YEARS ago, I remember, an employee at the New York Customs House was filling out some paper for me. He asked where I had been born. "New York," I replied. "Yes," he said, "but which town?" Apparently it didn't cross his mind that I might have been born in New York City. His instinctive reaction was reasonable enough. For a century the tides of European immigration into the United States had channelled through the Narrows and dispersed on the piers of Chelsea, Weehawken and Brooklyn. Each tide had left such a deposit in the port of arrival that native New Yorkers had become the exception. When Peter Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam to the English in 1664 it was a place of less than 1,500 souls. At the close of the Revolution the population was still only a little over 22,000. In each succeeding decade or so the figure doubled, until by a hundred years ago it reached 312,000. Today it is over seven millions. If we add the population of nine adjacent counties whose daily life centers almost wholly in the city, the total passes the twelve million mark -- one-tenth of the nation.


Even in its beginnings New York was a mosaic. Eighteen languages were spoken in the streets of New Amsterdam, including Dutch, French, Swedish, English, German, Polish, Bohemian, Portuguese and Italian. Religious discrimination was rare. There was no witch hunting. Indeed, many persons who found New England insupportable moved to Long Island and the shores of Pelham Bay in order to enjoy the religious freedom of the New Netherlands. The town's cosmopolitan and easy-going character was not materially altered by nearly a century of English rule. As in the other British colonies, political institutions took shape along Anglo-Saxon lines, but the population remained mixed and kept the traits usual in a place where many races congregate -- liveliness, bustle, resourcefulness and, on the whole, tolerance.

The ethnic picture did not alter much immediately after the British troops and their Tory friends quit New York in 1783. The war left surprisingly little bad feeling on either side, and most of the early arrivals in the following years were English and Scotch. The waves of mass immigration from other lands did not commence until the forties and fifties. The first to arrive in quantities were the Irish, escaping their poverty-stricken isle, especially following the potato famine of 1845. The Germans began to come in real numbers about the same time, most of them peasants and artisans, but some of them intellectuals fleeing what would now be called the "white" counter-revolution after 1848.[i] Then came the wave of Italians, beginning in the '80s and reaching a high point in the opening years of the twentieth century.

By this time the Irish were becoming contractors and politicians, and the Italians took over from them the job of digging the ditches, carrying the hods and laying the rails to accommodate America's expanding industry. In New York, as in other towns, many of the Italians opened up little shops. So did the Jews. Many Jews had come earlier to the United States from Germany, not for racial reasons, but moved by the same general impulses which influenced other Germans. The later Jewish immigration was mainly from Russia, following that country's adoption of restrictive laws in 1882 and as pogroms became more and more frequent. The peasants who emigrated from Russia, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe usually went on to the mines or factories in Pennsylvania or Ohio, or to the agricultural plains of the west. But the Jews tended to stay in New York. Many of those who did not open shops entered the rapidly expanding garment trade, which today, as a result, is one of the city's greatest industries, clothing three-quarters of the women of America and making four-fifths of their furs and feathers and jewelry.[ii]

The Irish and the Italians and the Jews came in such swarms that New York became the greatest Irish city in the world, ahead of Dublin, the greatest Italian city in the world, ahead of Rome, and the world's Jewish "capital," with half of all the Jews in America and over an eighth of the total in the world. Today three out of every four people you meet in the street in New York are immigrants or the children of immigrants. This compares with a 1930 census figure for the United States as a whole of one out of three.

The surprising thing is that in spite of such apparently overwhelming dilutions the population matrix of New York should have retained a predominantly English character. The hardy Dutch strain also persists. Remarkably enough, the names of the original settlers from Holland still figure in contemporary New York life along with the names of the respectable English families that were conspicuous in the city's business and banking in the early nineteenth century. The old stock does not hold its own, of course, to the same extent as in Boston, where until recently all seven members of the Harvard Corporation belonged to families which had served the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for six or seven generations. Nevertheless, many trustees and directors of New York organizations have names that figured, or might easily have figured, on the annual reports of similar organizations in the years before or just after the Revolution.

Despite this, the steady evolution of the city has until recently been towards a complication of racial characteristics rather than towards their simplification. Even apparently dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers add to the diversity, for they almost invariably turn out to have been born in Louisiana or Minnesota or New Mexico, which means that they have transplanted here at least something of their distinctive racial strains and cultural backgrounds. In addition to the nationalities already mentioned, we have experienced large or considerable immigrations of Hungarians, Czechs, Greeks, Scandinavians, Syrians, Croatians, Cubans and Puerto Ricans. We have a Chinatown, a great Negro quarter, and districts where the shop signs are predominantly in Spanish or Armenian or any one of a dozen other languages. Many of these people read of events back in the "old country," as well as of doings in the local colony, in papers printed in their own language. At the present time, approximately 200 foreign language newspapers and magazines are published in New York. They are of all political persuasions. Some of them are religious organs, for the church means a great deal to a newcomer in a strange land. A few have ideological leanings -- Fascist, Nazi, Communist. But the largest and most successful newspapers, though in several cases radical, profess to be thoroughly American.

Now that mass immigration to the United States has been stopped, the melting-pot process, working inexorably with each day's births and deaths, will gradually overcome the results which such an enormous and prolonged and diversified influx of humanity has had on the character of the city. The driblets of refugees from Hitler's terror at present reaching our shores will not interfere with the process. Many of them are individually eminent in art, literature and science, and hence would be conspicuous wherever they happened to be. But they merely add to the cosmopolitan appearance of contemporary New York life. Their numbers are negligible in a city of over seven millions. Nature and the public school system will accomplish their work thoroughly in another generation or so.

In the meanwhile, however, New York remains without doubt the largest and most self-consciously diverse conglomeration of races and tongues ever gathered together in one spot on the earth's surface. This precludes any simple statement about what is in its mind when it "looks abroad." It does not forget its own earlier self--its Dutch and British childhood, its sedate early nineteenth century adolescence. It is not unconscious of the blood it has drawn from every state in the Union. Its heart is continuously tugged at, too, by memories of "old countries" all over the globe -- Midlands factory town and Hamburg waterfront, steppe and pampas, ghetto and mountain chalet, fjord and loch and blue Mediterranean bay. New York is Cosmopolis. To it nothing anywhere -- no event, no idea -- is wholly alien. This may be a weakness or a strength. Critics will at any rate agree that it is New York's outstanding characteristic.


It would be wrong, however, to imagine that the people of New York examine events abroad with especial interest only out of a vague nostalgia or as propagandists for a particular race or political system. Their material occupations, intellectual interests and pleasures have international ramifications which remind them constantly of their dependence on foreign markets and of their debt to foreign cultures.

The cotton picker in Alabama, the automobile worker in Michigan, the wheat farmer in Kansas, all depend on exports for part of their daily work. Hence economic conditions in foreign lands affect their economic conditions. Earlier articles in this series have indicated that realization of the fact seems to be making progress all over the country, even in regions usually considered obdurately isolationist. But the process, like any educational process, is bound to be slow. The man in the cotton or wheat field can hardly see even as far as the cotton factor in Memphis or the wheat trader in Chicago. The miner or glass worker can only with the greatest difficulty look beyond Pittsburgh, Detroit and Cleveland to the final destinations of the various highly specialized finished products for which his labor has been responsible. They do not even see the cargo-ships that put in to American harbors to carry those products abroad. Thus their experience is very different from that of people who live in a busy seaport and receive daily visual demonstrations of the meaning to them all, directly or at second hand, of foreign commerce and the banking, factoring, railroading, trucking and unloading which make that commerce possible. Of all American seaports New York is the greatest, and the people of no other American city, as a result, are more keenly aware that their daily business pulse beats as part of the world blood stream.

New York is the greatest port not merely in the United States but in the world. In the old days a multitude of sailing ships used to whiten the harbor with their sails, and their masts and rigging formed a forest along its shores. "City of ships!" cried Walt Whitman, "City of the world! City of the sea!" The sailing ships were gradually replaced by liners and freighters and tankers, and these have just been supplemented by the transatlantic "Clippers" of Pan American Airways, today almost the last mail connection between the Old World and the New. In a normal year 10,000 vessels come to New York's 695 piers.[iii] They carry 35 percent of the nation's exports and 50 percent of the nation's imports. The President of the Merchants' Association has estimated that over 700,000 of the city's population, that is to say 10 percent, depend in one way or another on foreign trade for their livelihood.[iv] In addition, the produce exchanges of New York deal in commodities from all parts of the world, and the Stock Exchange as of January 1, 1941, listed 323 bonds and stocks of foreign governments and foreign industrial companies. Each year New York banks clear checks from all over the world to a total of more than 160 billion dollars.

Over the years, the vessels visiting the port of New York carried not only cargoes which made profits for New York shippers, handlers and financiers, they also carried passengers with news and ideas. Assiduous reporters questioned these travellers about everything under the sun. Was the cholera spreading in France? Had Dickens really called us half-civilized when he got home from his American trip? Was Napoleon III (who once had lived in Eighth Street) set on making war? Would Woodrow Wilson compromise on Fiume? Does Mussolini sleep badly at night? The travellers brought news, too, about the outlook for the franc, for Brazil's coffee crop, for the Danubian wheat harvest, for the oil output in the Caucasus. The New York newspapers report all this fully, as well as the more prosaic details about shipping and mails. The two great morning dailies also print a greater volume of cable and wireless news from other countries than is supplied to the population of any other city in the world.

To New York, too, come the world's leading artists and singers, and in New York the cooks of every nation have set up their restaurants. Until the outbreak of the present war, the great shops showed goods not just from France, Germany and England, but from Dalmatia, Bali, Mexico, Syria, South Africa and innumerable other places. And in their little neighborhood shops the various foreign "colonies" found their own home delicacies, just as they could in many cases see in neighborhood theaters their own imported movies. Thus by a thousand channels the daily life of New York is exposed, for good or ill, to the impact of foreign cultures, whether in art, food, music, science, dressmaking, literature or journalism.

In one poignant respect this is more true today than at any time since the cessation of mass immigration twenty years ago. The Europe of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini offers little room except a cell or a coffin for persons who will not conform to the Nazi or Communist mold. Many of the European leaders who struggled in the past twenty years to win or keep the right to think, write, speak, worship and work freely are now in concentration camps or dead. Some are cowed, others silently bide their time. But week by week a few manage to escape to England, Africa, Palestine, or some other refuge where, if their age and strength permit, they can reënlist in the old struggle. Polish and Czech legions are camped today in Scotland and Palestine, and Polish fliers down Nazi planes over the Channel; "Free French" troops press forward with the Australians into Libya and span thousands of miles of jungle and desert from Gabon to Chad in order to take the fleeing Italians on another flank; Belgians who still believe in British victory organize in the Belgian Congo to help fight for it; hardy Norwegian and Dutch seamen man their own and English ships to keep England victualed and munitioned. But there are many for whom such feats are physically impossible, and some of these make their way across the Atlantic. The few who are permitted to come to the United States under our present laws land mostly in New York.

It is no new experience to New York to receive them. New York has a habit of tolerance, a confidence in its ability to fuse many strains and talents into a single whole, which goes back, as I have already suggested, to the city's very beginnings. Dozens of examples could be cited to show why New York from the start had intimate reason to know the value and meaning of religious and political tolerance. The wife of Governor Stuyvesant, Judith Bayard by name, was a member of a French Huguenot family which had sought refuge in Holland, and her grandfather had gone through the siege of Breda. Many of the Huguenot settlers in New York and its vicinity had tasted oppression even more directly. Those who settled New Rochelle gave it the name of their native Protestant stronghold, famous for all time for its heroic resistance to Richelieu. But these are merely characteristic of the many New York families and groups, of all races and in all periods, who had been oppressed at home and who sought liberty in the New World. The disorders and persecutions of the Thirty Years' War, the suppression of the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745 in Scotland, the general misery caused by the Napoleonic upheaval, Irish resentment against the abuses of absentee landlordism and alien government, the aftermath of '48 in Germany and in the Hapsburg Empire, the German annexation of Alsace and Lorraine, the reactionary decrees of the Tsarist Government from '81 onwards, the nationalistic ferment throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans -- all these and many other similar developments made millions of Europeans want to leave their ancestral homes and led them to turn hopeful eyes across the Atlantic.

New York, the port where so many of these people landed and where so many of them stayed, finds no difficulty in imagining what has been endured by the later refugees who now are fleeing similar troubles in Europe. The statesmen, socialists, priests and pastors of the German Republic, the Austrian legitimists and labor leaders, the Jewish rabbis, bankers and journalists, the "Free French" who will not surrender either to Hitler or to his French servants, the Czech and Polish patriots, the representatives of Norwegian and Dutch royalty, the anti-Fascist Italians, the former officials of the Spanish Republic, the anti-Bolshevik Latvians and Finns, do not tell us a new story. What we hear from Ignace Jan Paderewski, Count Sforza, Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Julio del Vayo, Alexis Léger, Paul van Zeeland and Otto of Hapsburg our parents and grandparents heard from Louis Napoleon, Carl Schurz, Louis Kossuth, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Thomas Garrigue Masaryk. The chapter our generation writes in New York's history is like the other chapters. And it is a history, we like to think, no less typically American than any tale of the western frontier.


The whole story still has not been told. New York does not look abroad only through immigrant eyes or in terms of foreign business, shipping and culture. From its skyscrapers its office workers and business executives look out across the fortified Narrows onto a sea which they do not think of as a vast and empty expanse on a map -- a barrier -- but as a busy highway. They know that this highway runs both ways, and they have begun to comprehend that sea power regulates its traffic.

New York also looks up into the skies. It knows that in case of war the whole Eastern seaboard would be more exposed than inland cities to enemy attack not only from the sea but from the air. It knows that its importance as the country's chief port and business and financial center would single it out in enemy eyes as a particularly valuable objective, while its population density and the concentration of its industries would make it a good target. This is no less true now than it was in the last war. An abundance of skilled labor has attracted many of the greatest defense industries to the New York area, stretching along the coast from Bridgeport to Bayonne, where the largest graving dock in the country is now to be constructed. The Brooklyn Navy Yard, always a principal naval base, is being expanded rapidly to permit the construction of 45,000 ton battleships. Further, since the city depends largely for power on a few giant stations within its own limits, its ability to move and work would be gravely handicapped if they were destroyed. Its great bridges and its aqueducts are also vulnerable. Experts say that the New York skyscrapers are not particularly susceptible to damage by bombs. But so-called aërial torpedoes of the type employed in some of the German raids on London might be very effective against our tall buildings, as their impact is lateral.

At present the risk of direct air attack on New York from across the Atlantic is not very great. But the words "at present" and "from across the Atlantic" must be emphasized. We do not know what improvements in airplane design are possible, and there are other means of reaching our shores than by flying all the way.

The closest point to America in what might be called Europe proper is Ireland: from Foynes to New York is about 3,000 miles.[v] Our own best Martin bomber can fly about 5,300 miles. But this is without bomb load. Its limit with a 3-ton load is about 1,200 miles. In the present war, the longest known bombing raids so far have been those from England on Venice, a distance of about 800 miles, or a round trip of 1,600 miles, one way fully loaded, the return unloaded. Mr. T. P. Wright, of the Curtiss-Wright Company, predicted last year that the range of civil airplanes would be increased about 30 percent in the next ten years -- 15 percent by speed increases resulting in savings in fuel, 10 percent by reductions in specific fuel consumption, and 5 percent by reductions in structural weight.[vi] Presumably these advances might be made more quickly under pressure of war conditions, and might be improved upon for special types of bombers to say 50 percent.

But even if the range of an enemy plane comparable to the Martin bomber were at once increased by the full 50 percent, it still would be able to travel something less than 1,800 miles with a 3-ton bomb load, and could not undertake a round-trip raid totalling more than, say, 2,200 or 2,400 miles. That is not sufficient even to enable a "suicide squad" to make a one-way trip, with a full complement of bombs, across the full width of the North Atlantic. The range would be increased, however, if the plane carried fewer or lighter missiles. Incendiary bombs are comparatively light. So are machine guns and their ammunition; and straffing by machine gunners can cause great havoc in crowded areas, as the civilian populations of several countries can testify. Incidentally, the German planes which raided Iceland in February did not drop bombs but did use machine guns. There also remains the possibility that the invention of some revolutionary type of engine may decrease the fuel load and hence extend the operating radius of fully loaded bombing planes to an unforeseen degree. We cannot count on this not happening.

What about possible enemy bases closer than Ireland? The Azores are 2,380 miles from New York, considerably nearer than Ireland, and air conditions on this route are more favorable than they are further north. Even so, a round trip from the Azores to New York and back is not practicable for a heavily loaded bomber of any present standard type that we know about. The chief danger to the United States from a German occupation of the Azores would be that planes operating from there would prey on American shipping and spot our naval movements. Iceland and Labrador lie much closer to our shores. According to Stefansson and other Arctic experts, climatic conditions there hinder their use as regular air bases rather less than is commonly supposed. They certainly might serve as "stepping stones" for enemy aircraft. An enemy established in Newfoundland would of course be a direct menace. The Canadians have now improved their defenses of that territory. We also are beginning to construct a base there under the Anglo-American agreement of September 2, 1940.

Unfortunately, bases do not tell the whole story. So long as the United States does not have a navy able to command both the Atlantic and the Pacific against any possible combination of hostile navies its coasts remain vulnerable to attack by planes launched from aircraft carriers in midocean. New Yorkers may be permitted to examine this problem with less detachment than their cousins in Montana, Minnesota and Missouri.

The present German and Italian fleets together would be no match for the whole American Navy. But this statement fails to take two vital factors into account. One is the present and possible future rôle of the British Navy and the remaining units of the French Navy. The other is the present and possible future rôle of the Japanese Navy. If a friendly British fleet no longer guarded the Atlantic, and if the greater part of the American Navy were detained by urgent business in the Pacific, then a hostile German-Italian fleet, reinforced perhaps by captured British and French units, would command the Atlantic. Enemy raiders could sink shipping up and down our coast and enemy submarines would lurk off Sandy Hook, the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, and other Atlantic gateways. Above all, individual enemy units could easily operate far enough out in the Atlantic to launch planes for surprise air attacks on New York and other great coastal centers.

In these circumstances the portions of the American naval force which were free for service in the Atlantic would of course hamper the movement of enemy warships in nearby waters; and our growing air fleet would of course attempt to locate and destroy the enemy aircraft carriers and would engage any of their planes that dared approach our shores. Even so, shipping in and out of New York harbor would be subject to sporadic attack by surface raiders and to fairly regular submarine attack, and the city itself would have to expect to undergo bombing raids from the air.


Although the northern and middle Atlantic seaboard would be the first to suffer from enemy action in case of war, the people living here seem to be at least abreast of the country as a whole in their willingness to assume the risks of war in defense of what they consider the national interest. Nor are they discouraged at the prospect of contributing their share for national defense. It is a very large share. Federal collection districts do not coincide exactly with New York City limits. But roughly one can say that though only about one-twentieth of the population of the United States live in New York City proper they contribute about one-fifth of the total sum raised through the individual Federal income tax.

The Gallup Poll provides us with interesting indications of New York opinion on these matters. So does the record of the New York delegation in Congress on repeal of the arms embargo and on the lend-lease bill.

The findings of the poll published on December 29, 1940, showed that although the vast majority of Americans want the United States to stay out of the war if possible, 60 percent of those consulted felt that it was more important to help England than to stay out. The area which includes New York (New England and the Middle Atlantic states) was not so strongly of this opinion as either the Southern states (75 percent favorable to helping England even at the risk of war) or the Western states (65 percent favorable). Nevertheless it favored the bolder course by 62 percent. The areas which reduced the national percentage were the East Central and the West Central states, which voted in favor of aid to Britain at the risk of war by only 54 percent.

American opinion on the lend-lease bill, as revealed in the Gallup Poll published February 12, 1941, was divided along somewhat similar lines. The national average was favorable to the bill by 54 percent (with 15 percent giving qualified answers, 22 percent replying "no," and 9 percent having no opinion). The vote of the area which includes New York almost exactly coincided with the national vote.[vii]

In May 1940, at the beginning of "all-out" war in Europe, only 36 percent of the people had favored help to England at the risk of war, while 64 percent had favored staying out at any cost. In the eight months from May to December 1940 the two points of view changed places almost exactly. Doubtless the influence of the newspapers and magazines published in New York, and of New York columnists and publicists, helped bring about this evolution in national opinion. The New York Times and The New York Herald Tribune are in a sense national organs, with nationwide influence. The Times, in particular, is read by editorial writers everywhere. Although both of these papers opposed the New Deal and the third term, they have supported the broad lines of President Roosevelt's foreign policy, especially aid to Britain. So also, in general, have weeklies as different as Time and Life, The New Republic and The Nation. Radio commentators speaking from New York, especially Raymond Gram Swing, Dorothy Thompson and Elmer Davis, have pointed out the relationship of daily events in Europe to our long-range national interests. So have various organizations which carry on countrywide educational work in international relations and which have their headquarters in New York -- the Foreign Policy Association, the Institute of Pacific Relations, the American Association for Adult Education, the League of Nations Association, etc. The newsreel releases, most of which are edited in New York, usually lean over backwards to avoid being accused of partisanship. The "March of Time," however, is not afraid to be definitely anti-Nazi, and several of its releases have been effective arguments for a vigorous defense of American democracy.

Along with the discussion of foreign issues in the press and over the air has gone a lively exchange of proclamations, "open letters" and newspaper advertisements signed by conflicting groups of American publicists, business men and professors. Many of these have been stimulated by rival organizations established during the past year to argue or deny that the United States has a cultural, moral, political, economic and financial stake in Hitler's defeat. New York has become the center of this verbal warfare. Thus the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies established its national headquarters in New York, even though its chairman hailed from Kansas -- the editor of the Emporia Gazette, William Allen White. A rival organization, the America First Committee, supported by Henry Ford and headed by General Robert E. Wood, soon afterwards set up headquarters in Chicago. But it has looked to New York for professional advertising counsellors and it has enlisted the support of certain New York business men who enjoy the prospect of profitable transactions with a Hitlerized Europe -- without, needless to say, having bothered to inform themselves about what happened to their counterparts in German business and industry once these had helped install Hitler in power. Like the William Allen White group, the Chicago committee carried its case to the New York public by means of full-page advertisements in the papers. One of these, appealing to Americans to "stop our Government's sending its planes, guns and ships to belligerents across the sea," appeared in The New York Times on October 3.

But it was the No Foreign War Committee that was meant to act as the shock troops of the isolationist army. Following the example of the William Allen White group its backers imported a "country editor," Verne Marshall, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and opened up headquarters in a New York hotel. The new organization also undertook an educational campaign by means of advertisements in the New York newspapers. Fortunately for those having a different conception of American interests, Mr. Marshall managed to make every mistake of judgment that they could wish, ending up by revealing that one of the chief backers of the No Foreign War Committee was an international oil speculator who had been engaged in various deals with the Nazi Government. Its other backers hurriedly began disowning it. Colonel Lindbergh announced on January 17, 1941, that though he had "attended a number of conferences" when the Committee was being formed by Mr. Marshall, he did not agree with its "methods and policies," and he cancelled the speech which was to have opened the campaign in St. Louis. The chief result of the semi-eclipse of the No Foreign War Committee was to force isolationist strategists who had planned to stay in the background to assume a rather more public rôle. The staff work continues to be directed partly from Chicago and partly from Washington, but the real center of activity is New York, where Ex-President Hoover, one of the chief isolationist strategists, has established personal headquarters at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Coming to New York on February 20, 1941, to drum up opposition to the lend-lease bill, Senators Wheeler and Nye, respectively from Montana and North Dakota, told a Mecca Temple rally of the America First Committee and the Keep America Out of War Congress that the bill's purpose was to put the United States into the war. Senator Wheeler said that "the great mass of Americans, whether they live in New York City or in Butte, Montana," are against fighting for "empty meaningless slogans." Both Senators attacked "international bankers." Norman Thomas, Socialist, also spoke. Anti-Semitic cries from the audience had to be rebuked by the Chairman, John T. Flynn, Scripps-Howard columnist. The names of President Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie and Secretary of War Stimson were loudly booed, as was that of Winston Churchill. Mention of England also elicited boos and hisses. If there was any unfriendly demonstration at mention of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin it was too small to be heard over the radio, which however reproduced plainly the catcalls against England.[viii]

New Yorkers look on all this activity as merely tit for tat. They cannot resent the West's attempts to indoctrinate them with isolationist dogma when so many channels of publicity radiate from New York. They do find it mildly amusing, however, that not the "effete East" but the "virile West" gives an impression of pessimism about the country's ability to survive whatever grim ordeals may lie ahead, and that descendants of the pioneers rather than their more sedentary cousins most often imply that they consider any peace better than any war. Recalling repeated warnings that the rest of the country is violently allergic to advice and pressure from New York, they are tempted to ask why gentlemen from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and California should expect the big bad metropolis not to be just as suspicious of Western propaganda as the West is when what it calls "a Wall Street representative" visits what he calls "the sticks."

Now I myself never happen to have heard New Yorkers express annoyance over efforts by the rest of the country to educate them, though it is true that I have heard complaints that so many of the professors have such a poor record as prophets. The people who assure us today with the utmost confidence that the British fleet is not a factor in the American scheme of defense are often the same who assured us just as confidently that there was not going to be a war. As recently as the summer of 1939 the Administration tried to change the Neutrality Law so as to permit Britain and France to buy arms in this country. The successful opposition of the isolationists was based on the argument that the move was unnecessary, because warnings of impending war were poppycock; that if war should by any chance actually materialize we would be indifferent to the result; and that anyway we would run more risks in letting the British and French buy arms from us than we would run in coping single-handed with the Nazis following an Allied defeat. The late Senator Borah of Idaho made the classic claim at this time that he had better sources of information about the real situation in Europe (where he had never so much as set foot) than President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Hull and the whole foreign service of the United States Government. Senator Nye of North Dakota on July 29 made an attack in the Senate on those who saw war coming in Europe. "The information of our scaremongers," he said, "has obviously been bad -- very, very bad." On August 17 he expressed the opinion that the refusal of Congress to repeal the arms embargo had made a European war less likely than ever.

War in Europe took the isolationists by surprise, then, when it came only a few weeks later, but they remained undaunted. Some said it was a "phony" war; it didn't follow the familiar World War pattern and apparently too few people were killed in the early stages to make it seem "real." Others, including Henry Ford, laid responsibility for the war on "greedy financial groups" in Europe. Hitler and Mussolini, in Mr. Ford's eyes, were mere "puppets."[ix] Others put the responsibility on President Roosevelt because he had not placed the influence of the United States Government behind further efforts at appeasement. Often the persons who said this were the same who had criticized Neville Chamberlain for his "betrayal" of the Czechs at Munich. Senator Nye, who had fought the arms embargo against Spain, fought the repeal of the arms embargo against Great Britain and France. Some Senators, including the late Mr. Lundeen of Minnesota, called the war imperialistic, and in the same breath suggested that while the British and French were occupied with the Nazis the United States ought to seize their possessions in the Caribbean. Colonel Lindbergh, a rigid isolationist towards Europe (and Asia?), proclaimed the whole Western Hemisphere "our domain" and suggested that Canadians had no right to draw part of it into a European war "simply because they prefer the Crown of England to American independence." Senator Wheeler, of Montana, deprecated attempts to "involve" us in foreign affairs. But he suggested that the President ought to "insist" that a "just peace" be worked out in Europe, and he contributed his own sketch of what the arrangement ought to be.

Once the war had actually begun the American public rejected these confusing counsels. A new resolution to repeal the arms embargo so as to permit sales on a cash and carry basis was introduced in Congress and this time approved. It passed the Senate on October 27, 1939, by 63 to 30 votes, and the House on November 3 by 244 to 171 votes. In general the chief opposition to this first decision that our interests would be served by an Allied victory came from the Middle West and West. Of the 63 "yeas" in the Senate, 24 were from the Atlantic seaboard states, 15 from of those the Southern states not included in that category, and 24 from the Central, Mountain and Pacific states. Of the 30 "nays," 9 were from the Atlantic seaboard states, I was from the remaining Southern states, and 20 were from the Central, Mountain and Pacific states. In other words, 48 out of the 63 affirmative votes in the Senate came from the Atlantic seaboard and the South, while 20 of the 30 negative votes came from the Middle West and West. Both New York Senators, Messrs. Wagner and Mead, voted "yea."[x]

In the House the geographical division was less marked. However, of the 24 Members of Congress representing districts wholly or partially in New York City, 15 voted "yea" and 4 "nay" (with 2 paired for, 2 paired against, and one not recorded), approximately 3 to 1 in favor of permitting the sale of arms. The most prominent Congressman from New York City to vote "nay" was Mr. Bruce Barton. In this, however, he was in accord with the Republican Leader in the House, Mr. Martin of Massachusetts, and the ranking Republican member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Fish, representing a constituency in the Hudson Valley.[xi]

On the occasion of a more recent test, when the so-called lend-lease bill came up for action in the House on February 8, 1941, the New York City delegation evinced an even stronger desire to aid Britain than it had shown in November 1939, recording 17 "yeas" and 5 "nays" (one member did not vote and there was one vacancy due to the death of Kenneth Simpson). In the upper house, the same Senators in general who had opposed raising the arms embargo were against this measure. Again both the Senators from New York favored it. Testifying in favor of the bill, Mayor La Guardia remarked on February 11: "I want to be realistic and take no chances. My city won't be bombed if the British fleet holds out." These two sentences indicate only one of the reasons why most New York legislators favor aid to Britain. But it is a strong reason. As the Mayor said on the same occasion: "It's very little comfort to the cities on the Atlantic Coast and the Pacific Coast that this country is a citadel which can never be conquered, when you explain to them that the citadel is west of the Alleghanies and east of the Rockies."


It should not be imagined from all this that New York does not contain fairly important elements which favor appeasement on one ground or another. Some are simply pacifist, either because they are of abounding and undiscriminating good will, or because they think there is nothing worse than war and death, or because they say (ignoring history from Carthage to Yorktown and Appomattox) that "war never settles anything." Some are defeatist. Some whose "property nerve" is particularly sensitive would like the war "fixed up" on any terms. Some hate President Roosevelt so much that they cannot favor any course he favors. Some hate England so much that they hate President Roosevelt. Some agree with Colonel Lindbergh in preferring peace now to a British victory later. Some join Mr. Ford in wishing that both sides would be defeated and "punished," one for seeking to conquer and despoil its rivals, the other for daring to resist being conquered and despoiled. Obviously most of the people who hold such views are not pro-Nazis or pro-Fascists. The furthest one might go is to say that many of them are Nazi and Fascist "fellow travellers" who in the moral realm are not interested in differentiations between the dictatorships and the democracies and who in the physical realm consider that American political, military and economic interests would not be affected by the victory of the former and the defeat of the latter.

In addition, of course, New York contains groups which are definitely Nazi and Fascist. There also are the Communists. No clear distinction needs to be made between these three at the present time. As earlier in France, England, Norway and the Low Countries, so today in the United States they agree in exploiting the natural fear and hate of war which exist in all civilized nations. Each supplements the activities of the others in spreading dissension, confusion and suspicion by raising irrelevant issues. Each attempts to delay and hamstring effective defense moves. Each doubtless contributes its quota of spies and saboteurs and prepares fifth column activities for the possible day of formal conflict.

The Nazis and Fascists usually do not say openly that they are anti-democratic, merely that they wish to revise and rejuvenate the good old American traditions so as to permit collaboration between the United States and the "New Order" in Europe. Even the members of the German-American Bund wrap themselves in the American flag and quote from the Founding Fathers. The Bund's headquarters are in New York and its organ The Free American (with the subtitle Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter) is published here. Many of its summer camps infest New Jersey and Long Island, to the intense annoyance of the natives. But it is a national organization with well-known methods and aims and need not receive full treatment in this article.

The Communists follow a different tactic in that they by now have pretty well abandoned their former pretense of being devoted to democracy. They gloss over what they are for and emphasize what they are against. They are against "tyranny, imperialism and war" -- provided, of course, it is not Communist tyranny, Communist imperialism and Communist war. The national headquarters of the Communist Party of the United States are in New York, in charge of Earl Browder, formerly Secretary of the Party and twice its candidate for President, recently sentenced to jail for passport fraud. The Daily Worker (circulation about 48,000) ought perhaps to have been mentioned earlier among the local newspapers having national circulation and influence. Like the weekly New Masses it follows a strict party line--except in the intervals when it is left momentarily breathless by one of Stalin's unexpected aberrations. The bewilderment of New York Communists and fellow travellers following the Hitler-Stalin pact of August 23, 1939, was so acute that at first they could only ignore it. After a day or so they hailed it as a move to insure peace. A week later, having lined up his Bolshevik partner, and having arranged the division of booty, Hitler drove into Poland.

Something like 250,000 residents of New York were born in Germany and some 350,000 were born in Italy. These are not all pro-Nazi or pro-Fascist by any means. Each racial group is composed of two vocal wings and a largely inert mass in the center, which tends to shift its sympathies in accordance with the prevailing news from Europe.

The largest German-language newspaper, the Staats-Zeitung und Herold (circulation 48,000), which belongs to the Ridder family, is conscious of the sharp antagonisms dividing the German-American community and avoids discussing the issue of German aggression or dictatorship. At least once (November 11, 1938) it condemned race hatred, and on another occasion (September 27, 1939) it indirectly criticized the Bund by deprecating relations between American citizens of German descent and official representatives of a foreign power. Usually it does not criticize the Nazi régime; but it does not praise it either. The general mass of German-Americans are more inclined to favor Hitler than the mass of Italians are to favor Mussolini. This is partly because even those who do not approve Hitler's tyrannical methods cannot help being dazzled by his successes. They try to think of him in German rather than Nazi terms. Moreover, the Nazi Government has been exceedingly busy here. The German Library of Information, with headquarters in New York, distributes printed matter widely. Nazi agents trace out with infinite care the relationships of every individual in the German-American community; and those with families in the old country are given to understand that any incautious statement or action will result in immediate retaliatory actions against those relatives by the Gestapo. Attempts to counteract these activities are being made by various liberal organizations, among them the German-American Congress for Democracy, the American Friends of German Freedom, the German Labor Delegation, etc.

The number of Germans who wish to take definite steps to transform the American Government along Nazi lines seems to be smaller than might be expected. Thus when the Republicans of the 18th Congressional District, which includes the German colony in the Yorkville neighborhood, had an opportunity last autumn to vote in the primaries for Joseph E. McWilliams, running on a frankly Nazi program praising Hitler's methods and attacking "Jewish Internationalism, Jewish Conniving, Jewish Machinations, Jewish Communism and Jewish War-mongering," they gave him only 242 votes against 568 for the anti-Nazi "regular" Republican nominee.[xii]

The Italians who admire Mussolini are less vocal than Hitler's admirers are, and the Italian colony as a whole has begun to look on the glories of Fascism with a slightly jaundiced eye. Il Progresso Italo-Americano, owned by Mr. Generoso Pope, and having a circulation of about 80,000, reveals an ambiguity in editorial and news policy which doubtless reflects the mixed feelings of its readers. Some of Mussolini's earlier admirers had already become lukewarm following the adoption of anti-Semitic legislation in Italy. Stories of food shortages at home were worrying, too. And the price of imported delicacies -- olive oil, cheese, salami -- shot up to unpopular heights. Then came the reversal of Fascist fortunes in Ethiopia and North Africa, the Greek victories in Albania, and the British bombing of Italian ports. New York Italians now tell inquiring reporters that Mussolini is more a Fascist than an Italian, and his picture has begun to come down off the walls of Italian barber shops and fruit stores along Mulberry Street. The Mazzini Society attempts to accelerate this awakening; so does the liberal New York monthly, Il Mondo.

Various reasons can be given for the fact that the Italian Government never succeeded in organizing the Italian community in New York with real German efficiency, despite the cooperation of various cultural and sports societies, the arrangement of friendly news and comment in the Italian language over local radio stations, the release of free news "shorts" to movie houses, and other propagandistic efforts. The most appealing reason is that Italians have a stronger traditional liking for liberty -- the liberty of Mazzini and Garibaldi -- than do the Germans. Also, though many simple workmen of Italian descent were pleased to hear of the earlier Italian successes, they had not felt a conscious need for them the way Germans living abroad thirsted for the rehabilitation of the German race through German arms. Italians have never been much bothered by theories of racial superiority or inferiority. They do not suffer from the German inferiority complex and do not feel the passionate German urge to "belong" to a nation of conquering heroes.

Two other of New York's component racial elements deserve mention.

The Jews naturally hate régimes which discriminate against their race, especially the Nazi régime which has robbed, beaten, jailed and murdered their brothers in Germany. They are anti-Nazi almost to a man and the vast majority are in favor of helping England. Governor Lehman has stated their position frankly on a number of occasions. Now and then one encounters a professional Zionist who is less than 100 percent for Britain. And occasionally an American of Jewish blood is diffident about urging a bold attitude towards the war for fear that his inevitably strong racial prejudices will seem to have swayed his sober judgment as a citizen, or for fear of attracting Jew-baiters into fresh excesses. On the whole, however, New York Jews have been influenced by the same fundamental motives that move other sober and patriotic Americans. And the extent of their charity towards sufferers from the Hitler terror, Jew and Christian alike, often puts Christians to shame.

The reactions of the Irish-American community are also of interest and of great political importance. One section might be described as lukewarm with regard to helping England. Another section, not more numerous, perhaps, but more influential, has urged that every means be used to defeat Hitler, and that this involves putting aside old grudges and assisting Britain to the limit. New York's leading Roman Catholic layman, Alfred E. Smith, is of this opinion. So are "fighting Irishmen" like General O'Ryan and Colonel Donovan. There is a third contingent, small but vocal, which hates King William III (who died in 1702) to such an extent that it loves the enemy of any English king even when that enemy is Hitler. This minority includes the Irish-American followers of Father Coughlin, himself foreign born.

The other day a minor judge in Queens named Herbert A. O'Brien, long identified with Father Coughlin's "Christian Front," caused something of a stir by stating, in the course of testimony against the lend-lease bill in Washington, that racial antipathies were being so aggravated in New York by the European war that violence was to be expected. The real purpose of his testimony appeared in his statement that the lend-lease bill "will get us into two wars -- a civil war will start almost at once." In other words, Judge O'Brien had set out to frighten the innocent, but not by revealing a situation which he deprecated so much as by threatening that it might be intensified. Mayor La Guardia dismissed the O'Brien scare by saying that if he had known the Senate was interested in stories of the kind he could have provided "several better ones from the psychopathic wards."

More might be written about the attitude of New York's racial groups towards the war. The reactions of our variegated social, business and political elements could also be examined in more detail. Obviously New York in these days is under a very special strain. But so far there is no evidence that either foreign agents, or foreign-born elements that might most naturally be tempted to listen to them, or native-born Nazi, Fascist or Communist fellow-travellers, or respectable people who have come to doubt the merits of the American way of life or the desirability and feasibility of defending it, have succeeded in making any real dent in New York's fundamental Americanism. On the contrary, I believe, New York stands at least as robustly on American traditional foundations as any other part of the Union, and faces at least as willingly whatever sacrifices may be necessary to defend and preserve the Union's freedom and well-being.


Do the times produce the men or do the men make the times? Both. Repeatedly in recent years the principles and policies of three native New Yorkers -- President Roosevelt, Governor Lehman and Mayor La Guardia -- have received the approval of the New York electorate. The three have sometimes differed on social and administrative policies. On American foreign policy they have differed not at all. Did they exercise conscious leadership in developing the sentiment of their city which so strongly favors the preservation of American democracy against all its enemies, foreign and domestic? Of course. Did they often draw unconsciously upon New York's store of vitality and courage and respond instinctively to the urgings of its deepest historic traditions? Again of course.

In New York, a city with roots spreading in every direction, tapping every sort of soil, there has been no serious question or conflict, either in the minds of the majority of the people or of their leaders, as to what are their paramount interests and duties in the present international crisis. Significantly, when the representative of one of New York's early Dutch families "looks abroad" he urges the same unyielding attitude toward the threats of the twentieth century barbarians as does a member of a cultivated New York family of Jewish bankers and philanthropists and the son of an Italian immigrant who himself served overseas in the last war. New York is Cosmopolis. But there is more cohesion than a casual observer might suspect in its union of bloods and talents.

[i] There was another wave of German immigration after the Franco-Prussian War, this time largely of industrial workers. The early Socialist movement in the United States was mainly the creation of the German element. Until the '50s the Germans in New York were mostly Democrats, but they then became Republicans because they opposed slavery and favored homestead legislation. The Irish on the whole remained Democrats. Many of them fought in the Union Army. Other Irish elements were anti-abolitionist out of fear that Negro freedmen would take over their unskilled labor jobs. They were chiefly responsible for the Draft Riots of 1863. (Cf. Carl Wittke, "We Who Built America." New York: Prentice-Hall, 1939, p. 170 and 221.)

[ii] On the life of the various national groups in New York see an interesting article in Fortune for July 1939.

[iii]Cf. report by R. B. Rankin, of the New York Municipal Reference Library, 1929.

[iv]Bankers Magazine, January 1939.

[v] The shortest distance across the southern Atlantic, from Bathurst to Natal, is 1,835 miles. Obviously German or Italian bases in northern Brazil or in French, Dutch or British Guiana would jeopardize the security of the Panama Canal, and hence of the whole United States. But that is a problem with which this article is not concerned.

[vi]Aviation. March 1940.

[vii] On the matter of defense expenditures New York opinion has coincided fairly closely with the average national opinion. On May 27, 1940, the Gallup Poll asked whether voters favored President Roosevelt's recent request to Congress to increase defense appropriations by another billion dollars. The country favored the increase by 86 percent. The area including New York was for it by 87 percent.

[viii]Cf. New York Times, New York Herald Tribune and New York Post February 21, 1941. Senator Wheeler (New York Times, February 23) denounced as "untrue" the suggestion that the meeting had been "un-American." But he entered no specific denial regarding any of the individual grounds for criticism noted above.

[ix] Mr. Ford's annoyed surprise that, in spite of his very great wealth, most Americans didn't accept his judgment has led him gradually to go even further. In a recent statement from his Georgia plantation he expressed the opinion that the people of Europe deserve indiscriminately to suffer because they are so "stupid." He implied that he hoped they would go on fighting until both sides collapse (what a change from the days of the Peace Ship!), and added the "sincere hope" that neither England nor the Nazis would win. If Mr. Ford read the Daily Worker he might be interested to find how closely his arguments parallel the Communist "party line."

[x] The final line-up revealed that two survivors of the death guard which had helped prevent the establishment of a strong League of Nations in 1920 -- Senators Johnson of California and Borah of Idaho -- were still ensconced in their same old dugouts, while two who had meanwhile died -- Senators Lodge of Massachusetts and La Follette of Wisconsin -- had left sons to carry on the old isolationist fight. Senator Clark, of Missouri, a son of President Wilson's rival, the late Champ Clark, also voted against the amendment of the Neutrality Law. Senator Norris, however, who voted against our entry into the war in 1917 and against the League in 1920, voted "yea" on this occasion, saying that he thought repeal of the arms embargo would increase the likelihood we could stay out of war.

[xi] Some of Mr. Fish's constituents seem to have thought he should have known better. In 1938 he won his seat by a majority of 30,900 votes. In 1940 he was reëlected by a majority of only 8,976 votes.

[xii] Mr. McWilliams, a native of Oklahoma, calls his group the "Christian Mobilizers." They have had connections with both the German-American Bund and Father Coughlin's "Christian Front." He has been fined for disturbing the peace, and spent a time in Bellevue Hospital, but was discharged as not being insane or feeble-minded (New York Herald Tribune, September 26, 1940).

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