Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis
Josiah Strong’s influential 1885 polemic, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, represented both America’s sense of manifest destiny and nativist fears as the new immigration began to bring hundreds of thousands of eastern and southern Europeans into the country (see nativism). It became a national best-seller and made Strong a celebrity.
A Congregationalist minister and missionary in the American West, Strong was a staunch expansionist, who wholeheartedly embraced the ideals of Anglo-Saxon civilization and its benefits for the uncivilized world. He believed that the English-speaking peoples were favored by God and that in “the final competition of races,” they would eventually “move down upon Mexico, down upon Central and South America, out upon the islands of the sea, over upon Africa and beyond.” This would be accomplished by taking trade and the Christian gospel to the world. Strong argued that Catholics could not be good U.S. citizens, as they owed their first allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. There is, he wrote, “an irreconcilable difference between papal principles and the fundamental principles of our free institutions.” Strong was also an early proponent of the Social Gospel movement, seeking to serve God by improving the condition of the poor. He helped found the League for Social Service and the Federal Council of Churches. Our Country was provided as an outline for a progressive and healthy America, an important part of which was immigration restriction.