Whatever differences of opinion - and honest differences of opinion - may have existed and may still exist in America in regard to the great world conflict, there is a wonderful unanimity of thought that has crystallised itself into the concrete form - something must be done in order that it can never occur again. The higher intelligence of the nation must assert itself. It must feel and think and act in terms of internationalism. Not that the feeling of nationalism in any country shall, or even can be eradicated or even abated. It must be made, however, to coordinate itself with the now rapidly growing sense of world-consciousness, that the growing intelligence of mankind, aided by some tremendously concrete forms of recent experience, is now recognising as a great reality.
That there have been strong sympathies for both the Allied Nations and for the Central Powers in their titanic conflict, goes without saying. How could it be otherwise, when we realise the diverse and complex types of our citizenship ?
One of the most distinctive, and in some ways one of the most significant, features of the American nation is that it is today composed of representatives, and in some cases, of enormous bodies of representatives, numbering into the millions, of practically every nation in the world.
There are single cities where, in one case twenty-six, in another case twenty-nine, and in other cases a still larger number of what are today designated as hyphenated citizens are represented. The orderly removal of the hyphen, and the amalgamation of these splendid representatives of practically all nations into genuine American citizens, infused with American ideals and pushed on by true American ambitions, is one of the great problems that the war has brought in a most striking manner to our attention.
Not that these representatives of many nations shall in any way lose their sense of sympathy for the nations of their birth, in times of either peace or of distress, although they have found it either advisable or greatly to their own personal advantage and welfare to leave the lands of their birth and to establish their homes here.
The fact that in the vast majority of cases they find themselves better off here, and choose to remain and assume the responsibilities of citizenship in the Western Republic, involves a responsibility that some, if not indeed many, heretofore have apparently too lightly considered. There must be a more supreme sense of allegiance, and a continually growing sense of responsibility to the nation, that, guided by their own independent judgment and animated by their own free wills, they have chosen as their home.
There is a difference between sympathy and allegiance; and unless a man has found conditions intolerable in the land of his birth, and this is the reason for his seeking a home in another land more to his liking and to his advantage, we cannot expect him to be devoid of sympathy for the land of his birth, especially in times of stress or of great need. We can expect him, however, and we have a right to demand his absolute allegiance to the land of his adoption. And if he cannot give this, then we should see to it that he return to his former home. If he is capable of clear thinking and right feeling, he also must realise the fundamental truth of this fact.
The time has now arrived when the great mass of American people, including vast numbers of foreign birth, or children of those of foreign birth, realise the grave dangers to American institutions, and to the very nation itself, in any hyphenated citizenship. There will, moreover, be an insistent demand that those who of their own choice choose to live here, realise the duty of their supreme allegiance to one nation - and if they cannot give this, that they then be compelled to get out.
There are public schools in America where as many as nineteen languages are spoken in a single room. Our public schools, so eagerly sought by the children of parents of foreign birth, in their intense eagerness for an education that is offered freely and without cost to all, can and must be made greater instruments in converting what must in time become a great menace to our institutions, and even to the very life of the nation itself, into a real and genuine American citizenship. Our best educators, in addition to our clearest thinking citizens, are realising as never before, that our public-school system chiefly, among our educational institutions, must be made a great melting-pot through which this process of amalgamation must be carried on.
We are also realising clearly now that, as a nation, we have been entirely too lax in connection with our immigration privileges, regulations, and restrictions. We have been admitting foreigners to our shores in such enormous quantities each year that we have not been able at all adequately to assimilate them, nor have we used at all a sufficiently wise discrimination in the admission of desirables or undesirables.
We have received, or we have allowed to be dumped upon our shores, great numbers of the latter whom we should know would inevitably become dependents, as well as great numbers of criminals. The result has been that they have been costing certain localities millions of dollars every year. But entirely aside from the latter, the last two or three years have brought home to us as never before the fact that those who come to our shores must come with the avowed and the settled purpose of becoming real American citizens, giving full and absolute allegiance to the institutions, the laws, the government of the land of their adoption.
If any other government is not able so to manage as to make it more desirable for its subjects to remain in the land of their birth, rather than to seek homes in the land with institutions more to their liking, or with advantages more conducive to their welfare, that government then should not expect to retain, even in the slightest degree, the allegiance of such former subjects. A hyphenated citizenship may become as dangerous to a republic as a cancer is in the human body. A country with over a hundred hyphens cannot fulfil its highest destiny.
The war has brought home to us as never before also this tremendous fact. While of late years there has been in America a tremendous growth and quickening of thought along the lines of internationalism, now rapidly crystallising itself into the form of a World Federation for the enforcement of peace and a World Court for the arbitrament of all national differences that cannot be readily settled by the nations involved, the war has brought us as a people face to face with another great fact. It is this: During the last several years things have occurred, great forces have broken forth that we and all peace-loving people throughout the world thought well-nigh impossible. Treaties have been broken, international law has been strained, snapped, and scrapped. The sovereign rights of neutral nations have been violated.