« AnteriorContinuar »
on any individual who may reside here for two or three years—become a naturalized citizen-and then command our offices ? There are very many of these immigrants who know nothing of political privileges in their own country before they immigrate to this. The word is unknown to them, or if they hear it at all, they hear of it as something in which they have no participation. Is not this the fact ? Sir, we all know that it is ; we know that very many of these immigrants never enjoyed any political privileges themselves—that they have no knowledge of them—and, least of all, have they any knowledge of our people, our government, or our institutions. The acquirement of this knowledge is not the work of a day. They have no sympathy in common with us; they have no gratifications to render them fit recipients of these high political privileges. If any of us chose to pass over to England, Ireland or France, and to settle ourselves there, what do we gain by the change-I mean in a political point of view ? Nothing; we lose all. We are not suffered to acquire any political privileges such as we bestow upon them. There is no reciprocity--the advantage is all on one side; and whatever we may give to them, we ourselves can acquire nothing of the kind. Why should this be so? Or, if the adoption of such a system was necessary at one time, why should it still be adhered to, when every thing in the form of necessity has long since passed away? I can discover neither wisdom nor policy in so doing. The idea, Mr. President, is simply this
I would afford to all foreigners who shall come to this country after the date of my amendment, protection in their person, their property, and all the natural rights which they could enjoy under any civilized or well ordered government. I would permit them to acquire wealth ; to pursue objects of their own ambition; I would, in short, allow them to become in all respects equal citizens with us, except only in this one matter of political privileges. All their natural and their civil rights should be amply guarantied and protected; and they should become citizens in common with us in relation to all objects, except voting and holding office. And do we not hold out sufficient inducements for foreigners to make this country their home, even if we take from them these political privileges ? Surely, sir, we do—such, indeed, as no other nation upon earth can proffer.
But, Mr. President, it is not my design to enter into the discussion of this matter at the present time; and I owe an apology to the convention for having said so much in regard to it. I have a strong feeling on the subject; though I confess that I entertain doubts whether this convention has the power to act. I am well aware of the nature of the provision in the Constitution of the United States, and which has been referred to by the gentleman from the county of Philadelphia, (Mr. Martin.) I would do nothing in contravention of that provision ; I merely wish that the question should be referred to a committee, that they may inquire whether this convention has the power to act at all in the premises; and if it has the power, whether it would be expedient to act. I am, however, surrounded by many valued friends whose opinions and judgment I appreciate; and it appears that they are unanimous in thinking that I should withdraw it.. I, therefore, yield my own judgment to theirs, and, having explained my views, I withdraw the amendment.
Mr. Konigmacher, of Lancaster, thereupon renewed the motion previously made by the gentleman from Chester county, (Mr. Thomas)-but by him withdrawn. Mr. K. referred to the situation of the alms-house of the city and county of Philadelphia, of the inmates of which, he said, he had been informed, about seven-eights were foreigners. He also alluded
to certain recent and very gross violations of the quarantine law, which had taken place in certain parts of the State of New Jersey; where many foreign paupers had been clandestinely landed, and absolutely without the means of life. Mr. Brown, of Philadelphia, ridiculed the propo- , sition, and professed to be ignorant of any complaints such as had been stated; whereupon Mr. K. withdrew his amendment, and the subject was never again brought ander discussion. See Debates Pennsylvania Con. vention, vol. v., p. 441-51.
In November, 1844, Daniel Webster addressed a meeting of the Whigs of Boston, in Faneuil Hall, in which he thus took ground in favor of an alteration of the naturalization laws. See Niles' Register, vol. lxvii., p. 172:
Fellow-citizens, it would be at this moment a useless task for me to attempt to investigate the causes of this change. It may not be proper to investigate them at all. But why, we may ask, why should two free white States, New York and Pennsylvania, go against us, if they so have done ? There can be but one cause, and that so conspicuous and prominent that no one can shut his eyes to it, no one but must deplore its effect, I approach the subject at once, for it is useless to try to keep it back. And I say that in my mind there is a great necessity for a thorough reformation of the naturalization laws. (Cheers, loud and long continued.) The result of the recent elections, in several States, has impressed my mind with one deep and strong conviction; that is, that there is an imperative necessity for reforming the naturalization laws of the United States. The preservation of the government, and consequently the interest of all parties, in my opinion, clearly and strongly demand this. All are willing and desirous, of course, that America should continue to be the safe asylum for the oppressed of all nations. All are willing and desirous that the blessings of a free government should be open to the enjoyment of the worthy and industrious from all countries, who may come bither for the purpose of bettering their circumstances, by the successful employment of their own capital, enterprise, or labor. But it is not unreasonable that the elective franchise should not be exercised by a person of a foreign birth, until after such a length of resi- ' dence among us, as that he may be supposed to have become, in some good measure, acquainted with our Constitution and laws, our social institutions, and the general inte.' rest of the country; and to have become an American in feeling, principle, character, and sympathy, as well as by having established his domicile amongst us.
Those already naturalized have, of course, their rights secured: but I can conceive no reasonable objection to the different provision in regard to future cases. It is absolutely necessary, also, in my judgment, to provide new securities against the abominable frauds, the outrageous, flagrant perjuries which are notoriously perpetrated in all the great cities. There is not the slightest doubt, that in numerous cases different persons vote on the strength of the same set of naturalization papers; there is as little doubt that immense numbers of such papers are obtained by direct perjury; and that these enormous offences multiply and strengthen themselves beyond all power of punishment and restraint by existing provisions. I believe it to be an unquestionable fact that masters of vessels having brought over immigrants from Europe, have, within thirty days of their arrival, seen those persons carried up to the polls, and give their votes for the highest offices in the National and State Governments. Such voters of course exercise no intelligence and indeed no volition of their own. They can know nothing either of
the questions in issue, or of the candidates proposed. They are mere instruments used by unprincipled and wicked men, and made competent instruments only by the accumulation of crime upon crime. Now it seems to me impossible, that every honest man, and every good citizen, every true lover of liberty and the Constitution, every real friend of the country, would not desire to see an end put to these enormous abuses. I avow it, therefore, as my opinion, that it is the duty of us all to endeavor to bring about an efticient reformation of the naturalization laws of the United States. I am well aware, gentlemen, that these sentiments may be misrepresented, and probably will be, in order to excite prejudice in the mind of foreign residents. Should such misrepresentations be made or attempted, I trust to my friends to correct it and expose it. For the sentiments themselves I am ready to take to myself the responsibility, and I will only add that what I have now suggested, is just as important to the rights of foreigners, regularly and fairly naturalized among us, as to the rights of native born American citizens. (The whole assembly here united in giving twenty-six tremendous cheers.) The present condition of the country imperatively demands this change. The interest—the real welfare of all parties—the honor of the nation--all require that subordinate and different party questions should be made to yield to this great end. And no man who esteems the prosperity and existence of his country, as of more importance than a fleeting party triumph, will or can hesitate to give in his adherence to thesc principles. (Nine cheers.)
Gentlemen, there is not a solitary doubt, that if the elections have gone against us it has been through false and fraudulent votes. Pennsylvania, if, as they say, she has given 6,000 for our adversaries-has done so through the basest fraud. Is it not so? And look at New York. In the city there were thrown 60,000 votes, or one vote to every five inhabitants. You know that fairly and honestly, there can be no such thing on earth. (Cheers.) And the great remedy is for us to go directly to the source of true popular power, and to purify the elections. (Twenty-six cheers.) Fellow-citizens, I profess to be a lover of human liberty—especially to be devoted to the grand example of freedom set forth by the republic under which we live. But I profess my heart, my reputation, my pride of character, to be American.
In the New Hampshire Convention, held in 1850, to amend the Constitution of the State, Mr. Cass, a member of the Democratic party, offered the following resolution : "Resolved, That an article be inserted in the Constitution, as follows: No one who is bound by the oath of allegiance to any monarcbial or foreign power whatever, or who is bound by his religious faith to put down free toleration, shall at any time hold any office of trust or profit in the State.'” This proposition seems to have aimed not only to require aliers, when naturalized, to renounce and abjure all allegiance and subjection to all and every foreign power, ecclesiastical as well as civil, but also to exclude native born citizens from office, who acknowledge ecclesiastical allegiance to a foreign power. The motion failed, but Mr. Cass made a speech on the occasion, from which the following extracts are made :
Mr. Cass asked : “ Was it safe to elect a man Governor who was sworn to the Pope of Rome, and believed that all Protestants were heretics, and should be persecuted unto death ? He would not have it left open, so that persecutors could come in and take the helm of government. He thought it right to put up the bars. Was it ever known that
of the several States, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part thereof, when the same shall have been ratified by three-fourths at least of the Legislatures of the several States, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress : Provided, that no amendment which may be made prior to the year 1808, shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of article 1." Ibid., 532.
Subsequently, Mr. Sherman “expressed his fears that three-fourths of the States might be brought to do things fatal to particular States; as abolishing them altogether, or depriving them of their equality in the Senate. He thought it reasonable that the proviso in favor of the States importing slaves should be extended, so as to provide that no State should be affected in its internal police, or deprived of its equality in the Senate." Col. Mason "thought the plan of amending the Constitution exceptionable and dangerous. As the proposing of amendments is in both the modes to depend, in the first immediately, and in the second ultimately, on Congress, no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the government should become oppressive, as he verily believed would be the case.” Mr. Gouverneur Morris and Mr. Gerry moved to amend the article, so as to require a Convention on application of two-thirds of the States. Mr. Madison "did not see why Congress would not be as much bound to propose amendments applied for by two-thirds of the States, as to call a Convention on the like application. He saw no objection, however, against providing for a Convention for the purpose of amendments, except only that difficulties might arise as to the form, the quorum, &c., which in constitutional regulations ought to be as much as possible avoided." The motion of Gouverneur Morris and Mr. Gerry was agreed to, nem. con.
VARIOUS other features of the Federal Constitution, and of the State Constitutions then in existence, might be referred to, in further corroboration of the conservative views of our early statesmen, showing that they had no design to establish a pure democratic form of government, and showing also that, though they were the champions of religious as well as civil liberty, they all acknowledged their dependence on God, and did not deem one of an irreligious character a proper person to be entrusted with important public duties. On this subject, the following extract from an article in the American Review for July, 1849, is to the point:
The pure principles of evangelical Christianity; of which nearly all the primary States made striking recognition, and even insisted upon it, as a condition of eligibility to office, that their servants in political life should do the same. The people required that evidence, along with others, that the men they voted for were honest and would be faithful. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, seven States of the regularly constituted eleven, were imperative in this, and others went close to the mark. Sects and establishments were out of the question. Christianity in general, the religon of the country's morals, was the thing they wanted. The only doubt is, whether it was possible to make sure of the object in that way. Again, it was specially inserted in numbers of these early Constitutions, that persons selected to administer the government, must be wise, virtuous, discreet" men,"men of experience," the best that could be found. The same object was in view here as before. And two things are, I think, implied: one, that of all safeguards against abuse, the solid worth of those who were to have the power of committing it, was most to be relied on; the other, that in taking such pains to bring men of great personal fitness and competency into public life, it was intended that they should use the power of their stations according to their own judgment and discretion, undisturbed from any quarter. Persons of such eminent qualities could not be wanted for electoral tools. Thirdly, various oaths were also required to be taken by the officers of the government, especially an oath of fidelity and an oath of allegiance to the State. To which in some cases was added an oath of abjuration, not only as to Great Britain, but as to “every other foreign power whatsoever, political or ecclesiastical.”