to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Berne, November 18, 1882. (Received December 4.)
Sir: It appears that at no previous time in the history of our country has emigration from the various countries of Europe to the United States assumed such large proportions as during the years 1881 and 1882. The statistics of emigration from Switzerland to our country during the past ten years may serve as a partial illustration of the truth of this remark. There emigrated from Switzerland to the United States in 1871, 2,630; in 1872, 3,630; in 1873, 2,979; in 1874, 2,296; in 1875, 1,439; in 1876, 1,292; in 1877, 1,323; in 1878, 2,033; in 1879, 5,683; in 1880, 8,223; in 1881, 11, 769; and in 1882 the number assumed is 13,000.
These figures, however, only show the number of emigrants who landed at the port of New York. It has been calculated that all the emigrants from Europe that landed in the various ports of the United States in 1881, brought a cash capital of about $60,000,000. In addition to this they brought with them brain and muscle power, which adds to the labor or productive capital of our country at least three times that amount. But besides this cash and labor capital, many of these immigrants bring with them habits, manners, customs and views which, if not adapted to those of the intelligent portion of our native citizens, may prove detrimental if not dangerous to our original institutions. History furnishes us with notable instances of migrations (the Gothic migration to Spain and Italy, the Magyar migration to Hungary, the Tartar migration to Russia, and that far-back migration of the Jews from Egypt to Palestine) which have revolutionized the spiritual and political condition of the countries in which these migratory tribes and peoples had settled. The difference, however, between the migration to our shores and the migrations just referred to, is that, while the latter were confined to comparatively short periods, the former suffers no interruption, but has so steadily gained with the increasing breadth of our national domain as to exceed all the drifts of nations and races [Page 802]from an old home to a new one that are known to history. The question arises: How are we to treat and deal with these numerous immigrants, so as to get them assimilated to our body politic, accustomed to our habits and our civilization, and inspired with a love for our institutions, thus avoiding social revolutions and a violent wrench and change of these institutions? This is a difficult problem to solve, for the American people are becoming a fixed nation, and our foreign element, in my humble opinion, is to be managed by something that must approach a policy and a purpose. It may be permitted me to make a few suggestions in relation to this question.
So far as the adult immigrant is concerned, it is too late to say what shall be his relation to the franchise. That was fixed by law at an early date. Of the reasonableness of that law no opinion is here expressed. But it seems apparent that in the short space of time within which the adult immigrant may exercise the right of franchise, he cannot become intelligently acquainted with the nature, aim, and object of our institutions, nor with the principles, measures, and men necessary for the proper government and development of our country. He may become, and in fact often does become, the mere tool of the party that offers him the biggest bribe, as well as a victim to the vices that settle along the courses of low political intrigues.
In the way of intellectual and political education, then, of the adult immigrant, comparatively little can be done to make of him a citizen such as it is desirable he should be, unless it be by the means of the Germ an-American press. But here the question arises, Is the German-American press always in harmony with the spirit of our civilization and of our institutions? Does it not sometimes manifest opposition to customs and things closely interwoven with our public life and dear to our native population? We leave it to careful and competent observers to answer these questions, under the assumption that just and discriminating criticisms of acts and measures are beneficial, while wholesale denunciation of and unreasonable opposition to them are unjust.
The only way, however, in which we may deal with the adult foreigner, is with his religious condition. This is the problem before our country. Our denominational churches are loyal. They are the conservators of our customs, our civilization, our institutions, our liberties, our faith. Providence has placed the work of dealing with the religious condition of the immigrants into their hands, and in dealing with them in that manner they can incidentally teach them the right way of thinking and acting politically. The immigrants are of two classes, those who speak the English language, and those who speak a foreign tongue. Statistics show that of the 104,274 immigrants that landed on our shores during the month of April last, 68,609 spoke a foreign tongue, while only about one-third of the whole number spoke English. Hence, to my thinking, these immigrants, so far as language is concerned, must be taught, religiously and politically, during the first stages of their stay in our country, in their native tongue. The second generation generally speaks English, and is educated up to our mode of political thinking and acting by our public schools, and by coming in personal contact with the native population. But there is need of addressing ourselves to the adult immigrants in their own familiar tongue, and this should be done by the different denominational churches, in that they establish missions wherever the immigrants settle in considerable numbers. The German, the Swiss, the Swede, the Dane, and all the immigrants who do not speak English, have generally bidden farewell to their native country [Page 803]forever. Their intention is to make a permanent home in our country. Hence, they must be reached through their own language before they understand English, and before their children and childrens children have become assimilated to our American life. Some American churches have been wise, and have adapted themselves to this necessity by establishing missions in various parts of the country among the immigrants from the different European countries. Still much more might and should be done in this matter by the various denominations.
The important question arises, Are the measures here suggested, and long ago carried into effect by some churches, wrong measures? Do they not tend to foster an unnational feeling? These questions may be safely answered in the negative. No power can prevent the children of these immigrants from becoming a part of our English-speaking population. There are thousands, if not millions, of the latter whose fathers knew no word of English when they landed on our shores thirty or forty years ago. Are they less patriotic, less national, or less true Americans than others of the native population? Careful observation will give us a negative answer. Hence the churches ought to redouble their efforts to multiply the facilities to meet the religious (I had almost said the political) wants of the non-English immigrants. Where are these immigrants to-day; and whither do they tend? Along the line of the Northern Pacific Railroad, stretching from Chicago to Puget Sound, the Scandinavians are going in vast numbers. The Germans have already formed and are still forming new communities ail over the land, and the entire Pacific coast, from Portland down to the southern part of California, has an unbroken chain of German-speaking people. Were the Germans taken from Oregon and California, to say nothing of Texas and the older States, every industry would almost become paralyzed thereby. Hence the necessity of increasing the educational forces in the religious, intellectual, and political lines among and for all these peoples who do not speak the English language.
But why this great haste? Why not wait until the children become assimilated with our habits and customs, our civilization, and to our body politic? For the reason that children would scarcely become fully identified with our Christian civilization, if their parents had not first been appealed to in their native tongue and their children had not received their training in our Sunday schools. It is the first one who reaches the new immigrant who gets the strongest hold upon him and his posterity. If the foreigner hears nothing of our Sabbath, of our temperance cause, of the great doctrines of our faith, and of our religious practices, and has no early sympathy thrown around him in his first and only language, he will often be the mere plaything of the worst literature of his own language, and the easy tool of unscrupulous ward politicians. These people will read, and it is a fact that by far the greater part of the non-English (daily and weekly) literature of our country, both published at home and imported, is grossly skeptical, and sometimes immoral. If our churches will furnish the immigrants with a pure gospel and a pure literature in their own language, they and their children will be trained to become intelligent and moral citizens, if not earnest Christians. In this matter no time is to be lost, for they will immediately adjust themselves to their new conditions. They will settle into thinking on the subjects furnished them by those who first get a hold on them, and by the kind of literature that is placed in their hands. They generally drift with the wave of circumstances. But the strong hand of sympathy and faith, and the pure word of truth [Page 804]from the church, which they had little cause to love in their native home, can reach and save them.
Thus, while they find lands and business and a competence, they will find still more—the pearl of great price, which will make of them good citizens.
I am, &c.,