Essay, History

The period between the end of the U.S-Mexican War in 1848 and the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929 is notable in highlighting a long-running battle between individuals and interest groups who advocated strict policies of immigration restriction, border enforcement, and racial and cultural homogeneity versus those who, primarily for economic reasons, exhibited a much higher toleration for the presence of foreigners of all legal statuses.
Based on your lecture notes, slides, and readings from weeks 1 through 4 of the syllabus, write an essay of 8-10 pages in which you assess the origins and evolution of these two points of view; examine the complex motivations of those who articulated them; and weigh the contemporary impact and historical legacies of these views for Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants in the period between the 1850s and the 1920s.

As you know, essay exams and especially short essay exams require careful thought and organization. So before you begin drafting your essay, it is important that you develop at least a rough outline, carefully choose examples in support of your argument, and write clear and direct sentences to develop that argument. Again, since you face significant space limitations, please avoid the use of long block quotes. To cite an article, simply use the following format at the end of the sentence in question: (Haney Lopez, pp. 12-13; Reisler, pp. 44-45).

PROMPT:
The period between the end of the U.S-Mexican War in 1848 and the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929 is notable in highlighting a long-running battle between individuals and interest groups who advocated strict policies of immigration restriction, border enforcement, and racial and cultural homogeneity versus those who, primarily for economic reasons, exhibited a much higher toleration for the presence of foreigners of all legal statuses.

For example, during debate about the objectives of the U.S.-Mexican War, Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina articulated the views common among those in the first group by arguing that the conquest of Mexicos northern territories would contribute to the nations increasing and troubling racial and cultural diversity, and would add to the racial tensions that already divided the country and eventually led to the eruption of the Civil War. He objected to the incorporation of Mexicans into the United States by arguing:

We have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian racethe free white race. To incorporate Mexico, would be the very first instance of incorporating the Indian race. Ours is the government of the white manand yet it is professed and talked about to erect these Mexicans into a territorial government, and place them on an equality with the people of the United States. I protest utterly against such a project. (John C. Calhoun, January 1848)

However, over the same period, other individuals and interest groupsespecially those committed to the economic development of former Mexican territories in the Westsaw the challenges facing the nation in the last half of the nineteenth century in very different terms. From their point of view, labor migration was considered crucial to their plans to develop the basic infrastructure that would allow subsequent growth in manufacturing and extractive industries, construction, and commercial agricultureand if that meant the rapid racial and cultural diversification of society, then so be it. As one employers lobbyist put it in his testimony before a congressional committee in 1928, the diversification of the labor force in the West in the years after the Gold Rush,

may have been due to a lack of foresight, but it is a fact that statesmen must deal with. The question arises as to what is going to be the economic effect upon that vast territory and its vast agricultural industry, if the supply of common labor is inadequate. What could be more destructive of the prosperity of a people; of their contentment; or their general welfare; than to have their entire labor situation disrupted?

The lobbyist concluded:

We are not employing men on account of their dispositions. We are employing them to have them exercise their strong backs at hard work. We are not employing them because they are of a high type of intellectuality [for] if we employed men because of their mental attainments, we could not employ either Mexicans or these [other] colored people. We employ these men because we have the worlds work to do and we must do it well. (Testimony of Alfred P. Thom, American Railroad Association, to House Committee on Immigration, 1928)

Based on your lecture notes, slides, and readings from weeks 1 through 4 of the syllabus, write an essay of 8-10 pages in which you assess the origins and evolution of these two points of view; examine the complex motivations of those who articulated them; and weigh the contemporary impact and historical legacies of these views for Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants in the period between the 1850s and the 1920s.

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