The Great Immigration Debate in……. 1903?


I’ve pulled some selected quotes from The Alien Immigrant: By Major W. Evans-Gordon. I’ve certain heard Jewish people celebrated as an example of the success of integration.  Certainly today it is hard to tell them apart most of the time.  This provides a different picture of their immigration story.  Maybe there were greater consequences than once thought from their integration, maybe its just a coincidence or a parallel to existing trends.  Certainly I found it surprising how much of the debate seems the same.

  • it [The London East End] could not in justice to the resident poor, and also in the true interest of the immigrants themselves, depart from its established custom in dealing with new comers; and that, in the main, the only relief it could offer to applicants arriving here in a helpless condition would be to assist them to return to the country they had left with such deplorable absence of foresight.
  • It is an outrage against the dictates of common sense and humanity, that such a senseless and hopeless movement should ever have been directed towards these shores ; and the responsibility is heavy on those who encouraged and assisted it. [Board of Trade]
  • But the system of collecting and classifying the figures is so imperfect that it is impossible to draw any trustworthy inference from them except that the tide of immigration is steadily increasing in volume.
  • Great Britain, of course, receives immigrants from every land. And the movement of foreigners into this country has, at many periods of its history, been very considerable. It is only necessary to refer in this connection to the coming of the Huguenots and other persecuted Protestants, though before the Reformation a steady infiltration and settlement of aliens proceeded. But these foreigners, desirable and undesirable, Catholics and Calvinists, became merged in the population. Intermarriage made their descendants English.
  • There is a vital distinction between the immigration just mentioned and that of Hebrew people. Clannishness, tradition, a sort of historical fear of separation from their co-religionists, their obligation to observe peculiar ritual ordinances, added to the promptings and difficulties which tend to keep men of the same tongue and habits together in a strange land…
  • The Hebrew colony, then, unlike any other alien/ colony in the land, forms a solid and permanently distinct block — a race apart, as it were, in a’l enduring island of extraneous thought and custom. And the dense crowding in this island is intensified by what may, perhaps, be called the Ghetto habit — a habit due not to any primal tendency of the Jewish people, but to the calamitous conditions under which many of them have lived so long.
  • Only those who know the East End as it is, can fully realize what this continuous alien invasion means for the English population. What, then, is the East End like under the sway of the immigrant, and what is its future to be if it is to remain an asylum open to all without condition or restriction ?
  • Many English people living in the neighbourhood have summed up the situation to me in a phrase : ” We are living in a foreign country.”
  • In some districts ;. every vestige of comfort had been absolutely h wiped out, the foreigners coming in like an army of locusts, eating up the English inhabitants or driving them out.
  • He recognized the vigour and intelligence among the aliens ; but the fact remained that they were swamping whole areas once populated by English people, and our churches were continually being left like islands in the midst of an alien sea.
  • Another result of the transformation of a large portion of the East End into a foreign colony is the effect it has had upon the observance of Sunday. This is keenly felt by the clergy of all denominations. The day of rest has become a day of unrest.
  • I have heard it argued that these districts should be treated on the same basis as the Chinese quarter of San Francisco, and that Christian usage should be regarded as a subordinate consideration. This point of view indicates, to my mind, a very serious state of things.
  • The desecration of the Sunday adds an important element to the increasing bitterness of feeling which is caused by the substitution of a foreign for an English population.
  • In spite of every effort made by parents anxious about their children’s , home life, wherever crowding and mingling of the sexes exist, there is certain to be a familiarity which must be deplored. It is a distinct loss in the character of a nation when its people are not shocked by the sights and sounds which ought to shock them.

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