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.
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 contries, 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.