America was discovered by Europeans. The Indians were here first. Apparently, they walked from eastern Russia to Alaska across a land bridge that existed during the Ice Age. However, the Indians did not do much with either the North or South American continent. They did create some societies in Central American (the Mayans and Aztecs) and the Andes (Machu Picchu and the Incas). North America was largely uninhabited except by relatively small Indian tribes spread widely and thinly over the continent. They were mainly hunter gatherers who built no notable cities or infrastructure. The European settlers did encounter some Indian cultures in the Caribbean and Central and South America, but North America was largely empty, although some Indian tribes resisted European settlers for many years.
Before it was the United States, the eastern seaboard of North America was collection of British colonies, interspersed with smaller colonies belonging to Spain and France. When the United States was created in 1776, the North American continent was still largely uninhabited. Westward expansion gradually brought civilization to the entire continent. Because most of the settlers were British, the United States developed as a nation based on the English language, laws, and culture. The founders of the United States were mainly influenced by British thinkers, such as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Adam Smith, as well as other Europeans, such as Montesquieu and Rousseau.
Wikipedia gives several estimates for the early population of the United States that was of British ancestry. An estimate made in 1984 was that about 63% of the population in 1755 was of British ancestry. An estimate made in 1909 found that about 90% of the white population was of British ancestry in 1790. Another estimate of the 1790 population, made in 1984, found that 74% of the white population was British, that 7% was of non-British, European ancestry, and that about 700,000 were African slaves. Whatever the exact number, clearly British ancestry was predominant among early American citizens.
According to various Wikipedia topics, the 1850 census found that 84% of the American population was white, 16% was black, with less than 1% other. British ancestry was not broken out separately. In 1900, the population as about 88% white, 12% black, and less than 1% other. In 1950, the population was about 87% white, 10% black, and 3% other. In 2000, the US population was about 69% white, 12% black, and 19% other. Infoplease gave a breakdown of the 2000 population by ancestry. The largest percentages in 2000 were:
- German – 15%
- Irish – 11%
- Black – 9%
- English – 9%
By 2015 the percentages had changed to:
- German – 14%
- Black – 12%
- Mexican – 11%
- Irish – 10%
- English – 8%
To a certain extent the influx of immigrants to the US could be determined by where in Europe conditions were the worst: the hardships of Charles Dickens’ England, German depression and civil unrest, or the Irish potato famine. While these immigrants brought their own traditions and values, they generally acculturated to the preexisting foundation of British laws, language, and values they found in the US. Even non-British immigrants from Germany or Italy brought a generally European, enlightenment outlook that was not so different from what they found in US.
The settlement of South and Central America went somewhat differently. The Spanish and Portuguese brought a somewhat more autocratic and less enlightened culture to that continent. The European settlers intermarried with the local Indians and the blacks who were brought as slaves. This tended to water down the European influence in South America, which produced largely autocratic governments, based more on the old tradition of kings, rather than on the new enlightenment way of thinking, incorporated into the new United States government. In South America the individual tended to be less important than in the US, and he tended to have less of a role to play in government.
As the US becomes more Latin American, it tends to lose the moderating role of the individual citizen, and the government itself tends to become more important and more oppressive than it was before, less responsive to the will of the people. In Latin America the will of the people tends to be displayed in rebellion and demonstrations rather than at the ballot box. These two different ways of looking at the world and at government are part of the problem with the current political unrest in the US.
This might sound racist, but it could be more about political philosophy and personal preferences than about race. The United States has definitely been more successful in almost every area than Latin American countries. There are probably a multitude of reasons for this. One could be climate. One could be the presence of certain natural resources and geography, such as oil, iron and the Mississippi River. One could be the political system. One could be the cultural inheritance and preferences of the citizens. One could be race. Brazil had slavery just as the US did, but there was more intermarrying than in the US.
The question is whether the recent influx of Latin American immigrants will change the character of the United States, and if so, for better or worse. I think that it will change for the worse, but the other side of the issue is that the white population is shrinking, and the US needs a younger population to fill the jobs that are necessary. Latin American immigrants are filling this need.