The People's Experience: Immigrant Americans
Against a backdrop of war in Europe, frequent home rule uprisings in Ireland, revolution in Mexico, and a constant influx of immigrants to the United States, Americans in 1916 struggled to define “true Americanism.” Ethnic issues emerged early in the presidential campaign. Theodore Roosevelt, campaigning first for himself and then for Republican Hughes, made many rancorous speeches about “anti-American hyphenism”, the use of a hyphenated national identity, such as “Irish-American” or “Japanese-American.” Despite these loud speeches by Roosevelt, ethnic community leadership tended to favor Republican Hughes because of dissatisfaction with Wilson's foreign policies. A more favorable stance towards the Allies in Europe turned some immigrant hearts against him, as did the recognition of the Carranza regime in Mexico over rival general Dorotea Arangoan Arangula (better known as Pancho Villa, pictured at botton right). Wilson's policy and the installment of General Pershing's troops to maintain order in Mexico earned Wilson a reputation among ethnic leadership as nativist and anti-Catholic. Wilson maintained that the average American citizen of foreign descent was as fully American as anyone born in the States, but spoke against groups such as the German-American Alliance, whose leadership questioned his commitment to neutrality in Europe. He also refused to aid Sir Roger Casement, an Irish home-rule leader executed by the British during the 1916 campaign, angering Irish-American leaders.
Most ethnic community leadership remained solidly anti-Wilson throughout the campaign. Nevertheless, Election Day brought a suprising result from the immigrant communities. Many immigrants worked in the factories and on the farms that legislation such as the Farm Loan Act and the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act aided. Because of the Wilson administration's concern over bread-and-butter issues, many immigrants abandoned the advice of their leadership and voted in as large or larger numbers for Wilson as they had voted for any Democratic candidate in the past. Eastern cities highly populated by immigrants, such as Buffalo, Boston, New York, Jersey City, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, showed huge returns for Wilson, although in most cases the states eventually went for Hughes.
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