September 4th, 1811
Information used in an interview with Carl Heinrich (fictional character; German Immigrant)
“Minutes felt like days. I was cold, hungry, and my breeches were moist, giving my lower legs that clingy, uncomfortable feeling. The ground below me was swerving; back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I felt cramped, there were people all around me; I am locked in the same uncomfortable position. I can only dream of the feeling I will have when I crawl out of this dreadful ship and take my first steps on the promise land; my new home. It has my lifelong dream to come make the trip to America, and I must stay strong is what I told myself. That was when I felt the lightheadedness; I must be seasick.”(2)
It sure is interesting to think about how badly some people want to live in America. We all take it for granted, but to them, peeking out of a crevice in the dark, unsanitary, floating containment and seeing the Castle Gardens is a dream come true (3). This trip, and it’s many discomfort it impels on it’s travelers, is one of the toughest trips to take. Carl Heinrich had a mindset that going to America would be worth leaving behind his home, trusting his ability to create a new life in a different society, and surviving the sometimes fatal sailboat trip.
Before the trip can be made however, the issue of obtaining a ticket must be dealt with (2). Most people would find themselves spending a great deal of their life scraping for enough money to buy a ticket. Because of this lack of money, and the amount of people who wanted to make the trip, travelling for most would take place in steerage. They also had to say goodbye to everyone and almost everything they had, since there was little extra room on the boats. “I was lucky enough to find the money I needed for a ticket, with the income coming from being an oat farmer. Unfortunately, my family wasn’t as lucky.” a German immigrant who I had been friends with told me. “I took my first steps on the boat and waved at my family. I had told them I would see them again when I had made enough money in America, but in my heart I believed that this was the last time I’d ever see any of them again. A tear rushed down my face, but if I turned back now, I would be backing away from my one chance at making my life worth something.”
When the boat left shore, the more immediate pain started to kick in for each and every traveler (2). Quarters were so close, so there was no privacy. Many passengers get sick and died over the period of travel, which takes months. Travelers sleep in narrow spaces, very close to other travelers, leaving the claustrophobic helpless, and making everyone else uncomfortable. The cabins stank, and were inescapable when the frequent storms made the captains close them. Speaking of storms, the rocking of the ocean caused seasickness to be much more harsh. “When I decided that I would make the trip, I had no idea what being seasick meant, and how severe it would be. After a few mere hours on the boat, I quickly started to experience it, and I loathed it. It was uncomfortable during most times in the day, but during storms, it was beyond painful” (1) (2).
Carl Heinrich is now a moderately successful farmer, and neighbors with many other german farmers in rural Illinois (4). He believed that his optimistic beliefs about how he would benefit were not only fulfilled, but exceeded. “The economic poverty in germany was very effective on our lifestyle, and slowly getting worse. The boat ride to the United States caused me to endure a lot of pain, but not nearly as much as I would have endured if I stayed. Crops were doing anything but flourishing, and we still had religious prosecutions as part of the backlash from the Thirty Years War in the 1600s.”
Immigration has become quite frequent in the past several years, and Germans, along with people from other European countries are immersing themselves in our community. King George III recently made a purchase to move tens of thousands of Germans to America across the savage Atlantic due to the lack of Americans who want to fight. (5). One of the main reasons for a German to make the choice of immigrating is because the area is becoming more populated. So they pack themselves into an overpopulated boat, and I don’t believe that they all know that they are arriving to a society that is growing incredibly quickly. Their travels, as of now, are bringing them to a destination that is much more tolerable to live in than their previous location, but we can’t just keep growing so fast. There’s going to be some point where the painful boat ride won’t be worth the tainted version of the American lifestyle that will be found due to overpopulation.
Why Immigration to the US? (1)
Information about the traveling (2)
Information about Castle Garden’s purpose (3)
German Immigration to the US in the early 1800s (4)
More German Immigration Facts (5)