President Coolidge signs Immigration Act of 1924

President Coolidge signs Immigration Act of 1924

President Calvin Coolidge signs into law the Immigration Act of 1924, the most stringent U.S. immigration policy up to that time in the nation’s history.

The new law reflected the desire of Americans to isolate themselves from the world after fighting World War I in Europe, which exacerbated growing fears of the spread of communist ideas. It also reflected the pervasiveness of racial discrimination in American society at the time. Many Americans saw the enormous influx of largely unskilled, uneducated immigrants during the early 1900s as causing unfair competition for jobs and land.

READ MORE: U.S. Immigration Timeline

Under the new law, immigration remained open to those with a college education and/or special skills, but entry was denied to Mexicans, and disproportionately to Eastern and Southern Europeans and Japanese. At the same time, the legislation allowed for more immigration from Northern European nations such as Britain, Ireland and Scandinavian countries.

A quota was set that limited immigration to two percent of any given nation’s residents already in the U.S. as of 1890, a provision designed to maintain America’s largely Northern European racial composition. In 1927, the “two percent rule” was eliminated and a cap of 150,000 total immigrants annually was established.

The law particularly angered Japan, which in 1907 had forged with U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt a “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” which included more liberal immigration quotas for Japan. By 1924, strong U.S. agricultural and labor interests–particularly from California, which had already passed its own exclusionary laws against Japanese immigrants–favored the more restrictive legislation signed by Coolidge.

The Japanese government viewed the American law as an insult, and protested by declaring May 26 a national day of humiliation in Japan. The law fanned anti-American sentiment in Japan, inspiring a Japanese citizen to commit suicide outside the American embassy in Tokyo in protest.

Despite becoming known for such isolationist legislation, Coolidge also established the Statue of Liberty as a national monument in 1924.


This Day in History: Coolidge Signs 1924 Immigration Act into Law

President Calvin Coolidge signs into law the Immigration Act of 1924, the most stringent U.S. immigration policy up to that time in the nation&rsquos history.

The new law reflected the desire of Americans to isolate themselves from the world after fighting World War I in Europe, which exacerbated growing fears of the spread of communist ideas. It also reflected the pervasiveness of racial discrimination in American society at the time. Many Americans saw the enormous influx of largely unskilled, uneducated immigrants during the early 1900s as causing unfair competition for jobs and land.

Under the new law, immigration remained open to those with a college education and/or special skills, but entry was denied to Mexicans, and disproportionately to Eastern and Southern Europeans and Japanese. At the same time, the legislation allowed for more immigration from Northern European nations such as Britain, Ireland and Scandinavian countries.


"An Act to Limit the Immigration of Aliens into the United States," May 26, 1924

The 1924 Immigration Act was sponsored by Representative Albert Johnson (R-Washington) and Senator David Reed (R-Pennsylvania). It proposed an alteration to the system enacted in the 1921 Emergency Quota Act, (see here) by reducing the total immigration quotas (from 3% of a given nationality to 2%) and by changing the basis for the calculation of the quotas from the 1910 census to the 1890 census. It also included a perpetuation of the prohibition against Asian immigration contained in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. The Johnson-Reed bill passed with strong congressional support, and was signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge on May 26, 1924. The text of the Act given here contains language that partly answers the protests of the NCWC, but still legislated huge restrictions on the immigration of Catholics from southern and eastern Europe.

An Act to Limit the Immigration of Aliens into the United States, May 26, 1924


The 1924 Law That Slammed the Door on Immigrants and the Politicians Who Pushed it Back Open

“AMERICA OF THE MELTING POT COMES TO END,” the New York Times headline blared in late April 1924. The opinion piece that followed, penned by Senator David Reed of Pennsylvania, claimed recent immigrants from southern and Eastern European countries had failed to satisfactorily assimilate and championed his recently passed legislation to severely restrict immigration to the United States. He proudly proclaimed, “The racial composition of America at the present time thus is made permanent.”

The 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, which Congress had overwhelmingly passed just weeks before and which President Coolidge would sign into law the following month, marked the start of a dark chapter in the nation’s immigration history. It drastically cut the total number of immigrants allowed in each year and effectively cut off all immigration from Asia. It made permanent strict quotas—defined as “two percent of the total number of people of each nationality in the United States as of the 1890 national census”—in order to favor immigrants from northern and Western Europe and preserve the homogeneity of the nation. The new system also required immigrants to apply for and receive visas before arriving and established the U.S. Border Patrol.

The restrictions imposed by the law sparked a prolonged fight to reverse them, driven by politicians who decried the law’s xenophobia and by presidents who worried about the foreign policy consequences of such exclusions. In her new book, One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965, journalist Jia Lynn Yang, a deputy national editor at The New York Times, details the drive to implement and sustain the 1924 legislation and the intense campaign to reverse it, a battle that culminated in the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. That law eliminated the quotas, increased the number of visas issued each year, prioritized immigration for skilled workers and instituted a policy of family unification.

Yang spoke with Smithsonian about the advocates who led the way, the forces they battled and the legacy of their fight.

One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965

The idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants is at the core of the American narrative. But in 1924, Congress instituted a system of ethnic quotas so stringent that it choked off large-scale immigration for decades, sharply curtailing arrivals from southern and eastern Europe and outright banning those from nearly all of Asia.

The 1924 Johnson-Reed Act marked a schism in the country’s immigration history. How did the nation get to that point?

Before the act, there were these smaller attempts to restrict immigration. The most important was the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which was quite a bold law that singled out, for the first time, an ethnic group for restriction.

Starting in the 1880s you have this historic wave of immigrants coming from southern and Eastern Europe. Jews, Italians. Lawmakers are continually trying to kind of stem that wave, and really it’s not until 1924 that they truly succeed. Because everything else they've tried [such as literacy tests] either gets vetoed by a president or doesn't really work.

1924 is really a watershed moment. Once you add a whole visa process, once you add these strict quotas, you’re just in a whole different regime of immigration. The system really just changes forever, and it’s a moment when the country I think symbolically says, ‘We’re not going to do things like this anymore. You can’t just show up.’

How did the theory of eugenics play a role in the new immigration system?

It became very important, because people with a lot of social influence really embraced it. These are leading economists, leading scientists, people who are really kind of dictating intellectual American life at the time. And [eugenics was] completely mainstream and considered very cutting edge, and just very current. If people could figure out a way to make a better society through this science, people didn't question why that was necessary or why their methods would work. And these experts began to testify before Congress as they're looking at immigration.

One of the primary examples would be [prominent eugenicist] Harry Laughlin. He hasn't spent his whole life being trained as a scientist, but he gets very excited about eugenics, joins people who are really hardcore scientists, and gets involved in the political side. Lawmakers treat him as kind of an in-house expert, essentially. He’s writing up reports at their behest, and pointing out, if you do the laws this way, you will actually improve the American bloodstream, and that's why you should do this. [Eugenicists] are people who were already very nativist and wanted to restrict immigration. But once they get the sort of scientific backing, it really strengthens their arguments, and that's how they're able to push this dramatic bill through in the 󈧘s.

The 1924 act was met with resistance during its passage and efforts to overturn it started immediately. What were the law’s opponents up against?

I think this notion—it's still very powerful now—that America should have some kind of ethnic makeup is actually a very hard thing to argue against. Their defense is one that I think you still see today, which is, “We're not being racist. We just want to keep a level of ethnic homogeneity in our society…we can't introduce new elements too quickly, and this is how we protect the stability of our country.”

I would also add that if you look at the polling on immigration over time—Gallup, for instance, has looked at this question for many, many years now—you hardly ever see Americans clamoring for more immigrants.

In fact, the people who want to change [immigration policy] are often presidents who are dealing with the foreign policy [consequences of the 1924 law.] That’s one thing that really surprised me in my research, is how immigration was driven by foreign policy concerns. So there are presidents who don't want to insult other leaders by saying, “We don't want people from your country.”

But your mainstream American is really not thinking about loosening immigration laws as a giant priority. Even now, you can see that both Democrats and Republicans are pretty leery of making that kind of super pro-loosening immigration laws argument. I don't think it's ever that politically popular to do that.

What finally led to the overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws in the 1960s?

It’s kind of an amazing confluence of events. Right before President Kennedy died, he introduced a bill to abolish these ethnic origins quotas. The bill doesn't really go anywhere, just as every other effort hadn't gone anywhere in 40 years. As usual, there's just not a lot of interest in changing the immigration quotas.

But when he is killed, President Johnson looks at the unfinished business of Kennedy and [thinks], ‘Let's honor the memory of our late president. Let's really do right by his memory. Let's make this stuff work. We've got to pass it.’

LBJ is leading the country in mourning, yes, but he also spots an extraordinary political opportunity to pass legislation, I think, that would otherwise never pass. The Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, these are all kind of in that moment. But the immigration bill, too, has that kind of moral momentum from Kennedy’s death. You've got people talking about racial equality. We're going to be getting rid of Jim Crow laws, so we should also look at our immigration laws in the same way. They have a similar kind of racial and discriminatory problem to them.

At the same time you’ve got the Cold War argument—that these laws are embarrassing to us. They're not helping us win an ideological war against the Soviet Union. The other thing too is labor unions were anti-immigrant before. This is a moment where they actually flip sides. Once labor unions switch to the other side, that removes one of the big political opponents to changing the quotas.

Kennedy supported immigration reform and Johnson signed the 1965 act into law, but this wasn’t a consuming passion for either president. Who fought the legislation into being?

Emanuel “Manny” Celler was chair of the House Judiciary Committee for many, many years. Right when he becomes a Congressman, in 1923, he sees the quotas passed and is horrified, because he himself is from a German Jewish family and he represents a district in Brooklyn that is basically all immigrants from Europe. He basically spends the next 40 years trying to get rid of [the quotas]. He sees during World War II how [the quotas] make it impossible to admit Jewish refugees. After the war, he's still fighting and fighting and fighting, constantly losing. He’s sort of the rare person who in is there to see the victory, but not everybody does.

I’m thinking of Herbert Lehman. He is from the famous Lehman Brothers’ family, and comes from a huge amount of money from New York. He was the first Jewish governor of New York, and he was kind of a righthand man to FDR. He spends much of his senate career in the '50s fighting [for immigration reform] and loses again and again, just like Celler and others, because of the Red Scare and a lot of anti-communist sentiment, which translates into anti-immigrant sentiment on the Hill.

Celebrating “America as a nation of immigrants” is a surprisingly recent idea. How did that idea develop and play into the 1965 legislation?

The story of Kennedy’s Nation of Immigrants [a book published posthumously in 1964.] is sort of instructive with this. He is leaning on, and borrowing from, the work of immigration historian Oscar Handlin, who wrote this book called The Uprooted, which won a Pulitzer Prize in the early 1950s and was, at one point, assigned to a lot of schoolchildren to read. It was basically the seminal text that, for the first time that anyone could point to, celebrated all these immigrants who had come to this country and sort of pointed out the successive waves of people.

We often think of nationalism and immigration as opposing ideas and forces. The really interesting political turn in the '50s is to bring immigrants into this idea of American nationalism. It’s not that immigrants make America less special. It's that immigrants are what make America special.

Whereas in the '20s the argument was, “Keep America ‘American’ by keeping out immigrants.” Now it was, “If you're not going to welcome immigrants, you're not going to celebrate all these different waves of immigration, the Jews, the Italians, the Germans, you're just being un-American. You don't love this part of the American story.”

That is still a very powerful idea on the Left, in the Democratic Party. But I was really surprised in the research just how recent that is. That was a work of history. A historian had to put his finger on it. Then it had to then be translated into the political sphere to take on its own momentum, to become its own argument for immigrants.

What did advocates for the 1965 act expect when the law was signed? What has it looked like in reality?

The system they come up with is still really interesting to think about because it's very much the one we have today. They get rid of the quotas, and they prioritize family reunification. The people who get top priority for visas are people who already have family in the U.S. This is what the Trump administration wants to end. Just to give you a sense of just how little [the lawmakers] predicted what would happen: [reunification] was actually a compromise to nativists who wanted to keep America white.

Yet because of family reunification, once you do get enough people here who are outside Europe, their numbers actually grew and grew and grew and grew. A bunch of presidents kept adding these special carve-outs for different refugee populations, like the Cubans and Vietnamese.

Over time, the entire stream of immigrants just becomes much, much less European, much less white. To the point that now, I think we take for granted that a lot of our immigrants are from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America.

That is not something that I think almost anyone who was involved in the debate would have expected. In fact, they kept downplaying how much the law would change the actual demographics of the U.S. What's interesting to me is that no one quite knew what standing for the principle [of racial equality] would lead to in terms of what this country looked like.

How is what passed in 1965 tied to today’s immigration crisis?

At the end of this whole journey in 1965, [advocates] have to make a bunch of compromises and they added a numerical cap for the very first time on immigration from the Western hemisphere. So until that point—incredible to imagine right now because we are so fixated on securing the border—there was no numerical cap to how many people could come from Latin America and Canada. It was just totally open. That was, again, a foreign policy decision. It was an idea that you had to be friendly to your neighbors.

[The cap introduces] the idea of “illegal” immigrants from Mexico on this mass scale that didn't exist before. That just changed the nature of how we thought about Mexican immigrants forever, and which we are still living in the shadow of.

The law is lauded as a civil rights achievement by some, in that it basically bans racial discrimination in immigration laws and gets rid of these old ethnic quotas. But it really transforms our whole notion of our neighbors and our relationship to them as sources of immigration.

What were you most surprised to discover while researching and writing your book?

I got into this whole project for very personal reasons. I wanted to understand why my family had been allowed to come to this country [from Taiwan and China]. In retrospect, I feel kind of naïve for not having thought about it before. I so bought into this idea of America as a nation of immigrants that I hadn't even really seriously considered a possibility that my parents would have been rejected.

What was surprising to me was just to learn how easily that could have happened—and not just for me and my family but every family I know in America, basically, that's not from Europe. I now wonder, who among us would just not be here if not for the 1965 Immigration Nationality Act? And I think [it was surprising] understanding how hard that fight was to get it, how many times it didn't work, how many times it failed, how when it finally worked it was only because of this perfect convergence of all these different circumstances, literally from a president's assassination to somebody negotiating at the end, ‘We'll reunify families because that'll keep America more white,’ and then getting it wrong.

Japanese demonstrators in Tokyo protested the 1924 Act, which effectively cut off immigration from Asia. (NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images)

What is it like to release your book as the COVID-19 outbreak has led to a spike in Anti-Asian sentiment and a resurgence of xenophobia?

When I started this book it was early 2016, before President Trump was elected. I never imagined how timely it would be. It really started as an exploration of, in a way, family history through American political history.

Knowing that history, knowing how recent [Asian Americans'] arrival is as a large racial group in this country, helps me to process what's happening now. Because I think part of what the xenophobia is revealing is just how tenuous, in a way, the Asian American political category can be. It's a group that often lacks a lot of political power and political voice.

I think of ourselves as very much in the tradition of other immigrants who've sort of come before, each of whom has also kind of had to establish their place in America.

For people like me, who are children of immigrants, who were able to come here because of the 1965 law, it's a chance to say, ‘Okay, this is our political history as a people. This is how we got here.’

About Anna Diamond

Anna Diamond is the former assistant editor for Smithsonian magazine.


Immigration Act of 1924

During the Harding administration, a stop-gap immigration measure was passed by Congress in 1921 for the purpose of slowing the flood of immigrants entering the United States. A more thorough law, known as the National Origins Act, was signed by President Coolidge in May 1924. It provided for the following:

  • The quota for immigrants entering the U.S. was set at two percent of the total of any given nation`s residents in the U.S. as reported in the 1890 census
  • after July 1, 1927, the two percent rule was to be replaced by an overall cap of 150,000 immigrants annually and quotas determined by "national origins" as revealed in the 1920 census.

A provision in the 1924 law barred entry to those ineligible for citizenship — effectively ending the immigration of all Asians into the United States and undermining the earlier "Gentlemen`s Agreement" with Japan. Efforts by Secretary of State Hughes to change this provision were not successful and actually inflamed the passions of the anti-Japanese press, which was especially strong on the West Coast. Heated protests were issued by the Japanese government and a citizen committed seppuku outside the American embassy in Tokyo. May 26, the effective date of the legislation, was declared a day of national humiliation in Japan, adding another in a growing list of grievances against the U.S. Louis Marshall, chairman of the American Jewish Relief Committee, wrote a letter to Coolidge on May 22, 1924, urging him not to sign the National Origins bill. In addition to making salient comments about the general defects of regulating immigration by race and nationality, he made the following prescient remarks about its impact on Japanese-American relations:


Historical Background

Ratified in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment had declared that all persons “born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” were American citizens. However, the “jurisdiction thereof” clause was interpreted to exclude most Native Americans. In 1870, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee declared “the 14th amendment to the Constitution has no effect whatever upon the status of the Indian tribes within the limits of the United States.”

By the late 1800s, about 8% of Native people had qualified for U.S. citizenship due to being “taxed,” serving in the military, marrying whites, or accepting land allotments offered by the Dawes Act.

Enacted in 1887, the Dawes Act was intended to encourage Native Americans to abandon their Indian culture and “fit in” to mainstream American society. The act offered full citizenship to those Native Americans who agreed to leave their tribal lands to live on and farm free “allotments” of land. However, the Dawes Act had a negative effect on Native Americans on and off the reservations.

Native Americans who had not already done so by other means won the right to full citizenship in 1924 when President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act. While the stated purpose was to reward the thousands of Indians who had served in World War I, Congress and Coolidge hoped the act would break apart the remaining Native nations and force Native Americans to assimilate into white American society.

Text of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924

“BE IT ENACTED by the Senate and house of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all non-citizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property.”


The Immigration Act of 1924 (The Johnson-Reed Act)

The Immigration Act of 1924 limited the number of immigrants allowed entry into the United States through a national origins quota. The quota provided immigration visas to two percent of the total number of people of each nationality in the United States as of the 1890 national census. It completely excluded immigrants from Asia.

Literacy Tests and “Asiatic Barred Zone”

In 1917, the U.S. Congress enacted the first widely restrictive immigration law. The uncertainty generated over national security during World War I made it possible for Congress to pass this legislation, and it included several important provisions that paved the way for the 1924 Act. The 1917 Act implemented a literacy test that required immigrants over 16 years old to demonstrate basic reading comprehension in any language. It also increased the tax paid by new immigrants upon arrival and allowed immigration officials to exercise more discretion in making decisions over whom to exclude. Finally, the Act excluded from entry anyone born in a geographically defined “Asiatic Barred Zone” except for Japanese and Filipinos. In 1907, the Japanese Government had voluntarily limited Japanese immigration to the United States in the Gentlemen’s Agreement. The Philippines was a U.S. colony, so its citizens were U.S. nationals and could travel freely to the United States. China was not included in the Barred Zone, but the Chinese were already denied immigration visas under the Chinese Exclusion Act.

The literacy test alone was not enough to prevent most potential immigrants from entering, so members of Congress sought a new way to restrict immigration in the 1920s. Immigration expert and Republican Senator from Vermont William P. Dillingham introduced a measure to create immigration quotas, which he set at three percent of the total population of the foreign-born of each nationality in the United States as recorded in the 1910 census. This put the total number of visas available each year to new immigrants at 350,000. It did not, however, establish quotas of any kind for residents of the Western Hemisphere. President Wilson opposed the restrictive act, preferring a more liberal immigration policy, so he used the pocket veto to prevent its passage. In early 1921, the newly inaugurated President Warren Harding called Congress back to a special session to pass the law. In 1922, the act was renewed for another two years.

When the congressional debate over immigration began in 1924, the quota system was so well-established that no one questioned whether to maintain it, but rather discussed how to adjust it. Though there were advocates for raising quotas and allowing more people to enter, the champions of restriction triumphed. They created a plan that lowered the existing quota from three to two percent of the foreign-born population. They also pushed back the year on which quota calculations were based from 1910 to 1890.


On May 26, 1924, the U.S. government enacted the eugenics-inspired Immigration Act of 1924, which completely prohibited immigration from Asia. Designed to limit all immigration to the U.S., the act was particularly restrictive for Eastern and Southern Europeans and Asians. Upon signing the act into law, President Calvin Coolidge remarked, “America must remain American.”

Congress passed the first highly restrictive immigration law in 1917, requiring immigrants over age 16 to pass literacy tests and excluding immigrants from the “Asiatic Barred Zone.” Immigrants from China had been barred since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and this law expanded that ban to include many other Asian countries. The Act of 1924 eliminated immigration from Japan, violating the so-called “Gentleman’s Agreement” that had previously protected Japanese immigration from legal restrictions.

The 1924 Act also tightened the national origins quota system. Under this system, the number of immigrants allowed to come to the U.S. from a particular country was limited to the percentage of immigrants from that country already living in the U.S. The previous quota was based on population data from the 1910 census, but the 1924 Act based the quota on the 1890 census, which effectively lowered the quota numbers for non-white countries. The 1924 system also considered the national origins of the entire American population, including natural-born citizens, which increased the number of visas available to people from the British Isles and Western Europe. Finally, the 1924 Act excluded any person ineligible for citizenship, formalizing the ban on immigration from Asia based on existing laws that prohibited Asian immigrants from becoming naturalized citizens.

The act was supported by federally-funded eugenicists who argued that “social inadequates” were polluting the American gene pool and draining taxpayer resources. Its quotas remained in place until 1965.


President Coolidge signs Immigration Act of 1924 - HISTORY

Jan 21 Vladimir Lenin, age 53, has been mute and bedridden since March last year. Today he dies.

Jan 23 Russia changes Petrograd to Leningrad.

Jan 23 Lenin is moved from Petrograd to Moscow. Mourners gather at every station along the way. His body will be put on display at the House of Trade Unions, and in the coming days a million mourners from across the Soviet Union will wait in line for hours in the freezing cold.

Jan 25 The French government signs a treaty of mutual aid with Czechoslovakia regarding the possibility of an unprovoked attack by a third country, i.e. Germany.

Jan 27 Lenin's body is put in a wooden tomb by the Kremlin Wall in Moscow's Red Square. A granite Mausoleum will soon be built, in which Lenin's head and hands will be visible to visitors.

Jan 31 A constitution is ratified by the Congress of Soviets. It is a treaty that embodies separate nations &ndash Belorussian, Ukrainian, Transcaucasian &ndash into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Feb 1 The new British labour government, led by Ramsey McDonald, recognizes the Soviet Union.

Feb 2 The Turkish National Assembly formally abolishes the caliphate that for more than four centuries had been claimed by sultans of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire ends. The caliphate's authority and properties are transferred to Turkey's Grand National Assembly.

Feb 3 Woodrow Wilson dies peacefully after a long illness. A former opponent in politics, Republican President Calvin Coolidge, and Mrs Coolidge, express their condolences and will attend the funeral.

Feb 7 Prime Minister Mussolini's government recognizes the Soviet Union.

Feb 24 After servicing less than two years of a six year sentence for sedition, the British release Mohandas Gandhi from prison due to ill-health following surgery to treat his appendicitis. Gandhi wants to avoid political action and focus on writing about improvements for India.

Mar 8 At the coal mine near Castle Gate Utah, an employee investigating gas near the roof of the mine attempts to relight his lamp with a match which ignites the gas and coal dust, setting off an explosion powerful enough to launch a mining car, telephone poles, and other equipment nearly a mile from the entrance to the mine. The steel gates of the mine are ripped from their concrete foundations. Recovery of the bodies will take nine days. All 171 miners, ages 15 to 73, die. Most (126) are immigrants: 50 native-born Greeks, 25 Italians, 32 English or Scots, 12 Welsh, 4 Japanese, and 3 Austrian or Southern Slav.

Mar 9 Squabbling over the Adriatic port city of Fiume (today Rijeka and a part of Croatia) has had some resolution. A city of mostly Italians (24,000 in 1910) but also Hungarians, Croatians and others has been settled by diplomats and their Treaty of Rome, giving the city to Italy. Today, Italy annexes it.

Mar 15 A presidential election is won by Horacio Vásquez Lajara, an American ally. With his inauguration in July the United States will end its eight-year occupation of his country, the Dominican Republic.

Mar 25 Greece proclaims itself a republic. Greece's king has been George II, 33, the grandson of a Dane, George I (r. 1863-1913) and the son of Sophia of Prussia. Parliament asked His Majesty to leave Greece so the nation could decide what form of government it should adopt, and George II did so late last year, to his wife's home country, Romania, but he refused to abdicate. A referendum on April 13 will express the public's desire to have a republic rather than a monarchy.

Apr 1 Adolf Hitler is sentenced to 5 years in jail for his participation in an attempt with General Ludendorff to take power in Munich, late last year. Hitler had promised to shoot himself if his coup failed &ndash mere bombast. Ludendorff, seen as a military hero, has not been charged or tried. Germany's judiciary is conservative and has great respect for its veteran generals. Hitler was a mere corporal.

Apr 27 A group of Alawites kill several nuns in Syria. French troops retaliate and kill Alawites.

April 28 The Benwood Mine Disaster in West Virginia kills 119 men. Another coal mine has exploded. The majority of the miners killed are recent immigrants from Poland, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Russia, the Ukraine and Lithuania.

May 31 Lenin's widow has mailed his testament to the Communist Party's Central Committee. Contrary to Lenin's wishes before his final stroke, a Party Congress ends without the document having been read to the delegates. The document is critical of Stalin and his allies Kamenev and Zinoviev. These three, the most influential members of the Party, are protecting their status in the Party by keeping the document secret. It will be published in 1925 in the United States by Max Eastman, an admirer of Stalin's rival, Leon Trotsky.

May 24 President Coolidge signs into law the Immigration Act of 1924. It includes the Asian Exclusion Act which bars immigration from Japan, China, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Burma, Malaya, India and elsewhere in Asia. In Japan, anti-American rises. Some newspapers in Japan denounce the law as an "insult" or "a slap in the face." Japan lodges a formal protest through its embassy in Washington and declares May 26, the effective date of the legislation, a day of national humiliation.

Jun 2 Coolidge signs a bill making all Native Americans born within the territorial limits of the United States citizens of the United States. Accompanying this act is the Revenue Act of 1924.

Jun 10 Mussolini's Fascists kidnap and kill Italian socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti. Prime Minister Mussolini is perplexed. He wants respectability.

Jun 12 Ho Chi Minh has left Paris and is in Moscow. He attends the Fifth Comintern Congress and urges Communists from West European countries to agitate more against the evils of colonialism.

Aug 16 A plan by an international commission chaired by a Chicago banker, Charles G. Dawes, has been accepted by the former allies of the last great war. The plan provides for France ending its occupation of Germany's Ruhr region and for a staggered payment plan for Germany making its reparation payments. Many French people believe their government is being too lenient with the Germans. Many Germans think their country paying reparations to France is nonsense.

Aug 28 In Georgia, one of the republics within the Soviet Union, an insurrection against Soviet rule has been organized across the country. In one area the rising starts today, a day early, and alarms Moscow. Stalin, a Georgian, immediately sends the Red Army against the insurgents. A book published in 1999, The Black Book of Communism, by Harvard University Press, will describe the Soviet regime as having killed 12,578 between August 29 and September 5 and as having deported about 20,000 people to Siberia and Central Asian deserts. The failed insurrection will leave pro-independence Georgians either exterminated or powerless. Georgia's Tiflis University will be purged of "unreliable" elements and placed under the complete control of the Communist Party, with substantial changes made to its curriculum.

Sep 9 In the Hawaiian Islands, Filipino agricultural workers are on strike demanding a wage of $2 per day and reduction of the workday to eight hours. Plantation owners have been employing strike breakers, and strike leaders have been arrested and people have been bribed to testify against them. Outraged strikers seize two strike breakers and prevent them from going to work. The police, armed with clubs and guns, arrive at union headquarters to "rescue" the strike breakers. Strikers are armed with homemade weapons and knives. The reported result is sixteen Filipinos and four policemen killed, to be known as the Hanapepe massacre. The police round up protesting workers and arrest 101 Filipinos. Seventy-six will be brought to trial and of these sixty will receive four-year jail sentences.

Oct 19 Hussein bin Aii, of the Hashimite family that claims direct descent from Muhammad the Prophet and a family that has ruled the Hejaz in unbroken succession since 1201 (to be played by Alec Guiness in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia), has declared himself Caliph. He has lost the Battle of Mecca against the Saudi warlord Ibn Saud. On this day, Ibn Saud declares himself protector of the holy places in Mecca.

Nov 4 President Coolidge, of the Republican Party, who had stepped into the presidency from the vice presidency, wins the presidency in his own right. The Democratic Party had split between a conservative, John Davies, and Robert LaFollete, who ran as a progressive. Coolidge wins in a landslide, running like Davis on a platform of limited government, reduced taxes and less regulation. The public has given Coolidge credit for a booming economy. Coolidge didn't leave the Whitehouse to campaign. Davis is described as having lost votes because of his denunciation of the Ku Klux Klan and his defense of black voting rights when he was Solicitor General in the Woodrow Wilson administration.

Nov 11 Ho Chi Minh arrives in Guangzhou, China. This is where Vietnamese running from the French go. Ho becomes an assistant to Michael Borodin, the Soviet Union's advisor to Sun Yat-sen. Ho begins organizing Vietnamese in exile and directing rebel activities in Vietnam.

Nov 27 New York City has its first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Dec 1 A coup attempt in Estonia staged by Communists, most of them from the Soviet Union, fails. Of the 279 actively participating in the coup, 125 are killed in action. Later, more than 500 people will be arrested. Government forces lose 26 killed.

Dec 15 In a letter to Prime Minister Baldwin, Winston Churchill considers the chance of a war against Japan. Churchill writes: "I do not believe there is the slightest chance of it in our lifetime." (Modern Times, by Paul Johnson, p.175.)

Dec 20 Hitler is released from prison after 8 1/2 months of comfort and book writing. His failed coup attempt in 1923 has turned out to be a success. He has made a name for himself. The book is Mein Kampf (My Struggle).

Dec 31 Earlier this year, Stalin wrote a book titled Foundations of Leninism, supporting Lenin's position that the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 needs revolutions in other countries. A second edition of the book is published that deviates from Lenin's position. Stalin goes along with a Party theoretician, Nikolai Bukharin, who is arguing that socialism could be built in a single country, even an underdeveloped one like Russia. Stalin would rather have better relations with capitalist powers rather than antagonize them with Soviet sponsored subversion. Stalin favors Communist Parties in capitalist countries joining forces with non-communist "bourgeois" parties. This puts him opposite Leon Trotsky, who will be the champion of "Permanent Revolution".


Harding, Coolidge, and immigration

Immigration is a major issue both in the 2016 presidential campaign and the recent Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. As the next president figures out his/her approach to immigration reform, it is important to consider the discriminatory underpinnings of our country’s immigration laws.

The precedent for immigration restriction was already set with Chinese and Japanese immigrants in the 19th century for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in 1882, barred Chinese labor immigration to the United States for a time. As the 1920 election approached, there was support for some kind of broader law that restricted immigration. Continuing immigration from southeastern Europe, a recession, the Red Scare, and labor conflicts in which immigrants were associated with anarchism all helped put xenophobic fears into the electorate.

Warren Harding campaigned on a theme of “America First,” and he supported restrictive measures. A leading congressman on immigration was Albert Johnson (R-WA), a rabid nativist. Johnson had connections with eugenists as well.

In the first year of Harding’s term, Congress introduced three deportation bills, one of them attempting to prohibit all immigration until 1930. Congress ultimately passed the Emergency Quota Act, and the president signed it. This quota system favored the northern European countries over countries in eastern and southern Europe and outside of Europe by setting an annual cap of 3 percent of a country’s residents living in the United States as of the 1910 census.

After Harding unexpectedly died and Calvin Coolidge became president, Coolidge included immigration in his first address to Congress. The new president wrote: “New arrivals should be limited to our capacity to absorb them into the ranks of good citizenship. America must be kept American. For this purpose, it is necessary to continue a policy of restricted immigration. It would be well to make such immigration of a selective nature with some inspection at the source, and based either on a prior census or upon the record of naturalization. Either method would insure the admission of those with the largest capacity and best intention of becoming citizens.”

The 1921 law was set to expire in 1924, so Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924 (the Johnson-Reed Act) with sweeping majorities. The law favored even fewer immigrants from southeastern Europe, lowering the cap to 2 percent. However, the quota focused on European immigrants, and the law did allow unlimited immigration from the Western Hemisphere. Overall, immigration based on national origins was becoming the primary method to set larger immigration policy.

Through these laws, scholars have looked into how prejudice, genetics, and eugenics have played a role in controlling immigration in favor of “racially superior” northern Europeans. To explore this issue, try Desmond King’s Making Americans: Immigration, Race, and the Origins of the Diverse Democracy (Harvard, 2000).


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Influenced by concerns about the racial &ldquofitness&rdquo of Southern and Eastern Europeans, this legislation was also inspired by fears that so-called aliens would import poverty and disease, as well as hostile foreign ideas like anarchism, Bolshevism and Catholicism. Migrants, consulates and border agents were immediately plunged into uncertainty as soon as Harding signed quota restrictions into law. Having complied with existing regulations, thousands found themselves thrust outside the legal and administrative boundaries of the American immigration system. Hundreds abruptly fell out of legal status as they crossed the Atlantic on steamers bound for New York and Boston. Others reached Ellis Island before being told they were no longer legally entitled to admission.

In addition to distressing individual migrants, the introduction of quotas in 1921 affected American foreign relations in numerous unforeseen ways. The State Department received complaints from European governments about the discriminatory treatment of their nationals, and steamship companies from across Europe scrambled to find out whether they were liable for return trips and resettlement. American consulates expanded their reach at Mexican ports of entry in order to prevent fraud, and nativists in countries as far away as Australia began calling for increased restrictions of their own, to prevent Southern and Eastern Europeans from redirecting to those ports.

These scenes were repeated when President Calvin Coolidge signed the National Origins Act on May 24, 1924, which imposed permanent and even more severe quotas on people often referred to as &ldquoundesirables.&rdquo These tighter controls marooned thousands more at ports throughout Europe and Latin America, including some 10,000 Jewish refugees who languished in unfamiliar and often unfriendly countries for months despite being in possession of legally issued visas for entry to the United States. A new provision also stealthily banned immigration from Japan, adding that nation to the list of places in Asia from which immigration was already prohibited.

Having dramatically inflicted injury on individuals, the 1924 quota law then had calamitous consequences for American foreign relations more broadly.

For example, the Japanese government immediately protested the humiliating American proscription on immigration. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, the American ambassador in Tokyo (Cyrus Woods), the Japanese ambassador in Washington (Masanao Hanihara), and even President Coolidge opposed the enactment of Japanese exclusion, but public and congressional nativism triumphed over warnings about the possible diplomatic repercussions. When the Japanese exclusion clause went into effect it was followed by ambassadorial resignations, protests on the streets of Tokyo, boycotts of American goods and even suicides in Japan. This indignity is seen as a turning point in the growing estrangement of the U.S. and Japan, which culminated in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

In defending the Executive Order, Trump administration officials may turn to claims of sovereignty, as senior policy adviser Stephen Miller did during an interview on Fox & Friends on Monday, insisting that the United States has an &ldquoabsolute sovereign right&rdquo to control immigration. Yet, even if the U.S. does have such a right, such appeals will not change the fact that exercising that right without caution can materially damage American interests and relationships abroad, just as it did during the United States&rsquo prior dalliances with restriction. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have warned of the threat the Executive Order poses to ongoing counterterrorism efforts, and an extraordinary number of active State Department personnel have now joined them in making known their view that the policy will hurt American interests abroad.

As President Theodore Roosevelt observed in 1908 following an earlier bruising dispute over immigration from Japan, the United States is a nation of immigrants, and as such American immigration policies affect international relations more than they might for other countries.

&ldquoIt is our undoubted right to say what people, what persons, shall come to this country to live, to work, to become citizens,&rdquo he wrote. &ldquoIt is equally undoubtedly our duty that that right shall be exercised in a way that will be provocative of the least, and not of the most, friction with outsiders.&rdquo

Historians explain how the past informs the present

David C. Atkinson is assistant professor of history at Purdue University. He is the author of The Burden of White Supremacy: Containing Asian Migration in the British Empire and the United States, which explores the diplomatic tensions caused by immigration restriction in the early 20th century.


Watch the video: Immigrations Act of 1924