Popular Science Monthly/Volume 75/December 1909/Immigration and the Future American Race

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THE people of the thirteen colonies, the builders of the American Union, were almost exclusively of the Anglo-Saxon race. The immigration which set in after the war of independence and continued during the greater part of the nineteenth century, was composed of people not dissimilar from those early colonists. They came from the British Isles, Scandinavia, Germany and the smaller Teutonic countries. But during the last twenty-five years the number of immigrants from those regions has steadily decreased and has now sunk to very small numbers, while the immigration from Italy, Hungary, Greece and Russia has increased from year to year during the same period of time, and, of late years, has assumed truly enormous proportions. Thus while the earlier immigrants were of a reasonably homogeneous race, almost entirely of Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic origin, just enough leavened with Celtic elements to quicken the phlegmatic pulse of that cold northern race, the majority of the immigrants that landed on our shores during the last quarter of a century, are quite dissimilar in their origin, language, customs and religion from the original settlers of the American Union.

It is claimed by some writers that all these various races, which are now forming the population of the United States, will, in the course of time, fuse together and produce a new and superior type of people. Other writers go still farther; they assert that the immense numbers of this later immigration will overwhelm this country and, in the course of a few generations, supplant the original stock of Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic settlers.[1] Both these views are erroneous. It is impossible, as we shall see, that a general intermixture throughout this mighty empire can take place, much less will the later immigrants be able to supplant the descendants of those sturdy pioneers who first settled the vast prairies and fertile valleys of this great republic.

There are so many and so varied types among these later immigrants, and they are generally so much inferior to the native American population, that such a mixture would not be desirable. Herbert Spencer, Gobineau and others have pointed out that a mixture of races, very dissimilar, produces an inferior type of people. History bears out this view. The modern peoples that dwell in the Mediterranean basin present to-day a greater mixture of dissimilar races than any country on the globe, yet these regions, once the center of civilization, have certainly not produced a superior type of humanity. If the mixture of two races of equal vigor, energy and civilization, but very dissimilar in their racial make-up, produces an inferior people, much less can the fusion of several races, some of which are of a very inferior civilization, produce a fair type of humanity.[2] It is the purpose of this article to show that no general mixture of the original Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic stock with the various heterogeneous elements of the later immigration will take place. We shall see that these later arrivals settle almost entirely in the large cities, and that they will there, in the course of a few generations, be eliminated in the great struggle of modern industrial and commercial life. But first we must get acquainted with the history and character of the various races which form the present population of the United States.

Broadly speaking, we have two great classes of immigrants, those that came before about the year 1885 and those that came after that year. The native home of the former was northwestern Europe and the bulk of them belongs to the so-called Teutonic, or Scandinavian, or northern blond race; the latter came from the Mediterranean basin and eastern Europe, and present a number of racial types.

The Scandinavian or Teutonic race was divided into a number of barbarian tribes when the Romans first made their acquaintance. These tribes lived in Scandinavia, northern Germany and on the islands of the Baltic Sea. Full of vigor and countless in numbers, they began to make invasions into the territories of the Roman Empire, and though frequently defeated by Roman science and discipline, they never gave up until, during the fifth century, they overran all the western provinces of the great empire and founded new states and new nations in the regions they conquered. All the modern nations of western Europe are more or less a mixture of the original Celto-Roman inhabitants with these northern conquerors; but as the latter were far in the minority, the Teutonic blood has, in the course of many centuries, been more or less eliminated; only the aristocracies of these countries, avoiding intermarriage with the subject races, preserve to this day the characteristics of their northern forefathers. This race exists to-day in its greatest purity only in Scandinavia, in northwestern Germany and in England.[3] Its chief physical characteristics are blond hair, a fair complexion, tall stature and especially a distinctly dolichocephalic shape of the head. Now as Ripley justly remarks,[4] this longheadedness does not ipso facto imply a strong character, or superior mental power. The negroes, the Spaniards, the Sicilians are dolichocephalic without showing any intellectual superiority.[5] But this particular long-headed northern race excelled and still excels by great mental qualities. It is the dominating race of modern times. It forms the ruling and predominating element in the three most powerful nations of the present day, England, Germany and the United States. Through the Anglo-Saxons, its most vigorous branch, it carried European civilization to the uttermost parts of the earth. The higher classes and the dynasties of the modern European nations belong to this northern race. Lapouge found that most of the great Frenchmen are of this type and are the descendants of the early Teutonic invaders.[6] The majority of the great Italians who, during the Renaissance, made northern Italy the most enlightened country in the world, were the descendants of the northern conquerors, who during the great migration settled in that part of Europe.[7] Likewise a close inquiry would probably show that the great thinkers and writers of middle and southern Germany, where the brachycephalic Alpine race forms the bulk of the population, are the descendants of the long-headed Teutons who settled among them. These northern peoples surpass all others in vigor, energy and self-control; they are aristocratic in their nature, domineering, oppressive to inferior races; but they are liberty-loving, have an innate love for law and order, and are above all other races capable of self-government; and it is certainly not accidental that all the branches of this race are protestants.

It is of descendants of this long-headed northern race that the great majority of the agricultural population of the United States is made up, and it is its very best elements that settled the American states. The people that founded the thirteen colonies belonged to the most energetic and most independent elements of old England. Only men of an indomitable courage and superior intellect would dare to brave the dangers of a distant and unknown country. Many left their homes on account of religious or political persecution; they stood above their fellow men in independence of thought and love of freedom. Thus by a process of natural selection only the best people of Old England came to settle the American colonies and to form the solid nucleus around which the great American nation was to form.[8] Of these early settlers only the most vigorous, the most intelligent, again survived; the weaker elements succumbing to the new conditions, the climate, the dangers of a new country.

After the war of independence came the Irish, the Germans, the Scandinavians, the Austrians, the Swiss. The Celtic colonists, coming from Ireland, Wales and parts of Scotland, mixed with the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic settlers. They have undoubtedly greatly modified the character of the American people. The American is less stolid, less phlegmatic than the Englishman; he is quicker, more nervous; in vivacity he approaches the mercurial Frenchman. The character of the American people was much less affected by the people who came from middle and southern Germany, from Austria and Switzerland, because these peoples are themselves the product of a mixture between the Teutonic conquerors and the brachycephalic Alpine race and were thus a less heterogeneous element than the Celtic immigrants. Here, too, a selective process was at work. It was still the days of the sailing vessel and the prairie schooner. Only the strongest, most energetic, most independent would undertake such a long, tedious and dangerous voyage. Ammon, in his most interesting study on the population of South-German cities, has shown that it is mostly the long-headed as the most energetic people who move from the rural districts to the cities. From this we may infer that the countries just mentioned sent principally this class of people across the ocean to mingle their blood with a kindred race.

The greater part of this earlier immigration belonged to the agricultural classes. Large numbers of families came from the rural districts of northern and central Europe in quest of new homes, where they might enjoy greater freedom and have larger opportunities, and where they might be enabled to leave their children a goodly inheritance. Only a comparatively small portion of these people established themselves in the large cities; the great bulk of them went west and settled, side by side with the pioneers from the eastern states, the broad and fertile prairies of the Mississippi Valley and the sunny slopes of the Pacific Coast. It is true, a general intermixture of the various branches of this northern race did not take place equably throughout the country. There are large territories in many states where certain nationalities established distinct and separate settlements. Extensive tracts in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Texas and other states were settled by Germans alone. The Swedes and Norwegians established their new homes mostly in the northwest. The purest Anglo-Saxon blood we find in the southern states. The Celtic immigrants formed nowhere large separate settlements; they are scattered equably all over the union. One important fact must be noted here. A very large portion of the people of Celtic origin did not settle in the rural districts, but established themselves in the great cities, in New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, etc., where, as we shall see later, they will disappear in the course of a few generations.

About the middle of the ninth decade of the last century an entirely new immigration began to set in. The new arrivals came from southern and eastern Europe, from Italy, Greece, Hungary, Bohemia, Russia. Hailing from an entirely different region of Europe, they differ completely in their racial characteristics from the earlier immigration. Considering only the head form, some of these people would show no marked difference from the Anglo-Saxon or Teuton. The Sicilians, the Neapolitans, the Greeks, are more or less dolichocephalic. But some anthropologists lay entirely too much stress on the headform. It is evident that purity of race is of far greater importance than the shape of the head. But these Mediterranean countries have probably the most mixed population of any region on the globe. This manifold intermixture began during the later periods of the Roman republic. The numerous prisoners taken in the many and frequent wars were sold as slaves in Italy and the provinces bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. Mommsen estimates the slave population of the Italian peninsula in the times of Sulla at twelve to fourteen millions, twice as numerous as the free population.[9] These slaves came from the most distant regions, and were mostly barbarians, in every respect dissimilar from the Roman people.

The island of Sicily presents perhaps the best example of this manifold intermixture of the Mediterranean peoples. In the earliest centuries Greek colonists came to establish their cities among the native Siculi. Later the Carthaginians and after them the Romans brought great numbers of slaves to the island. Goth and Vandal came and disappeared. The Saracens, themselves mixed with black blood, held the island nearly two hundred years, until the island was conquered by the Normans. All these races left their traces in the modern population of Sicily. But where once the great cities of Syracuse, Agrigentum, Segesta, flourished we find to-day ignorance, poverty, crime; here is the home of the Black Hand and the Mafia. The southern part of the Italian boot, the old kingdom of Naples, has almost the same history as Sicily, and the modern conditions there are not much different. The best portion of the Italian people are the brachycephalic North-Italians. It is these sturdy and energetic people who have brought about Italian unity. By their thriftiness, intelligence and love of law and justice they form the backbone of the Italian monarchy.[10] If we cross the Adriatic we find on the Balkan peninsula a mixture of peoples, a Völkergemisch, made up of hardly less numerous elements than the population of Italy. The Slavic race forms here a predominating element among a population greatly mixed in other ways. The modern Greeks are largely of Slavic origin. They are not the descendants of the ancient Greeks. That noble race, greatly mixed with barbarian blood during the middle ages, was almost completely destroyed in the course of the frequent uprisings against Turkish rule. Slavic immigrants gradually repeopled the country. The same intense mixture of different races we find in Asia Minor and Syria, countries which send considerable numbers of immigrants to our shores. The least mixed of all these races are the Slavs of Russia. Yet this people has little in common with the race that settled America. The Russians are behind all other nations of Europe in social and political development. The mass of the people is ignorant, servile, superstitious, and, according to the opinion of a close observer, unfit for self-government.[11]

The broad-headed Jews are not as pure a race as has commonly been supposed. They have been greatly mixed with the peoples among whom they lived. Especially is this true of the Russian and Polish Jews, who form such a large portion of the American immigrants. The best type of all these various peoples are probably the brachycephalic Hungarians. Though dissimilar from the other races of Europe, they possess valuable qualities; they ate preeminently an intellectual people and well fitted for self-government.[12]

These are the peoples from whom the later immigration to the United States is recruiting itself. All differ among themselves as much as they differ from the long-headed northern race, which occupies to-day the rural districts of the American Union. Not one of them has reached a high degree of civilization. They have not proved their capability of self-government. They are illiterate and differ in their religious beliefs, their languages and customs, from the Teutonic peoples. They are vivacious, restless, turbulent, and do not possess that respect for law and a well-regulated government which is inborn in the northern race. They bring rarely whole families with them.[13] No process of selection is now at work as in former days. A modern sea voyage has not the dangers and terrors of earlier times. The better and best people stay now at home and only the lower classes emigrate. A mixture of these races with the earlier immigrants could not possibly produce a superior people, as we sometimes read in newspaper articles; it would vitiate and deteriorate the American race, and might prepare for this nation the fate of the Roman empire.[14]

At the time when the immigrants from the south and east of Europe began to arrive in larger numbers on the American shore the vast tracts of public lands had, as we have seen, been occupied by the Anglo-Saxons and the other Teutonic peoples, mingled with considerable numbers of Celts. There were no large territories left where any great numbers of these newcomers could have settled. But these later immigrants are not agriculturally inclined; they would not settle in the country even if public lands were still accessible to them. They belong to the poorest classes, were mostly brought up in cities, and are not adapted to the cultivation of the soil. With the exception, perhaps, of the Poles an exceedingly small number of these later immigrants settle in the country.[15] The Russian Jew is a city dweller; the Greek and the Syrian stay in the cities; the Hungarian and the Slav take to mining; the Italians who do not follow mining or railroading prefer the large cities. Ripley asserts that four fifths of our foreign-born citizens live in the twelve principal cities of the country.[16] It is quite certain that the greater number of these are of the later immigration.

We have thus shown that the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic stock, mixed with Celtic elements, forms the rural population of the United States, while the greater portion of the population of the larger and largest cities is composed of the new immigration. It is a bold assumption that the United States is a "melting-pot" in which all the races of Europe are fused to a new race. A general intermixture of the old and the new immigrants can take place only in the large cities while the rural population, the backbone of the nation, will not be appreciably affected. This mixed city population will not persist for any length of time. It is a generally recognized fact that city populations have much less vitality than the agricultural classes. But the surprisingly rapid rate at which families in the cities die out was not known until the remarkable observations of Hansen, Amnion and others were made public.

In modern times the causes which contribute to the rapid destruction of the city population are much more potent than in the past. The cities are generally much larger and it is certain that the healthfulness of a city decreases as its size increases. It is true that sanitary measures are much more efficient than in former times, but it is also true that the destructive influences have grown in strength and new ones have appeared. The modern factory work, the poor housing conditions of the lower classes, tend to destroy life and weaken vitality. Race suicide is practised especially in the cities, while it is almost unknown among the country population. The struggle for existence is much severer in the cities; marriages are fewer; the mortality of children is greater. Prostitution, the curse of large cities, is an enemy to marriage and tends to shorten and destroy life by transmitting and spreading venereal diseases. To all this we must add the attractions of city life, the chase after pleasure, the constant excitement, the nervous strain, which are all hostile to the vitality of families.[17] Another cause of the rapid extinction of the city population lies in the very mixture of so many races. There is a biological law that hybrids do not tend to reproduce their kind. The fecundity of such a mixed population is appreciably lower than that of a pure race. Lapouge found that in those regions of France where the brachycephalic Alpine race has preserved a comparative purity the birth rate is much higher than in the districts where the race is greatly mixed with Teutonic blood. In the latter regions the birth rate is actually decreasing.[18]

It is evident that the lower classes, living under less favorable conditions than the well-to-do, are more subject to rapid extinction. But the higher classes are not exempt from this iron law. Various causes are mentioned for this fact. Marriages are contracted much later in life among the wealthy, and, as a rule, they have fewer children; the intellectual, life seems to be unfavorable to the fecundity of women. Race suicide is more common among the higher classes.[19] It is hardly necessary to mention that families of an extremely healthy stock, and living under the most favorable conditions, are able to continue their existence a much longer time. The remarkable vitality of the British aristocracy is due to their athletic habits and to the fact that they spend the greater part of the year on their estates in the country. Ammon holds that the aristocratic classes of the continent "have favorable prospects to perpetuate their family names only if they live on their estates and devote themselves to agriculture and the chase."[20]

The Jews seem to form an exception to what has just been said. They have been city dwellers from the time they left Palestine and began to overrun the countries of the earth. There can be no doubt that they are a very healthy race. In the struggle for existence, during the endless persecutions they had to undergo in every country and at all ages, only the strongest individuals survived. A process of natural selection thus produced a vigorous race. The frugal and sober habits and the faithful application of the sanitary precepts of the Mosaic code also contributed greatly to produce a healthy people. But these influences are much less at work in modern times. The vitality of the Jew will be greatly affected by modern city life as we find it in the city of New York, where the great bulk of the Jewish population in this country lives. Tuberculosis, the scourge of the white race, used to be rare among the Jews, but the unsanitary life in the "sweat-shops" of New York is also increasing its victims among this people.[21]

The rate at which city populations die out is much more rapid than one would ordinarily suppose. Recent researches have thrown much light on this process of elimination. Ammon, in his researches on the population of Carlsruhe and Freiburg (two comparatively small cities) established the fact that the city-born population decreases in the course of two generations from 100 per cent, to 29 and 15 per cent. He supposes that on an average the families who move from the country to a city die out in the course of two generations.[22] Hansen found that one half of the population of the German cities consists at all times of immigrants from the country districts, and he concludes from this fact that the city population renews itself completely in the course of two generations.[23] We may safely apply these results, which have been obtained for the German cities, to the great industrial and commercial centers of America, for conditions here are not more favorable to the maintenance of human life. We may assume, therefore, that the families that are now living in our large cities will, with few exceptions, die out in the course of two or three generations. It is only through the constant supply which the cities draw from the country that they are able to maintain and increase their population. If a modern city had to rely solely on its own natural increase, its population would steadily decline and finally shrink to an insignificant number. But if the disappearing portion of the American city population were constantly replenished by new immigration from Europe there would be no change in the actual conditions. However, the time is near at hand when the government of the United States will be compelled, for economic reasons, to close the gates to the great mass of poor immigrants from Europe. When that time comes the cities will have to rely exclusively on the country to replenish their dwindling population. Then the unceasing stream of people, which even now is constantly flowing from the country towards the towns, will reconquer the cities from that alien population which now holds them.[24] It is clear that the longer this process of conquering the cities by the rural population is going on the more thorough will be the elimination of the alien races. A few elements of the new immigration will doubtless persist and form a permanent part of the future American race, but they will be a desirable acquisition, for by the law of the survival of the fittest they must be considered a superior type of humanity.

We have thus shown that no general intermixture of the old with the new immigration will take place, and that instead of the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic settlers "are working for inferior races," who will some day displace them, the reverse is true. There is no doubt that these later immigrants, as laborers, have performed and are performing an important part in this country; they have contributed not a small part to the wealth of this nation.[25]

It was not the purpose of this article to minimize the disadvantages and dangers of this later immigration. The presence, in our large cities, of great numbers of these illiterate strangers, who neither understand nor sympathize with the political institutions of this country, is an impediment to municipal reform. So many of these heterogeneous people are now among us that it would be to the best interests of the country if congress, by suitable legislation, restricted immigration in such a manner as only to admit a small number and only the best elements of these heterogeneous races.

The negro, more dissimilar from the Anglo-Saxon than any other race, has purposely been omitted in this study. Though the negroes form a considerable portion of the agricultural population of a large section of the union, a mixture between the two races, as is the case in Latin America, will never take place. The Anglo-Saxon is too proud and too much bent on the preservation of his racial purity to admit of any such intermixture. He even rejects the mulatto who shows the slightest traces of black blood. The negro is physically and intellectually inferior to the white man; he is several thousand years behind the white race in his intellectual development and, as Huxley observed, will never be the equal of the white man. In the great struggle for existence which, in future centuries, will grow in intensity, the negro will be eliminated, "he will melt away before the breath of the white man as snow melts under a hot wind."[26] This is the probable solution of the negro problem in the United States. One of the chief means by which this process of elimination is hastened, is the marked tendency of the negro to leave the rural districts and to settle in the large cities, where he has much less chance of survival than the more energetic and thrifty white man.

  1. "The awful tragedy, forever repeating itself, of hero nations building lordly palaces in which servant races will some day pitch their gipsy camps, will also set in in America, and the descendants of the sturdy Old English and Teutonic pioneers, a race that is said to possess the finest long-heads and the heaviest brains, will have only worked for Magyars, Slavs, Italians and Negroes." Kraus, Polit.'Anthrop. Rev., Leipz., 906-7, V., 695.
  2. Macchioro ascribes the decline of the Roman empire to the great intermixture of the many dissimilar races within its borders, and especially on the Italian peninsula. The greater part of the population of Rome during Imperial times consisted of foreigners. Rome presented a similar picture to New York to-day. Polit.-Anthrop. Rev., Leipz., 1906-7, V., 557 et seq.
  3. Green, in his "History of the English People," holds that the Saxon invaders almost entirely destroyed or drove out the Celto-Roman inhabitants, and the ethnographical study of the modern English people certainly sustains him.
  4. Ripley, "Races of Europe," New York, 1899, 43.
  5. Some of the greatest men of history were brachycephalic. The hats of Napoleon I., which are still preserved, are almost circular.
  6. Rev. d'anthrop., Paris, 1887, XVI., 76.
  7. Woltman, Polit.-anthrop. Rev., Leipzig, 1905-6, IV., 197, and 1906-7, V., 244.
  8. England has for centuries sent out her best elements to colonize foreign regions, and if there is any truth in the assertion of some modern English writers that the British people is declining physically and intellectually, the fact that that wonderful country has for centuries been drained of its most valuable blood, would certainly not be one of its least causes. While her nearest relatives, the Germans, spent their best powers in fruitless internecine wars, England sent her best people into the most distant regions as the carriers of intellectual culture and Anglo-Saxon civilization; and should her power ever decline the famous boast of Macaulay will prove true. England's glory will never perish, her very spirit is taking a new birth in America, Australia and South Africa. These mighty colonies will bear witness of England's greatness in all future centuries.
  9. Mommsen, "Röm. Gesch.," 1857, II., 396. During the later times of the Republic the aristocratic classes acquired immense estates throughout Italy. They bought out or drove out the small landed proprietor and worked the land with slaves. The disappearance of the great middle class, the small landholders, was one of the chief causes of the downfall of the great, empire.
  10. The immigration from this region is much smaller than from southern Italy.
  11. Carl Schurz "Reminiscences," V., I.
  12. Ripley "Races of Europe" p.431
  13. Ripley, Atlantic Monthly, December, 1908. About 70 per cent, of these immigrants are males.
  14. To withstand and counteract the steadily growing power of the yellow races the American nation requires all the strength and unity of a homogeneous people.
  15. How few of these immigrants settle on public lands may be seen from a late announcement of the Chamber of Commerce of Spokane, Wash. (April, 1909). It shows that during fourteen months 106,000 new settlers established themselves in the states of Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. Of this number only 10,000 were immigrants from Europe and almost all of these came from Great Britain and the Teutonic countries.
  16. Atlantic Monthly, December, 1908. More than 800,000 Jews live in New York alone; most of them came to this country during the last twenty-five years.
  17. The U. S. Census of 1900 shows that the death rate in the cities of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Michigan, Maine and Vermont was 18.6 per thousand of population, while in the rural districts it was only 15.4 per thousand. Baker, Quart. Publ. Am. Statist. Ass., Boston, 1908, XI., 133.
  18. Rev. d'anthrop., Paris, 1887, XVI., pp. 74 and 526.
  19. "Ammon, "Natürl. Ausl.," p. 297.
  20. Ibid., p. 302.
  21. Jerusalem, Med. Blätter, Wien, 1909, XXXII., 181.
  22. "Ammon, "Natürl. Ausl.," p. 300.
  23. Hansen, "Drei Bevölkerungsstufen," 1889, p. 27.
  24. This is what one of the orators at the last Congress of Catholic Missionaries had in mind when he said that if the Catholics did not make headway in the country districts, the time was coming when their churches in the great cities would be empty. It is well known that most of the adherents of that denomination live in the great cities.
  25. Emerson, who certainly spoke with no cynical or mocking motive, did not hesitate to affirm that these laboring emigrants "have a good deal of guano in their destiny."
  26. Ammon, "Natürl. Ausl.," p. 325.