Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/379

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375
DISCUSSION AND CORRESPONDENCE

DISCUSSION AND CORRESPONDENCE.

THE EFFECTS OF IMMIGRATION ON HOMICIDE

Under this heading, Mr. Maynard Shipley has presented extensive statistical material, in the August number of The Popular Science Monthly, to prove the undesirable character of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe, as compared with those from its northern and western countries and, by inference, with native-born Americans. While 1 do not wish to impugn the good faith of his investigations, he manipulates the figures which he quotes in so remarkable a manner as to justify the belief that he has approached his subject with preconceived notions, which have blinded him to some of the pitfalls in so serious an inquiry. I do not wish to whitewash the immigrants, but merely to point out Mr. Shipley's errors, hoping earnestly that more careful methods may prevail in the study of large masses of our present population, if it is to guide our legislators in the adoption of a policy toward immigration. If the foreigner is to be kept out, let it be done frankly on the score of racial prejudice, but do not seek to blacken his character by the use of ill-digested statistics.

The gravest defect in Mr. Shipley's presentation is the continuous shifting of basis, without attempting to make corresponding corrections. Sometimes figures are given for homicide as a total; at others we have the division into murder and manslaughter. Presently, I shall show why manslaughter must necessarily be on the increase in American court records; hence statistics which do not distinguish it from intentional homicide are valueless as showing a criminal tendency of the population. All Mr. Shipley's comparisons that tell most severely against the recent immigrant fail to make the distinction. Manslaughter is practically the unintentional killing of a human being by another, and it is the charge upon which a man would be held, whose careless handling of machinery caused death; the introduction of cable-cars and trolleys enormously increased the number of fatal street accidents; as have the erection of steel-framed buildings, with the coincident abandonment of fixed scaffolding, the use of power-hoists, the employment of dynamite in excavating, enhanced the dangers of building operations. Did he take these developments into account? Did he realize that the man arrested for such an 'accident' was, nine times out of ten, an 'ignorant foreigner,' whom the greed of a native-born American entrusted with dangerous implements, without providing him with adequate safeguards in their use?

Again, in Table II., homicide is studied according to the nationality of the people killed in San Francisco, with the intention of proving the criminality of the Chinese by their relatively large mortality by violence. 1 admit the truth of the argument that the murderer and his victim are apt to belong to the same race; in fact a sardonic member of the Immigration Restriction League might classify such homicidal tendency among the 'undesirables' as a redeeming virtue. But, for rigid statistical purposes, Mr. Shipley has overshot the mark. His own figures show that 65 out of 100,000 Chinamen in the United States were accused of murder in the year when 75 per 100,000 were being killed; are