A Racialized Description of Immigrants From Europe, 1916

From Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916).


The native American[1] has always found, and finds now, in the black men, willing followers who ask only to obey and to further the ideals and wishes of the master race, without trying to inject into the body politic their own views, whether racial, religious, or social.  Negroes are never socialists or labor unionists, and as long as the dominant imposes its will on the servient race, and as long as they remain in the same relation to the whites as in the past, the negroes will be a valuable element in the community, but once raised to social equality their influence will be destructive to themselves and to the whites.  If the purity of the two races is to be maintained, they cannot continue to live side by side, and this is a problem from which there can be no escape.


The native American by the middle of the nineteenth century was rapidly becoming a distinct type.  Derived from the Teutonic part of the British Isles, and being almost purely Nordic, he was on the point of developing physical peculiarities of his own, slightly variant from those of this English forefathers, and corresponding rather with the idealistic Elizabethean than with the materialistic Hanoverian Englishman.  The Civil War, however, put a severe, perhaps fatal, check to the development and expansion of this splendid type, by destroying great numbers of the best breeding stock on both sides, and by breaking up the home ties of many more.  If the war had not occurred these same men with their descendants would have populated the Western States instead of the racial nondescripts who are now flocking there.


The prosperity that followed the war attracted hordes of newcomers who were welcomed by the native Americans to operate factories, build railroads, and fill up the waste spaces – “developing the country” it was called.


These new immigrants were not longer exclusively members of the Nordic race as were the earlier ones who came of their own impulse to improve their social conditions.  The transportation lines advertised America as a land flowing with milk and honey, and the European governments took the opportunity to unload upon careless, wealthy, and hospitable America the sweepings of their jails and asylums.  The result was that the new immigration, while it still included many strong elements from the north of Europe, contained a large and increasing number of the weak, the broken, and the mentally crippled of all races drawn from the lowest stratum of the Mediterranean basin and the Balkans, together with hordes of the wretched, submerged populations of the Polish Ghettos.


With a pathetic and fatuous belief in the efficacy of American institutions and environment to reverse or obliterate immemorial hereditary tendencies, these newcomers were welcomed and given a share in our land and prosperity.  The American taxed himself to sanitate and educate these poor helots, and as soon as they could speak English, encouraged them to enter into the political life, first of municipalities, and then of the nation.


The result is showing plainly in the rapid decline in the birth rate of native Americans because the poorer classes of Colonial stock, where they still exist, will not bring children into the world to compete in the labor market with the Slovak, the Italian, the Syrian, and the Jew.  The native American is too proud to mix socially with them, and is gradually withdrawing from the scene, abandoning to these aliens the land which he conquered and developed.  The man of the old stock is being crowded out of many country districts by these foreigners, just as he is to-day being literally driven off the streets of New York City by the swarms of Polish Hews.  These immigrants adopt the language of the native Americans; they wear his clothes; they steal his name; and they are beginning to take his women, but they seldom adopt his religion or understand his ideals, and while he is being elbowed out of his own home the American looks calmly abroad and urges on others the suicidal ethics which are exterminating his own race.


As to what the future mixture will be it is evident that in large sections of the country the native American will entirely disappear.  He will not intermarry with inferior races, and he cannot compete in the seat shop and in the street trench with the newcomers.  Large cities from the days of Rome, Alexandria, and Byzantium have always been gathering points of diverse races, but New York is becoming a cloaca gentium which will produce many amazing racial hybrids and some ethnic horrors that will be beyond the powers of future anthropologists to unravel.


One thing is certain: in any mixture, the surviving traits will be determined by competition between the lowest and most primitive elements and the specialized traits of Nordic man; his stature, his light colored eyes, his fair skin and blond hair, his straight nose, and his splendid fighting and moral qualities, will have little part in the resultant mixture.


The “survival of the fittest” means the survival of the type best adapted to existing conditions of environment, to-day the tenement and factory, as in Colonial times they were the clearing of forests, fighting Indians, farming the fields, and sailing the Seven Seas.  From the point of view of race it were better described as the “survival of the unfit.”

[1] By “native American,” the author means native-born, white Americans.