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moment, our legislation for naturalizing and preparing the immigrant, by a residence sufficient to acquaint him with our language, laws, and institutions, for the duties of a citizen, have gone hand in hand with our legislation for his welfare, equality, and independence.
The period of probation has varied with succeeding administrations ; but the necessity and propriety of requiring the foreigner, who seeks a home among us, and upon equal terms with ourselves, to reside with us some time before attaining this equality, has ever been maintained.
The honorable Senator from New York, (Mr. Seward,) assumed, in reference to this question, that the right of suffrage is an inherent right in man, wherever he may reside. That was his language, as I took it down at the time, and I believe I state it correctly. Why, what a monstrous doctrine is that! Destitute alike of authority or principle on which it may rest, its pernicious effect is, that it tends to denationalize your country. The moment you admit the right of citizens of another country, or of those who are not citizens of ours, to assume equal political rights with our own citizens, you take a long step in the progress to denationalize. Sir, I am neither a cosmopolite nor a socialist. I believe the advancement of civilization requires that men should be arrayed in different nations, under different forms of government. I believe that as firmly as I believe that the advancement of civilization, and the welfare and happiness of humanity require the division of nations into families.
Well, sir, do you not strike at national existence; do you not denationalize your country, when you enact, that because the man who has come here to-day declares that he means to become a citizen, he shall exercise the same political privileges and rights as if he were a citizen ? Why, sir, civil rights in the general are very much the same to the citizen and to the mere resident or foreigner. It is political rights mainly (which are the sole guardians of civil rights) that every well-organized State necessarily confines to its own citizens.
Sir, I consider this no question of policy ; I consider it a question of principle, lying at the very foundation of our government. I consider that you denationalize your country when you authorize a man who is not a citizen to vote. If the period for which your laws require that a foreigner shall reside here for the purpose of becoming naturalized be too long, alter it; but do not attempt to evade that law, do not attempt to take this first step towards cosmopolitism, by authorizing men who have no knowledge of the working of your institutions, who are not conversant, from previous education and habits, with the practical application of the principles of liberty to the organization of government, to mould the institutions of your future States. Receive them cheerfully and cordially ; instruct, Americanize them; and then, but not till then, confer upon them the highest right of citizenship—a participation in the government of the country.
I consider the principle of this amendment absolutely necessary for the permanence of the institutions of this country, and therefore I can record my vote for no bill which authorizes a right of voting to others than citizens of the United States.
Notwithstanding this expression of opinion in favor of the amendment, it now received but seven votes, viz.: Messrs. Bayard, Bell, Brodhead. Brown, Clayton, Pearce and Thompson ; while among the forty-one rot
ing in the negative were Messrs. Atchison, Benjamin, Butler, Clay, Dawson, Fitzpatrick, Hunter, Johnson, Jones of Tennessee, Mason, Morton, Pratt, Sebastian and Slidell, all of whom had before voted for it, and now only changed, as many of them stated, because they were convinced it would not pass the House and might endanger the final success of the whole bill. See Appendix Congressional Globe, vol. cxix., p. 755. Subsequent to the rejection of the amendment, Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, congratulated the Senate on its rejection. He said:
“The rejection of the amendment upon which we have just voted, is a great triumph of principle, not the less valuable because coerced from its opponents by a neccesity to which they have yielded so reluctantly. The bill at last concedes a full, ample, and complete recognition in these new Terriwries of the right of immigrants from the old world to an equal participation with native born in the organization and control of the territorial governments.”
The system of pre-emption right granted to settlers on public lands commenced in 1830. The first act passed by Congress on the subject was approved May 29, 1830; but it seems to have been doubted by the Attorney General of the United States, whether its provisions extended to aliens. He however arrived finally at the conclusion that they were entitled to its benefits. When the subject came up again in Congress, at the second session of the twenty-fifth Congress, it accordingly gave rise to a long debate, and William M. Merrick, of Maryland, recently appointed a judge in the District of Columbia, by President Pierce, offered the following, with the express view of prohibiting aliens to enjoy the pre-emption right:
“That the right of pre-emption granted by this act, or the act hereby revived, shall not accrue to any other persons than those who were, on the first day of December, 1837, citizens of the United States; and such citizenship shall in all cases be established by legal and competent testimony, to the satisfaction of the Register and Receiver of the land district in which the lands may lie, prior to any entry thereof, by virtue of the provisions of this act."
This proposition was debated by Messrs. Henry Clay, C. C. Clay, Buchanan, Benton, Norvell, Walker, Webster, and others. See Congressional Globe, Appendix, 1837–38, p. 128 to 139.
Robert J. Walker said:
It is not only excluding aliens that have been driven by oppression to seek a shelter among us, but would also prevent those who voluntarily sought homes in the country of their adoption. It savored too much of the old alien and sedition laws to meet his encouragement. He pointed to cases where the bounty of the government had been extended to foreigners.
John Norvell, of Michigan, among other things, said:
He considered the proposition an attack upon the new States. If the honorable senator from Maryland did not choose to allow these foreigners to come and settle on the soil of Maryland, he begged him at least to suffer the people of Michigan to receive them. They were among her best and most useful inhabitants. They would not take the trouble to come from Europe to purchase and pay for lands, unless they meant to become permanent citizens, the parents of future native Americans, identified with the soil, the advantages, the perils, and the glories of the country.
C. C. Clay, of Alabama, spoke at length against the proposition offered by the senator from Maryland, urging its rejection, and expressing the earnest hope that Congress would not depart from the liberal and humane policy which had heretofore characterized its legislation.
Thomas H. Benton said :
No law had yet excluded aliens from the acquisition of a pre-emption right, and he was entirely opposed to commencing a system of legislation which was to effect the property rights of the aliens who came to our country to make it their home. Political rights rested on a different basis. They involved the management of the government. But the acquisition of property was another affair. It involved no question but that of a subsistence, the support, and comfortable living of the alien and his family.
The senator from Kentucky (Mr. Clay) has thanked the senator from Maryland for bringing forward this amendment; and I will thank him also for it. He shall receive, what rarely occurs in this chamber, thanks from both sides of the House.
Wm. M. Merrick, of Maryland, the mover, said :
The amendment I have offered proposes so to modify the bill as to limit the grant of this bounty to our own citizens ; to exclude from the immense advantages of this law and this policy (for remember, it is avowed on the other side that this is to be the settled policy of the government, and other similar laws are to be passed continually hereafter) all aliens, all who are neither native nor naturalized citizens of the United States. Between the native and naturalized citizen I propose to make no distinction in this respect; but I desire, while you are about to deal out the property of the American citizens in bounty and gratuities, that you should confine your liberality in disposing of their means to your own people. What, sir, has been the chief argument urged in favor of the passage of this bill? Was it and is it not, that you thereby give to the industrious and honest and enterprizing poor man, who owns no land, and has not the the means of purchasing in the old settled portions of the country, an opportunity of acquiring a home, and comfort and independence for himself and family? And will you, can you, while you use this argument, exclude our own citizens from the advantages thus speciously held out, by letting loose, 'as competitors with them, the hordes of