Popular Science Monthly/Volume 79/November 1911/The Crossing of the Races

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A Study of the General Principles governing the Successful Intermixture of Different Peoples, with Special Reference to the Question of Immigration into the United States.

THE question of racial amalgamation is almost as old as the race itself. For, not only the earliest traditions, but also the most ancient relics bear witness to the fact that extensive intermarriage of races had been brought about through commerce and war long before history had begun to unravel the tangled skein of man's wanderings.

The crossing between different tribes, which was commenced in prehistoric times, has been continued into our own era with ever increasing speed and complicity of results. For man has always been a migratory animal, and the improved changes in means of transportation and the ever-widening fields of commerce have increased rather than diminished this inborn tendency.

Looking over the world at large, and throughout all time, we see that the results of racial intermarriage have been exceedingly variable. Sometimes it has produced a better race. This is especially true when the crossing has been between different but closely allied stocks. The Englishman who has resulted from the commingling of so many Teutonic tribes with the native Briton and Celt, and the composite molded and directed by Roman culture, is perhaps the very best example of a good result from extensive crossing. Likewise the cross which has taken place in Ecuador, Mexico and Peru has produced a race not altogether hopeless so far as the future is concerned; for, however much it may have hurt the Spaniard, it certainly has improved the Indian immeasurably. It is not so much a question of the possibility of producing a vigorous cross race under favorable conditions, as it is a question of whether such a cross is, in itself, a desirable thing.

There are those who profess to believe that the incoming hordes of southern Europeans and the Alpine races will never mix their blood with us to any appreciable extent, and will always remain foreign in race as well as in ideals. Judged in the light of history, such an opinion is without firm foundation. It is not conceivable that the modern Greek, who is himself such a mixture of Serbo-groation, Slav and ancient Greek stock, can have any irrevocably inborn tendencies which will prevent him from eventually mating with our own people if given the opportunity. The German will marry any woman of any white race. The Italian will do the same. The Alpine races have intermarried to the north and south of them until their mental traits shade off almost imperceptibly into those of the German and Italian. As a general rule, marriage between different branches of the white races is not governed by laws essentially different from those governing individuals of the same branch. It is chiefly a question of proximity of the sexes and the lapse of sufficient time to make the mutual desires mutually understood.

The vital question is, whether this inevitable amalgamation is worth the fostering care and regulation of our government. The answer to this question depends altogether upon what will be the results of this immigrant blood upon our own individual selves and upon our social and political institutions.

In regard to the influence upon the individual physical type, we often hear it said that we are becoming a smaller and a darker race; that our average stature is less than it used to be, and that we are becoming dark eyed and dark haired, instead of the race of tall blonde we once were; and there is a tendency to blame the immigration of the last half century for this alleged change in physical characteristics. If such a change is taking place, it should be attributed to the influence of our climate rather than to the effect of blood admixture. The stature and complexion of a people seem to be determined, in the long run, more by the locality and climate in which they live than by any other influences, although it takes many generations for that physical type to be finally evolved which is best fitted to the climatic conditions of its particular locality. Once evolved, the type remains fairly constant for the given region. Judging the future by the past, we should not expect the tall blonds of northwestern Europe to permanently survive in the United States. There is scarcely a trace of the physical traits of the conquering northern hordes left upon the general mass of the population of Italy or the Alpine regions of Europe. The colony of Swedes which settled along the Delaware in our own country have entirely disappeared. The Scandinavian, according to Dr. Karlsen, who has made the subject a matter of special study, rapidly deteriorate, physically and mentally, under the changed climatic conditions which he encounters in his new home in the northwest of our own country, and no less an authority than Woodruff, believes that he will soon die out in the United States unless active measures are taken to offset the baneful influences of a climate to which he is temperamentally and physically unsuited.

In evolving the type of man physically fitted to best survive in a given locality, nature seems to work according to some mysterious laws entirely beyond human control. This is exemplified in the population of modern Egypt, where the mass of the people as represented by the villagers along the Nile and in the country districts, conform almost exactly in physical appearance to the colored portraits of the ancient Egyptians on the walls of the tombs of the kings of Thebes. In other words, 4,000 years of changing religions, ever-shifting political conditions, and the inroads of commerce and war with their continual introduction of alien blood have not served to materially alter that physical type, which, during the countless ages of prehistoric time, had been gradually evolved as best adapted to the climatic conditions of the valley of the Nile. It may then be concluded that the influence of immigration upon our physical type will, in the long run, be nil. That type of man best adapted physically to the climate and soil will, in the point of numbers, eventually predominate in spite of all restrictive legislation or man-made laws of any kind.

When we come to consider the question of the influence of racial amalgamation upon our habits of thought, upon our morals, and upon our institutions—upon our spiritual selves, we are confronted with a much graver problem, and one over which we have at least some little power of control. This is really the serious problem which we have to solve, for, after all, it is not so much difference of blood relations that produces enmity among the component peoples of a nation, as it is the difference of political and social ideals, and history is replete with instances where nations have lost their own peculiar form of civilization and political institutions on account of overwhelming alien influence. That the influence of the alien in the United States is enormous, and that it is becoming yearly more and more important, is an almost self-evident proposition.

In order to arrive at a fairly intelligent opinion as to whether or not this influx of foreign thought and social habit will ever change sufficiently to conform to our own standards, we should study the history of the nations from which it comes, and whose ideals it has already helped to form. Is there anything in the past history of the countries from which our immigrants are now being chiefly recruited to justify the belief that they will eventually sympathize with our political institutions and with those Anglo-Saxon habits of thought which we must insist upon as necessary to good citizenship in a great republic? A brief study of the leading alien type will demonstrate the principle upon which the research necessary to answer this question should be conducted.

Let us first consider the case of the Italian. Here we may be tempted to at once pass an unfavorable opinion on the ground that he is, by virtue of previous training and habits of thought, at entire variance with republican ideals. Such a judgment will be hasty and hardly warranted by the premises. When we remember what the Italian has accomplished for himself at home since 1820, when the first real agitation for a free and united Italy may have been said to have commenced, it should encourage us in the belief that he is capable of sustained and intelligent efforts for the common good.

Whereas Italy was once a conglomeration of petty states and absolute monarchies, torn by warring factors, and her people steeped in universal illiteracy, she now, through her own efforts, under the intelligent leadership of children of her own soil, has become a constitutional monarchy with the real power legally invested in the people where it by right belongs. Through his prime minister, the king is responsible to the chamber of deputies, which corresponds to our lower house, and are elected by the people at large.

The senate is probably as truly representative as our own, being elected by the king from the ranks of the ex-deputies, the nobility, large taxpayers and representative men of affairs.

When we consider that for fifty years preceding her final unification and freedom Italy was in an almost constant turmoil of political agitation and war, it is remarkable what advances her people have made in the thirty-nine years since the accomplishment of her great ambition. Although she still ranks high among the illiterate, she has taken great strides to overcome that evil. An education law compelling the attendance at school between the ages of six and nine, and the teaching of illiterate soldiers, although they may not as yet have accomplished great things, show that her heart is right, and that time will fast remedy the evils which the exigencies of her struggle for existence have practically forced upon her.

The study of the Italian in the Argentine ought to give us an inkling of his possibilities when given an opportunity. This republic is modeled on lines almost exactly after our own, and, all things considered, should rank as a successful experiment in self government. Its people are happy. It enjoys a high degree of culture. Its cities are modern and well governed, and its commerce is ever increasing in dignity and volume. Now, relative to its whole population, Argentine has the largest number of Italian immigrants of any country in the world. In 1895 the total population was about 4,000,000, and one third of this was foreign born. Of this foreign born population 500,000 were Italians. This enormous Italian influence still holds its own, for since 1895 it has kept up almost constantly, and for the whole period of time elapsed since she became a republic in 1853 nearly half her foreign born population has been contributed by Italy.

We should not allow the evil deeds of certain bands of outlaws, and the criminal tendencies of certain of the lower classes to blind our vision to the great things accomplished by the Italian as a nation. Viewed in the light of her past history and her rapid advances of the present day, she promises well, and it is a fair prophecy that in our own country the future citizen of Italian forebears will only be distinguished from the general average by means of his family name remaining as a sign to indicate his original ancestry.

The possibilities of the Slav, and his aptitude for conformity to the ideals of western civilization, can not be adequately treated without an exhaustive review of the history of the nations of eastern Europe. However, a short resume of Polish characteristics will suffice to give an idea of the type of the race and result which may be expected from the great wave of Slavic immigration now sweeping over us.

For the two hundred years succeeding the close of the fourteenth century, Poland was the leading power of eastern Europe. Her 20,000 square miles was the seat of what was, to all intents, a vast republic, for, though her elective king was responsible only to her nobility, this nobility was so large and so accessible and eager to maintain the political equality of all its own members, that the constitution, though it conferred rights only upon the privileged classes, carried out in reality the idea of almost unlimited freedom for the individuals of that class. Had this very numerous nobility of freedom born a still larger proportion to the total population, the self government of the nation would have been an accomplished fact, for the ideas of political reform and the extension of privileges to all classes were already beginning to make themselves felt when Poland was caught between the upper and nether mill stones of foreign tyranny, and her national identity crushed out forever by the treachery of Prussia and the soldiers of the Russian throne. Since the last partition of Poland in 1795, her people have not been given the chance to exercise the capacity for self government which they had undoubtedly developed to a high point when overtaken by the series of misfortunes which resulted in the loss of national identity. There are many reasons to think that this capacity is not wholly dead, but only lies dormant, awaiting the propitious changes of fortune. At the same time it must be conceded that the Pole possesses, in common with all Slavs, a peculiar combination of eastern and western ideals that makes his fitting into an Anglo-Saxon civilization a problem of great complexity. For, while he loves political freedom almost to the point of insanity, he is easily caught by the glitter and pomp of a throne. Confiding by nature, the mere promise of the unscrupulous Napoleon was sufficient to make him offer up his life upon many a bloody battle field.

As the Poles are, individually, poor business men, easily imposed upon by the commercially minded Hebrew, to whom the generosity of a political asylum was time and again extended when he was driven and harried from almost every other country in Europe, so are they, in the aggregate, poor political economists, and have thus always been worsted in the fields of diplomacy as well as in trade. Whereas they possess the greatest intellectual gifts, being almost universal linguists, and contributing great names to literature and science, they are apt to be versatile rather than profound, and are prone to waste their efforts in unpractical fields of endeavor. Though courteous and brave, their love of individual freedom is sometimes carried to the point of anarchy, and when guided by unscrupulous leaders this tendency often shows itself in riotous uprisings which are entirely out of proportion to the grievances against which they are directed. However, the Slav has one redeeming feature which, if properly utilized, might, in time, offset these undesirable characteristics. This feature might properly be called his great willingness to learn new things. He is not clannish. He has no innate deep-grounded instinct against getting acquainted. Naturally diffident and retiring on account of long centuries of class distinction, he is not prone to make the first advances, and consequently, if left to himself, he will tend to congregate with his kind. But his children quickly make friends with ours, and the foreign parents never discourage this tendency. Considering the short time that he has been with us, and his ignorance of our language, he has shown a marked tendency to amalgamate, and so long as we allow him to come at all, we should encourage this tendency, for although very different from us in his natural habit of thoughts and intellectual gifts, these differences are not of a kind that tend to produce moral or intellectual deterioration, and from a physical standpoint he will add to, rather than subtract from, the efficiency of our race.

The Slav and the Hun have been associated together so long in Europe, and their immigration to this country has been, in each case, extended over practically the same period of time, that it is quite the natural thing to consider them both together when making a study of their special race characteristics and possibilities of amalgamation. However, it is more a community of interests and political institutions than it is a racial identity that makes us class them together and speak of the Slavish and Hungarian immigrant as practically of the same kind. In reality these two stocks are essentially different and have shown rather wide differences in their respective abilities to adopt the ways of western civilization. The true Hungarians or Magyars are a Mongolian or Turanian stock. They left their Asiatic home about 1,000 years ago and descended upon Europe as a barbarous horde that for fifty years struck terror into the hearts of the neighboring inhabitants of Germany and Italy. Finally the Germans conquered them and they were almost at once forced to accept the alternative of western civilization or racial extermination. They chose the former, and immediately they demonstrated a high degree of adaptability to democratic political institutions. They united with the other kingdoms of eastern Europe to stay the march of the Ottoman Turks, and come in for a full share of credit in the series of events which finally resulted in the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571, when the long struggle between the two opposing religions for the possession of Europe and the consequent mastery of the world was forever settled in favor of Christianity. Thus we see that the Hungarians not only adapted themselves to western ideals, conforming to the manners and customs and religion of the people about them, but they became the greatest active exponents of these ideals, and for over 500 years they were the main defence of Christian Europe against the Turkish tribes of Asia that followed closely in their footsteps.

Manifestly the western civilization thus upheld by the Asiatic Hungarian in eastern Europe is different in many ways from Anglo-Saxon or Germanic culture. Whereas a high degree of individual liberty has been the aim of both, the one has succeeded in attaining its goal by making self sacrifices and compromises for the common good, while the other has not yet attained complete freedom, largely because of a failure to understand the essential differences between liberty and license. In Hungary to-day we have a sad example of this seeming lack of ability to forget individual differences for the common good. In the eastern half of the monarchy, a Hungarian minority holds the non-Magyar races in just such political serfdom as they themselves were subjected to before 1866, when the Prussians established the preeminence of Germany in Austria. And yet, in all fairness, we must not too hastily assume that the Teutonic races have a monopoly of that political unselfishness which makes self government possible.

The Pole might justly say that the rebellion of the barons and the Magna Charta, which they exacted from King John, and which we are inclined to consider the first great step in the establishment of political equality was, in reality, no different from the republic of nobles in their own land, for, in each case, the mass of the people were little better off than before, both being left in a condition of practical serfdom. And the Hungarian might almost with equal truth say, that he is no more domineering over the non-Magyars in eastern Hungary than is the German minority over the Czechs in Bohemia, and the Poles in Gallicia. Whatever may have been the cause, the fact remains that the Irishman at home has never been able to attain any higher degree of political equality than the Pole or Hungarian, yet the Irish descendants of the immigration of fifty years ago have absolutely amalgamated with us, and now conform to the highest type of American citizenship.

The final amalgamation of the Slav and Hun with our native stock is a foregone conclusion, but what the final effect will be depends largely upon the time taken to complete the alloy. Were it possible to so regulate the numbers of the new arrivals that they would never be in excess of the number of their children attending our public schools, the problem would easily adjust itself, for then we should always have more real Americans in the making than we have non-Americans in reality. A study of the history of the Hun and Slav, and a careful analysis of their respective national characteristics, seem to warrant the conclusion that they are both amenable to the ways of western progress, and that we have more to fear from their great numbers than we have from any undesirable qualities inherent in themselves

And now we come to consider the other type of immigrant which is making itself so strongly felt in our land and which, if we are to judge by the history of other nations, will continue to be an unsolved and vexatious problem long after the Pole and the Hun and Italian are forgotten. The Jew has been a source of worry and discomfort to every nation in which he has ever settled in any numbers, unless we except our own. Whether this is his own fault, or the fault of the people among whom he has cast his lot, is entirely beside the question. The point to be determined is, whether he will, or will not, in time, lose his racial identity and mix with the general population around him. Is there anything to warrant the conclusion that he has at last found his haven in this country, and being left free to practise his religion without persecution, will become one of us in every sense of the word, except in the matter of religious belief, which is, after all, a matter of no great importance so far as citizenship is concerned. Let us answer the question in the particular instance by ascertaining how it has been solved, in the aggregate, during times already past, and then considering whether there are any essential differences in the conditions of the past and present. The first historical account of anti-semitism occurs in the book of Esther, third chapter and eighth verse—"And Haman said unto King Ahasuerus, there is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people of all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people, neither keep they the King's laws: therefore it is not for the King's profit to suffer them." "We all know the sequel to this speech, and how the contemplated massacre and expulsion was obviated by the wiles of the beautiful Esther. The story of this attempted expulsion of a whole race of people, almost at the dawn of history, would have no particular interest for us now had it not been the forerunner, so to speak, of like movements repeated with almost dreary monotony throughout all the centuries since. That anti-semitism is not a modern movement, having its essential cause in the crucifixion of Christ, but was, on the contrary, a well-defined policy of many nations long before the question of Christianity arose as a complicating factor to confound the real issue, is a fact attested to by the Jewish historians themselves. We learn from Josephus that there were considerable Jewish colonies in all the eastern towns and among the various Greek possessions. They lived an exclusive life, mingling but little with the people, and having their own customs and laws which they refused to abandon at any price; although at utter variance with those of the Greeks about them, the authorities were continually called upon to settle disputes arising between the Jews and the people among whom they settled. Thus, in the year 14 b. c., the Ephesians requested that the right of citizenship be taken from the Jews if they would not consent to join in the worship of Diana. Nicolas, of Damascus, pled the cause of the Jews and they won the suit. Now, among all the nations of antiquity the citizen was bound to be of the same religion as his city, but the profession of this religion called for very slight obligations so far as belief was concerned. In matters of faith, the Greek colonies were not at all exacting. It was this very eclecticism which the Jews seemed to hate and made him break with the world about him. The result was that he almost always asked that he be granted special privileges, and almost invariably got them. At the same time he was very careful to insist upon having his common rights, so the result was that he was almost universally hated throughout all the great cities, and was constantly compelled to seek a renewal of his privileges. Very much the same story is repeated in the Byzantine Empire, in Ostrogothic Italy, in Frankish and Burgundian Gaul and in Visigothic Spain. In all these countries the Jew was at first admitted without prejudice, and received on the grounds of political and social equality. In all these countries he subsequently became the object of hatred and persecution.

During the middle ages, when the Jew was truly a wanderer upon the face of the earth, and he scarcely knew which way to turn, he found safe haven in the Kingdom of Poland: in fact, for one hundred years after the charter of King Boleslas in 1264, the Jews had the privilege of mixing freely with the Polish population, and even after the modification of the charter they were never wholly cut off from this privilege. Although Poland never actually persecuted them, and for a long period of time really treated them on an equality with her own people, they have never, as a body, taken any interest in any of the great political and national questions with which she has been so continuously agitated. The German colonist, settled long after the Jew, has lost every trace of his nationality but his name. The Stuarts and O'Rourke's, who sought refuge in the republic from a hostile government, have become as ingrained in the Polish community as the Pole himself, but the Jew is still a stranger.

In France, the Jews enjoyed equal privileges until long after Christianity became an active issue. In Spain they were first admitted on equal terms. The same in England. In all these countries they finally became disagreeable to the mass of the people and restrictive legislation was directed against them. As late as 1879 Germany experienced an active anti-semitic movement. When the cause of the modern anti-Jewish feeling is analyzed, it seems to have about the same basis that it had before the time of Christ. In both cases it has been at bottom essentially a question of manners. The Jew, as a class, is different from the people among whom he has settled, and he has insisted that he be given certain special privileges which serve to emphasize the difference rather than obliterate it. In other words, he is inherently clannish. Wherever this clannishness has been forgotten and he has laid aside, or kept in the background, the customs and mannerisms which mark him as a peculiar person, he has been a welcome addition to the land of his adoption. However, he has refused to do this except in individual instances. As a class, he has, as a matter of principle, refused to intermarry with those of other religions.

This raises the question, How can a people amalgamate and fit into the general populace when they refuse to take the one step absolutely essential to complete amalgamation? Protestants of all denominations can intermarry and still maintain their standing in their respective churches. By the exercise of a few essentially trivial formalities, protestant and catholic can intermarry and both remain good protestant and good catholic, but let the Jew marry the Gentile and the Jew is at once branded by his co-religionists as a bad Jew.

Those of his race who have conformed to the apostolic injunction, when in Rome to do as the Romans do, have always been a credit to the land of their adoption. But the tendency to adaptation has, so far, been developed only on a small scale. There does not seem to be a general movement of sufficient momentum to encourage the belief that the Jew, forgetting his race and remembering only the essential principles of his religion, will finally arrive at the goal of complete racial amalgamation. True, there is a marked tendency among the adherents of reformed Judaism in the United States to bury the antiquated customs of the past and to become real Americans, but this reformed Judaism hardly has time to make itself felt before it is dealt a killing blow by the mere force of numbers in the opposite ranks.

In other words, the old ideas from the ghettos of Europe are imported so rapidly that the new has but a poor chance to gain sufficient adherents to keep pace with, and finally outstrip, the old superstitions. And this thought brings us to the final conclusion of the whole matter, and that is, whatever the race of people from which the immigrant comes, the final result is not to be feared so long as he does not come in overwhelming numbers. If he trickles in slowly we shall take care of him. Let him be what he will when he comes, the amalgamation will finally be complete. On the other hand, if we continue to let him come in what is practically unlimited numbers, we can not take care of him. He will take care of us. We shall lose our inherited Anglo-Saxon ideals, and instead of a perfect amalgamation, we shall confront the danger of a complete racial substitution.