[Editor: This article about immigration and demographics was published in The Northern Argus (Clare, SA), 21 February 1902.]
The alien question.
“Australia for the Australians” may be a good wholesome war cry. We know at any rate the danger of permitting a large influx of people, alien to ourselves not merely in color, but in thought, traditions, religions, and the aspirations and moral impulses of our race. But it is a danger which it will probably cause trouble to avoid. The least reflecting must perceive that recent revolutions in China, point not to the break up of that cumbrous and colossal power but to its reform and new birth.
And that means trouble in the future to Australia. We have seen how a race kin to the Chinese has developed within thirty years or so, from mediaeval conditions to the status of a great power. And it is likely that the awakening of China may lead to a similar revelation, on a vaster scale and proportionately ominous to the peace of the world.
* * * * * *
Now any steps that the Federal Government may take to secure a “white Australia,” must mean the exclusion of Chinese and Japanese. It must also involve the perplexing dilemma of the exclusion of British subjects; for as matters stand the Hindoo trader and the Sikh hawkers have as much legal right to be here as any other British subject. So that we are on the verge of a very complex condition of affairs.
It is certain that Japan will warmly resent any attempt on our part to exclude her people. Her mildest course of retaliation would be the adoption of similar measures in respect to ourselves, and a probable refusal to trade with us. Nay, she might even extend her resentment further, and impose upon Great Britain the conditions which she retaliated upon Australia; and that would be very awkward. China again would be backed up by her neighbour in her vigorous protest. It is one of these matters that cannot be entered upon with a light heart.
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Those who are most vehement for a “white Australia” point to the United States as an example of the disaster attending the nationalising of alien races. But the parallel, as applying to the prospective danger to Australia hardly fits in. The black population of the southern parts of the States, is the outcome of slavery. When that most iniquitous system was crushed out, and the negroes, by hysterical legislation were at one revolution, placed upon an equal political level with the whites, the failure of the step was inevitable. And after all, the outcry in the States, springs, not from apprehension of the inferior mental and moral status of black, but fear of his competition and probable domination. There is no such situation in our problem here.
The United States however, took a wise step, when by legislation, it barred the immigration of undesirable persons from Europe. All who have travelled know it is not the color of a man’s skin that indicates his worth as a citizen. There are people living on the continent of Europe who, in point of ignorance and moral degradation, are infinitely inferior to the colored races, who, in limited number come to these shores, year by year. For our own part, we consider that the vagrant Greeks and Italians who of late years have found their way hither, are of far more danger to the moral health of the community than the Afghan or Hindoo, or the industrious little brown man of Japan.
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Those who know the Levant; those who have sojourned in Egypt know what manner of men they are who hail from the Mediterranean. These are the people whose presence among us threaten far graver dangers than the mild Hindoo or the calm and passive Chinese. Yet there is no cry against them as undesirable. In the United States their introduction is guarded against by every legitimate method. There the Greek, Hungarian or Italian vagrant is barred from entrance, unless he can satisfy the authorities that, given his freedom from the skin and dirt diseases common to his natal habitat, he has acquired the additional quality of being able to write and speak English. And the system works. The classic gentlemen who present themselves at Castle Garden depot, who may not be troubled by disagreeable epidermic disabilities, are almost certain to be intellectually barred. So that by this means, the incursion of the undesirable immigrant is kept in check.
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No such steps have yet been taken hereaway. The idea seems to prevail in Australia that it is all a matter of color; and that the so called white man (the average Greek and Italian is darker naturally than the Japanese, and by the aid of dirt frequently as black as a negro) is alone entitled to live in this favored part of the world. But a little reflection will suggest that there are many of the white races who should be barred from us, for just as valid reasons as we advance against the colored races. Getting down to the bed-rock of objection, we find that the Australian antipathy to the Chinese, Japanese, and Indian immigrants, is born of the consciousness that these people, by their industry, thrift, and economy are enabled to live and save money, and so prosper, where a white man could hardly subsist; and the white man has this just grievance that, while he spends what he earns, and so disseminates his gains among his fellows, the other fellow — the pariah and alien — holds on to his money with the grip of a cuttle fish. But the same argument can be advanced against the white aliens who now infest our society. The Greek and the Italian, the Russian and Polish jew subsist under conditions which would appal a Chinaman or a Japanese. And our contention is that if we bar the one we ought to keep out the other.
In whatever view we take of this matter, it is impossible to escape the conviction that the question will test the best quality of statesmanship our leaders may possess. And we submit that as it obviously involves the question of international rights, these States will have largely to adopt, in its solution, the noble teaching of Christianity — Do unto others, as you would that they should do unto you.
The Northern Argus (Clare, SA), 21 February 1902, p. 3 of the Supplement to The Northern Argus
Also published in:
The Cobram Courier (Cobram, Vic.), 27 February 1902, p. 3
The Evelyn Observer, and South and East Bourke Record (Kangaroo Ground, Vic.), 28 February 1902, p. 3
The Great Southern Advocate (Korumburra, Vic.), 13 March 1902, p. 4
The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal (Braidwood, NSW), 17 May 1902, p. 2 of the Supplement to the Braidwood Dispatch
The Murrurundi Times and Quirindi Times, and Liverpool Plains Gazette (Murrurundi, NSW), 17 May 1902, p. 3
The Muswellbrook Chronicle (Muswellbrook, NSW), 17 May 1902, p. 5
The Inverell Times (Inverell, NSW), 21 May 1902, p. 2
Manilla Express and North-western Agricultural, Pastoral, & Mining Representative (Manilla, NSW), 21 May 1902, p. 4
The Bowral Free Press (Bowral, NSW), 28 May 1902, p. 4
Riverina Recorder (Balranald, NSW), 28 May 1902, p. 5
The Western Champion and General Advertiser for the Central-Western Districts (Barcaldine, Qld.), 3 August 1902, p. 11
appal = (a variant spelling of “appall”) to be filled with dismay, horror; or shock
Castle Garden = a major immigration processing facility in New York City (USA), known as the Emigrant Landing Depot, operating for that function from 1855 to 1891 (it was established prior to the immigration facility at Ellis Island, New York Harbor, which processed immigrants from 1892 to 1924)
epidermic = of or relating to the epidermis, i.e. of or relating to the skin
hereaway = around here; in this area, neighbourhood, or region (also: hereaways; synonymous with: hereabout, hereabouts)
Hindoo = an archaic spelling of “Hindu” (a follower of the religion of Hinduism)
the Levant = the countries and islands of the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, including some of the neighbouring lands near to the east (from the French “lever”, meaning “to rise”, regarding the sunrise, and therefore referring to the east); historically referring to the eastern Mediterranean lands, from Greece to Egypt, but in modern times usually confined to the lands of the far eastern Mediterranean (Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel, as well as neighbouring Jordon and Iraq); (archaic) to abscond, bolt, or run away, in a hurried, secret, or unexpected manner, especially so as to avoid paying debts (possibly related to the French expression “faire voile en Levant”, meaning “set sail for the Levant” or “to sail eastward”, i.e. to flee to the east)
natal = of or relating to birth; of or relating to birthplace (i.e. the place, area, or land of birth)
nay = an archaic form of “no”; however, it is still sometimes used regarding voting (e.g. to vote yea or nay), in formal circumstances, in some dialects (e.g. in the north of England), and as a substitute for “no” when some emphasis is desired
the States = in the context of America, “the States” refers to the United States of America
[Editor: Changed “anyrate” to “any rate”, “by leglislation” to “by legislation”, “Afgan” to “Afghan”, “Meditaranean” to “Mediterranean”, “chinaman or a japanese” to “Chinaman or a Japanese”. Inserted a comma after “but in thought”.]