Immigration and Labor: The Economic Aspects of European Immigration to the United States

By Isaac A. Hourwich | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
RACE SUICIDE

IT cannot be seriously disputed that the great immigration of recent years has come in response to a demand for labor in the United States. Industrial progress and improvement of the condition of the wage-earners and farmers in the countries of Northern and Western Europe rendered the supply of immigrant labor from those sources inadequate. Without the immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, the rapid industrial expansion of the past decade would have been impossible. But it seems to the Immigration Commission, that "there is ground for argument or speculation" that "less immigration of a character tending to keep down wages and working conditions might have been attended by a larger natural increase among the native- born portion of the population."1

This theory, originated by Gen. Francis A. Walker, until lately held unchallenged the field of economic and sociological discussion. General Walker believed that immigration had caused a decline in the birth-rate of the native American population:

The American shrank from the industrial competition thus thrust upon him. He was unwilling himself to engage in the lowest kind of day-labor with these new elements of the population; he was even more unwilling to bring sons and daughters into the world to enter into that competition. Foreign immigration into this country has . . . amounted not to a re-enforcement of our population, but to a replacement of native by foreign stock. . . . If the foreigners had not come, the native element would long have filled the places the foreigners usurped.2

____________________
1
Reports of the Immigration Commission, vol. 1, p. 494.
2
Francis A. Walker: Discussions in Economics and Statistics, pp. 422-425.

-221-

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