In 1876, the United States celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In honor of the event, the French
gave the nation a huge copper statue that depicts liberty as a woman holding high a giant torch. Emma Lazarus, a Jew whose family had lived in the nation for generations, later wrote a poem describing the statue.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus – 1883
In 1903, the year that Lazarus’s poem was carved into the base of the Statue of Liberty, 10 percent of the nation was foreign-born. As immigration increased so did the fears of many native-born Americans. Native-born workers often viewed the newcomers as competitors for jobs, housing, and public services. More prosperous Americans felt threatened by the way the immigrants crowded into the nation’s largest cities. Their legitimate concerns about the ability of local governments to deal with overcrowding turned into fears about the character of the newcomers. It was as if the new arrivals were the carriers of social problems rather than individual than experience these problems.
Like Emma Lazarus, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, came from a family that had lived in the United States for generations. He modeled his poem after the one she wrote, but the sentiment was very different. “The Unguarded Gates” was published in the Atlantic Monthly, the magazine he edited, in 1892.
WIDE open and unguarded stand our gates,
Named of the four winds, North, South, East, and West;