Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/236

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
230
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE AMERICAN'S DISTRUST OF THE IMMIGRANT.
By Dr. A. J. McLAUGHLIN,
U. S. PUBLIC HEALTH AND MARINE HOSPITAL SERVICE.

OPPOSITION to immigrants is not new. Even in the convention that framed the Constitution a minority looked with distrust at the alien. A little later came the Alien Act of John Adams's administration. Again, in 1812, the Hartford Convention proclaimed 'The stock population of these states is amply sufficient to render this nation in due time sufficiently great and powerful.' During the discussion of the bill to establish the territorial governments of Kansas and Nebraska, Senator John M. Clayton, of Delaware, introduced in the Senate an amendment confining the elective franchise to native Americans; but, although some prominent statesmen warmly favored the measure, sense of justice and a prudent regard for the national welfare triumphed over narrow race prejudice, and the amendment was lost. In the debate on the bill dealing with preemption rights of settlers on public lands, approved May 29, 1830, Senator Merrick, of Maryland, offered an amendment barring aliens from such rights; but again there were enough clear heads and broad minds to prevent the measure from becoming a law. Finally, in the early fifties, opposition to the alien culminated in the Know-Nothing movement, when misguided fanatics, actuated by insane jealousy of foreigners, not only discriminated against all aliens, but attempted actual persecution.

By 1855, however, the immigrant had proved his usefulness and opposition lessened. He had convinced the intelligent American that he was not a menace, but an indispensable upbuilding force. From this time, therefore, up to a few years ago, he was subject to little or no restriction on entering our ports. It is fortunate for our growth that the immigrant of those early years was of a caliber vastly superior to that of the immigrant of to-day. To-day the immigrants are mostly of other stock than were those who gave us their brawn and muscle and indomitable courage to conquer a wilderness. It was national economy to avail ourselves of their services. They cut down the forests, dug the canals, and built the railroads, thus making our national life possible long before it could have existed without their assistance. These were the days when the immigrants were the German, the Irishman and the Scandinavian.

Of late there has been a rebirth of distrust of the immigrant. That this feeling exists and is even stronger than ever is attested by