H105, American History I

Declaration of Principles of the Native American Convention, Assembled at Philadelphia, July 4, 1845.

We, the delegates elect to the first national convention of the Native American people of the United States, assembled at Philadelphia on the fourth day of July, 1845, for the purpose of devising a plan of concerted political action in defence of American institutions against the encroachments of foreign influence, open or concealed, hereby solemnly, and before Almighty God, make known to our fellow-citizens, our country, and the world, the following incontrovertible facts, and the course of conduct consequent thereon, to which, in duty to the cause of human rights and the claims of our beloved country, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

The danger of foreign influence, threatening the gradual destruction of our national institutions, failed not to arrest the attention of the Father of his Country in the very dawn of American liberty.  Not only its direct agency in rendering the American system liable to the poisonous influence of European policy — a policy at war with the fundamental principles of the American constitution — but also its still more fatal operation in aggravating the virulence of partisan warfare — has awakened deep alarm in the mind of every intelligent patriot, from the days of Washington to the present time.

The influx of a foreign population, permitted, after little more than a nominal residence, to participate in the legislation of the country and the sacred right of suffrage, produced comparatively little evil during the earlier years of the republic; for that influx was then limited by the expenses of a trans-Atlantic voyage, by the existence of many wholesome restraints upon the acquisition of political prerogatives, by the constant exhaustion of the European population in long and bloody continental wars, and by the slender inducements offered for immigration to a young and sparsely-peopled country, contending for existence with a boundless wilderness, inhabited by savage men.  Evils which are only prospective rarely attract the notice of the masses; and, until peculiar changes were effected in the political condition of Europe, the increased facilities for transportation, and the madness of partisan legislation, in removing all effective guards against the open prostitution of the right of citizenship, had converted the slender current of naturalization into a torrent, threatening to overwhelm the influence of the natives of the land; the far-seeing vision of the statesman only, being fixed upon the distant, but steadily-approaching cloud.

But, since the barriers against the improper extension of the right of suffrage were bodily broken down, for a partisan purpose, by the Congress of 1825, the rapidly-increasing numbers, and unblushing insolence of the foreign population of the worst classes, have caused the general agitation of the question:  “How shall the institutions of the country be preserved from the blight of foreign influence, insanely legalized through the conflicts of domestic parties?”  Associations under different names have been formed by our fellow-citizens, in many states of this confederation, from Louisiana to Maine, all designed to check this imminent danger before it becomes irremediable; and at length, a national convention of the great American people, born upon the soil of Washington, has assembled to digest, and announce a plan of operations, by which the grievances of an abused hospitality, and the consequent degradation of political morals, may be redressed, and the tottering columns of the temple of republican liberty secured upon the sure foundation of an enlightened nationality.

In calling for support upon every American who loves his country pre-eminently, and every adopted citizen of moral and intellectual worth, who would secure to his compatriots yet to come among us, the blessings of political protection, the safety of person and property, it is right that we should make known the grievances which we propose to redress, and the manner in which we shall endeavor to effect our object.

It is an incontrovertible truth, that the civil institutions of the United States of America have been seriously affected, and that they now stand in imminent peril from the rapid and enormous increase of the body of residents of foreign birth, imbued with foreign feelings, and of an ignorant and immoral character, who receive, under the present lax and unreasonable laws of naturalization, the elective franchise and the right of eligibility to political office.

The whole body of foreign citizens, invited to our shores under a constitutional provision adapted to other times and other political conditions of the world, and of our country especially, has been endowed by American hospitality with gratuitous privileges, unnecessary to the enjoyment of those inalienable rights of man — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — privileges wisely reserved to the natives of the soil by the governments of all other civilized nations.  But, familiarized by habit with the exercise of these indulgences, and emboldened by increasing numbers, a vast majority of those who constitute this foreign body now claim as an original right that which has been so incautiously granted as a favor; thus attempting to render inevitable the prospective action of laws adopted upon a principle of mere expediency, made variable at the will of Congress by the express terms of the constitution, and heretofore repeatedly revised, to meet the exigencies of the times.

In former years this body was recruited chiefly from the victims of political oppression, of the active and intelligent mercantile adventurers of other lands; and it then constituted a slender representation of the best classes of the foreign population, well fitted to add strength to the state, and capable of being readily educated in the peculiarly American science of political self-government.  Moreover, while welcoming the stranger of every condition, our laws then wisely demanded of every foreign aspirant for political rights, a certificate of practical good citizenship.  Such classes of aliens were followed by no foreign demagogues — they were debauched by no emissaries of kings.  A wall of fire separated them from such a baneful influence; and they were elected by their intelligence, their knowledge, their virtue, and love of freedom.  But, for the last twenty years, the road to civil preferment and participation in the legislative and executive government of the land has been laid broadly open, alike to the ignorant, the vicious, and the criminal; and a large proportion of the foreign body of citizens and voters now constitute a representation of the worst and most degraded of the European population — victims of social oppression or personal vices, utterly divested by ignorance or crime of the moral and intellectual requisites for political self-government.

Thus tempted by the suicidal policy of these United States, and favored by the facilities resulting from the modern improvements of navigation, numerous societies and corporate bodies in foreign countries have found it economical to transport to our shores, at public and private expense, the feeble, the imbecile, the idle and intractable; thus relieving the burdens resulting from the vices of the European social systems, by availing themselves of the generous errors of our own.

The almshouses of Europe are emptied upon our coast, and this by our own invitation — not casually, or to a trivial extent, but systematically, and upon a constantly-increasing scale.  The bedlams of the old world have contributed their share to the torrent of immigration; and the lives of our citizens have been attempted in the streets of our capital cities by madmen just liberated from European hospitals, upon the express condition that they should be transported to America.  By the orders of European governments, the punishment of crimes has been commuted for banishment to the land of the free; and criminals in irons have crossed the ocean to be cast loose upon society on their arrival upon our shores.  The United States are rapidly becoming the lazar-house and penal colony of Europe; nor can we reasonably censure such proceedings.  They are legitimate consequences of our own unlimited benevolence; and it is of such material that we profess to manufacture free and enlightened citizens, by a process occupying five short years, at most, but practically, oftentimes embraced in a much shorter period of time.

The mass of immigrants, formerly lost among the natives of the soil, has increased from the ratio of 1 in 40 to that of 1 in 7!  A like advance in fifteen years will leave the natives of the soil a minority in their own land! Thirty years ago these strangers came by units and tens — now they swarm by thousands. (It is estimated that 300,000 will arrive within the present year.)  Formerly, most of them sought only for an honest livelihood and a provision for their families, and rarely meddled with those institutions of which it was impossible they could comprehend the nature; now, each newcomer seeks political preferment, and struggles to fasten on the public purse with an avidity in strict proportion to his ignorance and unworthiness of public trust — having been SENT, as is clearly shown, for the purpose of obtaining political ascendency in the government of the nation — having been SENT to exalt their affies to power &— having been SENT to work a revolution from republican freedom to the assumed divine rights of monarchs.

From these unhappy circumstances has arisen an imperium in imperio — a body uninformed and vicious — foreign in feeling, prejudice, and manner, yet armed with a vast, and often a controlling influence over the policy of a nation whose benevolence it abuses and whose kindness it habitually insults — a body as dangerous to the rights of the intelligent foreigner and to the prospect of his own immediate progeny, as it is threatening to the liberties of the country, and the hopes of rational freedom throughout the world — a body ever ready to complicate our foreign relations, by embroiling us with the hereditary hates and feuds of other lands, and to disturb our domestic peace by its crude ideas; mistaking license for liberty, and the overthrow of individual rights for republican political equality — a body ever the ready tool of foreign and domestic demagogues, and steadily endeavoring by misrule to establish popular tyranny under a cloak of false democracy....