- Chapter I • The Original Make-Up of the American People
- Chapter II • The Celtic Irish
- Chapter III • The Germans
- Chapter IV • The Scandinavians
- Chapter V • The Italians
- Chapter VI • The Slavs
- Chapter VII • The East European Hebrews
- Chapter VIII • The Lesser Immigrant Groups
- Chapter IX • Economic Consequences of Immigration
- Chapter X • Social Effects of Immigration
- Chapter XI • Immigrants in Politics
- Chapter XII • American Blood and Immigrant Blood
“Immigration,” said to me a distinguished social worker and idealist, “is a wind that blows democratic ideas throughout the world. In a Siberian hut from which four sons had gone forth to America to seek their fortune, I saw tacked up a portrait of Lincoln cut from a New York newspaper. Even there they knew what Lincoln stood for and loved him. The return flow of letters and people from this country is sending an electric thrill through dwarfed, despairing sections of humanity. The money and leaders that come back to these down-trodden peoples inspire in them a great impulse toward liberty and democracy and progress. Time-hallowed Old-World oppressions and exploitations that might have lasted for generations will perish in our time, thanks to the diffusion by immigrants of American ideas of freedom and opportunity.”
Rapt in these visions of benefit to belated humanity, my friend refused to consider any possible harm of immigration to this country. He did not doubt it so much as ignore it. How should the well-being of a nation be balanced against a blessing to humanity?
“Think what American chances mean to these poor people!” urged a large-hearted woman in settlement work. “Thousands make shipwreck, other thousands are disappointed, but tens of thousands do realize something of the better, larger life they had dreamed of. Who would exclude any of them if he but knew what a land of promise America is to the poor of other lands?” Her sympathy with the visible alien at the gate was so keen that she had no feeling for the invisible children of our poor, who will find the chances gone, nor for those at the gate of the To-be, who might have been born, but will not be.
I am not of those who consider humanity and forget the nation, who pity the living but not the unborn. To me, those who are to come after us stretch forth beseeching hands as well as the masses on the other side of the globe. Nor do I regard America as something to be spent quickly and cheerfully for the benefit of pent-up millions in the backward lands. What if we become crowded without their ceasing to be so? I regard it as a nation whose future may be of unspeakable value to the rest of mankind, provided that the easier conditions of life here be made permanent by high standards of living, institutions and ideals, which finally may be appropriated by all men. We could have helped the Chinese a little by letting their surplus millions swarm in upon us a generation ago; but we have helped them infinitely more by protecting our standards and having something worth their copying when the time came.
Edward Alsworth Ross.
The University of Wisconsin,
“God sifted a whole nation that He might send choice grain into the wilderness.” So thought the seventeenth century of the migration to Massachusetts Bay in the evil years of Charles I; but what are we to think of it? There is to-day so little sympathy with that remote, narrow New England theocracy that it is well to state again in living terms what part the coming of the best of the English Puritans bore in building up the American people.
As history makers, those who will suffer loss and exile rather than give up an ideal that has somehow taken hold of them are well nigh as unlike ordinary folk as if they had dropped from Mars. In every generation those who are capable of heroic devotion to any ideal whatsoever are only a remnant. Nine persons out of ten incline to the line of least resistance or of greatest profit, and will no more sacrifice themselves for an ideal than lead will turn to a magnet.
That the ideal should be final is of small consequence. It matters little whether it is a religious tenet, a mode of worship, a method of life, or a state of society. The essential thing is that it stands apart from the appetites, passions, and petty aims that govern most of us. Those who will face panther and tomahawk for the sake of their ideal are not to be swayed by the sordid motives and fitful passions that lord it over commonplace lives. Holding themselves to be instruments for the fulfilment of some larger purpose, men of this type make their mark upon the world. The fathers dedicate themselves to establishing godliness in the community. Their posterity fly to arms in behalf of the principle of “No taxation without representation.” Their posterity, in turn, war upon the liquor traffic, slavery, or imperialism. As surely as one quarter of us are still of the blood of the twenty thousand Puritans who sought the wilderness between 1618 and 1640, so surely are there ideals not yet risen above the horizon that will inspire Americans in the generations to come.
The Dutch settled New Amsterdam from practical motives, although some of them were Walloons fleeing oppression in the Spanish Netherlands. Gain prompted the peopling of Virginia, and that colony received its share of human chaff. The Council of Virginia early complained that “it hurteth to suffer Parents to disburden themselves of lascivious sonnes, masters of bad servants and wives of ill husbands, and so clogge the business with such an idle crue, as did thrust themselves in the last voiage, that will rather starve for hunger, than lay their hands to labor.”
In 1637 the collector of the port of London averred that “most of those that go thither ordinarily have no habitation … and are better out than within the kingdom.” After the execution of Charles I, a number of Royalist families removed to Virginia rather than brook the rule of Cromwell. This influx of the well-to-do registers itself in an abrupt increase in the size of the land-grants and in a sudden rise in the number of slaves. From this period one meets with the names of Randolph, Madison, Monroe, Mason, Marshall, Washington and many others that have become household words. On the whole, however, the exodus of noble “Cavaliers” to Virginia is a myth; for it is now generally admitted that the aristocracy of eighteenth-century Virginia sprang chiefly from “members of the country gentry, merchants and tradesmen and their sons and relatives, and occasionally a minister, a physician, a lawyer, or a captain in the merchant service,” fleeing political troubles at home or tempted by the fortunes to be made in tobacco.
Less promising was the broad substratum that sustained the prosperity of the colony. For fifty years indentured servants were coming in at a rate from a thousand to sixteen hundred a year. No doubt many an enterprising wight of the English or Irish laboring-class sold himself for a term into the tobacco-fields in order to come within reach of beckoning Opportunity; but we know, too, that the slums and alleys were raked for material to stock the plantations. Hard-hearted men sold dependent kinsfolk to serve in the colonies. Kidnappers smuggled over boys and girls gathered from the streets of London and Bristol. About 1670, no fewer than ten thousand persons were “spirited” from England in one year. The Government was slow to strike at the infamous traffic, for, as was urged in Parliament, “the plantations cannot be maintained without a considerable number of white servants.”
Dr. Johnson deemed the Americans “a race of convicts,” who “ought to be content with anything we allow them short of hanging.” In the first century of the colonies, gallows’-birds were often given the option of servitude in the “plantations.” Some prayed to be hanged instead. In 1717 the British Government entered on the policy of penal transportation, and thenceforth discharged certain classes of felons upon the colonies until the Revolution made it necessary to shunt the muddy stream to Botany Bay. New England happily escaped these “seven-year passengers,” because she would pay little for them and because she had no tobacco to serve as a profitable return cargo. It is estimated that between 1750 and 1770 twenty thousand British convicts were exported to Maryland alone, so that even the school-masters there were mostly of this stripe. The colonies bitterly resented such cargoes, but their self-protective measures were regularly disallowed by the selfish home government. American scholars are coming to accept the British estimate that about 50,000 convicts were marketed on this side the water.
It is astonishing how quickly this “yellow streak” in the population faded. No doubt the worst felons were promptly hanged, so that those transported were such as excited the compassion of the court in an age that recognized nearly three hundred capital offenses. Then, too, the bulk were probably the unfortunate, or the victims of bad surroundings, rather than born malefactors. Under the regenerative stimulus of opportunity, many persons reformed and became good citizens. A like purification of sewage by free land was later witnessed in Australia. The incorrigible, when they did not slip back to their old haunts, forsook the tide-water belt to lead half-savage lives in the wilderness. Here they slew one another or were strung up by “regulators,” so that they bred their kind less freely than the honest. Thus bad strains tended to run out, and in the making of our people the criminals had no share at all corresponding to their original numbers. Blended with the dregs from the rest of the population, the convicts who were lazy and shiftless rather than criminal became progenitors of the “poor whites,” “crackers,” and “sandhillers” that still cumber the poorer lands of the southern Appalachians.
Probably no stock ever came here so gifted and prepotent as the French Huguenots. Though only a few thousand all told, their descendants furnished 589 of the fourteen thousand and more Americans deemed worthy of a place in “Appletons’ Cyclopedia of American Biography.” In 1790 only one-half of one per cent. of our people bore a French name; yet this element contributed 4.2 per cent. of the eminent names in our history, or eight times their due quota. Like the Puritans and the Quakers, the Huguenots were of an element that meets the test of fire and makes supreme sacrifices for conscience’ sake. They had the same affinity for ideals and the same tenacity of character as the founders of New England, but in their French blood they brought a sensibility, a fervor, and an artistic endowment all their own.
It was likewise a sturdy stock, and in the early days of the settlement it was no unusual thing for parties to walk from New Rochelle to church in lower New York, a distance of twenty-three miles. As a rule they walked this distance with bare feet, carrying their shoes in their hands.
When seeking settlers for his new colony, William Penn gained much publicity for it in Germany, where he had a wide acquaintance. The German Pietists responded at once, and a stream of picked families mingled with the English Quakers who founded the City of Brotherly Love. The first Germans to come were well-to-do people. Nearly all had enough money left on arrival to pay for the land they took up. In 1710, however, there arose in parts of Germany a veritable furor to reach the New World. The people of the ravaged Palatinate became agitated over the lure of America, and ship after ship breasted the Delaware, black with Palatines, Hanoverians, Saxons, Austrians, and Swiss. The cost of passage from the upper Rhine was equal to $500 to-day; but a vast number of penniless Germans got over the barrier by contracting with the ship-owner to sell themselves into servitude for a term of years. These were known as “redemptioners,” and their service was commonly for from four to six years. Before the Revolution not fewer than 60,000 Germans had debarked at Philadelphia, to say nothing of the thousands that settled in the South.
Although not without a sectarian background, this great immigration bears clearly an economic impress. The virtues of the Germans were the economic virtues; invariably they are characterized as “quiet, industrious, and thrifty.” Although Franklin wrote, “Those who come to us are the most stupid of their own nation,” he spoke of them later, before a committee of the House of Commons, as “a people who brought with them the greatest of all wealth—industry and integrity, and characters that have been superpoised and developed by years of persecution.” It is likely that the intellectual stagnation of the Pennsylvania Germans and the smallness of their contribution to American leadership has been due to pietistic contempt for education rather than to the natural qualities of the stock.
The flailing of the clans after the futile rising of 1745 made the Scots restless, and in the last twelve years of the colonial era 20,000 Highlanders sought homes in America. But most of our Scottish blood came by way of Ireland. Early in the eighteenth century the discriminations of Parliament against the woolen industry of Ireland, and against Presbyterianism, provoked the largest immigration that occurred before the Revolution. The Ulster Presbyterians were descended from Scotsmen and English who had been induced between 1610 and 1618 to settle in the north of Ireland, and who were, in Macaulay’s judgment, “as a class, superior to the average of the people left behind them.” They cared for ideas, and at the beginning of the outflow there was probably less illiteracy in Ulster than anywhere else in the world. Entire congregations came, each headed by its pastor. “The whole North is in a ferment,” lamented an Irish archbishop in 1728. “It looks as if Ireland were to send all her inhabitants hither,” complained the governor of Pennsylvania. About 200,000 came over, and on the eve of the Revolution the stock was supposed to constitute a sixth of the population of the colonies. They settled along the frontier, and bore the brunt of the warfare with the savage. It was owing chiefly to them that the Quakers and Germans of Pennsylvania were left undisturbed to live up to their ideals of peace and non-resistance. In eminence, the lead of the Scotch-Irish has been in government, exploration, and war, although they have not been lacking in contributors to education and invention. In art and music they have had little to offer.
The outstanding trait of the Scotch-Irish was will. No other element was so masterful and contentious. In a petition directed against their immigration, the Quakers characterized them as a “pernicious and pugnacious people” who “absolutely want to control the province themselves.” The stubbornness of their character is probably responsible for the unexampled losses in the battles of our Civil War. They fought the Indian, fought the British with great unanimity in two wars, and were in the front rank in the conquest of the West. More than any other stock has this tough, gritty breed, so lacking in poetry and sensibility, molded our national character. If to-day a losing college crew rows so hard that they have to be lifted from their shell at the end of the boat-race, it is because the never-say-die Scotch-Irish fighters and pioneers have been the picturesque and glowing figures in the imagination of American youth.
Looked at broadly, the first peopling of this country owes at least as much to the love of liberty as to the economic motive. In the seventeenth century the peoples of the Old World seemed to be at odds with one another. Race trampled on race, and the tender new shoots of religious yearning were bruised by an iron state and an iron church. The rumor of a virgin land where the oppressed might dwell in peace drew together a population varied, but rich in the spirited and in idealists. What a contrast between the English colonies and those of the orthodox powers! For the intellectual stagnation of the French in Canada, thank Louis XIV, who would not allow Huguenots to settle in New France. Spain barred out the foreigner from her colonies, and even the Spaniard might not go thither without a permit from the Crown. Heretics were so carefully excluded that in nearly three centuries the Inquisition in Mexico put to death “only 41 unreconciled heretics, a number surpassed in some single days [in Spain] in Philip II’s time.” No wonder Spanish-American history shows men swayed by greed, ambition, pride, or fanaticism, but very rarely by a moral ideal.
Let no one suppose, however, that, as were the original settlers, so must their descendants be. When you empty a barrel of fish fry into a new stream there is a sudden sharpening of their struggle for existence. So, when people submit themselves to totally strange conditions of life, Death whets his scythe, and those who survive are a new kind of “fittest.”
Were the Atlantic dried up to-day, one could trace the path between Europe and America by cinders from our steamers; in the old days it would have revealed itself by human bones. The conditions of over-sea passage then brought about a shocking elimination of the weaker. The ships were small and crowded, the cabins close, and the voyage required from six to ten weeks. “Betwixt decks,” writes a colonist, “there can hardlie a man fetch his breath by reason there ariseth such a funke in the night that it causeth putrifacation of the blood and breedeth disease much like the plague.”
In a circular, William Penn urged those who came to keep as much upon deck as may be, “and to carry store of Rue and Wormwood, or often sprinkle Vinegar about the Cabbin.” The ship on which he came over lost a third of its passengers by smallpox. In 1639 the wife of the governor of Virginia writes that the ship on which she had come out had been “so pestered with people and goods … so full of infection that after a while they saw little but throwing people overboard.” One vessel lost 130 out of 150 souls. One sixth of the three thousand Germans sent over in 1710 perished in a voyage that lasted from January to June. No better fared a shipload of Huguenot refugees in 1686. A ship that leftRotterdam with 150 Palatines landed fewer than fifty after a voyage of twenty-four weeks. In 1738 “malignant fever and flux” left only 105 out of 400 Palatines. In 1775 a brig reached New York, having lost a hundred Highlanders in passage. It was estimated that in the years 1750 and 1755 two thousand corpses were thrown overboard from the ships plying out of Rotterdam. In 1756, Mittelberger thus describes the horrors of the passage:
During the voyage there is aboard these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, vomiting, many kinds of sickness, fever, dysentery, scurvy, mouth-rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water, so that many die miserably…. Many hundred people necessarily perish in such misery and must be cast into the sea. The sighing and crying and lamenting on board the ship continues night and day.
Thus many poor-conditioned or ill-endowed immigrants succumbed en route. Those of greater resolution stood the better chance; for there was a striking difference in fate between those who lay despairing in the cabins and those who dragged themselves every day to the life-giving air of the deck.
Even after landing, the effects of the voyage pursued the unfortunates. In 1604, De Monts lost half his colony at St. Croix the first winter. More than half the Pilgrims were dead before the Mayflower left for home, four months after reaching Plymouth. Of the Puritans who came to Massachusetts Bay in 1629, a fifth were under ground within a year. Of the 1500 who came over in the summer of 1630, 200 died before December. In 1754, a Philadelphia sexton testified that up to November 14 he had buried that year 260 Palatines.
In the South lay in wait the Indian and the malaria-bearing mosquito, and the latter slew more. The whites might patch a truce with the redskin, but never with the mosquito. They died as die raw Europeans to-day along the lower Niger or in the delta of the Amazon. In June, 1610, only 150 persons were living on the banks of the James River out of 900 who had been landed there within three years. By 1616, 1650 persons altogether had been sent out; of these 300 had returned, and about 350 were living in Virginia. During a twelvemonth in 1619-20, 1200 left England, but only 200 were alive in April, 1620. Fifty years later, Governor Berkeley stated: “There is not oft seasoned hands (as we term them) that die now, whereas heretofore not one out of five escaped the first year.” A “seasoned” servant, having only one more year to serve, brought a better price than a new-comer, with seven and a half years to serve. Surely the survivors of such a shock had a tough fiber to pass on to their descendants. It is such selection that explains in part the extraordinary blooming of the colonies after the cruel initial period was over.
No doubt the iron hardihood of the South African Boers was built up by the succumbing of physical and moral weaklings amid a wilderness environment. In the same way our frontier made it hard for the soft basswood type to survive. Of the 380 persons whom Robertson collected in North Carolina in 1779 to found what is now Nashville, only 134 were alive at the end of a year, although not one natural death had occurred. Six months later only seventy were left alive. If there had been any weaklings in the party, by this time surely the tomahawk would have found them. No wonder, then, that when the vote was cast on the question of staying or going back, no one voted for going back. The less hardy, too, succumbed to the fever and ague, which decimated the settlers of the wooded country until they had cleared the forests and drained the marshes.
In the early days there streamed over the Wilderness Road that led to the settlements in Kentucky two tides, an outgoing tide of stout-hearted pioneers, seeking farms in the lovely blue-grass land, and a return flow of timid or shiftless people, affrighted by the horrors of Indian warfare or tired of the grim struggle for subsistence amid the stumps. The select character of those who built up these exposed settlements explains the wonderful forcefulness of the people of Kentucky and Ohio, especially before they had given so many of their blood to found the commonwealths farther west. Thanks to the protecting frontier garrisons, the settlers of the trans-Mississippi States were perhaps not so rigorously selected as the trans-Alleghany pioneers; but, on the other hand, they were themselves largely of pioneer stock.
No doubt the “run of the continent” has improved the fiber of the American people. Of course the well established and the intellectuals had no motive to seek the West; but in energy and venturesomeness those who sought the frontier were superior to the average of those in their class who stayed behind. It was the pike rather than the carp that found their way out of the pool. Now, in the main, those who pushed through the open door of opportunity left more children than their fellows who did not. Often themselves members of large families, they had fecundity, as it were, in the blood. With land abundant and the outlook encouraging, they married earlier. In the narrow life of the young West, love and family were stronger interests than in the older society; hence all married. Thanks to cheap living and to the need of helpers, the big family was welcomed. Living by agriculture, the West knew little of cities, manufactures, social rivalry, luxury, and a serving class, all foes of rapid multiplication.
In 1802, Michaux found the families of the Ohio settlers “always very numerous,” and of Kentucky he wrote: “There are few houses which contain less than four or five children.” Traveling in the Ohio Valley in 1807, Cumings observed: “Throughout this whole country, whenever you see a cabin you see a swarm of children”; and Woods wrote in 1819: “The first thing that strikes a traveler on the Ohio is the immense number of children.” But there is solider proof of frontier prolificacy. The census of 1830 showed the proportion of children under five years in the States west of the Alleghanies to be a third to a half greater than in the seaboard region. The proportion of children to women between fifteen and fifty was from fifty to a hundred per cent. greater. In 1840, children were forty per cent. more numerous among the Yankees of the Western Reserve than among their kinsmen in Connecticut. The next half-century took the edge off the fecundity of the people of the Ohio Valley; but their sons and daughters who had pushed on into Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota, showed families a fifth larger. In 1900, the people of the agricultural frontier—Texas, Oklahoma, and the Dakotas—had a proportion of children larger by twenty-eight per cent. than that of the population between Pittsburgh and Omaha.
If the frontier drew from the seaboard population a certain element, and let it multiply more freely than it would have multiplied at home, the frontier must have made that element more plentiful in the American people, taken as a whole; and this, indeed, appears to be what actually occurred. No one ventures to assert that the Americans are differentiated from the original immigrating stocks by superiority in any form of talent or in any kind of sensibility; but they impress all foreign observers with their high endowment of energy, tenacity of purpose, and willingness to take risks, and these are just the qualities that are fostered and made more abundant by the wilderness. I do not maintain that life in America has added any new trait to the descendants of transplanted Europeans, nor has it filled them all with the pioneer virtues. What I do mean is that, owing to the progressive peopling of the fertile wilderness, certain valuable strains that once were represented in, say, a sixth of the population, might come to be represented in a quarter of it; and the timid, inert sort might shrivel from a fifth of the population to a tenth. Such a shifting in the numerical strength of types would account both for the large contingent of the forceful in the normal American community, and for the prevalence of the ruthless, high-pressure, get-there-at-any-cost spirit which leaves in its wake achievement, prosperity, neurasthenia, Bright’s disease, heart failure, and shattered moral standards.
From the outbreak of the Revolution until the fourth decade of the nineteenth century there was a lull in immigration. In a lifetime fewer aliens came than now debark in a couple of months. During these sixty years powerful forces of assimilation were rapidly molding a unified people out of the motley colonial population. In the fermenting West, the meeting-place of men from everywhere, elements of the greatest diversity were blending into a common American type which soon began to tinge the streams of life that ran distinct from one another in the seaboard States. Then came another epoch of vast immigration, which has largely neutralized the effect of the nationalizing forces, and has brought us into a state of heterogeneity like to that of the later colonial era.
After the great lull, the Celtic Irish were the first to come in great numbers. From 1820 to 1850 they were more than two-fifths of all immigrants, and during the fifties more than one-third. More than a seventh of our 30,000,000 immigrants have brought in their aching hearts memories of the fresh green of the moist island in the Northern sea. The registered number is about 4,250,000, but the actual number is larger, for many of the earlier Irish, embarking in English ports, were counted as coming from England. No doubt the Irish who have suffered the wrench of expatriation to America outnumber the present population of the Green Isle, which is only a little more than one-half of what it was before the crisis of famine, rebellion, and misery that came about the middle of the nineteenth century. It is, indeed, a question whether there is not more Irish blood now on this side of the Atlantic than on the other. It is possible that during Victoria’s reign more of her subjects left Ireland in order to live under the Stars and Stripes than left England in order to build a Greater Britain under the Union Jack.
In his “Coronation Ode,” William Watson sees Ireland as
… the lonely and the lovely Bride
Whom we have wedded, but have never won.
The truth of this shows in the way the wandering Irish still shun the lands under the British crown. Most of the inviting frontier left on our continent lies in western Canada. Already the opportunities there have induced land-hungry Americans to renounce their flag at the rate of a hundred thousand in a single year. Yet the resentful Irish turn to the narrower opportunities of what they regard as their land of emancipation. During a recent nine-year period, while the English and the Scotch emigrants preferred Canada to “the States,” eleven times as many Irish sought admission in our ports as were admitted to Canada, although Canada’s systematic campaign for immigrants is carried on alike in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
Very likely the Irish exodus is a closed chapter of history. Ireland’s population has been shrinking for sixty years, and she has now fewer inhabitants than the State of Ohio. People are leaving the land of heather twice as fast as they are abandoning the land of the shamrock. The early marriage and blind prolificacy that had overpopulated the land until half the people lived on potatoes, and two-fifths dwelt in one-room mud cabins, are gone forever, and Ireland has now one of the lowest birth-rates in Europe. Gradually the people are again coming to own the ground under their feet; native industries and native arts are reviving, and a wonderful rural coöperative movement is in full swing. The long night of misgovernment, ignorance, and superfecundity seems over, the star of home rule is high, and the day may soon come when these home-loving people will not need to seek their bread under strange skies.
During its earlier period, Irish immigration brought in a desirable class, which assimilated readily. Later, the enormous assisted immigration that followed the famine of 1846-48 brought in many of an inferior type, who huddled helplessly in the poorer quarters of our cities and became men of the spade and the hod. After the crisis was past, there again came a type that was superior to those who remained behind. Of course the acquiescent property-owning class never emigrated, and those rising in trade or in the professions rarely came unless they had fallen into trouble through their patriotism. But of the common people there is evidence that the more capable part leaked away to America. The Earl of Dunraven testifies:
Those who have remained have, for the most part, been the least physically fit, the most mentally deficient, and those who correspond to the lowest industrial standard…. For half a century and more the best equipped, mentally and physically, of the population have been leaving Ireland. The survival of the unfittest has been the law, and the inevitable result, deterioration of the race, statistics abundantly prove.
Owing to this exodus of the young and energetic, Ireland has become the country of old men and old women. An eighth of her people are more than sixty-five years old as against an eleventh in England. In half a century the proportion of lunatics and idiots in the population of Ireland rose from one in 657 to one in 178. In 1906 the inspector of lunatics reported:
The emigration of the strong and healthy members of the community not alone increases the ratio of the insane who are left behind to the general population, but also lowers the general standard of mental and bodily health by eliminating many of the members of the community who are best fitted to survive and propagate the race.
He may not have known that, compared with the rest of our immigrants, the Irish have twice their share of insanity. The commissioners of national education, after pointing with pride to half a century’s great reduction of illiteracy, add:
The change for the better is remarkable when it is remembered that it was the younger and better educated who emigrated … during this period, while the majority of the illiterate were persons who were too old to leave their homes.
A close study of two hundred workingmen’s families in New York City showed the average German family thirty dollars ahead at the end of the year while the average Irish family of about the same income had spent ten dollars more than it had earned. Charity visitors know that the Irish are often as open-handed and improvident as the Bedouins. A Catholic educator accounts for the scarcity of Irish millionaires by declaring that his people are too generous to accumulate great fortunes. They are free givers, and no people are more ready to take into the family the orphans of their relatives. In a county of mixed nationalities there will be more mortgages and stale debts against Irish farmers than against any others. In a well-paid class of workers there will be more renters and fewer home-owners among the Irish than among any other nationality of equal pay. Less habitually than others do the Irish make systematic provision for old age. They depend on the earnings of their children, who, indeed, are many and loyal enough. But if the children die early or scatter, the day-laborer must often eat the bread of charity. A decade ago the Irish were found to be relatively thrice as numerous in our almshouses as other non-native elements. In the Northeast, where they formed a quarter of the foreign-born population, they furnished three-fifths of the paupers. In Massachusetts, and in Boston as well, they were four times as common in the almshouses as out of them, although, to be sure, a part of this bad showing is due to more of them being aged. Nor do their children provide much better for the future. In Boston, those of Irish parentage produce two and one-half times their quota of paupers. In both first and second generations the frugal and fore-looking Germans there have less than a tenth of the pauperism of the Irish, while in 1910 in the country at large the tendency of the Irish toward the almshouse was nearly three times that of the Germans. Dr. Bushee, who has investigated the conditions in Boston, says:
It cannot be said that the ordinary Irishman is of a provident disposition; he lives in the present and worries comparatively little about the future. He is not extravagant in any particular way, but is wasteful in every way; it is his nature to drift when he ought to plan and economize. This disposition, combined with an ever-present tendency to drink too much, is liable to result in insecure employment and a small income. And, to make matters worse, in families of this kind children are born with reckless regularity.
In extenuation, let it not be forgotten that at home the earlier Irish immigrants had lived under perhaps a more demoralizing social condition than that from which any other of our immigrants have come. Fleeing from plague and starvation, great numbers were dumped at our ports with no means of getting out upon the land. What was there for them to do but to rush their labor into the nearest market and huddle sociably together in wretched slums, where, despite their sturdy physique, they fell an easy prey to sickness and died off twice as fast as they should? They lived as poorly as do the Russian Jews when first they come; but, being a green country-folk, they understood less than do the town-bred Jews how to withstand the noxious influences of cities and slums.
Certainly, along with their courage and loyalty, the Irish did not bring the economic virtues. Straight from the hoe they came, without even the thrift of the farmer who owns the land he tills. Many of them were no better fitted to succeed in the modern competitive order than their ancestors of the septs in the days of Strongbow. In value-sense and foresight, how far they stand behind Scot, Fleming, or Yankee! In the acquisitive mêlée most of them are as children compared with the Greek or the Semite. An observant settlement worker has said:
The Irish are apt to make their occupation a secondary matter. They remain idle if no man hires them; but not so the Jew. If he can get no regular employment, it is possible to gather rags and junk and sell them…. If employed under a hard master, he still works on under conditions that would drive the Irishman to drink and the American to suicide until finally he sees an opportunity to improve his condition.
We must not forget that Irish development had been forcibly arrested by the selfish policy of their conquerors. In the latter part of the seventeenth century the English Parliament, at the behest of English graziers and farmers, put an end to Ireland’s cattle-trade to England, then to her exportation of provisions to the colonies. Afterward came export duties on Irish woolens, and, later, complete prohibition of the exportation of woolens to foreign countries. “Cotton, glass, hats, iron manufactures, sugar refining—whatever business Ireland turned her hand to, and always with success—was in turn restricted.” The result was that the natural capacity of the people was repressed, the growth of industrial habits was checked, and the country was held down to simple agriculture under a blighting system of absentee landlordism. Still, we cannot overlook the success of the Scottish Lowlanders in Ulster under the same strangling discriminations, nor forget that the 3500 German Protestant refugees who were settled in Munster in 1709 prospered as did their brother refugees in Pennsylvania, and became in time much wealthier than their Celtic neighbors.
A thousand years ago an Irish scholar, teaching at Liège, acknowledged his love for the cup in his invocation to the Muses, and addressed a poem to a friend who, being the possessor of a great vineyard, understood “how to awaken genius through the inspiration of the heavenly dew.”
It is this same “heavenly dew”—whose Erse name usquebaugh, we have pronounced “whisky”—that, more than anything else, has held back the Irish in America. The Irishman is no more a craver of alcohol than other men, but his sociability betrays him to that beverage which is the seal of good fellowship. He does not sit down alone with a bottle, as the Scandinavian will do, nor get his friends round a table and quaff lager, as the German does. No “Dutch treat” for him. He drinks spirits in public, and, after a dram or two, his convivial nature requires that every stranger in the room shall seal friendship in a glass with him. His temperament, too, makes liquor a snare to him. Where another drinker becomes mellow or silent or sodden, the Celt becomes quarrelsome and foolish.
Twenty years ago an analysis of more than seven thousand cases of destitution in our cities showed that drink was twice as frequent a cause of poverty among the Irish cases as among the Germans, and occurred half again as often among them as among the native American cases. Among many thousands of recent applications for charity, “intemperance of the bread-winner” crops out as a cause of destitution in one case out of twelve among old-strain Americans; but it taints one case out of seven among the Irish and one case out of six among the Irish of the second generation. In the charity hospitals of New York alcoholism is responsible for more than a fifth of all the cases. Drink is the root of the trouble in a quarter of the native Americans treated, in a third of the Irish patients, and in two-fifths of the cases among the native-born of Irish fathers. Contrast this painful showing with the fact that one Italian patient out of sixty, one Magyar patient out of seventy, one Polish patient out of eighty, and one Hebrew patient out of one hundred is in the hospital on account of drink!
In the quality of their crimes our immigrants differ more from one another than they do in complexion or in the color of their eyes. The Irishman’s love of fighting has made Donnybrook Fair a byword; yet it is a fact that personal violence is six or seven times as often the cause of confinement for Italian, Magyar, or Finnish prisoners in our penitentiaries as for the Irish. Patrick may be quarrelsome, but he fights with his hands, and in his cups he is not homicidal,like the South Italian, or ferocious, like the Finn. Three-fifths of the Hebrew convicts are confined for gainful offenses, but only one-fifth of the Irish. Among a score or more of nationalities, the Irish stand nearly at the foot of the list in the commission of larceny, burglary, forgery, fraud, or homicide. Rape, pandering, and the white-slave traffic are almost unknown among them. What could be more striking than the fact that more than half of the Irish convicts have been sent up for “offenses against public order,” such as intoxication and vagrancy! One cannot help feeling that the Celtic offender is a feckless fellow, enemy of himself more than of any one else. It is usually not cupidity nor brutality nor lust that lodges him in prison, but conviviality and weak control of impulses.
It is certain that no immigrant is more loyal to wife and child than the Irishman. Out of nearly ten thousand charity cases in which a wife was the head of the family, the greatest frequency of widowhood and the least frequency of desertion or separation is among the Irish. In only eighteen per cent. of the Irish cases is the husband missing; whereas among the Hebrews, Slovaks, Lithuanians, and Magyars he is missing in from forty to fifty per cent. of the cases. But the sons of Irish, with that ready adaptation to surroundings characteristic of the Celt, desert their wives with just about the same frequency as men of pure American stock; namely, thirty-six per cent., or twice that of their fathers.
Thirty years ago, when the Irish and the Germans in America were nearly equal in number, there were striking contrasts in the place they took in industry. As domestic servants, laborers, mill-hands, miners, quarrymen, stone-cutters, laundry workers, restaurant keepers, railway and street-car employees, officials and employees of government, the Irish were two or three times as numerous as the Germans. On the other hand, as farmers, saloon-keepers, bookkeepers, designers, musicians, inventors, merchants, manufacturers, and physicians, the Germans far outnumbered the Irish. Where artistic skill is required, as in confectionery, cabinet-making, wood-carving, engraving, photography, and jewelry-making; where scientific knowledge is called for, as in brewing, distilling, sugar-refining, and iron manufacture, the Irish were hopelessly beaten by the trained and plodding Germans.
For a while, the bulk of Irish formed a pick-and-shovel caste, claiming exclusive possession of the poorest and least honorable occupations, and mobbing the Chinaman or the negro who intruded into their field. But the record of their children proves that there is nothing in the stock that dooms it forever to serve at the tail-end of a wheelbarrow. Take, for instance, those workers known to the statistician as “Female bread-winners.” Of the first generation of Irish, fifty-four per cent. are servants and waitresses; of the second generation, only sixteen per cent. Whither have these daughters gone? Out of the kitchen into the factory, the store, the office, and the school. In the needle trades they are twice as frequent as Bridget or Nora who came over in the steerage. Five times as often they serve behind the counter, seven times as often they work at the desk as stenographer or bookkeeper, five times as frequently they teach. One native girl out of twelve whose fathers were Irish is a teacher, as against one girl out of nine with American fathers. The Irish girls of the second generation are twice as well represented as the native-born German girls. Evidently it will not be long before they have their full share of school positions. In thirty leading cities eighteen per cent. of the teachers are second-generation Irish; and there are cities where these swift climbers constitute from two-fifths to a half of the teaching force.
‘Tonio or Ivan now wields the shovel while Michael’s boy escapes competition with him by running nimbly up the ladder of occupations. As compared with their immigrant fathers, the proportion of laborers among the sons of Irishmen is halved, while that of professional men and salesmen is doubled, and that of clerks, copyists, and bookkeepers is trebled. The quota of saloon-keepers remains the same. There is no drift into agriculture or into mercantile pursuits. In the cities the Irish suffer little from the competition of the later immigrants because, thanks to their
political control, they divide among themselves much of the work carried on by the municipality as well as the jobs under the great franchise-holding corporations. So far, the strength of the Irish has been in personal relations. They shine in the forum, in executive work, in public guardianship, and in public transportation, but not in the more monotonous branches of manufacture. In the colleges it has been noted that the students of Irish blood are strong for theology and law, but show little taste for medicine, engineering, or technology.
Among the first thousand men of science in America the Irish are only a fourth as well represented as the Germans, a fifteenth as well as the English and Canadians, and a twentieth as well as the Scotch. This backwardness is in part due to the overhang of bad conditions; and the compilers of the table very properly suggest that “the native-born sons of Irish-born parents may not be inferior in scientific productivity to other classes of the community.” The same comment may be made on the fact that of the persons listed in “Who’s Who in America,” two per cent. were German-born, another two per cent. were English-born, but only one per cent. came from the land of Erin.
No doubt the peaks of Celtic superiority are poetry and eloquence. Their gifts of emotion and imagination give the Irish the key to human hearts. They are eloquent for the same reason that they are poor technicians and investigators, for the typical Celt sees things not as they really are, but as they are to him.
The Irishman still leans on authority and shows little tendency to think for himself. In philosophy and science he is far behind the head of the procession. Even when well-educated, he thinks within the framework formed by certain conventional ideas. Unlike the educated German or Jew, he rarely ventures to dissect the ideas of parental authority, the position of woman, property, success, competition, individual liberty, etc., that lie at the base of commonplace thought. Here, again, this limitation by sentiment and authority derives doubtless from the social history of the Irish rather than from their blood. They have been engrossed with an old-fashioned problem—that of freeing their country. Meanwhile, the luckier peoples have swept on to ripen their thinking about class relations, industrial organization, and social institutions.
With his Celtic imagination as a magic glass, the Irishman sees into the human heart and learns how to touch its strings. No one can wheedle like an Irish beggar or “blarney” like an Irish ward boss. Not only do the Irish furnish stirring orators, persuasive stump-speakers, moving pleaders, and delightful after-dinner speech-makers, but they give us good salesmen and successful traveling-men. Then, too, they know how to manage people. The Irish contractor is a great figure in construction work. The Irish mine “boss” or section foreman has the knack of handling men. The Irish politician is an adept in “lining up” voters of other nationalities. More Germans than Irish enlisted in the Union armies, but more of the Irish rose to be officers. In the great corporations Americans control policy and finance, Germans are used in technical work, and Irishmen are found in executive positions. The Irish are well to the fore in organizing labor and in leading athletics. “Of two applicants,” says a city school superintendent, “I take the teacher with an Irish name, because she will have less trouble in discipline, and hits it off better with the parents and the neighborhood.”
Whatever is in the Irish mind is available on the instant, so that the Irish rarely fail to do themselves justice. They keep their best foot forward, and if they fall, they light on their feet. They succeed as lawyers not only because they can play upon the jury, but because they are quick in thrust and parry. They abound in newspaper offices because their imagination enables them to keep “in touch” with the public mind. The Irishman rarely attains the thorough knowledge of the German physician; but he makes his mark as surgeon, because he is quick to perceive and to decide when the knife discloses a grave, unsuspected condition.
The Irishman accepts the Erse proverb, “Contention is better than loneliness.” “His nature goes out to the other fellow all the time,” declares a wise priest. The lodge meeting of a Hibernian benevolent association is a revelation of kindness and delicacy of feeling in rough, toil-worn men. A great criminal lawyer tells me that if he has a desperate case to defend, he keeps the cold-blooded Swede off the jury and gets an Irishman on, especially one who has been “in trouble.” Bridget becomes attached to the family she serves, and, after she is married, calls again and again “to see how the childher are coming on.” Freda, after years of service, will leave you off-hand and never evince the remotest interest in your family. The Irish detest the merit system, for they make politics a matter of friendship and favor. In their willingness to serve a friend they are apt to lose sight of the importance of preparation, fitness and efficiency in the public servant. Hence they warm to a reform movement only when it becomes a fight on law-breakers. Then the Hibernian district attorney goes after the “higher-ups” like a St. George. When the Irish do renounce machine politics, they become broad democrats rather than “good government” men.
Imaginative and sensitive to what others think of him, the Celt is greatly affected by praise and criticism. Unlike the Teuton, he cannot plod patiently toward a distant goal without an appreciative word or glance. He does his best when he is paced, for emulation is his sharpest stimulus. The grand stand has something to do with the Irish bent for athletic contests. Irish school-children love the lime-light, and distinguish themselves better on the platform than in the classroom. Irish teachers with good records in the training-school are less likely than other teachers to improve themselves by private study.
“The Irish are wilder than the rest in their expression of grief,” observes the visiting nurse, “but they don’t take on for long.” The Irishman is less persistent than others in keeping up the premiums on his insurance policy, the payments on his building-and-loan association stock. He is quick to throw up his job or change his place in order to avoid sameness. “My will is strong,” I heard a bright-eyed Kathleen say, “but it keeps changing its object; Gunda [her Norwegian friend] is so determined and fixed in purpose!” There is a proverb, “The Irishman is no good till he is kicked,” meaning that he is unstable till his blood is up. Once his fighting spirit is roused, he proves to be a “last ditcher.” As a soldier, he is better in a charge than in defense, and if held back, he frets himself to exhaustion.
A professor compares his Celtic students to the game trout, which makes one splendid dash for the fly, but sulks if he misses it. A bishop told me how his prize-man, an Irish youth, sent to Paris to study Hebrew, was amazed at the prodigious industry of his German and Polish chums. “I never knew before,” he wrote, “what study is.” A settlement worker comments on the avidity with which night-school pupils in Irish neighborhoods select classes with interesting subjects of instruction, and the rapidity with which they drop off when the “dead grind” begins. Their temperament rebels at close, continuous application. The craftsman of Irish blood is likely to be a little slapdash in method, and he rarely stands near the top of his trade in skill. The Irishman succeeds best in staple farming—all wheat, all cotton, or all beets. With the advent of diversified farming, he is supplanted by the painstaking German, Scandinavian, or Pole. Work requiring close attention to details—like that of the nurseryman, the florist, or the breeder—falls into the hands of a more patient type. In banking and finance, men of a colder blood control.
The word “brilliant” is oftener used for the Irish than for any other aliens among us save the Hebrews. Yet those of Irish blood are far from manning their share of the responsible non-political posts in American society. Their contribution by no means matches that of an equal number of the old American breed. But, in sooth, it is too soon yet to expect the Irish strain to show what it can do. Despite their schooling, the children of the immigrant from Ireland often become infected with the parental slackness, unthrift, and irresponsibility. They in turn communicate some of the heritage to their children; so that we shall have to wait until the fourth generation before we shall learn how the Hibernian stock compares in value with stocks that have had a happier social history.
More than 5,250,000 people have been contributed to our population by Germany in the last ninety years. Deducting the Poles from eastern Prussia, and counting Germans from Russia, Austria, Bohemia, and eastern Switzerland, we have, no doubt, received more than 7,000,000 whose mother-tongue was the speech of Luther and Goethe. It is probable that German blood has come to be at least a fourth part of the current in the veins of the white people of this country, so that this infusion alone equals the total volume of Spanish and Portuguese blood in South America.
From its rise in the thirties until after our Civil War, the stream of immigrants from Germany fluctuated with religious and political conditions on the other side of the Atlantic rather than with economic conditions on this side. Between 1839 and 1845 numerous Old Lutherans, resenting the attempt of their king to unite the Lutheran and the Reformed faiths, migrated hither from Pomerania and Brandenburg. The political reaction in the German states after the revolution of 1830, and again after the revolution of 1848, brought tens of thousands of liberty-lovers. In 1851, in a book of advice to intending immigrants, Pastor Bogen of Boston set forth as the chief inducement to migrate the freedom the Germans would enjoy in America—freedom from oppression and despotism, from privileged orders and monopolies, from intolerable imposts and taxes, from constraint in matters of conscience, from restrictions on settling anywhere in this country of “exhaustless resources.”
The political exiles famous as the “Forty-eighters” included many men of unusual attainments and character, who almost at once became leaders of the German-Americans, exercising an influence quite out of proportion to their numbers. These university professors, physicians, journalists, and even aristocrats, aroused many of their fellow-countrymen to feel a pride in German culture, and they left a stamp of political idealism, social radicalism, and religious skepticism which is slow to be effaced.
Thanks to the Hausfrau ideal for women and to the militarist demand for recruits, the German people has until recently persevered in a truly medieval fecundity. Despite an outflow of 6,500,000 between 1820 and 1893, population has doubled in seventy years and trebled in a hundred. Prince Bülow complains that “the Poles of eastern Prussia multiply like rabbits, while we Germans multiply like hares.” The fact is, a generation ago the Germans, too, were multiplying like rabbits. This is the reason why during the seventies and eighties, although political conditions had much improved, great numbers of farm-laborers, female servants, handicraftsmen, small tradesmen, and other members of the humbler classes, streamed out of crowded Germany in the hope of improving their material condition. The peasant living on black bread and potatoes heard of and longed for the white bread and fleshpots of the American West. Although the overwhelming majority of the 1,500,000 Germans who immigrated during the eighties represented the lower economic strata, they came in with fair schooling, considerable industrial skill, and, on an average, three times as much money as the Slav, Hebrew, or South European shows to-day at Ellis Island.
The German influx dropped sharply as soon as the panic of 1893 broke out, and when, after four and a half years of economic submergence, this country struggled to the surface, the tide of Teutons was not ready to flow again. America’s free land was gone, and ruder peoples, with lower standards of living, were crowding into her labor markets. In the meantime, Germany’s extraordinary rise as a manufacturing country, her successes in foreign trade, and her wonderful system of protection and insurance for her labor population, had made her sons and daughters loath to migrate oversea. The immigration from Germany into the United States is virtually a closed chapter, and has been so for twenty years. Such Germans as now arrive hail chiefly from Austria and Russia.
No other foreign element is so generally distributed over the United States as the Germans. A third of them are between Boston and Pittsburgh, fifty-five per cent. live between Pittsburgh and Denver, seven per cent. are in the South, and five per cent. are in the far West.
In the South they are more numerous than any other non-native element. They predominate, except in New England, where the Irish abound; in States along the northern border, into which filter many Canadians; in the Dakotas, where the Scandinavians lead; in the Mormon States, with their many converts from England; and in Louisiana and Florida, with their Italians and Cubans. In Milwaukee nearly half the people are of German parentage, in Cincinnati a quarter, in St. Louis a fifth. A third of the Germans are in the rural districts, whereas all but a sixth of the Irish are in cities. Whether one considers their distribution among the States, their partition between city and country, or their dispersion among the callings, the Germans will be found to be the most pervasive element so far added to our people.
Unlike the Irish immigrants, the Germans brought a language, literature, and social customs of their own; so that, although when scattered they Americanized with great rapidity, wherever they were strong enough to maintain churches and schools in their own tongue they were slow to take the American stamp. For the sake of their beloved Deutschtum, about the middle of the last century the promoters of this migration dreamed of creating in the West a German state where Germans should hold sway and hand down their culture in all its purity. Missouri, Illinois, Texas, and later Wisconsin, seemed to hold out such a hope. But the immigrants would not remain massed, the Yankees pushed in, and “Little Germany” never found a place on the map.
After 1870 the Teutonic overflow was prompted by economic motives, and such a migration shows little persistence in flying the flag of its national culture. Numbers came, little instructed, or else bringing a knowledge of Old Testament worthies rather than of German poets, musicians, and artists. In the words of a German-American, Knortz: “Nine-tenths of all German immigrants come from humble circumstances and have had only an indifferent schooling. Whoever, therefore, expects pride in their German descent from these people, who owe everything to their new country and nothing to their fatherland, simply expects too much.”
The “Forty-eighters” had given a great stimulus to all German forms of life,—schools, press, stage, festivals, choral societies, and gymnastic societies,—but since the passing of these leaders and the subsidence of the Teutonic freshet,Deutschtum has been on the wane. German newspapers are disappearing, German-American books and journals become fewer, German book stores are failing, German theaters are closing, and the surviving German private schools may be counted on the fingers. Probably not more than ten per cent. of the children of German parentage hear anything but English spoken at home. Champions of Deutschtum admit sadly that nothing but a strong current of immigration can preserve it here. The spreading German-American National Alliance is bringing about a marked revival, but hardly will it succeed in persuading the majority of its people to lay upon their children the burden of a bi-lingual education. It is the apparent destiny of the descendants of the myriads of Germans who have settled here to lose themselves in the American people, and to take the stamp of a culture which is, in origin at least, eighty per cent. British.
It is no small tribute to the solvent power of American civilization that the stable and conservative Germans, who, as settlers in Transylvania, in Chili, or in Palestine, among the Russians on the lower Volga, or among the Portuguese in southern Brazil, are careful to keep themselves unspotted from the people about them, have proved, on the whole, easy to Americanize. Years ago, Prof. James Bryce, just back from Ararat, after noting the purity of the German culture preserved by the Swabian colony in Tiflis, added:
It was very curious to contrast this complete persistence of Teutonism here with the extremely rapid absorption of the Germans among other citizens which one sees going on in those towns of the Western States of America, where—as in Milwaukee, for instance—the inhabitants are mostly Germans, and still speak English with a markedly foreign accent…. Here they are exiles from a higher civilization planted in the midst of a lower one; there they lose themselves among a kindred people, with whose ideas and political institutions they quickly come to sympathize.
The leanness of his home acres taught the German to make the most of his farm in the New World. The immigrant looked for good land rather than for land easy to subdue. Knowing that a heavy forest growth proclaims rich soil, he shunned the open areas, and chopped his homestead out of the densest woods. While the American farmer, in his haste to live well, mined the fertility out of the soil, the German conserved it by rotating crops and feeding live stock. In caring for his domestic animals, he set an example. Just as the county agricultural fair, and the state fair as well, is the development of the Pennsylvania-German Jahrmarkt, and the “prairie schooner” is the lineal descendant of the “Conestoga wagon,” so the capacious red barns of the Middle West trace their ancestry back to the big barn which the Pennsylvania “Dutchman” provided at a time when most farmers let their stock run unsheltered.
Thanks partly to good farming and frugal living, and partly to the un-American practice of working their women in the fields, the German farmers made money, bought choice acres from under their neighbors’ feet, and so kept other nationalities on the move. This is the reason why a German settlement spreads on fat soil and why in time the best land in the region is likely to come into German hands. Unlike the restless American, with his ears ever pricked to the hail of distant opportunity, the phlegmatic German identifies himself with his farm, and feels a pride in keeping it in the family generation after generation. Taking fewer chances in the lottery of life than his enterprising Scotch-Irish or limber-minded Yankee neighbor, he has drawn from it fewer big prizes, but also fewer blanks.
In quest of vinous exhilaration, our grandfathers stood at a bar pouring down ardent spirits. It is owing to our German element that the mild lager beer has largely displaced whisky as the popular beverage, while sedentary drinking steadily gains on perpendicular drinking. Because the toping of beer has from time immemorial been interwoven with their social enjoyments, and because beer, unlike whisky, makes wassailers fraternal rather than wild and quarrelsome, the Germans, supported by the Bohemians, have offered, in the name of “personal liberty,” the most determined opposition to liquor legislation. They may renounce the bowl, but taken away it shall not be! In their loyalty to beer, these Teutons out-German their cousins in the Fatherland, who are of late turning from the national beverage at an astonishing rate. At the World’s Fair in St. Louis a number of American scholars who had studied of yore in German universities gave a luncheon to the visiting German economists. Out of respect for their guests, the hosts all filled the mugs of their student days; but, to their astonishment, the Germans called unanimously for iced tea!
The influence of the Germans in spreading among us the love of good music and good drama is acknowledged by all. But there is a more subtle transformation that they have wrought on American taste. The social diversions of the Teutons, and their affirmance of the “joy of living,” have helped to clear from our eyes the Puritan jaundice that made all physical and social enjoyment look sinful. If “innocent recreation” and “harmless amusement” are now phrases to conjure with, it is largely owing to the Germans and Bohemians, with their love of song and mirth and “having a good time.” Few of the present generation realize that fifty years ago the principal place of amusement in the American town, although as innocent of opera as a Kaffir kraal, called itself the “opera-house,” in order to avoid the damning stigma the reigning Puritanism had attached to the word “theater.”
As voters, the Germans have shown little clannishness. Their partizanship has not been bigoted, and by their insistence on independent voting they have perplexed and disgusted the politicians. Before 1850, they saw in the Democratic party the champion of the liberties for the sake of which they had expatriated themselves. But when the slavery issue came to be overshadowing, the “Forty-eighters” were able to swing them to the newly formed Republican party, to which, on the whole, they have remained faithful, although in some States their loyalty has been much shaken by prohibition. On money questions the Germans have been conservative. Bringing with them the notion of an efficient civil service, they have despised office-mongering and have befriended the merit system. No immigrants have been more apt to look at public questions from a common-welfare point of view and to vote for their principles rather than for their friends. If by “political aptitude” is meant the skill to use politics for private advantage, then in this capacity the German must be ranked low among our foreign-born.
In the way of civil and political liberty, the Germans added nothing to the old-English heritage they found here; but in freedom of thought their contribution has been invaluable. Where there is no church, state, or upper class to hold it in check, the community is likely to show itself imperious toward the nonconformist. The New England Puritan, who was oak to any civil authority that he had not helped to constitute, was a reed before the pressure of community opinion. The sturdy Germans flouted this tyranny sans tyrant. At a time when the would-be-respectable American stifled under a pall of conventionality in regard to religion and manners, they asserted the right to think and speak for themselves without incurring loss or ostracism. Then, too, the scholarly German immigrant imparted to us his sense of the dignity of science and its right to be free, although, to be sure, this spirit has been fostered among us chiefly by Americans who have studied in German universities. On the whole, in the way of intellectual liberty, the university-bred Liberals of 1848 had as much to offer as they gained in the way of political liberty.
At the outbreak of the Civil War the Germans, with their deep detestation of slavery, played no small rôle. In the South, those of later immigration opposed the Confederacy; in the North their leaders lined them up solidly in support of the Union. About 200,000 Germans enlisted in the Union army, more than there were of Irish volunteers, although the Irish were more numerous in the population of the loyal States. The militia companies formed among the Germans in Missouri, especially in St. Louis, were pivotal in saving that State for the Union. The military knowledge of Prussians who had seen service in the old country was valued, sometimes over-valued, in the earlier stage of the conflict. The all-German divisions of Steinwehr and Schurz, after being roundly, perhaps unjustly, abused for not holding Jackson at Chancellorsville, fought well at Gettysburg and distinguished themselves in the “battle among the clouds.”
Probably no compliment has ever been bestowed on the Germans in America that did not contain the words “industrious and thrifty.” Nor is it surprising that the members of a race so forelooking and reflective rarely sink into the mire of poverty. In 1900, the Germans were 25.8 per cent. of our foreign-born, and three years later it was found that only 23.3 per cent. of the foreign-born in our almshouses were Germans. For the country at large, we have no means of comparing the German with the American in his ability to take care of himself; but studies made in Boston showed that the proportion of Boston Germans in the city almshouse was half that of the English in that city, one-sixth of that of the Scotch, and only one-tenth of that of the Irish. In the state charitable institutions of Massachusetts, Germans make a better showing than Celts, but not so good a showing as Scandinavians and Americans.
To the various relief agencies in Boston, Germans apply less often than any other of the English-speaking immigrants. The analyst of Boston’s foreign-born is struck by the small number of Germans and Scandinavians who seek aid, and says:
Occasionally, it is true, idle and shiftless families are found among both these peoples; but on the whole they are industrious and thrifty, and less hopeless poverty is found among them than among almost any of the other foreign immigrants…. The Germans are without doubt the best type of immigrants which has settled in Boston.
In our cities, no other element has so large a proportion of home-owners, and in the care of the home they surpass all other nationalities save the Swedes.
The saturation of the social life of our Germans with the amber beverage, as well as their hostility to prohibition, prepares us to find alcoholism very common among the disciples of St. Gambrinus. The fact is, however, that in point of sobriety hardly any North European makes so good a record as the German. A few years ago an analysis of 2075 charity cases showed that drink as the cause of poverty occurred only one-half as often among the German cases as among the Irish, and two-thirds as often as among native American cases. In the charity hospitals of New York, the proportion of German patients treated for alcoholism is only half as large as that of the English and the native Americans, and only a third as great as that of the Irish. The charity workers in our cities report that “intemperance of the bread-winner” is less often found to be the cause of destitution among the German applicants than among those of any other North-European nationality. Among alien prisoners only one German of twenty-two was committed for intoxication as against one out of three Irish, one out of four French Canadians, one out of five Scotch, and one out of eight Scandinavians. On the other hand, the victims of drink are far more numerous among them than among the Italians, Magyars, Jews, and Syrians. These peoples, vine-growers and wine-bibbers from time immemorial, have had the chance to get drunk many thousand years longer than the Celts and Teutons; hence they have been more completely purged of their alcoholics. While a light beverage like beer produces fewer sots and wrecks than the “water of life” so grateful to the Northern palate, it produces a vast unreported stupefying and deterioration; so there is good reason why the German drinking customs are being sloughed off in the Fatherland at the very moment they are being warmly defended in America.
The striking thing about the abnormality of the Germans is its normality in amount. Among the foreign-born, the Germans have just about their due share of insanity, neither less nor more. Likewise, the marked feature of German crime in this country is simply its featurelessness. Among the twelve thousand-odd aliens in our prisons, the German prisoners run a little above the average in their bent for gainful offenses and a little below the average in their crimes of violence. In their leaning to other offenses they come close to the mean. Among the twenty nationalities that figure in the police arrests of Chicago, the German stands, with respect to almost every form of misconduct, near the middle of the list. The French and the Hebrews stand out in bad eminence as offenders against chastity, the Italians lead in murder and blackmail, the Americans in burglary, the Greeks in kidnapping, the Lithuanians in assault, the Irish in disorderly conduct. But the German lacks distinction in evil, never coming near either the top or the bottom of the scale in predilection for any form of crime. On the whole, his criminal bent is very close to that of the native American.
The Germans brought us much more in the way of industrial skill and professional training than the Irish; besides, they were much more successful in planting themselves upon the soil. They tended far more to farming and manufacturing, far less to domestic and personal service and transportation. The second generation shows no marked drift away from the farm. In 1900, three-fifths of all brewers in the country were Germans, a third of the bakers and cabinet-makers, a fifth of the saloon-keepers and butchers, a sixth of the hatters, tailors, and coopers, and a seventh of the musicians and teachers of music. Yet only one male bread-winner out of nineteen was a German.
The sons of Germans are a sixteenth of our male labor force; but they furnish a quarter of the trunk-and-satchel makers, a fifth of the bottlers, stovemakers, and engravers, and a sixth of the upholsterers, bookbinders, paper-box makers, butchers, brewers, and brass-workers. In our cities the German baker, tailor, butcher, cabinet-maker, or engraver is quite as characteristic and familiar a figure as the Irish drayman, fireman, brakeman, section boss, street-car conductor, plumber, or policeman.
The immigrant German women begin rather higher in the scale of occupation than the Irish, but their daughters do not rise in life with such amazing buoyancy as do the daughters of the Irish. Between the first-generation and the second-generation Germans the proportion of servants and waitresses falls from a third of all female bread-winners to a quarter. For the Irish the drop is from fifty-four per cent. to sixteen per cent. The second-generation Germans do not show such an advance on their parents as do the second-generation Irish, who bob up like corks released at the bottom of a stream.
Physically the German is strong, but often too stocky for grace. A blend with the taller and thinner American is likely to give good results in figure. Being slow in response, he makes a poor showing in competitive sports. His forte is gymnastics rather than athletics, and he is to be found in the indoor, sedentary trades rather than in the active, outdoor callings. Not often will you come upon him riveting trusses far up on the skyscraper or the railway bridge. His pleasures he takes sitting rather than moving, so that he haunts summer-garden and picnic-ground rather than base-ball diamond and bowling-alley. For all his traditional domesticity, he is a sociable soul, and will lug off his entire family to a public resort, when an American would prefer a pipe by the fireside. He is fond of the table, and loves to enjoy talk, music, or drama while eating and drinking. In comparison with the native Americans, or the Celts from the British Isles, the Germans in America have the name of being materialistic. If this be true, it is doubtless due to the small representation among them of that noble leavening type that has made the spiritual greatness of Germany. Any one who has lived in the old country knows that there is a kind of German that one rarely sees among our fellow-citizens. Of such were the “Forty-eighters”; but as their influence fades, the idealism they fanned dies down, and visitors from the Fatherland complain that America has stamped its dollar-mark all over the souls of their kinsmen here. Professor Hugo Münsterberg, an impartial observer, judges that “the average German-American stands below the level of the average German at home.”
But if he chases the dollar, let us grant that he does it in his own way. Honest and stable, he puts little faith in short-cuts to riches, such as “scream” advertising, commercial humbug, “faked” news, thimblerig finance, or political graft. He does not count on skipping many rungs in the ladder of success. German business enterprises grow slowly, but if you probe them, you find a solid texture. The German is hard-headed, and is not easily borne off his feet by the contagion of example. To speculative fever and to made panic he is rather immune. Because he is less mobile than the American and does not shift from one thing to another, he is more apt to gain skill and turn out good work. Then, too, he is not so keen to get on that he does not find the artist’s enjoyment and pride in the practice of his craft. In a word, the Germans act in American society as a neutral substance moderating the action of an overlively ferment. For the universal eagerness to be “wide awake” and “up to date” has deposed habit, tradition, and external authority as lords of life among us.
The German is lasting in his sympathies and his antipathies and leisurely in his mental processes. It takes him long to make up his mind and longer to get an idea out of his head. In his thinking he tries to grasp more things at a time than does the Celt. Not for him the simple logic that proceeds from one or two outstanding factors in a situation and ignores all the rest. He wants to be comprehensive and final where the Latin aims to be merely clear and precise. It is this very complexity of thought that makes the German often silent, his speech heavy or confused. But just this relish for details and this passion for thoroughness make him a born investigator. This is why, on the practical side, the German-American has most distinguished himself in work that calls for long and close observation, such as gardening, viticulture, breeding, forestry, brewing, and the chemical industries.
Thirty years ago there was an outcry that the Germans were introducing into this country the virus of anarchism and socialism. It is now clear that German socialism, instead of being a shattering type of thought, is in fact highly constructive. However bold and iconoclastic he may be in his thinking, the German, with his respect for authority, his slow reaction to wrong, and his love of order and system, is a conservative by nature. The children of revolutionary immigrants are milder than their fathers were; and the German-Americans are now very far from leading the van of radicalism.
The immigration from Italy has shot up like Jonah’s gourd. During the last decade a fourth of our immigrants have been Italians, and from being a twentieth part of our foreign-born, they have risen to be a tenth. This freshet is not born of religious or political oppression, for Italy enjoys a government on modern lines, created by the efforts of patriots like Mazzini, Cavour, and Garibaldi. The impulse that every year prompts from a quarter to a half of a million Italians to wander oversea is purely economic. Ignorance and the subjection of women cause blind multiplication, with the result that the Italians are wresting their food from narrower plots than any other European people. A population approximating that of all our Atlantic States is trying to live from a space little greater than the combined areas of New York and Georgia. Although Argentina seconds the United States in absorbing the overflow, still, Italy’s population continually swells, her birth-rate is not sinking so rapidly as her death-rate, and one sees no reason why the Italian dusk should not in time quench what of the Celto-Teutonic flush lingers in the cheek of the native American.
Of our one and one-third million of Italians, the Northeast down to Washington holds about three-fourths, while south and southwest of the Capitol there are only three and a half per cent. The middle West has sixteen per cent., and the quota of the Far West is seven and a half per cent. For the most part, they are greatly concentrated in cities. Roughly speaking, five-sixths of the Italians in Delaware are in Wilmington; in Maryland, three-sevenths are in Baltimore; in Illinois, three-eights are in Chicago; in Nebraska, two-thirds are in Omaha; in Missouri, three-fifths are in St. Louis; in Oregon, one-half are in Portland; in Pennsylvania, one-half are in Philadelphia; in Louisiana, two-fifths are in New Orleans; in Michigan, a third are in Detroit; and in Ohio, a quarter are in Cleveland. In New York city are massed a third of a million of Italians, one-fourth of all in the country. Although a slow percolation into the rural districts is going on, this current distributes immigrants very differently from the older streams that debouched on the advancing frontier.
Migratory job-hunters rather than home-seekers, the Italians are loath to encumber themselves with their women. The women are only a little more than one-fifth of the whole, nor do they come here more freely as time goes on. A natural consequence of leaving families behind is a huge return current to Italy, amounting to a third of the arrivals from Italy.
More than half of our British immigrants are skilled. Of the Italian arrivals, one out of eight is skilled, one out of four is a farm-laborer, one out of three is a common laborer, and one in two hundred and fifty has a profession. In a word, two-thirds are of rural origin. The illiteracy of the Italian immigrants more than fourteen years of age is forty-seven per cent.; so that of the two million illiterates admitted to this country 1899-1909, nearly one-half hailed from Italy.
The fact that the emigrants from the north of Italy wander chiefly to South America, where industrially they dominate, while the emigrants from central and southern Italy come to this country, where they are dominated, makes it important to remember that in race advancement the North Italians differ from the rest of their fellow-countrymen. In the veins of the broadhead people of Piedmont, Lombardy, and Venetia runs much Northern blood—Celtic, Gothic, Lombard, and German. The other Italians are of the long-head, dark, Mediterranean race, with no small infusion of Greek, Saracen, and African blood in the Calabrians and Sicilians. Rarely is there so wide an ethnic gulf between the geographical extremes of a nation as there is between Milan and Palermo.
The Italians themselves have set forth these contrasts in the sharpest relief. In an elaborate treatise, Professor Niceforo shows that blue eyes and fair hair occur twice as often among the North Italians as among the people south of Rome; that their understatured are eight per cent. of the whole as against twenty per cent. for the South Italians; and that they show a greater frequency of high foreheads and a smaller frequency of low brows. They have a third of the illiteracy of the South, twice the school attendance, thrice the number of higher students; and while a clear third of the southern students fail in their examinations, less than a quarter of the northerners fail. Northern Italy is twice as well off in teachers and libraries, five times as productive in book publishing, has twice as many voters to the hundred inhabitants, and buys half as many lottery-tickets as the South. The astonishing dearth of literary and artistic production in the South ought to confound those optimists who, identifying “Italian” with “Venetian” and “Tuscan,” anticipate that the Italian infusion will one day make the American stock bloom with poets and painters. The figures of Niceforo show that the provinces that contribute most to our immigration have been utterly sterile in creators of beauty.
In nothing are the two peoples so unlike as in their crimes. While northern Italy leads in fraud and chicane, southern Italy reveals a rank growth of the ferocious crimes that go with a primitive stage of civilization. The contrast is between force and fraud, violence and cunning. The South produces five times as much homicide as the North, four times as much brigandage, three times as many assaults, and five times as many seizures or destructions of property. On the whole, it has from three to four times the violence of the North, while its obscene crimes, which constitute an index of sensuality, are thrice as numerous. As for Sicilians, they are scourged by seven times the homicide, four times the brigandage, and four times the obscene crime suffered by an equal number of North Italians.
Although less advanced, the Italians from the valley of the Po are racially akin to the Swiss and the South Germans. As immigrants, their superiority to other Italians is generally recognized. I have yet to meet an observer who does not rate the North Italian among us as more intelligent, reliable, and progressive than the South Italian. We know from statistics that he is less turbulent, less criminal, less transient; he earns more, rises higher, and acquires citizenship sooner. Yet only a fifth of our Italians are from the North. It is the backward and benighted provinces from Naples to Sicily that send us the flood of “gross little aliens” who gave Henry James, on revisiting Boston, the melancholy vision “of a huge applied sponge—a sponge saturated with the foreign mixture and passed over almost everything I remembered and might still have recovered.”
Being new-comers, the Italians are doing the heavy, unskilled work which was once the prerogative of the Irish. The shovel is now as firmly associated in our minds with ‘Tonio as formerly with Barney. The North Italians go much into mine and quarry and silk-mill, but the others stick close to railroad, street, and construction work. Of our railroads it has been said that “Italians build them, Irish run them, and Jews own them.” Nearer to the truth, perhaps, is the New York mot, “Houses nowadays are built by Italians, owned by Jews, and paid for by Irish tenants.” Being small and vegetarian, the Italians are not preferred in earthwork for their physical strength, but because of their endurance of heat, cold, wet, and muck. As one contractor puts it, “they can stand the gaff.”
Although the South Italians are numerous in the manufacture of boots and shoes, cigars, glass, woolen goods, and clothing, some employers refuse the males for “inside work” because they have the reputation of being turbulent. Their noteworthy absence from the rolling-mills is attributed to the fact that they lack the nervous stability needed for seizing a white-hot piece of iron with a pair of tongs. The phlegmatic Slav stands up to such work.
In the trades, the Italians crop up numerously as bakers, barbers, cobblers, confectioners, tailors, street musicians, scissors-grinders and marble-cutters. A great number become hucksters and peddlers of such characteristic wares as fruits and plaster casts. It is the Italian from the North, especially the Genoese, who brings native commercial capacity and becomes a wholesale or commission merchant in fruits and vegetables, while the Neapolitan is still fussing with his banana-stand. Thanks to their race genius, the Italian musicians and teachers of music among us bid fair to break the musical monopoly of the German-Americans.
In one province of southern Italy not a plow exists, and the women wield the hand implements beside the men. It is not strange that immigrants with such experience do well here in truck-farming and market-gardening. Those who engage in real agriculture settle chiefly in colonies, for the voluble, gregarious Italians cannot endure the chill loneliness of the American homestead. They follow their bent for intensive farming, and would hardly know how to handle more than fifteen or twenty acres. Few of them are up to ordinary extensive farming. As one observer says, “They haven’t the head for it.”
Although Italians are making a living on the cut-over pine-lands of northern Wisconsin, the rocky hills of New England, the sandy barrens of New Jersey, and the muck soil of western New York, their love of sunshine is not dead. The cane, cotton, and tobacco fields of the South attract them. More than half of the Italians in Louisiana are on the plantations. Half of the sixty thousand in California are in vineyard and orchard. The famed Italian-Swiss colony at Asti employs a thousand men to help it make wine under a cielo sereno like that of Italy. Many a fisherman who has cast his net in the Gulf of Genoa now strains the waters of San Francisco Bay.
There are two-score rural colonies of Italians in the South, and the settlements at Bryan, Texas, and Sunnyside and Tontitown, Arkansas, are well known. Italians have been welcomed to the South by planters dissatisfied with negro labor or desirous of deriving a return from their raw land. As a cotton raiser, the Italian has excelled the negro at every point. When it was found, however, that thrifty Pietro insisted on buying land after his second crop as tenant, whereas the black tenant will go on forever letting his superintending white landlord draw an income from him, the enthusiasm of the planters cooled. Then, too, a fear has sprung up lest the Italians, being without the southern white man’s strong race feeling, should mix with the negroes and create a hybrid. The South, therefore, is less eager for Italian immigrants than it was, and the legislatures of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia have recorded their sense of the undesirableness of this element.
The peoples from the Azores to Armenia are well-nigh immune to the seduction of alcohol; so that if this be the test of desirableness, it will be easy to part the sheep from the goats. Certain American sentimentalists go into raptures over the “sobriety” of the new immigrants, and to such we may as well concede first as last that there would be no liquor problem here if abstemious Portuguese had landed at Jamestown instead of hard-drinking English; if temperate Rumanians had settled the colonies instead of thirsty Germans and Scotch-Irish; and if sober, coffee-drinking Turks had peopled the West instead of bibulous Hibernians and Scandinavians. The proportion of Italian charity cases due to drink is only a sixth of that for foreign-born cases, and a seventh of that for cases among native Americans. Alcoholics occur among the Italians in the charity hospitals from a tenth to a twentieth as often as among North Europeans. Still, American example and American strain are telling on the habits of the Italians, and in the Italian home the bottle of “rock and rye” is seen with increasing frequency by the side of the bottle of Chianti.
Bachelors in the pick-and-shovel brigade will have their diversions, so it is not surprising that the Italians, like the abstemious Chinese, are addicted to gambling. Games of chance flourish in their saloons, and many a knife-thrust has come out of a game of cards. At home the state lottery has whetted the taste for gambling. In the Neapolitan the intoxication of the lottery takes the place occupied by alcoholic intoxication in the Anglo-Saxon. When one learns that on an average the Neapolitan risks $3.15 a year in the lottery, six times as much as the average Italian, one does not wonder that the immigrant hankers to put his money on something.
For all the great majority of the Italian immigrants are peaceable and industrious, no other element matches them in propensity for personal violence. In homicide, rape, blackmail, and kidnapping they lead the foreign-born. Says the Immigration Commission: “The Italian criminals are largest in numbers and create most alarm by the violent character of their offenses in this country.” Among moderns, gainful offenses occur from three to seven times as frequently as crimes of violence. The medievalism of the South Italians appears from the fact that they commit more deeds of personal violence than gainful offenses.
Browning, who knew the Italians, expresses this cheerful alacrity in murder when, in “The Ring and the Book,” the Pope tells of the four “bright-eyed, black-haired boys” Count Guido hired for his bloody work:
Murder me some three people, old and young,
Ye never heard the names of—and be paid
So much. And the whole four accede at once.
Demur? Do cattle bidden march or halt?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
All is done purely for the pay—which earned,
And not forthcoming at the instant, makes
Religion heresy, and the lord o’ the land
Fit subject for a murder in his turn.
The patron with cut throat and rifled purse,
Deposited i’ the roadside ditch, his due,
Naught hinders each good fellow trudging home
The heavier by a piece or two in poke,
And so with new zest to the common life,
Mattock and spade, plow-tail and wagon-shaft
Till some such other piece of luck betide.
It was frequently stated to the members of the Immigration Commission in southern Italy that crime had greatly diminished in many communities because most of the criminals had gone to America. One Italian official at Messina stated that several years ago southern Italy was a hot-bed of crime, but that now very few criminals were left. When asked as to their whereabouts, he replied, “Why, they are all in the United States.” From the Camorra, that vast spider-web of thieves and prostitutes by whom life and politics in Naples are controlled, have come thousands who find the hard-working Italian immigrants a richer field of exploitation than any field open at home. Still more harassing is the Mafia, by means of which Sicilians contrive to ignore police and courts and to secure justice in their own way. A legacy of Spanish domination and Spanish arrogance is the sense of omertà, or manliness, which holds it dastardly to betray to justice even one’s deadliest foe. To avenge one’s wrongs oneself, and never to appeal to law, is a part of Sicilian honor.
In an Italian quarter are men who never work, yet who have plenty of money. “No,” they say, “we do not work. Work does not agree with us. We have friends who work and give us money. Why not?” It is these parasites who commit most of the crime. Their honest fellow-countrymen shrink from them, yet, if one of them is arrested, some make it a point of honor to swear him off, while all scrupulously forget anything against him. Thanks to this perverse idea of “honor,” an Italian murder may be committed in the street in broad daylight, with dozens looking on, yet a few minutes later every spectator will deny to the police that he has seen anything. This highbinder contempt for law is reinforced by sheer terrorism. It is said that often in our courts the sudden wilting of a promising Italian witness has been brought about by the secret giving of the “death-sign,” a quick passing of the hand across the throat as if cutting.
The American, with his ready resort to the vigilance committee, is amazed that a whole community should let itself thus be bullied by a few miscreants known to all. Nothing of the sort has ever been tolerated by North European immigrants. The secret lies in the inaptness of the South Italians for good team work. Individualistic to the marrow, they lack the gift of pulling together, and have never achieved an efficient cooperating unit larger than the family.
General Theodore E. Bingham, former Police Commissioner of New York, estimated that there are in that city not less than 3000 desperadoes from southern Italy, “among them as many ferocious and desperate men as ever gathered in a modern city in time of peace—medieval criminals who must be dealt with under modern law.” In 1908 he stated: “Crimes of blackmailing, blowing up of shops and houses, and kidnapping of their countrymen have become prevalent among Italian residents of the city to an extent that cannot be much longer tolerated.” It is obvious that if our legal system is called upon to cope with a great volume of such crime for a long time, it will slough off certain Anglo-Saxon features and adopt the methods which alone avail in Italy, namely, state police, registry system, “special surveillance” and “admonition.”
Not being transients, the North Italians do not resist Americanizing influences. The Genoese, for example, come not to earn wages, but to engage in business. They shun the Italian “quarter,” mix with Americans, and Anglicize their names. Mariani becomes Merriam; Abata turns to Abbey; Garberino softens to Gilbert; while Campana suffers a “sea change” into Bell. In the produce-markets they deal with Americans, and as high-class saloon-keepers they are forging past Michael and Gustaf.
But the South Italians remain nearly as aloof as did the Cantonese who built the Central Pacific Railway. Navvies who leave for Naples when the ground freezes, and return in April, who huddle in a “camp” or a box-car, or herd on some “Dago Flat,” are not really in America. In a memorial to the acting mayor of New York, the Italian-American Civic League speaks of the “great civically inert mass” of their countrymen in New York, and declares, “By far the largest part of the Italians of this city have lived a life of their own, almost entirely apart from the American environment.” “In one street,” writes Signor Pecorini, “will be found peasants from one Italian village; in the next street the place of origin is different, and distinct are manners, customs, and sympathies. Entire villages have been transplanted from Italy to one New York street, and with the others have come the doctor, the grocer, the priest, and the annual celebration of the local patron saint.”
Among the foreign-born, the Italians rank lowest in adhesion to trade-unions, lowest in ability to speak English, lowest in proportion naturalized after ten years’ residence, lowest in proportion of children in school, and highest in proportion of children at work. Taking into account the innumerable “birds of passage” without family or future in this country, it would be safe to say that half, perhaps two-thirds, of our Italian immigrants are under America, not of it. Far from being borne along with our onward life, they drift round and round in a “Little Italy” eddy, or lie motionless in some industrial pocket or crevice at the bottom of the national current.
Steerage passengers from a Naples boat show a distressing frequency of low foreheads, open mouths, weak chins, poor features, skew faces, small or knobby crania, and backless heads. Such people lack the power to take rational care of themselves; hence their death-rate in New York is twice the general death-rate and thrice that of the Germans. No other immigrants from Europe, unless it be the Portuguese or the half-African Bravas of the Azores, show so low an earning power as the South Italians. In our cities the head of the household earns on an average $390 a year, as against $449 for the North Italian, $552 for the Bohemian, and $630 for the German. In silk-mill and wollen-mill, in iron-ore mining and the clothing trade, no other nationality has so many low-pay workers; nor does this industrial inferiority fade out in the least with the lapse of time.
Their want of mechanical aptitude is often noticed. For example, in a New England mill manned solely by South Italians only one out of fifteen of the extra hands taken on during the “rush” season shows sufficient aptitude to be worth keeping. The operatives require closer supervision than Americans, and each is given only one thing to do, so as to put the least possible strain on his attention.
If it be demurred that the ignorant, superstitious Neapolitan or Sicilian, heir to centuries of Bourbon misgovernment, cannot be expected to prove us his race mettle, there are his children, born in America. What showing do they make? Teachers agree that the children of the South Italians rank below the children of the North Italians. They hate study, make slow progress, and quit school at the first opportunity. While they take to drawing and music, they are poor in spelling and language and very weak in abstract mathematics. In the words of one superintendent, “they lack the conveniences for thinking.” More than any other children, they fall behind their grade. They are below even the Portuguese and the Poles, while at the other extremity stand the children of the Scandinavians and the Hebrews. The explanation of the difference is not irregularity of attendance, for among pupils attending three fourths of the time, or more, the percentage of South Italians retarded is fifty-six as against thirty-seven and a half per cent. for the Russian-Hebrew children and twenty-nine per cent. for the German. Nor is it due to the father’s lack of American experience, for of the children of South Italians who have been in this country ten or more years sixty per cent. are backward, as against about half that proportion among the Hebrews and the Germans. After allowing for every disturbing factor, it appears that these children, with the dusk of Saracenic or Berber ancestors showing in their cheeks, are twice as apt to drop behind other pupils of their age as are the children of the non-English-speaking immigrants from northern Europe.
The South Italian is volatile, unstable, soon hot, soon cool. Says one observer, “The Italian vote here is a joke. Every candidate claims it because they were ‘for’ him when he saw them. But the man who talks last to them gets their vote.” A charity worker declares that they change their minds “three steps after they have left you.” It is not surprising that such people are unreliable. Credit men pronounce them “very slippery,” and say that the Italian merchants themselves do not extend credit to them. It is generally agreed that the South Italians lie more easily than North Europeans, and utter untruth without that self-consciousness which makes us awkward liars. “Most of my countrymen,” says an educated Italian in the consular service of his country, “disregard their promises unless it is to their advantage to keep them.” The man who “sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not” is likely to be a German with his ideal of Treue, an Englishman with his ideal of truth, or an American with his ideal of squareness.
The Italians are sociable. Who can forget the joyous, shameless gregariousness of Naples? As farmers they cluster, and seem to covet the intimacies of the tenement-house. The streets of an Italian quarter are lively with chatter and stirand folks sitting out in front and calling to one another. In their family life they are much less reserved than many other nationalities. With instinctive courtesy they make the visitor welcome, and their quick and demonstrative response to kindly advances makes them many friends. Visiting nurses comment on the warm expressions of gratitude they receive from the children of Italians whom they have helped.
Before the boards of inquiry at Ellis Island their emotional instability stands out in the sharpest contrast to the self-control of the Hebrew and the stolidity of the Slav. They gesticulate much, and usually tears stand in their eyes. When two witnesses are being examined, both talk at once, and their hands will be moving all the time. Their glances flit quickly from one questioner to another, and their eyes are the restless, uncomprehending eyes of the desert Bedouin between walls. Yet for all this eager attention, they are slow to catch the meaning of a simple question, and often it must be repeated.
Mindful of these darting eyes and hands, one does not wonder that the Sicilian will stab his best friend in a sudden quarrel over a game of cards. The Slavs are ferocious in their cups, but none is so ready with his knife when sober as the South Italian. In railroad work other nationalities shun camps with many Italians. Contractors are afraid of them because the whole force will impulsively quit work, perhaps flare into riot, if they imagine one of their number has suffered a wrong.
The principal of a school with four hundred Sicilian pupils observes that on the playground they are at once more passionate and more vindictive than other children. Elsewhere, once discipline has been established, “the school will run itself”; but in this school the teacher “has to sit on the lid all the time.” Their restlessness keeps the truant officer busy, and their darting, flickering attention denies them concentration and the steady, telling stroke. For all their apparent brightness, when at fourteen they quit school, they are rarely beyond the third or fourth grade.
As grinding rusty iron reveals the bright metal, so American competition brings to light the race stuff in poverty-crushed immigrants. But not all this stuff is of value in a democracy like ours. Only a people endowed with a steady attention, a slow-fuse temper, and a persistent will can organize itself for success in the international rivalries to come. So far as the American people consents to incorporate with itself great numbers of wavering, excitable, impulsive persons who cannot organize themselves, it must in the end resign itself to lower efficiency, to less democracy, or to both.
In the dim east of Europe, far from the vertical beams of civilization, lies the melancholy Slavic world, with its 150,000,000 of human beings multiplying twice as fast and dying twice as fast as the peoples of the West. Since the curtain of history rose, the Slavs have been anvil rather than hammer. Subjugated by the Gauls in the first century B. C., by the Germans early in the Christian era, and by the Avars in the sixth century, they have played no master rôle in history and their very name is a conqueror’s insult. In the temper of this race there appears to be something soft and yielding. For all their courage, these peaceful agriculturists have shown much less of the fighting, retaliating instinct than the Britons and the Norsemen.
At a time when western Europe was sending forth armies to rescue the Holy Sepulcher much of Slavland lay still in heathen darkness. Human sacrifices and the practice of suttee did not disappear until the adoption of Christianity. Helmold, a priest of Lübeck, who in 1158 was sent to Christianize the Slavs, speaks of them as a “depraved and perverse nation,” and their country is to him “a land of horror and a vast solitude.” In 1108 the Archbishop of Magdeburg writes in a pastoral letter, “These cruel people, the Slavs, have risen against us.”… “They have cut off the heads of Christians and offered them as sacrifices.”
Unlike the maritime peoples of the West, the Slavs had no easement from the colonizing of the New World. When the era of machine industry dawned, they were not able, as were the English, the French, and the Germans, to get into the sunshine by catering to the world’s demand for cheap manufactured goods. Moreover, they have had to bear the brunt of Oriental onslaught. The South Slavs—of Servia, Bulgaria, Herzegovina, and Macedonia—fell under those Comanches of Asia, the Turks, so that only within the last thirty-five years have the spires and turrets of their submerged civilization reappeared above the receding Ottoman flood.
While the Bohemians and the Moravians, thanks to a great intellectual awakening, have come nearly abreast of the Germans, the bulk of the Slavs remain on a much lower plane of culture. In ignorance and illiteracy, in the prevalence of superstition and priestcraft, in the harshness of church and state, in the subservience of the common people to the upper classes, in the low position of woman, in the subjection of the child to the parent, in coarseness of manner and speech, and in low standards of cleanliness and comfort, a large part of the Slavic world remains at the level of our English forefathers in the days of Henry the Eighth.
According to mother-tongue, there were in this country in 1910, 941,000 Poles, 228,000 Bohemians and Moravians, 165,000 Slovaks from the southern slopes of the Carpathians, 123,000 Slovenes from the head of the Adriatic, 78,000 Croatians and Dalmatians, 56,000 Russians, 40,000 Bulgarians, Servians, and Montenegrins, 30,000 Slavonians, 25,000 Ruthenians, to say nothing of 140,000 Lithuanians and Letts, who insist that they are a race apart. All told, there are 2,000,000 Slavs among us, and, if we heed the estimates of the leaders of the Slav groups, we should reckon at least 3,000,000. No doubt, between five and six per cent. of the whites in this country are of Slavic blood.
Of the Slav arrivals since 1899 nearly three-fourths are males. Among the immigrants from the Balkans, the men are from ten to twenty times as numerous as the women. Thirty-two per cent. have been illiterates, the proportion ranging from 1.7 per cent. among the Bohemians to 53.4 per cent. among the Ruthenians. Excepting the Bohemians, few of them have had any industrial experience or bring any valuable skill. It is as if great numbers of the English of the sixteenth century had suddenly appeared among us.
When, about fifteen years ago, the great Slav invasion began, the American frontier was remote, shrunken, and forbidding. The newcomers were not in quest of cheap land, with independence, so much as of paying jobs from which they might hoard “big money” and return well off to their homes. They gravitated, therefore, to the mining, metal-working, and packing centers, where there is a demand for unlimited quantities of raw labor, provided always it be cheap. So these sturdy peasant lads came to be Nibelungs, “sons of the gloom,” haunting our coal-pits, blast-furnaces, coke-ovens, smelters, foundries, steel-mills, and metal refineries, doing rough, coarse work under skilled men who, as one foreman put it to me, “don’t want them to think, but to obey orders.”
What irony that these peasants, straight from ox-goad and furrow, should come to constitute, so far as we can judge from official figures, three-fifths of the force in sugar refining, two-fifths of the force in meat-packing, three-eighths of the labor in tanneries and in oil refineries, one-third of the coal-miners and of the iron- and steel-workers, one-fourth of the workers in carpet-mills, and one-fifth of the hands in the clothing trade! On the other hand, they are but one-seventh of the labor force in the glass-factories and in the cotton-mills, one-ninth of the employees in copper-mining and smelting (who are largely Finns), one-twelfth of our railway labor, and only a handful in the silk and woolen industries.
For these manful Slavs, no work is too toilsome and dangerous. Their fatalistic acceptance of risk has much to do with the excessive blood-cost of certain of our industries. They are not “old clo'” men, junk-dealers, hucksters, peddlers, and snappers-up of unconsidered trifles, as are some of the people among us. They have no nose for the small, parasitic trades, but with a splendid work courage they tackle the heavy, necessary tasks. Large of body, hard-muscled, and inexpert in making his head save his heels, the Slav inevitably becomes the unskilled laborer in the basic industries.
Unlike the Teutons and Scandinavians of the eighties, whose chief location was the country beyond Chicago, the later Slavs have been drawn to Pennsylvania, in the hard-coal fields and the Pittsburgh district, and thence they have spread to the rising mining and metal-working centers throughout the country. So many are single men that they form an extraordinarily mobile labor force, willing to go anywhere for an extra two cents an hour. Although they do not build homes, and hence are dependent upon such housing as they can find, they do not stagnate in slums, save as the conditions of their employment impose congestion.
Bohemians and Poles come here to stay, so it is they who furnish the farmers. The Bohemian current began as far back as the fifties, and in 1900 a quarter of all the Bohemian-Americans were on the land. The Poles came later, and with less money, so that only one-tenth were then in agriculture. The immigrants of the seventies sought wild, cheap land, and therefore the Slav settlements are thickest in the Northwest and the Southwest. One-third of all the Polish farmers are in Wisconsin, while in Texas Bohemian cotton-growers are so numerous that in some localities even the negroes speak Bohemian! Of late raw Poles, working up through farm labor and tenancy, are coming to own “abandoned farms” in the Connecticut Valley. Crowded with several other families in an old Yankee farm-house, the Pole is raising, with the aid of his numerous progeny, incredible crops of onions and tobacco. “In old Hadley,” reports Professor Emily Balch of Wellesley College, “all up and down the beautiful elm-shaded street the old colonial mansions are occupied by Poles.” In one year these Poles, who were but one-fifth of the population, accounted for two-thirds of the births.
Coming from an Elizabethan world, the Slav is as frankly vinous as Falstaff with his “cup o’ sack.” He is a Bacchus worshiper unashamed, and our squeamishness about liquor strikes him as either hypocrisy or prudery. He thinks, too, that without stimulant he cannot stand up to the grueling work of mill and mine. A steel-worker, when besought to give up drink, replied, “No beer, no whisky, me no work.” Hence an incredible amount of his wages goes to line the till of the saloon-keeper. In a steel town of 30,000 population, $60,000 are left with the saloon-keepers the Saturday and Sunday after pay-day. The Saturday brewery-wagon makes the rounds, and on a pleasant Sunday one sees in the yard of each boarding-house a knot of broad-shouldered, big-faced men about a keg of liquid comfort.
It is at celebrations that the worst excesses show themselves. What with caring for their large families and their boarders, the women usually lose their attractiveness early, and therewith their power to exercise a refining influence upon their men-folk. A wedding or a christening-feast lasts an entire day, and toward the end men beastly drunk bellow and fight in the presence of the terrified women and children. During festivals, too, old feuds, rekindled by drink, flare up in brutal and bloody rows. At such times one realizes that the poet Kollár’s famous phrase “the dove-blood of the Slav” does not apply to the exhilarated.
Still, their heavy drinking is spasmodic, and they are said to lose less time from work on account of intoxication than certain other nationalities. Says a Jersey City doctor practising among the Ruthenians, “They drink, but few die drunkards or hurt their health with alcohol. If a man does get drunk he is likely to be violent. If he strikes his wife she defends herself if she can, but she does not complain, for she knows he has ‘a right to hit her’ and that makes a great difference.” In Slavic neighborhoods, American influence first shows itself in the rise of a community sentiment against alcoholic excess and in a growing refinement in festal customs.
For crime the Slav betrays no such bent as the South Italian. Aside from petty thieving—noted in some cases—the complaints of people near a Slav settlement center upon the affrays that follow in the wake of convivial drinking. The Bohemians have about the same criminal tendencies as the Germans. The other Slavs reveal the propensities of a rude, undeveloped people of undisciplined primitive passions. Animosity rather than cupidity is the motive of crime. When the Slav seeks illicit gain he takes the direct path of violence rather than the devious path of chicane; he commits robbery or burglary rather than theft or fraud or extortion. From crimes against chastity, and the loathsome knaveries that center in the social evil, he is singularly free. Morally, the stock is better than one would judge from the police records and from its reputation. No doubt if the descendants of these immigrants have the proper training and surrounding they will prove as orderly as the old American stock.
Among the South Slavs “every married man,” says Vrčević, as quoted by Professor W. I. Thomas, “strikes his wife black and blue at least once a month, or spreads a box on the ear over her whole face, or else people are likely to say that he is afraid of his wife.” Their popular proverbs corroborate this, as for example: “He who does not beat his wife is no man.” “Strike a wife and a snake on the head.” “One devil is afraid of the cross, the other (the wife) of a stick.” “The dog may howl, but the wife must hold her tongue.” In one wedding-song the bride begs her husband: “Strike your wife only with good cause and when she has greatly vexed you.” In another folk-song the young wife sings: “What sort of husband are you to me? You do not pull my hair, nor do you strike me!”
Although beating the wife with a wet rope is going out of practice, the Galician peasant, says Von Hupka, “still regards her as a thing belonging to him, which was made in the first place for his service.” No wonder the Slav mother averages eight children! No wonder there is an appalling infant mortality, while a childbed death is too often the fate of the forspent mother. Little cares the stolid peasant. What is the woman there for? Nor is this view strange in the New World. In Hungary the Slovak women “bear a child a year—’always either bearing or nursing,’ is the saying.” But the annual child arrives likewise in the Slovak families of New York. The Slav wife in this country bears from two to two and a half times as fast as the wife of American parentage. Her daughter born under the Stars and Stripes is seven-eighths as prolific as her barefoot immigrant mother. The average Slavic charity case involves five persons, the German or Scandinavian
case four persons, the American case three and one-half persons. A drunken Pole said with pride to the agent of a charitable society that was supporting his family: “Just think what I’ve done for the State! I’ve given it ten children!”
The Middle Ages are beginning to show among us. In twenty-one rural counties of Minnesota the Polish women have borne, on an average, seven children in the course of fourteen and a half years of married life. The full tale, no doubt, will come to nine or ten. Thanks to our child-pitying, child-saving civilization, the Polish mother will keep her brood nearly as well as her American neighbor with four or five. “The Irish for children,” runs the proverb; and yet one Irish-American wife out of thirteen is childless, and one English-American wife out of twelve. But on the Minnesota farms only one Polish-American wife out of fifty-eight is barren!
In a county where the Poles, although but a third of the population, register 58 per cent. of the births, an old farmer said to me: “The Yankees here are too lazy to have kids. The Poles have from ten to fifteen in a family, and in a hundred years the people here will all be Poles.” A hundred years? Even fourteen years ago Father Kruszka reckoned that there were in this country 700 such Polish communities, averaging a hundred families each. So there are hundreds of centers from which the Middle Ages spread. Farm by farm, township by township, the displacement of the American goes on—a quiet conquest, without spear or trumpet, a conquest made by child-bearing women. The fathers forage, but it is the mothers who have to face anguish, exhaustion, and even death in the campaign to possess the land. Spending their women brutally, the Slavs advance; pitying their women, the Americans retreat.
How can woman-worth go on rising as this country fills with people who have the brood-mare idea of woman? Yet leaders in the cause of womanhood are doing their best to hold the door open for the very tribes who most despise and misuse their sex! On the other hand, the new immigration may well find favor in the eyes of those who look upon the bearing of ten children as woman’s best lot, and are complacent at seeing the stocks with low standards outbreed and crowd into oblivion the stocks with high standards.
Eastern Europe is full of half-drowned nationalities, which only of late are regaining self-consciousness. Bohemians, Slovaks, Poles, Lithuanians, Servians, and Bulgarians—each have had an “awakening,” in which language revival and the study of national literature and history have played a great part. The immigrants who come with this quickened sense of nationality make it a point of honor not to drift selfishly with the American current and so lose touch with their struggling brethren in the old home. After refusing to be Germanized, Russified, or Magyarized in the old country, the patriotic Bohemian or Pole is bound to resist absorption here. It was the Irish-Americans who got the leverage for freeing Ireland. Now the Bohemians here are hoping to win home rule for Bohemia; while the Polish-Americans expect to find on this side of the water the fulcrum for the lever that shall free Poland. What, then, more natural than to cling to their own speech and traditions in home and church and parish school?
The vernacular press, of course, harps ever on the chord of “the national speech,” so that the second generation may not drift away to the reading of American newspapers. The church, too, which carries matters with a high hand among the Poles, holds the immigrants away from Americanization. The good priests fear lest some of their flock should turn away from religion, while the greedy priests dread lest the flock should become restless under priestly dictation.
Our million Poles outnumber all the rest of the Slavs in America, and the Poles are very clannish. When they settle in groups there is little association between them and their neighbors. “In the communities visited,” reports the Industrial Commission, “farmers of German, Scandinavian, Irish, Bohemian, Belgian, Swiss, and American origin were found living in juxtaposition to Poles. In virtually every instance the Pole was considered one degree lower than his neighbors.” “Neither the Poles as a body nor the others desire to fuse socially, and the Bohemians felt well above their Slavic brethren.” The farmers look down on the Poles as uncleanly, intemperate, quarrelsome, ignorant, priest-ridden, and hard on women and children. When a few Poles have come into a neighborhood, the other farmers become restless, sell out, and move away. Soon a parish is organized, church and parish school arise, the public school decays, and Slavdom has a new outpost.
The core of the large settlement is likely to be a rancid bit of the Old World. Clerical domination to a degree not tolerated among other Roman Catholics, a stately church overlooking mean farm-houses, numerous church holidays, a tiny public school, built wholly out of State grant, with a sister in the garb of her order as schoolmistress, a big parish school, using only Polish and teaching chiefly the catechism, a high illiteracy and a dense ignorance among lads born on American soil, crimes of violence rather than crimes of cunning, horror of water applied inside or outside, aversion to fresh air, barefoot women at work in the fields, with wretched housekeeping as the natural result, saloons patronized by both sexes, the priest frequently urging his flock to “have as many children as God will give them,” much loth motherhood, early death from excessive child-bearing, large families brought up by the third, fourth, or fifth wife, harsh discipline of children, political apathy, a controlled vote, and an open contempt for Americans and their principles.
Little better off are the Slavs clustered by themselves in some “mining-patch” in the coal-fields or in the industrial quarter of a metal town. The general population does not associate with them, and they have their own church, school, customs, and festivals. The men pick up a little English, the women none at all. It is really the children that are the battle-ground of old and new. Let them mingle freely with Young America, and no pressure from their parents can make them remain different from their playmates. They dread the nickname of “Hun,” “Hunkie,” or “Bohunk” as if it were poison, and nothing will induce them to use their home tongue or take part in the organized life of their nationality.
In the big rural settlement, however, the children can be kept from outsiders, and the parents, who want them to settle on the farm, usually have their way. A few of the more restless dive off the island into circumambient America. For a little time the second generation appears progressive; it dresses flashily and shows itself “sporty.” But after it marries it loses spirit, settles down, and obeys priest and parent. Whether the system can hold the third generation remains to be seen.
Obviously, the bird-of-passage Slovak or Croat who has left a wife at home, and who roughs it with his compatriots in a “stag” boarding-house in a dreary “black country,” is a poor subject for assimilation. His life is bounded by the “boarding boss,” the saloon-keeper, the private banker, and the priest—all of them of his own folk. Aside from the foreman’s cursing, American life reaches him only through the eye, and then only the worst side of it. But for the good pay, he would hate his life here; and he goes back home with little idea of America save that it is a land of big chances to make money.
Without calling in question the worth of the Slavic race, one may note that the immigrant Slavs have small reputation for capacity. Many observers, after allowing for their illiteracy and lack of opportunity, still insist that they have little to contribute to our people. “These people haven’t any natural ability to transmit,” said a large employer of Slavs. “You may grind and polish dull minds all you want to in the public schools, but you never will get a keen edge on them because the steel is poor.” “They aren’t up to the American grade,” insisted the manager of a steel-works. “We have a ‘suggestion box,’ and we reward valuable suggestions from our men, but precious few ever come from immigrant labor.” The labor agent of a great implement-works rates the immigrant 75 in ability as compared with the American. A Bohemian leader puts his people above the Americans in music and the fine arts, but concedes the superiority of the Americans in constructive imagination, organizing ability, and tenacity of purpose. “The Czechs,” he says, “are strong in resistance but are not aggressive.”
A steel-town superintendent of schools finds the bulk of the children of the Slavs “rather sluggish intellectually.” They do well in the lower grades, where memory counts most; but in the higher grades, where association is called for, they fall behind. Of 23,000 pupils of non-English-speaking fathers, 43.4 per cent. were found to be behind their grade; the percentage of retardation for the children of Bohemian fathers was only 35.6 per cent.; but for Poles, the retardation was 58.1 per cent., and for Slovaks 54.5 per cent. While this showing is poor, there are good school men who stoutly maintain that it is still too soon to judge what the Slav-American can do.
An outflow of political exiles comes to an end when there is a turn of the political wheel; but a stream squeezed out by population pressure may flow on forever. So long as the birth-rate remains high, the mother-country is not depleted by the hemorrhage. “What has been the effect of emigration to America upon conditions in Bohemia?” I asked of an intelligent Czech. “Bohemia,” he replied, with emphasis, “is just as crowded to-day; the struggle is just as hard as if never a Bohemian had left for America.” “Will Polish emigration remain large?” I asked a leader of the Polish-Americans. “Yes,” he replied, “it will continue for a long time. The Poles multiply at an extreme rate, and there is no room for them to expand in Poland.”
Still, these minor currents may be lost in the flood that is likely to roll in upon us, once the great central Slavic mass of 80,000,000 “true Russians” is tapped. “This,” observes the Immigration Commission, “affords a practically unlimited source of immigration, and one which may reasonably be expected to contribute largely to the movement from Europe to the United States in the future.” “The economic conditions which in large part impel the emigration of these races (Russian Hebrews, Poles, Lithuanians and Finns) prevail also among true Russians, and already they are beginning to seek relief through emigration.”
So the tide from Slavland may swell, and the superfecund Slavs may push to the wall the Anglo-Americans, the Irish-Americans, the Welsh-Americans, the German-Americans, and the rest, until the invasion of our labor market by hordes of still cheaper West Asiatics shall cause the Slav, too, to lose interest in America, even as the Briton, the Hibernian, the Teuton, and the Scandinavian have lost interest in America.
In his defense of Flaccus, a Roman governor who had “squeezed” his Jewish subjects, Cicero lowers his voice when he comes to speak of the Jews, for, as he explains to the judges, there are persons who might excite against him this numerous, clannish and powerful element. With much greater reason might an American lower his voice to-day in discussing two million Hebrew immigrants united by a strong race consciousness and already ably represented at every level of wealth, power, and influence in the United States.
At the time of the Revolution there were perhaps 700 Jewish families in the colonies. In 1826 the number of Jews in the United States was estimated at 6000; in 1840, at 15,000; in 1848, at 50,000. The immigration from Germany brought great numbers, and at the outbreak of the Civil War there were probably 150,000 Jews in this country. In 1888, after the first wave from Russia, they were estimated at 400,000. Since the beginning of 1899, one and one-third millions of Hebrews have settled in this country.
Easily one-fifth of the Hebrews in the world are with us, and the freshet shows no signs of subsidence. America is coming to be hailed as the “promised land,” and Zionist dreams are yielding to the conviction that it will be much easier for the keen-witted Russian Jews to prosper here as a free component in a nation of a hundred millions than to grub a living out of the baked hillsides of Palestine. With Mr. Zangwill they exult that: “America has ample room for all the six millions of the Pale; any one of her fifty states could absorb them. And next to being in a country of their own, there could be no better fate for them than to be together in a land of civil and religious liberty, of whose Constitution Christianity forms no part and where their collective votes would practically guarantee them against future persecution.”
Hence the endeavor of the Jews to control the immigration policy of the United States. Although theirs is but a seventh of our net immigration, they led the fight on the Immigration Commission’s bill. The power of the million Jews in the metropolis lined up the Congressional delegation from New York in solid opposition to the literacy test. The systematic campaign in newspapers and magazines to break down all arguments for restriction and to calm nativist fears is waged by and for one race. Hebrew money is behind the National Liberal Immigration League and its numerous publications. From the paper before the commercial body or the scientific association to the heavy treatise produced with the aid of the Baron de Hirsch Fund, the literature that proves the blessings of immigration to all classes in America emanates from subtle Hebrew brains. In order to admit their brethren from the Pale the brightest of the Semites are keeping our doors open to the dullest of the Aryans!
Migrating as families the Hebrews from eastern Europe are pretty evenly divided between the sexes. Their illiteracy is 26 per cent., about the average. Artisans and professional men are rather numerous among them. They come from cities and settle in cities—half of them in New York. Centuries of enforced Ghetto life seem to have bred in them a herding instinct. No other physiques can so well withstand the toxins of urban congestion. Save the Italians, more Jews will crowd upon a given space than any other nationality. As they prosper they do not proportionately enlarge their quarters. Of Boston tenement-house Jews Dr. Bushee testifies: “Their inborn love of money-making leads them to crowd into the smallest quarters. Families having very respectable bank accounts have been known to occupy cellar rooms where damp and cold streaked the walls.” “There are actually streets in the West End where, while Jews are moving in, negro housewives are gathering up their skirts and seeking a more spotless environment.”
The first stream of Russo-Hebrew immigrants started flowing in 1882 in consequence of the reactionary policy of Alexander III. It contained many students and members of scholarly families, who stimulated intellectual activity among their fellows here and were leaders in radical thought. These idealists established newspapers in the Jewish-German Jargon and thus made Yiddish (Jüdisch) a literary language. The second stream reached us after 1890 and brought immigrants who were not steeped in modern ideas but held to Talmudic traditions and the learning of the rabbis. The more recent flow taps lower social strata and is prompted by economic motives. These later arrivals lack both the idealism of the first stream and the religious culture of the second.
Besides the Russian Jews we are receiving large numbers from Galicia, Hungary, and Roumania. The last are said to be of a high type, whereas the Galician Jews are the lowest. It is these whom Joseph Pennell, the illustrator, found to be “people who, despite their poverty, never work with their hands; whose town … is but a hideous nightmare of dirt, disease and poverty” and its misery and ugliness “the outcome of their own habits and way of life and not, as is usually supposed, forced upon them by Christian persecutors.”
The Hebrew immigrants rarely lay hand to basic production. In tilling the soil, in food growing, in extracting minerals, in building, construction and transportation they have little part. Sometimes they direct these operations, often they finance them, but even in direst poverty they contrive to avoid hard muscular labor. Under pressure the Jew takes to the pack as the Italian to the pick.
In the ’80’s numerous rural colonies of Hebrews were planted, but, despite much help from outside, all except the colonies near Vineland, New Jersey, utterly failed. In New York and New England there are more than a thousand Hebrew farmers, but most of them speculate in real estate, keep summer boarders, or depend on some side enterprise—peddling, cattle trading or junk buying—for a material part of their income. The Hebrew farmers, said to number in all 6000, maintain a federation and are provided with a farmers’ journal. New colonies are launched at brief intervals, and Jewish city boys are being trained for country life. Still, not over one Hebrew family in a hundred is on the land and the rural trend is but a trickle compared with the huge inflow.
Perhaps two-fifths of the Hebrew immigrants gain their living from garment-making. Naturally the greater part of the clothing and dry goods trade, the country over, is in their hands. They make eighty-five per cent. of the cigars and most of the domestic cigarettes. They purchase all but an insignificant part of the leaf tobacco from the farmers and sell it to the manufacturers. They are prominent in the retailing of spirits, and the Jewish distiller is almost as typical as the German brewer.
None can beat the Jew at a bargain, for through all the intricacies of commerce he can scent his profit. The peddler, junk dealer, or pawn broker is on the first rung of the ladder. The more capable rise in a few years to be theatrical managers, bankers or heads of department stores. Moreover great numbers are clerks and salesmen and thousands are municipal and building contractors. Many of the second generation enter the civil service and the professions. Already in several of the largest municipalities and in the Federal bureaus a large proportion of the positions are held by keen-witted Jews. Twenty years ago under the spoils system the Irish held most of the city jobs in New York. Now under the test system the Jews are driving them out. Among the school teachers of the city Jewesses outnumber the women of any other nationality. Owing to their aversion to “blind-alley” occupations Jewish girls shun housework and crowd into the factories, while those who can get training become stenographers, bookkeepers, accountants and private secretaries. One-thirteenth of the students in our seventy-seven leading universities and colleges are of Hebrew parentage. The young Jews take eagerly to medicine and it is said that from seven hundred to nine hundred of the physicians in New York are of their race. More noticeable is the influx into dentistry and especially into pharmacy. Their trend into the legal profession has been pronounced, and of late there is a movement of Jewish students into engineering, agriculture and forestry.
The Jewish immigrants cherish a pure, close-knit family life and the position of the woman in the home is one of dignity. More than any other immigrants they are ready to assume the support of distant needy relatives. They care for their own poor, and the spirit of coöperation among them is very noticeable. Their temper is sensitive and humane; very rarely is a Jew charged with any form of brutality. There is among them a fine élite which responds to the appeal of the ideal and is found in every kind of ameliorative work.
Nevertheless, fair-minded observers agree that certain bad qualities crop out all too often among these eastern Europeans. A school principal remarks that his Jewish pupils are more importunate to get a mark changed than his other pupils. A settlement warden who during the summer entertains hundreds of nursing slum mothers at a country “home” says: “The Jewish mothers are always asking for something extra over the regular kit we provide each guest for her stay.” “The last thing the son of Jacob wants,” observes an eminent sociologist, “is a square deal.” A veteran New York social worker cannot forgive the Ghetto its littering and defiling of the parks. “Look at Tompkins Square,” he exclaimed hotly, “and compare it with what it was twenty-five years ago amid a German population!” As for the caretakers of the parks their comment on this matter is unprintable. Genial settlement residents, who never tire of praising Italian or Greek, testify that no other immigrants are so noisy, pushing and disdainful of the rights of others as the Hebrews. That the worst exploiters of these immigrants are sweaters, landlords, employers and “white slavers” of their own race no one gainsays.
The authorities complain that the East European Hebrews feel no reverence for law as such and are willing to break any ordinance they find in their way. The fact that pleasure-loving Jewish business men spare Jewesses but pursue Gentile girls excites bitter comment. The insurance companies scan a Jewish fire risk more closely than any other. Credit men say the Jewish merchant is often “slippery” and will “fail” in order to get rid of his debts. For lying the immigrant has a very bad reputation. In the North End of Boston “the readiness of the Jews to commit perjury has passed into a proverb.” Conscientious immigration officials become very sore over the incessant fire of false accusations to which they are subjected by the Jewish press and societies. United States senators complain that during the close of the struggle over the immigration bill they were overwhelmed with a torrent of crooked statistics and misrepresentations by the Hebrews fighting the literacy test.
Graver yet is the charge that these East European immigrants lower standards wherever they enter. In the boot and shoe trade some Hebrew jobbers who, after sending in an order to the manufacturer, find the market taking an unexpected downward turn, will reject a consignment on some pretext in order to evade a loss. Says Dr. Bushee: “The shame of a variety of underhanded methods in trade not easily punishable by law must be laid at the door of a certain type of Jew.” It is charged that for personal gain the Jewish dealer wilfully disregards the customs of the trade and thereby throws trade ethics into confusion. Physicians and lawyers complain that their Jewish colleagues tend to break down the ethics of their professions. It is certain that Jews have commercialized the social evil, commercialized the theatre, and done much to commercialize the newspaper.
The Jewish leaders admit much truth in the impeachment. One accounts for the bad reputation of his race in the legal profession by pointing out that they entered the tricky branches of it, viz., commercial law and criminal law. Says a high minded lawyer: “If the average American entered law as we have to, without money, connections or adequate professional education, he would be a shyster too.” Another observes that the sharp practice of the Russo-Jewish lawyer belongs to the earlier part of his career when he must succeed or starve. As he prospers his sense of responsibility grows. For example, some years ago the Bar Association of New York opposed the promotion of a certain Hebrew lawyer to the bench on the ground of his unprofessional practices. But this same lawyer made one of the best judges the city ever had, and when he retired he was banqueted by the Association.
The truth seems to be that the lower class of Jews of eastern Europe reach here moral cripples, their souls warped and dwarfed by iron circumstance. The experience of Russian repression has made them haters of government and corrupters of the police. Life amid a bigoted and hostile population has left them aloof and thick-skinned. A tribal spirit intensified by social isolation prompts them to rush to the rescue of the caught rascal of their own race. Pent within the Talmud and the Pale of Settlement, their interests have become few, and many of them have developed a monstrous and repulsive love of gain. When now, they use their Old-World shove and wile and lie in a society like ours, as unprotected as a snail out of its shell, they rapidly push up into a position of prosperous parasitism, leaving scorn and curses in their wake.
Gradually, however, it dawns upon this twisted soul that here there is no need to be weazel or hedgehog. He finds himself in a new game, the rules of which are made by all the players. He himself is a part of the state that is weakened by his law-breaking, a member of the profession that is degraded by his sharp practices. So smirk and cringe and trick presently fall away from him, and he stands erect. This is why, in the same profession at the same time, those most active in breaking down standards are Jews and those most active in raising standards are Jews—of an earlier coming or a later generation. “On the average,” says a Jewish leader, “only the third generation feels perfectly at home in American society.” This explains the frequent statement that the Jews are “the limit”—among the worst of the worst and among the best of the best.
The Hebrew immigrants usually commit their crimes for gain; and among gainful crimes they lean to gambling, larceny, and the receiving of stolen goods rather than to the more daring crimes of robbery and burglary. The fewness of the Hebrews in prison has been used to spread the impression that they are uncommonly law-abiding. The fact is it is harder to catch and convict criminals of cunning than criminals of violence. The chief of police of any large city will bear emphatic testimony as to the trouble Hebrew law-breakers cause him. Most alarming is the great increase of criminality among Jewish young men and the growth of prostitution among Jewish girls. Says a Jewish ex-assistant attorney-general of the United States in an address before the B’nai B’rith: “Suddenly we find appearing in the life of the large cities the scarlet woman of Jewish birth.” “In the women’s night court of New York City and on gilded Broadway the majority of street walkers bear Jewish names.” “This sudden break in Jewish morality was not natural. It was a product of cold, calculating, mercenary methods, devised and handled by men of Jewish birth.” Says the president of the Conference of American Rabbis: “The Jewish world has been stirred from center to circumference by the recent disclosures of the part Jews have played in the pursuance of the white slave traffic.” On May 14, 1911, a Yiddish paper in New York said, editorially:
“It is almost impossible to comprehend the indifference with which the large New York Jewish population hears and reads, day after day, about the thefts and murders that are perpetrated every day by Jewish gangs—real bands of robbers—and no one raises a voice of protest, and no demand is made for the protection of the reputation of the Jews of America and for the life and property of the Jewish citizens.”
“A few years ago when Commissioner Bingham came out with a statement about Jewish thieves, the Jews raised a cry of protest that reached the heavens. The main cry was that Bingham exaggerated and overestimated the number of Jewish criminals. But when we hear of the murders, hold-ups and burglaries committed in the Jewish section by Jewish criminals, we must, with heartache, justify Mr. Bingham.”
Two weeks later the same paper said: “How much more will Jewish hearts bleed when the English press comes out with descriptions of gambling houses packed with Jewish gamblers, of the blind cigar stores where Jewish thieves and murderers are reared, of the gangs that work systematically and fasten like vampires upon the peaceable Jewish population, and of all the other nests of theft, robbery, murder, and lawlessness that have multiplied in our midst.”
This startling growth reflects the moral crisis through which many immigrants are passing. Enveloped in the husks of medievalism, the religion of many a Jew perishes in the American environment. The immigrant who loses his religion is worse than the religionless American because his early standards are dropped along with his faith. With his clear brain sharpened in the American school, the egoistic, conscienceless young Jew constitutes a menace. As a Jewish labor leader said to me, “the non-morality of the young Jewish business men is fearful. Socialism inspires an ethics in the heart of the Jewish workingman, but there are many without either the old religion or the new. I am aghast at the consciencelessness of the Luft-proletariat without feeling for place, community or nationality.”
If the Hebrews are a race certainly one of their traits is intellectuality. In Boston the milk station nurse gets far more result from her explanations to Jewish mothers than from her talks to Irish or Italian mothers. The Jewish parent, however grasping, rarely exploits his children, for he appreciates how schooling will add to their earning capacity. The young Jews have the foresight to avoid “blind alley” occupations. Between the years of fourteen and seventeen the Irish and Italian boys earn more than the Jewish lads; but after eighteen the Jewish boys will be earning more, for they have selected occupations in which you can work up. The Jew is the easiest man to sell life insurance to, for he catches the idea sooner than any other immigrant. As philanthropist he is the first to appreciate scientific charity. As voter he is the first to repudiate the political leader and rise to a broad outlook. As exploited worker he is the first to find his way to a theory of his hard lot, viz., capitalism. As employer he is quick to respond to the idea of “welfare work.” The Jewish patrons of the libraries welcome guidance in their reading and they want always the best; in fiction, Dickens, Tolstoi, Zola; in philosophy, Darwin, Spencer, Haeckel. No other readers are so ready to tackle the heavy-weights in economics and sociology.
From many school principals comes the observation that their Jewish pupils are either very bright or distinctly dull. Among the Russo-Jewish children many fall behind but some distinguish themselves in their studies. The proportion of backward pupils is about the average for school children of non-English-speaking parentage; but the brilliant pupils indicate the presence in Hebrew immigration of a gifted element which scarcely shows itself in other streams of immigration. Teachers report that their Jewish pupils “seem to have hungry minds.” They “grasp information as they do everything else, recognizing it as the requisite for success.” Says a principal: “Their progress in studies is simply another manifestation of the acquisitiveness of the race.” Another thinks their school successes are won more by intense application than by natural superiority, and judges his Irish pupils would do still better if only they would work as many hours.
The Jewish gift for mathematics and chess is well known. They have great imagination, but it is the “combinative” imagination rather than the free poetic fancy of the Celt. They analyze out the factors of a process and mentally put them together in new ways. Their talent for anticipating the course of the market, making fresh combinations in business, diagnosing diseases, and suggesting scientific hypotheses is not questioned. On the other hand, an eminent savant thinks the best Jewish minds are not strong in generalization and deems them clever, acute and industrious rather than able in the highest sense. On the whole, the Russo-Jewish immigration is richer in gray matter than any other recent stream, and it may be richer than any large inflow since the colonial era.
Perhaps abstractness is another trait of the Jewish mind. To the Hebrew things present themselves not softened by an atmosphere of sentiment, but with the sharp outlines of that desert landscape in which his ancestors wandered. As farmer he is slovenly and does not root in the soil like the German. As poet he shows little feeling for nature. Unlike the German artisan who becomes fond of what he creates, the Jew does not love the concrete for its own sake. What he cares for is the value in it. Hence he is rarely a good artisan, and perhaps the reason why he makes his craft a mere stepping-stone to business is that he does not relish his work. The Jew shines in literature, music and acting—the arts of expression—but not often is he an artist in the manipulation of materials. In theology, law and diplomacy—which involve the abstract—the Jewish mind has distinguished itself more than in technology or the study of nature.
The Jew has little feeling for the particular. He cares little for pets. He loves man rather than men, and from Isaiah to Karl Marx he holds the record in projects of social amelioration. The Jew loves without romance and fights without hatred. He is loyal to his purposes rather than to persons. He finds general principles for whatever he wants to do. As circumstances change he will make up with his worst enemy or part company with his closest ally. Hence his wonderful adaptability. Flexible and rational the Jewish mind cannot be bound by conventions. The good will of a Southern gentleman takes set forms such as courtesy and attentions, while the kindly Jew is ready with any form of help that may be needed. So the South looked askance at
the Jews as “no gentlemen.” Nor have the Irish with their strong personal loyalty or hostility liked the Jews. On the other hand the Yankees have for the Jews a cousinly feeling. Puritanism was a kind of Hebraism and throve most in the parts of England where, centuries before, the Jews had been thickest. With his rationalism, his shrewdness, his inquisitiveness and acquisitiveness, the Yankee can meet the Jew on his own ground.
Like all races that survive the sepsis of civilization, the Hebrews show great tenacity of purpose. Their constancy has worn out their persecutors and won them the epithet of “stiff-necked.” In their religious ideas our Jewish immigrants are so stubborn that the Protestant churches despair of making proselytes among them. The sky-rocket careers leading from the peddler’s pack to the banker’s desk or the professor’s chair testify to rare singleness of purpose. Whatever his goal—money, scholarship, or recognition—the true Israelite never loses sight of it, cannot be distracted, presses steadily on, and in the end masters circumstance instead of being dominated by it. As strikers the Jewish wage earners will starve rather than yield. The Jewish reader in the libraries sticks indomitably to the course of reading he has entered on. No other policy holder is so reliable as the Jew in keeping up his premiums. The Jewish canvasser, bill collector, insurance solicitor, or commercial traveler takes no rebuff, returns brazenly again and again, and will risk being kicked down stairs rather than lose his man. During the Civil War General Grant wrote to the war department regarding the Jewish cotton traders who pressed into the South with the northern armies: “I have instructed the commanding officer to refuse all permits to Jews to come South, and I have frequently had them expelled from the department, but they come in with their carpet sacks in spite of all that can be done to prevent it.” Charity agents say that although their Hebrew cases are few, they cost them more than other cases in the end because of the unblushing persistence of the applicant. Some chiefs of police will not tolerate the Hebrew prostitute in their city because they find it impossible to subject her to any regulations.
In New York the line is drawn against the Jews in hotels, resorts, clubs, and private schools, and constantly this line hardens and extends. They cry “Bigotry” but bigotry has little or nothing to do with it. What is disliked in the Jews is not their religion but certain ways and manners. Moreover, the Gentile resents being obliged to engage in a humiliating and undignified scramble in order to keep his trade or his clients against the Jewish invader. The line is not yet rigid, for the genial editor of Vorwaerts, Mr. Abram Cahan, tells me that he and his literary brethren from the Pale have never encountered Anti-Semitism in the Americans they meet. Not the socialist Jews but the vulgar upstart parvenus are made to feel the discrimination.
This cruel prejudice—for all lump condemnations are cruel—is no importation, no hang-over from the past. It appears to spring out of contemporary experience and is invading circle after circle of broad-minded. People who give their lives to befriending immigrants shake their heads over the Galician Hebrews. It is astonishing how much of the sympathy that twenty years ago went out to the fugitives from Russian massacres has turned sour. Through fear of retaliation little criticism gets into print; in the open the Philo-semites have it all their way. The situation is: Honey above, gall beneath. If the Czar, by keeping up the pressure which has already rid him of two million undesired subjects, should succeed in driving the bulk of his six million Jews to the United States, we shall see the rise of a Jewish question here, perhaps riots and anti-Jewish legislation. No doubt thirty or forty thousand Hebrews from eastern Europe might be absorbed by this country each year without any marked growth of race prejudice; but when they come in two or three or even four times as fast, the lump outgrows the leaven, and there will be trouble.
America is probably the strongest solvent Jewish separatism has ever encountered. It is not only that here the Jew finds himself a free man and a citizen. That has occurred before, without causing the Jew to merge into the general population. It is that here more than anywhere else in the world the future is expected to be in all respects better than the past. No civilized people ever so belittled the past in the face of the future as we do. This is why tradition withers and dies in our air; and the dogma that the Jews are a “peculiar people” and must shun intermarriage with the Gentiles is only a tradition. The Jewish dietary laws are rapidly going. In New York only one-fourth of the two hundred thousand Jewish workmen keep their Sabbath and only one-fifth of the Jews belong to the synagogue. The neglect of the synagogue is as marked as the falling away of non-Jews from the church. Mixed marriages, although by no means numerous in the centers, are on the increase, and in 1909 the Central Conference of Jewish Rabbis resolved that such marriages “are contrary to the tradition of the Jewish religion and should therefore be discouraged by the American Rabbinate.” Certainly every mixed marriage is, as one rabbi puts it, “a nail in the coffin of Judaism,” and free mixing would in time end the Jews as a distinct ethnic strain.
The “hard shell” leaders are urging the Jews in America to cherish their distinctive traditions and to refrain from mingling their blood with Gentiles. But the liberal and radical leaders insist that in this new, ultra-modern environment nothing is gained by holding the Jews within the wall of Orthodox Judaism. As a prominent Hebrew labor leader said to me: “By blending with the American the Jew will gain in physique, and this with its attendant participation in normal labor, sports, athletics, outdoor life, and the like, will lessen the hyper-sensibility and the sensuality of the Jew and make him less vain, unscrupulous and pleasure-loving.”
It is too soon yet to foretell whether or not this vast and growing body of Jews from eastern Europe is to melt and disappear in the American population just as numbers of Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French Jews in our early days became blent with the rest of the people. In any case the immigrant Jews are being assimilated outwardly. The long coat, side curls, beard and fringes, the “Wandering Jew” figure, the furtive manner, the stoop, the hunted look, and the martyr air disappear as if by magic after a brief taste of American life. It would seem as if the experience of Russia and America in assimilating the Jews is happily illustrated by the old story of the rivalry of the wind and the sun in trying to strip the traveler of his cloak.
The immigration question is a live wire and whoever handles it may look for tingling surprises. One is a bit startled on realizing that through the “Bravas” from the Cape Verde Islands we are getting a new dash of black from the Senegambian tar-brush. How few are aware that a third of Sicily, from which so many immigrants come, is chiefly Saracen in stock, so that the heredity of the Bedouin tribes of Mohamet’s time is to be blent with the heredity of our pioneering breed! Who reflects that, with Chinese and Japanese, Finns and Magyars, Bulgars and Turks, about a half a million more or less Mongolian in blood have cast in their lot with us and will leave their race stamp upon the American people of the future?
Our 130,000 immigrants from Finland should be counted to the Finno-Tartar branch of the Mongolian race, although since the dawn of history the western Finns have intermingled with the Swedes until their blondness and cast of countenance bespeak the North European. Nevertheless, here and there among the Finns one notices that inward and downward slant of the eyes which proclaims the Asiatic.
Ever since the heavy paw of the Russian bear descended on Finland, these people have been seeping into the United States. They come for liberty’s sake, bring their families and expect to remain. Lovers of wood and water, they keep to the North and the Northwest and are willing to tackle the roughest land in order to become independent. As farmers they are thrifty but, if left to themselves, not particularly skillful or progressive. Among them survive Old-World ways, such as reaping by handfuls with a sickle and hauling hay from the field on a sleigh. With a sharp ax in his hand the Finn turns artist and will hew out a log house so beautiful as to put an American pioneer to the blush. One of the first things he builds is an air-tight bath-house in which he may steam himself by dashing water on hot stones.
Practically all these immigrants are literate and they are eager patrons of night schools. In acquiring English they are rather slow. Their native ability is good, but is not considered to be equal to that of the Swedes. They are quiet and law-abiding, but litigious. With his grim intensity of character the Finn cannot bear to compromise his wrongs, but insists on all he thinks is due him. It is needless to add that a man with so much iron in his blood is honest.
Like the drunken Magyar or Lithuanian the “loaded” Finn is a terrible fellow. Liquor seems to let loose in him fell and destructive impulses which had been held in the leash by moral ideas. The immigrants realize their danger and the total abstinence movement is very strong amongst them. A rival current is Socialism for, strange to say, thousands of Finns, since coming to this country, have utterly lost faith in the existing social order. The mining company praises the “temperance” Finns but makes haste to get rid of the Socialists, although they are earnest people of a peaceable temper.
Such movements reveal a thinking mood. Thanks to the long struggle with Russia, the Finnish mind is awake and open to ideas. Our Finns have a real thirst for education and, besides supporting the best of public schools, they maintain near Duluth a college of their own of 1,200 students. In all their discussions the women take an equal share with the men and, when the Northwest adopts equal suffrage, the wives of the Finns will be among the first to vote. The Finns are prompt to acquire citizenship and they do not abuse the ballot. They will not vote for a fellow countryman unless he is the fittest candidate for the office.
Their civic attitude is revealed by an incident that occurred at the outbreak of the Spanish-American war. A community of agricultural Finns near Carlton, Minnesota, who had settled there in the eighties, came together after the call for volunteers and considered what they ought to do. After deliberation they concluded that in token of their gratitude for their good fortune under the stars and stripes they ought to send one of their number to the war. So they picked out as their representative a stalwart, comely farm lad of twenty-three and he served through the Cuban campaign as Finnish champion of American institutions!
In the school of Western civilization the Finns and the Magyars sit nearer the front than any other people of Mongol speech and blood. In progressiveness the quarter of a million Magyars in our midst are as American as any immigrants we receive. A thousand years ago the Magyars, invading from Asia, conquered the Slavs in Hungary and settled down as a dominant race. Although a minority in the land, they have remained masters and rulers. Hence the Magyar immigrant, however poverty-pinched, feels the constant prick of the spur of race pride. His sense of honor is high. He will not seek charity unless he really needs it. In a Magyar quarter squalor and degeneration are not to be seen. The grass and flowers about the cottages, the clean yard and the clean children proclaim the presence of a race that cannot bear to be looked down on.
While the Magyars have been political and military leaders in Hungary, the masses are familiar with the struggle for existence. They are exploited in many ways by the Jews, who in Hungary have been treated more liberally than anywhere else in Europe. It is not surprising, then, that few immigrants land here with so little money as the Magyars. Lacking the means to acquire land, they are little known in agriculture. They go straight into the industries and four-fifths of them are to be found in the workplaces of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and New Jersey. They constitute a floating labor supply shifting constantly back and forth between Fiume and New York. In recent years four Magyars have departed for every five that arrived.
Their illiteracy is 11.4 per cent., a better showing than is made by any immigrants from eastern or southern Europe, save their cousins the Finns. They bring more industrial skill than the average Slav and their earning power is greater than that of most of the Slavic nationalities. They are loth to remain renters and in their endeavor to acquire a home they will assume burdens heavier than they can carry. Their race pride plays into the hands of the hurry-up American bosses with the result that, more than other immigrants, the Magyars injure themselves by overwork.
In the Magyar stream the men are nearly three times as numerous as the women and two out of five of the men have left wives in the old country. This means boarding-house life, shocking congestion and a rich harvest for saloon and bawdy house. The Pittsburgh Magyar who earns $1.80 a day will spend ten cents of it for lodging, forty cents for food, and thirty cents for beer. The Magyars are a wine-drinking people and the immigrants come from the farms and know nothing of the corrosion of cities. Being high-spirited, however, they want to become American quickly, with the result that often they acquire our vices before they acquire our virtues. In the mill towns they learn to guzzle beer, carouse and leave their earnings with the caterers to appetite.
Their crime record is bad. No alien is more dreaded by the police than a vengeful or drink-maddened Magyar. The proportion of alien Magyar prisoners who have been committed for murder is 35.6 per cent., higher than of any other nationality save the Russians. Their hot-headed and quarrelsome disposition causes personal violence to bulk very large in their crime. In offenses against chastity their showing is bad, but their bent for gainful crime is slight.
Most Magyars come to America with the expectation of returning eventually to Hungary to live. For this reason few have acquired citizenship and scarcely any immigrants from southeastern Europe show less interest in the ballot. After a trip or two home and a vain effort to settle down to life in the old country, many return to America reconciled, to the prospect of ending their days here.
Mongrelism and social decay have hurt the southwest of Europe even more than the Turk has hurt the southeast. This is why the 60,000 Portuguese in the United States are, in point of culture, behind even the Servians and the Macedonians. In the growing army of foreign born illiterates they constitute the van. Not even the Turks, Syrians or East Indians can vie with them. On arrival not a third are able to read and write. As we find them in the cotton mills 55 per cent. of them cannot speak English. Even after ten years or more in our midst two Portuguese out of five cannot manage the speech of the country.
There are two centers of Portuguese distribution—southeastern New England and central California. California has 23,000 Portuguese immigrants, Massachusetts 26,000, Rhode Island 6,000. In Boston are 1,225, in Cambridge 2,000, in Providence 2,200, in Lowell 2,200, in New Bedford 4,000, in Fall River 14,000. We understand why Portuguese should settle in California but what brings these olive-skinned people to chilly New England? The answer takes us into the realm of Chance. In the beginning of a stream of immigration there is often romance. Then, if ever, accident counts and the venturesome individual. Just as a fallen tree on the Continental Divide may turn certain snow waters from the Pacific to the Gulf, so a practice of New Bedford whalers a lifetime ago caused the crowded Azores to overflow into Massachusetts instead of Brazil. In the old days the whalers, after a summer cruise, touched at the Azores and took on each from 25 to 35 natives. When after two or three years of whaling they returned to New Bedford, some of these Azoreans remained and a settlement grew up. To-day their quarter of New Bedford, known as “Fayal,” is very prosperous.
All down Cape Cod these fishermen have well nigh replaced the sea-faring Yankees. Provincetown, the spot where the Pilgrims first landed and which was settled by the purest English, seems to-day a South European town. Handsome dark-skinned Azoreans man the fishing boats, Correa, Silva, Cabral, and Manta are the names on the shops and the Roman Catholics outnumber those of any other denomination.
When the bottom fell out of whaling the New Bedford Portuguese went into the cotton mills and their countrymen began coming in larger numbers. Besides the “White Portuguese” have come in multitudes of “Black Portuguese” from the Cape Verde islands. Three thousand of them work during the season in the cranberry bogs of Massachusetts and all other pickers flee before them. They are obviously negroid, lack foresight and are so stupid they cannot follow a straight line.
The real Portuguese immigrate in families and show very little money on landing. At home 70 per cent. of them were farmers or farm laborers. They know sea and soil but bring no industrial skill. If they cannot farm or fish they become day laborers, mill hands, dockers, teamsters, draymen, stationary engineers or firemen. Many of their women are in the needle trades.
In the mills the Portuguese do not shine. The men earn $8.00 a week, while the rest of the foreign born average $12.00. Their sons and daughters earn $9.50, whereas the second generation of other immigrants average $14.00. They put wife and daughters into the mill and stay out of labor unions. In eight cases out of nine they sleep three or more in a room. In Lowell, according to the government investigator, “The standard of living of the Portuguese, as judged by the number of persons per apartment, room and sleeping room, is much lower than that of any other race.”
In Boston, “Among the Portuguese poverty is greater and more hopeless than it is among the Jews and Italians, although there are no Portuguese in the almshouses. Few of the Portuguese are really well to do while many are partially dependent because the labor of the women, who are often obliged to support the family, is too unremunerative to ensure their independence. Portuguese women who have shown their low moral sense by rearing a family of fatherless children exhibit their courage and industry by sewing early and late to gain a meager living for their little ones.”
Although unskilled, ignorant and segregated, the Portuguese commit very little crime. Nevertheless, their moral standard is in some respects exceedingly low. Says Dr. Bushee: “The idea of family morality among them is almost primitive, resembling that of the negroes of the South. Not only are elopements made and repaid in kind without involving further complications, but also what anthropologists call ‘sexual hospitality’ is not unknown among the Portuguese.” They “are not free from drunkenness and thieving, but these faults are more carefully concealed among them and fewer arrests result than would be the case with other nationalities. Many of the Portuguese men are idle and thriftless, and some of the women are suspected of having been public women in the Azore Islands from which they come.”
In California the Portuguese live like the Italians, but while the Italians coöperate in leasing land, the Portuguese are so individualistic that they seldom rent or own land in partnership. This has handicapped them in agricultural competition with the Italians and the Japanese.
Their interest in education is of the feeblest. In the mill towns the percentage of Portuguese children at home is much larger than that of the English; although in this respect the showing of the Fall River Poles is much worse. No other mill people have so large a proportion of their children in the primary grades. The retardation of Portuguese school children is high. In California their children are taken out of school early and the few who go on are sent to “business college” rather than to high school.
No immigrants care so little for citizenship as the Portuguese. Of the men whose term of residence entitles them to claim citizenship only 3.2 per cent. have become naturalized. At New Bedford only one in twenty entitled to citizenship has sought it; whereas, of the other foreign born, over half have taken steps to gain citizenship. The Portuguese farmers of California, although prosperous, care nothing for public affairs and not half of them take a newspaper. They are interested only in making money, saving, and buying land.
Owing to their extreme clannishness assimilation is slow. In the city they live in a quarter by themselves; in the country they form a colony. They have their church life apart and their societies center about their church. Although the thriving farmers are improving their housing and standard of living, they are “inclined to be clannish, partly because Americans do not care for their society.” The chief agents of assimilation are the children. Having mingled with other children in the public schools, the young people are taken into fraternal orders and share the social life of the community. Moreover, the parents unconsciously raise their standard of living through their efforts to gratify the wants inspired in their children by contact with schoolmates coming from better homes. If the second generation are soon to be segregated in parochial schools, as are the children of the Poles and the French Canadians, this happy assimilation of the Portuguese through their children will be checked.
Practically all our 150,000 Greeks have joined us in the course of a decade and a half. The immigrants are mostly young men and the proportion of females is negligible. Fugitives from oppression always bring their families; so that this stream almost without women is the clearest proof that the immigration from Hellas is purely economic. The Hellenic Government is democratic and popular, military service is slight and there is no religious or political oppression. What has happened is that the huge American orb has swum within the ken of a little people about as numerous as the population of New Jersey and the larger mass is exerting its solar attraction. The peasant living on greens boiled in olive oil, who eats meat three times a year and keeps without noticing it the 150 fasting days in the Greek calendar, has sniffed the flesh pots of America. Hence a wild-fire exodus which has devastated whole villages and threatens to deplete the labor force of the kingdom.
Says the emigrant when questioned as to his motive: “It is hard to make a living here. America is rich, I can make more money there. It is the money.” “Money” is the keynote of Greek immigration. Flashy strangers have gone about talking with the peasant in his furrow and the shepherd on the hillside, exciting their imagination as to the wonders of America and smoothing out the difficulties in the way of migrating. In the earlier days of the movement one man made $50,000 a year from his network of agencies selling tickets and advancing passage money on a mortgage. The letter to the home folks, written by the Greek who has found footing in Lowell or Chicago and which is read by or to every one in the village, has been seized upon by money-lenders and they have lost no opportunity to encourage both the writing and the wide circulation of such epistles. The result is that, in the words of Professor Fairchild the closest student of this immigration, “The whole Greek world may be said to be in a fever of emigration. From the highlands and the lowlands of the Morea, from Attica, Thessaly and Euboea, from Macedonia, Asia Minor and the Islands, the strong young men with one accord are severing home ties, leaving behind wives and sweethearts and thronging to the shores of America in search of opportunity and fortune.” “America is a household word in almost every Greek family.” “Greek immigrants know to just what place in the United States they are going and have a very definite idea of what work they are going to do.”
Although there are 10,000 Greek mill hands in Lowell, there is a strong tendency for the Greeks in America to take to certain lines of business, such as candy-kitchens and confectionery stores, ice-cream parlors, fruit carts, stands and stores, florist shops and boot-blacking establishments. This is due to the fact that this catering to the minor wants of the public admits of being started on the curb with little capital and no experience. Once his foot is on the first rung, the saving and commercial-minded Greek climbs. From curb to stand, from stand to store, from little store to big
store, to the chain of stores, and to branch stores in other cities—such are the stages in his upward path. As the Greeks prosper, they do not venture out into untried lines, but scatter into the smaller cities and towns in order to follow there the few businesses in which they have become expert.
If the immigration from Hellas keeps up, in twenty years the Greeks will own the candy trade of the country, the soda fountains and perhaps the fruit business. Born epicures and cooks the Greeks are going into the catering of food. In Atlanta they have 35 restaurants, in St. Louis 26, in Pittsburgh 25, in Birmingham 12 hotels and 14 restaurants.
Although Greeks are very rarely farmers, we hear of them as fruit raisers in California, miners in Utah, laborers on the railroads and fishers on both our coasts. In the cotton mills the Greeks are on a level with the more backward nationalities. They show little mechanical ability and few have reached responsible posts. They are sober and amenable to discipline, but some employers find them too excitable and unsteady to be good workers.
The ugliest thistle patch we owe to Old-World seed is the serfdom of thousands of Greek boys in the shoe-shining parlors that have sprung up everywhere. In some parts of Greece the peasant sets his children early to work in order that their earnings may leave him free to loaf the livelong day in a coffee-house. Upon them, too, he saddles the burden of providing dowries for their sisters. Accordingly, in certain districts, the poor send away their boys to the cities of Greece and Turkey, where they are hired out to peddlers, grocers and restaurant keepers, who treat them badly and work them unconscionably long hours. From such parents the Greek in America has no difficulty in recruiting boys whom he exploits under conditions that savor of slavery.
In thousands of Greek shoe-shining shops are working bound boys who are miserably fed and lodged by their masters, paid $3.00 or $4.00 a week and required to turn over all tips. Often the tips alone cover the boy’s wages and keep, so that his labor costs the master nothing. Seeing that from each boy the padrone makes from $100 to $200 a year, a chain of such establishments yields him a princely income. No wonder the negro bootblack and the Italian bootblack have been forced to the wall.
The bound boys are on duty 15 or 16 hours a day and work every day in the year. They get in their eating and sleeping as best they can. They know no recreation. Late at night, completely exhausted, they drop with their clothes on into a bed that must suffice for four or five. Boys who have been in a city several years may learn nothing of it save the shop, their living quarters and the streets between. Since the padrone’s game is to keep his boys dumb and blind, they are not allowed to talk freely with Greek customers. The moment a customer talks with a boy, “trusties” crowd round to listen. No truth can be gotten from the boys, concerning their age, their work or their pay. To avoid the arm of the truant officer, no Greek bound boy confesses to less than seventeen years. They are ignorant of the rights and rewards of labor in this country and are told that, if they leave their work, they will be arrested. Even their letters home are read and censored.
The effects of this servitude on the boys are shocking. They miss all schooling and years may elapse before they get their eyes open. The study of English is the first step towards emancipation; but where work is constant they miss even this chance and young men will be found who have been shining shoes for years and feel no ambition for anything else. The physical ravages of such work and confinement are appalling. In their memorial to the Immigration Commission the Greek physicians of Chicago say:
“Young immigrants laboring in shoeshining places for a period of upwards of two years become afflicted with chronic gastritis and hepatitis. These diseases undermine their constitutions, so that if they continue longer at the same work they become afflicted with pulmonary tuberculosis. Being too ignorant to take precautionary measures, the disease is communicated to others by contagion.”
They go on to ask the Government not to allow such bound boys to land.
Through this peep hole we glimpse one secret of the immigrant’s sky-rocket commercial rise. Behold Stephanos, who landed ten years ago without a drachma and now draws a cool thousand a month from his business and is one of our solid men! “Wonderful!” exclaims the innocent American. “What stuff there must be in him! Shows, too, that the country is still full of good chances.” The fact is the worthy Stephanos lolls on the backs of a hundred unseen bootblacks who are being ruined that he may prosper. When one considers how mercilessly the immigrant landlord, banker, saloon keeper, contractor or employment agent hoodwinks and fleeces his helpless fellow countrymen, certain of the “successes” one hears of do not seem so remarkable after all.
One hundred thousand immigrants from Asiatic Turkey introduce us to certain very marked differences between the European civilization and the Asiatic. In general, these Syrians, Armenians, Arabs and Turks eschew alcohol, shun violence and give little trouble to the police. They are thrifty, acquisitive and self supporting. Their women folk are hedged and virtuous. Their native intelligence is beyond question, they respect learning and they appreciate educational opportunities for their children.
On the other hand, they tend to crowd, their standards of cleanliness are low and they are greatly afflicted with trachoma, an excludable eye disease. Their narrow range of interests throws out in ugly relief their lust of gain, especially gain without sweat. The Oriental attitude toward females shows itself in a great difference between the sexes in illiteracy, and in the betrothal of young girls to mature men whom they scarcely know. These people love trade, particularly the individual bargain, which offers scope for what is amiably called “a contest of wits” but is really the ensnaring of the unsuspecting by the spider type. At a time when our retail commerce has happily come to the “one-price” system, the lustrous-eyed peddlers from the Levant bring in again the odious haggling trade with its deceit and trickery.
That these immigrants lack physical and moral courage is conceded even by their friends. They do not settle their quarrels on the spot face to face but revenge themselves treacherously from behind when they get a safe chance. Their feeling that truth is a luxury not to be brought out on common occasions gives them an advantage in a commercial system which takes for granted a good deal of Anglo-Saxon straightforwardness. It needs but half an eye to see that the “business ability” attributed to the prospering dealer is often nothing but the practice of Oriental craft among the unsuspicious. As the Romans found these people at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, so we find them to-day, good looking, pliant, clever, sometimes brilliant, but shifty and wanting in character.
When two peoples find that their standards repel like oil and water, they do not care to associate. Naturally, then, the Oriental immigrants tend to huddle in colonies in which they may live in the old way, keep their pride and spare themselves the pains of adjustment to American ideals. Not only do such colonies check the assimilation of those who most need it, but they are apt to be nests of congestion, disease and depravity, as well as hot-beds for the propagation of false and impractical ideas of political and social freedom.
More and more immigration is an economic matter, a flow of men rather than of families, seeking gain rather than religious and political liberty. Those who bring anything but their hands are a very small and diminishing contingent. Most of the money the immigrant shows on landing has been supplied him for that purpose. In 1882, when the old immigration reached its height, the public domain was being carved up at a tremendous rate, and the home-seeker predominated. When the crest of the new immigration arrived, in 1907, a quarter of a century later, free land was gone forever, and the job-seeker predominated. Formerly the idea of wandering oversea sprang up naturally among the intelligent and restless; now the idea is sown broadcast by thousands of steamship agents and their runners. In the tavern, knee to knee with the yokels, sits the runner, and paints an El Dorado. The poor fellows will believe him if he tells them the trees of America bear golden leaves. When the “American fever” seizes upon the peasant, it is the obliging runner who suggests mortgaging his home for the passage-money or who finds a buyer for his cows.
Common laborers who have been in America are hired to go about among the peasants, flash money, clink glasses, and tell of the wonderful wages awaiting them. The decoy thus gets together a group who elect him leader and pay him so much per head to guide them to America. Little do the poor sheep suspect that their bell-wether is paid by the steamship agent for forming the group and by the employer to whom he delivers them. A forwarding business exists for sending penniless laborers to America as if they were commercial ware. Each leaves at home some relative under bonds that the laborer will within a year pay a certain sum as cost and profit of bringing him here, Parties, through-billed from their native village by a professional money-lender, are met at the right points by his confederates, coached in three lessons on what answers to make at Ellis Island, and delivered finally to the Pittsburgh “boarding-boss,” or the Chicago saloon-keeper, who is recruiting labor on commission for a steel mill or a construction gang.
The emigration of 5,000 Rumanian Jews between January and August, 1900, was brought about by steamship agents, who created great excitement in Rumania by distributing glowing circulars about America. One authority stated to the Immigration Commission that two of the leading steamship lines had five or six thousand ticket-agents in Galicia alone, and that there was “a great hunt for emigrants” there. Selling steerage tickets to America is the chief occupation of large numbers of persons in Austria-Hungary, Greece and Russia, the main sources of undesirable aliens. In 1908 and 1909 the inflow and outflow of steerage-passengers through our ports amounted to about a million and a half a year. Allowing an average outlay of $50 a head, we have a movement furnishing $75,000,000 of annual business to the foreign railway and steamship companies. That a monster of this size grows dragon claws with which to defend itself goes without saying.
Still, it is not as cargo that the immigrant yields his biggest dividends. But for him we could not have laid low so many forests, dug up so much mineral, set going so many factories, or built up such an export trade as we have. In most of the basic industries the new immigrants constitute at least half the labor force. Although millions have come in, there is no sign of supersaturation, no progressive growth of lack of employment. Somehow new mines have been opened and new mills started fast enough to swallow them up. Virtually all of them are at work and, what is more, at work in an efficient system under intelligent direction. Ivan produces much more than he did at home, consumes more, and, above all, makes more profit for his employer than the American he displaces. Thanks to him, we have bigger outputs, tonnages, trade-balances, fortunes, tips, and alimonies; also bigger slums, red-light districts, breweries, hospitals, and death-rates.
To the employer of unskilled labor this flow of aliens, many of them used to dirt floors, a vegetable diet, and child labor, and ignorant of underclothing, newspapers, and trade unions, is like a rain of manna. For, as regards foreign competitors, his own position is a Gibraltar. When the European sends his capital hither, he puts it into railroad securities yielding from four to seven per cent., thereby releasing American capital for investment in the enterprises that pay from ten to thirty per cent. The foreign capitalist dares not put up mill or refinery here, because he cannot well run such concerns at long range. He may not invade the American market with the products of his mill over there, because our tariff has been designed to prevent just that thing.
Thus, so long as he stays in his home market, the American mill-owner is shielded from foreign competition, while the common labor he requires is cheapened for him by the endless inflow of the neediest meekest laborers to be found within the white race. If in time they become ambitious and demanding, there are plenty of “greenies” he can use to teach them a lesson. The “Hunkies” pay their “bit” to the foreman for the job, are driven through the twelve-hour day, and in time are scrapped with as little concern as one throws away a thread-worn bolt. One steel-mill superintendent received official notice to hire no man over thirty-five and keep no man over forty-five. A plate-mill which had experienced no technical improvement in ten years doubled its production per man by driving the workers. No wonder, then, that in the forty years the American capitalist has had Aladdin’s lamp to rub, his profits from mill and steel works, from packing-house and glass factory, have created a sensational “prosperity,” of which a constantly diminishing part leaks down to the wage-earners. Nevertheless, the system which allows the manufacturer to buy at a semi-European wage much of the labor that he converts into goods to sell at an American price has been maintained as “the protection of American labor”!
Between 1900 and 1910, although population grew twenty-one per cent., the output of the ten principal crops of the country increased only nine per cent. Between 1899 and 1911 the value of the average acre’s output of such crops increased seventy per cent., while its power to purchase the things the farmer buys was greater by forty-two per cent. There has been a general upheaval of prices, to be sure, but the price of farm produce has risen much faster and farther than the price of other commodities. This is “the high cost of living,” and it is immigration that has made this imp shoot up faster in the United States than anywhere else.
As long as good land lasted, our Government stimulated agriculture by presenting a quarter-section to whoever would undertake to farm wild land. This bounty overdid farming, until, in the middle of the nineties, the cost of living had reached a minimum. With the ending of free land, the upward turn was bound to come, but the change was made more dramatic by the inpouring of ten millions of immigrants without the knowledge, the means, or the inclination to engage in farming. Among us there is one American white farmer for fourteen American whites, one Scandinavian farmer for eight Scandinavians, one German farmer for eleven Germans, one Irish farmer for forty Irish; but it takes 130 Poles, Hungarians, or Italians in this country to furnish one farmer. Failing to contribute their due quota to the production of food, these late-comers have ruptured the equilibrium between field and mill, and made the high cost of living a burning question. Just as the homestead policy overstimulated the growth of farms, the new immigration has overstimulated the growth of factories.
Nevertheless, certain of the South Europeans who are upon the soil have something to show American farmers facing the problems of intensive agriculture. Italians are teaching their neighbors how to extract three crops a year from a soil already nourishing orchard or vineyard. The Portuguese raise vegetables in their walnut groves, grow currants between the rows of trees in the orchard, and beans between the currant rows. They know how to prevent the splitting of their laden fruit-trees by inducing a living brace to grow between opposite branches. The blackbeetle problem they solve by planting tomato slips inclosed in paper. From the slopes looking out on the Adriatic the Dalmatian brings a horticultural cunning which the American fruit-grower should be eager to acquire.
The conversion of New Jersey barrens into berry farms, vineyards, and pepper fields, the reclamation of muck soil in western New York, which Americans were not willing to touch, the transmutation of wild Ozark lands into apples and peaches, are Italian exploits which constitute clear gain for the country. But there are other immigrant farmers whose labors count on the wrong side of the national ledger. Not a few Slav colonies are clearing and tilling land so poor or so steep that it ought never to have been brought under the plow. The soil they have deforested will presently wash into the rivers, leaving stripped rocky slopes to grin, like a Death’s-head, in the landscape. The nation will have to pay for it, just as France paid for the reckless ax work that went on under the First Republic.
When confronted with the undeniable evils resulting from the crowding of old-world peasants into American slums and factories, the opponents of restriction urge that the trouble is with the distribution of the immigrants, there are not really too many of them, but they are congested in certain centers and industries. Then let the state or the nation take the immigrant in hand and settle him upon the soil, where there is room for him and where he yearns to be. Supply him with the best of information, guidance and supervision and lend him a little money until he has gotten upon his feet. Successful state colonization would, no doubt, restore the balance between agriculture and manufactures and prevent the heartbreaking waste and misery resulting from the present hap-hazard, catch-as-catch-can distribution of immigrants among American opportunities.
Two other consequences ought, however, to be evident; First, the policy would tend to use up the agricultural opportunities Americans may prefer to hold open for their children and grandchildren. Second, State help to the immigrant would furnish splendid advertising matter to the steamship companies endeavoring to fill more steerages and might soon swell the number of arrivals to a million and a half or two millions a year. If we wish to have more immigrants and to fill up this country in the briefest possible time, state colonization is just the way to go about it. On the other hand, once the volume of immigration has been brought under effective control, the policy of aiding the immigrant to get upon the land is heartily to be commended.
The facts assembled by the Immigration Commission shatter the rosy theory that foreign labor is drawn into an industry only when native labor is not to be had. The Slavs and Magyars were introduced into Pennsylvania forty-odd years ago by mine-operators looking for more tractable miners. Agents were sent abroad to gather up labor, and frequently foreigners were brought in when a strike was on. The first instance seems to have occurred in Drifton in 1870, and resulted in the importation of two ship-loads of Hungarians. The process of replacing the too-demanding American, Welsh, and Irish miners with labor from Austria-Hungary went on so rapidly that by the middle of the nineties, the change was accomplished. In 1904, during a strike in the coal-fields near Birmingham, Alabama, many South Europeans were brought in. In 1908 “the larger companies imported a number of immigrants,” so that the strike was broken and unionism destroyed in that region. In 1880, in the first strike in the coal-mines of Kansas, “the first immigrants from Italy were brought into the fields as strike-breakers.”
Poles were introduced into South Cleveland in 1882 to replace strikers in the wire-mills. The meat-packing strike of 1904 in Chicago was broken with trainloads of negroes, Italians and Greeks. In 1883 the largest oil-refining company at Bayonne, New Jersey, “in order to break the strike among the Irish and American coopers, … introduced great numbers of Slovaks, Ruthenians, and Poles.” In 1887 a coal-dockers’ strike was broken with Magyars, and in 1904 striking boiler-makers were replaced by Poles. The striking glass-workers in 1904 were beaten by the introduction of Slovaks, Italians, Poles and Magyars. During the 1907 strike in the iron-mines of northern Minnesota, “one of the larger companies imported large numbers of Montenegrins and other Southeastern races as strike-breakers, while a few of the smaller companies brought into the region a number of German-Austrians.” “One mining company imported as many as 1300 of these strike-breakers.”
The hejira of the English-speaking soft-coal miners shows what must happen when low-standard men undercut high-standard men. The miners of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, finding their unions wrecked and their lot growing worse under the floods of men from southern and eastern Europe, migrated in great numbers to the Middle West and the Southwest. But of late the coal-fields of the Middle West have been invaded by multitudes of Italians, Croatians, Poles, and Lithuanians, so that even here American and Americanized miners have their backs to the wall. As for the displaced trade-unionists who sought asylum in the mines of Oklahoma and Kansas, the pouring in of raw immigrants has weakened their bargaining power, and many have gone on to make a last stand in the mines of New Mexico and Colorado.
Each exodus left behind an inert element which accepted the harder conditions that came in with the immigrants, and a strong element that rose to better posts in the mines or in other occupations. As for the displaced, the Iliad of their woes has never been sung—the loss of homes, the shattering of hopes, the untimely setting to work of children, the struggle for a new foothold, and the turning of thousands of self-respecting men into day laborers, odd-job men, down-and-out-ers, and “hoboes.”
The dramatic unionization of the garment industries in our large cities has misled the public as to the actual effect of recent immigration upon trade-unions. The fact is that the immigrants from the backward parts of Europe tend to weaken, if not to shatter, labor organizations in the fields they enter. They arrive needy and eager to get any work at almost any pay. Having had no industrial experience in the old country, they lack the trade-union idea. Without our speech, and often illiterate, they are very hard to reach and to bring into line. So far as they are transients, who are not staking their future on the industry, they are loath to pay union dues and to run the risk of having to strike. It is true that the labor organizer evangelizes the alien workers with his union gospel; but by the time one batch has been welded into a fighting force, another batch is on his hands. His work, like Penelope’s web, is raveled out about as fast as it is woven. No wonder that in the cotton industry unionism has been wrecked, while, of the iron miners, less than two per cent. belong to unions. In 1901 the United States Steel Corporation’s constituent companies signed agreements with two-thirds of their 125,000 workmen, among whom the English-speaking held a dominant place. Ten years later the company signed not a single agreement with its beaten mass of Slav-Latins. There was no union with which to sign. The organizing, organizable Americans had been deleted from the works. No wonder that organized labor demands restriction of immigration. While the inrush continues, the lines of labor will be weak, forming, breaking, and reforming in the face of the intrenchments of capital.
During the last fifteen years the flood of gold has brought in a spring-tide of prices. Since 1896 the retail cost to Americans of their fifteen principal articles of food has risen seventy per cent. Wages should have risen in like degree if the workman is to retain his old standard, to say nothing of keeping his place in a social procession which is continually mounting to higher economic levels. We know that by 1907 wages had risen twenty-eight per cent., while retail prices were
rising twenty-six per cent. Evidently the working man was falling behind in the social procession. In the soft-coal field of Pennsylvania, where the Slav dominates, the coal-worker receives forty-two cents a day less than the coal-worker in the mines of the Middle West and Southwest, where he does not dominate. In meat-packing, iron and steel, cotton manufacture, and other foreignized industries the inertia of wages has been very marked. The presence of the immigrant has prevented a wage advance which otherwise must have occurred.
What a college man saw in a copper-mine in the Southwest gives in a nutshell the logic of low wages.
The American miners, getting $2.75 a day, are abruptly displaced without a strike by a trainload of five hundred raw Italians brought in by the company and put to work at from $1.50 to $2 a day. For the Americans there is nothing to do but to “go down the road.” At first the Italians live on bread and beer, never wash, wear the same filthy clothes night and day, and are despised. After two or three years they want to live better, wear decent clothes, and be respected. They ask for more wages, the bosses bring in another trainload from the steerage, and the partly Americanized Italians follow the American miners “down the road.” No wonder that the estimate of government experts as to the number of our floating casual laborers ranges up to five millions!
“The best we get in the mill now is greenhorns,” said the superintendent of a tube mill. “When they first come, they put their heart into it and give a full day’s work. But after a while they begin to shirk and do as little as they dare.” It is during this early innocence that the immigrant accepts conditions he ought to spurn. This same mill had to break up the practice of selling jobs by foremen. In one concern the boss who sold a job would dismiss the man after a fortnight and sell the job again, while another boss in the same works would take on the dismissed man for a fee. On the Great Northern Railroad the bosses mulcted each Greek laborer a dollar a month for “interpreter.” The “bird of passage,” who comes here to get ahead rather than to live, not only accepts, the seven-day week and the twelve-hour day, but often demands them. Big earnings blind him to the physiological cost of overwork. It is the American or the half-Americanized foreigner who rebels against the eighty-four-hour schedule.
When capital plays lord of the manor, the Old World furnishes the serfs. In some coal districts of West Virginia the land, streets, paths, roads, the miners’ cabins, the store, the school, and the church are all owned and controlled by the coal company. The company pays the teacher, and no priest or clergyman objectionable to it may remain on its domain. One may not step off the railroad’s right of way, pass through the streets, visit mine or cabin, without permission. There is no place where miners meeting to discuss their grievances may not be dispersed as trespassers. Any miner who talks against his boss or complains of conditions is promptly dismissed, and ejected from the 35,000 acres of company land. Hired sluggers, known as the “wrecking-gang,” beat up or even murder the organizer who tries to reach the miners. No saloon, gambling-hall, or bawdy-house is tolerated on company land. Even the beer wagon may not deliver beer at houses to which the superintendent objects.
It is needless to add that the miners are all negroes or foreigners.
After an industry has been foreignized, the notion becomes fixed in the minds of the bosses that without the immigrants the industry would come to a standstill.
“If is wasn’t for the Slavs,” say the superintendents of the Mesaba Mines, “we couldn’t get out this ore at all, and Pittsburgh would be smokeless. You can’t get an American to work here unless he runs a locomotive or a steam-shovel. We’ve tried it; brought ’em in, carloads at a time, and they left.”
“Wouldn’t they stay for three dollars a day?” I suggested, “even if two dollars and ten cents isn’t enough?”
“No, it’s not a matter of pay. Somehow Americans nowadays aren’t any good for hard or dirty work.”
Hard work! And I think of Americans I have seen in that last asylum of the native born, the Far West, slaving with ax and hook, hewing logs for a cabin, ripping out boulders for a road, digging irrigation-ditches, drilling the granite, or timbering the drift—Americans shying at open-pit, steam-shovel mining!
The secret is that with the insweep of the unintelligible bunk-house foreigner there grows up a driving and cursing of labor which no self-respecting American will endure. Nor can he bear to be despised as the foreigner is. It is not the work or the pay that he minds, but the stigma. This is why, when a labor force has come to be mostly Slav, it will soon be all Slav. But if the supply of raw Slavs were cut off, the standards and status of the laborers would rise, and the Americans would come into the industry.
Some bosses argue for a continuous supply of green foreigners because the sons of the immigrants are “above their fathers’ jobs.” A strange industry this! Britain’s iron industry is manned by Britons, Germany’s by Germans, but we are to believe that America’s iron industry is an exotic which can attract neither native Americans nor the sons of immigrants. The truth is that the school and other civilizing agencies have turned Michael’s boy not against hard work, but against the contempt with which his father’s kind
of work is tainted. But for the endless stream of transients with their pigsty mode of life, their brawls and their animal pleasures, the stigma on the work would vanish, and the son of the immigrant would be willing to inherit his father’s job.
While millions of women are being drawn from the home into industry, the popular ideal of womanhood serves as a precious safeguard, turning them away from coarsening occupations which might rob them of health or youth or refinement. But this ideal, which is higher among the American working-men than among the workers of any other people, is menaced by the new immigrants, with their peasant notions of womanhood. The Slavs and the Italians are not in the least queasy about putting their women into heavy and dirty work, such as core-making, glass-grinding, and hide-scraping, which self-respecting American girls will not touch. The employer realizes this, and continually tries these women in male occupations, with the object of substituting them for men, beating down men’s wages or breaking a men’s strike. Engaging in such masculine work not only prevents immigrant women from rising to the American woman’s sense of self-respect, but it hinders their men from developing the American man’s spirit of chivalry. What is more, the extension of woman’s sphere on the wrong side underlines the native standard of womanliness, so that native girls are perhaps being drawn into work that denies them refinement and romance.
Does the man the immigrant displaces rise or sink? The theory that the immigrant pushes him up is not without some color of truth. In Cleveland the American, German, and Bohemian iron-mill workers displaced within the last fifteen years seem to have been reabsorbed into other growing industries. They are engineers and firemen, bricklayers, carpenters, slaters, structural iron-workers, steam-fitters, plumbers and printers. Leaving pick and wheelbarrow to Italian and Slav, the Irish are now meter-readers, wire-stringers, conductors, motormen, porters, janitors, caretakers, night-watchmen, and elevator-men. I find no sign that either the displaced workman or his sons have suffered from the advent of Pole and Magyar. Some may have migrated, but certainly those left have easier work and better pay. It is as though the alien tide had passed beneath them and lifted them up. On the other hand, in Pittsburgh and vicinity the new immigration has been like a flood sweeping away the jobs, homes, and standards of great numbers, and obliging them to save themselves by accepting poorer occupations or fleeing to the West. The cause of the difference is that Pittsburgh held to the basic industries, while in Cleveland numerous high-grade manufactures started up which absorbed the displaced workmen into the upper part of their labor force.
Unless there is some such collateral growth of skill-demanding industries, the new immigrants bring disaster to many of the working-men they undercut. The expansion of the industry will create some good jobs, but not enough to reabsorb the Americans displaced. Thus in the iron-ore-mines of Minnesota, out of seventy-five men kept busy by one steam-shovel, only thirteen get $2.50 a day or more, and $2.50 is the least that will maintain a family on the American standard. It is plain that the advent of sixty-two cheap immigrants might displace sixty-two Americans or Irish, while the setting up of an additional steam shovel would create only thirteen decent-wage jobs for them. Scarcely any industry can grow fast enough to reabsorb into skilled or semi-skilled positions the displaced workmen.
Employers observe a tendency for employment to become more fluctuating and seasonal because of access to an elastic supply of aliens, without family or local attachments, ready to go anywhere or do anything. In certain centers, immigrant laborers form, as it were, visible living pools from which the employer can dip as he needs. Why should he smooth out his work evenly through the year in order to keep a labor force composed of family men with local roots when he can always take on “ginnies” without trouble and drop them without compunction? Railroad shops are coming to hire and to “fire” men as they need them instead of relying on the experienced regular employees. In a concern with 30,000 employees, the rate of change is a hundred per cent. a year, and is increasing! Labor leaders notice that employment is becoming more fluctuating, there are fewer steady jobs, and the proportion of men who are justified in founding a home constantly diminishes.
The fact that during an acute industrial depression in this country the immigrant stream not only runs low, but the departures may exceed the arrivals (as in the eight months following the 1907 panic, when there was a decrease of 124,124 in our alien population), has been made the foundation for the argument that surplus immigrant labor, by promptly taking itself off when times are bad here, relieves the labor market and hastens the return to normal conditions. It is overlooked that only the prosperous go, leaving upon us the burden of the weak unemployed aliens. Moreover, at the first sign of returning prosperity, a freshet of immigrants starts up, thereby checking sharply the good-times tendency toward higher wages and better working conditions.
Free land, coupled with high individual efficiency, has made this country a low-pressure area.
It ought to remain such, because individualistic democracy forbids a blind animal-like increase of numbers. By causing the population to accommodate itself to opportunities, our democracy solves the Sphinx’s riddle and opens a bright prospect of continuous social progress. But of late that prospect has been clouded. The streaming in from the backward lands is sensibly converting this country from a low-pressure area into a high-pressure area. It is nearly a generation since the stress, registered in the labor-market, caused the British working-man to fight shy of America. It is twenty years since it reached the point at which the German working-man, already on the up-grade at home, ceased to be drawn to America. As the saturation of our labor-market by cheaper and ever cheaper human beings raises the pressure-gage, we fail to attract as of yore such peoples as the North Italians and the Magyars.
In 1898 few came to us from east of Hungary. Now we are receiving them from Asiatic Turkey, Circassia, Syria, and Arabia. An immigration has started up from Persia, and conditions are ripe for a heavy influx from western Asia. These remote regions, which have had only twilight from Europe’s forenoon, are high-pressure areas. Their peoples are too many in relation to the opportunities they know how to use. Until education, democratic ideas, and the elevation of women restrict their increase, or machine industry widens their opportunities, these regions will continue to produce a surplus of people, which the enterprising avarice of steamship companies will make ever more mobile and more threatening to the wage-earners of an advanced country. Only lately comes the announcement that one of the trans-Atlantic lines is about to run its steamships through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus into Black Sea ports in order to bring immigrants direct to America from southeastern Europe without the expense of the long haul overland to Hamburg.
If an air-chamber be successively connected by pipes with a large number of tanks of compressed air, the pressure within the chamber must rise. Similarly, if a low-pressure society be connected by cheap steam-transportation with several high-pressure societies, and allows them freely to discharge into it their surplus population, the pressure in that society must rise. But for Chinese exclusion we should by this time have six or eight million Celestials in the far West, and mud villages and bamboo huts would fill the noble valleys of California. Something like this must occur as we go on draining away surplus people from larger and larger areas of high-pressure.
Immigration raises the pressure-gage at once for laborers, but only gradually for other classes. It is the children of the immigrants who communicate the pressure to all social levels. The investor, landowner, or contractor profits by the coming in of bare-handed men, and can well afford to preach world-wide brotherhood. The professional man, sitting secure above the arena of struggle, can nobly rebuke narrowness and race hatred. Throughout our comfortable classes one finds high-sounding humanitarianism and facile lip-sympathy for immigrants coexisting with heartless indifference to what depressive immigration is doing and will do to American wage-earners and their children. If the stream of immigration included capitalists with funds, merchants ready to invade all lines of business, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and professors qualified to compete immediately with our professional men, even judges and officials able to lure votes away from our own candidates for office, the pressure would be felt all along the line, and there might be something heroic in these groups standing for the equal right of all races to American opportunities. But since actually the brunt is borne by labor, it is easy for the shielded to indulge in generous views on the subject of immigration.
On a single Chicago hoarding, before the spring election of 1912, the writer saw the political placards of candidates with the following names: Kelly, Cassidy, Slattery, Alschuler, Pfaelzer, Bartzen, Umbach, Andersen, Romano, Knitckoff, Deneen, Hogue, Burres, Short. The humor of calling “Anglo-Saxon” the kind of government these gentlemen will give is obvious. At that time, of the eighteen principal personages in the city government of Chicago, fourteen had Irish names, and three had German names. Of the eleven principal officials in the city government of Boston, nine had Irish names, and of the forty-nine members of the Lower House from the city of Boston, forty were obviously of Hibernian extraction. In San Francisco, the mayor, all the heads of the municipal departments, and ten out of eighteen members on the board of supervisors, bore names reminiscent of the Green Isle. As far back as 1871, of 112 chiefs of police from twenty-two States who attended the national police convention, seventy-seven bore Irish names, and eleven had German names. In 1881, of the chiefs of police in forty-eight cities, thirty-three were clearly Irish, and five were clearly German.
In 1908, on the occasion of a “home-coming” celebration in Boston, a newspaper told how the returning sons of Boston were “greeted by Mayor Fitzgerald and the following members of Congress: O’Connell, Kelihar, Sullivan, and McNary—following in the footsteps of Webster, Sumner, Adams, and Hoar. They were told of the great work as Mayor of the late beloved Patrick Collins. At the City Hall they found the sons of Irish exiles and immigrants administering the affairs of the metropolis of New England. Besides the Mayor, they were greeted by John J. Murphy, Chairman of the board of assessors; Commissioner of Streets Doyle; Commissioner of Baths O’Brien. Mr. Coakley is the head of the Park Department, and Dr. Durgan directs the Health Department. The Chief of the Fire Department is John A. Mullen. Head of the Municipal Printing Plant is Mr. Whelan. Superintendent of the Street Cleaning is Cummings; Superintendent of Sewers Leahy; Superintendent of Buildings is Nolan; City Treasurer, Slattery; Police Commissioner, O’Meara.”
The Irish domination of our Northern cities is the broadest mark immigration has left on American politics; the immigrants from Ireland, for the most part excessively poor, never got their feet upon the land as did the Germans and the Scandinavians, but remained huddled in cities. United by strong race feelings, they held together as voters, and, although never a clear majority, were able in time to capture control of most of the greater municipalities. Now, for all their fine Celtic traits, these Irish immigrants had neither the temperament nor the training to make a success of popular government. They were totally without experience of the kind Americans had acquired in the working of democratic institutions. The ordinary American by this time had become tinctured with the spirit of legalism. Many voters were able to look beyond the persons involved in a political contest and recognize the principles at stake. Such popular maxims as: “No man should be a judge in his own case,” “The ballot a responsibility,” “Patriotism above party,” “Measures, not men,” “A public office is a public trust,” fostered self-restraint and helped the voters to take an impersonal, long-range view of political contests.
Warm-hearted, sociable, clannish, and untrained, the naturalized Irish failed to respect the first principles of civics. “What is the Constitution between friends?” expresses their point of view. In their eyes, an election is not the decision of a great, impartial jury, but a struggle between the “ins” and the “outs.” Those who vote the same way are “friends.” To scratch or to bolt is to “go back on your friends.” Places and contracts are “spoils.” The official’s first duty is to find berths for his supporters. Not fitness, but party work, is one’s title to a place on the municipal pay-roll. The city employee is to serve his party rather than the public that pays his salary. Even the justice of courts is to become a matter of “pull” and “stand in,” rather than of inflexible rules.
A genial young Harvard man who has made the Good Government movement a power in a certain New England city said to me: “The Germans want to know which candidate is better qualified for the office. Among the Irish I have never heard such a consideration mentioned. They ask, ‘Who wants this candidate?’ ‘Who is behind him?’ I have lined up a good many Irish in support of Good Government men, but never by setting forth the merits of a matter or a candidate. I approach my Irish friends with the personal appeal, ‘Do this for me!’ Nearly all the Irish who support our cause do it on a personal loyalty basis. The best of the Irish in this city have often done as much harm to the cause of Good Government as the worst. Mayor C., a high-minded Irishman desiring to do the best he could for the city, gave us as bad a government as Mayor F., who thought of nothing but feathering his own nest. Mayor C. ‘stood by his friends.'”
The Hibernian domination has given our cities genial officials, brave policemen, and gallant fire-fighters. It has also given them the name of being the worst-governed cities in the civilized world. The mismanagement and corruption of the great cities of America have become a planetary scandal, and have dealt the principle of manhood suffrage the worst blow it has received in the last half-century. Since the close of the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of city-dwellers have languished miserably or perished prematurely from the bad water, bad housing, poor sanitation, and rampant vice in American municipalities run on the principles of the Celtic clan.
On the other hand, it is likely that our British, Teutonic, Scandinavian, and Jewish naturalized citizens—still more our English-Canadian voters—have benefited American politics. In politics men are swayed by passion, prejudice, or reason. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the average American had come to be on his guard against passion in politics, but not yet had he reached the plane of reason. This left him the prey of prejudice. Men inherited their politics, and bragged of having always “voted straight.” They voted Democratic for Jefferson’s sake, or Republican from love of Lincoln. The citizens followed ruts, while the selfish interests “followed the ball.” Now, the intelligent naturalized foreigner, having inherited none of our prejudices, would not respond to ancient cries or war-time issues. He inquired pointedly what each party proposed to do now. The abandonment of “waving the bloody shirt” and the sudden appearance of the politics of actuality in the North, in the eighties, came about through the naturalization of Karl and Ole. The South has few foreign-born voters, and the South is precisely that part of the country in which the reign of prejudice in politics has longest delayed the advent of efficient and progressive government.
In 1910 there were certainly three million naturalized citizens in the United States. In southern New England and New York they constitute a quarter of all the white voters. The same is true of Illinois and the Old Northwest. In Providence, Buffalo, Newark, St. Paul, and Minneapolis, there are two foreign voters to three native white voters. In Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, and Boston, the ratio is about one to two. In Paterson, Chicago, and New York, the ratio is nearer three to five, and in Fall River it is three to four. When the foreigners are intelligent and experienced in the use of the ballot, their civic worth does not suffer by comparison with that of the natives. Indianapolis and Kansas City, in which the natives outnumber the naturalized ten to one, do not overshadow in civic excellence the Twin Cities of Minnesota, with three natives to two naturalized. Cleveland, in which the naturalized citizens constitute a third, is politically superior to Cincinnati, in which they are less than a sixth. Chicago, with thrice the proportion of naturalized citizens Philadelphia has, was roused and struggling with the python of corruption while yet the city by the Delaware slept.
Between 1895 and 1896 came the great shift in the sources of immigration. In the former year, 55 per cent. of the aliens came from northwestern Europe; in the next year, southern and southeastern Europe gained the upper hand, and have kept it ever since. With the change in nationalities came a great change in the civic attitude of the immigrants. The Immigration Commission found that from 80 to 92 per cent. of the immigrants from northwestern Europe, resident five years or more in this country, have acquired citizenship or have taken out first papers. Very different are the following figures, which show the interest in citizenship of the newer immigrants:
|Per Cent. Naturalized|
In 1890 and in 1900, 58 per cent. of the qualified foreign-born men were voters; by 1910 the proportion had fallen to 45.6 per cent. The presence of multitudes of floating laborers who have no intention of making this country their home, a marked indifference to citizenship on the part of some nationalities, and the stiffer requirements for naturalization imposed under the act of 1906, have caused the number of non-naturalized qualified foreigners in this country to swell from approximately 2,000,000 in 1900 to 3,500,000 in 1910. As things are going, we may expect a great increase in the number of the unenfranchised. No doubt the country is better off for their not voting. Nevertheless, let it not be overlooked that this growth in the proportion of voteless wage-earners subtracts from the natural political strength of labor. The appeal of labor in an industry like the cotton manufacture of the North, in which, besides the multitude of women and children, 70 per cent. of the foreign-born men remain aliens after five years of residence, is likely to receive scant consideration by the ordinary legislature. Nor will such labor fare better at the hands of local authorities. The anti-strike animus of the police in Lawrence, Little Falls, and Paterson was voiced by the official who gave to the press the statement: “We have kept the foreign element in subjection before, and will continue to do so as long as I am chief of Little Falls’ police.” Thus, without intending it, some of our commonwealths are accumulating voteless workers, like those conservative European states which restrict manhood suffrage in the industrial classes.
“Come over here quick, Luigi,” writes an Italian to his friend in Palermo. “This is a wonderful
country. You can do anything you want to, and, besides, they give you a vote you can get two dollars for!” This Italian was an ignorant man, but not necessarily a bad man. It would not be just to look upon the later naturalized citizens as caring less for the suffrage than the older immigrants. Some of them appreciate the ballot all the more from having been denied it in the old country. For the Declaration of Independence and the Fourth of July they show a naïve enthusiasm which we Americans felt a generation ago, before our muck had been raked. “The spirit of revolt against wrong,” says a well-known worker among immigrants, “is stronger in the foreign-born than in the natives, because they come here expecting so much democracy, and they are shocked by the reality they find. It is they who insist upon the complete program of social justice.” Granting all this, there is no denying, however, that many of the later immigrants have only a dim understanding of what the ballot means and how it may be used.
Thirty years ago we knew as little of the ways of the ward boss as we knew of the megatherium or the great auk. The sources of his power were as mysterious as were the sources of the Nile before Speke and Baker. Now, thanks to Miss Addams and other settlement-workers who have studied him in action from close at hand, we have him on a film. The ward boss was the discoverer of the fact that the ordinary immigrant is a very poor, ignorant, and helpless man, in the greatest need of assistance and protection. Nevertheless, this man has, or soon will have, one thing the politician greatly covets, namely, a vote. The petty politician soon learned that by befriending and aiding the foreigners at the right time, he could build up an “influence” which he might use or sell to his own enrichment. So the ward politicians became pioneers in social work. For the sake of controlling votes, they did many things that the social settlement does for nothing.
It is Alderman Tim who gets the Italian a permit for his push-cart or fruit-stand, who finds him a city-hall job, or a place with a public-service corporation, who protects him if he violates law or ordinance in running his business, who goes his bail if he is arrested, and “fixes things” with the police judge or the state’s attorney when he comes to trial. Even before Giuseppe is naturalized, it is Tim who remembers him at Christmas with a big turkey, pays his rent at a pinch, or wins his undying gratitude by saving his baby from a pauper burial or sending carriages and flowers to the funeral.
All this kindness and timely aid is prompted by selfish motives. Amply is Tim repaid by Giuseppe’s vote on election day. But at first Giuseppe misses the secret of the politician’s interest in him, and votes Tim-wise as one shows a favor to a friend. Little does he dream of the dollar-harvest from the public-service companies and the vice interests Tim reaps with the “power” he has built up out of the votes of the foreigners. If, however, Giuseppe starts to be independent in the election booth, he is startled by the Jekyll-Hyde transformation of his erstwhile friend and patron. He is menaced with loss of job, withdrawal of permit or license. Suddenly the current is turned on in the city ordinances affecting him, and he is horrified to find himself in a mysterious network of live wires. With the connivance of a corrupt police force, Tim can even ruin him on a trumped-up charge.
The law of Pennsylvania allows any voter who demands it to receive “assistance” in the marking of his ballot. So in Pittsburgh, Tim expects Giuseppe to demand “assistance” and to take Tim with him into the booth to mark his ballot for him. Sometimes the election judges let Tim thrust himself into the booth despite the foreigner’s protests, and watch how he marks his ballot. In one precinct 92 per cent. of the voters received “assistance.” Two Italians who refused it lost their jobs forthwith. The high-spirited North Italians resent such intrusion, and some of them threaten to cut to pieces the interloper. But always the system is too strong for them.
Thus the way of Tim is to allure or to intimidate, or even combine the two. The immigrant erecting a little store is visited by a building inspector and warned that his interior arrangements are all wrong. His friends urge the distracted man to “see Tim.” He does so, and kind Tim “fixes it up,” gaining thereby another loyal henchman. The victim never learns that the inspector was sent to teach him the need of a protector. So long as the immigrant is “right,” he may put an encroaching bay-window on his house or store, keep open his saloon after midnight, or pack into his lodging-house more than the legal number of lodgers. Moved ostensibly by a deep concern for public health or safety or morals, the city council enacts a great variety of health, building, and trades ordinances, in order that Tim may have plenty of clubs to hold over the foreigner’s head.
So between boss and immigrant grows up a relation like that between a feudal lord and his vassals. In return for the boss’s help and protection, the immigrant gives regularly his vote. The small fry get drinks or jobs, or help in time of trouble. The padrone, liquor-dealer, or lodging-house keeper gets license or permit or immunity from prosecution, provided he “delivers” the votes of enough of his fellow-countrymen. The ward boss realizes perfectly what his political power rests on, and is very conscientious in looking after his supporters. Of the Irish “gray wolves” in the Chicago council I was told, “Each of them is a natural ward leader, and will go through hell-fire for his people and they for him.”
To the boss with a hold on the immigrant the requirement that the poor fellow shall live five years in this country before voting presents itself as an empty legal formality. In 1905 a special examiner of the Federal Department of Justice reported: “Naturalization frauds have grown and spread with the growth and spread of the alien population of the United States, until there is scarcely a city or county-seat town … where in some form these frauds have not from time to time been committed.” In 1845 a Louisiana judge was impeached and removed for fraud, the principal evidence being that he had issued certificates to 400 aliens in one day. The legislature might have been more lenient could it have foreseen that in 1868 a single judge in New York would issue 2500 of such certificates in one day! The gigantic naturalization frauds committed in the Presidential campaign of 1868 resulted in an investigation by Congress and in the placing of congressional elections under Federal supervision. During the month of October two New York judges issued 54,000 certificates. An investigation in 1902 showed about 25,000 fraudulent certificates of naturalization in use in that city.
There is hardly need nowadays to recount what Tim and his kind have done with the power they filched through the votes of Giuseppe and Jan and Michael. They have sold out the city to the franchise-seeking corporations. They have jobbed public works and pocketed a “rake-off” on all municipal supplies. They have multiplied jobs and filled them with lazy henchmen. By making merchandise of building laws or health ordinances, they have caused an unknown number of people to be crushed, or burned, or poisoned. Worst of all, by selling immunity from police interference to the vice interests, they have let the race be preyed on and consumed in the bud. Thanks to their “protection,” a shocking proportion of the inhabitants of our cities of mixed population are destroyed by drinking, dissipation, and venereal diseases.
It is in the cities with many naturalized foreigners or enfranchised negroes that the vice interests have had the freest hand in exploiting and degrading the people. These foreigners have no love for vice, but unwittingly they become the corner-stone of the system that supports it. The city that has had the most and the rawest foreign-born voters is the city of the longest and closest partnership of the police with vice. Tammany Hall first gained power by its “voting gangs” of foreigners, and ever since its Old Guard has been the ignorant, naturalized immigrants. Exposed again and again, and thought to be shattered, Tammany has survived all shocks, because its supply of raw material has never been cut off. Not the loss of its friends has ever defeated it; only the union of its foes. The only things it fears are those that bore from within—social settlements, social centers, the quick intelligence of the immigrant Hebrew, stricter naturalization, and restriction of immigration.
In every American city with a large pliant foreign vote have appeared the boss, the machine, and the Tammany way. Once the machine gets a grip on the situation, it broadens and entrenches its power by intimidation at the polls, ballotfrauds, vote purchase, saloon influence, and the support of the vicious and criminal. But its tap-root is the simple-minded foreigner or negro, and without them no lasting vicious political control has shown itself in any of our cities.
The machine in power uses the foreigner to keep in power. The Italian who opens an ice-cream parlor has to have a victualer’s license, and he can keep this license only by delivering Italian votes. The Polish saloon-keeper loses his liquor license if he fails to line up his fellow-countrymen for the local machine. The politician who can get dispensations for the foreigners who want their beer on a Sunday picnic is the man who attracts the foreign vote. Thus, until they get their eyes open and see how they are being used, the foreigners constitute an asset of the established political machine, neutralizing the anti-machine ballots of an equal number of indignant intelligent American voters.
The saloon is often an independent swayer of the foreign vote. The saloon-keeper is interested in fighting all legal regulation of his own business, and of other businesses—gambling, dance-halls, and prostitution—which stimulate drinking. If “blue” laws are on the statute-book, these interests may combine to seat in the mayor’s chair a man pledged not to enforce them. Even if the saloon-keeper has no political ax of his own to grind, his masters, the brewers, will insist that he get out the vote for the benefit of themselves or their friends. Since liberal plying with beer is a standard means of getting out the foreign vote, the immigrant saloon-keeper is obliged to become the debaucher and betrayer of his fellow-countrymen. In Chicago the worthy Germans and Bohemians are marshaled in the “United Societies,” ostensibly social organizations along nationality lines, but really the machinery through which the brewers and liquor-dealers may sway the foreign-born vote not only in defense of liquor, but also in defense of other corrupt and affiliated interests.
The foreign press is another means of misleading the naturalized voters. These newspapers—Polish, Bohemian, Italian, Greek, Yiddish, etc.,—while they have no small influence with their readers, are poorly supported, and often in financial straits. Many of them, therefore, can be tempted to sell their political influence to the highest bidder, which is, of course, the party representing the special interests. Thus the innocent foreign-born readers are led like sheep to the shambles, and Privilege gains another intrenching-tool.
If the immigrant is neither debauched nor misled, but votes his opinions, is he then an element of strength to us?
When a people has reached such a degree of political like-mindedness, that fundamentals are taken for granted, it is free to tackle new questions as they come up. But if it admits to citizenship myriads of strangers who have not yet
passed the civic kindergarten, questions that were supposed to be settled are reopened. The citizens are made to thresh over again old straw—the relation of church to state, of church to school, of state to parent, of law to the liquor trade. Meanwhile, ripe sheaves ready to yield the wheat of wisdom under the flails of discussion lie untouched. Pressing questions—public hygiene, conservation, the control of monopoly, the protection of labor, go to the foot of the docket, and public interests suffer.
Some are quite cheerful about the confusion, cross-purposes, and delay that come with heterogeneity, because they think the variety of views introduced by immigration is a fine thing, “keeps us from getting into a rut.” The plain truth is, that rarely does an immigrant bring in his intellectual baggage anything of use to us. The music of Mascagni and Debussy, the plays of Ibsen and Maeterlinck, the poetry of Rostand and Hauptmann, the fiction of Jókai and Sienkiewicz were not brought to us by way of Ellis Island. What we want is not ideas merely, but fruitful ideas, fructifying ideas. By debating the ideas of Nietzsche, Ostwald, Bergson, Metchnikoff, or Ellen Key, American thought is stimulated. But should we gain from the introduction of old Asiatic points of view, which would reopen such questions as witchcraft, child-marriage, and suttee? The clashings that arise from the presence among us of many voters with medieval minds are sheer waste of energy. While we Americans wrangle over the old issues of clericalism, separate schools, and “personal liberty,” the little homogeneous peoples—Norwegians and Danes and New Zealanders—are forging ahead of us in rational politics and learning to look pityingly upon us as a chaos rather than a people.
If you should ask an Englishman whether the tone of political life in his country would remain unaffected by the admission to the electorate of a couple of million Cypriotes, Vlachs, and Bessarabians after five years’ residence, he would take you for a madman. Suggest to the German that the plane of political intelligence in reading and thinking Germany would not be lowered by the access to the ballot-box of multitudes of Serbs, Georgians, and Druses of Lebanon, and he will consign you to bedlam. Assure the son of Norway that the vote of the Persian or Yemenite, of sixty months’ residence in Norway, will be as often wise and right as his own, and he will be insulted. It is only we Americans who assume that the voting of the Middle Atlantic States, with their million of naturalized citizens, or of the East North Central States, with their million, is as sane, discriminating, and forward-looking as it would be without them.
The Italian historian and sociologist Ferrero, after reviewing our immigration policy, concludes that the Americans, far from being “practical,” are really the mystics of the modern world. He says: “To confer citizenship each year upon great numbers of men born and educated in foreign countries—men who come with ideas and sympathies totally out of spirit with the diverse conditions in the new country; to grant them political rights they do not want, and of which they have never thought; to compel them to declare allegiance to a political constitution which they often do not understand; to try to transform subjects of old European monarchies into free citizens of young American republics over night—is not all this to do violence to common sense?”
As I sought to show, near the end of my initial chapter, the conditions of settlement of this country caused those of uncommon energy and venturesomeness to outmultiply the rest of the population. Thus came into existence the pioneering breed; and this breed increased until it is safe to estimate that fully half of white Americans with native grandparents have one or more pioneers among their ancestors. Whatever valuable race traits distinguish the American people from the parent European stocks are due to the efflorescence of this breed. Without it there would have been little in the performance of our people to arrest the attention of the world. Now we confront the melancholy spectacle of this pioneer breed being swamped and submerged by an overwhelming tide of latecomers from the old-world hive. In Atlanta still seven out of eight white men had American parents; in Nashville and Richmond, four out of five; in Kansas City, two out of three; and in Los Angeles, one out of two; but in Detroit, Cleveland, and Paterson one man out of five had American parents; in Chicago and New York, one out of six; in Milwaukee, one out of seven; and in Fall
River, one out of nine. Certainly never since the colonial era have the foreign-born and their children formed so large a proportion of the American people as at the present moment. I scanned 368 persons as they passed me in Union Square, New York, at a time when the garment-workers of the Fifth Avenue lofts were returning to their homes. Only thirty-eight of these passers-by had the type of face one would find at a county fair in the West or South.
In the six or seven hundred thousand strangers that yearly join themselves to us for good and all, there are to be found, of course, every talent and every beauty. Out of the steerage come persons as fine and noble as any who have trodden American soil. Any adverse characterization of an immigrant stream implies, then, only that the trait is relatively frequent, not that it is universal.
In this sense it is fair to say that the blood now being injected into the veins of our people is “sub-common.” To one accustomed to the aspect of the normal American population, the Caliban type shows up with a frequency that is startling. Observe immigrants not as they come travel-wan up the gang-plank, nor as they issue toil-begrimed from pit’s mouth or mill gate, but in their gatherings, washed, combed, and in their Sunday best. You are struck by the fact that from ten to twenty per cent. are hirsute, low-browed, big-faced persons of obviously low mentality. Not that they suggest evil. They simply look out of place in black clothes and stiff collar, since clearly they belong in skins, in wattled huts at the close of the Great Ice Age. These oxlike men are descendants of those who always stayed behind. Those in whom the soul burns with the dull, smoky flame of the pine-knot stuck to the soil, and are now thick in the sluiceways of immigration. Those in whom it burns with a clear, luminous flame have been attracted to the cities of the home land and, having prospects, have no motive to submit themselves to the hardships of the steerage.
To the practised eye, the physiognomy of certain groups unmistakably proclaims inferiority of type. I have seen gatherings of the foreign-born in which narrow and sloping foreheads were the rule. The shortness and smallness of the crania were very noticeable. There was much facial asymmetry. Among the women, beauty, aside from the fleeting, epidermal bloom of girlhood, was quite lacking. In every face there was something wrong—lips thick, mouth coarse, upper lip too long, cheek-bones too high, chin poorly formed, the bridge of the nose hollowed, the base of the nose tilted, or else the whole face prognathous. There were so many sugar-loaf heads, moon-faces, slit mouths, lantern-jaws, and goose-bill noses that one might imagine a malicious jinn had amused himself by casting human beings in a set of skew-molds discarded by the Creator.
Our captains of industry give a crowbar to the immigrant with a number nine face on a number six head, make a dividend out of him, and imagine that is the end of the matter. They overlook that this man will beget children in his image—two or three times as many as the American—and that these children will in turn beget children. They chuckle at having opened an inexhaustible store of cheap tools and, lo! the American people is being altered for all time by these tools. Once before, captains of industry took a hand in making this people. Colonial planters imported Africans to hoe in the sun, to “develop” the tobacco, indigo, and rice plantations. Then, as now, business-minded men met with contempt the protests of a few idealists against their way of “building up the country.”
Those promoters of prosperity are dust, but they bequeathed a situation which in four years wiped out more wealth than two hundred years of slavery had built up, and which presents to-day the one unsolvable problem in this country. Without likening immigrants to negroes, one may point out how the latter-day employer resembles the old-time planter in his blindness to the effects of his labor policy upon the blood of the nation.
It is reasonable to expect an early falling off in the frequency of good looks in the American people. It is unthinkable that so many persons with crooked faces, coarse mouths, bad noses, heavy jaws, and low foreheads can mingle their heredity with ours without making personal beauty yet more rare among us than it actually is. So much ugliness is at last bound to work to the surface. One ought to see the horror on the face of a fine-looking Italian or Hungarian consul when one asks him innocently, “Is the physiognomy of these immigrants typical of your people?” That the new immigrants are inferior in looks to the old immigrants may be seen by comparing, in a Labor Day parade, the faces of the cigar-makers and the garment-workers with those of the teamsters, piano-movers and steam-fitters.
Even aside from the pouring in of the ill-favored, the crossing of the heterogeneous is bound to lessen good looks among us. It is noteworthy that the beauty which has often excited the admiration of European visitors has shown itself most in communities of comparative purity of blood. New England, Virginia, and Kentucky have been renowned for their beautiful women, but not the commonwealths with a mixed population. It is in the less-heterogeneous parts of the Middle West, such as Indiana and Kansas, that one is struck by the number of comely women.
Twenty-four years ago the greatest living philosopher advised inquiring Japanese statesmen to interdict marriages of Japanese with foreigners, on the ground that the crossings of the too-unlike produce human beings with a “chaotic constitution.” Herbert Spencer went on to say, “When the varieties mingled diverge beyond a certain slight degree, the result is inevitably a bad one.” The greatest students of hybridism to-day confirm Spencer’s surmise. The fusing ofAmerican with German and Scandinavian immigrants was only a reblending of kindred stocks, for Angles, Jutes, Danes, and Normans were wrought of yore into the fiber of the English breed. But the human varieties being collected in this country by the naked action of economic forces are too dissimilar to blend without producing a good many faces of a “chaotic constitution.” Just as there is a wide difference in looks between Bretons and Normans, Dutch and Hanoverians, the Chinese of Hu-peh and the Chinese of Fukien, so broad contrasts in good looks may in time appear between the pure-blood parts of our country and those which have absorbed a motley assortment of immigrants.
Although the Slavs stand up well, our South Europeans run to low stature. A gang of Italian navvies filing along the street present, by their dwarfishness, a curious contrast to other people. The Portuguese, the Greeks, and the Syrians are, from our point of view, undersized. The Hebrew immigrants are very poor in physique. The average of Hebrew women in New York is just over five feet, and the young women in the garment factories, although well developed, appear to be no taller than native girls of thirteen.
On the physical side the Hebrews are the polar opposite of our pioneer breed. Not only are they undersized and weak-muscled, but they shun bodily activity and are exceedingly sensitive to pain. Says a settlement worker: “You can’t make boy scouts out of the Jews. There’s not a troop of them in all New York.” Another remarks: “They are absolute babies about pain. Their young fellows will scream with a hard lick.” Students observe that husky young Hebrews on the foot-ball team lack grit, and will “take on” if they are bumped into hard. A young Ontario miner noticed that his Hebrew comrades groaned and wept over the hardships of the trail. “They kept swapping packs with me, imagining my pack must be lighter because I wasn’t hollering.”
Natural selection, frontier life, and the example of the red man produced in America a type of great physical self-control, gritty, uncomplaining, merciless to the body through fear of becoming “soft.” To this roaming, hunting, exploring, adventurous breed what greater contrast is there than the denizens of the Ghetto? The second generation, to be sure, overtop their parents and are going in for athletics. Hebrews under Irish names abound in the prize-ring, and not long ago a sporting editor printed the item, “Jack Sullivan received a letter in Yiddish yesterday from his sister.” Still, it will be long before they produce the stoical type who blithely fares forth into the wilderness, portaging his canoe, poling it against the current, wading in the torrents, living on bacon and beans, and sleeping on the ground, all for “fun” or “to keep hard.”
“The Slavs,” remarks a physician, “are immune to certain kinds of dirt. They can stand what would kill a white man.” The women do not have puerperal fever, as our women would under their conditions. The men violate every sanitary law, yet survive. The Slavs come from a part of the world in which never more than a third of the children have grown up. In every generation, dirt, ignorance, superstition, and lack of medical attention have winnowed out all but the sturdiest. Among Americans, two-thirds of the children grow up, which means that we keep alive many of the tenderer, who would certainly have perished in the Slavic world. There is, however, no illusion more grotesque than to suppose that our people is to be rejuvenated by absorbing these millions of hardy peasantry, that, to quote a champion of free immigration, “The new-comers in America will bring fresh, vigorous blood to a rather sterile and inbred stock.” The fact is that the immigrant stock quickly loses here its distinctive ruggedness. The physicians practising among rural Poles notice a great saving of infant life under American conditions. Says one: “I see immigrant women and their grown daughters having infants at the same time, and the children of the former will die of the things that the children of the latter get well of. The same holds when the second generation and the third bear at the same time. The latter save their children better than the former.” The result is a marked softening of fiber between the immigrant women and the granddaughters. Among the latter are many of a finer, but frailer, mold, who would be ruined in health if they worked in the field the third day after confinement, as grandmother did. In the old country there were very few of this type who survived infancy in a peasant family.
There is, then, no lasting revitalization from this tide of life. If our people has become weak, no transfusion of peasants will set it on its feet again; for their blood too, soon thins. The trouble, if you call it that, is not with the American people, but with the wide diffusion among us of a civilized manner of life. Where the struggle for existence is mitigated not merely for the upper quarter of society, as formerly in the Old World, but for the upper three-quarters, as in this and other democratic countries, the effects of keeping alive the less hardy are bound to show. The remedy for the alleged degeneration of our stock is simple, but drastic. If we want only constitutions that can stand hardship and abuse, let us treat the young as they are treated in certain poverty-stricken parts of Russia. Since the mother is obliged to pass the day at work in distant fields, the nursling of a few months is left alone, crawling about on the dirt floor of the hut and comforting itself, when it cries from hunger, by sucking poultices of chewed bread tied to its hands and feet.
That the Mediterranean peoples are morally below the races of northern Europe is as certain as any social fact. Even when they were dirty, ferocious barbarians, these blonds were truth-tellers. Be it pride or awkwardness or lack of imagination or fair-play sense, something has held them back from the nimble lying of the southern races. Immigration officials find that the different peoples are as day and night in point of veracity, and report vast trouble in extracting the truth from certain brunet nationalities.
Some champions of immigration have become broad-minded enough to think small of the cardinal virtues. The Syrians, on Boston testimony, took “great pains to cheat the charitable societies” and are “extremely untrustworthy and unreliable.” Their defender, however, after admitting their untruthfulness, explains that their lying is altruistic. If, at the fork of a road, you ask a Syrian your way, he will, in sheer transport of sympathy, study you to discover what answer will most please you. “The Anglo-Saxon variety of truthfulness,” she adds, “is not a Syrian characteristic”; but, “if truthfulness includes loyalty, ready self-denial to promote a cause that seems right, the Syrian is to that extent truthful.” Quoting a Syrian’s admission that his fellow-merchants pay their debts for their credit’s sake, but will cheat the customer, she comments, “This, however, does not seem to be exclusively a Syrian vice.” To such miserable paltering does a sickly sentimentality lead.
• • •
In southern Europe, team-work along all lines is limited by selfishness and bad faith. Professor Fairchild notes “the inveterate factionalism and commercial dishonesty so characteristic of the [Greek ] race,” “the old dishonesty and inability to work together.” “One of the maxims of Greek business life, translated into the American vernacular, is ‘Put out the other fellow’s eye.'” “These people seemed incapable of carying on a large coöperative business with harmony and success.”
Nothing less than verminous is the readiness of the southern Europeans to prey upon their fellows. Never were British or Scandinavian immigrants so bled by fellow-countrymen as are South Italian, Greek and Semitic immigrants. Their spirit of mutual helpfulness saved them from padrone, “banker,” and Black Hand. Among our South Italians this spirit shines out only when it is a question of shielding from American justice some cut-throat of their own race. The Greek is full of tricks to skin the greenhorn. A grocer will warn fellow-countrymen who have just established themselves in his town that he will have the police on them for violating municipal ordinances unless they buy groceries from him. The Greek mill-hand sells the greenhorn a job, and takes his chances on the foreman giving the man work. A Greek who knows a little English will get a Greek peddler arrested in order that he may get the interpreter’s fee. The Greek boot-black who has freed himself from his serfdom, instead of showing up the system, starts a place of his own, and exploits his help as mercilessly as ever he was exploited.
The Northerners seem to surpass the southern Europeans in innate ethical endowment. Comparison of their behavior in marine disasters shows that discipline, sense of duty, presence of mind, and consideration for the weak are much more characteristic of northern Europeans. The southern Europeans, on the other hand, are apt, in their terror, to forget discipline, duty, women, children, everything but the saving of their own lives. In shipwreck it is the exceptional Northerner who forgets his duty, and the exceptional Southerner who is bound by it. The suicide of Italian officers on board the doomed Monte Tabor, the Notice, and the Ajace, is in striking contrast to the sense of responsibility of the Northerners in charge of the Cimbria, the Geiser, the Strathcona, and the City of Paris. Compare the mad struggle for the boats among the southern Europeans on La Bourgogne, the Ailsa, and the Utopia, with the self-possession of the Scandinavian emigrants on the Waesland and the Danmark, and the consideration for women and children shown on the sinking Mohegan, the Waesland, and the Titanic. Among all nationalities the Americans bear the palm for coolness, orderly saving of life, and consideration for the weak in shipwreck, but they will lose these traits in proportion as they absorb excitable mercurial blood from southern Europe.
The performance of the foreign-born and their children after they have had access to American opportunities justifies the democrat’s faith that latent capacity exists all through the humbler strata of society. On the other hand, it also confirms the aristocrat’s insistence that social ranks correspond somewhat with the grades of natural ability existing within a people. The descendants of Europe’s lowly are to be met in all the upper levels of American society, but not so frequently as the descendents of those who were high or rising in the land they left.
In respect to the value it contains, a stream of immigrants may be representative, super-representative, or sub-representative of the home people. When it is a fair sample, it is representative; when it is richer in wheat and poorer in chaff, it is super-representative; when the reverse is the case, it is sub-representative. What counts here, of course, is not the value the immigrants may have acquired by education or experience, but that fundamental worth which does not depend on opportunity, and which may be transmitted to one’s descendants. Now, in the present state of our knowledge, it is perhaps risky to make a comparison in ability between the races which contributed the old immigration and those which are supplying the new immigration. Though backward, the latter may contain as good stuff. But it is fair to assume that a super-representative immigration from one stock is worth more to us than a sub-representative immigration from another stock, and that an influx which sub-represents a European people will thin the blood of the American people.
Many things have decided whether Europe should send America cream or skimmed milk. Religious or political oppression is apt to drive out the better elements. Racial oppression cannot be evaded by mere conformity; hence the emigration it sets up is apt to be representative. An unsubdued and perilous land attracts the more bold and enterprising. The seekers of homesteads include men of better stuff than the job-seekers attracted by high wages for unskilled labor. Only economic motives set in motion the sub-common people, but even in an economic emigration the early stage brings more people of initiative than the later. The deeper, straighter, and smoother the channels of migration, the lower the stratum they can tap.
It is not easy to value the early elements that were wrought into the American people. Often a stream of immigration that started with the best drained from the lower levels after it had worn itself a bed. It is therefore only in a broad way that I venture to classify the principal colonial migrations as follows:
Super-representative: English Pilgrims, Puritans, Quakers, Catholics, Scotch Covenanters, French Huguenots, German sectaries.
Representative: English of Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas, Scotch-Irish, Scotch Highlanders, Dutch, and Swedes.
Sub-representative: English of early Georgia, transported English, eighteenth-century Germans.
In our national period the Germans of 1848 stand out as a super-representative flow. The Irish stream has been representative, as was also the early German migration. The German inflow since 1870 has brought us very few of the élite of their people, and I have already given reasons for believing that the Scandinavian stream is not altogether representative. Our immigration from Great Britain has distinctly fallen off in grade since the chances in America came to be less attractive than those in the British Empire. However, no less an authority than Sir Richard Cartwright thinks that “between 1866 and 1896 one-third at least of the whole male population of Canada between the ages of twenty and forty found their way to the United States,” and this “included an immense percentage of the most intelligent and adventurous.” To-day we reciprocate by sending Western farmers with capital into the Canadian Northwest. Our loss has amounted to as many as 100,000 in a single year.
Oppression is now out of fashion over most of Europe, and our public lands are gone. Economic motives more and more bring us immigrants, and such motives will not uproot the educated, the propertied, the established, the well connected. The children of success are not migrating, which means that we get few scions from families of proved capacity. Europe retains most of her brains, but sends multitudes of the common and the sub-common. There is little sign of an intellectual element among the Magyars, Russians, South Slavs, Italians, Greeks, or Portuguese. This does not hold, however, for currents created by race discrimination or oppression. The Armenian, Syrian, Finnish, and Russo-Hebrew streams seem representative, and the first wave of Hebrews out of Russia in the eighties was superior. The Slovaks, German Poles, Lithuanians, Esthonians, and other restive subject groups probably send us a fair sample of their quality.
The fewer brains they have to contribute, the lower the place immigrants take among us, and the lower the place they take, the faster they multiply. In 1890, in our cities, a thousand foreign-born women could show 565 children under five years of age to 309 children shown by a thousand native women. By 1900 the contribution of the foreign women had risen to 612, and that of the American women had declined to 296. From such figures some argue that the “sterile” Americans need the immigrants in order to supply population. It would be nearer the truth to argue that the competition of low-standard immigrants is the root cause of the mysterious “sterility” of Americans. Certainly their record down to 1830 proved the Americans to be as fertile a race as ever lived, and the decline in their fertility coincides in time and in locality with the advent of the immigrant flood. In the words of General Francis A. Walker, “Not only did the decline in the native element, as a whole, take place in singular correspondence with the excess of foreign arrivals, but it occurred chiefly in just those regions”—”in those States and in the very counties,” he says elsewhere—”to which those newcomers most frequently resorted.”
“Our immigrants,” says a superintendent of charities, “often come here with no standards whatever. In their homes you find no sheets on the bed, no slips on the pillows, no cloth on the table, and no towels save old rags. Even in the mud-floor cabins of the poorest negroes of the South you find sheets, pillow-slips, and towels, for by serving and associating with the whites the blacks have gained standards. But many of the foreigners have no means of getting our home standards after they are here. No one shows them. They can’t see into American homes, and no Americans associate with them.” The Americans or Americanized immigrants who are obliged to live on wages fixed by the competition of such people must cut somewhere. If they do not choose to “live in a pig-pen and bring up one’s children like pigs,” they will save their standards
by keeping down the size of the family. Because he keeps them clean, neatly dressed, and in school, children are an economic burden to the American. Because he lets them run wild and puts them to work early, children are an asset to the low-standard foreigner.
When a more-developed element is obliged to compete on the same economic plane with a less-developed element, the standards of cleanliness or decency or education cherished by the advanced element act on it like a slow poison. William does not leave as many children as ‘Tonio, because he will not huddle his family into one room, eat macaroni off a bare board, work his wife barefoot in the field, and keep his children weeding onions instead of at school. Even moral standards may act as poison. Once the women raisin-packers at Fresno, California, were American-born. Now the American women are leaving because of the low moral tone that prevails in the working force by reason of the coming in of foreigners with lax notions of propriety. The coarseness of speech and behavior among the packers is giving raisin-packing a bad name, so that American women are quitting the work and taking the next best job. Thus the very decency of the native is a handicap to success and to fecundity.
As they feel the difficulty of keeping up their standards on a Slav wage, the older immigrant stocks are becoming sterile, even as the old Americans became sterile. In a generation complaint will be heard that the Slavs, too, are shirking big families, and that we must admit prolific Persians, Uzbegs, and Bokhariots, in order to offset the fatal sterility that attacks every race after it has become Americanized. Very truly says a distinguished economist, in praise of immigration: “The cost of rearing children in the United States is rapidly rising. In many, perhaps in most cases, it is simpler, speedier, and cheaper to import labor than to breed it.” In like vein it is said that “a healthy immigrant lad of eighteen is a clear $1000 added to the national wealth of the United States.”
Just so. “The Roman world was laughing when it died.” Any couple or any people that does not feel it has anything to transmit to its children may well reason in such fashion. A couple may reflect, “It is simpler, speedier, and cheaper for us to adopt orphans than to produce children of our own.” A nation may reason, “Why burden ourselves with the rearing of children? Let them perish unborn in the womb of time. The immigrants will keep up the population.” A people that has no more respect for its ancestors and no more pride of race than this deserves the extinction that surely awaits it.
|Year ending Sept. 30|
|Year ending Sept. 30|
|15 months ending Dec. 31|
|Year ending Dec. 31|
|9 months ending Sept. 30|
|Year ending Sept. 30|
|3 months ending Dec. 31|
|Year ending Dec. 31|
|6 months ending June 30|
|Year ending June 30|
|1914 (11 months)||1,254,548|
|Census Year.||Population.Foreign-Born||Increase.||Increase. Percentage|
|Country of Birth.||Number.||Per cent of total.|
|Total foreign born.||13,515,886||100.0|
|Netherlands (Holland), Belgium,|
|Southern and Eastern Europe||5,048,583||37.4|
|Russia and Finland||1,732,462||12.8|
|Turkey in Europe||32,230||0.2|
|Country not specified||2,858|
|Turkey in Asia||59,729||0.4|
|All other countries||2,591|
|Canada and Newfoundland||1,209,717||9.0|
|Central and South America||9,964||0.1|
|Turkey, in Asia||86.7||13.3|
|Turkey, in Europe||79.5||20.5|