Cycles of Prejudice Against Immigrants

Who would say that immigration during the period around 1856 has caused this country to become a terrible place? Well this is precisely what Samuel C. Busey attempted to prove would happen when in he published Immigration: Evils and Consequences. This book starts off with the following text:

The repeal or amendment of the naturalization laws is one of the political questions now agitating the public mind, and it is important that all collateral questions or issues bearing, an any manner, upon this momentous question, should be fully and thoroughly investigated, discussed, and understood.

It is the object of this work to show cause for a repeal of the existing laws, or the necessity of an amendment, which will extend the term of probation of aliens, and require them to reside long enough amongst us to clearly comprehend the workings of a popular government, and to understand and appreciate the laws and municipal regulations of the country.

It goes on in an explanation of how all citizens should understand how the government works which truly few natives understand today anyway (many people have little to no knowledge of the immigration system):

The untutored alien, however honest and patriotic he may be, and however thoroughly imbued with the principles of civil and religious liberty, cannot acquaint himself with the complex machinery in the brief period required by existing laws

This book which claims to be unbiased in trying to show the evils of immigration goes on about the government, culture and its preservation. After setting up the necessities of these things it states:

Immigration is then, inconsistent with the preservation of the homogeneity of a nation or of a government, for “foreigners will bring with them the principles of a government they have imbibed in their youth, or if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty.” The present generation has fully realized this prophetic declaration of the sagacious Jefferson, and were he living at this time he could not more distinctly and unequivocally express the evils of immigration, and its blightening and withering effect upon republican institutions.

From here he identifies the victim of his sharp tongue:

He could not have more distinctly shown the evils flowing from the existence of that great German organization in our midst, which has its branches in New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Louisville, Baltimore, Richmond, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans, where they have distinctly avowed their object to be to change the Constitution of the Untied States and to abrogate all laws relative to the observance of the Sabbath.

It’s immediately apparent that this author wants us to view foreigners who wish to migrate to the U.S. as a threat. Who are these foreigners of which he speaks?

I’d imagine that some of these terrible foreigners may be your relatives. Do you think they have besmirched this good nation? I don’t as it seems to me they’ve done a fine job other than our collective responsibilities for inequities towards our fellow man (which were surely driven by the thought of men like Samuel Busey), but not everyone fell in to those traps. They were allowed to happen due to a fallacy, a perceived public opinion, a desire to fit in and a feeling that if you showed any compassion towards those different then you’ll be condemned by your neighbor.

This is exactly what is happening today with Hispanics who are assumed to be “illegal” immigrants.

Just for good measure here’s one more quote from the book and we haven’t even gotten past page 13.

To borrow the language of that bold and fearless champion of the American reformation (Hon. Wm. R. Smith), “The mass of foreigners who come to the country are incapable of appreciating the policies of our government, they do not sufficiently understand our institutions. Patriotism is natural in a native, but it must be cultivated in a foreigner. Their minds are filled with a vague and indefinite idea of liberty.

From here Samuel cites examples of demands made by The German Social Democratic Association of Virginia. One, which admittedly is a little odd, but I can’t speak to their reasoning, was to abolish the presidency. Other than that they asked for an end to slavery, freedom of religion, all elections to be issued directly by the people and woman’s rights. Who here will argue that their desire for womens’ right (this was in 1854 mind you) was a bad thing?

This did not go quite in depth enough, but for those of you finding reasons to vilify our new immigrants, who are reacting to a broken system, take a minute to imagine what this country would be like if men like Samuel Busey got their way. For many of us we wouldn’t be here.


2 thoughts on “Cycles of Prejudice Against Immigrants”

  1. Hi,
    I am doind a project for my technology class about prejudice in US against immigrants. And I was wondering if you could give iformation about solutions to deal with prejudice and strategies to deal with it.
    I will aprecciate the information.thank you

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