The Restriction Of Immigration -- By: Edward W. Bemis

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 053:211 (Jul 1896)
Article: The Restriction Of Immigration
Author: Edward W. Bemis


The Restriction Of Immigration

Edward W. Bemis

Readers of the Bibliotheca Sacra are aware of the agitation in Congress in favor of the bill, that has already passed the House by a large majority, that would keep out all immigrants between sixteen and sixty years of age who cannot read and write in the English or some other language. This McCall bill may not become a law at this session. A senator has written a friend that, in view of the coming elections, Congress will pass no bill that has two sides to it! Yet the interest in such proposed legislation is growing not only among the members of the A. P. A., but among economists, publicists, and even leaders of organized labor, and may ere long lead to positive enactment.

The secretary of the Immigration Restriction League, with its headquarters in Boston, finds in an article of the writer’s in the Andover Review of March, 1888, the first advocacy of such a bill, and he therefore feels an especial interest in a brief consideration of it here.

The first national legislation was an act of July, 1864, entitled “An Act to Encourage Immigration,” and providing not only for the protection of new arrivals from imposition, but exempting them from military service, and allowing them before coming to make a contract for any term, not exceeding one year, to repay the expenses of coming. This law was repealed in 1868, and there was no further national legislation on immigration till J882, but many Western States kept immigration agents in Europe to secure settlers. In

these and previous years, our immigration was almost entirely of Germanic stock, such as Germans, Norwegians, Swedes, and British. The chief exception—the Irish—had long been under Anglo-Saxon training. These kinsmen of ours not only helped to fill our armies in the Civil War (and in case of the Irish our police and aldermanic bodies since then!), but they came when there was a greater apparent need of unskilled labor than now, and they brought with them some familiarity with local self-government, even though unacquainted with democratic control in national affairs.

In the years following 1830, however, the American birth-rate declined faster than immigration increased, and it is the at least very plausible theory of General Francis A. Walker, our eminent economist, that one great factor in this rapid decline of the American birth-rate was the unwillingness to bring children into competition with the unkempt children of the immigrant, who, through no fault of their own, could not quickly escape the results of heredity and early environment. The words of General Walker, in the August, 1891, Forum, are worth quoti...

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