"What is an American?" This is what U.S. History Theme #1 asks and is the question that I will strive to answer throughout this essay, relating to the event of the 1920s' immigration restriction laws.
Ever since the United States was founded, immigrants have been arriving on its soil. The first white inhabitants of the U.S. were immigrants from Europe. As the country grew and became more prosperous, it became more enticing to foreigners looking for opportunity. This continued into the 20th century and finally during the 1920s, the United States began to restrict immigration into its' borders. (Immigration Restrictions in the 1920s)
At the turn of the 20th century, unprecedented levels of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe to the United States aroused public suppport for restrictive immigration laws. (Lehtinen, Vilja, America Would Lose Its Soul). During congressional debate over the 1924 Act, Senator Ellison DuRant Smith of South Carolina drew on the racist theories of Madison Grant to argue that immigration restriction was the only way to preserve existing American resources.
Smith argued, " We want men not like dumb driven cattle from those nations where the progressive thought of the times has scarcely made a beginning and where they see men as mere machines; we want men who have an appreciation of the resposibility brought about by the manifestation of that individual. We have not that in this country to-day...Without offense, but with regard to the salvation of our own, let us shut the door and assimilate what we have, and let us breed pure American citizens and develop our own American resources." (A Senator Speaks for Immigration Restriction) Smith was informing congress of his belief that America was being ruined by immigration and that immigration should be restricted if not stopped completely.
To curb the rapid...