During the first century and a third of our existence as a nation, it was the policy of the United States to encourage the settlement of our vast public domain as rapidly as possible, and we urgently invited immigration from every European country. In order to hasten the Americanization of the millions accepting our invitation we invented the theory, then perhaps new in the world, that every man has a natural right to throw off his old allegiance upon emigrating from his native land, and to accept citizenship in any country he may please to choose for his domicile. Every enterprising politician understood the advantage of bidding for the support of the new citizens by being most warm in welcome, most active in conferring the rights of citizenship upon them, and most eloquent in explaining how the European peasant, who never enjoyed the slightest participation in the government of his native country and was therefore utterly inexperienced and as ignorant as a child of the principles of civil government, was nevertheless abundantly qualified to exercise all the prerogatives of popular sovereignty. Now that we have a population of a hundred millions, so dense that migration to Canada on a large scale has been going on for years, so dense that Iowa in the last decennial census period lost so much population as to cut down her representation in Congress, the question of immigration and naturalization takes on a different aspect; especially so when we turn from an anxious study of a world at war to consider the resources upon which we can rely for defense, in the event that the conflagration should ultimately reach us.
It is becoming every day more and more clear that, in time of war, that state is relatively strongest which has the most homogenous population, and that state is weakest whose population is most heterogeneous. When it comes to marshaling the energies of a country for attack or defense, the spiritual forces to be mobilized are at least as important as the material, perhaps more so; and whatever influences are at work to disintegrate the unity of the state must be taken into account in making an inventory of its available strength. Few nations suffer so much from divisive influences as the United States. Its citizenry is a mixture of all the races of the earth; and there is increasing evidence that, as respects many of the elements which compose the mass, they are imperfectly assimilated, and as respects many others, they have not undergone the slightest change in being transported to our shores. Allegiance to one’s country is not a matter of words or declarations. It cannot be put on and off at will. If a Mongolian were permitted to be naturalized in the United States, he would be as much a Mongolian after naturalization as before; and he would continue to be a Mongolian in his sympathies, his instincts, his political and social conceptions, until he had lived here through generations enough to take the Mongolian character out of him and his descendants. His declaration on oath that he was attached to the principles of the Constitution, and that he renounced allegiance to any other prince, potentate, or sovereignty, and particularly to the Republic of China, would have only the slightest effect upon him when his adopted country came into conflict with the land of his nativity. The United States is unquestionably wise in refusing naturalization to Oriental races, whose allegiance in the nature of things could only be skin deep. Naturalization should be the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual transformation—not merely a vaccination-mark to be carried by the wearer as a proof of his immunity from foreign military service.