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In 1982, an opinion poll showed respondents a card listing a number of ethnic groups and asked, "Thinking both of what they have contributed to this country and have gotten from this country, for each one tell me whether you think, on balance, they've been a good or a bad thing for this country." The English were the top ethnic group, with 66% saying they were a good thing for the United States, followed by the Irish at 62%. Ben J. Wattenberg argues that this poll demonstrates a general American bias against Hispanics and other recent immigrant populations.
The majority--57%--of the Founding Fathers of the United States were of English extraction.
English immigrants in the 19th century, as with other groups, sought economic prosperity. They began migrating in large numbers without state support, 1840s to 1890s.
Sense of identity
England United States. Shows the first permanent English settlement of Jamestown in 1607.
Americans of English heritage are often seen, and identify, as simply "American" due to the many historic cultural ties between England and the U.S. and their influence on the country's population. Relative to ethnic groups of other European origins, this may be due to the early establishment of English settlements; as well as to non-English groups having emigrated in order to establish significant communities.
Since 1776, English-Americans have been less likely to proclaim their heritage in the face of the upsurge of cultural and ethnic pride by African Americans, Irish Americans, Scottish Americans, Italian Americans or other ethnic groups. A leading specialist, Charlotte Erickson, found them to be ethnically "invisible," dismissing the occasional St. George Societies as ephemeral elite clubs that were not in touch with the larger ethnic community. In Canada, by contrast, the English organized far more ethnic activism, as the English competed sharply with the well-organized French and Irish elements. In the United States the Scottish immigrants were much better organized than the English in the 19th century, as are their descendants in the late 20th century.
The original 17th century settlers were overwhelmingly English. From the time of the first permanent English presence in the New World until 1900, these immigrants and their descendants outnumbered all others firmly establishing the English cultural pattern as predominant for the American version.
According to the United States Historical Census, the ethnic populations in the British American Colonies of 1700, 1755 and 1775 were:
Ethnic composition of the British American Colonies 1700 - 1775
The category 'Irish' represents immigrants from Ireland outside the Province of Ulster, the overwhelming majority of whom were Protestant and not ethnically Irish, though from Ireland. The distinction between Scots-Irish (Protestant) and Irish (Catholic) came about in the mid-19th century: prior to this time all Irish persons whatever religion were identified as 'Irish.'
National origins, 1790
In 1790 the U.S. conducted its first national population census. The ancestries of the population in 1790 has been estimated by various sources, first in 1932 then again in 1980 and 1984 by sampling distinctive surnames in the census and assigning them a country of origin. There is debate over the accuracy between the studies with individual scholars and the Federal Government using different techniques and conclusion for the ethnic composition.
A study published in 1909 titled A Century of Population Growth by the Government Census Bureau estimated the English were 83.5% of the white population.
The states with the highest percentage by the same Census Bureau data in 1909 (% of the total European population) of English ancestry were Connecticut 96.2%, Rhode Island 96.0%, Vermont 95.4%, Massachusetts 95.0%, New Hampshire 94.1%, Maine 93.1%, Virginia 85.0%, Maryland 84.0%, North Carolina 83.1%, South Carolina 82.4%, New York 78.2%, Pennsylvania 59.0%.
Another source by Thomas L. Purvis in 1984 estimated that people of English ancestry made up about 47.5% of the total population or 60.9% of the white or European American population (his figures can also be found, and as divided by region, in Colin Bonwick, The American Revolution, 1991 p. 2540-839-1346-2). Some 80.7% of the total United States population was of European origin.
Around 757,208 were of African descent with 697,624 being slaves. Of the remaining white population of 33%, 45% was of non-British origin.
In 1980, 23,748,772 Americans claimed only English ancestry and another 25,849,263 claimed English along with another ethnic ancestry. It must be noted that 13.3 million or 5.9% of the total U.S. population chose to identify as "American" (counted under "not specified") as also seen in censuses that followed. Below shows the persons who reported at least one specific ancestry are as follows.
At a national level the ancestry response rate was high with 90.4% of the total United States population choosing at least one specific ancestry and 9.6% ignored the question completely. Of those who chose English, 66.9% of people chose it as their first response.
Totals for the English showed a considerable decrease from the previous census.
Responses for "American" slightly decreased both numerically and as a percentage from 5.9% to 5.2% in 1990 with most being from the South.
In the 2000 census, 24.5 million or 8.7% of Americans reported English ancestry, a decline of some eight million people. At the national level, the response rate for the ancestry question fell to 80.1% of the total U.S. population, while 19.9% were unclassified or ignored the question completely. Some Cornish Americans may not identify as English American, even though Cornwall had been part of England since long before their ancestors arrived in North America. Responses were:
In 1900, an estimated 28,375,000 or 37.8% of the population of the United States was wholly or primarily of English ancestry from colonial stock. As with any ethnicity, Americans of English descent may choose to identify themselves as just American ethnicity if their ancestry has been in the United States for many generations or if, for the same reason, they are unaware of their lineages.
English Americans are found in large numbers throughout America, particularly in the Northeast, South and West. According to the 2000 US census, the 10 states with the largest populations of self-reported English Americans are:
On the left, a map showing percentages by county of Americans who declared English ancestry in the 2000 Census. Dark blue and purple colours indicate a higher percentage: highest in the east and west (see also Maps of American ancestries). Center, a map showing the population of English Americans by state. On the right, a map showing the percentages of English Americans by state.
Cultural similarities and a common language allowed English immigrants to integrate rapidly and gave rise to a unique Anglo-American culture. An estimated 3.5 million English immigrated to the U.S. after 1776. English settlers provided a steady and substantial influx throughout the 19th century.
The first wave of growing English immigration began in the late 1820s and was sustained by unrest in the United Kingdom until it peaked in 1842 and declined slightly for nearly a decade. Most of these were small farmers and tenant farmers from depressed areas in rural counties in southern and western England and urban laborers who fled from the depressions and from the social and industrial changes of the late 1820s-1840s. While some English immigrants were drawn by dreams of creating model utopian societies in America, most others were attracted by the lure of new lands, textile factories, railroads, and the expansion of mining.
During the last years of the 1860s, annual English immigration grew to over 60,000 and continued to rise to over 75,000 per year in 1872, before experiencing a decline. The final and most sustained wave of immigration began in 1879 and lasted until the depression of 1893. During this period English annual immigration averaged more than 82,000, with peaks in 1882 and 1888 and did not drop significantly until the financial panic of 1893. The building of America's transcontinental railroads, the settlement of the great plains, and industrialization attracted skilled and professional emigrants from England.
Also, cheaper steamship fares enabled unskilled urban workers to come to America, and unskilled and semiskilled laborers, miners, and building trades workers made up the majority of these new English immigrants. While most settled in America, a number of skilled craftsmen remained itinerant, returning to England after a season or two of work. Groups of English immigrants came to America as missionaries for the Salvation Army and to work with the activities of the Evangelical and LDS Churches.
The depression of 1893 sharply decreased English emigration to the United States, and it stayed low for much of the twentieth century. This decline reversed itself in the decade of World War II when over 100,000 English (18 percent of all European immigrants) came from England. In this group was a large contingent of war brides who came between 1945 and 1948. In these years four women emigrated from England for every man. In the 1950s, English immigration increased to over 150,000.and rose to 170,000 in the 1960s. While differences developed, it is not surprising that English immigrants had little difficulty in assimilating to American life. The American resentment against the policies of the British government was rarely transferred to English settlers who came to America in the first decades of the nineteenth century.
As the earliest colonists of the United States, settlers from England and their descendants often held positions of power and made and enforced laws, often because many had been involved in government back in England. In the original 13 colonies, most laws contained elements found in the English common law system.
The majority--57%-- of the Founding Fathers of the United States were of English extraction. Scottish extraction characterized 16%, 19% were Irish or Scots-Irish, and 5% were Welsh. A minority were of high social status and can be classified as White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP). Many of the prewar WASP elite were Loyalists who left the new nation.
While WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants usually of English origins) have been major players in every major American political party, an exceptionally strong association has existed between WASPs and the Republican Party, before the 1980s. A few top Democrats qualified, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Northeastern Republican leaders such as Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts, Prescott Bush of Connecticut and especially Nelson Rockefeller of New York exemplified the pro-business liberal Republicanism of their social stratum, espousing internationalist views on foreign policy, supporting social programs, and holding liberal views on issues like racial integration. A famous confrontation was the 1952 Senate election in Massachusetts where John F. Kennedy, a Catholic of Irish descent, defeated WASP Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.. However the challenge by Barry Goldwater in 1964 to the Eastern Republican establishment helped undermine the WASP dominance. Goldwater himself had solid WASP credentials through his mother, of a prominent old Yankee family, but was instead mistakenly seen as part of the Jewish community (which he had never associated with). By the 1980s, the liberal Rockefeller Republican wing of the party was marginalized, overwhelmed by the dominance of the Southern and Western conservative Republicans.
Asking "Is the WASP leader a dying breed?" journalist Nina Strochlic in 2012 pointed to eleven WASP top politicians--typically scions of upper class English families. She ending with Republicans G.H.W. Bush elected in 1988, his son George W. Bush elected in 2000 and 2004, and John McCain, who was nominated but defeated in 2008.
English language distribution in the United States.
English is the most commonly spoken language in the U.S, where it is estimated that two thirds of all native speakers of English live.
The American English dialect developed from English colonization. It serves as the de facto official language, the language in which government business is carried out. According to the 1990 census, 94% of the U.S. population speak only English. Adding those who speak English "well" or "very well" brings this figure to 96%. Only 0.8% speak no English at all as compared with 3.6% in 1890. American English differs from British English in a number of ways, the most striking being in terms of pronunciation (for example, American English retains voicing of the letter "R" after vowels, unlike standard British English) and spelling (one example is the "u" in words such as color, favor (US) vs colour, favour (UK)). Less obvious differences are present in grammar and vocabulary. The differences are rarely a barrier to effective communication between American English and British English speakers, but there are certainly enough differences to cause occasional misunderstandings, usually surrounding slang or dialect differences.
Some states, like California, have amended their constitutions to make English the only official language, but in practice, this only means that official government documents must at least be in English, and does not mean that they should be exclusively available only in English. For example, the standard California Class C driver's license examination is available in 32 different languages.
"In for a penny, in for a pound" is an expression to mean, ("if you're going to take a risk at all, you might as well make it a big risk"), is used in the United States which dates back to the colonial period, when cash in the colonies was denominated in Pounds, shillings and Pence.
Today, the one-cent coin is commonly known as a penny. A modern alternative expression is "In for a dime, in for a dollar".
Apple pie - New England was the first region to experience large-scale English colonization in the early 17th century, beginning in 1620, and it was dominated by East Anglian Calvinists, better known as the Puritans. Baking was a particular favorite of the New Englanders and was the origin of dishes seen today as quintessentially "American", such as apple pie and the oven-roasted Thanksgiving turkey. "As American as apple pie" is a well-known phrase used to suggest that something is all-American.
Thanksgiving - It has become a national secular holiday (official since 1863) with religious origins, but in England it remains a Church festival giving thanks to God for the harvest. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by English settlers to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive the brutal winter. This feast lasted three days, and--as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow--it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. Englishman William Bradford is credited as the first to proclaim the American cultural event which is generally referred to as the "First Thanksgiving".
Baseball - The earliest recorded game of base-ball for which the original source survives, involved none other than the family of the Prince of Wales, played indoors in London in November 1748. The Prince is reported as playing "Bass-Ball" again in September 1749 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, against Lord Middlesex. The English lawyer William Bray wrote in his diary that he had played a game of baseball on Easter Monday 1755 in Guildford, also in Surrey. English lawyer William Bray recorded a game of baseball on Easter Monday 1755 in Guildford, Surrey; Bray's diary was verified as authentic in September 2008. This early form of the game was apparently brought to North America by British immigrants. The first appearance of the term that exists in print was in "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" in 1744, where it is called Base-Ball. Today, Rounders which has been played in England since Tudor times holds a similarity to Baseball. Although, literary references to early forms of "base-ball" in the United Kingdom pre-date use of the term "rounders".
Hail to the Chief - is the song to announce the arrival or presence of the President of the United States. English songwriter James Sanderson (c. 1769 - c. 1841), composed the music and was first performed in 1812 in New York.
Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of American officialdom.
Amazing Grace - written by English poet and clergymanJohn Newton became such an icon in American culture that it has been used for a variety of secular purposes and marketing campaigns, placing it in danger of becoming a cliché.
English ballads had a large influence on American folk music, eventually spawning such genres as old time, country, and bluegrass.
English family names
Of the top ten family names in the United States, seven have English origins or having possible mixed British Isles heritage, the other three being of Spanish origin.
Many African Americans have their origins in slavery (i.e. slave name). Many of them came to bear the surnames of their former owners. Many freed slaves either created family names themselves or adopted the name of their former master.
According to 2000 U.S. Census data, eight of the top ten surnames in the United States are of British Isles origin, while two are the most common surnames among Hispanics. In the last UK Census in 2001, surnames in England can be compared to the United States with 6 of the family names in England being in both their top ten. Many English surnames are also found in Ireland. This is attributable to a number of factors, including the Protestant Plantation of Ireland, the imposition of the Penal Laws in the 1700s which forced many Irish people to Anglicize their surnames, and English ancestry in the Irish population itself, especially in the area around Dublin. Also, in the 9th century, Viking invaders brought many Norse names to Ireland that they had already brought to England when they established and settled the Danelaw. Scandinavian names may have been brought to England in pre-Viking times, especially in the North and East, due to Anglo-Saxons from Denmark. and the Anglo-Normans who invaded Ireland in the 1170s brought many Norman French names which had already spread to England.
It should be pointed out, however, that a significant number of non-English immigrants anglicized their surnames. For example, "Smith" may come from German Schmidt, or Dutch Smit; "Johnson" from Norwegian or Danish Johansen, Dutch Jansen, or Swedish Johansson, "Brown" from German Braun, "Miller" from German Müller, and so forth. On the other hand, "Williams", "Jones", and "Davis", which are often associated with Welsh ancestry due to their common occurrence in Wales, are actually mostly English, as Wales has a much smaller population (and diaspora) than England.
There are many places in the United States named after places in Great Britain as a result of the many British settlers and explorers; in addition, some places were named after the English royal family. These include the region of New England and some of the following:
Most of the Presidents of the United States have had English ancestry. The extent of English heritage varies in the presidents with earlier presidents being predominantly of colonial English Yankee stock. Later US Presidents' ancestry can often be traced to ancestors from multiple nations in Europe, including England.
40th President 1981-89: He was the great-grandson, on his father's side, of Irish migrants from County Tipperary who came to America via Canada and England in the 1840s. His mother was of Scottish and English ancestry.
44th President 2009-2017: His maternal ancestors came to America from France, England, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland. His ancestors lived in New England and the South and by the 1800s most were in the Midwest. His father was Luo (or Jaluo) from Kenya, and was the first person in his family to travel or live outside of Africa.
^In the 1980 census, 49,598,035 Americans identified as being of English ancestry, although in later censuses most of these same people identified as being of "American" ancestry, when that was added as an option.
^Reynolds Farley, 'The New Census Question about Ancestry: What Did It Tell Us?', Demography, Vol. 28, No. 3 (August 1991), pp. 414, 421.
^Stanley Lieberson and Lawrence Santi, 'The Use of Nativity Data to Estimate Ethnic Characteristics and Patterns', Social Science Research, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1985), pp. 44-46.
^Stanley Lieberson and Mary C. Waters, "Ethnic Groups in Flux: The Changing Ethnic Responses of American Whites", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 487, No. 79 (September 1986), pp. 82-86.
^Mary C. Waters, Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), p. 36.
^Winslow, Edward (1622), Mourt's Relation(PDF), p. 133, retrieved 2013, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted
^"A History of Irish Surnames: Is Yours Here?" An example of this was the common Irish surname Mac Gabhann, which meant "son of a smith". Some Mac Gabhanns, living in County Cavan, had their name translated to Smith and it remained that way.
Smith is the fifth most common surname in Ireland.
^In 1584 Sir Walter Raleigh sent Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to lead an exploration of what is now the North Carolina coast, and they returned with word of a regional "king" named "Wingina." This was modified later that year by Raleigh and the Queen to "Virginia", perhaps in part noting her status as the "Virgin Queen." Stewart, George (1945). Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States. New York: Random House. p. 22.
^Jackson, Elmer Martin (1985). Keeping the lamp of remembrance lighted: a genealogical narrative with pictures and charts about the Jacksons and their allied families. Maryland: Hagerstown Bookbinding and Printing Co. p. 9.