Source: Quoted in "Speeches and Addresses, 1884-1909"
Note: This is a full speech as it appears in the original print. Abridged version of that speech that focuses more on the race problem of immigration can be found here
Mr. President: This bill is intended to amend the existing law so as to restrict still further immigration to the United States. Paupers, diseased persons, convicts, and contract laborers are now excluded. By this bill it is proposed to make a new class of excluded immigrants, and add to those which have just been named the totally ignorant. The bill is of the simplest kind. The first section excludes from the country all immigrants who cannot read and write either their own or some other language. The second section merely provides a simple test for determining whether the immigrant can read or write, and is added to the bill so as to define the duties of the immigrant inspectors, and to assure to all immigrants alike perfect justice and a fair test of their knowledge.
Two questions arise in connection with this bill. The first is as to the merits of this particular form of restriction; the second as to the general policy of restricting immigration at all. I desire to discuss briefly these two questions in the order in which I have stated them. The smaller question as to the merits of this particular bill comes first. The existing laws of the United States now exclude, as I have said, certain classes of immigrants who, it is universally agreed, would be most undesirable additions to our population. These exclusions have been enforced, and the results have been beneficial; but the excluded classes are extremely limited and do not by any means cover all or even any considerable part of the immigrants whose presence here is undesirable or injurious, nor do they have any adequate effect in properly reducing the great body of immigration to this country.
There can be no doubt that there is a very earnest desire on the part of the American people to restrict further, and much more extensively than has yet been done, foreign immigration to the United States. The question before the committee was how this could best be done; that is, by what method the largest number of undesirable immigrants and the smallest possible number of desirable immigrants could be shut out. Three methods of obtaining this further restriction have been widely discussed of late years, and in various forms have been brought to the attention of Congress. The first was the imposition of a capitation tax on all immigrants. There can be no doubt as to the effectiveness of this method if the tax is made sufficiently heavy. But although exclusion by a tax would be thorough, it would be undiscriminating, and your committee did not feel that the time had yet come for its application.
The second scheme was to restrict immigration by requiring consular certification of immigrants. This plan has been much advocated, and if it were possible to carry it out thoroughly and to add very largely to the number of our consuls in order to do so, it would no doubt be effective and beneficial. But the committee was satisfied that consular certification was, under existing circumstances, impractical; that the necessary machinery could not be provided; that it would lead to many serious questions with foreign governments; that it could not be properly and justly enforced; and that it would take a long time to put it in operation. It is not necessary to go further into the details which brought the committee to this conclusion. It is sufficient to say here that the opinion of the committee is shared, they believe, by all expert judges who have given the most careful attention to the question.
The third method was to exclude all immigrants who could neither read nor write, and this is the plan which was adopted by the committee and which is embodied in this bill. In their report the committee have shown by statistics, which have been collected and tabulated with great care, the emigrants who would be affected by this illiteracy test. It is not necessary for me here to do more than summarize the results of the committee's investigation, which have been set forth fully in their report. It is found, in the first place, that the illiteracy test will bear most heavily upon the Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, and Asiatics, and very lightly, or not at all, upon English-speaking emigrants, or Germans, Scandinavians, and French.
In other words, the races most affected by the illiteracy test are those whose emigration to this country has begun within the last twenty years and swelled rapidly to enormous proportions, races with which the English-speaking people have never hitherto assimilated, and who are most alien to the great body of the people of the United States.
On the other hand, immigrants from the United Kingdom and of those races which are most closely related to the English-speaking people, and who with the English-speaking people themselves founded the American colonies and built up the United States, are affected but little by the proposed test. These races would not be prevented by this law from coming to this country in practically undiminished numbers. These kindred races also are those who alone go to the Western and Southern States, where immigrants are desired, and take up our unoccupied lands. The races which would suffer most seriously by exclusion under the proposed bill furnish the immigrants who do not go to the West or South, where immigration is needed, but who remain on the Atlantic seaboard, where immigration is not needed and where their presence is most injurious and undesirable.
The statistics prepared by the committee show further that the immigrants excluded by the illiteracy test are those who remain for the most part in congested masses in our great cities. They furnish, as other tables show, a large proportion of the population of the slums. The committee's report proves that illiteracy runs parallel with the slum population, with criminals, paupers, and juvenile delinquents of foreign birth or parentage, whose percentage is out of all proportion to their share of the total population when compared with the percentage of the same classes among the native born.
It also appears from investigations which have been made that the immigrants who would be shut out by the illiteracy test are those who bring least money to the country and come most quickly upon private or public charity for support. The replies of the governors of twenty-six states to the Immigration Restriction League show that in only two cases are immigrants of the classes affected by the illiteracy test desired, and those are of a single race. All the other immigrants mentioned by the governors as desirable belong to the races which are but slightly affected by the provisions of this bill.
It is also proved that the classes now excluded by law—the criminals, the diseased, the paupers, and the contract laborers—are furnished chiefly by the same races as those most affected by the test of illiteracy. The same is true as to those immigrants who come to this country for a brief season and return to their native land, taking with them the money they have earned in the United States. There is no more hurtful and undesirable class of immigrants from every point of view than these "birds of passage," and the tables show that the races furnishing the largest number of "birds of passage" have also the greatest proportion of illiterates.
These facts prove to demonstration that the exclusion of immigrants unable to read or write, as proposed by this bill, will operate against the most undesirable and harmful part of our present immigration, and shut out elements which no thoughtful or patriotic man can wish to see multiplied among the people of the United States. The report of the committee also proves that this bill meets the great requirement of all legislation of this character, in excluding the greatest proportion possible of thoroughly undesirable and dangerous immigrants and the smallest proportion of immigrants who are unobjectionable.
I have said enough to show what the effects of this bill would be, and that if enacted into law it would be fair in its operation and highly beneficial in its results. It now remains for me to discuss the second and larger question, as to the advisability of restricting immigration at all. This is a subject of the greatest magnitude and the most far-reaching importance. It has two sides, the economic and the social.
As to the former, but few words are necessary. There is no one thing which does so much to bring about a reduction of wages and to injure the American wage earner as the unlimited introduction of cheap foreign labor through unrestricted immigration. Statistics show that the change in the race character of our immigration has been accompanied by a corresponding decline in its quality. The number of skilled mechanics and of the persons trained to some occupation or pursuit has fallen off, while the number of those without occupation or training, that is, who are totally unskilled, has risen in our recent immigration to enormous proportions. This low, unskilled labor is the most deadly enemy of the American wage earner, and does more than anything else toward lowering his wages and forcing down his standard of living.
An attempt was made, with the general assent of both political parties, to meet this crying evil some years ago by the passage of what are known as the contract-labor laws. That legislation was excellent in intention, but has proved of but little value in practice. It has checked to a certain extent the introduction of cheap, low-class labor in large masses into the United States. It has made it a little more difficult for such labor to come here; but the labor of this class continues to come, even if not in the same way, and the total amount of it has not been materially reduced. Even if the contract-labor laws were enforced intelligently and thoroughly, there is no reason to suppose that they would have any adequate effect in checking the evil which they were designed to stop. It is perfectly clear, after the experience of several years, that the only relief which can come to the American wage earner from the competition of low-class immigrant labor must be by general laws restricting the total amount of immigration, and framed in such a way as to affect most strongly those elements of the immigration which furnish the low, unskilled, and ignorant foreign labor.
It is not necessary to enter further into a discussion of the economic side of the general policy of restricting immigration. In this direction the argument is unanswerable. If we have any regard for the welfare, the wages, or the standard of life of American workingmen, we should take immediate steps to restrict foreign immigration. There is no danger, at present at all events, to our workingmen from the coming of skilled mechanics or trained and educated men with a settled occupation or pursuit, for immigrants of this class will never seek to lower the American standard of life and wages. On the contrary, they desire the same standard for themselves. But there is an appalling danger to the American wage earner from the flood of low, unskilled, ignorant, foreign labor which has poured into the country for some years past, and which not only takes lower wages, but accepts a standard of life and living so low that the American workingman cannot compete with it.
I now come to the aspect of this question which is graver and more serious than any other. The injury of unrestricted immigration to American wages and American standards of living is sufficiently plain and is bad enough, but the danger which this immigration threatens to the quality of our citizenship is far worse. That which it concerns us to know, and that which is more vital to us as a people than all possible questions of tariff or currency, is whether the quality of our citizenship is endangered by the present course and character of immigration to the United States. To determine this question we must look into the history of our race.
Two hundred years ago Daniel Defoe, in some very famous verses called the "True-born Englishman," defended William III, the greatest ruler, with the exception of Cromwell, whom England has had since the days of the Plantagenets, against the accusation so constantly made at the time that he was a foreigner. The line taken by Defoe is the highly characteristic one of a fierce attack upon his opponents. He declared, in lines which were as forcible as they were rough, that the English-speaking people drew their descent from many sources; that there was no such thing as a pure-blooded Englishman; and that King William was as much an Englishman as any of them. The last proposition, in regard to the King, whose mother was a Stuart, was undoubtedly true. It was also superficially true that Englishmen drew their blood from many strains; but the rest of the argument was ludicrously false if the matter is considered in the light of modern history and modern science.
For practical purposes in considering the question of race and in dealing with the civilized peoples of western Europe and of America, there is no such thing as a race of original purity according to the divisions of ethnical science. In considering the practical problems of the present time we can deal only with artificial races, — that is, races like the English-speaking people, the French, or the Germans, — who have been developed as races by the operation during a long period of time of climatic influences, wars, migrations, conquests, and industrial development. To the philologist and the ethnologist it is of great importance to determine the ethnical divisions of mankind in the earliest historic times. To the scientific modern historian, to the student of social phenomena, and to the statesman alike, the early ethnic divisions are of little consequence; but the sharply marked race divisions which have been gradually developed by the conditions and events of the last thousand years are absolutely vital. It is by these conditions and events that the races or nations which to-day govern the world have been produced, and it is their characteristics which it is important for us to understand.
How, then, has the English-speaking race, which to-day controls so large a part of the earth's surface, been formed? Great Britain and Ireland at the time of the Roman conquest were populated by Celtic tribes. After the downfall of the Roman Empire these tribes remained in possession of the islands, with probably but very slight infusion of Latin blood. Then came what is commonly known as the Saxon invasion. Certain North German tribes, own brothers to those other tribes which swept southward and westward over the whole Roman Empire, crossed the English Channel and landed in the comer of England known as the Isle of Thanet. They were hard fighters, pagans, and adventurers. They swept over the whole of England and the Lowlands of Scotland. A few British words like basket, relating to domestic employments, indicate that only women of the conquered race, and not many of those, were spared. The extermination was fierce and thorough. The native Celts were driven back into the Highlands of Scotland and to the edge of the sea in Cornwall and Wales, while all the rest of the land became Saxon.
The conquerors established themselves in their new country, were converted to Christianity, and began to advance in civilization. Then came a fresh wave from the Germanic tribes. This time it was the Danes. They were of the same blood as the Saxons, and the two kindred races fought hard for the possession of England, until the last comers prevailed and their chiefs reached the throne. Then in 1066 there was another invasion, this time from the shores of France. But the new invaders and conquerors were not Frenchmen. As Carlyle says, they were only Saxons who spoke French. A hundred years before, these Normans, or Northmen, northernmost of all the Germanic tribes, had descended from their land of snow and ice upon Europe.
They were the most remarkable of all the people who poured out of the Germanic forests. They came upon Europe in their long, low ships, a set of fighting pirates and buccaneers; and yet these same pirates brought with them out of the darkness and cold of the north a remarkable literature and a strange and poetic mythology. Wherever they went they conquered, and wherever they stopped they set up for themselves dukedoms, principalities, and kingdoms. To them we owe the marvels of Gothic architecture, for it was they who were the great builders and architects of medieval Europe. They were great military engineers as well, and revived the art of fortified defense, which had been lost to the world. They were great statesmen and great generals, and they had only been in Normandy about a hundred years when they crossed the English Channel, conquered the country, and gave to England for many generations to come her kings and nobles. But the Normans in their turn were absorbed or blended with the great mass of the Danes and the still earlier Saxons. In reality, they were all one people. They had different names and spoke differing dialects, but their blood and their characteristics were the same. And so this Germanic people of one blood, coming through various channels, dwelt in England, assimilating more or less and absorbing to a greater or less degree their neighbors of the northern and western Celtic fringe, with an occasional fresh infusion from their own brethren who dwelt in the low sea-girt lands at the mouths of the Scheldt and Rhine. In the course of the centuries these people were welded together and had made a new speech and a new race, with strong and well-defined qualities, both mental and moral.
When the Reformation came this work was pretty nearly done; and after that great movement had struck off the shackles from the human mind, the English-speaking people were ready to come forward and begin to play their part in a world where the despotism of the church had been broken, and where political despotism was about to enter on its great struggle against the forces of freedom. Let me describe what these English people were at the close of the sixteenth century, when the work of race making had been all done and the achievements of the race so made were about to begin. I will take for this purpose, not words of my own, but the brilliant sentences of one of the greatest of modern English writers: —
In those past silent centuries, among those silent classes, much had been going on. Not only had red deer in the New and other forests been got preserved, and shot; and treacheries of Simon de Montfort, wars of Red and White Roses, battles of Crecy, battles of Bosworth, and many other battles been got transacted, and adjusted; but England wholly, not without sore toil and aching bones to the millions of sires and the millions of sons these eighteen generations, had been got drained, and tilled, covered with yellow harvests, beautiful and rich possessions; the mud-wooden Ceasters and Chesters had become steepled, tile-roofed, compact towns. Sheffield had taken to the manufacture of Sheffield whittles; Worstead could from wool spin yarn, and knit or weave the same into stockings or breeches for men. England had property valuable to the auctioneer; but the accumulate manufacturing, commercial, economic skill which lay impalpably warehoused in English hands and heads, what auctioneer could estimate?
Hardly an Englishman to be met with but could do something — some cunninger thing than break his fellow-creature's head with battle-axes. The seven incorporated trades, with their million guild brethren, with their hammers, their shuttles, and tools; what an army — fit to conquer that land of England, as we say, and to hold it conquered. Nay, strangest of all, the English people had acquired the faculty and habit of thinking, even of believing; individual conscience had unfolded itself among them; conscience, and intelligence its handmaid. Ideas of innumerable kinds were circulating among these men; witness one Shakespeare, a wool-comber, poacher, or whatever else, at Stratford, in Warwickshire, who happened to write books — the finest human figure, as I apprehend, that nature has hitherto seen fit to make of our widely diffused Teutonic clay. Saxon, Norman, Celt, or Sarmat, I find no human soul so beautiful these fifteen hundred known years — our supreme modern European man. Him England had contrived to realize. Were there not ideas — ideas poetic and also puritanic, that had to seek utterance in the notablest way? England had got her Shakespeare, but was now about to get her Milton and Oliver Cromwell. This, too, we will call a new expansion, hard as it might be to articulate and adjust; this, that a man could actually have a conscience for his own behoof, and not for his priest's only; that his priest, be who he might, would henceforth have to take that fact along with him. One of the hardest things to adjust. It is not adjusted down to this hour. It lasts onward to the time they call "glorious revolution" before so much as a reasonable truce can be made and the war proceed by logic mainly. And still it is war, and no peace, unless we call waste vacancy peace. But it needed to be adjusted, as the others had done, as still others will do.
This period, when the work of centuries which had resulted in the making of the English people was complete, and when they were entering upon their career of world conquest, is of peculiar interest to us. Then it was that from the England of Shakespeare and Bacon and Raleigh, and later from the England of Pym and Hampden and Cromwell and Milton, Englishmen fared forth across the great ocean to the North American Continent. The first Englishmen to come and to remain here settled on the James River, and there laid the foundation of the great State of Virginia. The next landed much farther to the north. I will again borrow the words of Carlyle to describe the coming of this second English migration : —
But now on the industrial side, while this great constitutional controversy and revolt of the middle class had not ended, had yet but begun, what a shoot was that that England, carelessly, in quest of other objects, struck out across the ocean, into the waste land, which it named New England. Hail to thee, poor little ship Mayflower, of Delft-Haven! poor common-looking ship, hired by common charter party for coined dollars; calked with mere oakum and tar; provisioned with vulgarest biscuit and bacon; yet what ship Argo, or miraculous epic ship built by the sea gods, was other than a foolish bumbarge in comparison? Golden fleeces or the like these sailed for, with or without effect; thou, little Mayflower, hadst in thee a veritable Promethean spark; the life spark of the largest nation on our earth, so we may already name the transatlantic Saxon nation. They went seeking leave to hear sermon in their own method, these Mayflower Puritans; a most honest indispensable search; and yet, like Saul the son of Kish, seeking a small thing, they found this unexpected great thing. Honor to the brave and true! they verily, we say, carry fire from heaven, and have a power that themselves dream not of. Let all men honor Puritanism, since God has so honored it.
At the period of these two English settlements, and just about at the same time, the Dutch settled at the mouth of the Hudson and the Swedes upon the Delaware. Both, be it remembered, were of the same original race stock as the English settlers of Virginia and New England, who were destined to be so predominant in the North American colonies.
At the dose of the seventeenth century and during the eighteenth there came to America three other migrations of people sufficiently numerous to be considered in estimating the races from which the colonists were derived. These were the Scotch-Irish, the Germans, and the French Huguenots. The Scotch-Irish, as they are commonly called with us, were immigrants from the north of Ireland. They were chiefly descendants of Cromwell's soldiers, who had been settled in Ulster, and of the Lowland Scotch, who had come to the same region. They were the men who made the famous defense of Londonderry against James II, and differed in no essential respect either of race or language from the English who had preceded them in America. Some of them settled in New Hampshire, but most of them in the western part of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. They were found in all the colonies in a greater or less degree, and were a vigorous body of men, who have contributed very largely to the upbuilding of the United States and played a great part in our history.
The German immigrants were the Protestants of the Palatinate, and they settled in large numbers in western Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The Huguenots, although not very numerous, were a singularly fine body of people. They had shown the highest moral qualities in their long struggle for religious freedom. They had faced war, massacre, and persecution for nearly two centuries, and had never wavered in their constancy to the creed in which they believed. Harried and driven out of France by Louis XIV, they had sought refuge in Holland, in England, and in the New World. They were to be found in this country in all our colonies, and everywhere they became a most valuable addition to our population.
Such, then, briefly were the people composing the colonies when we faced England in the war for independence. It will be observed that, with the exception of the Huguenot French, who formed but a small percentage of the total population, the people of the thirteen colonies were all of the same original race stocks. The Dutch, the Swedes, and the Germans simply blended again with the English-speaking people, who like them were descended from the Germanic tribes whom Caesar fought and Tacitus described.
During the present century, down to 1875, there have been three large migrations to this country in addition to the always steady stream from Great Britain; one came from Ireland about the middle of the century, and somewhat later one from Germany and one from Scandinavia, in which is included Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. The Irish, although of a different race stock originally, have been closely associated with the English-speaking people for nearly a thousand years. They speak the same language, and during that long period the two races have lived side by side, and to some extent intermarried.
The Germans and Scandinavians are again people of the same race stock as the English who founded and built up the colonies. During this century, down to 1875, then, as in the two which preceded it, there had been scarcely any immigration to this country except from kindred or allied races, and no other which was sufficiently numerous to have produced any effect on the national characteristics, or to be taken into account here.
Since 1875, however, there has been a great change. While the people who for two hundred and fifty years have been migrating to America have continued to furnish large numbers of immigrants to the United States, other races of totally different race origin, with whom the English-speaking people have never hitherto been assimilated or brought in contact, have suddenly begun to immigrate to the United States in large numbers. Russians, Hungarians, Poles, Bohemians, Italians, Greeks, and even Asiatics, whose immigration to America was almost unknown twenty years ago, have during the last twenty years poured in in steadily increasing numbers, until now they nearly equal the immigration of those races kindred in blood or speech, or both, by whom the United States has hitherto been built up and the American people formed.
This momentous fact is the one which confronts us to-day, and if continued, it carries with it future consequences far deeper than any other event of our times. It involves, in a word, nothing less than the possibility of a great and perilous change in the very fabric of our race.
The English-speaking race, as I have shown, has been made slowly during the centuries. Nothing has happened thus far to change it radically here. In the United States, after allowing for the variations produced by new climatic influences and changed conditions of life and of political institutions, it is still in the great essentials fundamentally the same race. The additions in this country until the present time have been from kindred people, or from those with whom we have been long allied and who speak the same language. By those who look at this question superficially, we hear it often said that the English-speaking people, especially in America, are a mixture of races. Analysis shows that the actual mixture of blood in the English-speaking race is very small, and that while the English-speaking people are derived through different channels, no doubt, there is among them none the less an overwhelming preponderance of the same race stock, that of the great Germanic tribes who reached from Norway to the Alps. They have been welded together by more than a thousand years of wars, conquests, migrations, and struggles, both at home and abroad, and in so doing they have attained a fixity and definiteness of national character unknown to any other people.
Let me quote on this point a disinterested witness of another race and another language, M. Gustave Le Bon, a distinguished French writer of the highest scientific training and attainments, who says in his very remarkable book on the Evolution of Races: —
Most of the historic races of Europe are still in process of formation, and it is important to realize this fact in order to understand their history. The English alone represent a race almost entirely fixed. In them, the ancient Briton, the Saxon, and the Norman have been effaced to form a new and very homogeneous type.
It being admitted, therefore, that a historic race of fixed type has been developed, it remains to consider what this means, what a race is, and what a change would portend. That which identifies a race and sets it apart from others is not to be found merely or ultimately in its physical appearance, its institutions, its laws, its literature, or even its language. These are in the last analysis only the expression or the evidence of race.
The achievements of the intellect pass easily from land to land and from people to people. The telephone, invented but yesterday, is used to-day in China, in Australia, or in South Africa as freely as in the United States. The book which the press to-day gives to the world in English is scattered to-morrow throughout the earth in every tongue, and the thoughts of the writer become the property of mankind. You can take a Hindoo and give him the highest education the world can afford. He has a keen intelligence. He will absorb the learning of Oxford, he will acquire the manners and habits of England, he will sit in the British Parliament, but you cannot make him an Englishman. Yet, he, like his conqueror, is of the groat Indo-European family. But it has taken six thousand years and more to create the differences which exist between them. You cannot efface those differences thus made, by education in a single life, because they do not rest upon the intellect.
What, then, is the matter of race which separates the Englishman from the Hindoo and the American from the Indian? It is something deeper and more fundamental than anything which concerns the intellect. We all know it instinctively, although it is so impalpable that we can scarcely define it, and yet is so deeply marked that even the physiological differences between the Negro, the Mongol, and the Caucasian are not more persistent or more obvious. When we speak of a race, then, we do not mean its expressions in art or in language, or its achievements in knowledge. We mean the moral and intellectual characters, which in their association make the soul of a race, and which represent the product of all its past, the inheritance of all its ancestors, and the motives of all its conduct. The men of each race possess an indestructible stock of ideas, traditions, sentiments, modes of thought, an unconscious inheritance from their ancestors, upon which argument has no effect. What makes a race are their mental and, above all, their moral characteristics, the slow growth and accumulation of centuries of toil and conflict. These are the qualities which determine their social efficiency as a people, which make one race rise and another fall, which we draw out of a dim past through many generations of ancestors, about which we cannot argue, but in which we blindly believe, and which guide us in our short-lived generation as they have guided the race itself across the centuries.
I have cited a witness of the highest authority and entire disinterestedness to support what I have said as to the fixed and determinate character of the English-speaking race. Now that I come to show what that race is by recounting its qualities and characteristics, I will not trust myself to speak, for I might be accused of prejudice, but I will quote again M. Le Bon, who is not of our race nor of our speech.
He says: —
Inability to foresee the remote consequences of actions and the tendency to be guided only by the instinct of the moment, condemn an individual as well as a race to remain always in a very inferior condition. It is only in proportion as they have been able to master their instincts — that is to say, as they have acquired strength of will and consequently empire over themselves — that nations have been able to understand the importance of discipline, the necessity of sacrificing themselves to an ideal and lifting themselves up to civilization. If it were necessary to determine by a single test the social level of races in history, I would take willingly as a standard the aptitude displayed by each in controlling their impulses. The Romans in antiquity, the Anglo-Americans in modern times, represent the people who have possessed this quality in the highest degree. It has powerfully contributed to assure their greatness.
Again he says, speaking now more in detail: —
Let us summarize, then, in a few words the characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon race, which has peopled the United States. There is not perhaps in the world one which is more homogeneous and whose mental constitution is more easy to define in its great outline. The dominant qualities of this mental constitution are, from the standpoint of character, a will power which scarcely any people except perhaps the Romans have possessed, an unconquerable energy, a very great initiative, an absolute empire over self, a sentiment of independence pushed even to excessive unsociability, a puissant activity, very keen religious sentiments, a very fixed morality, a very clear idea of duty.
Again he says: —
But, above all, it is in a new country like America that we must follow the astonishing progress due to the mental constitution of the English race. Transported to a wilderness inhabited only by savages and having only itself to count upon, we know what that race has done. Scarcely a century has been necessary to those people to place themselves in the first rank of the great powers of the world, and to-day there is hardly one who could struggle against them.
Such achievements as M. Le Bon credits us with are due to the qualities of the American people, whom he, as a man of science looking below the surface, rightly describes as homogeneous. Those qualities are moral far more than intellectual, and it is on the moral qualities of the English-speaking race that our history, our victories, and all our future rest. There is only one way in which you can lower those qualities or weaken those characteristics, and that is by breeding them out. If a lower race mixes with a higher in sufficient numbers, history teaches us that the lower race will prevail. The lower race will absorb the higher, not the higher the lower, when the two strains approach equality in numbers. In other words, there is a limit to the capacity of any race for assimilating and elevating an inferior race; and when you begin to pour in in unlimited numbers people of alien or lower races of less social efficiency and less moral force, you are running the most frightful risk that a people can run.
The lowering of a great race means not only its own decline, but that of civilization. M. Le Bon sees no danger to us in immigration, and his reason for this view is one of the most interesting things he says. He declares that the people of the United States will never be injured by immigration, because the moment they see the peril the great race instinct will assert itself and shut the immigration out. The reports of the Treasury for the last fifteen years show that the peril is at hand. I trust that the prediction of science is true, and that the unerring instinct of the race will shut the danger out, as it closed the door upon the coming of the Chinese.
That the peril is not imaginary or the offspring of race prejudice, I will prove by another disinterested witness, also a Frenchman. M. Paul Bourget, the distinguished novelist, visited this country a few years ago, and wrote a book containing his impressions of what he saw. He was not content, as many travelers are, to say that our cabs were high-priced, the streets of New York noisy, the cars hot, and then feel that he had disposed of the United States and the people thereof for time and for eternity.
M. Bourget saw here a great country and a great people; in other words, a great fact in modern times. Our ways were not his ways, nor our thoughts his thoughts, and he probably liked his own country and his own ways much better; but he none the less studied us carefully and sympathetically. What most interested him was to see whether the socialistic movements, which now occupy the alarmed attention of Europe, were equally threatening here. His conclusion, which I will state in a few words, is of profound interest. He expected to find signs of a coming war of classes, and he went home believing that if any danger threatened the United States it was not from a war of classes, but a war of races.
Mr. President, more precious even than forms of government are the mental and moral qualities which make what we call our race. While those stand unimpaired all is safe. When those decline all is imperiled. They are exposed to but a single danger, and that is by changing the quality of our race and citizenship through the wholesale infusion of races whose traditions and inheritances, whose thoughts and whose beliefs are wholly alien to ours, and with whom we have never assimilated or even been associated in the past.
The danger has begun. It is small as yet, comparatively speaking, but it is large enough to warn us to act while there is yet time and while it can be done easily and efficiently. There lies the peril at the portals of our land; there is pressing the tide of unrestricted immigration. The time has certainly come, if not to stop, at least to check, to sift, and to restrict those immigrants. In careless strength, with generous hand, we have kept our gates wide open to all the world. If we do not close them, we should at least place sentinels beside them to challenge those who would pass through. The gates which admit men to the United States and to citizenship in the great republic should no longer be left unguarded.
O Liberty, white Goddess! is it well
To leave the gates unguarded? On thy breast
Fold Sorrow's children, soothe the hurts of fate,
Lift the down-trodden, but with hand of steel
Stay those who to thy sacred portals come
To waste the gifts of freedom. Have a care
Lest from thy brow the clustered stars be torn
And trampled in the dust. For so of old
The thronging Goth and Vandal trampled Rome,
And where the temples of the Caesars stood
The lean wolf unmolested made her lair.Aldrich, Unguarded Gates.