Why Europe Leaves Home

by Kenneth L. Roberts. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Co. 8vo, viii+356 pp. $3.00.
MOST Americans of fifty years standing or more, and their descendants, will read this book with smiling sympathy for the author’s boyish response to what he saw in Europe and his frankness of opinion regarding it. His judgments might carry greater weight with many if they were more discriminating and were expressed with less flippancy of style and humor; yet, taken in the broad, he about hits the mark, He sees things only in the two dimensions of the present, without that third dimension of the past which gives historical reality and depth of background to such a picture as he tries to paint. He thinks a king who lies smoothly and brazenly is a crook, apparently unaware that lying is the protective coloration of crowned head . To him the stigmata of persecution borne by the Eastern Jews are ulcers indefinitely transmissible to their descendants. In fact the book will seem to many readers an amusing collection of first impressions, uncritical and intolerant as first impressions usually are. But it is wholesomely American, and candid first impressions have their value.
Most of the chapters are articles, or are based upon articles, originally written for the Saturday Evening Post. Though the topics all deal with the writer’s experiences in Europe a year or two ago, they vary so widely that the volume lacks unity of theme and resembles those story books that take their title from the first tale in them. The four initial chapters describe the post-war flood of wretched humanity headed for our shores from Europe, until partially dammed by the new immigration law. They are written with much seriousness of purpose and contain constructive proposals that should be generally pondered. The two chapters that follow give a graphic account of the present condition and the former adventures of the Russian emigrants who swarmed out of their country after the Bolsheviki seized power. The story has often been told, but is well enough told here to justify the repetition. The chapter upon Greece that follows will not endear the author to the Greeks, any more than his immigration chapters will endear him to the Jews. The two concluding chapters describe the drink evil and the fight for prohibition in England and Scotland respectively, and are rather uncomplimentary to those countries. They are written from a prohibition standpoint, which we suspect was stiffened by the writer’s resentment of British criticism and misinformation regarding America, as well as by what he saw of drink degradation in Great Britain. These chapters are an entertaining contribution to the history of an important movement of which we are not over-informed on this side of the water.
It would be easy to point out minor errors of fact, and possibly graver errors of opinion, in this volume. None the less it is a valuable book within its limitations; and it is likely to arouse the minds of complacent readers, even those of lethargic intellects, to the perils to which American institutions are exposed if we go on underbreeding the race that created and supports them.