Thursday, March 31, 2016

Today -100: March 31, 1916: Of sussexes, stowaways, and literate immigrants


It’s being said that not only did that German u-boat sink the Sussex, but it fired on a destroyer that went to the Sussex’s rescue. Many think this goes beyond what Washington will accept, and the US is therefore bound to break off relations with Germany.

A lone German (actually Anglo-German) named Ernest Schiller sneaks aboard the British steamship Matoppa at Hoboken, New Jersey and proceeds to seize it (he has two guns) and its cargo of barbed wire bound for Vladivostok. He keeps control of the ship and its crew of 43 for 19 hours before attempting to make it ashore, only to be promptly caught by the Coast Guard. He seems to have been mostly interested in robbing the ship, although he initially said he was capturing it on behalf of Germany. The problem is he did all this in international waters, so the US may just hand him over to the Brits. (Update: In court, Schiller will deny being a pirate, saying it was an act of war. Interestingly, bail was set, despite the charge of, you know, piracy, although for more than he could afford. He will plead guilty and get life.

The House passes an immigration bill imposing a literacy test – which has been vetoed before by presidents Taft & Wilson – with a veto-proof majority. Attempts to exclude political refugees from the requirement fail. Immigrants over 16 will have to read out a list of 30 to 40 common words in any language, including Yiddish and Hebrew. The bill also excludes new categories of immigrants including vagrants, people with tuberculosis, those who advocate the destruction of property or belong to groups that do so, “Hindus” (i.e., all South Asians), and those with “constitutional psychopathic inferiority,” which members of Congress have been reassuring the press is totally a thing, although their attempts to define it all end with “ah, the alienists know what it means.” They’ve adopted the definition suggested by those alienists – really, eugenicists – “a congenital defect in the emotional or volitional fields of mental activity which results in inability to make proper adjustment to the environment.” The bill will pass over Wilson’s veto next year.


Don't see comments? Click on the post title to view or post comments.

No comments: