Page images

1882, when the first general immigration law was enacted; the ingress of aliens was almost unregulated. Some of the seaboard States made attempts to control the multitudes passing through their ports, but the courts usually held that such laws were unconstitutional on the ground that they attempted regulation of foreign commerce. During the great immigrant years in the forties and fifties there was considerable agitation in Congress for restrictive or selective laws, but except for an act aimed at the importation of Chinese prostitutes (enacted in 1875), the Federal Government made no attempt at regulation until 1882.

The law of 1875 excluded only women imported for the purpose of prostitution and convicts undergoing sentence for a crime not growing out of a political offense, but succeeding laws added to the list of undesirables until at present about 30 more or less distinct classes of aliens are denied admission to the country.


The present is an appropriate time for reviewing the world emigration and immigration situation, so far as it may affect the United States. First considering the situation in Europe, which has been and undoubtedly will continue to be the chief source of our immigration, we may trace the development and explain the present status of immigration from Asia and from the neighboring countries of the Western Hemisphere.

The European situation.-During the century for which records of our immigration are available approximately 89 per cent of our immigrants came from Europe, 2.4 per cent from Asia, and somewhat less than 9 per cent from other countries, chiefly Canada and Mexico. Numerically, therefore, Europe is by far the most important of all sources. It is a familiar story that up to about 35 years ago the bulk of European immigration originated in the northern and western countries. The sources gradually shifted to southern and eastern countries. In 1907 the influx reached its highest point, and the latter furnished more than three-fourths of all arrivals from Europe as compared with less than 11 per cent 25 years earlier, in 1882. It is an equally familiar fact that while a large part of the earlier immigrants went to the land and were widely distributed in this country, those coming from southern and eastern Europe became in the main workers in cities and industrial districts. The older immigrants came mostly in family groups and settled permanently in this country. Later immigration was largely a movement of men without families, many, perhaps a majority, returned to their native lands after a few years of labor here. The widespread alarm over the great influx; the persistent demand for restriction; the efforts of Congress


to prevent the coming of the criminal and the diseased; the finding of the United States Immigration Commission in 1910 that immigration had greatly overstocked the unskilled labor market; the similar findings by the Commission on Industrial Relations; and, finally, the adoption of the illiteracy test” in 1917, in the belief that it would reduce the number of laborers coming to our shoresthese are all occurrences of the last generation.

Coming to the highly important, but obviously difficult subject of the probable trend of European immigration after the war, many phases of the situation must be taken into account. The history of our past immigration affords no really reliable guide by which to predict what effect the World War may have on the future flow from the various countries. Lack of statistical data prior to 1820, makes it impossible to observe in detail the influence the Napoleonic wars, and our second war with Great Britain had upon immigration, but it is recorded that they were followed by a sudden rush which reached the number of 17,000 in 1817. It is also worth noticing that most of them came from a country with which we had recently been at war. On the other hand, the immigration decreased following the Crimean War, but this was undoubtedly due to causes other than that conflict.

The Franco-Prussian war seems to afford safer ground for comparison with the present situation. The German immigration fell from 131,000 in 1869 and 118,000 in 1870 to 82,500 in the war year of 1871, but rose again to more than 140,000 in 1872 and to nearly 150,000 in 1873; while defeated France, which sent us an annual average of only 3,600 immigrants in the three years 1869–1871, sent an average of 11,250 during the three years following the conflict. These figures make it appear that in this instance at least, war, regardless of victory or defeat, may have been an actual incentive to immigration. The Franco-Prussian war came in the midst of a great transoceanic movement of the German people, and it is a notable fact that even the attractions of a victorious and united Germany were insufficient to hold the population, for the egress continued and increased until 11 years later it reached more than a quarter of a million souls in a single twelvemonth.

Immigration from Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, not to mention Greece and the Balkans, had reached a stage at the outbreak of the present war which closely corresponded to the case of Germany in 1871. That is to say, immigration from those countries was at flood tide and promised to so continue for years. Consequently, if this analogy may be trusted, we may expect a repetition of the German experiences unless, of course, artificial barriers are interposed by the countries themselves, by the United States, or by factors that have not been taken into consideration, but there is another highly impor

[ocr errors]

tant element which then affected German immigration only to a limited degree but which must be considered in connection with the present situation. That is the greatly disturbed political condition in which central and eastern Europe finds itself as the result of war. This factor if long continued may have a powerful influence upon future immigration from such sources.

Economic pressure and political unrest and oppression are potent promoters of immigration. The first, of course, accounts for the greater part of the enormous movement from Europe to the New World, but the importance of the German revolution of 1848 in this regard must not be overlooked, nor can we forget that oppression, as well as economic reasons, was behind the great Jewish influx from Russia and Roumania. In the existing situation disturbed economic and political conditions both prevail over a great part of Europe. It is a historical fact that emigration from Germany practically ceased with the stabilization of economic conditions there; but the close of the present war finds that country in the midst of an economic as well as a political crisis, and these conditions may operate to reestablish Germany as an important immigrant-furnishing country.

On the other hand, Germany lost upward of 2,000,000 men in the war, and this loss has appreciably diminished the age and occupational groups from which most immigration springs. Also the economic classes which are most prone to emigrate may see hope for themselves and their children in the changed political status of the fatherland and willingly endure the incidental hardships of reconstruction on that account. But it is reasonable to suppose that there are many of other classes in Germany, including army and navy officers, small capitalists and others, upon whom the burden of changed conditions will fall so heavily that they will resort to emigration for relief.

The situation in what was once Austria-Hungary is bewilderingly complicated, and it is difficult to say what the effect upon immigration may be. In 1914—and that year was fairly typical—10 races or peoples each contributed largely to the 244,000 who came from that empire. These included, in round numbers, 49,000 Poles, 43,700 Magyars, 35,000 Croats and Slovenes, 32,000 Ruthenians, 29,000 Germans, 25,300 Slovaks, 22,000 Roumanians, 20,400 Hebrews, and 9,300 Bohemians and Moravians. The former Polish population, and the Jews as well, are now mostly in reconstructed Poland; the Bohemians, Moravians, and Slovaks are in Czecho-Slovakia; the Croatians and Slovenians are largely transferred tủ the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. Presumably most of the Roumanians and Ruthenians will also come under other sovereignties. Therefore, the population of the two countries is largely reduced to Germans and Magyars, the latter coming from Hungary proper. There are still many Jews in both countries, as well as remnants of other peoples,

142901–LAB 1919-16

but the Germans and Magyars are overwhelmingly predominant. The German element in our Austro-Hungarian immigration has come largely from Hungary in recent years—86,000 out of a total of 122,000 in the five years 1910–1914. Although the boundaries of the Austria of the future are not definitely determined at this writing, it is certain that its population will be predominantly German, and the figures indicate that they have not emigrated to the United States in large numbers in recent years. However, the war has left Austria in a most distressing economic condition, and a people in economic distress almost invariably seeks relief through emigration. On the other hand, a large proportion of the population in what promises to be the new Austria is in the single city of Vienna, and as a rule the dwellers in great cities have not emigrated. As a matter of fact, the population of such cities is partly made up of people who went there from the country or smaller towns in preference to emigrating to another land. However, if Vienna under the new order of things

, is deprived of its former commanding commercial position in central and southeastern Europe, it may be expected that its population will seek refuge elsewhere. Whether the drift will be toward the United States or to other countries is uncertain. Politicial developments may also have an important effect on emigration from Austria, but the present situation affords little indication of what may be expected in that regard.

The population of Hungary proper is more rural than that of Austria and therefore more likely to emigrate, but what happens will probably depend largely upon the economic and possibly the political developments following peace. Hungary is primarily agricultural, and it is not believed that this industry was greatly demoralized during the war or by succeeding events. This being the case, it is not unreasonable to expect that when something like normal conditions are restored in central and western Europe, Hungarian agriculture will find itself in a highly favorable position, and this would normally act as a powerful restraint to emigration.

Turning to Russia a still more complex situation is found, and it is difficult to say what may be expected in the way of immigration from that country. For many years prior to the war Russia had been one of the chief sources of our immigration, but until about 1910 comparatively few real Russians had joined in the movement. In 1907, for example, when the influx from Russia reached an approximate total of 259,000, only 16,000 persons of the Russian race were among them, compared with, in round numbers, 115,000 Hebrews, 73,000 Poles, 5,000 Lithuanians, 14,300 Finns, and 13,500 Germans. In other words, the real Russians represented only about 6 per cent of the total.

But in succeeding years the number increased until in 1913 about 48,500, or nearly 17 per cent of the total, were of that race. Investigations made in the peasant villages of Russia that year showed that unless checked the movement would eventually increase to enormous proportions. At present Russia is in chaos and the final outcome can not be foreseen. Finland is now recognized as a political entity, and the same is true of Poland, so that the sources of perhaps a majority of the immigrants in the past are removed from Russian control; and so are the Baltic States, including Lithuania. Southwestern Russia, now familiarly known as the Ukraine was a source of much Hebrew and some Little Russian immigration. The remainder of European Russia, commonly known as Great Russia, is at the moment largely included in Soviet Russia. The latter section has furnished comparatively few immigrants up to date.

Italy has furnished more immigrants to the United States than any other country except the United Kingdom and Germany, and from the beginning the exodus has been economic. It is densely populated and owing to restriction of opportunity and the rapid growth of population enormous numbers have been forced to emigrate. The United States has attracted a majority of the transoceanic emigrants, but nearly as many have gone to South America and other parts of the new world, and large numbers have left Italy every year for a more or less permanent stay in various European countries. A considerable part of the movement to this country was only temporary, and returning immigrants from both North and South America have contributed considerably to the economic upbuilding of their mother country.

Immigrants from Greece averaged about 25,000 annually prior to the war, and an average of about 21,000 came during the years of 1915– 1917, but it fell to 1,910 in the following year and to only 386 in 1919. As in the case of Italy, economic reasons account for practically all immigration from Greece, but there is no authentic information as to the effect war may have upon immigration from that country.

The Balkan States--Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Roumania, have never contributed a large volume of immigration, the average for the seven years prior to the war being about 9,000 annually. The movement was considerably reduced during the Balkan wars of that period, but it never exceeded 16,100, the number reached in 1908. The Balkans have been in the midst of war for about nine years and it would be strange if resulting economic and political conditions did not impel emigration to an extent equal to if not greater than that occurring in normal times. The same may be said of Turkey in Europe, a territory which dwindled to small proportions as a result of the Balkan wars and may disappear altogether in the final settlement of the world conflict.

Turkey in Asia presents another example of a country which has contributed a considérable stream of immigration that included few

« PreviousContinue »