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Immigration Archives - The Character of Our Immigration, Past and Present


* An address to the National Geographic Society. January 1905.

THE subject of our immigration is perhaps the most discussed and least understood public question now before the people. On one side we find a portion of our citizens claiming that all kinds of economic and social evils are to be attributed to immigration.

The supporters of the other side are equally positive that the nation's growth and progress are due to these alien races. The arguments pro and con are generally made to prove a special case, and as such are not always to be relied on.

On one thing both will agree, that for the poor of Europe, America spells "opportunity," Previous to the past five decades of emigration the world has never witnessed such prodigious achievements, such wonderful enterprise and real progress in all the things that contribute to make a nation great.


The causes of migration have been manifold. Now it was famine, again the taste for conquest, that caused a people to take up its household goods and push out into unknown lands. Ambition fired the soul of one ; religious persecution or political revolutions inflamed another ; while the love of gold was always a potent factor.

" Emigration" and "immigration," as we understand them, are phenomena of modern life. In prehistoric and historic times, up to the discovery of America, men moved in tribes and on careers that were chiefly of conquest. In vain do we seek, in these migrations, for any parallel to the influx that is now pouring upon us.

A new kind of migration began with the discovery of America and the new route to India around the Cape of Good Hope, and may be called "colonization!' Those who took part in this movement utilized the newly discovered countries, first, merely for the purpose of booty ; afterward for the establishment of trading posts.

The beginning of this century disclosed a movement far different from either of these ; it is not a national, but a private one. The citizens of other states come here, not in conquering hosts, but as individuals—to a nation for the most part foreign to the one
they left, in customs, in manners., and in government. In a word, the migrations of the nineteenth century were not conquest or colonization, but " emigration."

Long before history began to be recorded, multitudes of people went out from Central Asia. There the Aryan race—the most important of the human family—had its rise. But the population soon outgrew the means of subsistence. Migration became a necessity.

The Celts first spread over Europe ; then came the Teutons. Of the Semitic branch of the Aryan race the Jews particularly wandered far and wide. First, to Egypt they went ; then, through the wilderness to Canaan ; subsequently, in the various captivities to Babylon.

Greek colonists formed from the begining an organized political body. Their first care, upon settling in a strange land, was to found a city, and to erect in it those public buildings that were essential to the social and the religious life of a Greek. The spot was usually seized by force and the inhabitants enslaved.

This sort of migration aided the fatherland and bettered the condition of the people taking part in it, for the migrants often made rapid progress in their new abodes, and added more arms to the strength of the mother country.

No voluntary migrant ever left Rome; the colonies she sent forth were intended to bridle subjugated provinces, and, as a writer well said, " should be regarded rather as the outposts of an immense army, the headquarters of which were at Rome, than as an establishment of individuals who had bidden adieu to their mother-country and intended to maintain themselves in, their new country by their own industry."

Yet they were of advantage to the empire, for they strengthened her power abroad, and alleviated the distress at home by removing from the city a large number of the excessive population ; but that policy did not result in as permanent improvement as was anticipated, for the city population increased in numbers more rapidly than the surplus could be absorbed by the foundation of new colonies.

A great wave in the migration of nations was that which swept over Europe, and, buried forever, under its onward rush, the old Roman Empire with its civilization. Out of this conquest grew chaos at first, then slowly new states began to rise upon its ruins, which were finally united in the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. There were attempts, first by the Turks and later by the Arabs, to better their conditions by an invasion of Europe ; but they were driven back by the sturdy Crusaders, and with their driving back was rung down. the curtain on that gigantic drama known as " Migration of Nations "--closed perhaps forever.

Modern migration dates from the discovery of America, though it was not for centuries later that it assumed any great proportions. Europeans Celiac in large numbers ; they were merchants, workers, and planters. The natives furnished the labor. The value of the colonies to the mother country was no longer merely " military ; " it was " commercial." The planters received their capital from the home country and disposed of their products and made their purchases there.

Their intention was to build up a country that would be self-supporting and enjoy the same civilization as the mother country. At the same time they did not separate themselves from the parent, but continued under her political control. The relations between the two countries were for the most part friendly and loyal- They were still " Frenchmen " or " Englishmen" or " Dutch," as they had been at home. The title of "American was yet to come.

It is not too much to say that the migrations of these centuries, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth, changed the whole aspect of the world. We can scarcely picture to ourselves the limitations of medieval life confined within the bounds of western
Europe. This colonization established world commerce and brought the products of the whole earth to the inhabitants of Europe ; it magnified the scale of things ten fold.

It did more ; it changed the relative position of nationalities ; it made the English race and speech dominant throughout the world.


But with the Declaration of American Independence a new movement in the history of changes in peoples became evident. It has since then grown in intensity almost every year, until it has become an important phenomenon of social life. It is not to be judged by any of the previous migratory efforts ; it must rather be considered on its own basis and with respect to its influence on the civilization. of modern Europe.

The Pilgrim fathers, fleeing to New England because of religious and political persecution, were the first real colonial settlers of America. It was real love of liberty and freedom that brought them, and not the visions of Indian wealth or mines of gold and fisheries of pearl, with which the Spanish adventurers in Peru and Mexico had astonished Europe, but the desire to worship God in their own way and to open an asylum to all victims of oppression throughout the entire world.

At the same time emigrants from Holland had commenced the settlement of Manhattan Island, and English settlers came to the western part of Long Island.

Contemporaneously, Gustavus Adolphus—at war with the Catholic powers, wished to found a new Sweden in America, which, would be devoted to the uplifting of the Lutheran religion, and he sent a colony of Swedes to the Delaware.

Peter Stuyvesant when he was governor of New Netherlands, became involved in difficulties with the New England colonies, and also with those Swedish settlers on the Delaware ; and while he failed in his attempt to get the New England colonies under the Dutch rule, he did succeed in defeating the Swedes, who accepted Dutch sovereignty.

Religious toleration was the rule, and Bohemian, English, French, Germans, Italians, and Swiss were induced to come to the new colony.

Another colony of great importance to the country was that founded by Lord Baltimore in Maryland. This colony was Catholic, but the principle of religious freedom, which has since become a part of our national life, was first inaugurated in this territory. French Huguenots, coming here after the edict of Nantes, formed an important settlement in the south.

The Quakers, who came to the United States in the latter part of the 17th century, by the straight forward ness of their dealings with the Indians, did. much to supplement the civilizing influence that was being carried on by the Jesuits in French Canada, to whom no little credit is due. Without regard to their personal comfort or safety, these priests instituted a missionary work among the Hurons, Iroquois, and Algonquins,
which lasted until the annihilation of the Huron tribe. They entered into the daily life of the Indians, and it required years of good example to make the slightest impression.

Their sufferings and martyrdom are incredible ; but as fast as one was massacred another was sent to take his place, and the recognition. of the Puritan governor of New England in inviting Jesuit missionaries to be his guests and the guests of the colony is the best proof that these Protestants were convinced of the excellence and far-reaching influence of these Canadian priests. Their humanizing influence was felt forever afterward.

The Indians came to know that they could depend upon the word of these missionaries and the Quakers, which made their subequent dealings with all white men more peaceful.

Not the least important of the alien forces that combined to make the colonial history of this country were the thousands of Irish, who were sent to England after the time of Cromwell, compelled to give up their Irish names, and given such names as " Brown," " White , " Black , " " Carpenter," " Shoemaker," etc., after they settled in Virginia and northward.

It is stated—which fact, seems to be borne out by the parliamentary discussions in England after the war of the Revolution—that one-third of the American soldiers in the Revolution were of Irish birth or descent.

This short history of the colonial settlement of the United States is necessary in order to emphasize the point that what we call "American character " is really a combination of the racial characteristics of the alien forces that came to the United States prior to the War of the Revolution, As President Roosevelt said in writing of New York city of 1775:

"New York's population was composed of various races, differing widely in blood, religion, and conditions of life. In fact, this diversity has always been the dominant note of New York. No sooner had one set of varying elements been fused together than another stream has been poured into the crucible."

In New York particularly this diversity of race is most noticeable. Baron Steuben was a Prussian ; Hamilton was born among the West Indian Islands., of Scotch parents ; Hoffman, the son of Swedish parents ; Herkimer, a German; Jay, Dutch ; Clinton, Trish ; Schuyler, Hollander ; Morris, Welsh. This amalgam of blood and diverse races has resulted. in the acknowledged highest national character known to the civilized world, and the fusion of their ideas has had immerse effect on the permanency of the institutions we now enjoy.


It is not necessary to go deeply into the story of immigration during the early part of the past century. It is interesting, pathetic, and in some of its details horrible. In the suburbs of Montreal is a stone with the inscription that it is " sacred to the memory of six thousand emigrants who died of ship fever in one year— 1847-"

The conditions of immigration were then vastly different. Immigrants were subjected to treatment that would seem incredible now. Most of them could not pay their passage, and were sold on arrival by the shipping companies into temporary servitude as " indented servants. "

During the whole of the eighteenth century the prepayment of passage was the exception and subsequent slavery the rule. As a consequence old people would not sell well, and their children had to serve longer to make up for them. Whenever a ship arrived at New York or Philadelphia, the immigrants were put up at public sale, Families were separated forever.

A master not wishing to keep his servant could transfer him to another. Parents sold their children for a period of years in order to become free themselves, The treatment of these creatures can be easily imagined.

This state of affairs continued until 1819, when a law was passed compelling certain improvements and the manifesting of emigrants from 1820. Since this law went into effect the number of immigrants arriving yearly has practically been an almost infallible industrial berometer.

The variations in our immigration represent the ups and downs of business and commercial prosperity. The business panics of 1837, 57, '73, and '93 are accurately recorded, taking about two years to make their influence felt. In short, although the chart on page 6 shows simply the number of immigrants who have come to the United States since we began to take immigration statistics, it is a most accurate financial history during that time.

The year 1881 -'82 marks the climax of the older immigration and the beginning of the new. That from Ireland, which received its impetus from the horrible condition of their native land thirty-five years before, was still continuing with undiminished force. That from Germany reached in 1.882 its maximum of 193,000. It, too, received its first impulse in 1847, in the depressed industrial conditions in which revolutions and political disturbances had left the country, but there is no special reason for a maximum during that year, unless it be a knowledge of the peculiar opportunities then offered by this country and the infectious example of others who were starting in this direction.

The Germans coming to the United States have been of different types. First, in the early part of the century, Pennsylvania. Germans were hyper-orthodox Lutherans ; in 1848, Free-Thinkers, followed by Roman Catholics and Social Democrat.

The Scandinavian, which completes the list of the distinctive elements of this older immigration, seems to have emigrated, not because of any serious political or industrial conditions like the others just mentioned, but because of the special inducements which. this country offered him to pursue here the same vocations to which he was accustomed at home with the hope of greater rewards.

The horizon of the Germans, Irish, and Scandinavians was filled with the one radiant idea of making for themselves a home in this country, and of becoming in the highest sense American citizens.

Such an immigration as that of 1882 represents the natural increase of a population of about 50,000,000 people. In other words, we had then a foreign population almost equal to our own, contributing to our growth by its natural increase.

To the ordinary person living outside the great cities, the designation "immigrant " brings to mind the Irish, Germans, or Scandinavians—the people just mentioned—who, even up to 1885, constituted such an overwhelming majority of the total arrivals at our ports.

They may still be seen everywhere—in the manufacturing trades or as shopkeepers, household servants, merchants, and professional men. They have bettered their condition in life and added to the general prosperity of the country as well.

Seeing them on all sides, the uninformed observer fails to realize that their compatriots are no longer coming, but in their stead are new forces—Mediterranean, Oriental, and Slavic races—whose predominance in numbers at present is absolute.
The Carpathian and Baltic Mountains are nearer the mining districts of Pennsylvania today than Boston was so years. ago.


In 1882 a circle drawn. over the map of Europe, taking in all points from which we were receiving immigrants, would have its center in the city of Paris. In 1902 a circle of the same size, including the source of the present immigration to the United States, would have its center located in Constantinople.

In classifying immigration, the Immigration Bureau relies in the main upon differences in language. Let us now attempt to briefly note their more marked racial characteristics and the motives which actuate their coming.

From Italy, Austria, and Russia, in the order named, we are receiving the present immigration.

Italy encourages emigration and derives much benefit therefrom.

The economic conditions of Austro-Hungary are such that there is every inducement for the peasant class to seek the prosperity which this country offers.

Attempts have been made to provide employment by large appropriations for state railroads and canals, but without apparent effect. Seen from this side, there seems to be an unceasing war between Bohemian and German, Croat, Pole, and Hungarian, which permanently threatens the nation's progress, while parliamentary efforts seem to be limited to the playful exchange of inkpots, rules, and cuspidors between opposing factions.

The real Russian never comes to the United States, except an occasional student or business man. The government's policy is to encourage those racial elements who do not accept the national religion and customs to leave, and keep the others at home. There are at least 50 well-defined races in Russia, each with a different language. It is not necessary to do more here than to call attention to the mighty strides with. which
Russia is pushing to the front in commerce and modem methods. Like England and Germany, this country will use every effort to keep those of its citizens who will fight within the jurisdiction of its flag.

First of all racially, in numerical importance in the year just passed, stand the Italians, with 196,208 arrivals, 59,329 being southern Italians, according to our classification, and coming from Sicily and that portion of Italy south of Rome.

This part of Italy was already represented in the immigration twenty years ago, but was composed chiefly of artisans, barbers, restaurant keepers, fruit venders, etc- Now the majority of Italian immigrants enter the field of unskilled labor.

A people who have contributed a share at least toward bringing an undivided country out of the turmoil of 2,000 years of European wars and politics deserve the right to be regarded favorably in a consideration of their ultimate influence upon the national life of their adopted land.

The Italians come here to work and they do work, and their potentiality for improvement and progress is remarkable, and while they are " birds of passage," this tendency is lessening year by year. The objection to this race is in its adherence to the idea that they are colonists of the mother land, and while here, subject to her authority. The " La Colona " idea makes the assimilation of the Italian much more difficult.

Our history shows that while our early colonial settlers were dependent upon their government entirely for support, they were a motley set of shiftless adventurers. Left to themselves, they became brave and daring pioneers.

The northern Italian is a type which belongs to the older period of immigration, and has little to differentiate him in economic possibilities from the Swiss, French, or Germans, It is interesting to note, however, that the Italian anarchist is the product of northern, rather than of southern, Italy.

Next in numerical importance stand the Hebrews, with 106,236, who, with the exception of a few hundred, belong to that branch of the Hebrew race which for centuries has found its home in Russia, Austria, and Roumania. A Hebrew element has existed in our population from its earliest history. The immigration. of this particular branch, however, dates back scarcely twenty years, and is distinctive from the fact that it bas been largely artificial and assisted from the start.

They come to stay, to cast their lot with us for weal or woe. They come in response to no demand for that which they can bring, and are unfitted by lack of physical development to enter the general industrial field. They bring with them, however, intellects which are the products of thousands of years of mental training and sharpened by exercise among hostile surroundings. A Jew has his face turned toward the future, and by virtue of the tremendous power of his religion, has been able to impress himself as a living force in every country in the world except China.

Corning to England ten years before they came here, the same industrial problems of crowding in certain trades and working in sweat shops were manifested, but there, as here, they have by organization been able to practically free themselves. In New York today in the sweating trades alone the Jew has been pushed upward by the Italians, and they in turn are being uplifted by the Armenian and Syrian coming into this industrial field.

The Polish immigration now amounts, in round numbers, to about 67,000 per year, equally divided between Russia and Galicia, with about one thousand from the Polish provinces of Germany.

The woes of Poland have aroused world-wide sympathy for a hundred years. In the past its political disturbances have given rise to an immigration largely taking on the character of exile. For thirty years the objections to Russia's policy in its Polish provinces have been more sentimental than practical, and Polish immigration in its modern sense is due not to persecution at home, but rather to the discovery of a profitable field for employment here for laborers of the peasant class. More, perhaps, than any other element in this later immigration, except the Hebrew, it conies here to stay.

As we see them they are illiterate, strongly religious, and moderately ambitious to become citizens. In Buffalo, for instance, where they have a large settlement, they are buying homes, and their mortgages are regarded as the most desirable sort of investment.

We are now receiving every year close upon 30,000 Slovaks, from the mountainous regions of northern Hungary-- a Slavish people, speaking a tongue akin to the Bohemian, living in their own lands in mud huts without chimneys.

They, too, are extremely illiterate, and turbulent under leadership. These people have, nevertheless, a strong instinct of sincerity and honesty and a higher degree of personal self-reliance than most branches of the Slavish race. They can call up no past record of prominence in the milder arts, but point with pride to a language and territorial boundary which has remained intact through. centuries of attempted foreign aggression.

Sturdy, robust, and inured to hardships, they have no difficulty in finding a place in our industrial system. They exhibit a strong and apparently increasing tendency to return to their Hungarian mountain sides, and have as yet given little indication of the direction in which their future influence upon this nation will lie.

The fertile country of central Hungary furnishes no emigrants, but further north, in the districts less favored by nature, there is an emigration of Magyars amounting to about 23,000 a year. They are evidently induced by the example of the Slovaks, whom they resemble in every way except language, the former being of Slavish and the latter of Turanian origin.

The same similarity continues here—both seek the mine general localities and enter the same field of labor as the Poles and Lithuanians. The Croatians and Slovenians, from the south of Austria, have only commenced to come to this country in the
last 15 years, and have already colonies in southern California and Oregon, with large numbers in the Pennsylvania mines.

From Carnolia, Krainers have been coming here for 70 years, following some Krainer missionaries who came here and settled on the northwestern border. These missionaries have been followed by their countrymen, who have formed settlements. They are in most respects a desirable people, and come here to remain, and are rapidly becoming citizens.

Dalmatian settlements are rapidly forming in the United States, especially in the more growing sections of California.

The whole Balkan territory is beginning to feel the fever of emigration, and only the prohibitive rates for passage keep the semi-civilized tribes of Bosnia, Servia, Herzgovinia, and Bulgaria from coming here. In the near future cheap river transportation will be provided on the Danube River to the Black Sea, whence they can come to the United States. Then we may expect them in large numbers.


Up to 1899 the Finlanders had lived contentedly enough under Russian rule, and, on the whole, the Czars punctiliously observed their oath to maintain inviolate the constitutional liberties of Finland. In that year, however, the present Czar wiped out the Finnish constitution and promulgated a rescript that all questions held by the Russian ministers at St Petersburg to concern the Muscovite Empire of old should be
treated by them and Finland put under the general conditions of other Russia.

Prior to that time no enactment had the force of law unless it emanated from the Finnish Parliament. The protest on the part of Finland to this action was immediately responded to by almost every other civilized country in the world, but without availble press is muzzled, the right of public meetings prohibited, and private gatherings forcibly dispersed.

In July, 1901, by special. ukase, the Finnish military act of 1878 was abrogated and the army broken up. Those Finnish officers who did not choose to serve in Russian regiments were sent into private life.

When we consider that among the Finnish people it is stated that only one man in 11200 cannot read nor write, while in Russia the illiteracy ranges from 47 to 66 per cent, according to districts, and Finnish customs, language, manners, religion, and ideals are all different, it seems that this movement will practically destroy the Finnish people.

In 1899 we commenced to get what promised to be a considerable immigration from this territory, but the British government, alert to the advantage of securing such a desirable people, have, by reason of special inducements, diverted the Finns to Australia and other British colonies.

Greek immigration consists mainly of boys and young men, there being but one woman to thirty males.. Some work in mills in Massachusetts, but the bulk are brought over to peddle fruit and peanuts, in which business they are displacing the Italians, It is generally understood that they are brought over by padrones and paid $100 per year for their services in peddling.

The Syrian immigration now amounts to over 3,000 yearly. The movement seemed to receive an impetus by the World's Fair of 1893. Like the Greek, they are mainly controlled by padrones.

Though the movement is actually less than ten years old, Syrians are now trudging over the whole of the Western continents with their packs and baskets of gew-gaws. They are not only around the well-settled districts, bat are actually among the remote fishing hamlets of Newfoundland and Gaspé, everywhere among the villages of Mexico, in Brazil, Argentina, and in Patagonia.

In character they have changed little since they were described in the Old Testament. They have all the vices of the oriental races, but without many of the virtues. They are the toughest problem that official and private charity has to meet in the communities by which they live.


Ever since the beginning of time there has been a constant struggle for assimilation between races, in which the absorbent quality of the United States has proven superior to that of every other nation in the world, with the single exception of the Chinese.

On the other hand, assimilation of the Chinese is impossible. Their fecundity and lack of interest in any other civilization but their own, their habits and customs and unwillingness to accept new ideas, oilers no material to work on.

One of our best and clearest thinkers on this question claims that the danger from Chinese immigration is that, if allowed to come here unopposed, they will in time monopolize all industrial occupations, and the American people, both of native and alien descent, will shrink to a superior caste, who would temporarily hold their own in government, education, and culture, but would finally and hopelessly be displaced as a race, and American labor and American manhood would diminish and fade away
before the influx of this inferior and prolific race from the Orient, as in classic times the Latin husbandman vanished before the endless number of slaves poured into Italy by triumphant generals.

One of the most interesting questions in connection with the Chinese is their climatic adaptability. While it is beyond question that the Northern races of Teutonic and ethic descent are superior economically and militarily over all known races of the earth, in climates different from their own they are unable to compete with inferior races.

The Latin. races—French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese—are much more successful in tropical settlements than the English or German ; but the most remarkable adaptability to climatic conditions is manifested by the Chinese.

They succeed in the far South, where the white man cannot live, and are successfully working in the North, where the mean temperature is below freezing.

The trouble with the Chinese is that they are 400 million strong. It is to the interest of the Chinese government to allow them to migrate to foreign lands. The history of Europe shows that the Jews have clung to racial characteristics with the utmost tenacity since they were driven out of Alexandria by Cyril.

They have gone from one country to another ; have been oppressed, and have absorbed the best traits of all with whom they came h contact. They have attained prominence in the business and financial markets the world over. Whereever they have gone they have always remained Jews—true to their religious and racial ideas.

While they have been able to maintain their racial individuality in every other country, whole tribes have gone into China, and in the course of a hundred years have been
completely absorbed.

No foreign influence has ever gone into China that has made the slightest impression on the Chinese race, and while they have been the migrant race of the world, they always remain Chinese.

Their history in California, where 10 per cent are professional criminals, does not show any special reason for encouraging more to come.


For fifty years we have been. getting alien emigrants, and most of our people have become accustomed to the sight of foreigners, but as a ;patter of fact they know very, little about them—whence they come, their racial traits or habits.

I have spoken to high-school gatherings and teachers, and have been utterly amazed at the lack of knowledge of geography, and especially of racial geography, which is manifested throughout the United States.

If it is true that each incoming racial element leaves its indelible imprint on the character of the people of the United States, and that our national character has been built up from the diverse races that have come here, it would seem to be unquestioned that our educational methods should include the study of racial geography to equip students who are being turned out of our colleges with a knowledge of the races that are annually coming into the American life, and especially with their economic, moral, and social effect on the community. The National Geographic Society can well initiate this work by agitating for a more comprehensive and scientific study of racial geography in our various institutions of learning in the United States.

The Romans and the Greeks regarded all strangers as barbarians, Most savage tribes have no word to differentiate between these two terms. This feeling, inherited through the ages, is at the bottom responsible for unthinking opposition to immigration, and unfortunately comes often from those who were themselves aliens but a short time before. As the proselyte becomes the most rabid opponent of his
former religion, so the recently naturalzed foreigner is often the loudest in his
demands to close the doors to others.

Migration and the tendency of races to move from one place to another have been the strongest instincts in human nature. The counter-instinct, equally strong, of self-preservation has made the opposition of the resident races always to be considered.

As the Greeks and Romans considered a stranger a barbarian and an enemy, so did the first colonial settlers of the United States regard later corners as a danger to them.

As early as 1765, as told by Edward Eggleston, William Penn expressed himself as being apprehensive of the coming of the Pennsylvania Dutch to his colony. In 1819 and 1820, although the migration of that period was very small, the municipal authorities of New York expressed apprehension as to the effect on the public institutions of the 10,000 or 12,000 immigrants, the total number of the arrivals at that period.

In 1850 the Know-nothing movement was the direct result of the exodus of the Irish and Germans to the United States, which had begun in the 40's.

The discussion of the Kansas and other border states land acts in the 40's and so's, concerning the question as to whether the aliens should have the privilege of occupying these lands on the same terms as the natives, brought forth expressions of opinion from Clay, Calhoun, and Seward, which were generally expressions of fear as to the economic effect on the United States of the introduction of these aliens.

Washington, Madison, and Jefferson, in the early life of the Republic, gave the question some attention, and were in turn either openly opposed to or doubtful as to the effect of the introduction of alien races.

The Civil War and the immediate response of the alien residents of the United States in enlisting to enter the armies of the North stopped emigration discussion for twenty years.


During all the years that immigration inspection has been in progress no steps have been taken to scientifically ascertain the real danger or value to the United States of the immigrant forces coming to this country. The investigations of the Bureau of Labor have shown that the economic dangers that were feared in the early 50's have not
been realized.

Since 1870 wages have steadily risen, the conditions of employment have been Unproved, and the hours of labor reduced. The purchasing power of every dollar earned has been increased by +50 per cent, and this during the period of heaviest immigration.

It would be unfair to claim that immigration bad any influence in this connection; rather we should attribute it to the organization of labor ; and, broadly speaking, labor organizations have been supported by and have found their best members among the immigrants. Whatever danger there may be is in the undue preponderance of criminals, insane, and those becoming public charges.

There is no means of accurately determining how much damage has been done in this direction, or whether the undoubted beneficial effects, which have been dem- onstrated in a thousand directions, can be offset. Immigrants come here at the age when people are most liable to commit crimes. They are freed from moral restraint and all fear of loss of caste, which, even in the lowest order of society, is next to religion, the strongest deterrent to crime. Some day we may hope to see both sides fairly weighed. and an exact judgment rendered, which, with our defective sources of information, is not possible today.

When we consider this question it compels us to pause in wonder as to what its effect will be on the future of the American people- If, in spite of our institutions and forms of government, the alien races that have already come and are still coming can succeed in undermining our religious, political, and economic foundations, it will be because we willingly succumb, through inertia, to their influences- Rome, Babylon, and all the nations of the world that have fallen have done so because they abandoned their moral, religious, and social ideals, their decline in most cases being contemporaneous with the introduction of alien races.

If such is to be the result in this country, it will simply be history repeating itself ; but I have confidence enough in the morals and character of the American people to believe that the races introduced among us will take from us only that which is good, and through education we will give them stability and the power to become thoroughly assimilated.

The privilege of intercourse with native children and school instruction lifts up the immigrant in the second generation to the level of his fellows.

The children of the ignorant, illiterate, and once despised German and Irish have grown up to match the native American of several generations in brawn and brain, wit and culture, and are today working with them, side by side, in every line of social, scientific, intellectual, political, and mechanical endeavor.

This is easily understood when we watch the avidity with which foreign children embrace the educational advantages of our schools, and especially note their docility and amenability to discipline. They have a practical idea of the value of education and regard it as an asset to increase their earning capacity. During the past few years in New York the end of each school term shows that the Jewish children have obtained more honors than all the others put together.


I have not the time to take up in detail the question of the violation of the alien contract-labor law by aliens, but it is a most important matter and is deserving of attention. For a number of years after its passage but little effort was made in the direction of its enforcement. Subsequently, after the service passed under federal control, a vigorous attempt was made to show results that afterward were found by the labor organizations to be worthless, cruel, and unnecessarily severe to the immigrants.

The alien contract-labor law, which was passed for the protection of the American workmen, to prevent the introduction of alien laborers to take the place of native labor on strike, is so well known in Europe that those desiring can violate this law with impunity, inasmuch as the only means of detecting such violations is the immigrant's own confession.

A system has grown up whereby aliens are brought to this country to work under contract, and the place of employment, the name of the employer, and all the essential facts which, if in the knowledge of the alien and admitted by him to the inspecting officer, might convict him are withheld from him until after his arrival here.

This system, which has been. in active operation for several years, is responsible for the open and flagrant violation of this law. The law needs to he strengthened; the real danger to the American workman, however, does not come from the aliens coming under contract, but from the class so well described in the President's annual message as " below a certain standard of economic fitness to enter our industrial fields as competitors with American labor.''

There is more danger from a dozen aliens who are thrown on the streets of New York penniless and friendless, and compelled to take any situations that they can get, without regard to wages or conditions, or starve, than from double or treble the number of contract laborers.

The first means the lowering of all standards of living, and is beyond competition ; the latter at its worst can be partially kept under control, even with our present defective laws and adverse court decisions. The intending traveler is schooled to pass every question long before sailing, and when a new scheme to evade the law is discovered and provided against, it only takes about a month for the immigrant arriving to know all about the new regulation.

Anarchists and criminals are not boasting of their record before inspection, and while the proportion of immigrants who actually possess criminal records at home is comparatively small, those that have criminal proclivities constitute a larger proportion. Many of the former class, and most of the latter, will be able to evade any form of inspection that may be devised. Their undesirability can only be demonstrated by their careers after landing in this country.

It is perfectly proper to adopt any measures to prevent the coming of such people. But however well such an inspection service be organized and conducted, it must, to accomplish to any extent the desired object, be supplemented by some provision for apprehending and deporting those who gain admission to the country from lack of evidence at the time of examination to show that they are not entitled to land.


Immigration inspection, in the sense of sifting the desirable from the undesirable and deporting those not coming up to a certain standard, has only been in operation since 1890. Prior to 1857 incoming aliens landed at the docks. In that year, mostly for health reasons, Castle Garden was opened as an immigrant landing station, continuing as such until 1890.

Secretary Windom in that year took the service tinder federal control and moved the station to the Barge Office in New York. The building of a new wooden station at Ellis Island caused the removal there in 1892; in 1897 this was burped down, necessitating again going to the Barge office for over three years.

The new immigrant buildings on Ellis Island are especially constructed for the work of receiving, examining, detaining, and giving medical attention to the incoming hosts, as many as 71,000 having arrived in one day.

We are fortunate in having associated with us a large number of earnest and hard-working missionaries, representing every race and religions denomination, whose constant presence not only brings comfort and help to the arriving alien, but also acts as a powerful protection against extortion or abuse of any character. Every year since coming under federal control the conditions surrounding the immigrant have improved, until today he is absolutely free from organized plunder.

In former days, as one of the state commissioners said in 1869, they were robbed and plundered from the day of their departure to the moment of their arrival at their new homes, by almost every one with whom they came in contact. They were treated worse than beasts and less cared for than slaves, who, whatever their condition may be, in other respects, represented a smaller or larger amount of capital, and as valuable chattels received from the owners some help and protection.

There seemed to be a secret league, a tacit conspiracy on the part of all parties dealing with immigrants: to fleece and pluck them without mercy, and hand them from hand to hand as long as anything could be made out of them. The thousands who died from ill treatment on the voyage were thrown into the ocean with as little ceremony as old sacks or broken tools.

If crosses and tombstones could be erected on the water as on the western deserts, the routes of the immigrant vessels from Europe to America would long since have assumed the appearance of crowded cemeteries.

While every means is employed by the federal. government to provide precautionary measures, petty extortion from immigrants will exist as long as credulity and ignorance exist on one side and human depravity on the other; but I can confidently assert that every legitimate means, almost amounting to paternalism, is exercised by the immigration service to give the arriving immigrant that first impression of our laws and form of government that will place him on the road to good citizenship, while at the same time strictly carrying out the present defective laws.

In every other kind of function which comes within the purview of government officials, the thing to be dealt with is merchandise or finances, while in the immigration service we have to deal with people. No two persons will look alike, nor can any rule be established that will make human beings equal ; therefore the result of inspection must depend, in. a large measure, on the discretion of the examining official.

The best law in the world, with. poor officials, would be of little protection to the country, while the present law, insufficient as it. is in many respects, has done wonders in keeping out undesirables. Immigration inspection should be considered just as much a patriotic duty as is fighting for the honor of the flag.

By our present system of selection, the officers charged with this delicate, responsible, and most important duty are chosen for their positions under the same methods and With the same test as would be applied to men whose duty is to weigh coal, merchandise, or add up accounts. Under the present conditions, the authority to pass immigrants is mainly in the control of the officers who were originally appointed,
not because of their zeal or sympathy with the spirit which prompted immigration legislation, but beta. use they had knowledge of foreign languages, which enabled them to converse with the incoming aliens.

Special inducements should be given to natives of the United States who will fit themselves linguistically, in addition to the other qualifications, to enter the service. From top to bottom, it should he placed upon a scientific baths, entirety outside the control of politics.

The voluntary, unsought, and unsolicited emigration to the United States has been. the means of building up an intellectual, energetic, and prosperous community. Our country has received, not the high born, but the strong and always the oppressed, whose past history made them all the more appreciate their condition here.

The children of the colonial period were pushed upwards in the social scale by the immigrants, who in turn push each other upward as they come in.

It is not true that. the native of four or five decades ago stepped from one occupation to the other. The upward movement was gradual, and the promotion was rather that of generations than individuals.

Science and invention are working together to abolish occupations at the lower end of the scale and creating new ones at the top. The laborer of Europe has his place in the economy of our age. His whole drift is upward, in spite of all the counteracting influences to the contrary.

Since 1850 the immigrants have always been found on the side of law, public decency, and public morals, as instanced in the response to the call for troops in. the Civil War, the agitations for change in money standards, etc. Ever since 1870 those states having the preponderance of aliens could be relied upon to vote on the right side in moral questions in the same proportion in which aliens existed in their community.


In what I have said I have tried to be fair, but I cannot close without saying that our hospitality is abused, and by reason of our defective laws and the general knowledge of the means to evade them in Europe we are receiving an increasing number whose coming will do us no good, but harm.

We have no right to oppose needful measures of legislative relief out of sympathy for the sufferings of the people thus seeking ad mission to our shores, or out of respect to the traditions which up to now have caused this country to be regarded as an asylum.

There is only one Ellis Island. in the world ; no other country has its mate, because none offers the inducements to the poor of the world that we do. Let us thank God that this is so and pray that we may be able to keep it so, and that the twentieth century may bring to America the fruition of all its hopes, and the standard of progress and freedom which its history has inspired be the torch that will light the world in the same path.


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