Why ‘hyphenated-Americans’ a problem long ago

By Bill Federer

Immigration turn of the century

John Adams had an enduring legacy. As the second president, John Adams wrote, April 26, 1777: “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

His son, John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, stated, March 4, 1825: “‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain,’ with fervent supplications for His favor, to His overruling providence I commit with humble but fearless confidence my own fate and the future destinies of my country.”

John Quincy Adams’ son, Charles Francis Adams, was a Congressman from Massachusetts. Lincoln appointed him U.S. minister to Britain, where he helped convince England to stay neutral during the Civil War.

Charles Francis Adams published the letters of his grandmother, Abigail Adams, and “The Works of John Adams, Esq., Second President of the United States.” Charles Francis Adams’ son, Henry Adams, was a historian who wrote from his unique perspective of being related to some of America’s founders.

In his nine-volume work, “History of the United States” (C. Scribner’s Son, 1889), Henry Adams wrote: “The Pilgrims of Plymouth, the Puritans of Boston, the Quakers of Pennsylvania, all avowed a moral purpose, and began by making institutions that consciously reflected a moral idea.”

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Henry Adams recorded Thomas Jefferson’s attitude toward the federal government: “Not three years had passed since Jefferson himself penned … the Kentucky Resolutions, in which he declared ‘that in cases of an abuse … where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy. … Each state has a natural right … to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits; that without this right they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them.'”

Henry Adams wrote further regarding Thomas Jefferson: “He went so far as to advise that every state should forbid, within its borders, the execution of any act of the general government ‘not plainly and intentionally authorized by the Constitution’ … Kentucky and Virginia … acted on the principle so far as to declare certain laws of the United States unconstitutional, with the additional understanding that whatever was unconstitutional was void. … Jefferson and his followers held that freedom could be maintained only by preserving inviolate the right of every state to judge for itself what was, or was not, lawful.”

Henry Adams became a professor at Harvard in 1870. He had tickets for the Titanic’s return voyage to Europe in 1912. Upon hearing the Titanic sank, he suffered a stroke. Henry Adams died March 27, 1918.

Henry Adams taught a student at Harvard named Henry Cabot Lodge, who later edited Henry Adam’s autobiography. Henry Cabot Lodge became U.S. Senator Majority Leader, being noted for thwarting Woodrow Wilson’s efforts to have the United States submit to the League of Nations.

Henry Cabot Lodge co-wrote with Theodore Roosevelt “Hero Tales from American History,” 1895, stating in the preface: “No people can be really great unless they possess … heroic virtues. … America will cease to be a great nation whenever her young men cease to possess energy, daring, and endurance, as well as the wish and the power to fight the nation’s foes. … He must also be able and willing to stand up for his own rights and those of his country against all comers … resisting either malice domestic or foreign levy.”

Henry Cabot Lodge addressed the New England Society of Brooklyn, 1888: “Let every man honor and love the land of his birth and the race from which he springs. … But let us have done with British-Americans and Irish-Americans and German-Americans, and so on, and all be Americans. … If a man is going to be an American at all let him be so without any qualifying adjectives; and if he is going to be something else, let him drop the word American from his personal description.”

Henry Cabot Lodge was quoted in the Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, Aug. 8, 1891: “Within the last decades the character of the immigration to this country has changed. … The immigration of the people who have settled and built up the nation during the last 250 years, and who have been, with trifling exceptions, kindred either in race or language or both is declining. … while the immigration of people who are not kindred … is increasing with frightful rapidity. The great mass … come here at an age when education is unlikely if not impossible and when the work of Americanizing them is in consequence correspondingly difficult. They also introduce an element of competition in the labor market which must have a disastrous effect upon the rate of American wages.”

Henry Cabot Lodge warned the U.S. Senate, Aug. 12, 1919, in a speech regarding the treaty of peace with Germany: “The United States is the world’s best hope, but if you fetter her in the interests and quarrels of other nations … you will … endanger her very existence. Leave her to march freely through the centuries to come … strong, generous, and confident. … Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance; this great land of ordered liberty. For if we stumble and fall, freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin.”

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