Imagens das páginas

these people very easily; our institutions Americanize them, make new men of them, in the second generation.” This, of course, is precisely the important question. Do we Americanize them? Do they, by any chance, or to any extent, de-Americanize us?

If we wish to get the average American really interested in this question, it will be well to lay before him a good many statistics. Americans think in numbers more easily than in any other way. They have a saying that 'Figures don't lie," and if you can make them see the immigrant question in terms of "figures" it will at once take on a vividness that it could not otherwise have. First of all, therefore, let us startle our average American by telling him that in 1910 there were in the United States 13,000,000 inhabitants who were born in some foreign country. This was roughly one-seventh of the total population; and this means that if these 13,000,000 people were uniformly distributed throughout the country, the average American, when he went about his business or pleasure, would find that one out of every seven persons he met was, in respect to birth, nationality, and inherited traditions, to all intents and purposes a foreigner. Only a very small per cent. of these foreign-born were under fifteen years of age when they arrived in the country; and the average American may therefore rightly be told that he, assisted by six other average Americans, is in duty bound to "absorb" and Americanize" one full-grown foreigner; and furthermore, at the present rate of immigration we can give him only about sixteen years to do it in, for at the end of that period we shall have another foreigner to turn over to him and his six associates.

If the business were managed in this way, the average American would doubtless think it a bigger job than he had supposed. But another thing which the American does not sufficiently realize is that the number of immigrants is constantly increasing. This increase may be made vivid by the following figures. Between 1820 and 1910 the total immigration from foreign countries, excluding Canada and Mexico, was about 28,000,000; between 1850 and 1910 it was about 25,000,000; between 1880 and 1910 it was about 19,000,000; between 1900 and 1910 it was about 9,000,000; and between 1905 and 1910 it was about 5,000,000. If the number of immigrants had been as great every year from 1820 to 1910 as it was in the year 1910, the total immigration for the period 1820–1910 would have been about 90,000,000 instead of 28,000,000. Therefore we must tell our average American that if the number of immigrants goes on increasing in the future as it has done in the past, he and his six associates will be required, as time goes on, to complete the process of Americanizing one foreigner within considerably less than sixteen years.

As a matter of fact, the immigrants are not uniformly distributed throughout the country; and while it is this fact that enables the average American to dismiss the problem as one that easily solves itself, it is in reality this fact that makes the problem more difficult than it would otherwise be. In some parts of the country there are almost no immigrants at all; in other parts they are more numerous than the native-born. In the state of Kansas, for example, the people are almost entirely relieved of the task of Americanization. But in New York City only about one person in five is a native-born of native parents; the rest are either native-born of foreign parents or are foreign-born; about 1,500,000, that is to say, about one-third of the total population are foreign-born. This situation concentrates the problem of Americanization in certain areas; New York has much more and Kansas much less than its proper share of the common task. And in recent years there has been a much greater concentration of immigrants in certain areas than formerly; so that the problem of Americanization is becoming a more difficult one, not only because the number of immigrants is increasing, but also because they are being distributed less uniformly among the people as a whole.

The difficulty of Americanizing any given number of foreigners, whether they are more or less uniformly distributed, will depend also upon what kind of foreigners they are. It will obviously be easier to make an American out of a foreigner who already speaks the English language than out of one who does not; and easier to make an American out of an intelligent than out of an illiterate foreigner, whatever his nationality. If we look at immigration from this point of view, we find that in the decade ending 1850 about twothirds of the total number of immigrants came from Great Britain, Ireland, and Canada, and

accordingly English-speaking people; whereas in the decade ending 1910 considerably less than one-third came from these countries. The proportion of foreigners speaking an alien tongue has therefore constantly increased. Besides, the quality of the immigrant has apparently deteriorated. Of the immigrants who came prior to the decade ending in 1880, only about 3 per cent. were illiterate—that is, could neither read nor write their own language, whatever it was; but of those who have come since 1880, about 35 per cent. were illiterate.


There is still another factor which enters into the problem of Americanization. A foreigner who comes to live in America will think of himself as an American much more readily, and will take on American habits and customs much more rapidly, if he finds that he is able to engage in the same occupations that native Americans engage in, to live in the same kind of houses, eat the same kind of food, wear the same kind of clothes, and enjoy the same kind of recreation and amusements. He will then feel that he is an American because he is getting out of life the same things that the average American gets. But if he finds himself doing only the more disagreeable kinds of work, receiving the lowest wages, and consequently living a life which no native American will consent to live, then he is likely to feel that America is not the promised land of opportunity which he supposed it to be. Since he gets less than Americans get, he will not feel himself an American, which is much the same thing as not being one.

Now, in fact, this is coming to be more and more the case. The immigrant finds himself working in certain industries at wages which Americans will not accept, and living

« AnteriorContinuar »