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Theodore Roosevelt on Immigrants

Netlore Archive: Viral quoted in which Teddy Roosevelt says that every immigrant must become "an American, and nothing but an American," forsaking their native language for English and all other flags for the American flag.

Description: Viral quote
Circulating since: October 2005
Status: Authentic / Erroneously dated

Email contributed by Alan H., Oct. 29, 2005:

Theodore Roosevelt on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN

Are we "SLOW LEARNERS" or what?

Theodore Roosevelt on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN

"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 man's becoming in very fact 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 room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...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

Analysis: Theodore Roosevelt indeed wrote these words, but not in 1907 while he was still President of the United States. The passages were culled from a letter he wrote to the president of the American Defense Society on January 3, 1919, three days before Roosevelt died.

"Americanization" was a favorite theme of Roosevelt's during his later years, when he railed repeatedly against "hyphenated Americans" and the prospect of a nation "brought to ruins" by a "tangle of squabbling nationalities."

He advocated the compulsory learning of English by every naturalized citizen. "Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or to leave the country," he said in a statement to the Kansas City Star in 1918. "English should be the only language taught or used in the public schools."

He also insisted, on more than one occasion, that America has no room for what he called "fifty-fifty allegiance." In a speech made in 1917 he said, "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."

Sources and further reading:

Theodore Roosevelt on Americanism
Theodore Roosevelt Cyclopedia (revised second edition), Hart and Ferleger, ed., Theodore Roosevelt Association: 1989

Theodore Roosevelt on Immigrants
Theodore Roosevelt Cyclopedia (revised second edition), Hart and Ferleger, ed., Theodore Roosevelt Association: 1989

Theodore Roosevelt
Passage quoted in biography by Edmund Lester Pearson

To 'Possess the National Consciousness of an American'
Passage quoted by Dr. John Fonte, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, 2000

Timeline of Theodore Roosevelt's Life
Theodore Roosevelt Association

Last updated: 08/16/15

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