Skandinaven -- May 10, 1896"The Scandinavian Contingent" (Editorial)
"The Scandinavian Contingent," a paper by K.C. Babcock in the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly, is a very valuable contribution to contemporary history.
The author has devoted many years and a vast amount of patient labor to the study of the Scandinavians in America, as well as in their old homes. His opportunities for observation and study in this particular field have been exceptional. He has lived for some nine years in Minneapolis, a city with a large Scandinavian population representing all three branches of the Norse family and making itself felt in all walks of life. As a student and as a teacher of history in the University of Minnesota, he has maintained close relations with a large number of Scandinavian young men and women of the best type. As a citizen of Minnesota he has been in a position to observe 2the Scandinavians in politics; one fourth of the population of Minnesota are of Scandinavian birth or blood, while one fourth of the Scandinavians in the United States are residents of Minnesota. The University of Minnesota at Minneapolis affords the best view to be obtained of the Scandinavians in the United States. Moreover, Mr. Babcock is familiar with the languages and literature of Norway, Sweden and Denmark. He has personally visited a large number of Scandinavian settlements in the northwest, and has extended his investigations and observations to the Scandinavian countries. He is singularly well qualified to discuss "The Scandinavian Contingent" intelligently and instructively, and in his paper in the Atlantic Monthly he has done justice to his subject and to himself alike.
Mr. Babcock's narrative [style] is easy and steady. He writes as one who knows, and at once gains the confidence of his reader. His picture of the Norseman in America is fair, truthful, and sympathetic. As a citizen, the 3Norseman ranks very high in Mr. Babcock's opinion; yet he is not blind to his racial defects. His characterization of the three Scandinavian types is apt to be impartial. The article concludes as follows:
"As Swedes, Norwegians and Danes, they fast disappear; merging, not into Scandinavians, but into Americans. They earn their right as such, and are proud of their possession. They readily fit into places among our better classes, and without hammering or chiseling, add strength and stability to our social structure, if not beauty and a high level of culture. Because of their habits of thought, their respect for education, and their conservatism, the difficulties of adjustment to their presence are at a minimum. The Scandinavians will not furnish the great leaders, but they will be in the front rank of those who follow, striving to make the United States strong and prosperous--'a blessing to the common man'. As Americans, they will be builders, not destroyers; safe, not brilliant. Best of all, their greatest service will be as a mighty steadying influence, reinforcing those high qualities which we sometimes call Puritan, sometimes American."4
As has been stated, Mr. Babcock's paper is a very careful piece of literary workmanship. It is singularly free from mistakes; and such inaccuracies as may be found are merely suggestions or incidental remarks. The Norwegians' "distrust of the Irish," to which he refers, is largely confined to a few cities, for example, Chicago where competition for work is apt to run along national lines. In the country districts Norsemen and Irishmen get along peacefully, as neighbors should. The author's reference to statistics on intemperance in the Scandinavian countries would indicate that he is not fully familiar with the great improvement which has taken place in recent years. The consumption of "strong drink" has decreased materially in Sweden and Denmark, while Norway for a number of years has exhibited a smaller consumption of intoxicating beverages per capita than any other country in Europe, excepting the southern peninsulas of that continent. Here in Chicago the Scandinavians are not heavy drinkers, in fact, little drunkenness is noticed.5
In the opinion of the author, "the Scandinavians will not furnish great leaders," of this great people. He may be right, and probably is; their comparative numerical weakness in the country at large, places them at a disadvantage in this respect. But they have produced great leaders in the past and even in our own days. The late John Sverdrup of Norway was a leader of rare genius and power; in England he would have been a Gladstone, in America a James G. Blaine. And in the Northwest the Scandinavians have already furnished leaders of considerable power and influence. Mr. Babcock will, it is believed, admit that the sturdiest and strongest political leader in Minnesota today is a Norwegian.
Here in Chicago, and in Illinois, we have leaders who are not only popular, but of real importance.
It may be assumed that Mr. Babcock is preparing a more exhaustive presentation of the subject so admirably outlined in "The Scandinavian Contingent".6
He does speak of the professional men and women of note who live in Chicago and the middle west.
I C, I B 1, I F 5, III A, III G, V B
Secondary listingsNorwegian // Attitudes > Mores > Temperance (I B 1) ?
Norwegian // Attitudes > Politics > Political Leadership (I F 5) ?
Norwegian // Assimilation > Segregation (III A) ?
Norwegian // Assimilation > Immigration and Emigration (III G) ?
Norwegian // Miscellaneous Characteristics > Picturesque Miscellanies (V B) ?
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