Modern Emigration

Holland (Michigan), Pella, and the other towns and settlements of those years were to be the last Dutch `colonies.' From then to the present day, Dutch emigration has continued, but it is an emigration of individuals. The federal statistics give a figure of 220,000 for immigration of people from Holland in the century 1820 till 1920. The actual figure must be somewhat higher, for doubtlessly people came in, from Canada, or by jumping ship, who were never counted. From 1920 until 1950 another 50,000 immigrants came.

After World War II, in 1945, Holland found itself the most densily populated country in the entire world, and faced with the destruction wrought by the German occupation during that war, there was mass emigration to Canada, Australia, and the United States. In those days, the Dutch immigration quota was filled for two or three years ahead. But this did not last for long.

In 1963, the U.S. Congress abolished the quota system which had been heavily in favor of the countries of West and North Europe. By that time, Europe itself had recovered from the wartime damage. Thus when the attraction by the wealth of the US disappeared, Dutch emigration to the U.S. dropped sharply, and presently runs at less than a thousand people a year. The official total from 1820 till 1980 is 370,000, but the number of people of Dutch descent is of course many times higher.

When we say this was an emigration of individuals, we mean this in every sense of the word. The individualism of the Dutch -- for good or for bad -- is no myth. You may remember how the West India Company had a hard time trying to unite the colonists in the building of settlements. In the days of the reverends Scholte and Van Raalte, it was the fierce religious temper which led to group emigration, but that was the only occasion, after the very beginnings, to stimulate colony formation within the United States. Different from some other nationalities, the Dutch not only didn't stick together, they positively avoided and avoid each other when they could or can help it. The efforts of politicians in cities and counties of the Midwest, for instance, to organize something like a `Dutch vote' have always failed and often backfired. The fact that a candidate was of Dutch descent did not endear him in the least to his former compatriots, who wanted to become real Americans as soon as possible. So many immigrants americanized their family names: De Wit became Dewit, Van Der Bilt became Vanderbilt.