Uncommon common sense on immigration and national identity
During the debate on the landmark national quota immigration law of 1924, which was explicitly designed to maintain America’s ethnic composition as it existed in the early 20th century, opponents accused supporters of promoting racial supremacism. In reply Rep. William Vaile of Colorado made this superb statement (which I just found in its entirety at a pro-open borders website):
Let me emphasize here that the restrictionists of Congress do not claim that the “Nordic” race, or even the Anglo-Saxon race, is the best race in the world. Let us concede, in all fairness that the Czech is a more sturdy laborer, with a very low percentage of crime and insanity, that the Jew is the best businessman in the world, and that the Italian has a spiritual grasp and an artistic sense which have greatly enriched the world and which have, indeed, enriched us, a spiritual exaltation and an artistic creative sense which the Nordic rarely attains. Nordics need not be vain about their own qualifications. It well behooves them to be humble. What we do claim is that the northern European, and particularly Anglo-Saxons made this country. Oh, yes; the others helped. But that is the full statement of the case. They came to this country because it was already made as an Anglo-Saxon commonwealth. They added to it, they often enriched, but they did not make it, and they have not yet greatly changed it. We are determined that they shall not. It is a good country. It suits us. And what we assert is that we are not going to surrender it to somebody else or allow other people, no matter what their merits, to make it something different. If there is any changing to be done, we will do it ourselves. [Cong. Rec. April 8, 1924; p. 5922.]Later in the same debate, Rep. Scott Leavitt said that Jewish representatives should respect the desire of other Americans to retain America’s ethnic status quo:
The instinct for national and race preservation is not one to be condemned, as has been intimated here. No one should be better able to understand the desire of Americans to keep America American than the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Sabath], who is leading the attack on this measure, or the gentlemen from New York, Mr. Dickstein, Mr. Jacobstein, Mr. Celler, and Mr. Perlman. They are of the one great historic people who have maintained the identity of their race throughout the centuries because they believe sincerely that they are a chosen people, with certain ideals to maintain, and knowing that the loss of racial identity means a change of ideals. That fact should make it easy for them and the majority of the most active opponents of this measure in the spoken debate to recognize and sympathize with our viewpoint, which is not so extreme as that of their own race, but only demands that the admixture of other peoples shall be only of such kind and proportions and in such quantities as will not alter racial characteristics more rapidly than there can be assimilation as to ideas of government as well as of blood. [Cong. Record, April 12, 1924, 6265-6266.]Vaile’s and Leavitt’s are the voices of a civilized America that believed in its own existence.