Quotes from Historical Figures

Adams, John
Former President, founding father
(Referring to applicants for public office)
"Among the number of applications..., cannot we find an American capable and worthy of the trust? ...Why should we take the bread out of the mouths of our own children and give it to strangers?"
(Letter to Sec. State John Marshall, Aug. 14, 1800)

Bingham, John — 14th Amendment
Member of Congress
Bingham, John, Member of Congress (R-OH) 1855-63, 1863-73 and one of the drafters of 14th Amendment to the Constitution adopted in 1868

"Every human being born within the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen." 
(Speech delivered to the U.S. Congress, March 9, 1866)

Coolidge, Calvin
Former President
"American institutions rest solely on good citizenship. They were created by people who had a background of self-government. New arrivals should be limited to our capacity to absorb them into the ranks of good citizenship. America must be kept American. For this purpose, it is necessary to continue a policy of restricted immigration. It would lie well to make such immigration of a selective nature with some inspection at the source, and based either on a prior census or upon the record of naturalization. Either method would insure the admission of those with the largest capacity and best intention of becoming citizens. I am convinced that our present economic and social conditions warrant a limitation of those to be admitted. We should find additional safety in a law requiring the immediate registration of all aliens. Those who do not want to be partakers of the American spirit ought not to settle in America." 
(First Message to Congress, December 1923)

Douglass, Frederick
Abolitionist/Editor
"The old employments by which we have heretofore gained our livelihood, are gradually, and it may seem inevitably, passing into other hands. Every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived immigrant whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place."
(Speech Delivered before the A. A. S. Society, in New York, May, 1853)

Franklin, Benjamin
Founding father
"The importation of foreigners into a country that has as many inhabitants as the present employments and provisions for subsistence will bear, will be in the end no increase of people, unless the new comers have more industry and frugality than the natives, and then they will provide more subsistence, and increase in the country; but they will gradually eat the natives out. Nor is it necessary to bring in foreigners to fill up any occasional vacancy in a country for such vacancy will soon be filled by natural generation."
("Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind and the Peopling of Countries," 1751)

Gompers, Samuel
Founder and President of AFL
"America must not be overwhelmed. Every effort to enact immigration legislation must expect to meet a number of hostile forces and, in particular, two hostile forces of considerable strength. One of these is composed of corporation employers who desire to employ physical strength (broad backs) at the lowest possible wage and who prefer a rapidly revolving labor supply at low wages to a regular supply of American wage earners at fair wages. The other is composed of racial groups in the United States who oppose all restrictive legislation because they want the doors left open for an influx of their countrymen regardless of the menace to the people of their adopted country."
(Letter to Congress, March 19, 1924)

Hamilton, Alexander
Founding father
"The opinion advanced [by Jefferson,] is undoubtedly correct, that foreigners will generally be apt to bring with them attachments to the persons they have left behind; to the country of their nativity, and to its particular customs and manners. They will also entertain opinions on government congenial with those under which they have lived; or, if they should be led hither from a preference to ours, how extremely unlikely is it that they will bring with them that temperate love of liberty, [italics in original] so essential to real republicanism? There may, as to particular individuals, and at particular times, be occasional exceptions to these remarks, yet such is the general rule. The influx of foreigners must, therefore, tend to produce a heterogeneous compound; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities. In the composition of society, the harmony of the ingredients is all-important, and whatever tends to a discordant intermixture must have an injurious tendency."
("Examinations of Jefferson's Message to Congress of December 7th, 1801," Jan. 12, 1802)

Jefferson, Thomas
Former President, founding father
"Yet from such [absolute monarchies], we are to expect the greatest number of emigrants. They will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. Their principles with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their numbers, they will share with us in the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass."
("Notes on Virginia," 1782)

Lazarus, Emma
Poet
At the Statue of Liberty:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Madison, James
Former President, founding father
"Our kind reception of emigrants is very proper, but it is dictated more by benevolent than by interested consideration, tho some of them seem to be very far from regarding the obligations as lying on their side."
(Letter to Richard Peters, Feb. 22, 1819)

Roosevelt, Theodore "Teddy"
Former President, "Rough-rider"
"There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. ...The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities."
(Address to Knights of Columbus, Oct. 12, 1915)

"To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by rights to hand down to them."
(Message to Congress, Dec. 3, 1907)

Tello, Manuel — Employer sanctions
Foreign Minister of Mexico
"In a communication with the American Embassy on October 8, 1946, Mexican Foreign Minister [Manuel] Tello wrote, "Without presuming to suggest any action to the Government of the United States, yet if the problem [U.S. farm employers hiring Mexican illegal workers] were attacked at its economic source, imposing sanctions on American employers who employ illegal entrants, the result would promptly come about that Mexican workers would not in the future embark on an adventure made both difficult and unprofitable." (Skruggs, Otey M., The United States, Mexico and the Wetbacks, 1942-1947, Pacific historical Review, May 1961, p.151. Cited in "Temporary Worker Programs: Background and Issues," Judiciary Committee Report prepared by the Congressional Research Service, February 1980.)

Walker, Francis A.
President MIT 1881-1897
"For it is never to be forgotten that self-defense is the first law of nature and of nations. If that man who careth not for his own household is worse than an infidel, the nation which permits its institutions to be endangered by any cause which can fairly be removed is guilty not less in Christian than in natural law. Charity begins at home; and while the people of the United States have gladly offered an asylum to millions upon millions of the distressed and unfortunate of other lands and climes, they have no right to carry their hospitality one step beyond the line where American institutions, the American rate of wages, the American standard of living, are brought into serious peril."

"Restriction of Immigration" by Francis A. Walker, The Atlantic Monthly, June, 1896; Vol. 77, No. 464; pages 822-829.

Washington, Booker T.
Former slave, founder of Tuskegee Institute
"To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits, [I say] cast down your bucket where you are. Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes ... who shall stand by you with a devotion no foreigner can approach, ready to lay down their lives, if need be in defense of yours, interlacing our industrial, commercial, civil, and religious life with yours in a way that shall make the interests on both races one."
(1895 Atlanta Compromise speech)

Washington, George
First President, founding father
"My opinion, with respect to emigration, is that except of useful mechanics and some particular descriptions of men or professions, there is no need of encouragement, while the policy or advantage of its taking place in a body...may be much questioned; for, by so doing, they retain the Language, habits, and principles (good or bad) which they bring with them."
(Letter to John Adams, Nov. 15, 1794)