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 Culling the Herd And so it had been done. Just sixteen years after Israel Zangwill proclaimed America the great melting pot, America abdicated the title. The next quarter century saw fewer foreigners immigrate into the United States than had entered in the single year of 1907. More importantly , the immigration of non-Nordics declined to an imperceptible trickle. By 1925, the commissioner of immigration at a suddenly quiet Ellis Island could happily report that the few immigrants landing there now looked “just like Americans.”1 “The eugenicists,” writes Stephen Jay Gould, had won “one of the greatest victories of scientific racism in American history.” And as far as the American public was concerned, the immigration issue had been laid to rest. A contented citizenry now transferred its attention from quotas, percentages, and base census years to dance marathons, near beer, and the ever-rising Dow Jones Industrial Average. While the Saturday Evening Post, in the issue immediately following the enactment of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924, did carry an article by eugenicist Kenneth Roberts, the subject this time was not the lice-ridden Jews of Poland but the can’tmiss real estate bargains just waiting to be snatched up in Florida.2 In Madison Grant’s mind, however, the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 was not the end of the story. To the contrary, it was only the opening battle of the campaign to save the Nordics. For having repelled the invasion of foreigners, the nation now needed to concentrate on purifying the population within its borders. Grant understood that Congress and the American people were exhausted from the battle over the JohnsonReed Act, but he told Robert DeC. Ward: “Personally, I always believe that the best way to hold ground once Thou shalt not let thy cattle breed with another kind; thou shalt not sow thy field with mixed seed. Leviticus 19:19 gained is to renew the attack and try to take more ground.” There were, after all, still millions of racially inferior people in the country, including a sizable group of Negroes who had been ominously migrating to the North ever since the war. And even within the Nordic community, there were a large number of degenerate individuals whose germ plasm had to be removed from the breeding stock. As Harvard anthropologist E. A. Hooton put it: the country still needed to do some “biological housecleaning.” It was time, therefore, to implement the full- fledged eugenics program outlined in The Passing of the Great Race, which called for banning miscegenation and sterilizing the defectives. The refuge had been secured; it was time to cull the herd.3 Sterilization Margaret Sanger agreed. In an address at Vassar College in 1926, she hailed the country’s efforts to improve the quality of the population through immigration restriction but explained that an organized program of sterilization would now have to be implemented to “cut down the rapid multiplication of the unfit and undesirable at home.” Sanger proposed that the government set a “sensible example” to the world by offering a bonus to “unfit parents” who allowed themselves to be sterilized. Through such a policy, “a heavy burden would be lifted from the shoulders of the fit.” A few years later she again recommended the sterilization or segregation of “the whole dysgenic population,” and as late as 1950, in a speech that the post-Nazi world did not receive well, Sanger argued that the government should grant sterilization bonuses to couples with “defective heredity” in order to weed out the “feebleminded and unfit.”4 Some of the more puritanical eugenicists feared that sterilization, like birth control, would lead to immoral behavior by removing the consequences of sexual activity. But most eugenicists agreed with Madison Grant that sterilization would have to be an integral part of any eugenics program. Indeed, wrote Grant, it was the eugenicists’ “fundamental” duty to deprive “the unfit of the opportunity of leaving behind posterity of their own debased type.” Ellsworth Huntington was even more direct: “In the old system, famine, disease and cruelty killed off the morons and their offspring. That was for the good of the race. In our own day, sterilization makes it possible . . . to do what the old system did in the way of preventing the weaker elements from passing on their weakness to future generations.”5 The American Eugenics Society distributed a number of publications in the 1920s emphasizing that sterilization was the most economical and ef...


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