MoboReader > Literature > They Who Knock at Our Gates

   Chapter 5 THE FIERY FURNACE No.5

They Who Knock at Our Gates By Mary Antin Characters: 38666

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, . . . Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet . . . ye fall down and worship the image that I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O, Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Dan. iii, 14–18.

In the discussion of the third question,-whether immigration is good for us,-more honest Americans have gone astray than in the other two divisions. Let it be said at the outset that those who have erred have been about equally distributed between the ayes and the nays. For the answer to this question is neither aye nor nay, but something that cannot be put into a single syllable. If we steer our way cautiously between the opposing ranks, the light of the true answer will presently shine on us.

The arguments they severally advance in defense of their respective positions reveal an appalling number of citizens on each side of the house who have entirely disregarded the principles involved. Those who, like the labor-union lobbyists, point to the empty dinner-pails of American workingmen as a reason for keeping out foreign labor, are no more at fault than the lobbyists of the opposite side, who offer in support of the open-door policy statistics showing the need of rough laborers in various branches of our current material development. All of them are wrong in that they would treat our foreign brothers as pawns on the chessboard of our selfish needs. Show me a million American workingmen out of work, and I fail to see a justification for the exclusion of a million men from other lands who are also looking for a job. Does the mother of an impoverished family strangle half her brood in order that the other half may have enough to eat? No; she divides the last crust equally among her starvelings, and the laws of nature do the rest.

This analogy, of course, is a vessel without a bottom unless the gospel of the brotherhood of man is accepted as a premise of our debate. The only logic it will hold is the logic of a practical incarnation of the theories we loudly applaud on occasions of patriotic excitement. That ought to be acceptable both to the poor men who like to parade the streets with the Stars and Stripes at the head of the column and the Marseillaise on their lips, and to the rich men who subscribe generously to soldiers' and sailors' monument funds, and who ransack ancient chronicles to establish their connection with the heroes of the Revolution. Let the paraders and the ancestor-worshipers unite in a practical recognition of the rights of their belated brothers who are seeking to enter the kingdom of liberty and justice, and they will have given a living shape to the sentiment they symbolically honor, each in his own way.

I am not content if the labor leaders retire from the lobby when all the mills are running full time and shop foremen are scouring the streets for "hands." It is no proof of our sincerity that we are indifferent in times of plenty as to who it is that picks up the crumbs after we have fed. They only are true Americans who, remembering that this country was wrested from the English in the name of the common rights of humanity, resist the temptation to insure their own soup-kettles by patrolling the national pastures and granaries against the hungry from other lands. Share and share alike is the motto of brotherhood.

But who will venture to preach such devotion to principle to the starved and naked and oppressed? Why, I, even I, who refuse to believe that the American workingman is past answering the call of a difficult ideal, no matter what privations are gnawing at his vitals. I have read in the history books that when Lincoln issued his call for volunteers, they came from mills and factories and little shops as promptly as from counting-rooms and college halls. Fathers of large families that looked to him for bread kissed their babies and marched off to the war, taking an elder son or two with them. Were they all aristocrats whose names are preserved on four thousand gravestones at Gettysburg? And who were they who went barefoot in the snow and starved with Washington in Valley Forge? The common people, most of them, the toilers for daily bread, they who give all when they give aught, because they have not enough to divide.

They only mark themselves as calumniators of the poor who protest that times and men have changed since Washington's and Lincoln's day; who think that the breed of heroes died out with the passing of the Yankee farmer and the provincial townsman of the earlier periods. Shall not the testimony of a daughter of the slums be heard when the poor are being judged? I was reared in a tenement district of a New England metropolis, where the poor of many nations contended with each other for a scant living; and the only reason I am no longer of the slums is because a hundred heroes and heroines among my neighbors fought for my release. Not only the members of my family, but mere acquaintances put their little all at my disposal. Merely that a dreamer among them might come to the fulfillment of her dream, they fed and sheltered and nursed me and cheered me on, again and again facing the wolves of want for my sake, giving me the whole cloak if the half did not suffice to save the spark of life in my puny body.

If my knowledge of the slums counts for anything, it counts for a positive assurance that the personal devotion which is daily manifested in the life of the tenements in repeated acts of self-denial, from the sharing of a delicacy with a sick neighbor to the education of a gifted child by the year-long sacrifices of the entire family, is a spark from the smouldering embers of idealism that lie buried in the ashes of sordid existence, and await but the fanning of a great purpose to leap up into a flame of abstract devotion.

Times have changed, indeed, since the days of Washington. His was a time of beginnings, ours is a time ripe for accomplishment. And yet the seed the Fathers sowed we shall not reap, unless we consecrate ourselves to our purpose as they did,-all of us, the whole people, no man presuming to insult his neighbor by exempting him on account of apparent weakness. The common people in Washington's time, and again in Lincoln's time, stood up like men, because they were called as men, not as weaklings who must be coddled and spared the shock of robust moral enterprise. Not a full belly but a brimming soul made heroes out of ploughboys in '76. The common man of to-day is capable of a like transformation if pricked with the electric needle of a lofty appeal. Those who are teaching the American workingman to demand the protection of his job against legitimate alien competition are trampling out the embers of popular idealism, instead of fanning it into a blaze that should transfigure the life of the nation.


Idealism of the finest, heroism unsurpassed, are frequently displayed in the familiar episodes of the class war that is going on before our eyes, under unionistic leadership. But it is a narrowing of the vision that makes a great mass of the people adopt as the unit of human salvation the class instead of the nation. The struggle which has for its object the putting of the rapacious rich in their place does not constitute a full programme of national progress. If labor leaders think they are leading in a holy war, they should be the last to encourage disrespect of the principles of righteousness for which they are fighting. It is inconsistent, to put it mildly, to lead a demonstration against entrenched capital on one day, and the next day to head a delegation in Congress in favor of entrenched labor. Is there anything brotherly about a monopolization of the labor market? Substituting the selfishness of the poor for the selfishness of the rich will bring us no nearer the day of universal justice.

Though I should not hesitate to insist on a generous attitude toward the foreigner even if it imposed on our own people all the hardships which are alleged to be the result of immigration, I do not disdain to point out the fact that, when all is said and done, there is enough of America to go around for many a year to come. It is hard to know whether to take the restrictionists seriously when they tell us that the country is becoming overcrowded. The population of the United States is less than three times that of England, and England is only a dot on our map. In Texas alone there is room for the population of the whole world, with a homestead of half an acre for every family of five, and a patch the size of Maryland left over for a public park. A schoolboy's geography will supply the figures for this pretty sum.

The over-supply of labor is another myth of the restrictionist imagination that vanishes at one glance around the country, which shows us crops spoiling for want of harvesters, and women running to the legislature for permission to extend their legal working-day in the fields; such is the scarcity of men. Said ex-Secretary Nagel, commenting upon the immigration bill which was so strenuously pushed by the restrictionists in the Sixty-third Congress, only to be vetoed by President Taft:-

In my judgment no sufficiently earnest and intelligent effort has been made to bring our wants and our supply together, and so far the same forces that give the chief support to this provision of the new bill [a literacy test, intended to check the influx of cheap labor] have stubbornly resisted any effort looking to an intelligent distribution of new immigration to meet the needs of our vast country. [And] no such drastic measure [as the literacy test] should be adopted until we have at least exhausted the possibilities of a rational distribution of these new forces.

Distribution-geographical, seasonal, occupational; that should be our next watch-word, if we are bent on applying our vast resources to our needs. It cannot be too often pointed out that a nation of our political confession is bound to try every other possible solution of her problems before resorting to a measure that encroaches on the rights of humanity. And so far are we from exhausting the possibilities of internal reform that even the most obvious economic errors have not been corrected. It is not good sense nor good morals to keep men at work twelve and thirteen hours a day, seven days in the week, as they do, for example, in the paper-mills. It is bad policy to use women in the mills; it is heinous to use the children. Every one of those over-long jobs should be cut in two; the women should be sent back to the nursery, and the children put to school, and able-bodied men set in their places.

If such a programme, consistently carried out throughout the country, still left considerable numbers unemployed, there is one more remedy we might apply. We might chain to the benches in the city parks, where involuntary idlers now pass the day, all the agents and runners who move around Europe at the expense of steamship companies, labor contractors, and mill-owners. We must stop the importation of labor, not talk about stopping it.

To refrain from soliciting immigration is a very different thing from imposing an arbitrary check on voluntary immigration, and gives very different results. The class of men who are lured across the ocean by the golden promises of labor agents are not of the same moral order as those who are spurred to the great adventure by a desire to share in our American civilization. When we restrain the runners, we rid ourselves automatically of the least desirable element of immigration,-the hordes of irresponsible job-hunters without family who do not ask to be steered into the current of American life, and whose mission here is accomplished when they have saved up a petty fortune with which to dazzle the eyes of peasant sweethearts at home. It is this class that contributes, through its ignorance and aloofness, the bulk of the deplorable phenomena which are quoted by restrictionists as arguments against immigration in general. But we must go after them by the direct method, applying the force of the law to the agents who rout them out of their native villages. When we attempt to weed out this one element by indirect methods, such as the oft-proposed literacy test, we are guilty of the folly of discharging a cannon into the midst of the sheepfold with the object of killing the wolf.

If through such a measure as the literacy test the desired results could be insured, we should still be loath to adopt it until every other possible method had been tried. To hit at labor competition through a pretended fear of illiteracy is a tricky policy, and trickery is incompatible with the moral dignity of the American nation. Are we bankrupt in statesmanship that we must pawn the jewel of national righteousness? It required no small amount of ingenuity to find a connection between the immigrant's ability to earn a wage and his inability to read. If the resourceful gentlemen who invented the literacy test would concentrate their talents on the problem of stopping the stimulation of immigration, we should soon hear the last of the over-supply of cheap labor. Where there's a will there's a way, in statecraft as in other things.

It is not enough for the integrity of our principles to scrutinize the ethical nature of proposed legislation. It must be understood in general that whoever asks for restrictive measures as a means of improving American labor conditions must prove beyond a doubt, first, that the evils complained of are not the result of our own sins, and next, that the foreign laborer on coming to America has not exchanged worse conditions for better. The gospel of brotherhood will not let us define our own good in terms of indifference to the good of others.

Preaching selfishness in the name of the American workingman is an insidious way of shutting him out from participation in the national mission. If it is good for the nation to live up to its highest traditions, it cannot be bad for any part of the nation to contribute its share toward the furtherance of the common ideal. For we are not a nation of high and low, where the aristocracy acts and the populace applauds. If America is going to do anything in the world, every man and woman among us will have a share in it.

Objection to the influx of foreign labor is sometimes based on a theory the very opposite of the scarcity of work. Some say that there is altogether too much work being done in this country-that we are developing our natural resources and multiplying industries at a rate too rapid for wholesome growth; and to check this feverish activity it is proposed to cut off the supply of labor which makes it possible.

I doubt, in the first place, if it is reasonable to expect a young nation with half a continent to explore to restrain its activity, as long as there are herculean tasks in sight, any more than we would expect a boy to walk off the diamond in the middle of the game. Or if it is thought best to slacken the speed of material progress, the brakes should be applied at Wall Street, not at Ellis Island. The foreign laborer is merely the tool in the hands of the promoter, indispensable to, but not responsible for, his activities. The workmen come in after the promoter has launched his scheme. At least, I have never heard of a development company or industrial corporation organized for the purpose of providing jobs for a shipload of immigrants. That species of philanthropy our benevolent millionaires have not hit on as yet.

It is because the brutal method is the easiest that we are advised to confiscate the tools of industry in order to check the rate of material development. The more dignified way would be to restrain the captains of industry, by asserting our authority over our own citizens in matters affecting the welfare of the nation. An up-to-date mother, desiring that her little boy should not play with the scissors, would be ashamed to put them on a high shelf: she would train the boy not to touch them though they lay within his reach. Why should the assemblage of mothers and fathers who constitute the nation show less pride about their methods than a lone woman in the nursery?

* * *

Outside the economic field, fear of the immigrant is perhaps oftenest expressed in the sociological anxiety concerning assimilation. The question is raised whether so many different races, products of a great variety of physical and moral environments, can possibly fuse into a harmonious nation, obedient to one law, devoted to one flag. Some people see no indication of the future in the fact that race-blending has been going on here from the beginning of our history, because the elements we now get are said to differ from us more radically than the elements we assimilated in the past.

To allay our anxiety on this point, we have only to remind ourselves that none of the great nations of Europe that present such a homogeneous front to-day arose from a single stock; and the differences between peoples in the times of the political beginnings of Europe were vastly greater than the differences between East and West, North and South, to-day. Moreover, the European nations were assorted at the point of the sword, while in America the nations are coming together of their own free will; and who can doubt that the spiritual forces of common education, common interests and associations are more effective welding agents than brute force?

Doubts as to the assimilative qualities of current immigration do not exist in the minds of the workers in settlements, libraries, and schools. These people have a faith in the future of the strangers that is based on long and intimate experience with foreigners from many lands. When they are dealing with the normal product of immigration, the people who come here following some dim star of higher destiny for their children, the social missionaries are jubilantly sure of the result; and face to face with the less promising material of the labor camps, where thousands are brought together by the lure of the dollar and are kept together by the devices of economic exploitation, the missionaries are still undaunted. They have discovered that sanitation is a remedy for the filth of the camp; that a spelling-book will make inroads on the ignorance of the mob; that a lecture hall will diminish the business of the saloon and the brothel; that substituting neighborly kindness for brutal neglect will fan to a glow the divine spark in the coarsest natures. And then there is the Goethals way of managing a labor camp.

The remedy for the moral indigestion which unchecked immigration is said to induce is in enlarging the organs of digestion. More

evening classes, more civic centers, more missionaries in the field, and above all more neighborly interest on the part of the whole people. If immigration were a green apple that we might take or leave, we might choose between letting the apple alone or eating it and following it up with a dose of our favorite household remedy. But immigration consists of masses of our fellow men moving upon our country in pursuit of their share of human happiness. Where human rights are involved, we have no choice. We have to eat this green apple,-the Law of the Fathers enjoins it on us,-but we have only ourselves to blame if we suffer from colic afterwards, knowing the sure remedy.

There is no lack of resources, material or spiritual, for carrying out our half of the assimilation programme. We have money enough, brains enough, inspiration enough. The only reason the mill is grinding so slowly is that the miller is overworked and the hopper is choked. We are letting a few do the work we should all be helping in. At the settlements, devoted young men and women are struggling with classes that are too large, or turning away scores of eager children, and their fathers and mothers, too, because there are not enough helpers; and between classes they spend their energies in running down subscribers, getting up exhibitions to entice the rich men of the community to come and have a look at their mission and drop something in the plate.

But why should there be a shortage of helpers at the settlement? Have not the rich men sons and daughters, as well as check-books? What are those young people doing, dancing the nights away in ballrooms and roof-gardens, season after season, year after year? They should be down on their knees washing the feet of the pilgrims to the shrine of liberty, binding up the wounds of the victims of European despotism, teaching their little foreign brothers and sisters the first steps of civilized life.

Is it preposterous to ask that those who have leisure and wealth should give of these stores when they are needed in the chief enterprise of the nation? In what does patriotism consist if not in helping our country succeed in her particular mission? Our mission-the elevation of humanity-is one in which every citizen should have a share, or he is not an American citizen in the spiritual sense. The poor must give of their little-the workingman must not seek to monopolize the labor market; and the rich must give of their plenty-their time, their culture, their wealth.

Certain texts in the restrictionist teachings are as insulting to our well-to-do citizens as is the labor-monopoly preachment to the classes who struggle for a living. The one assumes that the American workingman puts his family before his country; the other-the cry that we cannot assimilate so many strangers-implies that the country's reservoirs of wealth and learning and unspent energy are monopolized by the well-to-do for their own selfish uses. We know what schools and lectures and neighborhood activities can do to promote assimilation. We cannot fail if we multiply these agencies as fast as the social workers call for them. The means for such extension of service are in the hands of the rich. Whoever doubts our ability to assimilate immigration doubts the devotion of our favored classes to the country's cause.

Upon the rich and the poor alike rests the burden of the fulfillment of the dream of the Fathers, and they are poor patriots who seek to lift that burden from our shoulders instead of teaching us how to bear it nobly. Fresh from the press, there lies on my table, as I write, a review of an important work on immigration, in which the reviewer refers to the "sincere idealists who still cling to the superstition that it is opposition to some predestined divine purpose to suggest the rejection of the 'poor and oppressed.'" It is just such teaching as that, which discards as so much sentimental junk the ideas that made our great men great, that is pushing us inch by inch into the quagmire of materialism. If it is true that our rich care for nothing but their ease, and our poor have no thought beyond their daily needs, it is due to the fact that the canker of selfishness is gnawing at the heart of the nation. The love of self, absorption in the immediate moment, are vices of the flesh which fastened on us during the centuries of our agonized struggle for brute survival. The remedy that God appointed for these evils, the vision of our insignificant selves as a part of a great whole, whose lifetime is commensurate with eternity, the materialists would shatter and throw on the dump of human illusions.

Who talks of superstition in a world built on superstition? Civilization is the triumph of one superstition after another. At the very foundation of our world is the huge superstition of the Fatherhood of God. In a time when the peoples of the earth bowed down to gods of stone, gods of wood, gods of brass and of gold, what more incomprehensible superstition could have been invented than that of an invisible, omnipresent Creator who made and ruled and disciplined the entire universe? One nation ventured to adopt this superstition, and that nation is regarded as the liberator of humanity from the slavery of bestial ignorance. Out of that initial superstition followed, in logical sequence, the superstition of the Brotherhood of Man, spread abroad by a son of the venturesome race; succeeded by a refinement of the same notion, the idea that the Father has no favorite children, but allots to each an equal portion of the goods of His house. That is democracy, the latest superstition of them all, the cornerstone of our Republic, and the model after which all the nations are striving to pattern themselves.

* * *

Side by side in our public schools sit the children of many races, ours and others. Week by week, month by month, year by year, the teachers pick out the brightest pupils and fasten the medals of honor on their breasts; and a startling discovery brings a cry to their lips: the children of the foreigners outclass our own! They who begin handicapped, and labor against obstacles, leave our own children far behind on the road to scholarly achievement. In the business world the same strange phenomenon is observed: conditions of life and work that would prostrate our own boys and girls, these others use as a block from which to vault to the back of prancing Fortune. In private enterprises or public, in practical or visionary movements, these outsiders exhibit an intensity of purpose, a passion of devotion that do not mark the normal progress of our own well-cared-for children.

What is the galvanizing force that impels these stranger children to overmaster circumstances and bestride the top of the world? Is there a special virtue in their blood that enables them to sweep over our country and take what they want? It is a special virtue, yes: the virtue of great purpose. The fathers and mothers of these children have not weaned them from the habit of contemplating a Vision. They teach them that, in pursuit of the Vision, bleeding feet do not count. They tell them that many morrows will roll out of the lap of to-day, and they must prepare themselves for a long and arduous march.

That is the reading of the riddle, and if we do not want to be shamed by the newcomers in our midst, we must silence those sophisticated teachers of the people who ridicule or pass over with a smile the idea that we, as a nation, are in pursuit of a Vision, and that those things are good for us which further our quest, and the rest-even to bleeding feet-do not count with us. It is the obliteration of the Vision that causes the emptiness in the lives of our children which they are driven to fill up with tinsel pleasures and meaningless activities of all sorts. The best blood in the world is in their veins,-the blood of heroes and martyrs, of dreamers and doers,-filtered through less than half a dozen generations. If they do not arise and do great deeds all around us, it is because their noble blood is clogged in their veins through the infiltrations of materialism in the teachings of the day.

For such an inconsequential whim as that men should be free to pray in any way they choose, the Pilgrim Fathers betook themselves to a wilderness peopled with savages, preferring to die by the tomahawk rather than submit to clerical authority. The free admission of immigrants is not half so rash an adventure, and the thing to be gained by it is a more obvious good than that of freedom of worship. Even a child can understand that it is better for human beings, be they Russians or Italians or Greeks, to get into a country where there is enough to eat and enough to wear, where nobody is permitted to abuse anybody else, and where story-books are given away, than it is to live in countries where starvation and cruel treatment is the lot of multitudes.

No man worthy of the name will deny that moral paralysis is a worse evil than congestion of the labor market, and moral paralysis creeps on us whenever we throw down the burden of duty to recline in the lap of comfort. We shall see no prodigies in the ranks of our children as long as we are ruled by the calculating commercial spirit which takes nothing on faith, which spurns as impracticable whatever is not easily negotiable, and repudiates our debt to the past as something too fantastic for serious consideration. Before the present era of prosperity set in, a scoffer who would brand as superstition the ideas for which our forefathers died would not have spoken with the expectation of being applauded, as he does to-day. Worldly things, like comfort, position, security, and what is called success, have absorbed our attention to such a degree that some of us have forgotten that there is any good save the good of the flesh. Possessions have crowded out aspirations, the applause of the world has become more necessary than the inner satisfactions, and the whole horizon of life is filled with the glaring bulk of an overwhelming prosperity.

No wonder a prophet like Edward Everett Hale was moved to pray before his assembled congregation, "Deliver us, O Lord! from our terrible prosperity." He saw what the worship of fleshly good did to our children: how it stripped from them the wings of higher ambition, and shackled their feet, that should be marching on to the conquest of spiritual worlds, with the weight of false successes. "Deliver us, O Lord! from our terrible prosperity," that our children may have burdens to lift, that they may learn to clutch at things afar, and their sight grow strong with gazing after visions. "Deliver us, O Lord! from our terrible prosperity," that simplicity of life may strip from us all sophistication, till we learn to honor the dreamers in our midst, and our prophets have a place in the councils of the nation.

* * *

Not the good of the flesh, but that of the spirit is the good we seek. If it is good for the soul of this nation that we should walk in the difficult path our Fathers trod, harkening only to the inner voice, never pausing to hear the counsels of cold prudence, then assuredly it is good for us to lift up the burdens of welcoming and caring for our brothers from other lands, thus putting into fuller use the instrument of democracy the Fathers invented,-our Republic, founded to promote liberty and justice among men.

Or if we despise the omens, refuse to take up the difficult task where our predecessors left off, what awaits us? If we persist in pampering ourselves as favorite children, and bedeck ourselves with prosperity's coat of many colors, how long will it be before the less favored brethren, covetous of our superabundance, will strip us and sell us into the bondage of decadence? Immigration on a large scale into every country as thinly populated as ours must go on, will go on, as long as there are other countries with denser populations and scantier resources for sustaining them. Right through history, the needy peoples have gone in and taken possession of the fat lands of their neighbors. Formerly these invasions were effected by force; nowadays they are largely effected by treaties, laws, international understandings. But always the tide flows from the lands of want to the lands of plenty. Nature is behind this movement; man has no power to check it permanently. We in America may, if we choose, shut ourselves up in the midst of our plenty and gorge till we are suffocated, but that will only postpone the day of a fair division of our country's riches. We shall grow inert from fullness, drunk with the wine of prosperity, and presently some culminating folly, such as every degenerate nation sooner or later commits, will leave us at the mercy of the first comers, and our spoils will be divided among the watchers outside our gates.

These things will not happen in a day, nor in a generation, nor in a century, but have we no care for the days that will follow ours? When we talk about providing for to-morrow, let us, in the name of all the wisdom that science has so laboriously amassed, think of that distant to-morrow when the things we now do will have passed into history, to stand for the children of that time either as a glorious example or a fearful warning. If we settle the immigration question selfishly, we shall surely pay the penalty for selfishness. And the rod will smite not our own shoulders, but the shoulders of countless innocents of our begetting.

The law that the hungry shall feed where there is plenty is not the only one which we defy when we turn away the strangers now at our gates. A narrow immigration policy is in opposition also to a primary law of evolution, the law of continuous development along a given line until a climax is reached. Now the evolution of society has been from small isolated groups to larger intermingling ones. In the beginning of political history, every city was a world unto itself, and labored at its own salvation behind fortified walls that shut out the rest of the world. Presently cities were merged into states, states united into confederacies, confederacies into empires. Peoples at first unknown to each other even by name came to pass in and out of each other's territories, merging their interests, their cultures, their bloods.

This process of the removal of barriers, begun through conquests, commerce, and travels, is approaching completion in our own era, through the influences of science and invention. "The world is my country" is a word in many a mouth to-day. East and West hold hands; North and South salute each other. There remain a few ancient prejudices to overcome, a few stumps of ignorance to uproot, before all the nations of the earth shall forget their boundaries, and move about the surface of the earth as congenial guests at a public feast.

This, indeed, will be the proof of the ancient saying, "He hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth." It is coming, inevitably it is coming. We in America are in a position to hasten the climax of the drama of unification. If, instead of hastening it, we seek to delay it, we step aside from the path of the world's progress.

America is not God's last stand. That which is to be is conditioned by what has been. Sometime, somewhere, the Plan that the centuries have brooded over will come perfect out of the shell of Time. I am not afraid that humanity will stop short of its inevitable climax, but I am so jealous for the glory of my country that I long to have America retain the leadership which she has held so nobly for a while. I desire that the mantle of the New England prophets should rest on the shoulders of our own children.

Of the many convincing arguments that have been advanced in support of the proposition that immigration is good for us, I shall quote only one, in the words of Grace Abbott, of Chicago, when she sums up a study of eleven immigrant nationalities from southern and eastern Europe. "It was the faith in America and not the occasional criticism that touched me most," she writes, referring to the sayings of the foreigners. "I felt then, as I have felt many times when I have met some newcomer who has expected a literal fulfillment of our democratic ideals, that fortunately for America we had great numbers who were coming to remind us of the 'promise of American life,' and insisting that it should not be forgotten."

All the rest of the arguments-utilitarian, humanitarian, and scientific-I willingly omit. For I do not want the immigrant to be admitted because he can help us dig ditches and build cities and fight our battles in general. I beg that we make this a question of principle first, and of utility afterwards. Whether immigration is good for us or not, I am very certain that the decadence of idealism is bad for us, and that is what I fear more than the restrictionist fears the immigrant.

It should strengthen us in our resolution to abide by the Law of the Fathers-the law of each for all, and all for each-if we find that the movement of democracy to which they imparted such a powerful impulse appears to be in the direct path of social evolution. But even if such omens were lacking I should still pray for strength to cling to the ideal which is defined in the opening words of the Declaration of Independence. For I perceive that here, in the trial at Ellis Island, we are put to the test of the fiery furnace. It was easy to preach democracy when the privileges we claimed for ourselves no alien hordes sought to divide with us. But to-day, when humanity asks us to render up again that which we took from the English in the name of humanity, do we dare to stand by our confession of faith? Those who honor the golden images of self-interest and materialism threaten us with fearful penalties in case we persist in our championship of universal brotherhood. They are binding our hands and feet with the bonds of selfish human fears. The fiery glow of the furnace is on our faces-and the world holds its breath.

* * *

Once the thunders of God were heard on Mount Sinai, and a certain people heard, and the blackness of idolatry was lifted from the world. Again the voice of God, the Father, shook the air above Bunker Hill, and the grip of despotism was loosened from the throat of panting humanity.

Let the children of the later saviors of the world be as faithful as the children of the earlier saviors, and perhaps God will speak again in times to come.


The Riverside Press


U . S . A

(1) Lucien Wolf, Legal Sufferings of the Jews in Russia.

(2) See The Jews in America, by Rev. Madison C. Peters.

(3) See Article by Achad Ha'am, American Hebrew, June 21, 1907.

(4) March, 1913.

(5) See The Outlook, August 16, 1913; article by Frank Marshall White.

Transcriber's Note:

The following is a list of corrections made to the original. The first passage is the original passage, the second the corrected one.

Page v:



Page v:



Page 127:

our agonzied struggle for brute survival. The

our agonized struggle for brute survival. The

Footnote 3:

June, 21, 1907.

June 21, 1907.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top