Rather than viewing the immigrants’ poverty and lack of education as a temporary problem that would vanish with future generations, he argued that their presence had forever destroyed the wholesome, hearty American way of life.
Through all our early history, Americans, from Governor Winthrop, through Jonathan Edwards, to Ralph Waldo Emerson, had done every sort of work which was required for the comfort of their families and for the upbuilding of the state, and had not been ashamed. They called nothing common or unclean which needed to be done for their own good or for the good of all…. So long as manual labor, in whatever field, was to be done by all, each in his place, there was no revolt at it; but when working on railroads and canals became the sign of a want of education and of a low social condition, our own people gave it up.
In conclusion, Walker argued that it was time for the nation to take a break and resolve its new social and economic issues before opening its borders to the world once more. "The problems which so sternly confront us to-day," he wrote, "are serious enough without being complicated and aggravated by the addition of some millions of Hungarians, Bohemians, Poles, south Italians, and Russian Jews."
A decade later, Atlantic author, John W. Foster took a different tack, defending newcomers against what he saw as blatant discrimination. In "The Chinese Boycott" (January 1906), he criticized the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1894, which put a hold on Chinese immigration, and condemned Americans for their treatment of already-present Chinese residents. He referred to United States vs. Ju Toy, a 1905 Supreme Court case that ruled that Chinese immigrants had been "deprived of due process of law for the protection of their liberty and property."
Foster cited several particularly egregious examples of this mistreatment, including an instance in which Boston police and immigration officials descended upon the Chinese quarter, seizing people without producing any warrant for their arrest. The raid was especially cruel, he noted, given that it happened "on the day and at the hour when the Chinese of Boston and its vicinity were accustomed to congregate in the quarter named for the purpose of meeting friends and enjoying themselves after a week of steady and honest toil."
Such behavior, he insisted, was "not to our credit as a Christian and liberal-minded people." He quoted President Theodore Roosevelt who, in a recent speech, had declared that Chinese immigrants should enjoy "the same right of entry to this country, and the same treatment while here, as is guaranteed to citizens of any other nation."
In "Races in the United States" (December 1908), William Z. Ripley questioned whether groups such as the Chinese and the Slavs would "coalesce to form ultimately a more or less uniform American type" or "remain separate, distinct, and perhaps discordant." He noted that America was in the midst of a great experiment, having become a nation of unparalleled diversity.
The most complex populations of Europe, such as those of the British Isles, Northern France, or even the Balkan States, seem ethnically pure by contrast. In some of these places the soothing hand of time has softened the racial contrasts. There are certain water holes, of course, like Gibraltar, Singapore, or Hong Kong, to which every type of human animal is attracted, and a notably mongrel population is the result. But for ethnic diversity on a large scale, the United States is certainly unique.
Ripley discussed various patterns of intermarriage—between Jews and Irishmen, Russians and Italians, Germans and French Canadians. Citing Darwin, he argued that "a powerful process of social selection is apparently at work among us" and expressed his conviction that the culture, if not the physical traits, of the Anglo-Saxon would prevail. White Americans, he concluded, were faced with a unique responsibility: to ensure that, "in due course of time, even if the Anglo-Saxon stock be physically inundated by the engulfing flood, the torch of its civilization and ideals may still continue to illuminate the way."