The Man in the Street: The Impact of American Public Opinion on Foreign Policy

By Thomas A. Bailey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
CHILDREN OF THE CRUCIBLE

" America is God's Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming! . . . God is making the American."-- ISRAEL ZANGWILL, 1908


1

THE MAN IN THE STREET either came to America from a foreign land or is descended from men and women who did. If he is white, his forebears emigrated from Europe or its environs. If he is black, they were imported from Africa. If he is yellow, they came from Asia. If he is red, they also came from Asia, across what is now the Bering Strait, millennia ago.* But whether white, black, yellow, or red, Americans are all transplanted Asiatics, Africans, or Europeans, predominantly Europeans.

This is a fact of supreme importance to anyone who would understand the logic and illogic of American foreign policy. The famed melting pot has now bubbled along merrily for many decades, but even today about one American in four was born abroad or has at least one parent who was born abroad. And these figures do not take into account the undeniable influence of foreign- born grandparents. There is still much force in the old saying: "Scratch an American and you will find a foreigner." Sometimes one does not even have to scratch him.

The United States, more than any other great power, is a racial league of nations on a continental scale. Woodrow Wilson not only regarded America as a living demonstration of the workability of his hemispheric League of Nations, but he glimpsed a divine purpose in the American experiment. " America," he said, "was created to unite mankind." But the United States failed mankind in 1920, partly because forces less than divine were pursuing selfish ends, and partly because, as the builders of the tower of Babel discovered, in a multiplicity of tongues there is much confusion. The Chicago Tribune in 1921, pointing to more than 800,000 foreign-born Chicagoans, queried: "Why go abroad for a League of Nations?"

The foreign daubs on the national canvas are not only numerous and variegated, but relatively fresh. As age is reckoned among nations, the United States is hardly more than a lusty adolescent. When George Washington took the presidential oath in 1789, the infant republic numbered but 4,000,- 000 souls; scarcely more than a century and a half later our population had skyrocketed to some 140,000,000. The first great increment of post-1789 immigration, that from Ireland and Germany, was not thrown upon our shores until the 1840's; and the tidal wave from southern Europe did not begin to

____________________
*
The part-Indian Will Rogers liked to twit the General Society of Mayflower Descendants by saying that his ancestors greeted theirs at Plymouth Rock.

-14-

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