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The Finn as a Farmer and as a Citizen in Amerika

Sometime ago the "Mining Gazette", published daily in Houghton, Michigan, contained an article concerning the Finns, a great number of whom live in that vicinity, asking the public in general to credit the Finn farmer with being "a citizenship and industrial factor that is doing more for the permanency of land values in this country than we ever suspected."

Regarding this, Mr. Leo M. Geismar, an American agriculturist, writes to the editor of the paper in part as follows:

These are the very sentiments I expressed 20 years ago when I first became acquainted with Finn farmers. lived among and with them, I learned to value their sterling qualities and saw them - man, woman and child - working for dear life in wrestling a living from a piece of stump land which up to that time had been looked upon as a liability rather than an asset. Public opinion at that time was against the Finn farmer. He was accused of living on apparently little or nothing, was said to be clannish and to associate and deal only with those of his own nationality. The more charitable ones were willing to credit the Finn farmer with being the best kind of wood scavenger who was willing to work harder than others and they lauded him as the sturdy pioneer who was going to prepare a farm which some "white man" would take up later on.

I knew better, and I contended then, that the Finn's reputed clannishness was a matter of compulsion, for I knew how extremely difficult it is for a foreigner to learn the English language when he comes here at a mature age and how anxious he is to find and live among people with whom he can converse in his own language. I knew that hard work would find its reward and that if the Finn's frugality would be contagious, it would become one of our most valuable national assets. Quite naturally, therefore, the Finn stayed when the stumps had disappeared for his hard work lead to comfort and his frugality to affluence. Rather than prepare a farm for someone else to take up, he has reached the stage where he can afford to pay a high price for the pioneer work of others and he is willing to pay it in order to give to his boys an easier start in life than he had, himself. Of the 16 farms mentioned in Saturday's Gazette as having been sold this year for from $6,000 to nearly $17,000 each, not one had belonged to a Finn, but every one was bought by a Finn.

Misrepresented as the Finn has been as a pioneer farmer he has been equally misrepresented as a citizen just because a few red socialists who have always managed to live by the sweat of someone else's brow happened to be Finns. In the first place, none of those notorious agitators were Finn farmers and, in the second place it was as unjust to accuse the Finns of disloyalty as it would have been to classify the Irish or Scotch as red socialists because there were Moyers and Haywoods and McNamaras. It is true that the Finn farmers went to listen to Finn agitators who insisted at first that they were purely socialists and proudly so, because socialism meant the greatest good to the greatest number. The Finn farmers went because it was easy for them to understand the language of the Finn agitator.

But after a few of the Finn farmers had allowed themselves to be "touched," they and the rest of them soon discovered the true motive of the agitator and anti-socialist organizations sprung up as mushrooms. The movement spread like wildfire and the Lincoln Republican Loyalty league became a nation-wide Finnish organization almost over night. I was invited to address one of their meetings and evidently through oversight, I subsequently received a blank membership card which I filled out and returned. The card came back and with it the characteristic reply: "Sorry we cannot admit you as a member, but this is a fight of Finns, for the Finns and only by Finns. It has been insinuated that we are disloyal and we are going to disprove it." And they surely did.

No, the Finn farmer needs no defender and no one needs to apologize for his presence, for his is a race which has successfully withstood centuries of oppression and autocratic rule, clinging to the lofty principles of morality, human rights and universal education and taking pride in its national songs and poetry. His is a race which has survived through hard work which makes for physical strength, plodding along slowly, but patiently and persistently. He has been one of the earliest and most consistent advocates of temperance and universal suffrage.

Moreover, if another proof of rapid Americanization of the Finn is wanted, just stop a moment and pass a mental review of the second generation of Finns who are among us, for you will surely find them scattered everywhere, not as mere cogs, but as efficient leaders in our commercial, industrial and professional activities. These are so intensely American that you may not even suspect their Finnish origin, and yet, should you investigate still further, you will find that nearly all of them owe their efficiency and sturdy manhood, their patriotism and their social qualities to some of the Finn farmers who are shaping destinies of this country and state and who are placing its citizenship upon a level which the nation may well feel proud of.

Published in Finland Review, 2(1920):2, p. 54-55.

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