Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teddy Roosevelt on Immigration

There is an e-mail spreading around the Internet that most of you have probably seen. It purports to give a quote from Teddy Roosevelt about immigration.

The e-mail gets some of the wording wrong... and the date of the quote wrong... but it gets the essence of Roosevelt's position essentially correct.

Here is the correct quote, from a letter by then former president Roosevelt on January 3, 1919 to the president of the American Defense Society. It was read publicly at a meeting on January 5, 1919. Roosevelt died the next day, on January 6, 1919.

"We should insist that if the immigrant who comes here does in good faith become an American and assimilates himself to us he shall be treated on an exact equality with every one else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birth-place or origin.

But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American. If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn't doing his part as an American. There can be no divided allegiance here. . . We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding-house; and we have room for but one soul loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people.

This seems like a very sensible position to me. I think there are things in it that both the far left (one language) and the far right (perhaps too open on allowing immigration) may disagree with... but it seems like a good, high-level statement to me.