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home country. From the point of view solely of immediate economic gain our country has been profited by their coming. On the other hand, this profit is much greater in the case of a man of the same degree of productivity, provided he takes an interest in this country, invests his savings here, becomes identified with our institutions, and, expecting this to be the permanent home of himself and his children, plans his work and directs his hopes so as to bring about the best results for the future. In any attempt to make a distinction between the various races of immigrants or the various classes industrially, this factor of permanency should be considered a very important one. Naturally, aside from the question as to the physical or mental or moral qualities of the persons involved, their purpose modifies profoundly the results of their residence here.
ABILITY TO SPEAK ENGLISH
Naturally the ease with which people adapt themselves to American institutions will depend largely upon the readiness with which they master the English language and the likeness of their home institutions to ours. For these reasons the immigrants of the old immigration-especially, of course, those from Great Britain, Ireland, and the British colonies-have a decided advantage.
The Need of a Detailed Study
So important are all these characteristics, as well as some others, that detailed consideration must be given to them in order to see how far the different races have adapted themselves to American ways, and what further measures need to be taken. This is attempted in the subsequent discussion.
SOCIAL PROBLEMS OF RECENT IMMIGRATION
Difficulty of Special Studies
Many persons who have spoken and written of late years in favor of restriction of immigration, have laid great stress upon the evils to society arising from immigration. They have claimed that disease, pauperism, crime and vice have been greatly increased through the incoming of the immigrants. Perhaps no other phase of the question has aroused so keen feeling, and yet perhaps on no other phase of the question has there been so little accurate information.
It is doubtful whether the increased number of convictions for crime are found because more crimes are committed, or because our courts and the police are more active. It is probable that we hear more of vice and immorality in these late days, not because they are on the increase, but because people's consciences have become more sensitive, and in consequence greater efforts are made to suppress them.
It is certain that the injurious effect of most contagious diseases has been very greatly lessened, and yet it is probable that we hear more regarding contagious diseases now than ever before because we have become more watchful.
The data regarding contagious diseases, pauperism, and crime, in connection with the immigrants, are extremely meager and unsatisfactory; but the Immigration Commission made the best use possible of
such data as exist, and it was able to institute a number of inquiries which, tho limited in extent, nevertheless have served to throw some light upon the relation of immigration to these various social problems. Altho it seems probable that the injurious social effects of immigration have been greatly exaggerated in the minds of many persons, nevertheless it would be practically impossible to exaggerate the social importance that might attach to immigration under certain conditions. History and observation afford numberless examples.
It is a generally accepted fact that, up to the time of the visitation of the Pacific Islands by diseased sailors from Europe in the early part of the last century, venereal diseases, as known in Europe and America, did not exist in those islands, and that their introduction by only a few sailors was largely responsible for the ravages of these terrible diseases, unchecked by any medical knowledge, that swept away in many instances a large proportion of the entire population.
The entrance of an evil-minded man into a village community, or one or two foul-minded boys into a school, is often enough to affect materially the entire tone of the school or community. It is important, therefore, that as careful consideration as possible be given to these questions that have been so emphasized, and that rigid measures be taken to check whatever evils may have arisen.
In earlier days neither the Federal Government nor State governments had passed any laws to protect the
* Cf. for details, reports of Immigration Commission, Vol. 39; also Chapter XVI.
United States against the immigration of undesirable persons of whatever kind. Even the energetic action of those promoting the so-called "Native American" or "Know Nothing" movements, from 1835 to 1860, resulted in no protective legislation. Indeed, these movements were largely based on opposition to the immigration of Catholics rather than to that of persons undesirable for other reasons. In 1836 the Secretary of State was requested to collect information respecting the immigration of foreign paupers and criminals. In 1838 the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives was instructed to consider the expediency of providing by law against the introduction. into the United States of vagabonds and paupers deported from foreign countries. Moreover, a bill, presented on the recommendation of the Committee, proposed a fine of $1,000, or imprisonment for from one to three years, for any master who took on board his vessel, with the intention of transporting to the United States, any alien passenger, who was an idiot, lunatic, one afflicted with any incurable disease, or one convicted of an infamous crime. The bill, however, was not considered. The early "Native American" movement had been local, confined to New York City at first, afterward spreading to Philadelphia, but in 1852 the secret oath-bound organization that took the name of the American Party, the members of which were popularly called the Know Nothings, came into national politics, and for a few years exerted not a little power, carrying nine State elections in 1855. Later, in something of a reaction against this "Know Nothing" movement, which finally proposed only the exclusion of foreign paupers and criminals, there was a definite effort made to encourage immigration.
In 1864, on the recommendation of President Lincoln, a bill encouraging immigration was passed. In 1866 a joint resolution condemned the action of Switzerland and other nations in pardoning persons convicted of murder and other infamous crimes on condition that they would emigrate to the United States, and in 1868 the encouraging act was repealed.
Some of the States had provided for the collection of money to support immigrants who had become public charges; but these laws were finally declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, and in 1882 the first Federal Immigration Law was approved. This forbade convicts, except political offenders, lunatics, idiots, and persons likely to become public charges, to land. During the following years there was considerable agitation for further restriction or regulation, which culminated in 1888 in the selection of the "Ford Committee" by the House of Representatives. In the testimony before the committee it was shown that sometimes immigrants coming by steamer to Quebec, within forty-eight hours of their arrival, applied for shelter in the alms houses of the State of New York, and like cases of gross abuse existed by the thousands.
No further legislation, however, was enacted until 1891, when a bill was passed which added to the excluded classes persons suffering from a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease, and polygamists, but from that time on there has been an earnest effort to protect the United States against such undesirable immigrants. In Chapter XVI a more detailed study of these acts will be given.