Judge Hooper on the Melting Pot
by Ellis Parker Butler
Our eminent jurist, Justice of the Peace Lem Hooper, pushed his spectacles up onto his forehead and looked down upon Court Officer Durfey and Janitor Spankovitz, for they had come to him to be enlightened.
"Well, gentlemen," he asked, "what is it?" "I can't make Jacob here believe it is not contrary to the Constitution of the United States, the way they're only letting so few foreigners come in these days," explained Durfey.
"Sure!" exclaimed Spankovitz. "Ain't it in the Constitution or something that all men are born free to come in, and have an equal right to get rich and all, judge? And listen, judge! How could every wop and all make a first-class pursuit of happiness, like is guaranteed by the Monroe Doctrine or something, if he can't come in and go out like he has a mind to? When you got a melting-pot --"
"Now, hold on, Jake; hold on!" said Judge Hooper. "Once in a while there seems to be just a little misapprehension in regard to that melting-pot business. Now and then it strikes me that some people have the idea that what the Pilgrim Fathers came here for was to set up in the alloy business. A man almost gets the notion, Jake, that the first thing George Washington did after he was elected President was to write home to Martha to send on the old soup Kettle so that the Secretary of Spelter and Amalgam could start right in and work twenty-four hours a day at the Department of Melting-down and Pouring-out.
"Maybe so, Jake, but up to now I don't recall seeing the iron soup kettle graven on the great seal of the nation or blazoned on the coat of arms. We are a great nation, Jake -- one in thought, one in mind, and only about three hundred and sixty-seven in language, not counting the minor dialects -- but it may be just possible that some of the old-timers want to take a few days off before they have to be stewed down over a brisk fire again.
"You see, Jake, this melting-pot is not a sausage machine into which you poke a Cheggo-Jugian, or some other far-born immigrant, and pull him out at the nozzle a full-trained American. When you come right down to it, Jake, this country is not the kind of foundry that has in stock three hundred gross of moulds, each and every one built to be poured full of liquid humanity and to turn out -- when the liquid cools -- standardized Americans that need only a little buffing on the edges to be put to work as Congressmen. The 'melting-pot,' Jake, is not a big kettle into which raw foreign humans are chuted from the steerage to be heated to the melting point and then poured into American molds.
"No, Jake. That's not a melting pot, that idea you have in your mind; that's a foundry. A melting-pot is a heated utensil into which everything in sight is dumped and melted and stirred together and poured out as something different from any of its constituent parts.
"And, maybe, Jake, some of us really have been boiled down so often we think we are entitled to breathe a few weeks before we are melted down again. You don't want to forget, Jake, that every time a fresh shipload of emigrants comes down the gangplank you and I and all of us have to climb into that melting-pot and be boiled down into a newly amalgamated soup and poured out as re-boiled and re-alloyed Americans. "Since they landed here in 1620, Jake, the Pilgrim Fathers have boiled down and poured anew -- excepting the first few months only -- just about fifty-two times a year for three hundred years. Every time a new cargo of Puritans arrived it was 'Hop into the pot, pop; some new folks have come to town!' And the whole lot of us have been meekly hopping into the pot ever since, Jake, whenever the bell rang and a fresh lot of strangers arrived in Columbia's Happy Land, and not caring a hang what the new mixture would be.
"But standing around the edge of the melting-pot, waiting to jump in and be melted down with the fresh shipment every Monday morning, gets to be monotonous, Jake, after you have been melted down and re-molded fifteen thousand weeks in succession. Some fool American is just apt to say about then, 'For heaven's sake! I was melted down last week, and the week before, and every week before that for two hundred and eighty years, and I was alloyed into a new kind of American last week, and changed from the kind I was alloyed into the week before that. Say! be decent and give me a rest, won't you, please, before you chuck me into that hot pot again with another lot of raw material?'
"We've been patient melting-stock, Jake, for quite some thousands of weeks, and we have climbed into the pot whenever the word was said, but lately some folks have had a notion that maybe we ought to be allowed to cool off after one melting before we are dumped in for the next one -- anyway allowed to harden enough so we won't be as limp as a hot tallow candle."
"And that ought to take near a year, Judge," said Durfey.
"Fully that, Durfey," said Judge Hooper, with a smile, "fully that!"