Us and the US
[The extracts that follow under this gravely ungrammatical title précis a book published in 2014 called ‘A Tale of Two Nations; Uncle Sam from Down Under’. That book sought to compare the key phases of history of the two nations under fourteen headings. That format will be followed in the précis. The chapter headings are Foreword;1 Motherland; 2 Conception;3 Birth; 4 Natives; 5 Frontiers; 6 Laws; 7 Revolution; 8 Migration; 9 Government; 10 Wars; 11 Race; 12 Wealth; 13 God; 14 Findings; Afterword. Each chapter is about 1400 words.]
The nations that we know as America and Australia still see themselves as predominantly white. They got to be that way with laws that each passed to preserve its racial integrity, although they may not have used that language. Before they could get to that stage, white people had to be introduced on to lands previously used or occupied by people whose skins were coloured. The colonies had to be settled and then peopled. Without white migrants, the whites would not have gained supremacy. It is therefore obvious that migration is essential to the history of each of these two nations.
There is an essential difference to the course of migration into each country. For the most part migrants to America arrived under their own sail or steam, or by dropping down from Canada. For the most part migrants to Australia arrived with the help of government.
We saw that the first settlers did not come to America under the aegis of the government of England. They were either quitting England for religious purposes – these were in truth refugees from persecution on the grounds of religion – or they were going out in ventures of what we would call venture capitalism, intent on making a new life – and profits. The Americans soon learned how to combine a pious love of God with a pious regard for wealth. The Puritans back home had never had any problems on this. Any espousal of poverty would have been as sure a sign of madness as an espousal of democracy. Their place as God’s elect justified them in this world and the next. Their success on earth here was proof of their acceptance in heaven.
Four years before the colony at Botany Bay started, Benjamin Franklin had said that America was a good place to get rich and that ‘nowhere else are the labouring poor so well fed, well lodged, well clothed and well paid as in the United States of America.’ This was a land, he said, ‘where a general happy mediocrity prevails.’
The population in 1800 was north of five million, but it was close to doubling in twenty years. Napoleon needed to fund his war – and more agony for Europe – and the Louisiana Purchase and the brutality of President Andrew Jackson on the Indians opened up vast areas of new land when the population in Europe was exploding. Immigrant ships dared the Atlantic, and more than 30,000 arrived each year.
Naturalization Acts had acted as a colour bar since 1790, but the inflow from Europe was colossal. In the century after 1815, about thirty million crossed over, and it ran at about one million a year during World War I. The California Rush for gold in and after 1849 put before the world the dazzling promise of America, and public and private money was spent on selling America.
There were other things beside the huge wages. Liberty. The vote. No political police. No conscription or aristocracy. No censorship. No arbitrary arrest. No secret police. No legalized class distinctions – except those based on colour. (American Negroes did not go into the melting pot.) There was no state church or any tithes backed by the state. Since there were few poor, there were no poor rates. After the Depression, the epoch of unrestricted mass immigration had come to an end. Now politicians are competing to show who can slam the door the hardest.
There is likely to be a great difference in outlook between someone going to the New World to glorify God and to make their fortune and someone who is expelled from home because he has got seven years for theft – or the troopers that have been sent to act as prison wardens for the refuse of their nation at the other end of the world where Tiger snakes and trap-door spiders kill people and sharks eat them.
It was not until after 1830 that free migrants to Australia exceeded convicts. The U S was closer and the voyage was shorter and cheaper. Australia competed by paying the fares of British migrants. This was funded from the sale of land which in turn made land much dearer than in the U S. Well over half of the migrants coming to Australia up until, say, 1970 had all or most of their fare paid for them, and they might look to being looked after on arrival.
The founders of Australia had a very different attitude to government than Americans – one government that had encouraged them to go and another government that paid their way and showed what it had to offer when they arrived. As a result, Australia remained much more firmly British and, for a very long time, a lot less cosmopolitan, than the U S – and a lot more staid. Geoffrey Blainey said: ‘Here was one of the mainsprings of the welfare state which emerged so clearly in Australia and New Zealand. As most migrants were subsidised, they tended to lean on the government that initially cared for them. Self-help dominated American attitudes, but ‘lean on the government’ was common amongst Australian attitudes….Nothing did more to give Australia an ethnic unity than the practice of selecting and subsidising the migrants. This sense of unity was to encourage later generations of Australians to fight on Britain’s wars on the far side of the world. In contrast, in the United States the ethnic disunity helped to deter that nation from fighting in foreign wars.’
We might add that the U S attracted more people of means, more middle class settlers, in its formative years. These differences still run very deep indeed. Among other things, telling Australians that they will have to lose their entitlements may not fall far short of telling them that you will take away the air that they breathe. It is likely to sound downright silly.
After the colonies federated and became States, all of them adopted a policy of subsidising migrants from Britain before 1914. The whole scheme was determinedly ‘White Australian’, a label then used with no blushing at all. Indeed, in some quarters there was antipathy to Italians on the ground that they were not quite white. After World War I, those on the Labor side began to be hostile to open-ended immigration. It was ‘Populate or Perish’ against ‘Save Our Jobs.’ But the closeness of the savage Japanese invasion, after the fall of Singapore, revealed the vulnerability of that vast empty nation.
It was a Labor Government, followed by a conservative government uninterrupted for a generation, which saw a massive increase in assisted migration after World War II, and a much broader migrant pool including European refugees. This time it would be European migrants like Greeks or Italians who would feel the brunt of the natives’ blunt insularity. The wave of post–war immigration helped to put aside the old Anglo sombreness, and the waves of Asian and African immigration after the Vietnam War have helped even further – until the rednecks got restive about colour and refugees, and their leaders toed the line.