The Boon of Immigration to the United States
BY NEWELL DWIGHT HILLIS
FOR city and country alike the present year has been most propitious. Other summers have been bountiful, but this year the heavens have sent quadruple treasure upon the land. From every quarter comes the story of unexampled harvests, and soon the farmers will be rich beyond all their dreams.
Great is the treasure for the Republic through herds and flocks, through shocks of corn and sheaves of wheat! Great also the wealth through vineyard and orchard, but the greatest and most unmixed good fortune that has come to the Republic during the year will be its crop of immigrants.
Think of it! A million new workmen or mothers of future workmen this year. The other day I saw 400 young men who had landed but twenty-four hours before. They filled a train and were under the charge of a railway official. They were going 900 miles west of New York to work upon the new grades and bridges of a railroad whose track was being straightened and shortened.
"What will you pay these men ?" I asked the official. "Oh, $1.50 a (lay and their board." "Each man then," I answered, "is worth to the country $500 a year. Each one of these immigrants represents a steam engine costing Smoot). and bringing in $50o at 5 per cent." "All of that." was the official's reply.
But a million immigrants means 300.000 of these men. If each workman represents a loom, a small ship, an engine or a house, costing $10,000 and producing $500 a year. it is as if the Old World had sent the Republic a free gift of three billions that will produce for us next year 150 millions.
These newcomers also represent the picked men and women of the working classes of the Old World. Those who read some pessimist's statement about the diseased and criminal classes that are coming to this country will feel troubled by the thought of a million immigrants.
But the man who goes to Ellis Island, who will study the people leaving not one steamer, but twenty steamers, will conclude his personal investigations with enthusiasm for the newcomers and with high hope for his country!
THE IMMIGRANTS ARE NOT THE WORST, BUT THE BEST CLASSES.
Just now politicians are talking about bills to restrict immigration. Impulsive, our people may go to an extreme. The theorists are already organizing and preparing to carry laws that will halve the present immigration. But the whole question is one of fact, and the simple fact is that our newcomers are the strongest, healthiest, most intelligent and resourceful of the Old World peoples.
Within the past five years one Italian city of a hundred thousand people has sent one-fourth of its families to this country, and those who came to us represented the families from whom that city had hoped the most.
It is not an easy thing for any youth to leave his home and start out to make his fortune. It is still more difficult for a youth to leave his native land as well as his family ties behind him. The pioneer who can go out into a new land must be a man of iron strength. courage. self-reliance, with confidence in his own resources. Given a family of six sons and daughters in Ireland or Scotland, in Switzerland or Italy, which one of the six children will emigrate?
It is always the strongest and brightest son and daughter.
Superficial men say that the immigrant produces the shims in New York. No conception can be more foolish or false. The simple fact is that South Ireland and certain cities of Italy are in danger of becoming slums, because their best sons and daughters have removed to this country, leaving the children who are weak of nerve, with poor, starved blood and spindle shanks, not quite equal to the battle in a new country.
Remaining at home in South Ireland or Italy, these who do not emigrate produce the problem of poverty and misery in the country and the slum problem in the city.
Recently one of our magazines published a long article on the slum districts of New York, saying that these districts were produced by the immigrants. In the last three years two million inmmigrants have come to New York.
Did the slum districts of New York increase by two millions? As a matter of fact the population of New York increased by only a tithe of two millions, and a large 'percentage of this gain was through native blood coming up to the city to make its fortune. Our social settlement workers have long ago found out that the foreigner stays in the city of New York just long enough to accumulate money to get to the mine or factory, but especially to the land.
What? Immigrants make the slums!
Why, the three greatest slum centres of the world are where the population is absolutely pure, without a mixture of immigrant. The very heart of the slum centre of East London is pure English. The very heart of the slum centre of Glasgow is pure Scotch. The very heart of the slum section of South Ireland is pure Irish. without a mixture of foreign blood. All three sections have lost their brightest sons by emigration to Australia or Canada or the United States. The weaker ones of the family staved in the old home and sunk into the abyss.
Men who sit in the office or study and write essays on the "perils of immigration" may be pessimistic, but I affirm without fear of contradiction that no man has ever gone to Ellis Island and studied the immigrants landing from ten successive ships without passing through a revulsion of sentiment or becoming as optimistic about our newcomers as the men who have charge of our immigration, who are best qualified to report upon it.
THE REPUBLIC NEEDS 5,000,000 WORKMEN.
So far from one million immigrants overstocking the country, the Republic now is in need of 5,000,000 workmen. The interior States, the Rocky Mountain States and especially the States of the Pacific coast, are like a dry and thirsty land. The waters of immigration are taken up and absorbed by the States on the Atlantic coast. Only now and then does a foreigner cross the Rocky Mountains. Our native-born sons are $2 and $3 a day men. The public schools have developed many hungers in them and raised the scale of living. The American will not do the drudgery involved in opening up a new country.
The great West wants 5,000,000 immigrants. These men are needed to tear up the sagebrush of Montana and Idaho and Wyoming and Colorado. They, are needed to dig the irrigation ditches and open up streams in the desert. They are needed to tear up the wild prairie soil of the Dakotas in the North and Texas in the South. Why, the Lone Star State alone wants 20,- 000,000 people.
Indeed, the question how to secure immigrants for the Pacific coast is the most pressing question of the day. Oregon and Washington are overcitied and undercount-tied. One-half of the population lives in the cities and large towns, but a city like Seattle or Portland must have a farming country to support it; and the only hope of securing a farming country is through the immigrants who will still do pioneer work, lay the foundations of towns, grade the railroads, dig irrigating ditches, tear up the sagebrush and cover the great plains with rich harvests. Until these immigrants are brought in the economic problem cannot be solved.
We have cities in the Mississippi Valley and we have cities on the Pacific coast, and the freight bills involved in carrying goods across these long unsettled areas represent enormous industrial waste, and the only way out of it is to cover the Rocky Mountain States with little towns and develop agricultural resources through newcomers who will still work for $1.50 a day.
IMMIGRANTS ARE MAKING A NEW WEST
But, it is said, the immigrants flock to the cities and they will not go to the lands. The opposite is the fact. The immigrant stays in the factory town or city for a little time until he gets enough money to start for the land, and then he goes into the West. Take the great rich State of Minnesota. One vast section of Minnesota was settled by Swedes, Norwegians and Danes. What wealth is theirs! What splendid farms! What houses, barns and granaries! How prosperous the towns look! What schools and churches!
In a town surrounded by these people, Rochester, Minn., there is to-day a hospital, the fame of whose surgeons has gone out through all the. world. -Physicians from London and Paris, New York and Philadelphia have gone to Rochester to study that marvelous Hospital. But do these immigrants stand for the public school, the high school and the college?
Go to the University of Minnesota for the answer. Already it is fifth or sixth among the great universities of this country. The most striking thing in the great audience is the proportion of flaxen-haired blonds. These young men, who are studying for law and medicine, for the great arts and handicrafts are the children of foreign-born parents. And these foreigners have built the richest section in one of the richest States in the Union.
A MARVELOUS STORY
The achievements of some of these immigrants read like a romance. Forty years ago a German mother took her little boy of eleven years of age to the church. On the way home, she reminded the child that there were ten mouths to fill, that the winter would be long, that already the family had but two meals a day and that on the morrow he must go with another family to Antwerp and set sail for America and earn money and send it home to help support the other children.
That night she sewed one silver coin and one gold coin in the boy's pocket, and gave the family of immigrants, with whom the child was to travel, money for the steerage ticket. Three weeks later, the boy of eleven found himself on a wharf in New York deserted by the German family, who did not want to be troubled with him.
The child knew not a word of the English language. He was determined not to spend the precious coins his mother had given him. In the dusk of the cold autumn evening he saw people carrying bundles to the ferryboat. Unable to speak a word of the language he began to carry the bundles without making any bargain as to what he was to receive. Soon the boy picked up coppers enough to pay for his lodging, his supper and breakfast.
Because he knew little about the city and much about the farm, he left the city behind him and walked into the country. One night he came to a farmer's house in Connecticut, where he lived until he was fourteen, and then he made his way to Chicago. There he worked for a man near the stock-yards, who gave him a bed in the barn. One night as he was going to the barn he heard two stock drovers querying where they could sleep, inasmuch as the little hotel was full.
"You can have my bed for 25 cents apiece," said the boy. That night he spent in a blanket in the hay. After that he made it his task each night after the work was done to find two drovers who would hire his bed.
One morning one of the drovers told him about a steer that had broken its leg on the car and why the beef packers would not buy this steer. The boy took $lo from his purse, bought the steer, in the belief that the ox's leg was sprained and not broken. Soon he began to buy and sell cattle.
Twelve years passed. One morning the city of Chicago was in ashes. The cashier of the First National Bank, after two days, reached the ruins, whose ashes covered his safety vault. Just then this young German appeared on the scene and accosted the banker.
"Are the vaults safe ?" was the first question. His next sentence was a proffer of help.
"You will need money," he said to the cashier. Well, I have just sold a lot of cattle in New York City and have $150,000 in the bank down there, and you can have it all."
That man is to-day one of the richest merchants in Chicago, and is worth many millions of dollars. There came a day when he bought the great house and estate in Germany where his father and mother had worked as peasants.
This story could be multiplied many times. Think of what Scotch immigrants have done in this country in finance! Think of what Englishmen have done in our business! Think of what the Scotch Irish have done in our law, government and eloquence! Think of our German immigrants!
Garibaldi. who freed Italy, came as an immigrant to our shores. He lived in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and here learned to love liberty and our free institutions. From our country he derived the insniration and strength that equipped him to return to Rome and with Mazzini emancipate Italy. One of the brightest pages in the history of this Republic holds the names of our immigrants.
IMMIGRANTS AND CRIME
It is said that our immigrants represent the criminal classes. Doubtless same criminals come to our shores. It is said by our police that when a man commits murder and wants to hide himself he starts for Broadway, New York. The criminal knows that there is no ambush like a crowd. The multitudes hide him.
He is safer amidst the surging throngs than in a solitary forest So the foreign criminal seeks cover in the multitudes that crowd on the ship. But there is no reason for believing that the number of these is large. Careful analysis of the statistics of crime does not show that the last two million of our immigrants have affected these statistics. Furthermore, there arc crimes and crimes.
Carl Schurz, one of our most eminent public men and patriots, broke the law of his country because that law represented despotism. Garibaldi was a criminal. judged by the laws of despotic Italy. To-day Tolstoi is a criminal. Maxime Gorky. who wishes to come to our country could he returned as a criminal because he has broken the laws of Russia, whose despotism he is seeking to overthrow. Suppose your student brother had been exiled to Siberia for criticising the Czar's conduct of the war.
Suppose your mother had been stripped to the back, tied to the tail end of a cart and flogged through the street for defending her son and criticising the Czar ! Would you not break the laws of Russia if you were living there? Recently four young men landed in New York from Servia. All were represented as criminals, but the crime of each consisted in resisting the tyranny of a government that he was trying to reform. Yet there is not an American living, with a drop of blood in his veins or a spark of the old fire in his heart who wouldn't have made a similar protest against oppression and misgovernment.
In the fourth century the forest children began their movement. One column had a base resting in the forests of Russia, and one column had its base resting on the seas of Holland. Soon the two columns met like the point of a wedge on the north of Italy, and the forest children broke through the Roman wall and swept down upon the Eternal City. Pouring in their new tides of life and blood, they saved the worn-out families of old Rome and they carried civilization over Europe.
Under some similar impulse falling from above, the people of the Old World are now coming to the Republic. They are coming to stay and to build homes, but they will write back to the Old World and become the missionaries of liberty in the old lands where despotism reigns. With intermarriage the.bloods will be crossed. Herbert Spencer believed that with this crossing would come a new and higher type of man. From the viewpoint of science he ought to be the hest, tallest, strongest, handsomest and most intelligent type of man the world has ever seen.
THE HOME MISSIONARY, VOL. LXXX, NO. 8, JANUARY, 1907