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wrote one of the leading Forty-eighters, "does the German-American
rouse himself and become a berserker." The great numbers of these men
in many cities and in some of the Western States enabled them to have
German taught in the public schools, though it is only fair to say
that the underlying motive was liberalism rather than Prussian
provincialism. Frederick Kapp, a distinguished interpreter of the
spirit of these Forty-eighters, expressed their conviction when he
said that those who cared to remain German should remain in Germany
and that those who came to America were under solemn obligations to
become Americans.

The descendants of these immigrants, the second and the third and
fourth generations, are now thoroughly absorbed into every phase of
American life. Their national idiosyncrasies have been modified and
subdued by the gentle but relentless persistence of the English
language and the robust vigor of American law and American political

After 1870 a great change came over the German immigration. More and
more industrial workers, but fewer and fewer peasants, and very rarely
an intellectual or a man of substance, now appeared at Ellis Island
for admission to the United States.[28] The facilities for migrating
were vastly increased by the great transatlantic steamship companies.
The new Germans came in hordes even outnumbering the migrations of the
fifties. From 1870 to 1910 over three and a quarter millions arrived.
The highest point of the wave, however, was reached in 1882, when
250,630 German immigrants entered the United States. Thereafter the
number rapidly subsided; the lowest ebb, in 1898, brought only 17,111,
but from that time until the Great War the number of annual arrivals
fluctuated between 25,000 and 40,000.

The majority of those who came in the earlier part of this period made
their way to the Western lands. The Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa,
and the Far West, still offered alluring opportunities. But as these
lands were gradually taken, the later influx turned towards the
cities. Here the immigrants not only found employment in those trades
and occupations which the Germans for years had virtually monopolized,
but they also became factory workers in great numbers, and many of
them went into the mining regions.

It soon became apparent that the spirit of this latest migration was
very different from that of the earlier ones. "I do not believe,"
writes a well-informed and patriotic Lutheran pastor in 1917, "that
there is one among a thousand that has emigrated on account of
dissatisfaction with the German Government during the last forty-five
years." Humility on the part of these newcomers now gradually gave way
to arrogance. Instead of appearing eager to embrace their new
opportunities, they criticized everything they found in their new
home. The contemptuous hauteur and provincial egotism of the modern
Prussian, loathsome enough in the educated, were ridiculous in the
poor immigrants. Gradually this Prussian spirit increased. In 1883 it
could still be said of the three hundred German-American periodicals,
daily, weekly, and monthly, that in their tone they were thoroughly
American. But ten or fifteen years later changes were apparent. In
1895 there were some five hundred German periodicals published in
America, and many of the newer ones were rabidly Germanophile. The
editors and owners of the older publications were dying out, and new
hands were guiding the editorial pens. Often when there was no
American-born German available, an editor was imported fresh from
Germany. He came as a German from a new Germany - that Prussianized
Germany which unmasked itself in August, 1914, and which included in
its dream of power the unswerving and undivided loyalty of all Germans
who had migrated. The traditional American indifference and good
nature became a shield for the Machiavellian editors who now began to
write not for the benefit of America but for the benefit of Germany.
Political scandals, odious comparisons of American and German methods,
and adroit criticisms of American ways were the daily pabulum fed to
the German reader, who was left with the impression that everything in
the United States was wrong, while everything in Germany was right.
Before the United States entered the Great War, there was a most
remarkable unanimity of expression among these German publications;
afterwards, Congress found it necessary to enact rigorous laws against
them. As a result, many of them were suppressed, and many others
suspended publication.

German pastors, also, were not infrequently imported and brought with
them the virus of the new Prussianism. This they injected into their
congregations and especially into the children who attended their
catechetical instruction. German "exchange professors," in addition to
their university duties, usually made a pilgrimage of the cities where
the German influence was strong. The fostering of the German language
became no longer merely a means of culture or an appurtenance to
business but was insisted upon as a necessity to keep alive the German
spirit, _der Deutsche Geist_. German parents were warned, over and
over again, that once their children lost their language they would
soon lose every active interest in _Kultur_. The teaching of German in
the colleges and universities assumed, undisguised and unashamed, the
character of Prussian propaganda. The new immigrants from Germany were
carefully protected from the deteriorating effect of American
contacts, and, unlike the preceding generations of German immigrants,
they took very little part in politics. Those who arrived after 1900
refused, usually, to become naturalized.

The diabolical ingenuity of the German propaganda was subsequently
laid bare, and it is known today that nearly every German club,
church, school, and newspaper from about 1895 onward was being
secretly marshaled into a powerful Teutonic homogeneity of sentiment
and public opinion. The Kaiser boasted of his political influence
through the German vote. The German-American League, incorporated by
Congress, had its branches in many States. Millions of dollars were
spent by the Imperial German Government to corrupt the millions of
German birth in America. These disclosures, when they were ultimately
made, produced in the United States a sharp and profound reaction
against everything Teutonic. The former indifference completely
vanished and hyphen-hunting became a popular pastime. The charter of
the German-American League was revoked by Congress. City after city
took German from its school curriculum. Teutonic names of towns and
streets were erased - half a dozen Berlins vanished overnight - and in
their places appeared the names of French, British, and American

But though the names might be erased, the German element remained. It
had become incorporated into the national bone and sinew, contributing
its thoroughness, stolidity, and solidity to the American stock. The
power of liberal political institutions in America has been revealed,
and thousands upon thousands of the sons and grandsons of German
immigrants crossed the seas in 1917 and 1918 to bear aloft the starry
standard upon the fields of Flanders against the arrogance and
brutality of the neo-Prussians.


[Footnote 25: According to the Census of 1910 the nationality of the
total number of white persons of foreign stock in the United States is
distributed chiefly as follows:

Germany 8,282,618 or 25.7 per cent
Ireland 4,504,360 or 14.0 " "
Canada 2,754,615 or 8.6 " "
Russia 2,541,649 or 7.9 " "
England 2,322,442 or 7.2 " "
Italy 2,098,360 or 6.5 " "
Austria 2,001,559 or 6.2 " "

Furthermore, the significance of the foreign born element in the
population of the United States can be gathered from the fact that, in
1910, of the 91,972,266 inhabitants of the United States, no less than
13,515,836 or 14.6 per cent were born in some other country.]

[Footnote 26: _An Account of the Manners of the German Inhabitants of

[Footnote 27: J.G. Häcker, a well-informed and prosperous German who
took the journey by steerage in a sailing vessel in 1849, wrote an
instructive description of his experiences. Of his fellow passengers
he said: "Our company was very mixed. There were many young people:
clerks, artists, musicians, architects, miners, mechanics, men of
various professions, peasants, one man seventy-eight years old,
another very aged Bavarian farmer, several families of Jews, etc., and
a fair collection of children."]

[Footnote 28: There were three potent reasons for this migration:
financial stringency, overpopulation, and the growing rigor of the
military service. Over ten thousand processes a year were issued by
the German Government in 1872 and 1873 for evasion of military duty.
Germans who had become naturalized American citizens were arrested
when they returned to the Fatherland for a visit on the charge of
having evaded military service. A treaty between the two countries
finally adjusted this difficulty.]



For over a century after the Revolution the great fact in American
life was the unoccupied land, that vast stretch of expectant acreage
lying fallow in the West. It kept the American buoyant, for it was an
insurance policy against want. When his crops failed or his business
grew dull, there was the West. When panic and disaster overtook him,
there remained the West. When the family grew too large for the old
homestead, the sons went west. And land, unlimited and virtually free,
was the magnet that drew the foreign home seeker to the American

The first public domain after the formation of the Union extended from
the Alleghanies to the Mississippi. This area was enlarged and pushed
to the Rockies by the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and was again enlarged
and extended to the Pacific by the acquisition of Oregon (1846) and
the Mexican cession (1848). The total area of the United States from
coast to coast then comprised 3,025,000[29] square miles, of which
over two-thirds were at one time or another public domain. Before the
close of the Civil War the Government had disposed of nearly four
hundred million acres but still retained in its possession an area
three times as great as the whole of the territory which had been won
from Great Britain in the Revolution.

The public domain was at first looked upon as a source of revenue, and
a minimum price was fixed by law at $2 an acre, though this rate was
subsequently (1820) lowered to $1.25 an acre. The West always wanted
liberal land laws, but the South before the Civil War, fearing that
the growth of the West would give the North superior strength, opposed
any such generosity. When the North dominated Congress, the Homestead
Law of 1862 provided that any person, twenty-one years of age, who was
a citizen of the United States or who had declared his intention of
becoming one, could obtain title to 160 acres of land by living upon
it five years, making certain improvements, and paying the entry fee
of ten dollars.

The Government laid out its vast estate in townships six miles square,
which it subdivided into sections of 640 acres and quarter sections of
160 acres. The quarter section was regarded as the public land unit
and was the largest amount permitted for individual preëmption and
later for a homestead. Thus was the whole world invited to go west.
Under the new law, 1,160,000 acres were taken up in 1865.[30] The
settler no longer had to suffer the wearisome, heart-breaking tasks
that confronted the pioneer of earlier years, for the railway and
steamboat had for some time taken the place of the Conestoga wagon and
the fitful sailboat.

But the movement by railway and by steamboat was merely a continuation
on a greater scale of what had been going on ever since the
Revolution. The westward movement was begun, as we have seen, not by
foreigners but by American farmers and settlers from seaboard and back
country, thousands of whom, before the dawn of the nineteenth century,
packed their household goods and families into covered wagons and
followed the sunset trail.

The vanguard of this westward march was American, but foreign
immigrants soon began to mingle with the caravans. At first these
newcomers who heard the far call of the West were nearly all from the
British Isles. Indeed so great was the exodus of these farmers that in
1816 the British journals in alarm asked Parliament to check the
"ruinous drain of the most useful part of the population of the United
Kingdom." Public meetings were held in Great Britain to discuss the
average man's prospect in the new country. Agents of land companies
found eager crowds gathered to learn particulars. Whole neighborhoods
departed for America. In order to stop the exodus, the newspapers
dwelt upon the hardship of the voyage and the excesses of the
Americans. But, until Australia, New Zealand, and Canada began to
deflect migration, the stream to the United States from England,
Scotland, and Wales was constant and copious. Between 1820 and 1910
the number coming from Ireland was 4,212,169, from England 2,212,071,
from Scotland 488,749, and from Wales 59,540.

What proportion of this host found their way to the farms is not
known.[31] In the earlier years, the majority of the English and
Scotch sought the land. In western New York, in Ohio, Indiana,
Michigan, and contiguous States there were many Scotch and English
neighborhoods established before the Civil War. Since 1870, however,
the incoming British have provided large numbers of skilled mechanics
and miners, and the Welsh, also, have been drawn largely to the coal

The French Revolution drove many notables to exile in the United
States, and several attempts were made at colonization. The names
Gallipolis and Gallia County, Ohio, bear witness to their French
origin. Gallipolis was settled in 1790 by adventurers from Havre,
Bordeaux, Nantes, La Rochelle, and other French cities. The colony was
promoted in France by Joel Barlow, an Ananias even among land sharks,
representing the Scioto Land Company, or Companie du Scioto, one of
the numerous speculative concerns that early sought to capitalize
credulity and European ignorance of the West. The Company had, in
fact, no title to the lands, and the wretched colonists found
themselves stranded in a wilderness for whose conquest they were
unsuited. Of the colonists McMaster says: "Some could build coaches,
some could make perukes, some could carve, others could gild with such
exquisite carving that their work had been thought not unworthy of the
King."[32] Congress came to the relief of these unfortunate people in
1795 and granted them twenty-four thousand acres in Ohio. The town
they founded never fully realized their early dreams, but, after a
bitter struggle, it survived the log cabin days and was later honored
by a visit from Louis Philippe and from Lafayette. Very few
descendants of the French colonists share in its present-day

The majority of the French who came to America after 1820 were factory
workers and professional people who remained in the cities. There are
great numbers of French Canadians in the factory towns of New England.
There are, too, French colonies in America whose inhabitants cannot be
rated as foreigners, for their ancestors were veritable pioneers.
Throughout the Mississippi Valley, such French settlements as
Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, Cahokia, and others have left much more
than a geographical designation and have preserved an old world aroma
of quaintness and contentment.

Swiss immigrants, to the number of about 250,000 and over 175,000
Dutch have found homes in America. The majority of the Swiss came from
the German cantons of Switzerland. They have large settlements in
Ohio, Wisconsin, and California, where they are very successful in
dairying and stock raising. The Hollanders have taken root chiefly in
western Michigan, between the Kalamazoo and Grand rivers, on the deep
black bottom lands suitable for celery and market gardening. The town
of Holland there, with its college and churches, is the center of
Dutch influence in the United States. Six of the eleven Dutch
periodicals printed in America are issued from Michigan, and the
majority of newcomers (over 80,000 have arrived since 1900) have made
their way to that State. These sturdy and industrious people from
Holland and Switzerland readily adapt themselves to American life.

No people have answered the call of the land in recent years as
eagerly as have the Scandinavians. These modern vikings have within
one generation peopled a large part of the great American Northwest.
In 1850 there were only eighteen thousand Scandinavians in the United
States. The tide rose rapidly in the sixties and reached its height in
the eighties, until over two million Scandinavian immigrants have made
America their home. They and their descendants form a very substantial
part of the rural population. There are nearly half as many Norwegians
in America as in Norway, which has emptied a larger proportion of its
population into the American lap than any other country save Ireland.
About one-fourth of the world's Swedes and over one-tenth of the
world's Danes dwell in America.

The term Scandinavian is here used in the loose sense to embrace the
peoples of the two peninsulas where dwell the Danes, the Norwegians,
and the Swedes. These three branches of the same family have much in
common, though for many years they objected to being thus rudely
shaken together into one ethnic measure. The Swede is the aristocrat,
the Norwegian the democrat, the Dane the conservative. The Swede,
polite, vivacious, fond of music and literature, is "the Frenchman of
the North," the Norwegian is a serious viking in modern dress: the
Dane remains a landsman, devoted to his fields, and he is more
amenable than his northern kinsmen to the cultural influence of the

The Norwegian, true to viking traditions, led the modern exodus. In
1825 the sloop _Restoration_, the _Mayflower_ of the Norse, landed a
band of fifty-three Norwegian Quakers on Manhattan. These peasants
settled at first in western New York. But within a few years most of
them removed to Fox River, Illinois, whither were drawn most of the
Norwegians who migrated before 1850. After the Civil War, the stream
rapidly rose, until nearly seven hundred thousand persons of Norwegian
birth have settled in America.

The Swedish migration started in 1841, when Gustavus Unonius, a former
student of the University of Upsala, founded the colony of Pine Lake,
near Milwaukee. His followers have been described as a strange
assortment of "noblemen, ex-army officers, merchants, and
adventurers," whose experiences and talents were not of the sort that
make pioneering successful. Frederika Bremer, the noted Swedish
traveler, has left a description of the little cluster of log huts and
the handful of people who "had taken with them the Swedish inclination
for hospitality and a merry life, without sufficiently considering how
long it could last." Their experiences form a romantic prelude to the
great Swedish migration, which reached its height in the eighties.
Today the Swedes form the largest element in the Scandinavian influx,
for well over one million have migrated to the United States.

Nearly three hundred thousand persons of Danish blood have come into
the country since the Civil War. A large number migrated from
Schleswig-Holstein, after the forcible annexation of that province by
Prussia in 1866, preferring the freedom of America to the tyranny of

Whatever distinctions in language and customs may have characterized
these Northern peoples, they had one ambition in common - the desire to
own tillable land. So they made of the Northwest a new Scandinavia,
larger and far more prosperous than that which Gustavus Adolphus had
planned in colonial days for his colony in Delaware. One can travel
today three hundred miles at a stretch across the prairies of the
Dakotas or the fields of Minnesota without leaving land that is owned
by Scandinavians. They abound also in Wisconsin, Northern Illinois,
Eastern Nebraska, and Kansas, and Northern Michigan. Latterly the
lands of Oregon and Washington are luring them by the thousands, while
throughout the remaining West there are scattered many prosperous
farms cultivated by representatives of this hardy race. Latterly this
stream of Scandinavians has thinned to about one-half its former size.
In 1910, 48,000 came; in 1911, 42,000; in 1912, 27,000; in 1913,
33,000. The later immigrant is absorbed by the cities, or sails upon
the Great Lakes or in the coastwise trade, or works in lumber camps or
mines. Wherever you find a Scandinavian, however, he is working close
to nature, even though he is responding to the call of the new

It is the consensus of opinion among competent observers that these
northern peoples have been the most useful of the recent great
additions to the American race. They were particularly fitted by
nature for the conquest of the great area which they have brought
under subjugation, not merely because of their indomitable industry,
perseverance, honesty, and aptitude for agriculture, but because they
share with the Englishman and the Scotchman the instinct for
self-government. Above all, the Scandinavian has never looked upon
himself as an exile. From the first he has considered himself an
American. In Minnesota and Dakota, the Norse pioneer often preceded
local government. "Whenever a township became populous enough to have
a name as well as a number on the surveyor's map, that question was
likely to be determined by the people on the ground, and such names
as Christiana, Swede Plain, Numedal, Throndhjem, and Vasa leave no
doubt that Scandinavians officiated at the christening." These people
proceeded with the organizing of the local government and, "except for
the peculiar names, no one would suspect that the town-makers were
born elsewhere than in Massachusetts or New York."[33] This, too, in
spite of the fact that they continued the use of their mother tongue,
for not infrequently election notices and even civic ordinances and
orders were issued in Norwegian or Swedish. In 1893 there were 146
Scandinavian newspapers, and their number has since greatly increased.

In politics the Norseman learned his lesson quickly. Governors,
senators, and representatives in Congress give evidence to a racial
clannishness that has more than once proven stronger than party
allegiance. Yet with all their influence in the Northwest, they have
not insisted on unreasonable race recognition, as have the Germans in
Wisconsin and other localities. Minnesota and Dakota have established
classes in "the Scandinavian language" in their state universities,
evidently leaving it to be decided as an academic question which is
_the_ Scandinavian language. Without brilliance, producing few
leaders, the Norseman represents the rugged commonplace of American
life, avoiding the catastrophes of a soaring ambition on the one hand
and the pitfalls of a jaded temperamentalism on the other. Bent on
self-improvement, he scrupulously patronizes farmers' institutes, high
schools, and extension courses, and listens with intelligent patience
to lectures that would put an American audience to sleep. This son of
the North has greatly buttressed every worthy American institution
with the stern traditional virtues of the tiller of the soil. Strength
he gives, if not grace, and that at a time when all social
institutions are being shaken to their foundations.

Among the early homesteaders in the upper Mississippi Valley there
were a substantial number of Bohemians. In Nebraska they comprise nine
per cent of the foreign born population, in Oklahoma seven per cent,
and in Texas over six per cent. They began migrating in the turbulent
forties. They were nearly all of the peasant class, neat, industrious
and intelligent, and they usually settled in colonies where they
retained their native tongue and customs. They were opposed to
slavery and many enlisted in the Union cause.

Among the Polish immigrants who came to America before 1870, many
settled on farms in Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, and other States. They
proved much more clannish than the Bohemians and more reluctant to
conform to American customs.

Many farms in the Northwest are occupied by Finns, of whom there were

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Online LibrarySamuel P. OrthOur Foreigners A Chronicle of Americans in the Making → online text (page 8 of 14)