By S. G. Pandit
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States have been spoken of as the title deeds of the Republic—the one interpreting the other. In them is unfolded a theory of government which in some respects is the complete antithesis of that which obtained in the history of the world before 1776. Instead of looking upon the population of a country as mere children to be ruled and guided by a paternalistic government from above, we find developed —the notion of men rising up in their dignity, able to take care of themselves, and turning government merely into an agency for the carrying out of some of the business of the community. Instead of the people being pawns of governments, the idea was put forward of governments being merely instrumentalities to subserve the happiness and well-being of the people. Instead of the Divine Right of Kings and the theory that "the king can do no wrong", we find proclaimed to the four corners of the earth the truth "that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights ...governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and institute a new government ...laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness."
Said Chief Justice Marshall: "The government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men." It was thus clearly recognized by the judiciary at that time —that justice must be administered, not according to the will of the individual who administers it for the time being, but according to law.
The essential meaning of Americanism is not geographic. The original thirteen states are now but a dot in the vast expanse of geographical area included under the name of the United States of America. With regard to the people, we also find they have changed in quantity by increase of numbers, and in quality by the accession of other blood. The physical type of the modern American is different from that of the early days, and that type will probably change further —in the course of years, so that one can hardly speak of an ethnological basis of Americanism. But, no matter what the geographical or ethnic changes, that which makes America sui generis, is its ideal which was born of a great passion ...the passion of those oppressed by foreign domination —for liberty. That ideal consisted in the promulgation of a great and unique principle in the history of political institutions. If that ideal, that spirit of Americanism, were to depart from our midst, America would be a mere ghost of her former self. That, then, is what makes Americanism ...and not any regalia that one may wear, or any accent that he may adopt, or blood that he may inherit, or land that he may own. Americanism is the heritage not of the emasculated, or the rich, or the self-satisfied; it is preeminently the hallmark of the brave and manly ...who would stand up in their might, in spite of all external obstacles and boldly proclaim the truth that they see ...and bend all their effort —to turning it into a reality.
We must keep the lamp of the American Ideal ever burning in our hearts. This must be felt as an individual responsibility by everyone among ourselves. We must not hope that someone else, or some other group of men, will attend to it, while we sluggishly barter our birthright and shirk our responsibility, and yet dare to masquerade as Americans. Americanism is a living principle, and is not something that can be manufactured in a factory, neatly wrapped up in tinfoil and placed in cans for the consumption of sluggards.
As the poet sang:
"Ill fares the land,
—To hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.
We must, therefore, see to it that there is no decay of men in America.
History of U. S. Naturalization Laws
Let us trace the progress of American principles, for an illustration, in the history of the naturalization laws of this country. The first naturalization law was passed in 1790, which said that any alien, being a free white person, may become a citizen of the United States. The term "white person" was used in the law then to exclude Negroes, who then were slaves, and the Red men—some of whom were slaves and the rest enemies. Thus the term "white person" was used in the statute as a catch-all phrase to include all persons not otherwise classified, and who were not expressly excluded from citizenship on account of their being unfree, and therefore unfit to be members of the body politic and to exercise the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. Under this interpretation of the statutory language from 1790 to 1860 any alien who fulfilled the requisite condition of residence and was not a Negro nor an American Indian, was, on application, admitted to citizenship. Among those admitted were Western as well as Eastern Asiatics.
At the close of the Civil War the naturalization law was amended to bring it into harmony with the principles established by that war; the amendment reading, "The naturalization laws are hereby extended to aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent."
The Federal Census classified Chinese as whites until 1860. According to the census of 1910 (Vol. 1l p. 1070) there were at that date 1368 naturalized Chinese and 483 who had received first papers. With the development of the agitation against Chinese labor immigration there went a demand that the Chinese should not be given citizenship privileges. Congress acceded to this view, and in the Act suspending Chinese labor immigration for ten years it provided (May 6, 1882):
"That hereafter no State Court or Court of the United States shall admit Chinese to citizenship, and all laws in conflict with this act are hereby repealed."
Thus Congress seems to have felt that only by a special Act for that purpose could Chinese be excluded from the meaning of the term "free white person" in the naturalization statute.
Numerous decisions of Circuit and District Courts of the United States could be cited to the effect that the term "white person" of the naturalization statute is synonymous with "a person of the Caucasian race." And there are authoritative and binding decisions of Federal Appellate tribunals to the same effect, which further held that Eastern Asiatics (like Chinese and Japanese) were of the Mongolian race, but that Western Asiatics (such as Hindus, Persians, Afghans, Arabs, Turks, Armenians, Syrians, etc.) were Caucasians and therefore eligible for American citizenship under Sec. 2169 Revised Statutes.
But in 1923, for the first time in American history, an American court refused citizenship to a Hindu, (Mr. B. S. Thind) on the ground that he was not a "white person" in the judgment of the "common man", even though historical and ethnological experts classify the Hindus as belonging to the "white" Caucasian race.
Circuit Judge Lowell of the District of Massachusetts, in his opinion in the case, In re Halladjian, 174 Federal Reporter 834, says:
"The United States further contends that there is an Asiatic or Yellow race, to which belong substantially all Asiatics . . . No authority to support this theory is cited by reference to history, to ethnological theory, either ancient or modern, or to physical appearance . . . The Court cannot agree with the United States that 'without being able to define a white person the average man in the street understands distinctly what it means, and would find no difficulty in assigning to the yellow race a Turk or Syrian with as much ease as he would bestow that designation on a Chinaman or a Korean.
"A Hindu differs no less in color from a Chinaman than from an Anglo-Saxon, and in other obvious physical characteristics he much more resembles the latter.
"To its classification by European and Asiatic races the United States makes an extraordinary exception, vis., the Hebrews. Their history is known for a long period. . . . Their origin is Asiatic. Yet the United States admits that they do not belong to the 'Asiatic or yellow' race and that they should be admitted to citizenship. If 'the aboriginal peoples of Asia' are excluded from naturalization as urged by the United States because many Englishmen treat them with contempt. . .a like argument applies to those who suffered most cruelly among all men on earth from European hatred and contempt. In the application of its classification ...the United States thus contradicts the principles upon which the classification depends."
Dr. E. H. Ross, Professor of Sociology in the University of Wisconsin, in his book "Social Trends" (chap. I) defends the thesis that a considerable degree of homogeneity in its population is essential to the permanence of a nation. But his argument makes it clear that the homogeneity that is necessary is that of social structure, of cultural levels and standards of living, not of complexion or stature or structure of hair.
To hint at lack of cultural assimilability in Hindus would be to make oneself ridiculous. Even in the eighteenth century it was recognized by Edmund Burke, who was well-informed about the population of India, that "This multitude of men does not consist of an abject and barbarous population. . . .(They are) a people for ages civilized and cultivated; cultivated by all the arts of polished life —while we were yet in the woods." And nearly two hundred years of British association and tutelage in India have familiarized the Hindus thoroughly with the prevailing ideals, standards and aspirations of the people of Western Europe. While the Hindus' racial and physiological assimilability with other whites is an established fact of anthropology and ethnology.
No "Will of Congress"
Says the Court in its opinion in the case of Ozawa v. United States (160 U.S. 178), at page 198: "We have no function in the matter —other than to ascertain the will of Congress and declare it."
It may be respectfully submitted that it is quite impossible to discover in the naturalization laws of the United States any "will of Congress" toward a physical or racial homogeneity among citizens. Furthermore, the Constitution does not leave Congress free to exercise such a will. The much-quoted Sec. 2169 R. S. includes among those eligible for naturalization "Aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent." Congress has also explicitly provided for full citizenship of Indians who abandon their tribal life. The Constitution provides that all persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States. Under this provision descendants of Chinese and Japanese residents of the United States are recognized as citizens. Here plainly is no "will of Congress" for physical homogeneity.
It is true that by the terms of the Act of February 5, 1917, natives of India are no longer admitted to the United States as immigrant laborers; but that Act was passed because of the possibility of economic absorption of Hindu labor. It has no bearing on the question of the eligibility to citizenship of Hindus who were in the United States before the passage of that Act or of those who belong to professional, artistic, scholarly or student classes who are expressly exempted from the exclusion provisions of the Immigration Act.
Since the adverse decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Thind (261 U. S. 204), the government has started proceedings for the cancellation of the citizenship of Hindus theretofore naturalized, on the ground that the certificates of citizenship were "Illegally procured" by them. Several such certificates have already been cancelled, even though the government neither alleged nor proved any initial wrongful effort ("procure") on the part of the Hindu citizens in obtaining citizenship.
The tendency among some people in this country in recent years has been to make a fetish of Americanism, and they go so far as to turn their backs on the principles ennuciated in the Declaration of Independence —when they do not fit in with their preconceived notions. They are extant —certain mutual admiration societies who make it their business to look into the mirror and worship their own image —and misname it Americanism. As a result we have a mushroom growth of various kinds: The Nordic mania, the Hundred Percent mania, the Klu Klux mania, and other aberrations of that kind. As a corrective to these may be administered the following words of Mr. John Langdon Davies:
America's Glory is her Diverse Population
"Isolated by the Atlantic, with all the new stimuli of a new environment, America is already very different from the Old World, and in the future she will be still more different. For her race problem is how to use all of her dissimilar cultures to advantage, how to get the best out of the Italian, the Irishman, the Englishman, the Jew, the Negro, how to help each to readjust himself so as to forge a new weapon against time such as Europe has never yielded—and not to adopt a policy of despair and say, with tears of hysteria, "I am a mass of inferior races. It is too late to do more than to exclude others from coming."
I would, therefore, suggest that we work for a resurrection of that proud spirit of our fathers which put the dignity of man above the considerations of wealth and class, and held that to be an American was greater than to be a King. Then, perhaps, we may some day make ourselves worthy to see the dawn of that day when there shall be neither Kings nor Americans,—only Men; over the whole earth, MEN.
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