day I once thought of engaging with the
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of the Elizabeth Brigantine bound for North Carolina but the thoughts of being so far from my family prevented me. at noon the wind came all round to the N. V.8 and then Mr. began to make ready as fast as possible for sailing.
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FIGURE 1. John Harrower’s journey from the Shetland Islands, 1773. (Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
Wednesday, 29th. At 2 am left my Loging having been here 16 days and my method of living was as follows Vizt9 for Breackfast Âœd. worth of bread Âœd. worth of Cheese and a bottle of ale at 1d. For dinner Âœd. worth of bread, Âœd. worth of Broath, 1d. worth of Meat and a bottle of ale at 1d. and the same for supper as for breackfast, and 1d. a night for my bedd. On leaving my logings at the time above mentioned I went
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10 the sloop Williams, Wm. Bell
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, for Newcastle,11 and he imediatly hauled out of the harbour and made saile with the Wind at N. N. V. At 9 pm was obliged to ly too for the tide on Tynemouth bar. at midnight bore away for t...

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