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Digital History ID 3821


Interpreting Primary Sources

What class of our citizens most strenuously resist the moral restrains of the community....who among our population give unrestricted and unregulated license to the ten thousand drinking places in the city, which are the chief receptacles of drunkenness, debauchery, villainy, and disease? It is the residuum or dregs of four millions of European immigrants, including paupers, felons, and convicts that have landed at this port within the last twenty years.

Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the New York Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor, 1867

The best reason that could be given for this radical restriction of
immigration is the necessity of protecting our population against
degeneration and saving our national peace and quiet from imported
turbulence and disorder.

I cannot believe that we would be protected against these evils by limiting immigration to those who can read and write in any language twenty-five words of our Constitution. In my opinion it is infinitely more safe to admit a hundred thousand immigrants who, though unable to read and write, seek among us only a home and opportunity to work, than to admit one of those unruly agitators and enemies of governmental control, who can not only read and write but delights in arousing by inflammatory speech the illiterate and peacefully inclined to discontent and tumult. Violence and disorder do not originate with illiterate laborers.

President Cleveland's veto of immigration restriction bill

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus"

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism...The one absolutely certain way of bringing the nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.

Theodore Roosevelt, 1915

Questions To Think About

1. What social evils do critics associate with mass immigration?

2. Which is the goal of American immigration--a "melting pot" or cultural pluralism?

3. What kind of immigration policy is most consistent with the nation's needs and ideals?

Immigrant America

Interpreting Statistics

Number of Immigrants 
1820  8,385 
1830  23,322 
1840  84,066 
1850  369,980 
1860  153,640 
1870  387,203 
1880  457,257
1890  455,302 
1900  448,572 
1910  1,041,570 
1920  430,001 
1930  241,700 
1940  70,756 
1950  249,187 

Questions To Think About

1. During which period was immigration greatest?

2. Has wartime or depression increased or decreased immigration?

Impact of Immigration Quotas

Interpreting Statistics

Average Annual Inflow 
  Immigrants from Northern and Western Europe Other Immigrants 
1907-1914  176,983  685,531 
Quotas under 1921 Act  198,082  158,367 
Quotas under 1924 Act  140,999  20,847 

Questions To Think About

1. What impact did quotas have upon immigration?

2. Which groups suffered the most restriction?

Interpreting Statistics

Family Characteristics of Major Immigrant Groups, 1909-1914 
Group Percentage Returning to Europe Males Per 100 Females Percent Under 14
Czechs  133

19 %

English   136 16 %
Finish  181 8 %
Germans 7 132 18 %
Greeks 16 170 4 %
Hebrews 2 117 25 %
Hungarians 22 141 16 %
Italians 17 320 12 %
Poles 13 188 10 %
Slovaks 19 162 12 %

Questions To think About

1. Which immigrant groups were most likely to leave the United States and return home?

2. Which groups had the most even sex ratio? the least even?

3. Which groups included the largest number of children?

Interpreting Statistics

Age of Marriage for Women
  15-19 20-24 25-29 45-54
German 10 49 77 96
Irish 2 18 46 85
Italian 29 74 93 99
Japanese 51 85 87 93
Polish 15 66 89 99
Russian 7 55 90 99
Urban Blacks 16 57 n.a. 94
Native Whites 13 53 77 91

Questions To Think About

1. Which immigrant groups married earliest? latest?

2. Explain why some groups married earlier than others and why this is significant.

Child Labor

Interpreting Statistics

Proportion of Children 10-15 in Labor Force
    Boston  Philadelphia  Pittsburgh 
Boys  Native  20  20 
  2nd generation  24  20 
  1st generation  19  39  30 
  Black   10  17  19 
Girls  Native  12 
  2nd generation  18 
  1st generation  13  39  18 
  Black  14 

Questions To Think About

1. Which groups were most likely to have children in the labor force?

2. Which groups were least likely?

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