Sunday, May 07, 2006

The more things change

The more they remain the same. Or so the saying goes.

On April 8, 1924 Republican Congressman Robert Clancy of Detroit gave an amazing speech in opposition to the Immigration Act or the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924. Some historians claim that this bill, overwhelmingly supported in its time would make the Republican party a minority party for a generation.

Following is an excerpt from Clancy's speech denouncing what he called the UnAmerican Bill:

Since the foundations of the American commonwealth were laid in colonial times over 300 years ago, vigorous complaint and more or less bitter persecution have been aimed at newcomers to our shores. Also the congressional reports of about 1840 are full of abuse of English, Scotch, Welsh immigrants as paupers, criminals, and so forth.

Old citizens in Detroit of Irish and German descent have told me of the fierce tirades and propaganda directed against the great waves of Irish and Germans who came over from 1840 on for a few decades to escape civil, racial, and religious persecution in their native lands.

The “Know-Nothings,” lineal ancestors of the Ku-Klux Klan, bitterly denounced the Irish and Germans as mongrels, scum, foreigners, and a menace to our institutions, much as other great branches of the Caucasian race of glorious history and antecedents are berated to-day. All are riff-raff, unassimilables, “foreign devils,” swine not fit to associate with the great chosen people—a form of national pride and hallucination as old as the division of races and nations.

But to-day it is the Italians, Spanish, Poles, Jews, Greeks, Russians, Balkanians, and so forth, who are the racial lepers. And it is eminently fitting and proper that so many Members of this House with names as Irish as Paddy’s pig, are taking the floor these days to attack once more as their kind has attacked for seven bloody centuries the fearful fallacy of chosen peoples and inferior peoples. The fearful fallacy is that one is made to rule and the other to be abominated. . . .

In this bill we find racial discrimination at its worst—a deliberate attempt to go back 84 years in our census taken every 10 years so that a blow may be aimed at peoples of eastern and southern Europe, particularly at our recent allies in the Great War—Poland and Italy.

Jews In Detroit Are Good Citizens

Of course the Jews too are aimed at, not directly, because they have no country in Europe they can call their own, but they are set down among the inferior peoples. Much of the animus against Poland and Russia, old and new, with the countries that have arisen from the ruins of the dead Czar’s European dominions, is directed against the Jew.

We have many American citizens of Jewish descent in Detroit, tens of thousands of them—active in every profession and every walk of life. They are particularly active in charities and merchandising. One of our greatest judges, if not the greatest, is a Jew. Surely no fair-minded person with a knowledge of the facts can say the Jews or Detroit are a menace to the city’s or the country’s well-being. . . .

Will history repeat itself? Does it always?


chuck said...


That's a great speech. I wish there was a politician somewhere who could speak like that these days.

Syl said...

The same undercurrents beneath the Dubai Ports deal, that ignored facts and relied on emotion, is going on here.

I think France figures prominently in the American masses' attitude. I mean the car burnings and demonstrations and rioting by their immigrants last fall left a deep impression.

I think the 'wisdom of crowds' is simply rejecting a French-like situation even though they know, when they think about it, that our situation vis-a-vis immigrants is different.

These beneath consciousness considerations are going to be next to impossible to counter.

Unknown said...


Yes and the cartoon riots...all of it.After awhile people are just fed up with people making demands of any kind.