Posted by: Scott | Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Teddy Roosevelt on Immigration

Theodore Roosevelt’s ideas on immigrants and being an AMERICAN in 1907 1919. Emphases added.

“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 (note from Scott: take for instance African-American, Asian-American…) isn’t an American at all. We have 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.”

Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 1919

Edited 5-18-06 8 AM (MST) for time of quote correction. See clarification in my comment below)

5/19/07: I have added a “Digg This” widget to the post seeing as this is my most often sought after post. People are digging it from the search engines (nearly 1,200 views to date), so if you thought this was a good post, go ahead and Digg it!



  1. where was the speech and what is its title? I cannot find it. I am beginning to suspect that is fabricated. Does it really exist?

    I do note that such anti-migrants propaganda existed during the 1910s, focusing on Irish and German migrants and later on Asians and Eastern Europeans.

    People back then feared that those migrants would “ruin” their culture and self identity, as a British decendent. But, they ignored their important role in shaping the fledging nation.

    Tindal/ Shi. America 5th. Ed. Vol 2. pg 721.

    Dr. Brady from Norte Dame possed the question to us: “so, what does it mean to be an American?” I agree with him that there is no clear cut definition, because this continent is a melting pot, continually evolving.

  2. Thanks for your concern. I too should have been more concerned before posting and checked it out. Semi-careless passing-on on my part. Normally, I do try to be more careful about that kind of thing.

    I Googled the entire phrase along with Teddy Roosevelt and 1907 and was pointed out to a number of pages. The quote is verified as authentic, though it is often attributed to him in forwarded e-mails in the wrong year. I have edited the post to correct this

    I first checked a Teddy Roosevelt Quote page maintained by a Republican group in Baxter County, Arkansas. The quote was there with no history though.

    My next visit was to where I was able to verify the authenticity of the quote. You have to do some reading (almost the entire article), but they do give some insight on the quote:

    The comments quoted at this head of the page are more in the same vein; excerpts not from (as claimed in the accompanying text) a statement made by Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 (while he was still President), but from a letter written shortly before his death in January 1919, just a few months after the armistice that ended the fighting in World War I.

    I agree that America is a melting pot. And that is part of what makes it work is being a melting pot, not a mosaic.

    The case being made in the quote is not anti-immigration (nor am I), but rather opposition to not assimilating into America when immigration takes place (i.e. refusal to learn/speak English, etc…) We still have these same problems today (going so far as to loosely translate the National Anthem into Spanish). If I was to immigrate to another country (say Mexico), I would be expected to learn Spanish and become part of that culture. I would also be expected to go there through a check-point with my paperwork verifying who I am, lest I end up in their prison system.

  3. Wow, I missed this post. Glad I found it. I’ve done quite a bit of studying on the language problem. There is really nothing to fear about English dying any time soon. (But tell the Romans that Latin would be a dead language) Most trade between countries is done in English, as well as the global internet, which is mostly in English. Europeans speak their national language and English, along with many Asian countries making it mandatory to study English in their schools.

    While immigrants want to keep their own language/culture, it usually lasts a generation. And for those who are afraid English will take over the world, many have reason to believe it will not- if you believe the Bible. (Genesis 11)

    Oh, and by the way, the classes I’ve taken on immigration all say that the melting pot idea is dead. America is more like a tossed salad. Very debatable, though.

  4. Peter says there’s “nothing to fear about English dying anytime soon.” No, it won’t die; however, there IS a danger in English not being THE language of America. I have a cousin who retired from teaching when the Florida school she worked in forced her to teach 1/2 of the day in English and the other 1/2 of the day in Spanish. Rather than forcing the Spanish speaking immigrants to learn English, they made the teacher learn and teach in Spanish. Now, in the midwest, I own a business. There is a large hispanic community in my town. These people are living 20 and more to a house, cannot speak English, and refuse to learn. They try to force my my employees to learn Spanish in order to serve them. They try to make my employees learn to give the price in pecos reather than dollars. “No dollars! Many pecos?” Translated: Don’t tell me what I owe in dollars. How many pecos is it?” Roosevelt gave a great many speeches about making sure that immigrants had good living conditions…not living in cramped, poor living conditions. He felt that overly crowded housing caused both illness (his concern of the time was TB) and laziness (why should everyone work if 2 or 3 in the house can pay the rent), bringing down the American standard of living. He insisted on immigrants learning English, leaving behind ANY and ALL allegiances to the countries they came from, becoming American and nothing else. I have to agree.

  5. I have nothing against immigration. I do however have something against immigrants coming here and expecting me to speak their language. I’m Scott/English/Irish/African/Cherokee whose family has been here since the Revolutionary war and earlier.

    My Cherokee and African ancestors were forced to learn English without benefit of proper education. Even my Scottish and Irish ancestors adapted to English. We need to all of us speak one language and that language has been from the very beginning, English. And the allegiance needs to be by every citizen, an allegiance to this country. Either one wants to be an American or not. If not, leave, if one wants to be an American, stay but drop the hyphen. I think that so called “African-Americans” need to come back down to earth and just be Americans Black people are special and beautiful enough without the hyphen; at least that’s what was thought back in the 70’s. I personally still think that holds true. I’m not a hyphen. I’M AN AMERICAN!!!!

  6. […] Not quite the same view that Teddy Roosevelt had. In fact, I’m not at all thrilled to say that one of the names that appears on the 1986 […]

  7. […] this in an email forward and wanted to check its accuracy and it appears that it is accurate as The Political Cowboy has already verified it on snopes. If only our current leader was as strong as […]

  8. Thanks for the ping!

  9. Has anyone noticed that the legal immigrants are the ones who tend to speak English and shun the non-English speaking TV and radio programs? I worked with a women who’s father immigrated his family from Mexico legally (it took them about 3 years she said). She was born in Mexico and of course speaks the language but her English is flawless (she learned the moment she got here) and she has never watched Univision or listened to the countless Spanish-speaking radio stations here. I asked her why and she said it was because her father worked hard to make her and her sisters Americans. This really got me thinking. My grandparents came from Holland. My mother already knew how to speak English as a child. And while I know some Dutch, I don’t consider it “my” language nor do I expect anyone in the US to accomidate me by speaking it to me in retail stores or restaurants. Why should I? Why should anyone demand that a language other than English be spoken in the US? We have allowed this society to be highjacked by illegal immigration in the politically correct misunderstanding that we are helping these people out. We’re not. I consider myself a liberal, but I can’t accept criminal behavior especially if we are allowing illegal aliens more rights and more perks than the natural citizens of this country. I’m mad and getting madder.

  10. As an ESL teacher and a confirmed liberal, I’m sorry to say that many immigrants have a desire to learn only enough English to survive and get their papers in order. After living here for 25 years, only now are older women signing up for Engliah classes so that they can communicate with their grandchildren. I agree that those who have come here legally seem to appreciate our American values more and I am sometimes shocked at the negative attitude shown by many recent (and often “illegal” immigrants. Their sense of entitlement to rights that our ancertors have worked so hard for concerns me. They seem to want to “take back their land” from us and look forward to a Spanish-speaking USA in the future. I have been told that their many children will ensure this in the future. It’s sometimes difficult to remain “on their side” when one is privy to such inside information.

  11. It’s ok to remember your ancestral background, BUT this is America–love it or leave it. Too many immigrants possess anti-American attitudes and refuse to assimilate. Learn the language and show respect for the country that you or your family chose to come to == OR simply go back where you came from (before you retire),

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