18 March 2012

Strangers at the Gate

What can destroy a great people?  The student of history knows vast civilizations have crumbled into dust.  He is sure, however, that no such fate could possibly await his own.

Rome, 100 A.D.:
While every land…daily pours
Its starving myriads forth. Hither they come
To batten on the genial soil of Rome,
Minions, then lords of every princely dome,
Grammarian, painter, augur, rhetorician,
Rope-dancer, conjurer, fiddler, and physician.

--Juvenal, Satire III

For 'great peoples destroyed,' few have drawn as much puzzlement as the Romans.  Historian Tenney Frank (1916):

When Tacitus informs us that in Nero’s day [54-68 A.D.] a great many of Rome’s senators and knights were descendants of slaves and the native stock had dwindled to surprisingly small proportions, we are not sure whether we are not to take it as an exaggerated thrust by an indignant Roman of the old stock. (1)

Frank pored through 13,900 sepulchral inscriptions from imperial Rome to try to find an answer.  His research

... has at least convinced me that Juvenal and Tacitus were not exaggerating. It is probable that when these men wrote a very small percentage of the free plebeians on the streets of Rome could prove unmixed Italian descent. By far the larger part—perhaps ninety percent—had Oriental blood in their veins. (1)

Mass importation of Eastern slaves coupled with ever more lax manumission (slave-freeing) practices, Frank argued, helped lead Rome to (as Thilo Sarrazin would say) 'abolish itself.'

We know for instance that when Italy had been devastated by Hannibal and a large part of its population put to the sword, immense bodies of slaves were bought up in the East to fill the void; and that during the second century, when the plantation system with its slave service was coming into vogue, the natives were pushed out of the small farms and many disappeared to the provinces of the ever-expanding empire.[...] During the first century B.C., the importation of captives and slaves continued, while the free-born citizens were being wasted in the social, Sullan, and civil wars. (1)

Wealthy women opting out of motherhood? Juvenal again:

But hardly ever does a woman in labour lie in the gilded bed; so potent are the arts, so powerful are the drugs, [of] she who makes them infertile.

Frank concurs:

By combining epigraphical and literary references, a fairly full history of the noble families can be procured, and this reveals a startling inability of such families to perpetuate themselves. We know, for instance, in Caesar’s day of forty-five patricians, only one of whom is represented by posterity when Hadrian came to power. The Aemilii, Fabii, Claudii, Manlii, Valerii, and all the rest, with the exception of the Cornelii, have disappeared. Augustus and Claudius raised twenty-five families to the patriciate, and all but six of them disappear before Nerva’s reign. (1)

Tenney Frank may have been right; he may not have. But in the two thousand years since Rome fell, have we seen proof of his 'replacement-by-race-mixture' theory elsewhere?  Far-fetched, or far-sighted?

Britain, 2011 A.D.:

THE face of Britain has “changed forever” after mass immigration fuelled a 40 per cent increase in the nation’s ethnic minority population.  The huge rise over just eight years means more than nine million people in England and Wales—equivalent to one in six of the population—are now from a “non-white” background.

The largest ethnic groups in the country are Indians, who account for more than 1.4 million people living here, and Pakistanis, who represent a further one million residents. ... Among the sharpest increases was the Chinese ethnic group, whose numbers have increased by 8.6 per cent a year to 450,000. ... The number of black Africans has also rocketed since 2001, up by 300,000 or 6.2 per cent a year.
... MigrationWatch UK claims that British whites will become a minority in Leicester, Birmingham, Bradford and Oldham “perhaps by 2016”.

One need only to look at the native language of Britain's children to see its future:

*     *     *

Strange as it may seem now, in centuries past, external migration was often of less concern to authorities than internal migration.

But to what extent was the nineteenth century a golden age of freedom for immigrants to Britain?  It is certainly the case that between 1823 and 1905 no-one was refused entry to the country.  Furthermore, a rising, although relatively small, number of immigrants took advantage of this freedom to enter Britain.  The census of 1851 enumerated only 50,289 foreigners  in England and Wales; just 0.28 percent of a population of more than 18 million.  [...] In these years the country was open to entry by rich and poor alike, monarchists and republicans, conservatives and revolutionaries.  (2)

The poor law in England in the early nineteenth century was national in scope but intensely local in its fiscal and daily operation.  [...]  For so long as welfare was financed and administered locally, migration--even over short distances--that led individuals to cross the boundaries of one poor law district to enter  another, created a population of 'strangers' [...]  Migrants who could not establish their entitlement to support in the parish in which they lived and who also stood in need of poor relief could be expelled.  They were sent to the parish in which they were entitled to poor relief.  (3)


Commoners on the move within eighteenth-century France were technically required to have one of two documents:  a passport issued by the town hall in one's native village or the so-called 'aveu,' an attestation of upright character from local religious authorities.  The prinicpal purpose of these documentary requirements was to forestall any 'untoward' migration to the cities, especially Paris.  (3)


Since 1810, the number of residents [of Munich] had more than doubled to '100,000 souls.'  By the middle of the nineteenth century, journeymen [itinerant workers] comprised roughly half the adult male population.  Only 19 percent of these men had been born in Munich.  The rest were considered 'foreign,' even though the majority came from the surrounding Bavarian countryside. [...] So rapid was the influx of migrant workers into the Bavarian capital that the Police Director commented, 'The Munich of 1800...no longer exists.'  (4)

When such restrictions began to be loosened in Europe in the late 19th century, for example by Bismarck's 1867 passport law,

The heightened possibility that large numbers of 'masterless men' might be found travelling the country's roads unhindered profoundly disturbed those responsible for superintending the 'dangerous classes.' (3)

A kingdom's own lower classes, then, were seen as dangerous migrants capable of overrunning and destroying the cities.  (Modern China's Hukou system shows this idea still lives today.)

But as the idea of 'nationality' became more entrenched (in large part thanks to the French Revolution), and the Industrial Revolution matured and demanded ever more cheap labor, immigration took on an entirely different flavor.

The enforcement of passport controls on those entering and exiting the country [of Great Britain] was widely ignored in the late nineteenth century, not to be rejuvenated until the Great War.  Under the influence of an 'overwhelming consensus' during the 1860s and early 1870s that economic liberalism was the surest recipe for prosperity, as Hobsbawm has put it, 'the remaining institutional barriers to the free movement of the factors of production, to free enterprise and to anything which could conceivably hamper its profitable operation, fell before a world-wide onslaught' (Hobsbawm 1975:35-39, quote 35f.).   (3)

The 20th century saw controls on internal migration subside, but those on inter-state migration strengthened:

Egidio Reale, the leading contemporary analyst of the new passport regime that emerged from the [First World] war, described its impact with a variant of the Rip Van Winkle story: a man awakes during the interwar period from a slumber of some years to find that he can talk on the telephone to friends in London, Paris, Tokyo, or New York, hear stock market quotations or concerts from around the globe, fly across the oceans--but not traverse earthly borders without unprecedented bureaucratic formalities in the course of which his nationality would be closely scrutinized. (3)
New ideas about 'nationality,' new restrictions on movement, but an unprecedented demand for industrial labor and new technologies to take us there.

The U.S.'s founding stock itself lived through many non-English migration waves.

It was after the Polk election that the 'Native Americans' [anti-immigration group] held their first national convention in Philadelphia on July 4, 1845.  Theirs was a catastrophic view; they reasoned that [...] changing conditions now fostered an unmanageable 'torrent'.

...As it was, the catastrophic prediction was the more accurate.  The European wave mounted rapidly from 154,405 in 1846 to 414,933 in 1854, a level not equalled again until 1873.  Altogether, it deposited nearly 2.5 million people in the United States within a nine-year period, adding nearly 13 percent to the country's white population.
[...] The largest groups remained the Irish, who peaked at 221,253 in 1851 (58 percent of the year's total) and the Germans, who attained their maximum of 215,009 in 1854 (50 percent of arrivals).  The 1850 census [...] pointed out that of the foreign-born enumerated in the United States only approximately one-fifth were of British 'founding stock.'  By 1860, the proportion had fallen to 14.2 percent, a mere one seventh of the total. (5)

Resistance to these human waves was fierce, giving birth the the Know Nothing Party, whose nativist platform led them to sweep many state and local elections in 1854.

Irish and Germans having already changed the face of Anglo-Protestant America, she would later be subjected to the famous late 19th-century mass migration waves of South and East Europeans into the U.S. which led to the passage of the strict 1924 Imimgration Act. J.R. Commons  (1907) described them this way:

This change was the rapid shifting of the sources of immigration from Western to Eastern and Southern Europe. A line drawn across the continent of Europe from northeast to southwest, separating the Scandinavian Peninsula, the British Isles, Germany, and France from Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Turkey, separates countries not only of distinct races but also of distinct civilizations.
It separates Protestant Europe from Catholic Europe; it separates countries of representative institutions and popular government from absolute monarchies; it separates lands where education is universal from lands where illiteracy predominates; it separates manufacturing countries, progressive agriculture, and skilled labor from primitive hand industries, backward agriculture, and unskilled labor; it separates an educated, thirty peasantry from a peasantry scarcely a single generation removed from serfdom; it separates Teutonic races from Latin, Slav, Semitic, and, Mongolian races. (6)

Millions of such people poured onto her shores between 1880 and 1920.  Commons describes the fall-out:

In 1900, in the cities of over 100,000 population...65 per cent of the population within these cities is of foreign parentage. (6)

He lays out the turn democracy takes when confronted with such Babel:

Universal suffrage, clannish races, social classes, diversified interests, seem to explain and justify the presence of the party "machine" and its boss. Otherwise races, classes, and interests are in helpless conflict and anarchy.

[...] A variety of races and nationalities living in the same ward are asked to elect aldermen and other officers by majority vote. No one nationality has a majority, but each sets up its list of candidates. The nationality with a mere plurality elects all of its candidates, and the other nationalities -- a majority of the voters -- are unrepresented. ... But the only means of preventing it is the "ward boss." The boss emerges from the situation as inevitably as the survival of the fittest. And the fittest is the Irishman. The Irishman has above all races the mixture of ingenuity, firmness, human sympathy, comradeship, and daring that makes him the amalgamator of races. He conciliates them all by nominating a ticket on which the offices are shrewdly distributed; and out of the Babel his "slate" gets the majority. (6)

Labor agitation frightened the founding stock:

In 1882: a writer in the Atlantic Monthly predicted ... "Our era . . . of happy immunity from those social diseases which are the danger and the humiliation of Europe is passing away . . . every year brings the conditions of American labor into closer likeness to those of the Old World. An American species of socialism is inevitable." (6)

Constant racial tensions boiled under the ethnic hodge-podge, periodically erupting:

Other races suffer at the hands of mobs, such as the Chinese in Wyoming and California at the hands of American mine workers, Italians in Louisiana and California at the hands of citizens and laborers, Slovaks and Poles in Latimer, Pennsylvania, at the hands of a mob militia. With the rise of organized labor these race riots and militia shootings increased in number, often growing out of the efforts of older races of workmen to drive newer and backward races from their jobs [...]  Many strikes are accompanied by an incipient race war where employers are endeavoring to make substitution, one race for another, of Irish, Germans, native whites, Italians, negroes, Poles, and so on. (6)

Modern readers may find it hard to believe which paper published this editorial in May 1921, at the height of debate over the proposed immigration quota act:

The great menace of the new immigration of recent years is that, by introducing large numbers of varied races whose languages and traditions are alien, the nation may lose unity and solidarity. [...] [Under the proposed law,] from England, Scotland and Ireland we shall receive immigrants who already speak our language, have kindred standards of living and similar political traditions. [...] If at the close of the present brief period we are to have an adequately detailed and financed plan of selection and distribution, speed is necessary. Secretary [of State] Hughes has already urged this upon Congress and patriotic Americans everywhere echo his plea.

Progressives today pooh-pooh 19th century Americans' fears of being subsumed by alien cultures.  One reason they are able to do so, of course, is none other than the very law they deplore, the 1924 Immigration Act, which more or less turned off the tap for Slavic and Mediterranean immigrants.  Eventually, in the absence of fresh blood from the mother country, these groups were forced to 'marry out' and a certain ethnic mixing and assimilation did occur.

Had the 1924 Act not been passed, one must delve into the realm of the counter-factual 'parallel universe' to imagine what could have been: A balkanized America of disparate racial colonies?  Other, and different, internal wars?  Slippage into one of the more extreme political styles so à la mode in Europe at that time?  Impossible to say.

*     *     *

What can destroy a great people?  Plague, conquest, natural disasters?  Destructive ideology, dysgenic breeding, importing a new people?  The ethnic rebalancing of America from 1924 to 1965, when Northwest European immigration was encouraged and all other types severly limited, has long since crashed to a halt.  Fifty years of Asian, African, Latin American migrants have now left their mark, perhaps indelibly.  Is a great people dying? Is a newly great people being born?  Will the Gray Lady once again begin to publish plaintive cries such as the one quoted above, or have European-Americans, as Anglo-Americans nearly did before them, opened the gates to their own demise?

(1) Frank, Tenney, 'Race Mixture in the Roman Empire,' American Historical Review (July 1916, vol. 21, no. 4: 689–708).
(2) Feldman, David, 'Was the Nineteenth Century a Golden Age for Immigrants?', in Fahrmeir, Andreas et al (ed.), Migration Control in the North Atlantic World, NY: Berghan Books, 2003.
(3) Torpey, John, 'Immigration Controls in the North Atlantic World During the Long Nineteenth Century', in Fahrmeir et al.
(4) Carpenter, K.M.N., 'Beggars Are Everywhere', in Fahrmeir et al.

(5) Zolberg, Aristide R., 'The Archeology of 'Remote Control'', in Fahrmeir et al.
(6) Commons, J.R., Races and Immigrants in America, NY: Macmillan, 1907. 


Vladimir_CA said...

It is certainly the case that between 1823 and 1905 no-one was refused entry to [Britain].

I've always found this puzzling: what exactly was preventing 19th century British employers from cutting down on labor costs by bringing in overseas immigrants? They certainly found it profitable, for example, to bring labor from India to the West Indies, or from China to Singapore. What exact obstacles would have been faced by someone who wanted to bring them into Britain?

M.G. said...

I'm not sure, but maybe it's a supply-and-demand question? My (perhaps wrong) impression of 19th century England is a place with a huge 'rural exodus' filling up the newly industrial cities looking for factory work, in such great numbers that wages were a pittance.

As for the West Indies, what I'd read is that after the English abolished slavery there, there was simply no one to do the hard work. Blacks were content with bare subsistence farming, natives had all died long ago from white men's diseases, and Europeans couldn't take the climate. The only way to keep the plantations running was with imported Indians/Chinese. J.A. Froude, in 1888:

'The negro does not regard the coolie as a competitor and interloper who has come to lower his wages. The coolie comes to work. The negro does not want to work, and both are satisfied.'

Not sure about Singapore/Malaysia--Were the native Malays unwiling/unable to do plantation work, were there not enough of them? This is a second-hand quote from J.S. Thomson's 'China Revolutionized' (1913):

'Sir Frank Swettenham, the famous governor of the [Straits] settlement in its formative period up to 1904, says of the Chinese: "The industrial development of the country is entirely due to the Chinese. They are the only people in the peninsula who can be depended upon. They tolerate no interruptions in the performance of their daily labor, and save their money to make prudent investments. Without the Chinese nothing would have been done in the Malay states. No progress would have been made, and the enormous natural resources of the country would still be lying dormant."'

Vladimir_CA said...

Also, during the same time, there was a lot of concern in the U.S. about competition from Asian immigrant labor, which led to the Californian Anti-Coolie Act and soon after that the federal Chinese Exclusion Act. Could it really be that wages in the U.S. were so much higher than in Britain -- and that British wages were in turn so low as to be close to the Chinese ones? I could believe this may have been the case in 1800, but definitely not towards the end of the 19th century.

Furthermore, during the same period there were huge numbers of Irish workers moving to England. So clearly there was some demand for cheaper labor from abroad, and again, I find it hard to imagine that Chinese labor couldn't underbid even the Irish.

Yet I've never read any account of British industrialists or landowners trying to bring Chinese labor into Britain. I can't believe that nobody would have attempted it at least as a one-time experiment, unless there were actually legal obstacles. But this would contradict the claim (which I've read not just here, but in other places too) that Britain had open borders back then.

I have no idea what source I could look up to resolve this puzzle.

M.G. said...

You've got me thinking about this now too. I did some poking around on Questia (online library I subscribe to), but I didn't find anything that asks or answers this precise question.

But I did find a decent book, Understanding the Industrial Revolution by Charles More. It goes into great detail on Britain's labor supply (Chapter 3) and the demand for labor (Chapter 4) during the Industrial Revolution, which might be a roundabout way of finding part of the answer. As you mentioned, More talks about massive Irish immigration keeping wages low throughout the mid-1800s (they were willing to work for peanuts apparently). Feldman, whom I quoted above (Fahrmeir at al.), gives figures from the 1850s saying that 31% of those on Poor Relief in Liverpool were Irish, and 38% of those in Manchester. Irish were frequently deported for this very reason. (No figures for late 19th c. though)

Which led me to wonder, was it an ethnicity question? The Irish themselves, though they were English-speaking Christian Europeans, were often seen as un unwanted foreign presence in England. Might it not have been much more so for Chinese? Many of the places you noted to where the British sent coolies were not settlement colonies, where the British hoped to create a 'New Britain', but rather cash-crop or raw material-extraction commercial colonies. Perhaps so foreign a presence as Indians or Chinese wouldn't have racially destabilized such places as they likely would have at home in Britain?

It seems this was part of the problem in the U.S., unquestionably a 'New Britain,' which you mentioned, and in this article, they talk about how Chinese coolies were brought over specifically to build the western railroad--ostensibly a one-time project--and how much anger they caused afterwards:

When the transcontinental railroads were completed, the demand for cheap Chinese labor dropped precipitously. Chinese laborers began to compete with white workers, and public opinion in California and the other western states shifted strongly against the presence of the Chinese. Because the Chinese were willing to work for a fraction of the wages paid to white workers, the participation of Chinese in the labor market exerted downward pressure on wages generally. [...] following the end of the Civil War, unemployment rose dramatically in all the states of the American West. In this climate of economic instability, politicians discovered that promising to deport Chinese immigrants or barring new immigrants from China was popular with voters.[...] In 1871, an anti-Chinese riot in Los Angeles resulted in the murder of two dozen Chinese.

In 1882, Congress enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, a law that barred immigration of Chinese contract laborers for ten years. It was the first time that Congress had ever barred a particular racial group from entering the country.

Could fear of such troubles playing out at home on British soil have kept industrialists from importing these peoples there?

Artur said...

Bonjour MG :

Fascinating post as always.

I encourage you to read this excellent analysis :


...from over at Counter Currents. You'll most def want to check out the 2nd and 3rd parts, too.


- Arturo


M.G. said...

As always, your links are a joy to read. I had never seen that Counter Currents article and it is an excellent piece. If only American History were taught in this way--but that is far too much to ask in this age of indoctrination.

Vladimir said...


Could fear of such troubles playing out at home on British soil have kept industrialists from importing these peoples there?

I wouldn't be surprised if fear of such troubles had led to legal restrictions on importing overseas labor, as it did in the U.S. -- or even if most industrialists and landowners found the idea too unseemly. However, I find it incredible that not a single large employer would have embarked on such a business experiment, especially considering that the business of the day was operating under a level of laissez-faire and open competition that is unimaginable nowadays. If the borders were really 100% open, then it would have been enough if only a tiny percentage of employers became convinced that the plan would be profitable and at the same time put their private profits above any concerns for public problems that might come out of it.

It really looks like there must have been some legal obstacles for immigration of overseas labor after all. However, as you seem to have found yourself, it's hard to find any references that make it clear what these obstacles were.

FredR said...

if you read between the lines of Rodney Stark's book the Rise of Christianity, you can find him making the argument that native Romans were race-replaced by Hellenized Jews. But he doesn't have a lot of evidence, and anyways that was a later timeframe.

M.G. said...

Thank you for the reference, I've never read Stark's book but it looks intriguing. If anyone is interested, there is a partial Google books copy available online. In addition, here is a positive review and a more critical review, as well as very nice sum-up of the points in Stark's book by a U. of Tennessee professor (PDF).

If I understand the sum-up, Stark argues that the Hellenized Jews who made up the bulk of early Christianity grew quickly in numbers relative to pagan Romans because (1) their 'mutual-aid' culture led to them surviving the 2nd and 3rd century plagues in greater number, and (2) they attracted women by giving them status but rejected birth control, infanticide, and abortion, and thus ended up just flat out-reproducing the Roman pagans.

Tenney Frank only lightly touches on this, but I'll add his quote:

'...the western invasion of the mystery cults is hardly a miraculous conversion of the even-tempered, practical-minded Indo-European to an orgiastic emotionalism, foreign to his nature. These religions came with their peoples, and in so far as they gained new converts, they attracted for the most part people of Oriental extraction who had temporarily fallen away from native ways in the western world. Christianity, which contained enough Oriental mysticism to appeal to the vast herd of Easterners in the West, and enough Hellenic sanity to captivate the rationalistic Westerner, found, even if one reckons only with social forces, the most congenial soil for growth in the conglomeration of Europeans, Asiatics, and Africans that filled the western Roman Empire in the second century.'

hbd chick said...

i don't know enough roman history to judge whether or not frank's theories about the descendants of foreign slaves becoming the majority of the roman population at some point are right or not (from what i've read, this is unlikely to have been the case with the agricultural slaves 'cause they were not allowed to reproduce and had to be regularly replaced -- dunno about urban, household slave, though).

what i've been suspicious about for a while now, though, is the edict of caracalla from 212 which gave all free men in the empire roman citizenship. that doesn't sound smart at all!

caracalla was not a pure-blood roman himself, but a mix of roman, berber and syrian.

M.G. said...

HBD chick--
I'm pretty sure that agricultural slaves, like urban ones, were prohibited from legally marrying, but not from having kids. Slave 'marriage' thus wasn't real marriage, but it did exist. Frank tracked down lots of urban slave families:

The volume [of funeral inscriptions from wealthy households] is full of interesting instances: Livia’s sarcinatrix married her mensor (VI. 3,988), Octavia’s ornatrix was the wife of her keeper of the plate (5,539), Statilius’s courier courted the spinning-maid of the household (6,342). In the lists of husbands and wives one finds a chef (7,458), a vestiarius (9,963), a vestifica (5,206), an unctor (6,381), a slave-maid serving as secretary a manu (9,540), the keeper of my lady’s mirrors (7,297), of her handbag (7,368), of her wardrobe (4,043), of her jewels (7,296), and what not. (We're just supposed to know what those Latin words mean, I guess--also, they had slaves whose entire purpose in life was to hold someone's purse??)

I'd heard about the Edict of Caracalla, and that the practice of enlarging citizenship always had its 'lobbyists' and its opponents. I think the question of how Rome turned from what it was into Something Else will have scholars debating until the end of time (or until we invent a time machine--and probably even then).