Issues in America
Remember that when we look back at history we have to place ourselves in the proper context. What was happening socially, politically, and economically in America that might have an impact upon the decision to send the St. Louis back to Europe?
*There was disgust with Europe. It was the War to end all wars but the weak peace treaty set up a potential second war. The US refused to ratify the Versailles Treaty.
*The 1924 Immigration Act which refined who could come into America. There was a fear of others who might bring in new philosophies or be susceptible to them. There was a fear of communism and communist supporters particularly among middle class Americans. There were already strongly left-wing labor unions forming.
*In a prior administration, President Hoover (left) utilized the 1917 Immigration Act to limit who could come in. He intended to bar people with physical and mental disability, or any marks of disease (see Ellis Island). How would the refugees be worked through Florida and the current immigration system? (The St. Louis did not have any other scheduled stops).
*Jobs were an issue. The Great Depression loomed over America. There was a fear of people coming to America without skills who would burden the system, and many felt that the country was already too crowded. In an economically tight time there were concerns about immigrants (and refugees) taking jobs from unemployed Americans.
*Remember that the Great Depression lasted from 1929 until 1941. There were a subset of smaller economic cycles within that time period in which the economy saw a boost and consumer confidence returned, followed by times of economic setbacks. Some Americans admired the governments of Germany and Italy who appeared to find ways of ending economic depression in their countries.
*Anti-Semitism existed in the US. In 1930 3.6% of population in the US was Jewish. Many were those who immigrated from 1881 – 1930. Because they came from Eastern Europe they were associated with communism. Jews were feared as dangerous by Americans. As the tensions rose in Europe, American immigration did increase and became a larger percentage of the reduced American immigrants.
*America also had issues with its own minorities. Jim Crow laws were being executed against African Americans. There were ideas from American minorities that we had to get our own house in order first.
*Roosevelt was also at a weak point in his presidency. He had won a second term and it was post-mid elections. Congress was difficult to work with; he was also dealing with recent political scandals accusing him of attempting to use his power to alter the Supreme Court and ratify his New Deal.
ISSUES IN FLORIDA:
*Collapse of the real estate boom created bank failure in 1930.
*In St. Petersburg signs were posted "Do not come here seeking work. A city's first duty is to employ its own citizens. Official Notice, Home Patronage Committee, St. Petersburg, FLA."
*St. Petersburg continued to push for tourism with new advertisements showing bathing beauties (Dunn 116 - 117).