Thomas Bailey Aldrich in Ellis Island Era Immigration
Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1907) was a prominent nineteenth-century American writer. Aldrich's most popular work was The Story of a Bad Boy (1870), a quasi-biographical novel based on Aldrich's own rambunctious childhood in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Mark Twain, a friend and admirer of Aldrich, later said that the story's eponymous hero provided him with the inspiration for the character Tom Sawyer.
In 1895, Aldrich published "Unguarded Gates," a poem that might be read as a nativist riposte to Emma Lazarus's famous sonnet, "The New Colossus." Like Lazarus, Aldrich built his poem around the iconic image of the Statue of Liberty. Aldrich, however, invoked the statue to question immigration, not to celebrate it:
Wide open and unguarded stand our gatesAnd through them presses a wild motley throngMen from the Volga and the Tartar steppesFeatureless figures of the Hoang-HoMalayan, Scythian, Teuton, Kelt, and SlavFlying the Old World's poverty and scornThese bringing with them unknown gods and ritesThose, tiger passions, here to stretch their clawsIn street and alley what strange tongues are loudAccents of menace alien to our airVoices that once the Tower of Babel knew!O Liberty, white Goddess! Is it wellTo leave the gates unguarded?