Immigration - Being American
"... It is our boast that we admit the immigrant to full fellowship and
equality with the native-born. In return we demand that he shall share our
undivided allegiance to the one flag which floats over all of us."
From a speech made in 1917.
"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in
good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be
treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to
discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or
origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every
facet an American, and nothing but an American . . . There can
be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but
something else also, isn't an American at all. We have no room for but one
flag, the American Flag . . . We have room for but one language here,
and that is the English language . . . and we have room for but one sole
loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
From a letter
Roosevelt wrote to the American Defense Society
on January 3rd, 1919, three days before his death.
Immigration and Americanization - 1915
There is no room in this country for
hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer
to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known
were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American
is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts "native"
before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or
French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the
soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States. We must
unsparingly condemn any man who holds any other allegiance. But if he is
heartily and singly loyal to this Republic, then no matter where he was
born, he is just as good an American as any one else.
The one absolutely certain way of bringing
this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a
nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling
nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans,
English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or
Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart
feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the
other citizens of the American Republic. The men who do not become Americans
and nothing else are hyphenated Americans; and there ought to be no room for
them in this country. The man who calls himself an American citizen and who
yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land,
plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic. He has
no place here; and the sooner he returns to the land to which he feels his
real heart-allegiance, the better it will be for every good American. There
is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only
man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.
For an American citizen to vote as a
German-American, an Irish-American, or an English-American, is to be a
traitor to American institutions; and those hyphenated Americans who
terrorize American politicians by threats of the foreign vote are engaged in
treason to the American Republic.
The foreign-born population of this country
must be an Americanized population - no other kind can fight the battles of
America either in war or peace. It must talk the language of its native-born
fellow-citizens, it must possess American citizenship and American ideals.
It must stand firm by its oath of allegiance in word and deed and must show
that in very fact it has renounced allegiance to every prince, potentate, or
foreign government. It must be maintained on an American standard of living
so as to prevent labor disturbances in important plants and at critical
times. None of these objects can be secured as long as we have immigrant
colonies, ghettos, and immigrant sections, and above all they cannot be
assured so long as we consider the immigrant only as an industrial asset.
The immigrant must not be allowed to drift or to be put at the mercy of the
exploiter. Our object is to not to imitate one of the older racial types,
but to maintain a new American type and then to secure loyalty to this type.
We cannot secure such loyalty unless we make this a country where men shall
feel that they have justice and also where they shall feel that they are
required to perform the duties imposed upon them. The policy of "Let alone"
which we have hitherto pursued is thoroughly vicious from two stand-points.
By this policy we have permitted the immigrants, and too often the
native-born laborers as well, to suffer injustice. Moreover, by this policy
we have failed to impress upon the immigrant and upon the native-born as
well that they are expected to do justice as well as to receive justice,
that they are expected to be heartily and actively and single-mindedly loyal
to the flag no less than to benefit by living under it.
We cannot afford to continue to use hundreds
of thousands of immigrants merely as industrial assets while they remain
social outcasts and menaces any more than fifty years ago we could afford to
keep the black man merely as an industrial asset and not as a human being.
We cannot afford to build a big industrial plant and herd men and women
about it without care for their welfare. We cannot afford to permit squalid
overcrowding or the kind of living system which makes impossible the
decencies and necessities of life. We cannot afford the low wage rates and
the merely seasonal industries which mean the sacrifice of both individual
and family life and morals to the industrial machinery. We cannot afford to
leave American mines, munitions plants, and general resources in the hands
of alien workmen, alien to America and even likely to be made hostile to
America by machinations such as have recently been provided in the case of
the two foreign embassies in Washington. We cannot afford to run the risk of
having in time of war men working on our railways or working in our munition
plants who would in the name of duty to their own foreign countries bring
destruction to us. Recent events have shown us that incitements to sabotage
and strikes are in the view of at least two of the great foreign powers of
Europe within their definition of neutral practices. What would be done to
us in the name of war if these things are done to us in the name of
All of us, no matter from what land our
parents came, no matter in what way we may severally worship our Creator,
must stand shoulder to shoulder in a united America for the elimination of
race and religious prejudice. We must stand for a reign of equal justice to
both big and small. We must insist on the maintenance of the American
standard of living. We must stand for an adequate national control which
shall secure a better training of our young men in time of peace, both for
the work of peace and for the work of war. We must direct every national
resource, material and spiritual, to the task not of shirking difficulties,
but of training our people to overcome difficulties. Our aim must be, not to
make life easy and soft, not to soften soul and body, but to fit us in
virile fashion to do a great work for all mankind. This great work can only
be done by a mighty democracy, with these qualities of soul, guided by those
qualities of mind, which will both make it refuse to do injustice to any
other nation, and also enable it to hold its own against aggression by any
other nation. In our relations with the outside world, we must abhor
wrongdoing, and disdain to commit it, and we must no less disdain the
baseness of spirit which lamely submits to wrongdoing. Finally and most
important of all, we must strive for the establishment within our own
borders of that stern and lofty standard of personal and public neutrality
which shall guarantee to each man his rights, and which shall insist in
return upon the full performance by each man of his duties both to his
neighbor and to the great nation whose flag must symbolize in the future as
it has symbolized in the past the highest hopes of all mankind.
- Theodore Roosevelt,
From a speech October 12, 1915
Addressing the Knights of Columbus, Carnegie Hall, NYC, NY