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Hawk stood up straight, his breast to the steel; His cutlass made a bloody wheel.
His cutlass made a wheel of flame.
They shrank before him as he came.
And the bodies fell in a choking crowd,
And still he thundered out aloud,
"The hemp that shall hang me is not grown!" They fled at last. He was left alone.
Before his foe Sir Henry stood.
"The hemp is grown, and my word made good!"
And the cutlass clanged with a hissing whir
Hawk roared and charged like a maddened buck. As the cobra strikes, Sir Henry struck,
Pouring his life in a single thrust,
And the cutlass shivered to sparks and dust.
Sir Henry stood on the blood-stained deck,
Then from the hatch, where the rent decks slope, Where the dead roll and the wounded grope, He dragged the serpent of the rope.
The sky was blue, and the sea was still,
The waves lapped softly, hill on hill,
And between one wave and another wave
The doomed man's cries were little and shrill.
The sea was blue, and the sky was calm;
The air dripped with a golden balm.
Like a wind-blown fruit between sea and sun,
A black thing writhed at a yard-arm.
Slowly then, and awesomely,
The ship sank, and the gallows-tree,
And there was naught between sea and sun-
But down by the marsh where the fever breeds,
HATEVER else the hyphen may
do, at least it is a thorn in the bed that has aroused the country to a realization of the imperative nature of the immigration problem. In the activities of hyphenated societies and a foreign-language press, expressed by seditious attacks upon the Government and bold disruptions of industry, there is plain evidence that the melting-pot has not been melting. The bland assumption that we are one country and one people has been given a rude shock by bitter statistics filled with proof that great masses of aliens have failed to transfer their allegiance, a domestic peril that threatens the permanence of American institutions as gravely as any menace of foreign foe.
In the last decade, 1905 to 1914 inclusive, over ten million immigrants entered the United States with presumed intent to make this their home and the land of their devotion. Three millions
returned to Europe after completing varied terms of labor, and of the seven millions remaining, only two and a half millions have given formal evidence of any desire for citizenship..
Two thirds of the seven millions have never learned the English language with any degree of mastery, nor is the money earned by this army of foreigners invested in the United States or even deposited in American banks. In some years the amount sent abroad by aliens has reached the huge total of $300,000,000.
One third quitting the land that was to have been their home, two thirds holding aloof from citizenship and common interest, two thirds unable or unwilling to learn the tongue of their adopted country, and the great majority rushing their savings back to Europe! No record of failure was ever written so plainly.
At other times, when upheavals have developed the lack of a process of quick
and wholesome assimilation, it has been the habit to put entire blame upon the ignorance, incapacity, and ingratitude of the alien, holding steadfastly that all fault is to be found in the material that comes to the melting-pot, and none in the pot itself. But is this true? Can it be said that our treatment of the immigrant has been of a kind calculated to win his permanent allegiance or to convince him of the desirability of a complete Americanization? In a day of crisis, is it wise to cling to old prejudices in the face of new facts; in plainer words, to save our face rather than to save American institutions?
At almost every port of entry the immigration buildings are old and inadequate, the equipment outgrown, and the working staff so small that inspecting officers have frequently been compelled to labor thirty-six hours without a rest. As a first experience in the land of promise, aliens undergo detention in packed rooms and crowded hospitals, and wearisome delays exhaust health, strength, spirit, and
Eliminating the Hebrews, fully seventy-five per cent. of the immigrants come from the agricultural districts of Europe, yet a scant ten per cent. ever reach the land in America. The problem of employment presses heavily upon these new arrivals, for eighty-three per cent. have less than fifty dollars, and since the Government possesses no machinery of distribution, the starvation-scared immigrants make a rabbit rush for the nearest warren the moment the gates are opened. While the rich acreage of the West lies idle for lack of labor, hundreds of thousands of farmers and farm-laborers are forced into the industrial centers of the East, adding to the congestion, dragging down the standard of living, and demoralizing the labor market generally.
In one year, while six thousand peasants were going to the fertile lands in Washington, Kansas, Oregon, Texas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico, over two hundred thousand were herded into the mills and factories of New York, Pennsylvania, New
Jersey, and Illinois. Ignorance and necessity drive them there, and ignorance and necessity keep them there. Three fourths of the immigrants in the United States have never been able to move away from the covert that first received them. Rooted in the dead soil of isolation, poverty, and illiteracy, there is no hope of wholesome growth.
Just as the Government does not operate any agency of distribution, so is there lack of the protective machinery that might guard these bewildered strangers from the exploitations of the fake employment-bureau, the labor-agent, and the padrone. Such as escape the tenements, the mill, or the mine, are huddled in remote construction-camps, where they live in filthy box-cars or vermin-ridden barracks, removed from churches and schools and without other recreation than the inevitable saloon.
Commissaries rob them, contractors cheat them, and even when they have sufficient courage to appeal to the law, attorneys' fees and court costs prevent them from prosecuting admittedly just claims. The records of the labor-bureaus in the various States are thick with instances that prove it to be virtually a custom for a certain type of employer to take advantage of the ignorance and poverty of helpless aliens.
Much emphasis is laid upon the fact that the immigrants huddle in tenements, group by themselves in sordid colonies, and live in a fashion repulsive to American ideals. This is true enough. The investigations of the Immigration Commission brought out the fact that fully one half of the alien population use all of their rooms as sleeping-rooms, and that the number of persons to a room runs as high as eight or ten. The slightest study, however, discloses the fact that this overcrowding is not due to inclination, but to economic necessity.
The average annual earnings of a male alien total $385, quite obviously a sum that does not permit the maintenance of a family in a decent, sanitary environment. Women, forced into industry to help the
men, lend themselves even more readily to exploitation, two thirds of them receiving less than $300 a year. When wages are pooled, the resulting $685 still falls short of the $900 that federal experts have fixed upon as the annual amount necessary for the support of a family. Since the wages of both man and woman are not sufficient to maintain an independent, self-respecting form of family life, the children are put to work, and the sleeping- and living-rooms of the house are packed with boarders in order that the family income may be brought up to an existence level.
This low-wage scale is not so much due to lack of industry and capacity as to the alien's ignorance of the English language, and his consequent unfamiliarity with American methods and institutions. only this, but there are many immigrants who cannot read or write even in their own language. The census report for 1910 showed that in the preceding ten years 1,918,825 illiterates over the age of fourteen were admitted.
Owing to compulsory education laws, the question of illiteracy is not one of great importance in the second generation; but what of the adult alien without the education upon which he must depend for protection and prosperity? Little or nothing is done for him, and as a result he huddles with those of his own nationality, remains the victim of padrones, and if he does become naturalized, it is at the instigation of some ward boss eager for the control of another vote.
Night schools, conducted by private organizations, are not the answer. After a day of drudgery, the mind of the immigrant reacts to the fatigue of the body, and as if this was not obstacle enough, these classes take no account of cultural, racial, and class differences. Some of the aliens are bright, others stupid, some illiterate and others highly educated in their own tongue, but all are bundled into one group, with the result that the dull are discouraged and the educated disgusted. Without a knowledge of English the alien is loath to leave his own people, unable to
get a position in the skilled trades, barred from the unions, subjected to injustice and oppression, and forced into the monotonous drudgeries that break body and spirit.
Every survey yet made of immigrant colonies proves that increased earning power and the acquirement of English are quickly followed by better homes, social ambition, and a larger civic interest. The Ford increase in wages, for instance, resulted in an almost immediate improvement of living conditions, showing that the aliens were not huddling in tenements from choice.
It is not only the case that America has been guilty of many sins of omission in connection with the immigrant, but there are also crimes of commission. The attitude of the average native-born American is one of superiority, contempt, and even hostility, making it difficult indeed for the immigrant to free himself from isolation or to gain direct contact with American life. In the textile towns of New England, the factory districts of the Atlantic seaboard, and the various mining communities, the immigrants are forced into colonies, and barred from participation in native affairs by a very definite wall of dislike and contempt. Even the churches make small effort to break down this barrier behind which the alien crouches, gazing sullenly at the land that has failed him in its promise of freedom and fraternity.
In view of these indisputable facts, is it possible to insist that the failure of the American melting-pot is the fault of the alien entirely? If the hyphen persists as a menacing feature of American life, does the blame lie at the door of those expectant thousands who come to the United States in hope and faith or in the cruel neglects and exploitations that flow from the greeds and indifferences of the nativeborn?
It is a problem that must be faced, nor is there any likelihood that it will become less acute. The defeat of every attempt to establish a literacy test is proof conclusive that the American people are opposed