Immigration Notes From Commissioner Robert Watchorn

Gleaned from an Address Delivered by Commissioner Robert Watchorn
to the Rutgers Presbyterian Church, New York, N. Y.

It is easy to say, "A million a year." The words mean little to us to-day. The fact means much for America, and in the immediate future. Something of the enormous number—a million!—may be comprehended by the following illustration used by a representative of the American Bible Society:—

If to the first immigrant entering our country in 1907 there had been given a card bearing the first word of the first verse of the first chapter of the Bible, to the second immigrant the second word. and to the third immigrant the third word, and so on to all the immigrants received during 1907, not even the more than a million a year would have taken the words in the Old and New Testaments. The line would have to be half as long again before the volume was completed.

Twenty-five years ago a circle with its center in Paris and its circumference five hundred miles from there included practically the countries from which the emigrant to the United States came. today the city which should be the center of such a circle is Constantinople. Lowell has said,

" New occasions teach new duties."

Here is a brand-new occasion of most colossal proportions! Are we learning our new duties?

First impressions are the ones that last. We must meet the immigrants when they come. What is done for them now determines what they will do for us by and by.
The immigration problem is a problem only when the immigrants are dealt with in a mass. It resolves itself into a very simple situation when we meet them as individual men and individual women, splendidly equipped with the same natural endowments which we ourselves claim.

There is great danger that the average up-to-date Protestant is in a rut. The methods of twenty-five years ago are not the methods for our cities to-day. The scene has shifted The church is so wrapped up in itself that we have to put notices in the papers and on the church doors to get people to come in We have to put police' on the street to keep people out of the saloons.

The Immigrant of Today

The immigrant of today is indispensable to our industrial life. Why should we not help him to a share of some of the other life of our country?

Have you ever watched a nurseryman transplanting a tree? When the tree has been placed in its new soil, he stands back and watches it; he straightens it; he waters the roots; he places the earth about it carefully; makes sure it stands erect and strong, and tends it until the coming of leaf and fruit betoken that the work has been well done.

When the immigrant has been transplanted to our better soil should he have less care than the tree transplanted by the nurseryman?

Who of you, inveighing against immigration in general, has gone to any immigrant personally and asked him how this country has corresponded to the idea—and ideal—of it he had before he came; whether he is finding it a pleasant home; whether he has had difficulty in securing work; whether there is anything you can do to help him to get the best of the life our country has to offer? Study yourself what you can do for him to help him fit himself to do the most for you and your children in the coming days of our republic.

Do not lose sight of the personal feature. It is easy to speak at random when one speaks from a distance. When you are face to face with the responsibilities of the situation its opportunities appear.

Never was there a more glorious opportunity before any body of Christians since the days of Antioch.

Seek the men of the East side to-day. They are the rough blocks of granite from which may be chiseled the citizens which shall strengthen and adorn the temple of our independence tomorrow.


Return to Top of Page