'A Menacing Eruption'
'Is there not a prima facie case against the Italians? ...Is not every Italian who descends shipboard...a menace
to our industrial interests?' --Boston Daily Advertiser, April 10, 1882
As Tommaso Juglaris pursued his career in the United States prejudice against Italian immigrants was palpable. It increased throughout the 1880s as more Italians arrived on American shores, settling in cities like New York and Boston. The objection to Italian immigration was multi-fold. There was rampant concern that Italian immigrants would not be able to meld with a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant American culture because of different cultural values, engrained temperament, limited education, and an overarching fealty to the Pope and Roman Catholicism. Because they were willing to work for lower wages, Italian immigrants were also seen as a threat to the security and well-being of more well-established American laborers.
Resentment towards immigration by Italians and others sometimes reared its head in surprising quarters. For example, the late nineteenth-century feminist Olympia Brown, who was popular in enlightened Boston circles, considered it unfair that less educated, newly-minted Americans, albeit men, could receive the privileges of citizenship, including the right to vote, denied to educated, native-born women. As a women’s rights activist and the first woman to be ordained for the ministry by a national denomination, the Reverend Brown joined labor leaders and fellow Protestant clergy in condemning immigration from Italy and elsewhere as a “menacing eruption” that was subversive to American democracy and its established institutions. In an address entitled On the Foreign Menace (1889), Brown vehemently declared: “…there are in the United States three times as many American-born women as the whole foreign population, men and women together, so that the vote of women will eventually be the only means of overcoming this foreign influence and maintaining our free institutions. There is no possible safety for our free school, our free church or our republican government, unless women are given the suffrage and that right speedily.”
‘The Italian Must Go’
The alleged perils of Italian immigration were highlighted and underscored up in a highly inflammatory broadside entitled “The Italian Must Go,” published by the Boston Daily Advertiser, on April 10, 1882. The lengthy editorial offers valuable perspective on the social and political climate that was the backdrop for Juglaris’s own Boston career. As the editorial declares:
“The next cry in order, and this time from Eastern sufferers, is that the Italian must go. This declaration would be an echo of the Pacific slope clamor against the Chinese. While in the twelve months of 1881 but two thousand three hundred Italians arrived at the port of New York, the single month of March this year witnessed the coming to that city of nearly four thousand immigrants from Italy. Altogether, nearly seven thousand of that race have landed since 1882 began. At this rate, before the year closes, twenty-five thousand sons and daughters of Italy may overrun the country. These figures may be made the basis of alarming suggestions. The Chinese argument in vogue would serve as an outline for a war against the Italians.”
“Most of these immigrants, as anyone can testify who has seen them come on shore, present a most unattractive aspect. There is little about them to indicate that they will ever assimilate with our people. Unclean, repulsive, murderously quick tempered (a dagger is supposed to be within convenient distance at all hours of the day or night), ignorant, how are they to be incorporated with the free electors who choose rulers, dictate the conduct of officials, and interpret constitutional questions off-hand? Is there not a prima facie case against the Italians? If four thousand a month are coming in upon us, ought not Congress to be invoked or threatened judiciously to pass a law suspending the landing of these obnoxious and stupid people, who persist in keeping by themselves, and mingle little with society about them? Especially is there not a strong reason for governmental action when it is seen that these repulsive creatures are given to cheap work, being willing, it is affirmed, to accept anything offered them in the way of wages? A gang of these worthless persons taking a job at paltry rates by so much undermines American labor and exposes our civilization to ruin. Who can defend the liberty of immigration which permits a cloud of these laborers to settle each month upon a land full of hard-handed, honest-hearted toilers, many of whom can get nothing to do? Is not every Italian who descends from ship-board and presents himself at [New York’s] Castle Garden [immigration center] a menace to our industrial interests? If the Chinese must go, must not the Italians be repelled before it is too late, whether they be skilled or unskilled laborers?”
“The Chinaman comes here a pagan, and so threatens our religious life… If the influence of these pagans has been so prostrating, there is an objection against the Italians which of course makes a bill of exclusion an imperative necessity. The Chinamen never will affiliate with the predominant religious faith of the country, nor will the Italians. As is well understood, their allegiance is due to a foreign ecclesiastical power. Why then does not some patriot like Mr. Page, author of sundry anti-Chinese bills, rise in Congress in his might and offer a prohibitory measure aimed at these non-assimilating Italians, arriving at the rate of four thousand a month. Material, moral, and religious arguments are thus within reach.”
“Besides the contributions of orators and the press of the Pacific states, the aid of the common people has been given freely in the noble work of casting out the Chinese. This assistance has taken the form often of assaults, incendiarism, and other suggestive hints. New York has done well in inaugurating the same methods with the Italians. Stones have been buried in proper quantity, threats have been loud and deep, when these laborers would presume to do the work which belongs to the citizens, whose naturalization papers may be of a late date, but who yet are sovereigns. Let the labors of these less exalted opponents of the intolerable Italians be reinforced by the endeavors of newspapers and statesmen, and the anti-Italian movement, like the anti-Chinese crusade, will be well begun. The reasonableness of this projected prohibition and persecution is not to be doubted by any more than the sweetness and light of the attacks on the Mongolians. Congress must interfere. Acts must be passed. If the President dare veto them, burn him in effigy, and, if possible, let Massachusetts come in for a share of opprobrium. The anti-Italian movement awaits a leader. Who will stand forth to vindicate American labor?”