The Immigrant's Answer.
(Published in the "Forum," February, 1890.)
The questions whether immigration shall be encouraged or restricted, and whether naturalization shall be made more difficult or not, must be considered both from a political and from an industrial point of view; and in each case it is necessary to glance back and see what have been the character, the conduct, and the political leaning of the immigrant, and what he has done to develop and enrich our country. Has he been law-abiding, industrious, and patriotic, and is the government indebted to him for anything; or is it a case of a spoilt pauper child housed, fed, and clothed in a fine Christian uniform, all at the expense of native Americans, and to no purpose?
We will look at the political side first, and, as our space is limited, we will go back only to 1860, calling attention, however, to the fact that up to that time, no matter from what cause, the immigration had been almost entirely to the Northern and free States, and not to the slave States, as will be seen by the figures about to be given. These, when carefully examined in connection with election returns, will show that but for the assistance of the immigrant the election of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States would have been an impossibility, and that had the cry, "America for the Americans," prevailed at an earlier period of our history, the nineteenth century would never have seen the great free republic we see, and the shadow of millions of slaves would to-day darken and curse the continent.
I will cite no doubtful authority, but will take as a basis the United States census of 1860. The total population of the States was 31,183,744, of whom 4,099,152 were foreign born, and of the latter only 216,730 were to be found in all the eleven States which seceded. The remaining States had a total population of 22,313,997, of whom 3,882,422, or a little over one sixth, were actually foreign-born. To these we must add their children, who, though native-born, yet, as a rule, held the same views, were controlled by the same motives and influences, spoke the same language, and generally acted with their elders; who, in short, for all practical purposes, and especially for our purpose, must be treated as a part of the immigrant population. If we add two children for each foreign-born person, we find that fully one half of the population of the States that remained true to the Union consisted of the foreign-born and their children, and was made up chiefly of Germans, Scandinavians, and Irish.
The Scandinavians have always, nearly to a man, voted the Republican
161ticket. The Germans, likewise, were nearly all Republicans. In fact the States having either a large Scandinavian or a large German population have been distinguished as the banner Republican States. Notably is this true of Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, which have a large Scandinavian population; and of Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, which have a very large German population. The Irish more generally voted the Democratic ticket, but were not united; and in New York, where they were most numerous, they have repeatedly given the Republican ticket substantial aid. Taking the States in detail Iowa had a total population of 674,913. Of these 106,077, or about one sixth, were foreign-born, and nearly all were Germans and Scandinavians, who, to a man voted the Republican ticket. The total vote cast for President in Iowa in 1860 was 128,331, of which Lincoln received 70,409, giving him a plurality over Douglas of 15,298. Now, if simply the actual foreign-born vote had been left out, it would have amounted to one sixth of the whole, or 21,388. These would nearly all have been taken from Lincoln's vote, which would thus be reduced to less than 50,000, leaving to Douglas a plurality of over 5,000; and if instead of subtracting only the foreign-born vote, we were to subtract the vote which for our purpose must be regarded as immigrant, Lincoln's vote would be reduced to less than 40,000.
Wisconsin had a total population of 775,881. Of these, 276,967, or a little over thirty-five per cent., were foreign-born, nearly all Germans and Scandinavians, and they supported the Republican ticket." The total vote of Wisconsin in that year was 152,180, of which Lincoln received 86,110, giving him a plurality over Douglas of 21,089. Now, if the foreign-born vote were omitted, the total vote would be reduced by about thirty-five per cent., or 52,263; and nearly the whole of this would have to be deducted from Lincoln's vote, thus not only wiping out his plurality, but giving Douglas a plurality of nearly 30,000 — this by deducting only the actual foreign-born vote, and not the additional vote, which, as we have seen, should be included.
Michigan had in that year a total population of 749,113. Of these, 149,093, or about one fifth, were foreign-born, nearly all Scandinavians, Hollanders, and Germans, and almost solidly Republican. The total vote of Michigan was 154,747, of which Lincoln received 88,480, giving him a plurality over Douglas of 23,423. If the foreign-born vote, amounting to about one-fifth, or 31,000, be left out, nearly all the loss must fall upon Lincoln's vote, giving Douglas a plurality.
Illinois had a population of 1,711,951, of whom 324,643, or almost one-fifth, were foreign-born. Of these, 87,573 were Irish, the remainder nearly all Germans and Scandinavians, adherents of the Republican
162party. Of the total vote of Illinois, 338,693, Lincoln received 172,161, giving him a plurality over Douglas of 11,946. If the actual foreign-born vote is to be eliminated, that reduces the total nearly one fifth, or upward of 66,000. Supposing the Irish foreign-born vote to have been solidly Democratic, which it was not, about 40,000 would still have to be deducted from Lincoln's vote; this would not only wipe out his plurality, but would give a very large plurality to Douglas.
Ohio's population was 2,339,500. Of these, 328,249, or about one seventh, were foreign-born, 76,826 being Irish, and the remainder mostly Germans, who, as a rule, were Republicans. The total vote of Ohio was 442,441, of which Lincoln received 221,610 — a plurality over Douglas of 34,378. If the foreign-born vote had been omitted, the total would have been reduced by nearly one seventh, or about 63,200. Assuming that most of the Irish were Democrats and voted for Douglas, nearly 50,000 votes would still have to be deducted from Lincoln's total, which would give the State to Douglas.
These five States alone are sufficient to demonstrate the situation; for if Lincoln had lost them and carried the other States in the Republican column, he would have had only 129 electoral votes, while he needed 151. But the facts are that in every State carried by Lincoln there was a large foreign population, which was mostly, and in some. States entirely, Republican, and which continued to be Republican down to a very recent date; and if the vote of this class had been omitted in 1860, it would have reduced Lincoln's vote to such an extent as to defeat him in most of the States that he carried. I am speaking only of the foreign-born voters; but, as already shown, to these should be added a large percentage of the people who, although native-born, are of foreign-born parentage, and must be considered with them in viewing the general political course of immigrants. It is an indisputable fact that the vote of the naturalized citizen and of his son has been a most powerful and indispensable factor in giving the Republican party the control of the government; and even to-day its power and popularity are greatest in those States in which there is a large naturalized vote.
The eleven States that in 1861 hoisted the flag of secession had a population of 8,726,644. Of these, only 216,730, or about two and a half per cent., were foreign-born, and they were subsequently found to be Unionists. The men who sought to destroy our institutions, who proclaimed the principle of inequality, who insisted that the strong have a divine right to the fruit of the poor man's labor, and who finally fired upon the flag of the Republic, were not only Americans, but they were the sons of Americans; while, on the other hand, the heavy
163German population of northern Kentucky and of Missouri, by their adherence to the Union, turned the scale and prevented two great States from giving their powerful aid to the Confederacy. The great majority of those that were Americans and sons of Americans in these two States were in favor of secession. Then, when the war began, those Northern States that had the largest foreign-born population furnished the largest quota of soldiers to the Union armies. Even Missouri contributed nearly 200,000 men, although it was the scene of repeated raids, during which a portion of its population, called by the Southern leaders "damned Dutch Unionists," was made to pay dearly for its patriotism. The records of the War Department show that of the 2,678,967 men that from first to last were enlisted in the Union armies, 494,900 were entered on the records as of foreign nationality. No doubt some of these were native born, but not very many, for, as a rule, the native-born recruits spoke the English language and were booked as Americans. How many of these there were we cannot tell exactly, but, considering the fact that nearly half the population was of foreign nationality, and that recruits generally came from the common people, there is no question but that one half of the men who enlisted in the Union armies were either foreign-born or of foreign-born parentage. These would not have been here to enter our armies but for immigration, and better soldiers never marched to the music of war. There is not a swamp or field or dark ravine where treason made a stand, but is covered with the graves of Germans and Scandinavians who died for the principle of equal rights. Though the Irish more generally voted the Democratic ticket, yet their patriotism was prompt to respond to the call of their adopted country, and there is not a battle-field where blood was shed for the Union that has not the bones of Irishmen rotting upon it.
Again, material resources are as necessary for the prosecution of a great war as are men, for the latter can do nothing without equipment, food, arms, and munitions of war. When the Rebellion collapsed, the South had yet large armies of men, but its resources were exhausted. It had no shoes, no food, no arms for its soldiers. It had not, within all its boundaries, sufficient ammunition to fight a great battle. The North, on the contrary, had yet inexhaustible resources, for which it was largely indebted to the sober, steady, intelligent industry and frugality of its immigrant population; for those States in which this population was the largest were found to possess the best agriculture, the finest cities, the most shops, the largest factories, and the fullest warehouses. Further, the labor of building the great railway systems of our land, which are so necessary for the development of a
164country, and for the rapid concentration of men and material in time of war, was almost entirely done by these people.
Now, if Kentucky and Missouri had joined the Confederacy, and if the Northern States had not possessed the incalculable strength in both men and material resources that they got through the naturalized citizen and his children, they would not only have been unable to subdue the South, but they would have been unable successfully to resist Southern aggression; and some Southern colonel would to-day be calling the roll of his slaves in the shadow of Bunker Hill monument, for the country could not permanently have remained part slave and part free.
I do not claim that the foreigner gave to the country new ideas, nor do I wish in any manner to belittle the great achievements of the native Americans of the North; I am simply directing attention to the fact that, standing alone, they could not have elected Lincoln, could not have successfully resisted Southern aggression, and could not have put down the Rebellion; and that it was the naturalized citizen and his children, who, by joining hands with them, turned the scale in favor of the ideas and the institutions of the North, and thus directly helped to shape the destiny of our country.
In this connection, I wish to call attention to the remarkable historical fact that the great political party of the country that held out a friendly hand to the immigrant, and that favored and secured liberal naturalization laws, so that the new-comer could, in a reasonable time, become a citizen and voter, has been all along opposed and repeatedly defeated by these very naturalized voters; while, on the other hand, the great political party — first Federal, then Whig, and lastly Republican — from whose ranks has always come the opposition to a liberal naturalization law to make the new-comer a voter, and from whose ranks to-day comes, with increasing frequency, the cry of "America for the Americans," is the very party which has all along received by far the greater portion of this naturalized vote, was enabled by the aid of this very vote to keep control of the government for over a quarter of a century, and to-day is in power by the aid of this vote.
The one political party can truthfully say to the great majority of the naturalized voters: "I did what I could to give you the franchise, and you have constantly used that franchise to defeat me," while the other political party might truthfully say to the same people: "From my ranks has come all the opposition to you, and it is from my ranks that to-day comes the demand for restrictive naturalization laws; and in return for this treatment you have stood faithfully by me, have kept me in power, and have given office and
165honors to some of the very men who opposed and slandered you." It is incomprehensible why opposition to making a voter of the immigrant should come from members of the Republican party.
If we look at the question in still another light, it will be found that in those States which have the largest naturalized vote, and in which this has been a potent factor, there are more churches, more libraries, more schools, better schools, and more general intelligence than are to be found in those States where the people are not only American-born, but are the children of American-born parents. As a rule, the poor among the immigrants are more frugal, are more industrious, and are more used to continuous hard work than are the poor among native Americans, and consequently they generally succeed in making a living, while the latter frequently fail.
It has been charged against the naturalized citizen that he has at different times engaged in riots and disturbed social order; but in most of these cases it will be found that as many American-born as foreign-born have participated, the fact being that nationality had nothing to do with the matter, but that the disturbance grew out of industrial or political excitement. But even if this were not so, it does not lie in the mouth of an American to make this charge, for the most disgraceful acts of riot and mob violence that stain our annals were committed, not by the foreign-born in their rags, but by Americans dressed in broadcloth; and that not in a Dutch or an Irish settlement, but in the streets of Boston. This mob, known in history as the broadcloth mob, was diabolical in its fury, and sought to tear William Lloyd Garrison to pieces, not over a question of starvation wages, not to avenge an act of injustice and oppression, but simply because he had dared to proclaim that no man can have a right of property in another human being. If there have been mobs and riots among the foreign-born in our country, they were nothing but impotent protests, by ignorant though honest people, against that rapacious greed which took the bread they toiled for away from their children's mouths, while the broadcloth American Boston mob shrieked for the life of the man who dared to advocate human freedom.
I have been speaking, be it noted, of the immigrant who came of his own accord to our shores, with the purpose of renouncing forever his foreign allegiance, and swearing fealty to the republic. I do not include assisted paupers, habitual criminals, or laborers, whether yellow or white, brought over under contract to supplant and drive out American workmen, both native-born and naturalized. Against these classes our gates should be closed.
Coming now to the question, Shall naturalization be made more
166difficult? I ask: Why should it be? Does the history of the past furnish any reason for such legislation? If yea, what is it? If nay, then why begin now? If these people are to live here they should be a part of us, and should be made to feel that they have an interest in public affairs. To have a large foreign population among us and to deprive it of the right of citizenship, with all its privileges, would be to create jealousies, discontent, and, in short, the conditions which, in time, must produce disturbances, and in a critical juncture might endanger our political existence. We have seen that but for the vote and the influence of the naturalized citizen Lincoln could not have been elected, and that the destiny of our country must have been different.
But suppose this were not so; if the laws had prohibited a foreigner who had made his home among us from becoming a citizen, and if the millions of foreigners in this country that had accumulated property and acquired local influence had found themselves compelled to obey the laws and to pay taxes to support our institutions, while they had no voice in making those laws, in levying the taxes, or in managing those institutions, would they not have been discontented and secretly hostile to the government which thus treated them; and is it at all probable that when that government was attacked, either they or their sons would have rushed to its defense?
The idea of limiting the franchise is not new. Wherever and whenever there have been men who thanked God that they were not like their fellows, it has been advocated, and wherever it has been tried it has been a failure. It is simply the dying echo of aristocracy, and is inimical to the spirit of our institutions. Van Buren earned the gratitude of all true Republicans by striking it out of the constitution of New York. There are yet a few States in which a vestige of it remains; but it will be found that these States march not in the van, but with the lumber wagons of civilization.
It is frequently said that the people who come here are, as a rule, ignorant, and know nothing about our institutions, and therefore should not be permitted to vote after a residence of only five years; that they cannot act intelligently, and will simply be tools for crafty politicians to use at the expense of good government. Now, if the premises were true, the conclusions might seem plausible; and were it a matter of speculation only, they would, perhaps, be accepted. But the premises are false. Besides, this is no longer a matter of argument. We have had a century's experience and this must decide the question. If the vote of these people has, in the main, been marked by ignorance and been cast against beneficial measures and good government
167then the charge must be accepted as true; on the other hand, if their vote has, in the main, been on the side of right and justice and good government, then the charge must be treated as being not only groundless, but a slander. We have already seen that the great majority of these votes has steadfastly been cast for the men and the measures which, for a quarter of a century have shaped the destiny of this nation; surely no voice from the Republican party will declare that they were wrong. This being so, no Republican should be permitted to make the charge of ignorance against a class of voters who helped to support these men and these measures, and without whose support the success of the latter would have been impossible.
In this connection it should be borne in mind that the so-called scholar is not the most intelligent, the most reliable, or the safest guide in public affairs. The great Selden was not joking when he affirmed that "no man is wiser for his learning, and no fool is a perfect fool until he learns Latin;" and Wendell Phillips was in dead earnest when he said:
"Book learning does not make five per cent. of that mass of common sense that runs the world, transacts its business, secures its progress, trebles its power over nature, works out in the long run a rough average justice, wears away the world's restraints, and lifts off its burdens. Two-thirds of the inventions that enable France to double the world's sunshine, and make old and New England the workshops of the world, did not come from colleges or from minds trained in the schools of science, but struggled up from the irrepressible instinct of untrained natural power. Her workshops, not her colleges, made England for a while the mistress of the world, and the hardest job her workmen had was to make Oxford willing he should work his wonders. . . . Liberty and civilization are only fragments of rights wrung from the strong hands of wealth and book learning; almost all the great truths relating to society were not the result of scholarly meditation, but have been first heard in the solemn protests of martyred patriotism and the loud cries of crushed and starving labor. When common sense and the common people had stereotyped a principle into a statute, then book men came to explain how it was discovered."
I will add only that years ago, when the book men both North and South were learnedly demonstrating that slavery was a divine institution, these common people from foreign shores simply said, "It is wrong for one man to get another man's labor for nothing," and then took sides, not with the powerful and wealthy, but with the party that was then the object of ridicule, because it dared say that slavery was wrong. The history of this country demonstrates that the common people are swayed by a patriotic instinct or impulse in favor of the right
168— something which cannot be said of the wealthy or of the book men.
I know that occasionally the local government of a large city is cited to prove the ignorance of the naturalized voter; but only a superficial observer will make this assertion. This question has been examined by some of the ablest men of America and Europe, and they all agree that the cause of bad government at times in cities is partisanship and the saloon. And the saloon owes its power to the fact that it is courted by the local leaders of both political parties; each political party is ready and eager to make any combination which will enable it to defeat its opponent.
When the rich and the educated divide themselves up almost equally between the two great parties, and one half vote the Democratic ticket and the other half vote the Republican ticket; if then the naturalized voters, or, if you please, the common people, come along, and part vote the Republican ticket, the remainder the Democratic ticket, it is both nonsensical and dishonest to say that the result, no matter what it is, is due to the ignorance of the voters. Such a charge could be truthfully made only if substantially all the well-informed and the property-holding classes were to range themselves on one side, and the ignorant people on the other, and the latter were to carry the day and run things badly. But so long as the rich and the educated partisan in the Republican party will resort to any means to carry an election, and will stand in line with all classes of voters on that side, while the Democratic partisan does the same thing on the other side, the result must be attributed to a party and not to a class. There never was a dishonest government in any city in this country that did not come into power by the assistance of a large class of voters who not only were intelligent, but who boasted of American ancestry. And it is safe to say that there never will be one; for partisan feeling seems to blind men who are otherwise intelligent, fair, and honest, so that four out of five of the prominent and intelligent men in each political party will rather see their party win with men who are dishonest and unfit than see the opposite party win with honest and competent men. And, strange as it may seem, the man who comes to the polls in his carriage is, as a rule, more narrow and more bigoted than the poor man who has to lose half a day's wages in order to vote.
There is an objection to further immigration that at first blush seems plausible, namely, that it increases the competition among the unskilled laborers, who already find it impossible to maintain their families in a manner becoming even the humblest American citizen. Ocean travel has become cheap, safe, and speedy, and many European
169countries are over-populated. These people are aware that in from two to three weeks they can go from the place of their birth to almost any part of the United States. They have heard of this country and have an exaggerated idea of its advantages; and the question naturally suggests itself: If these people are permitted to come, will not that reduce the unskilled laborer to the condition of the European laborer; and to avoid this, would it not be better to prevent any more people from landing upon our shores? To a man who sympathizes with the American unskilled laborer, whether native-born or naturalized, in his hopeless condition, this argument, I repeat, at first seems plausible; but aside from the impossibility of enforcing such an exclusive policy along our sea-coast and four thousand miles of border crossed everywhere by railroads, there are insurmountable objections to it. First, it is contrary to the spirit of the age, and to the law of human development and the highest civilization, which require the freest intercourse possible, not only between men, but between nations; and no people ever yet profited, in the long run, by pursuing a policy at variance with this law. Secondly, it could be but a temporary expedient of such doubtful character that any great nation must hesitate to adopt it. Thirdly, it would be so decidedly narrow and provincial that, aside from its effect upon ourselves, we cannot take such a position in the face of the world. The truth is that the labor question is becoming more urgent, and the condition of the laborer is improving as fast in Europe as in this country; and the laborer's only hope for the future lies in united action, not alone in one country, but throughout the civilized world. This united action will be brought about much more quickly by unity of interest, free intercourse, and friendly co-operation, than would be possible it we were to isolate ourselves. In fact, it is only by this intercourse that the laboring masses can be so educated as to enable them to stand together, and by united action secure justice for themselves and their children; while isolation would prevent the spread of intelligence, make united action impossible, and thus put any great achievement out of the question.
Besides, the American laborer does not suffer very much from competition with the immigrant who comes of his own volition. The latter, coming here to improve his condition and that of his family soon joins his American brother, and asks wages which will at least enable him to do this. But the condition of the laborer has been made deplorable by the importation of shiploads of men under contract. These do not come with the motives or with the ambition of the class we have been considering; they have no thought of becoming citizens, but are practically slaves, who will work for wages upon which the
170American laborer cannot exist. Agents for large corporations are constantly importing them. Steamship companies, to get the passage money paid by American employers, bring them over by the thousands, so that many great centers of industry in the East have been filled with them, and the American laborer is being crowded out. Both the native-born and the naturalized laborer have been almost driven out of the great State of Pennsylvania by these importations. True, there is a law against such contracts, but it is a dead letter; so that we have in this country the strange spectacle of the government keeping up the price of a great many articles by shutting out foreign competition, and at the same time permitting the manufacturers of these articles to import the pauper laborers of Europe to produce them.
But this is not natural immigration; and whether the people thus brought be Chinese, Hungarian, Polish, or British paupers, they should be excluded; but natural immigration should not be interfered with. Free circulation of the blood is necessary to a healthy growth, whether of an individual or of a nation, and any restriction of the natural processes arrests development and enfeebles both body and mind. Thousands of years ago the cry, "China for the Chinese," prevailed and became a law in one of the richest quarters of the globe, among a people that had already a high civilization. From that time their faces have been turned backward, and they have simply been worshiping the shades of their father; and yet there are in this age and in this country men who would have us practice Chinese statesmanship.
JOHN P. ALTGELD.