Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/94

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


THE term "nation" as used at the present time involves much confusion in thought; and an eminent writer, in order to fix clearly the meaning of this term in the mind of the student, has defined the nation as a population of an ethnic unity, inhabiting a territory of a geographic unity.[1] This high development of the nation has scarcely been reached in any part of the world, but as the geographic and ethnic elements tend to coincide, the national character grows stronger, and resolves itself into a political form called the state. In order to attain this high ideal, the territory must be separated by natural barriers, so that the national unity may not be disturbed by foreign influence, and in the development of ethnic unity there must be, first of all, a common language, so that men may understand each other and agree upon certain views. The introduction of the large number of foreigners into our country leads us to inquire whether there is such a thing as national character in the United States. Bancroft describes all the colonial traits as coming from the English or Anglo-Saxon. The Germans are often spoken of in the sense of being local, yet there is no better illustration of national unity than in the German empire. The English are often looked upon as being extremely practical, but the Puritan Commonwealth was ideal. It seems to have been an original principle in the political psychology of the Anglo-Saxons to evolve the national idea, and thus give to the world the strongest political organization, at the same time offering the widest range of liberty. It is generally admitted at present that there should be some restriction upon immigration. The influx of foreigners, being measurable by statistics, is wonderful. Since 1820 we have had statistics on immigration, which form a very important study. In the first decade, ending with 1830, there were 143,439 immigrants to the United States, while in the decade ending with 1890 the number had reached 5,246,613. In the census of 1850, statistics were for the first time obtained concerning the number of persons of foreign birth in the country. The proportion which each of these elements bore to the total population in 1850 was 90·32 per cent native born to 9·68 per cent foreign born, while in 1890 the proportion was 85·23 per cent native born to 14·77 per cent foreign born. Before 1820 immigration was trifling in amount, but in 1847 it set in upon a wonderful scale, and the famines in Ireland at that time led to a migration to this country which has been

  1. Burgess, Political Science and Constitutional Law, vol. i, pp. 1-4.