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What Theodore Roosevelt Said About Immigrants

PHOTO: Getty

THOUGHTCO. — Circulating online, a viral quote 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

Example:
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 (he served as president from 1901 to 1909).

“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.” […]

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