Is the United States “native land?” If one is attending a sociology college course that answer will be a resounding “yes…and we should repatriate it to the Native Americans who were here before Europeans.”
But three questions stem from that answer. If the Native Americans were constantly warring with one another, to which tribe do we give land? What land do we give? And how much land was actually “settled” by the Natives?
While these are huge questions, one fact is clear. While the Natives inhabited the land, they did not conquer it. And even if they did conquer it, from whom? When Europeans arrived on the North American continent, it took nearly a hundred years to establish the first settlement, which was in Saint Augustine, Florida in 1562.
From there, amid the quickening pace of colonization and imperialism, came the bedrock of modern society: the legal system, politics and culture, and vast opportunities offered to those who immigrated from all over the world.
The Legal System
The bedrock of the United States’ legal system is common law, derived from England. Common law is reportedly where people are not subject to codifications, like in Roman law, but instead, judgments are determined on a case-by-case basis and by precedence.
Private property also had its roots in common law, as land was no longer tied to kinship. This was a seismic development in other European countries as well as in the new continent.
Politics and Culture
When the United States was formed in 1776 with the pronouncement made in Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, rights were guaranteed to all men. While that promise would not come to fruition for all people until many years later, the stage had already been set.
When the Constitution was ratified in 1789 and the Bill of Rights in 1791, Americans protected rights that they believed were endowed to every man. The country subsequently opened its pathway to citizenship so that people from all over the world could enjoy the fruits of such a declaration.
The so-called American promise engraved on the Statue of Liberty— “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—has now been realized as the once-European majority is dying out to pave the way for those in other parts of the world.
Hundreds of thousands of South American immigrants are continuing to arrive at the border hoping for a chance at economic prosperity, as most of them are living on or below the poverty line, according to Council on Foreign Relations.