The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 1/Will the Immigrants Be Loyal?
Will the Immigrants Be Loyal?
Among the many problems which the United States will face upon declaring the state of war not the least will be the problem of the foreign-born population. It has proved to be an embarrassing one in all the belligerent countries, but in America it is one of unusual dimensions. According to the census of 1910 out of 92 million inhabitants 13,345,545 were foreign born. Their children born in this country were still more numerous, the total being 18,897,837. It may be taken for granted that speaking generally those who were born in the United States and have never known any other homeland will not be troubled by conflicting claims of a divided allegiance. But what about the thirteen, at this time more than fourteen million men and women born under other flags? Will they not disturb the public order, interrupt communications, interfere with military operations, spy out our navy secrets? Which of these millions should be suspected and watched?
To start with, we may leave out of consideration people born in countries that are at war with Germany and people born in neutral countries. There may be traitors among them, but then there may be traitors among Americans of the oldest stock. The danger, whatever it may be, is to be found among the subjects and former subjects of Germany and its Allies. Now in 1910 there lived in the United States 2,501,333 people born in Germany, 1,670,582 born in Austria-Hungary, 11,498 born in Bulgaria and 61,959 born in Turkey. The potential enemies should be found among these classes of the American population.
The index of the country of birth, however, gives little real indication of the sympathies of the individual thus indexed. Frenchmen from Alsace-Lorraine or Italians from the Trentino are not likely to favor the country which had oppressed them and from which they fled to the free country beyond the ocean. Or take the Poles; they come from three states, two of them on the Teuton side, one with the entente. Shall we look upon the Austrian Pole as a suspected person and on the Russian Pole as a friend? The real criterion is not former political citizenship, but rather racial affiliation. Those that appreciate the real significance of the European struggle realize that it is due to the imperialistic tendencies of the German race. Germans look upon themselves as a race of lords—Herrenfolk—a chosen people destined to rule the world and incidentally to confer upon the weaker races the benefits of German kultur. Their only real ally is the Magyar race, which actuated by a similar megalomania, has linked its fortunes to the Hohenzollern chariot in order to crush the Slavs of Hungary and Serbia. Bulgaria found itself on the German side partly from hate of its neighbor and cousin, Serbia, party through the crooked politics of its German king, and Turkey hardly knows at all, how it came to deliver itself to Germany. Among the numberless races of newcomers in the United States, two only need be considered as possible enemies, the Germans and the Magyars.
The census of 1910 undertook for the first time to classify immigrants and their children according to their mother tongue. There were at that time 2,910,857 immigrants, naturalized and aliens, whose mother tongue was German, and 229,094 whose mother tongue was Magyar. Of the Germans the largest part was born in Germany, a considerable minority in Austria-Hungary and several hundred thousands in Russia. Most of the immigrants from the Dual Empire belong to races that not only do not sympathize with the Teuton cause, but are far more anxious to defeat Germany with its domineering ambitions and ruthless methods than the average American citizen whose patience has only recently been roused to the point of war.
Among the races of Austria-Hungary who are hostile to the Central Powers Bohemians and Slovaks occupy the place of honor. Bohemians have fought the Germans for fifteen centuries and Slovaks were held down by Magyar overlords for a thousand years. Bohemian and Slovak regiments in the Austrian army mutinied, surrendered and went over to the Russians on many occasions. The Vienna parliament has not been called together since April, 1914, because of the known opposition of the Czech deputies to the war. In every Allied army there are volunteer formations of Czechs and Slovaks who feel that they fight for their own country by fighting against Germany. Bohemian and Slovak immigrants in this country have collected large sums of money for the support of a movement aiming at the liberation of their brothers from the German and Magyar yoke.
No one doubts that in case of war with Germany the overwhelming majority of immigrants of all races, German included, will be found absolutely loyal to this great land which has the faculty to gain the love of strangers within its gates. But there will be found many among the German and Magyar elements of the foreign-born population who will commit treason by adhering to the enemy of the United States. There will be none such among the Bohemian-speaking citizens and residents of this country.J. F. S.