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Robber Barons and Wretched RefuseEthnic and Class Dynamics during the Era of American Industrialization$
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Robert F. Zeidel

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501748318

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501748318.001.0001

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Turmoil Amid Reform

Turmoil Amid Reform

Immigrant Worker Protest and Progressivism

(p.136) Chapter 6 Turmoil Amid Reform
Robber Barons and Wretched Refuse

Robert F. Zeidel

Cornell University Press

This chapter assesses how Woodrow Wilson's candidacy, along with that of Theodore Roosevelt and Eugene Debs, signaled the height of the Progressive Era, a time beginning in the early 1900s when Americans believed that sufficient application of proper ways and means could alleviate virtually any social or economic malady. Progressives held contrasting ideas about how best to address immigrant-related issues, especially the extent to which their continued influx would exacerbate a host of problems. Some, like Wilson, saw immigrants as valuable additions to the United States, and emphasized the need to assimilate them properly so that they would come to embody “American” values and practices. Others believed that immigrants contributed disproportionately to social ills, a propensity that justified their exclusion. To these restrictionists, the imposition of more effective ways to reduce the number of immigrants and improve the quality of those allowed in would contribute to national rectification. Businesses in need of immigrant laborers sought ways to allay the restrictionists' fears, but new labor conflicts involving foreign-born women and men complicated their efforts. Two years after the 1912 election, the outbreak of war in Europe exacerbated domestic concerns about the loyalty of foreign-born residents, further complicating America's “immigration problem.”

Keywords:   Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Eugene Debs, Progressive Era, progressives, immigrants, American values, immigration restriction, immigrant laborers, immigration problem

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