Popular Science Monthly/Volume 69/October 1906/Discussion and Correspondence

DISCUSSION AND CORRESPONDENCE.

THE EFFECTS OF IMMIGRATION ON HOMICIDE

Under this heading, Mr. Maynard Shipley has presented extensive statistical material, in the August number of The Popular Science Monthly, to prove the undesirable character of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe, as compared with those from its northern and western countries and, by inference, with native-born Americans. While 1 do not wish to impugn the good faith of his investigations, he manipulates the figures which he quotes in so remarkable a manner as to justify the belief that he has approached his subject with preconceived notions, which have blinded him to some of the pitfalls in so serious an inquiry. I do not wish to whitewash the immigrants, but merely to point out Mr. Shipley's errors, hoping earnestly that more careful methods may prevail in the study of large masses of our present population, if it is to guide our legislators in the adoption of a policy toward immigration. If the foreigner is to be kept out, let it be done frankly on the score of racial prejudice, but do not seek to blacken his character by the use of ill-digested statistics.

The gravest defect in Mr. Shipley's presentation is the continuous shifting of basis, without attempting to make corresponding corrections. Sometimes figures are given for homicide as a total; at others we have the division into murder and manslaughter. Presently, I shall show why manslaughter must necessarily be on the increase in American court records; hence statistics which do not distinguish it from intentional homicide are valueless as showing a criminal tendency of the population. All Mr. Shipley's comparisons that tell most severely against the recent immigrant fail to make the distinction. Manslaughter is practically the unintentional killing of a human being by another, and it is the charge upon which a man would be held, whose careless handling of machinery caused death; the introduction of cable-cars and trolleys enormously increased the number of fatal street accidents; as have the erection of steel-framed buildings, with the coincident abandonment of fixed scaffolding, the use of power-hoists, the employment of dynamite in excavating, enhanced the dangers of building operations. Did he take these developments into account? Did he realize that the man arrested for such an 'accident' was, nine times out of ten, an 'ignorant foreigner,' whom the greed of a native-born American entrusted with dangerous implements, without providing him with adequate safeguards in their use?

Again, in Table II., homicide is studied according to the nationality of the people killed in San Francisco, with the intention of proving the criminality of the Chinese by their relatively large mortality by violence. 1 admit the truth of the argument that the murderer and his victim are apt to belong to the same race; in fact a sardonic member of the Immigration Restriction League might classify such homicidal tendency among the 'undesirables' as a redeeming virtue. But, for rigid statistical purposes, Mr. Shipley has overshot the mark. His own figures show that 65 out of 100,000 Chinamen in the United States were accused of murder in the year when 75 per 100,000 were being killed; are these extra ten due to suicide or to Caucasian markmanship?

Very serious, too. is the mistake of studying arrests for homicide, without taking into account the relative efficiency of the local authorities. Mr. (Shipley's failure to realize this is shown, not only by his indiscriminate grouping of cities in all parts of the country, but specifically by his discussion of homicide in Colorado. He compares the small number of arrests for this offense in Denver with the large number of murders in the state, properly enough emphasizing the lawless condition of the mining-camps; but he fails to ask how many Denver murderers elude a comparatively small police force, and escape into the wilderness on the many railroads radiating from the city. The question of relative police efficiency might have been studied from his Table I., giving the number of arrests for homicide in various cities. The population of New York can not be much worse than that of neighboring cities, with their factories, docks and tramp-infested freight-yards. Yet New York reports 13.23 homicide arrests per 100,000, against 9.16 in Newark and only 4.51 in 'anarchist' Paterson, Jersey City and Hoboken also reporting low figures.

Again, the attitude of the community ought to be considered, if arrests for homicide are made the criterion for this form of crime. Is it conceivable that the word 'lynching' should be absent from an inquiry into American murders? Not once does Mr. Shipley allude to the hundreds, nay thousands, who have participated in the lynching of negroes, of horse-thieves and 'rustlers'; were the members of these mobs enumerated, or even the crimes counted singly, how would our statistics look? Let us now examine his study of the relation of the immigrant to homicide. First comes a diagram, Fig. 1, 'showing changing character of immigration into the United States' by three curves, showing the percentage of each year's total immigration, derived from northwestern Europe, southeastern Europe and 'all others.' Below is a homicide curve, which is strikingly parallel to the southeastern Europe curve. But had these curves been drawn to represent the actual numbers of each group of nationalities, instead of their percentage out of a variable whole, the parallelism would have vanished. Furthermore, the southeastern curve represents natives of Italy, Russia, Poland and Austro-Hungary, whereof the Italians form about one third. Another table, Fig. 3, gives the ratio of murderers among 1,000,000 Italians as 50.2; hut that of the Poles and Magyars is shown at very much less than the French, and the large masses of Russian and Galician Jews are bunched with unclassified nationalities in a group rated at a trifle over 1 per 100,000. The peoples representing two thirds of that incriminating curve actually produced less than the average number of murderers. Bearing in mind that the criminal tendency of an immigrant could not exhaust itself in the first year after his arrival, it is evident that the homicide curve, if strongly influenced by the immigration of the last fifteen years, the period in which the Russian and Italian immigration has outnumbered the Germanic, ought to have run steeply upward, in a hyperboloid form, instead of remaining almost horizontal, and showing less of an upward tendency than during the preceding decade.

Further to incriminate the Italians, Fig. 5 arranges the states and territories in the order of homicidal statistics, and gives a graphic representation of the number of natives of northern Europe, as contrasted with a combined group of Italians, Mexicans and Chinese, living in each; the southwestern and Rocky Mountain states show the greatest mortality by violence, and by combining these three, otherwise unrelated, nationalities, their numbers are made to appear large as compared with Teutonic immigrants. In all fairness, it ought to be open to question whether the 'Mexicans' enumerated in the census are immigrants, as Mr. Shipley assumes, or Spanish speaking residents of what was originally Mexican territory, so largely Indian that they could hardly be classified with the Italians, even on account of their 'Latin' blood. But. as for the Italians, the states containing the great bulk of that nationality have the cleanest records, if we except Louisiana and Texas, where the high murder rate is ascribed to the negroes by Mr. Shipley himself. In fact, only one inference could be properly drawn from his Fig. 5—that the racial composition of a state's population has no influence at all, as compared with the general conditions governing the life of its citizens'.

 

Table I.

Showing I: Number homicides per 100.000 according to Shipley: II., percentage of males over 19 years, according to Census: III., number of homicides per 100.000 adult males.

Nationality. I. II. III.
Irish 1 44 .67% 2 .25
German 3 43 .83 6 .85
English 4 49 .62 7 .95
Poles 6 .5 49 .92 13
Magyar 16 50 32
French 27 52 .80 51 .05
Italian 50 52 .29 89 .13
Chinese 63 .5 95 .58 66 .68
Mexican 119 43 .52 273 .5
Entire United States 10 28 .78 34 .38
 

As to the influence of these general conditions upon homicide, he merely discusses the relative density of population and the criminal tendency of mining as compared with manufacturing pursuits. Having gone so far, he might naturally be expected to proceed to inquire into the brutalizing effect of certain special trades, such as slaughtering—the periodical debauches of sailors in seaports—reckless disregard for the value of human life engendered by the pursuit of hazardous callings. He should have realized that adult males are far more prone to acts of violence than either women or children, and that ratios of homicide to nationality mean nothing, unless this factor be taken into account. Immigration from northern Europe brings in more females than does that from the south and east; the Chinese, according to the census of 1900, were represented by 81,534 persons, of whom 77.936, or 95.59 per cent, were males over 21. At the same time, the native population contained only 25.55 per cent, of males over 20. I have already shown that Mr. Shipley's figures for homicide are valueless, because they do not differentiate between murder and accident; but, since he has chosen to calculate the ratio per hundred thousand foreign born of each nationality, the following table corrects these ratios so as to apply to foreign-born adult males, by dividing them by the corresponding percentage, as calculated from Table 12, of the Twelfth Census, Volume II.

The homicides for the entire United States are taken from Mr. Shipley's Fig. 1, for the census year, the percentage of adult males is based on the ages given in that census and the limit of 19 years was chosen, because that was the nearest approach to 18 possible under census conditions. The significance of the correction will be seen by comparing the Italian figures with those of the entire population. Mr. Shipley would make them five times as homicidal as the average, while the ratio in the third column is as three to seven.

Mr. Shipley perhaps realized this disturbing factor, though he does not mention it; for he goes out of his way to impugn the character of the immigrants' children, by quoting statistics according to which more than half the children brought before the New York City Children's Court are of Russian or Italian parentage. As homicide is expressly excluded from the jurisdiction of that court, the use of these statistics might seem irrelevant; but since the prejudice created might have some indirect influence upon the reader's judgment, I present an analysis of the report of that court for 1905, which is fuller than the earlier ones and in many ways might be more disadvantageous to the immigrant. In this analysis, the most serious interpretation has been given in doubtful cases, and yet it will be seen that the great majority of arrests are for trivial offenses, such as selling papers without a badge, breaking flowers in the parks, throwing stones in the street, etc., incidental rather to unguarded childhood than to viciousness. Over one quarter of the arrests have nothing to do with the child's character, as they are for improper guardianship or violation of the child labor law—further comment seems superfluous.

Finally, Mr. Shipley is not happy in his discussion of the conditions in individual cities; to follow him from town to town, however, would be tedious and would frequently result in a mere repetition of strictures already made upon his general inferences. We can take his comparison of Cleveland and Cincinnati, upon which he lays great stress, as an illuminative example. It appears that these two Ohio cities, of nearly equal size, present diverse conditions of nationality, Cleveland containing 46.1 per cent of foreign-born, among whom more than one third come from southern and eastern Europe, while Cincinnati has only 17.8 per cent, foreign-born inhabitants, something more than one tenth of whom come from southeastern Europe. "In Cleveland, the average of arrests for

 

Table II.

Classification of the arraignments before the Children's Court, New York City, in 1905, according to the gravity of the charges and the nationality of the children. The report furnishes no data of the nativity of the parents of children born here, but it is evident that the parents of American-born children must have been in this country at least ten years where offenses of a heinous character are involved.
Birthplace. Dis
charged.
United
States.
North-
western Europe.
South-
eastern Europe.
Other
Countries.
Crimes against person or property
Felonies 809 18 133 4 419
Misdemeanors 1,175 15 211 11 580
Prostitution, etc. 94 4 26 25
Petty offenses of all kinds 3,177 38 339 9 767
Truancy from school 48 2 12
Disorderly and ungovernable child 563 12 104 12 182
Insanity, attempted suicide 1 2 3
Improper guardianship 1,870 16 212 25 867
Child labor law violation 427 3 54 3 19
8,164 107 1,083 64 2,874

homicide during the two years 1903-4 was 9.56 per 100,000 of population. In Cincinnati, the average for the six years 1898-1904 was 6.2:5. In 1890 the disparity was still greater, the ratio being 4.04 in Cincinnati and 13.01 in Cleveland." This higher rate is ascribed at length to the influx of foreigners into Cleveland, in spite of the contrary view of the chief-of-police, from whose report the figures are derived. But is it not true that in a decade this crime has increased 50 per, cent, in Cincinnati and decreased over! 25 per cent, in Cleveland, in spite of the latter's growth in 'undesirable' population? Still, the foreigners in Cincinnati are not bad enough for Mr. Shipley's purpose; he therefore records that the 18.61 per cent, of foreigners in its white population allowed by the Twelfth Census furnished 64.04 per cent, of the 7,135 whites arrested in 1904; he then enumerates the arrests for murder and attempted murder and calmly asserts that 'a large proportion of these crimes were undoubtedly committed by foreign-born whites,' although the figures at his command do not seem to even admit of the usual separation of whites and negroes. Anybody ignorant of the fact that 'arrests' are made for misdemeanors as well as felonies might infer a connection between the percentages quoted above and the tendency toward homicide, which Mr. Shipley would doubtless be the first to deny; nevertheless, such careless juxtaposition must seriously inpugn the authority of an investigator.

Murder is the most atrocious crime in our penal code; before we throw the suspicion of homicidal proclivities upon hundreds of thousands of innocent immigrants, let us weigh our evidence seriously and see whether our own statistics are truthful. Is wilful homicide reported and punished uniformly throughout the country? Do our courts deal equally with the foreigner and the native, the Caucasian and the Mongolian, the rich and the poor? Is a classification into nationalities sufficient, or must age and sex also be taken into account? Are certain occupations, leading to violent habits, chosen by the immigrant from inclination or forced upon him by our social and economic conditions? Is the Italian, the Russian or the 'Hun' less amenable to law than were the founders of the Texan Republic, the 'fortyniners,' the 'Filibusters,' the 'cowboys' and the 'rustlers'? Above all, is Mr. Shipley right in asserting, on page 168 of his article, that the second generation of foreigners is always worse than the first; if that be true, what becomes of the boasted strength of our American civilization?

Morris Loeb.