« PreviousContinue »
IMMIGRATION INTO THE UNITED STATES
AMERICAN ATTITUDE TOWARD EUROPEANS
PASSING on to the group of European immigrants, we find an entirely different situation from that presented by the Orientals and the Mexicans. Here we have no color line to complicate matters. All the Europeans who have come are apparently to a greater or less degree assimilable. The American nation is an amalgam of these; the true picture of an American would be a composite photograph of all the Europeans who have settled here since 1492. Among these we seem to have no insurmountable racial and religious barriers. A Mongolian and a Mohammedan may represent a high degree of culture and civilization, but for the present, at least, the American does not wish these to be mixed with his own. His attitude may be provincial in the extreme, and future centuries may show him the error of his ways, but now he seems satisfied to be white in color and Christian as distinguished from Pagan, in faith. It is not my place here to argue concerning the reasonableness or unreasonableness of this position; it is simply to state the fact. Observations dependent upon this fact would furnish an interesting field of study. People whose lives do not come in touch with our foreign element know little about it, and have only the vaguest ideas concerning its numerical importance, or the variety of alien groups from European countries alone. Moreover the foreign languages spoken, including dialects, number more than one
* Mention has not been made of the thirteen million Negroes who are American citizens, despite their color, by the accident of slavery and its abolition, because there is no problem presented by present immigration of African Negroes.
hundred and present as many barriers between those who use them and the native Americans.
As has been said before, there are now in the country over seventeen million foreign born, and the overwhelming majority of these belong in the European groups. The total immigration recorded for the year ending in June 1921 is over eight hundred and five thousand. Deducting from this about one hundred and twenty-five thousand from non-European countries, we still have over six hundred and eighty thousand European entrants for the year. British North America, the West Indies, Mexico and the Orient sent their representatives, it is true, but the number is insignificant compared with those coming from Europe.
The following table shows the number entering from the leading European sources during the years 1907, 1914 and 1921:
6,637 6,321 6,493 France
9,731 9,296 9,552
3,748 4,211 7,106
49,965 29,391 22,854
285,731 283,738 222,260
37,807 35,734 6,803
338,452 278,152 12,649
113,567 73,417 79,577
258,943 255,660 6,398
6,396 5,763 6,166 Portugal
9,608 10,898 19,195 Greece
36,580 35,832 28,502 Turkey
28,820 29,915 6,391 Roumania
4,384 4,032 25,817 Countries not specified 26,741 31,987 216,729 Total
.1,217,070 1,094,647 678,491 It is a motley throng that has poured in from Europe in the last hundred years; and it represents varying grades of civilization and national ideals. Many have escaped from oppression as well as from destitution, and are finding in the New World what was denied them in the Old. Others who have brought hatreds bred from injustice, see in government and our present industrial system only still further menaces to social well-being. But, on the whole, our European immigrants are adaptable and assimilable.
Certain of these alien groups have met strong prejudice, the most marked of which is the feeling against the Jews in those places where they form a large proportion of the population. But notwithstanding this, the Jews have made an important contribution to the cultural life of America. It is interesting to observe that religious beliefs, prejudices and loyalties constitute a frequent ground for antagonism among those whose inner lives are but slightly affected by the doctrines which they so tenaciously uphold.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE “OLD” AND v
THE NEW" IMMIGRATION Writers on immigration have usually made for convenience a two-fold division into the “ Old” and the “ New " Immigration, the latter beginning in the early 1880's, because about that time, owing to certain political and economic conditions at home and abroad, the character of our immigration changed. The Old embraces those who came from northwestern Europe, -the New those from the southern and eastern parts of the continent. The British, the Scandanavian and the German people migrated to the United States in great numbers before 1880; to a smaller extent since. The Germans came to escape military service and to improve their economic status. The Scandanavians and British came for the better opportunities offered in the New World. These people were from countries having a very low rate of illiteracy, while these coming later represent a very high rate of illiteracy.
The following table ? illustrates the statement that has just been made for thirteen groups for a ten-year period, from
* Fairchild: Immigration, page 198.
1899 to 1909. Persons over fourteen years of
who can neither read or write when entering the United States are included in the percentages:
Percentage of Illiteracy
5.1 Italian (North)
35.4 Croatian and Slavonian
36.4 Italian (South)
IS LITERACY A FAIR TEST OF DESIRABILITY?
The degree of illiteracy is a fairly good indication of the general level of any group of people. Out of a total of 1,218,480 persons entering in the year 1914, 260,152 or 21.4 per cent. of the adults were illiterate. The Turks headed the list of illiterates with 62.6 per cent., the Portuguese following with 49.5 per cent. There are exceptional circumstances of course which have deprived some otherwise able people of the opportunity to learn to read and write, but when whole national groups display illiteracy, the desirability of such groups as citizens in a democracy is certainly open to question. There are those who maintain that literacy is not an economic advantage to the alien since only the more menial tasks are open to him, and these he can perform quite as well as his fellow worker who enjoys the rudiments of an education. This, however, does not seem to be sufficient reason for ignoring the general significance of literacy in our incoming stream. The illiteracy rate in the United States is 10.7 per cent., a rate greatly increased by the inclusion of the Negroes in the South.
An examination of the foregoing table confirms the current belief that the later comers are on a distinctly lower intellectual level than those who arrived earlier. People came crowding from the slums of European cities, as well as from rural districts, and steamship companies vied with one another in bidding for this very profitable human freight. The more who could be induced to come, the better for the companies' coffers, and probably for the newcomers themselves. No one thought about the wellbeing of the nation receiving them; that came much later. Squeamishness in regard to the component elements of this nation is a somewhat new national emotion.
Until recent years, industrial needs have been the determining factor in the admission of aliens. No further attention whatever was paid in the earlier days to the people who came, so long as their bodies were equal to the tasks required of them. And, strangely enough, this unmethodical procedure seemed to work out very well until the later years of the nineteenth century. The problems came with the great numbers, and the great numbers belong to the New Immigration. It is true that over a million Irish migrated here in a few years before the middle of the last century, and created more or less of a political problem in the cities where they located, but with this exception, the great rush was later, and as has been shown, carried with it a high degree of illiteracy. The older stream had been poor and often oppressed, but had appreciated the value of education. Even of the Irish, this is true to a degree.
THE IMMIGRANT AND IDEALS OF FREEDOM
A fact of great significance to be noted is that the earlier immigrants came from countries which, even though monarchical, had recognized the principle of representative government, and that principle was ingrained in the hearts and minds of all of their people. In America, they were ready