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Matthew Lowrie made the last opening speech for Princeton and the negative. A large part of his argument was intended to show that the Italian race is not undesirable as a whole, and not a menace to our institutions. In only four cities, he declared, have investigations of the slums been made, and these investigations have all been entirely overestimated. In New York there is supposed to be a slum population of 360,000 but the investigation took in only 26,000. This is a debate of facts, not of theories.
In the rebuttal speeches the superior form of the Harvard debaters was most clearly shown. The Princeton speakers seemed more earnest in their delivery than in their opening speeches, but the summary of their case lacked coherence and there was an unfortunate tendency to irrelevant discussion. It was undoubtedly contrary to the wording of the question for debate to demand that the affirmative give one definite plan for greater restriction of immigration.
F. O. White opened the rebuttal for the affirmative as follows: The gentleman on the negative has said that our law provides that all immigrants who become paupers within a year must be returned at the expense of the steamship lines which brought them. Yet over 9000 paupers come by rail from Canada every year and are not returned. He also said that steamship lines are required to post in all cities of Europe our restrictions on immigration. Yet by their own admission a very large number are turned back every year, showing conclusively that foreigners do not read our regulations before coming. The negative claims that we will have no one to do our dirty work. There is always enough unskilled labor. Man is naturally unskilled. The negative has claimed that the slums of Baltimore show a large percentage of Germans. The facts are that Baltimore is the only large city with a German quarter in the slums and this is the only quarter of Baltimore examined by the slum committee. We wish to exclude undesirable individuals, not races. Neither do we wish to exclude any one absolutely; we wish only to impose tests which shall show an immigrant's worth.
N. S. Reeves who opened the rebuttal for the negative said in substance: The affidavits of individual paupers have little force. To administer the immigration laws on the Canadian line would require that it be on almost a war footing. The affirmative must prove that there exists a class which must be kept out and that any restrictions which may be proposed would do more good than harm. They have proposed two tests. The illiterate test would shut out a large number from northern and western Europe. The educational test would shut out 44,000 each year from Southeastern Europe. This would cause a vacancy in the labor market and skilled laborers would be forced downward and be compelled to do unskilled labor.
R. T. Parke, following for the affirmative, restated the question, and said that it did not demand a specific remedy, but only a discussion of evils and an attempt to remedy them. The people from Southeastern Europe have not benefitted the country. They have overstocked the unskilled labor market and lowered the standard of living, especially in the mining regions where English-speaking miners have been forced into destitution and misery. The affirmative does not present a capitation or an educational test alone, but an alternative one which will allow skilled laborers to enter. This will satisfy the economic need of the country, for as C. D. Wright says, the demand for unskilled labor is on the decrease. We must consider the social life of our people, not merely economic production.
R. D. Dripps summed up for Princeton. He reasserted the demand for the unskilled laborer and the necessity that there shall be a surplus of labor if there is always to be the proper supply. Better to have too many men than not enough, and better to have Southern Europeans in the sweat shops than Germans or Americans. The affirmative is arguing for the ideal system. We demand that they shall give us one definite method for a greater restriction.
Rosenthal closed the debate for Harvard. The question is not, he said, one of the practicability of any one method of restriction. The question is whether we have undesirable immigrants coming into our country whom it is impossible to exclude under the present laws.
The decrease in the American birth rate has been due to immigration. With greater possibilities for the native-born laborer, it will rise again, and we shall have the necessary increase in population from our own people. Our powers of assimilation are on the decline. Our social and political evils are on the increase. It is sufficient that a way to remedy these evils has been shown.
The last Princeton speaker was Matthew Lowrie. He was anxious to emphasize his previous assertion that the negative were debating facts, not theories. The whole argument of the affirmative on the Canadian question, he said, was based on the assertion that there is no systematic investigation. We say that there is such an investigation and that the law gives the power to strengthen it whenever it is deemed necessary.
The gentlemen suggest two tests-the illiteracy test and the capitation tax. The first would shut out the most desirable class of immigrants. It does not discriminate between what the man knows and what he is. The capitation tax would exclude the very desirable and useful immigrants from Ireland. It is unnecessary for us to depart from our policy of free immigration to a narrow system of common exclusion.
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