Nativism During the Great War and The Roaring 20’s
32 out of 92 million Americans in 1910 were 1st or 2nd generation immigrants
Questions for History:
What is nativism in American history?
How did nativism influence American attitudes toward World War One?
In what sense did nativism during World War One lead to “big government” in America?
What effect did nativist views have on civil liberties during the war?
How did nativism continue to influence American culture after the war?
Nativism During the Great War
After a long absence, Ku Klux Klan is reformed in 1915, Fulton County, Georgia.
“Native White Protestant Supremacy”
The arrival of immigrants from non-native English-speaking and non-Protestant Christian countries inspires a backlash against all foreign influences
“I certainly would not be one even to suggest that a man cease to love the home of his birth and the nation of his origin. . . But it is one thing to love the place where you were born and it is another thing to dedicate yourself to the place to which you go. You cannot dedicate yourself to America unless you become in every respect and with every purpose of your will thorough Americans. Some Americans need hyphens in their names, because only part of them has come over, but when the whole man has come over, heart and thought and all, the hyphen drops of its own weight out of his name.”
–President Woodrow Wilson “Hyphenated Americans”
Long tradition of fearing immigrants in American history….
1600s: Mary Dyer hung by Puritans for her Quaker beliefs, 1660. Puritans viewed Quakers as a foreign and heretical influence.
1700s: Ben Franklin advocated English only in Pa. after growing alarmed at the rise in German speakers.
1800s: Anti-Irish/Catholic Know-Nothing political party gained influence in 1850s on the anti-immigrant platform.
Nativism: a fear of all things foreign.
A long tradition of anti-immigrant, anti-foreign feelings and laws defined America’s history. The image here shows Uncle Sam –a symbol of patriotism – standing in the gates of America and plugging his nose as a (Jewish) immigrant arrives carrying bags labeled ‘poverty’ and ‘disease.’
As neutrality gave way to mobilization in the early stages of WWI, American leaders looked to encourage loyalty at a time of anti-immigrant fear.
“It is not an army we must shape and train for a war, it is a nation.”
— President Wilson
Congress declares war against Germany, April 1917…
…when an estimated eight million German-Americans resided in America (total population of 90 million)
American Protective League
250,000 ‘agents’ in 600 cities
Civilian members received badges
Encouraged to report ‘suspicious’ information or disloyal behavior to the authorities.
Federal government seeks to mobilize civilians, sponsors neighborhood groups like the American Protective League.
U.S. Government will spend three times as much money in wartime mobilization as it did during the first 100 years…
Selective Service Act, 1917
24 million registered
3 million drafted
… much of it on behalf of mobilizing American civilians in support of the war.
Wartime agencies created by Federal Government to manage every aspect of war…
U.S. Food Administration
War Industries Board
Committee on Public Information
… leads to an unprecedented growth in the scope and scale of the federal government.
Advertising inspires government propaganda…
CPI’s George Creel,
“It was a plain publicity proposition, a vast enterprise in salesmanship, the world’s greatest adventure in advertising. . . . .”
750,000 speeches commissioned by the CPI:
“Do not let the German spy hear and report that you are a slacker.”
Johnnie, get your gun,
Get your gun, get your gun,
Take it on the run, On the run, on the run.
Hear them calling, you and me,
Every son of liberty.
Hurry right away,
No delay, go today,
Make your daddy glad
To have had such a lad.
Tell your sweetheart not to pine,
To be proud her boy’s in line.
(chorus sung twice): Over there, over there, Send the word, send the word over there, That the Yanks are coming,The Yanks are coming, The drums rum-tumming Ev’rywhere.
Johnnie get your gun, get you gun, get your gun,
Johnnie show the Hun, you’re a Son-of-a-Gun,
Hoist the flag and let her fly
Like true heros do or die
Pack your little kit, show your grit, do your bit,
Soldiers to the ranks from the towns and the tanks,
Make your Mother proud of you and to Liberty be true.
So prepare, say a pray’r, Send the word, send the word to beware. We’ll be over, we’re coming over, And we won’t come back till it’s over Over there.
…demonize the enemy
…inspires tough measures and violence.
And growing intolerance of dissent.
German-American businesses vandalized
Federal government urges wartime view,
“Every person who refused to subscribe or who takes the attitude of let the other fellow do it, is a friend of Germany and I would like nothing better than to tell it to him to his face. A man who can’t lend his government $1.25 per week at the rate of 4% interest is not entitled to be an American citizen.”
–William Gibbs McAdoo, U.S. Treasury Secretary
Espionage Act, 1917:
“wilfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall wilfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States”
Sedition Act, 1918 “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive” language against the Constitution, flag, government, or military uniform.”
1500 prosecutions by the Federal Government
Eugene V. Debs
They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.” – Eugene V. Debs, Speech in Canton, Ohio 1918
…and sentenced to ten years in Federal prison
Won a million votes in 1920 election
Supreme Court upheld wartime prosecutions
Schenck v. United States, 1919
Justice Holmes, “The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”