Native Americanism

The (N.Y.) Tribune

Citation Information:“Native Americanism,” The Tribune. v. 4. n. 186. November 11, 1844.

We are not surprised that a large portion of the Whig Party and Press, smarting under the grievous wrongs and frauds of the late Election, should lend a willing ear to the solicitations of the American Republican’ formation. It is natural that they should do so, yet not the less unwise to break our own ranks and fall into theirs. Let us consider the evils we suffer from, and the efficacy of the proposed remedy.

Our Country’s greatest living Statesman has just been defeated, (it is almost certain,) and the benignant system of Nation Policy with which he is identified has been frustrated by what is termed the Foreign Vote. That is, the Man and the Measures preferred by a large majority of Americans born have been crushed by the vote of Two Hundred Thousand Immigrants from Europe whom we have admitted to an equality of Political Rights with us. While we Americans born are nearly all in some degree educated and informed on questions of National policy, these are in good part unable to read or write, and many of them unable to speak our language. While we very generally consider and discuss the great Political questions of the day, these concern themselves very little, inform themselves less, with regard to the Tariff, the Annexation of Texas, or whatever may be the ruling topics of the time, but band together as Irishmen, Germans, or whatever they may be, to secure personal or clannish ends. While Americans born have generally too much sense to believe, even where they have not honesty enough to discountenance, the notion that one-half our countrymen are aristocrats and swindlers, scheming to rob the poor of their scanty earnings, the Foreign born are induced really to believe and act upon it, with the added embellishment that these aristocrats have an especial hatred to Foreigners, and are eager to oppress and trample on them. The consequence is that this great and controlling class of voters do not actually render a verdict on the great issues tried before the people,—do not even consider, much less understand, those issues, but vote in a body for the side they are told is the Democratic, no matter what it proposes to do or leave undone. They contribute nothing to the aggregate of knowledge and wisdom with which our public affairs are directed, but are so much dead-weight in the scale—so much stock in trade of mercenary demagogues who say, ‘I control so many Irish votes, and will have a place in the Customs;’ ‘I can manage so many Dutch, and must be made a Captain of the Watch or I will bolt,’ and so on. We must put an end to all this.

—We have thus endeavored to state fully the evil contemplated, as one inclined to Nativism would state it. For the purposes of the argument, we will admit that it is a true and faithful statement. Admitting the evil, what is the proper and attainable remedy?

‘This is easily seen, says a Native, ‘Abandon your Whig party, unite with ours, and effect a thorough Reform of the Naturalization laws.’

Effect, did you say? That point demands consideration. Suppose we unite with your party, what then? Will that give us a Congress prepared to correct the evils deplored! Will it induce James K. Polk, who has just been chosen President by the Votes of Foreigners not naturalized at all, to sign a bill cutting off the “iniquities to him and his so profitable.” Suppose a small portion of the Loco Focos unite with us on this question, how long can they be depended on? Have we not seen them whiffing back again in the vigorous infancy of the party which they themselves started? Have we not seen their ticket abandoned even by some of those who rode into office on Nativism? Have we not seen thousands who professed to adhere to the party voting for Polk and Dallas, though they knew their success must inevitably prevent any reform of the Naturalization Laws for the next four years? Who that has seen all this can trust them to stick to their own course for a single year?

No, Whigs! you have had bitter evidence that you cannot rely on such allies. Many of them are now claiming a special dispensation of offices and honors from the dynasty that is to be, on the ground that their adroitness in getting up the Native party, having it charged on the Whigs, and at last stepping out and carrying all they could for Polk and Dallas, has alone defeated Mr. Clay. They will probably receive largely in the distribution of the spoils. But shall we profit nothing by what we have seen and suffered?

Whigs! let us hold fast to our own party and our own name! It is a standing reproach with our opponents that we need or take a new name every few years; and, though this, rightly considered, involves nothing of which we should be ashamed—implies simply that we pursue that good, oppose that evil, which is today most imminent and are named accordingly—yet we confess a strong attachment to the good old Revolutionary name of WHIG. Our forefathers bore and were proud of it; it is short, pithy, and implies RESISTANCE TO EXECUTIVE DEPSPOTISM—an evil to which ultra Democracy perpetually tends It has come to imply also resistance to that baleful, blighting Jacobinism which seems to array the Poor against the Rich, the Laborer against the Capitalist, and thus embroil Society in one universal net-work of jealousies and bitter hatreds. The Whig party is the party of Liberty secured by Law, of Justice attained through Constitutional Order, of National Prosperity secured through Social Concord and Harmony of Interests between all classes and divisions. Whatever evil is to be corrected, whatever good is to be secured, may as surely be done through the Whig party as through any new party. Can any one doubt that, if the Whigs had succeeded in the late Elections, the shameful abuses and iniquities therein perpetrated under cover of the Naturalization Laws would have been corrected? If so, why form a new party?

But let us look a little at the genius of this new ‘American Republican’ party which we are invited to join, and see what it proposes to accomplish.

One of its original tenets, and one most rigidly insisted on, was the exclusion of Adopted Citizens from Office. This absurd and invidious distinction was directly calculated to aggravate the mischiefs which Nativism professes a desire to cure, by perpetuating and rendering more marked the difference between Native and Adopted Citizens. We believe it has since been utterly abandoned.

Its chief remaining principle is the extension of the term of probation required of Immigrants from five to twenty-one years. Now, waiving our own objection to this term as unreasonably long, we ask, what good is to be effected by exacting it? Suppose Congress should pass a law extending the term to twenty-one hears, how is it to be enforced? If States see fit, will they not admit Aliens to vote on shorter probation, as Michigan and Illinois have already done? What, then, would be gained?

Even if this were not done, how is the exaction of twenty-one years to be enforced? You might keep back the conscientious and just, but the reckless and profligate would vote in defiance of your laws, as they now do.