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   Chapter 3 JUDGES IN THE GATE No.3

They Who Knock at Our Gates By Mary Antin Characters: 57544

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates . . . and they shall judge the people with just judgment.

Deut. xvi, 18.

There is nothing so potent in a public debate as the picturesque catchwords in which leaders of thought sum up their convictions. Logic makes fewer converts in a year than a taking phrase makes in a week. For catchwords are the popular substitute for logic, and the man in the street is reduced to silence by a good round phrase of the kind that sticks.

Two classes of citizens are especially prone to fall under the tyranny of phrases: those whose horizon, through no fault of their own, is limited by the rim of an empty dinner-pail; and those whose view of the universe is obstructed by the kitchen-middens of too many dinners. There is no clear thinking on an empty stomach, and equally muddled are the thoughts of the over-full. When I hear of a public measure that is largely supported by these two classes of citizens, I know at once that the measure appeals to human prejudices rather than to divine reason.

Thus I became suspicious of the restrictionist movement when I realized that it was in greatest favor among the thoughtless poor and the thoughtless rich. I am well aware that the high-priests of the cult include some of the most conscientious thinkers that ever helped to make history, and their earnestness is attested by a considerable body of doctrine, in support of which they quote statistics and special studies and scientific investigations. But I notice that the rank and file of restrictionists do not know as much as the titles of these documents. They have not followed the argument at all; they have only caught the catchwords of restrictionism. And these catchwords are the sort that appeal to the mean spots in human nature,-the distrust of the stranger, the jealousy of possession, the cowardice of the stomach. Nothing else is expressed by such phrases as "the scum of Europe," "the exploitation of America's wealth," or "taking the bread from the mouth of the American workingman."

Even the least venomous formula of restrictionism, "immigration isn't what it used to be," raises such a familiar echo of foolish human nature that I am bound to challenge its veracity. Does not every generation cry that the weather isn't what it used to be, children are not what they used to be, society is not what it used to be? "The good old times" and "the old immigration" may be twin illusions of limited human vision.

If it is true that immigration is not what it used to be, the fact will appear from a detailed comparison of the "old" and the "new" immigration. But which of the immigrant stocks of the good old times shall be taken as a standard? Woman's wisdom urges me to go right back to the original pattern, just as I would do if I went to the shops to match samples. And the original pattern was brought to this country in the year 1620. Surely comparison with the Mayflower stock is the most searching test of the quality of our immigration that any one could propose.

The predominant virtue of the Pilgrims was idealism. The things of the spirit were more to them than the things of the flesh. May we say the like of our present immigrants? Of very many of them, yes; a thousand times yes. Of the 8,213,000 foreigners landed between the years 1899 and 1909, 990,000 were of that race which for nineteen centuries has sacrificed its flesh in the service of the spirit. It takes a hundred times as much steadfastness and endurance for a Russian Jew of to-day to remain a Jew as it took for an English Protestant in the seventeenth century to defy the established Church.

Those who think that with the Spanish Inquisition Jewish martyrdom came to an end are asked to remember that the Kishinieff affair is only eight years behind us, and that Bielostock has been heard from since Kishinieff, and Mohileff since Bielostock. And more terrible than the recurrent pogrom, which hacks and burns and tortures a few hundreds now and then, is the continuous bloodless martyrdom of the six million Jews in Russia through the operation of the anti-Semitic laws of that country. Thirty minutes spent in looking over a summary of these laws recently compiled by an English historian(1) will convince any reader with a spark of imagination that every Russian Jewish immigrant to-day is a fugitive from religious persecution, even as were the English immigrants of 1620.

But while nobody questions the idealism of the Jew in religion, the world has been very slow to credit him with any degree of civic devotion. The world did not stop to think that a man has to have a country before he can prove himself a good citizen. But happily in recent times he has been put to the test of civic opportunity, notably in America; with the result that he was found to possess a fair share of the civic virtues, from the generosity displayed in the town meeting, when citizens vote away their substance to support a public cause, to the brute heroism of the battle-field, where mangled flesh gives proof of valiant spirit.(2) And what the Jews of West European stock proved in the American wars for freedom the Jews of Eastern Europe have proved more recently, by their forwardness in the Russian revolution of 1905.

No group of people of all the heterogeneous mass that constitutes the Russian nation were half so prominent as the Jews in that abortive attempt at freedom. Witness the police records of the revolutionary period, which show that sixty-five out of every hundred political offenders were Jews, in districts where the population was fifteen parts Jewish and eighty-five parts Gentile. When I visited my native town in the Pale, several years after the revolution, it was hard to find, among the young men and women I talked with, one in a dozen who had not shared in the dangers of 1905. If we really want to know how heartily the Jews played their part in the revolution, we need only ask the Russian Government why the anti-Semitic laws have been so vengefully enforced since a certain crimson year within the present decade. And the whole significance of these things, in the present study, lies in the fact that precisely that spirit which prompts to rebellion in despotic Russia rallies in free America to the support of existing institutions.

If it was a merit in 1620 to flee from religious persecution, and in 1776 to fight against political oppression, then many of the Russian refugees of to-day are a little ahead of the Mayflower troop, because they have in their own lifetime sustained the double ordeal of fight and flight, with all their attendant risks and shocks.

To obtain a nice balance between the relative merits of these two groups of rebels, we remind ourselves that, for sheer adventurousness, migration to America to-day is not to be mentioned on the same page with the magnificent exploit of 1620, and we reflect that the moral glory of the revolution of 1776 is infinitely greater than that of any subsequent revolt; because that, too, was a path-finding adventure, with no compass but faith, no chart but philosophical invention. On the other hand, it is plain that the Russian revolutionists moved against greater odds than the American colonists had to face. The Russians had to plot in secret, assemble in the dark, and strike with bare fists; all this under the very nose of the Czar, with the benighted condition of the Russian masses hanging like a cloud over their enterprise. The colonists were able to lay the train of revolution in the most public manner, they had the local government in their hands, a considerable militia obedient to their own captains, and the advantage of distance from the enemy's resources, with a populace advanced in civic experience promising support to the leaders.

And what a test of heroism was that which the harsh nature of the Russian Government afforded! The American rebels risked their charters and their property; for some of them dungeons waited, and for the leaders dangled a rope, no doubt. But confiscation is not so bitter as Siberian exile, and a halter is less painful than the barbed whip of the Cossacks. The Minutemen at Concord Bridge defied a bully; the rioters in St. Petersburg challenged a tiger. And first of all to be thrust into the cage would be the rebels of Jewish faith, and nobody knew that better than the Jews themselves.

The superior zeal and high degree of self-sacrifice displayed by the Jewish revolutionists would naturally be explained by the fact that, of all the peoples held in chains by the Russian Government, the Jews are the ones who have suffered the cruelest oppression. But there is proof, proof that will go down with the stream of history, that the Jewish participants in the Russian revolution of 1905 were actuated by the highest patriotism, their peculiar grievances being forgotten in the grievances of the nation as a whole. The sinking of the Jewish question in the national question was an important article of the revolutionary propaganda among the Jews; so much so, that when a prominent Jewish leader attempted to demonstrate, on philosophical grounds, that that was a false position to take, he was hotly repudiated, although up to that time he had stood high in the councils of the leaders.(3)

If we find such a high degree of civic responsiveness in what we have been trained to think the most unlikely quarter, shall we not look hopefully in other corners of our world of immigrants? If the Jewish spirit of freedom leaps from the grave of Barkochla to the hovels of the Russian ghetto, half across the world and half across the civilized era, shall we not look for similar prodigies from the more recent graves of Kosciuszko and Garibaldi? If the hook-nosed tailor can turn hero on occasion, why not the grinning organ-grinder, and the surly miner, and the husky lumber-jack? We experienced a shock of surprise, a little while ago, when troops of our Greek immigrants deserted the bootblacking parlors and fruit-stands and tumbled aboard anything that happened to sail for the Mediterranean, in their eagerness-it's hard to bring it out, in connection with a "Dago" bootblack!-in their eagerness to strike a blow for their country in her need.

But that's the worst of calling names: it deceives those who do so. The little bootblacks would not have fooled us as they did if we had not recklessly summed up the Greek character in a contemptuous epithet. It is quite proper for street urchins to invent nicknames for everybody-that is what street urchins are for; but let us not hand down the judgment of the gutter where the judgment of the senate is called for. Between Leonidas at the pass and little Metro under the saloon window, fawning for our nickels, is indeed a dismal gap; and yet Metro, when occasion demanded, reached out his grimy hand and touched the tunic of the Spartan hero.

From these unexpected exploits of the craven Jew and the degenerate Greek, it would seem as if the different elements of the despised "new" immigration only await a spectacular opportunity to prove themselves equal to the "old" in civic valor. But if contemporary history fails to provide a war or revolution for each of our foreign nationalities, we are still not without the means of gauging the idealistic capacity of the aliens. Next after liberty, the Puritans loved education; and to-day, if you examine the registers of the schools and colleges they founded, you will find the names of recent immigrants thickly sprinkled from A to Z, and topping the honor ranks nine times out of ten. All readers of newspapers know the bare facts,-each commencement season, the prize-winners are announced in a string of unpronounceable foreign names; and every school-teacher in the immigrant section of the larger cities has a collection of picturesque anecdotes to contribute: of heroic sacrifices for the sake of a little reading and writing; of young girls stitching away their youth to keep a brother in college; of whole families cheerfully starving together to save one gifted child from the factory.

Go from the public school to the public library, from the library to the social settlement, and you will carry away the same story in a hundred different forms. The good people behind the desks in these public places are fond of repeating that they can hardly keep up with the intellectual demands of their immigrant neighbors. In the experience of the librarians it is the veriest commonplace that the classics have the greatest circulation in the immigrant quarters of the city; and the most touching proof of reverence for learning often comes from the illiterate among the aliens. On the East Side of New York, "Teacher" is a being adored. Said a bedraggled Jewish mother to her little boy who had affronted his teacher, "Don't you know that teachers is holy?" Perhaps these are the things the teachers have in mind when they speak with a tremor of the immense reward of work in the public schools.

That way of speaking is the fashion among workers of all sorts in the educational institutions where foreigners attend in numbers. Get a group of settlement people swapping anecdotes about their immigrant neighbors, and there is apt to develop an epidemic of moist eyes. Out of the fullness of their knowledge these social missionaries pay the tribute of respect and affection to the strangers among whom they toil. For they know them as we know our brothers and sisters, from living and working and rejoicing and sorrowing together.

The testimony of everyday experience is borne out by the sudden revelations of catastrophic circumstances, as reported by a librarian from Dayton, Ohio. In Dayton they had branch libraries located in different parts of the city, not in separate library buildings, but in convenient shops or dwelling-houses, where they were left in the care of some responsible person in the neighborhood. After the recent flood,(4) when the panic was over and the people began to dig for their belongings underneath the accumulated slime and wreckage, the librarian tried to collect at the central library whatever was recovered of the scattered collection. Crumpled, mutilated, slimy with the filth of the disemboweled city, the books came back-all but one collection, which had been housed in the midst of the Hungarian quarter. These came back neatly packed, scraped clean of mud, their leaves smoothed, dried,-as presentable as loving care could make them.

If that was not a manifestation of pure idealism, then is human conduct void of symbolism, and our public squares are cumbered in vain with monuments erected in commemoration of human deeds. But we read men's souls in their actions, and we know that they who flock to the schools are the spiritual kindred of those who founded them; they who cherish a book are passing along the torch kindled by him who wrote it. They pay the highest tribute to an inventor who show the most eagerness to adopt his invention. The great New England invention of compulsory education is more eagerly appropriated by the majority of our immigrants than by native Americans of the corresponding level. That is what the school-teachers say, and I suppose they know. They also say,-they and all public educators in chorus,-that while one foreign nationality excels in the love of letters, another excels in the love of music, and a third in the love of science; and all of them together constitute an army whose feet keep time with the noble rhythms of culture.

Let a New Yorker on Friday night watch the crowd pushing out of a concert hall after one of Ysaye's recitals, and on Saturday afternoon let him take the subway uptown, and get out where the crowd gets out, and buy a ticket for the baseball game. If he can keep cool enough for a little study, let him compare the distorted faces in the bleachers with the shining faces of the crowd of the night before; and let him say which crowd responded to the nobler inspiration, and then let him declare in which group the foreigners outnumbered the Americans.

The American devotion to sport is no reproach to the descendants of the Puritans, since it can be demonstrated from various angles that the baseball diamond may supplement the schoolroom and the pulpit in the training of American citizens. Indeed, it is not difficult to accept that interpretation of the national sport which reduces a good game of baseball to an epitome of all that is best in the lives of the best Americans. At the same time we need to remember that the love of art is more generally accepted as a mark of grace than the love of sport. Thus, when we speak of the glory of old Athens we have in mind not the Olympian games, noble as they were, but the poets and sculptors and philosophers who uttered her thoughts. The original of the Discobolus must have been a winner,-I can imagine Athenian mothers lifting up their beautiful bare babies to see the hero over the heads of the throng,-but who can tell me his name to-day? Meanwhile the name of Myron has been guarded as a talisman of civilization.

We shall not look in the sporting columns, then, for the names of contemporary Americans who are likely to secure us a place of honor on the scrolls of history. We look under the current book reviews, in theatre programmes, in the announcements of art galleries. As a by-product of such a search we announce the discovery that the prizefighters seem to be near cousins of certain Americans of turbulent notoriety in politics, themselves derived from one of the approved immigrant stocks of the "old" dispensation; while the singer and painter and writer folk very often hail from those parts of Europe at present labeled "undesirable" as a source of immigration. Nay, is it not a good joke on the restrictionists that an American singer who aspires to be a prima donna must trick herself out with a name borrowed from the steerage lists of recent arrivals at Ellis Island?

If it is the scum of Europe that we are getting in our present immigration, it seems to be a scum rich in pearls. Pearl-fishing, of course, is accompanied by labor and danger and expense, but it is reckoned a paying industry, or practical men would not invest their capital in it. The brunt of the business falls on the divers, however. Have we divers willing to go down into our human sea and risk an encounter with sharks and grope in the ooze at the bottom? We have our school teachers and librarians and social missionaries, whose zest for their work should shame us out of counting the cost of our human fishery. As to the accumulations of empty shells, we are told that in the pearl fisheries of South America about one oyster in a thousand yields a pearl; and yet the industry goes on.

The lesson of the oyster bank goes further still. We know that the nine hundred and ninety-nine empty shells have a lining, at least, of mother-of-pearl. We are thus encouraged to look for the generic opalescence of humanity in the undistinguished mass of our immigrants. What do the aliens show of the specific traits of manhood that go to the making of good citizens? Immersed in the tide of American life, do their spiritual secretions give off that fine lustre of manhood that distinguished the noble Pilgrims of the first immigration? The genius of the few is obvious; the group virtue of the mass on exalted occasions, such as popular uprisings, has been sufficiently demonstrated. What we want to know now is whether the ordinary immigrant under ordinary circumstances comes anywhere near the type we have taken as a model.

There can be no effective comparison between the makers of history of a most romantic epoch and the venders of bananas on our own thrice-commonplace streets. But the Pilgrims were not always engaged in signing momentous compacts or in effecting a historic landing. In a secondary capacity they were immigrants-strangers come to establish themselves in a strange land-and as such they may profitably be used as a model by which to measure other immigrants.

The historic merit of their enterprise aside, the virtue of the Pilgrim Fathers was that they came not to despoil, but to build; that they resolutely turned their backs on conditions of life that galled them, and set out to make their own conditions in a strange and untried world, at great hazard to life and limb and fortune; that they asked no favors of God, but paid in advance for His miracles, by hewing and digging and ploughing and fighting against odds; that they respected humankind, believed in themselves, and pushed the business of the moment as if the universe hung on the result.

The average immigrant of to-day, like the immigrant of 1620, comes to build-to build a civilized home under a civilized government, which diminishes the amount of barbarity in the world. He, too, like that earlier newcomer, has rebelled against the conditions of his life, and adventured halfway across the world in search of more acceptable conditions, facing exile and uncertainty and the terrors of the untried. He also pays as he goes along, and in very much the same coin as did the Pilgrims; awaiting God's miracle of human happiness in the grisly darkness of the mine, in the fierce glare of the prairie ranch, in the shrivelling heat of coke-ovens, beside roaring cotton-gins, beside blinding silk-looms, in stifling tailor-shops, in nerve-racking engine-rooms,-in all those places where the assurance and pride of the State come to rest upon the courage and patience of the individual citizen.

There is enough of peril left in the adventure of emigration to mark him who undertakes it as a man of some daring and resource. Has civilization smoothed the sea, or have not steamships been known to founder as well as sailing vessels? Does not the modern immigrant also venture among strangers, who know not his ways nor speak his tongue nor worship his God? If his landing is not threatened by savages in ambush, he has to run the gauntlet of exacting laws that serve not his immediate interests. The early New England farmer used to carry his rifle with him in the fields, to be ready for prowling Indians, and the gutter-merchant of New York to-day is obliged to carry about the whole armory of his wits, to avert the tomahawk of competition. No less cruel than Indian chiefs to their white captives is the greedy industrial boss to the laborers whom poverty puts at his mercy; and how could you better match the wolves and foxes that prowled about the forest clearings of our ancestors than by the pack of sharpers and misinformers who infest the immigrant quarters of our cities?

Measured by the exertions necessary to overcome them, the difficulties that beset the modern immigrant are no less formidable than those which the Pilgrims had to face. There has never been a time when it was more difficult to get something for nothing than it is to-day, but the unromantic setting of modern enterprises leads us to underestimate the moral qualities that make success possible to-day. Undoubtedly the pioneer with an axe over his shoulder is a more picturesque figure than the clerk with a pencil behind his ear, but we who have stood up against the shocks of modern life should know better than to confuse the picturesque with the heroic. Do we not know that it takes a man to beat circumstances, to-day as in the days of the pioneers? And manliness is always the same mixture of courage, self-reliance, perseverance, and faith.

Inventions have multiplied since the days of the Pilgrims, but which of our mechanical devices takes the place of the old-fashioned quality of determination where obstacles are to be overcome? The New England wilderness retreated not before the axe, but before the diligence of the men who wielded the axe; and diligence it is which to-day transmutes the city's refuse into a loaf for the ragpicker's children. Resourcefulness-the ability to adjust the means to the end-enters equally in the subtle enterprises of the business man and in the hardy exploits of the settler; and it takes as much patience to wait for returns on a petty investment of capital as it does to watch the sprouting of an acre of corn.

Hardiness and muscle and physical courage were the seventeenth-century manifestations of the same moral qualities which to-day are expressed as intensity and nerve and commercial daring. Our country being in part cultivated, in part savage, we need citizens with the endowment of the twentieth century, and citizens with the pioneer endowment. The "new" immigration, however interpreted, consists in the main of these two types. Whether we get these elements in the proportion best suited to our needs is another question, to be answered in its place. At this point it is only necessary to admit that the immigrant possesses an abundance of the homely virtues of the useful citizen in times of peace.

We arrived at this conclusion by a theoretical analysis of the qualities that carry a man through life to-day; and that was fair reasoning, since the great majority of aliens are known to make good, if not in the first generation, then in the second or the third. Any sociologist, any settlement worker, any census clerk will tell you that the history of the average immigrant family of the "new" period is represented by an ascending curve. The descending curves are furnished by degenerate families of what was once prime American stock. I want no better proof of these facts than I find in the respective vocabularies of the missionary in the slums of New York and the missionary in the New England hills. At the settlement on Eldridge Street they talk about hastening the process of Americanization of the immigrant; the country minister in the Berkshires talks about the rehabilitation of the Yankee farmer. That is, the one assists at an upward process, the other seeks to reverse a downward process.

Right here, in these opposite tendencies of the poor of the foreign quarters and the poor of the Yankee fastnesses, I read the most convincing proof that what we get in the steerage is not the refuse, but the sinew and bone of all the nations. If rural New England to-day shows signs of degeneracy, it is because much of her sinew and bone departed from her long ago. Some of the best blood of New England answered to the call of "Westward ho!" when the empty lands beyond the Alleghanies gaped for population, while on the spent farms of the Puritan settlements too many sons awaited the division of the father's property. Of those who were left behind, many, of course, were detained by habit and sentiment, love of the old home being stronger in them than the lure of adventure. Of the aristocracy of New England that portion stayed at home which was fortified by wealth, and so did not feel the economic pressure of increased population; of the proletariat remained, on the whole, the less robust, the less venturesome, the men and women of conservative imagination.

It was bound to be so, because, wherever the population is set in motion by internal pressure, the emigrant train is composed of the stoutest, the most resourceful of those who are not held back by the roots of wealth or sentiment. Voluntary emigration always calls for the highest combination of the physical and moral virtues. The law of analogy, therefore, might suffice to teach us that with every shipload of immigrants we get a fresh infusion of pioneer blood. But theory is a tight-rope on which every monkey of a logician can balance himself. We practical Americans of the twentieth century like to feel the broad platform of tested facts beneath our feet.


The fact about the modern immigrant is that he is everywhere continuing the work begun by our pioneer ancestors. So much we may learn from a bare recital of the occupations of aliens. They supply most of the animal strength and primitive patience that are at the bottom of our civilization. In California they gather the harvest, in Arizona they dig irrigation ditches, in Oregon they fell forests, in West Virginia they tunnel coal, in Massachusetts they plant the tedious crops suitable to an exhausted soil. In the cities they build subways and skyscrapers and railroad terminals that are the wonder of the world. Wherever rough work and low wages go together, we have a job for the immigrant.

The prouder we grow, the more we lean on the immigrant. The Wall Street magnate would be about as effective as a puppet were it not for the army of foreigners who execute his schemes. The magic of stocks and bonds lies in railroad ties and in quarried stone and in axle grease applied at the right time. A Ha

rriman might sit till doomsday gibbering at the telephone and the stock exchange would take no notice of him if a band of nameless "Dagos" a thousand miles away failed to repair a telegraph pole. New York City is building an aqueduct that will surpass the works of the Romans, and the average New Yorker will know nothing about it until he reads in the newspapers the mayor's speech at the inauguration of the new water supply.

Our brains, our wealth, our ambitions flow in channels dug by the hands of immigrants. Alien hands erect our offices, rivet our bridges, and pile up the proud masonry of our monuments. Ignoring in this connection the fact that the engineer as well as the laborer is often of alien race, we owe to mere muscle a measure of recognition proportionate to our need of muscle in our boasted material progress. An imaginative schoolboy left to himself must presently catch the resemblance between the pick-and-shovel men toiling at our aqueducts and the heroes of the axe and rifle extolled in his textbooks as the "sturdy pioneers." Considered without prejudice, the chief difference between these two types is the difference between jean overalls and fringed buckskins. Contemporaneousness takes the romance out of everything; otherwise we might be rubbing elbows with heroes. Whatever merit there was in hewing and digging and hauling in the days of the first settlers still inheres in the same operations to-day. Yes, and a little extra; for a stick of dynamite is more dangerous to handle than a crowbar, and the steam engine makes more widows in a year than ever the Indian did with bloody tomahawk and stealthy arrow.

There is no contention here that every fellow who successfully passes the entrance ordeals at Ellis Island is necessarily a hero. That there are weaklings in the train of the sturdy throng of foreigners nobody knows better than I. I have witnessed the pitiful struggles of the unfit, and have seen the failures drop all around me. But no bold army ever marched to the field of action without a fringe of camp-followers on its flanks. The moral vortex created by the enterprises of the resolute sucks in a certain number of the weak-hearted; and this is especially true in mass movements, where the enthusiasm of the crowd ekes out the courage of the individual. If it is not too impious to suggest it, may there not have been among the passengers of the Mayflower two or three or half a dozen who came over because their cousins did, not because they had any zest for the adventure?

When we remember that the Pilgrim Fathers came with their families, we may be very sure that that was the case, because the different members of a family are seldom of the same moral fibre. No doubt the austere ambitions of the voyagers of the Mayflower made them stern recruiting masters, but our knowledge of men in the mass forbids the assumption that they were all heroes of the first rank who stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock.

I have little sympathy with declaimers about the Pilgrim Fathers, who look upon them all as men of grand conceptions and superhuman foresight. An entire ship's company of Columbuses is what the world never saw.

It takes a wizard critic like Lowell to chip away the crust of historic sentiment and show us our forefathers in the flesh. Lowell would agree with me that the Pilgrims were a picked troop in the sense that there was an immense preponderance of virtue among them. And that is exactly what we must say of our modern immigrants, if we judge them by the sum total of their effect on our country.

Not a little of the glory of the Pilgrim Fathers rests on their own testimony. Our opinion of them is greatly enhanced by the expression we find, in the public and private documents they have left us, of their ideals, their aims, their expectations in the New World. Let us judge our immigrants also out of their own mouths, as future generations will be sure to judge them. And in seeking this testimony let us remember that humanity in general does not produce one oracle in a decade. Very few men know their own hearts, or can give an account of the impulses that drive them in a particular direction. We put our ears to the lips of the eloquent when we want to know what the world is thinking. And what do we get when we sift down the sayings of the spokesmen among the foreign folk? An anthem in praise of American ideals, a passionate glorification of the principles of democracy.

Let it be understood that the men and women of exceptional intellect, who have surveyed the situation from philosophical heights, are not trumpeting forth their own high dreams alone. If they have won the ear of the American nation and shamed the indifferent and silenced the cynical, it is because they voiced the feeling of the inarticulate mob that welters in the foreign quarters of our cities. I am never so clear as to the basis of my faith in America as when I have been talking with the ungroomed mothers of the East Side. A widow down on Division Street was complaining bitterly of the hardships of her lot, alone in an alien world with four children to bring up. In the midst of her complaints the children came in from school. "Well," said the hard-pressed widow, "bread isn't easy to get in America, but the children can go to school, and that's more than bread. Rich man, poor man, it's all the same: the children can go to school."

The poor widow had never heard of a document called the Declaration of Independence, but evidently she had discovered in American practice something corresponding to one of the great American principles,-the principle of equality of opportunity,-and she valued it more than the necessaries of animal life. Even so was it valued by the Fathers of the Republic, when they deliberately incurred the dangers of a war with mighty England in defense of that and similar principles.


The widow's sentiment was finely echoed by another Russian immigrant, a man who drives an ice-wagon for a living. His case is the more impressive from the fact that he left a position of comparative opulence in the old country, under the protection of a wealthy uncle who employed him as steward of his estates. He had had servants to wait on him and money enough to buy some of the privileges of citizenship which the Russian Government doles out to the favored few. "But what good was it to me?" he asked. "My property was not my own if the police wanted to take it away. I could spend thousands to push my boy through the Gymnasium, and he might get a little education as a favor, and still nothing out of it, if he isn't allowed to be anything. Here I work like a slave, and my wife she works like a slave, too,-in the old country she had servants in the house,-but what do I care, as long as I know what I earn I got it for my own? I got to furnish my house one chair at a time, in America, but nobody can take it away from me, the little that I got. And it costs me nothing to educate my family. Maybe they can, maybe they can't go to college, but all can go through grammar school, and high school, too, the smart ones. And all go together! Rich and poor, all are equal, and I don't get it as a favor."

Better a hard bed in the shelter of justice than a stuffed couch under the black canopy of despotism. Better a crust of the bread of the intellect freely given him as his right than the whole loaf grudgingly handed him as a favor. What nobler insistence on the rights of manhood do we find in the writings of the Puritans?

Volumes might be filled with the broken sayings of the humblest among the immigrants which, translated into the sounding terms of the universal, would give us the precious documents of American history over again. Never was the bread of freedom more keenly relished than it is to-day, by the very people of whom it is said that they covet only the golden platter on which it is served up. We may not say that immigration to our country has ceased to be a quest of the ideal as long as the immigrants lay so much stress on the spiritual accompaniment of economic elevation in America. Nobly built upon the dreams of the Fathers, the house of our Republic is nobly tenanted by those who cherish similar dreams.

But dreams cannot be brought before a court of inquiry. A diligent immigration commission with an appropriation to spend has little time to listen to Joseph. A digest of its report is expected to yield statistics rather than rhapsodies. The taxpayers want their money's worth of hard facts.

But when the facts are raked together and boiled down to a summary that the business man may scan on his way to the office, behold! we are no wiser than before. For a host of interpreters jump into the seats vacated by the extinct commission and harangue us in learned terms on the merits and demerits of the immigrant, as they conceive them, after studying the voluminous report. That is, the question is still what it was before: a matter of personal opinion! The man with the vote realizes that he has to make up his mind what instructions to send to his representative in Congress on the subject of immigration. And where shall he, a plain, practical man, unaccustomed to interpret dreams or analyze statistics, find an index of the alien's worth that he can read through the spectacles of common sense?

There is a phrase in the American vocabulary of approval that sums up our national ideal of manhood. That phrase is "a self-made man." To such we pay the tribute of our highest admiration, justly regarding our self-made men as the noblest product of our democratic institutions. Now let any one compile a biographical dictionary of our self-made men, from the romantic age of our history down to the prosaic year 1914, and see how the smell of the steerage pervades the volume! There is a sign that the practical man finds it easy to interpret. Like fruits grow from like seeds. Those who can produce under American conditions the indigenous type of manhood must be working with the same elements as the native American who starts out a yokel and ends up a senator.

Focused under the microscope of theoretical analysis, or viewed through the spectacles of common sense, the average immigrant of to-day still shows the markings of virtue that have distinguished the best Americans from the time of the landing at Plymouth to the opening of the Panama Canal. But popular judgment is seldom based on a study of the norm, especially in this age of the newspaper. The newspaper is devoted to the portrayal of the abnormal-the shining example and the horrible example; and most men think they have done justice when they have balanced the one against the other, leaving out of account entirely the great mass that lies between the two extremes. And even of the two extremes, it is the horrible example that is more frequently brought to the attention of the public. Half a dozen Italians draw knives in a brawl on a given evening, and the morning newspapers are full of the story. On the same evening hundreds of Italians were studying civics in the night schools, inquiring for classics at the public library, rehearsing for a historical pageant at the settlement-and not a word about them in the newspapers. One Jewish gangster makes more "copy" than a hundred Jewish boys and girls who win honors in college. So also it is the business of the police to record the fact that a Greek was arrested for peddling without a license, while it is nobody's business to report that a dozen other Greeks chipped in their spare change to pay his fine. The reader of newspapers is convinced that the foreigners as a whole are a violent, vicious, lawless crowd, and the fewer we have of them the better.

Could the annual reports of libraries and settlements be circulated as widely as the newspapers, the American public would not be guilty of such errors of judgment. But who reads annual reports? The very name of them is forbidding! It becomes necessary, therefore, to explain the newspaper types that jump to the fore in every discussion of the immigrant.

First of all we must get a good grip on our sense of proportion. To speak of the immigrants as undesirable because a few of them throw bombs or live by gambling is about as fair as it would be for the world to call us Americans a nation of dissolute millionaires and industrial pirates because a Harry Thaw drank himself into an insane asylum and a Rockefeller swept a host of competitors to ruin.

But the bomb-thrower and the gambler are extremely undesirable. Look at the Black Hand outrages, look at the Rosenthal case!

Aye, I have looked, and I see plainly that these horrible examples are due to the same causes as any shining example that could be named. Each is the product of the qualities the immigrant brought with him and the opportunities he found here to exercise them. The law-abiding, ambitious immigrant who came here a beggar and worked himself into the ranks of the princes found his opportunity in our laws and customs, which enable the common man to make the most of himself. The blackmailer's opportunity was provided by the operation of corrupt politics, which removes police commissioners and impeaches governors for trying to enforce the law. The Rosenthal case brought forth Lieutenant Becker, and an investigation of the spread of the Black Hand terror discovers political bosses behind the scenes.(5) We have laws providing for the deportation of alien criminals. Why are they not always enforced? When we have found the broom that will sweep the political vermin from our legislatures, we shan't need to look around for a shovel to keep back the scum of Europe. The two will go together.

In the whole catalogue of sins with which the modern immigrant is charged, it is not easy to find one in which we Americans are not partners,-we who can make and unmake our world by means of the ballot. The immigrant is blamed for the unsanitary conditions of the slums, when sanitary experts cry shame on our methods of municipal house-cleaning. You might dump the whole of the East Side into the German capital and there would be no slums there, because the municipal authorities of Berlin know how to enforce building regulations, how to plant trees, and how to clean the streets. The very existence of the slum is laid at the door of the immigrant, but the truth is that the slums were here before the immigrants. Most of the foreigners hate the slums, and all but the few who have no backbone get out of them as fast as they rise in the economic scale. To "move uptown" is the dearest ambition of the average immigrant family.

If the slums were due to the influx of foreigners, why should London have slums, and more hideous slums than New York? No, the slum is not a by-product of the steerage. It is a sore on the social body in many civilized countries, due to internal disorders of the economic system. A generous dose of social reformation would do more to effect a cure than repeated doses of restriction of immigration.

A whole group of phenomena due to social and economic causes have been falsely traced, in this country, to the quantity and quality of immigration. Among these are the labor troubles, such as non-employment, strikes, riots, etc. England has no such immigration as the United States, and yet Englishmen suffer from non-employment, from riots and bitter strikes. Whom does the English workingman blame for his misery? Let the American workingman quarrel with the same enemy. If wage-cutting is a sin more justly laid at the door of the immigrant, a minimum wage law might put a stop to that.

The immigrant undoubtedly contributes to the congestion of population in the cities, but not as a chief cause. Congestion is characteristic of city life the world over, and the remedy will be found in improved conditions of country life. Moreover, the immigrant has shown himself responsive to direction away from the city when a systematic attempt is made to help him find his place in the country. There is the experience of the Industrial Removal Office of the Baron de Hirsch Foundation as a hint of what the Government might accomplish if it took a hand in the intelligent distribution of immigration. The records of this organization, dealing with a group of immigrants supposed to be especially addicted to city life, kill two immigrant myths at one stroke. They prove that it is possible to direct the stream of immigration in desired channels and that the Jew is not altogether averse to contact with the soil; both facts contrary to popular notions.

A good deal of anti-immigration feeling has been based on the vile conditions observed in labor camps, by another turn of that logic which puts the blame on the victims. A labor camp at its worst is not an argument against immigration, but an indictment of the brutality of the contractor who cares only to force a maximum of work out of the workmen, and cares nothing for their lives; an indictment also of the Government that allows such shameful exploitation of the laborers to go on. That a labor camp does not have to be a plague spot has been gloriously demonstrated by Goethals at Panama. What Goethals did was to emphasize the man in workingman, with the result that Panama during the vast operations of digging the Canal was a healthier, happier, more inspiring place to live in than many of our proudest cities; the workmen came away from the job better men and better citizens; and the work was better done and with more dispatch and at less expense than any such work was ever done by the old-fashioned method, where the workers are treated not as men but as tools.

There may not be another Goethals in the country, but what a great man devises little men may copy. The labor camp must never again be mentioned as a reproach to the immigrant who suffers degradation in it, or the world will think that we do not know the meaning of the medals which we ourselves have hung on Goethals's breast.

Immigrants are accused of civic indifference if they do not become naturalized, but when we look into the conditions affecting naturalization we wonder at the numbers who do become citizens. Facilities for civic education of the adult are very scant, and dependent mostly on the fluctuating enthusiasm of private philanthropies. The administration of the naturalization laws differs from State to State and is accompanied by serious material hindrances; while the community is so indifferent to the civic progress of its alien members that it is possible for a foreigner to live in this country for sixteen years, coming in contact with all classes of Americans, without getting the bare information that he may become a citizen of the United States if he wants to. Such a case, as reported by a charity worker of New Britain, Connecticut, makes a sensitive American choke with mortification. If we were ourselves as patriotic as we expect the immigrant to be, we would employ Salvation Army methods to draw the foreigner into the civic fold. Instead of that, we leave his citizenship to chance-or to the most corrupt political agencies.

I would rather not review the blackest of all charges against the immigrant, that he has a baleful effect on municipal politics: I am so ashamed of the implications. But sensible citizens will talk and talk about the immigrant selling his vote, and not know whom they are accusing. Votes cannot be sold unless there is a market for them. Who creates the market for votes? The ward politician, behind whom stands the party boss, alert, and powerful; and behind him-the indifferent electorate who allow him to flourish.

Among immigrants of the "new" order, the wholesale prostitution of the ballot is confined to those groups which are largely subjected to the industrial slavery of mining and manufacturing communities and construction camps. These helpless creatures, in their very act of sinning, bear twofold witness against us who accuse them. The foreman who disposes of their solid vote acquires his power under an economic system which delivers them up, body and soul, to the man who pays them wages, and turns it to account under a political system which makes the legislature subservient to the stock exchange. But let it be definitely noted that to admit that groups of immigrants under economic control fall an easy prey to political corruptionists is very far from proving any inherent viciousness in the immigrants themselves.

Neither does the immigrant's civic reputation depend entirely on negative evidence. New York City has the largest foreign population in the United States, and precisely in that city the politicians have learned that they cannot count on the foreign vote, because it is not for sale. A student of New York politics speaks of the "uncontrollable and unapproachable vote of the Ghetto." Repeated analyses of the election returns of the Eighth District, which has the largest foreign population of all, show that "politically it is one of the most uncertain sections" in the city. Many generations of campaign managers have discovered to their sorrow that the usual party blandishments are wasted on the East Side masses. Hester Street follows leaders and causes rather than party emblems. Nowhere is the art of splitting a ticket better understood. The only time you can predict the East Side vote is when there is a sharp alignment of the better citizens against the boss-ridden. Then you will find the naturalized citizens in the same camp with men like Jacob Riis and women like Lillian Wald. And the experience of New York is duplicated in Chicago and in Philadelphia and in every center of immigration. Ask the reformers.

How often we demand more civic virtue of the stranger than we ourselves possess! A little more time spent in weeding our own garden will relieve us of the necessity of counting the tin cans in the immigrant's back yard.

As to tin cans, the immigrants are not the only ones who scatter them broadcast. How can we talk about the foreigners defacing public property, when our own bill-boards disfigure every open space that God tries to make beautiful for us? It is true that the East Side crowds litter the parks with papers and fruit-skins and peanut shells, but they would not be able to do so if the park regulations were persistently enforced. And in the mean time the East Side children, in their pageants and dance festivals, make the most beautiful use of the parks that a poet could desire.

There exists a society in the United States the object of which is to protect the natural beauties and historical landmarks of our country. Who are the marauders who have called such a society into being? Who is it that threatens to demolish the Palisades and drain off Niagara? Who are the vulgar folk who scrawl their initials on trees and monuments, who chip off bits from historic tombstones, who profane the holy echoes of the mountains by calling foolish phrases through a megaphone? The officers of the Scenic and Historic Preservation Society are not watching Ellis Island. On the contrary, it was the son of an immigrant whose expert testimony, given before a legislative committee at Albany, helped the Society to save the Falls of the Genesee from devastation by a power company. This same immigrant's son, on another occasion, spent two mortal hours tearing off visiting-cards from a poet's grave-cards bearing the names of American vacationists.

Some of the things we say against the immigrants sound very strange from American lips. We speak of the corruption of our children's manners through contact with immigrant children in the public schools, when all the world is scolding us for our children's rude deportment. Finer manners are grown on a tiny farm in Italy than in the roaring subways of New York; and contrast our lunch-counter manners with the table-manners of the Polish ghetto, where bread must not be touched with unwashed hands, where a pause for prayer begins and ends each meal, and on festival occasions parents and children join in folk-songs between courses!

If there is a corruption of manners, it may be that it works in the opposite direction from what we suppose. At any rate, we ourselves admit that the children of foreigners, before they are Americanized, have a greater respect than our children for the Fifth Commandment.

We say that immigrants nowadays come only to exploit our country, because some of them go back after a few years, taking their savings with them. The real exploiters of our country's wealth are not the foreign laborers, but the capitalists who pay them wages. The laborer who returns home with his savings leaves us an equivalent in the products of labor; a day's service rendered for every day's wages. The capitalists take away our forests and water-courses and mineral treasures and give us watered stock in return.

Of the class of aliens who do not come to make their homes here, but only to earn a few hundred dollars to invest in a farm or a cottage in their native village, a greater number than we imagine are brought over by industrial agents in violation of the contract labor law. Put an end to the stimulation of immigration, and we shall see very few of the class who do not come to stay. And even as it is, not all of those who return to Europe do so in order to spend their American fortune. Some go back to recover from ruin encountered at the hands of American land swindlers. Some go back to be buried beside their fathers, having lost their health in unsanitary American factories. And some are helped aboard on crutches, having lost a limb in a mine explosion that could have been prevented. When we watch the procession of cripples hobbling back to their native villages, it looks more as if America is exploiting Europe.

O that the American people would learn where their enemies lurk! Not the immigrant is ruining our country, but the venal politicians who try to make the immigrant the scapegoat for all the sins of untrammeled capitalism-these and their masters. Find me the agent who obstructs the movement for the abolition of child labor, and I will show you who it is that condemns able-bodied men to eat their hearts out in idleness; who brutalizes our mothers and tortures tender babies; who fills the morgues with the emaciated bodies of young girls, and the infirmaries with little white cots; who fastens the shame of illiteracy on our enlightened land, and causes American boys to grow up too ignorant to mark a ballot; who sucks the blood of the nation, fattens on its brains, and throws its heart to the wolves of the money market.

The stench of the slums is nothing to the stench of the child-labor iniquity. If the foreigners are taking the bread out of the mouth of the American workingman, it is by the maimed fingers of their fainting little ones.

And if we want to know whether the immigrant parents are the promoters or the victims of the child labor system, we turn to the cotton mills, where forty thousand native American children between seven and sixteen years of age toil between ten and twelve hours a day, while the fathers rot in the degradation of idleness.

From all this does it follow that we should let down the bars and dispense with the guard at Ellis Island? Only in so far as the policy of restriction is based on the theory that the present immigration is derived from the scum of humanity. But the immigrants may be desirable and immigration undesirable. We sometimes have to deny ourselves to the most congenial friends who knock at our door. At this point, however, we are not trying to answer the question whether immigration is good for us. We are concerned only with the reputation of the immigrant-and incidentally with the reputation of those who have sought to degrade him in our eyes. If statecraft bids us lock the gate, and our national code of ethics ratifies the order, lock it we must, but we need not call names through the keyhole.

Mount guard in the name of the Republic if the health of the Republic requires it, but let no such order be issued until her statesmen and philosophers and patriots have consulted together. Above all, let the voice of prejudice be stilled, let not self-interest chew the cud of envy in full sight of the nation, and let no syllable of willful defamation mar the oracles of state. For those who are excluded when our bars are down are exiles from Egypt, whose feet stumble in the desert of political and social slavery, whose hearts hunger for the bread of freedom. The ghost of the Mayflower pilots every immigrant ship, and Ellis Island is another name for Plymouth Rock.

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