Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"America for Americans"

A  1916 Memorial Day speech in St. Louis, by Theodore Roosevelt:

Moral treason to the United States was charged by Mr. Roosevelt, in an address delivered before the City Club, against German-Americans who seek to make their governmental representatives act in the interests of Germany rather than this country.  He characterized the German-American Alliance as "an anti-American alliance," but added that he believed that its members "not only do not represent but scandalously misrepresent" the great majority of real Americans of German origin.

Using the motto "America for Americans" for all Americans, whether they were born here or abroad, the former President declared that "the salvation of our people lies in having a nationalized and unified America, ready for the tremendous tasks of both war and peace."

"I appeal to all our citizens," the colonel said, "no matter from what land their forefathers came, to keep this ever in mind, and to shun with scorn and contempt the sinister intriguers and mischiefmakers who would seek to divide them along lines of creed, or birthplace or of national origin."
Col. Roosevelt said he came to St. Louis to speak on Americanism — to speak of and condemn the use of the hyphen "whenever it represents an effort to form political parties along racial lines or to bring pressure to bear on parties and politicians, not for American purposes, but in the interest of some group of voters of a certain national origin or of the country from which they or their fathers came.
He was equally against the native American of the wrong kind and for the immigrant of the right kind, the former President declared, but the immigrant who did not become in good faith an American "is out of place" in the United States. He said each nation should be judged by its conduct and that the United States should oppose encroachment on its own rights, whether Germany, England, France or Russia be guilty of misconduct.
"The effort to keep our citizenship divided against itself," the colonel continued, "by the use of the hyphen and along the lines of national origin is certain to breed a spirit of bitterness and prejudice and dislike between great bodies of our citizens.  If some citizens band together as German-Americans or Irish-Americans, then after a while others are certain to band together as English-Americans or Scandinavian-Americans, and every such banding together, every attempt to make for political purposes a German-American alliance or a Scandinavian-American alliance, means down at the bottom an effort against the interest of straight-out American citizenship, an effort to bring into our nation the bitter Old World rivalries amid jealousies and hatreds."