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Answer the following two questions in an essay with a MINIMUM length of Two (2) Full Pages:1. What are the major arguments contained within each of these documents? How do they compare to one another?2. Are there parallels in their arguments to modern debates within American society? If so, in what specific way(s)?


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Theodore Roosevelt, “True Americanism” The Forum Magazine (April 1894)
PATRIOTISM was once defined as “the last refuge of a scoundrel”; and somebody has recently remarked that when
Dr. Johnson gave this definition he was ignorant of the infinite possibilities contained in the word “reform.” Of
course both gibes were quite justifiable, in so far as they were aimed at people who use noble names to cloak base
purposes. Equally of course the man shows little wisdom and a low sense of duty who fails to see that love of
country is one of the elemental virtues, even though scoundrels play upon it for their own selfish ends; and,
inasmuch as abuses continually grow up in civic life as in all other kinds of life, the statesman is indeed a weakling
who hesitates to reform these abuses because the word “reform” is often on the lips of men who are silly or
What is true of patriotism and reform is true also of Americanism. There are plenty of scoundrels always ready to
try to belittle reform movements or to bolster up existing iniquities in the name of Americanism; but this does not
alter the fact that the man who can do most in this country is and must be the man whose Americanism is most
sincere and intense. Outrageous though it is to use a noble idea as the cloak for evil, it is still worse to assail the
noble idea itself because it can thus be used. The men who do iniquity in the name of patriotism, of reform, of
Americanism, are merely one small division of the class that has always existed and will always exist,- the class of
hypocrites and demagogues, the class that is always prompt to steal the watchwords of righteousness and use them
in the interests of evil-doing.
The stoutest and truest Americans are the very men who have the least sympathy with the people who invoke the
spirit of Americanism to aid what is vicious in our government or to throw obstacles in the way of those who strive
to reform it. It is contemptible to oppose a movement for good because that movement has already succeeded
somewhere else, or to champion an existing abuse because our people have always been wedded to it. To appeal to
national prejudice against a given reform movement is in every way unworthy and silly. It is as childish to denounce
free trade because England has adopted it as to advocate it for the same reason. It is eminently proper, in dealing
with the tariff, to consider the effect of tariff legislation in time past upon other nations as well as the effect upon our
own; but in drawing conclusions it is in the last degree foolish to try to excite prejudice against one system because
it is in vogue in some given country, or to try to excite prejudice in its favor because the economists of that country
have found that it was suited to their own peculiar needs. In attempting to solve our difficult problem of municipal
government it is mere folly to refuse to profit by whatever is good in the examples of Manchester and Berlin
because these cities are foreign, exactly as it is mere folly blindly to copy their examples without reference to our
own totally different conditions. As for the absurdity of declaiming against civil-service reform, for instance, as
“Chinese,” because written examinations have been used in China, it would be quite as wise to declaim against
gunpowder because it was first utilized by the same people. In short, the man who, whether from mere dull fatuity or
from an active interest in misgovernment, tries to appeal to American prejudice against things foreign, so as to
induce Americans to oppose any measure for good, should be looked on by his fellow-countrymen with the heartiest
contempt. So much for the men who appeal to the spirit of Americanism to sustain us in wrong-doing. But we must
never let our contempt for these men blind us to the nobility of the idea which they strive to degrade.
We Americans have many grave problems to solve, many threatening evils to fight, and many deeds to do, if, as we
hope and believe, we have the wisdom, the strength, the courage, and the virtue to do them. But we must face facts
as they are. We must neither surrender ourselves to a foolish optimism, nor succumb to a timid and ignoble
pessimism. Our nation is that one among all the nations of the earth which holds in its hands the fate of the coming
years. We enjoy exceptional advantages, and are menaced by exceptional dangers; and all signs indicate that we
shall either fail greatly or succeed greatly. I firmly believe that we shall succeed; but we must not foolishly blink the
dangers by which we are threatened, for that is the way to fail. On the contrary, we must soberly set to work to find
out all we can about the existence and extent of every evil, must acknowledge it to be such, and must then attack
it with unyielding resolution. There are many such evils, and each must be fought after a fashion; yet there is one
quality which we must bring to the solution of every problem,- that is, an intense and fervid Americanism. We shall
never be successful over the dangers that confront us; we shall never achieve true greatness, nor reach the lofty ideal
which the founders and preservers of our mighty Federal Republic have set before us, unless we are Americans in
heart and soul, in spirit and purpose, keenly alive to the responsibility implied in the very name of American, and
proud beyond measure of the glorious privilege of bearing it. There are two or three sides to the question of
Americanism, and two or three senses in which the word “Americanism” can be used to express the antithesis of
what is unwholesome and undesirable. In the first place we wish to be broadly American and national, as opposed to
being local or sectional. We do not wish, in politics, in literature, or in art, to develop that unwholesome parochial
spirit, that over-exaltation of the little community at the expense of the great nation, which produces what has been
described as the patriotism of the village, the patriotism of the belfry. Politically, the indulgence of this spirit was the
chief cause of the calamities which befell the ancient republics of Greece, the medieval republics of Italy, and the
petty States of Germany as it was in the last century. It is this spirit of provincial patriotism, this inability to take a
view of broad adhesion to the whole nation that has been the chief among the causes that have produced such
anarchy in the South American States, and which have resulted in presenting to us not one great Spanish-American
federal nation stretching from the Rio Grande to Cape Horn, but a squabbling multitude of revolution-ridden States,
not one of which stands even in the second rank as a power. However, politically this question of American
nationality has been settled once for all. We are no longer in danger of repeating in our history the shameful and
contemptible disasters that have befallen the Spanish possessions on this continent since they threw off the yoke of
Spain. Indeed, there is, all through our life, very much less of this parochial spirit than there was formerly. Still there
is an occasional outcropping here and there; and it is just as well that we should keep steadily in mind the futility of
talking of a Northern literature or a Southern literature, an Eastern or a Western school of art or science.
Joel Chandler Harris is emphatically a national writer; so is Mark Twain. They do not write merely for Georgia or
Missouri or California any more than for Illinois or Connecticut; they write as Americans and for all people who can
read English. St. Gaudens lives in New York; but his work is just as distinctive of Boston or Chicago. It is of very
great consequence that we should have a full and ripe literary development in the United States, but it is not of the
least consequence whether New York, or Boston, or Chicago, or San Francisco becomes the literary or artistic centre
of the United States.
There is a second side to this question of a broad Americanism, however. The patriotism of the village or the
belfry is bad, but the lack of all patriotism is even worse. There are philosophers who assure us that, in the future,
patriotism will be regarded not as a virtue at all, but merely as a mental stage in the journey toward a state of feeling
when our patriotism will include the whole human race and all the world. This may be so; but the age of which these
philosophers speak is still several aeons distant. In fact, philosophers of this type are so very advanced that they are
of no practical service to the present generation. It may be, that in ages so remote that we cannot now understand
any of the feelings of those who will dwell in them, patriotism will no longer be regarded as a virtue, exactly as it
may be that in those remote ages people will look down upon and disregard monogamic marriage; but as things now
are and have been for two or three thousand years past, and are likely to be for two or three thousand years to come,
the words “home” and “country” mean a great deal. Nor do they show any tendency to lose their significance. At
present, treason, like adultery, ranks as one of the worst of all possible crimes.
One may fall very far short of treason and yet be an undesirable citizen in the community. The man who
becomes Europeanized, who loses his power of doing good work on this side of the water, and who loses his love
for his native land, is not a traitor; but he is a silly and undesirable citizen. He is as emphatically a noxious element
in our body politic as is the man who comes here from abroad and remains a foreigner. Nothing will more quickly or
more surely disqualify a man from doing good work in the world than the acquirement of that flaccid habit of mind
which its possessors style
It is not only necessary to Americanize the immigrants of foreign birth who settle among us, but it is even more
necessary for those among us who are by birth and descent already Americans not to throw away our birthright, and,
with incredible and contemptible folly, wander back to bow down before the alien gods whom our forefathers
forsook. It is hard to believe that there is any necessity to warn Americans that, when they seek to model themselves
on the lines of other civilizations, they make themselves the butts of all right-thinking men; and yet the necessity
certainly exists to give this warning to many of our citizens who pride themselves on their standing in the world of
art and letters, or, perchance, on what they would style their social leadership in the community. It is always better
to be an original than an imitation, even when the imitation is of something better than the original; but what shall
we say of the fool who is content to be an imitation of something worse? Even if the weaklings who seek to be other
than Americans were right in deeming other nations to be better than their own, the fact yet remains that to be a firstclass American is fifty-fold better than to be a second-class imitation of a Frenchman or Englishman. As ’a matter of
fact, however, those of our countrymen who do believe in American inferiority are always individuals who, however
cultivated, have some organic weakness in their moral or mental make-up; and the great mass of our people, who are
robustly patriotic, and who have sound, healthy minds, are justified in regarding these feeble renegades with a halfimpatient and half-amused scorn.
We believe in waging relentless war on rank-growing evils of all kinds, and it makes no difference to us if they
happen to be of purely native growth. We grasp at any good, no matter whence it comes. We do not accept the evil
attendant upon another system of government as an adequate excuse for that attendant upon our own; the fact that
the courtier is a scamp does not render the demagogue any the less a scoundrel. But it remains true that, in spite of
all our faults and shortcomings, no other land offers such glorious possibilities to the man able to take advantage of
them, as does ours; it remains true that no one of our people can do any work really worth doing unless he does it
primarily as an American. It is because certain classes of our people still retain their spirit of colonial dependence
on, and exaggerated deference to, European opinion, that they fail to accomplish what they ought to.
It is precisely along the lines where we have worked most independently that we have accomplished the greatest
results; and it is in those professions where there has been no servility to, but merely a wise profiting by foreign
experience, that we have produced our greatest men. Our soldiers and statesmen and orators; our explorers, our
wilderness-winners, and commonwealth-builders; the men who have made our laws and seen that they were
executed; and the other men whose energy and ingenuity have created our marvellous material prosperity–all these
have been men who have drawn wisdom from the experience of every age and nation, but who have
nevertheless thought, and worked, and conquered, and lived, and died, purely as Americans; and on the whole they
have done better work than has been done in any other country during the short period of our national life.
On the other hand, it is in those professions where our people have striven hardest to mold themselves in
conventional European forms that they have succeeded least; and this holds true to the present day, the failure being
of course most conspicuous where the man takes up his abode in Europe; where he becomes a second-rate European,
because he is over-civilized, over-sensitive, over-refined, and has lost the hardihood and manly courage by which
alone he can conquer in the keen struggle of our national life. Be it remembered, too, that this same being does not
really become a European; he only ceases being an American, and becomes nothing. He throws away a great prize
for the sake of a lesser one, and does not even get the lesser one. The painter who goes to Paris, not merely to get
two or three years’ thorough training in his art, but with the deliberate purpose of taking up his abode there, and
with the intention of following in the ruts worn deep by ten thousand earlier travelers, instead of striking off to rise
or fall on a new line, thereby forfeits all chance of doing the best work. He must content himself with aiming at that
kind of mediocrity which consists in doing fairly well what has already been done better; and he usually never even
sees the grandeur and picturesqueness lying open before the eyes of every man who can read the book of America’s
past and the book of America’s present. Thus it is with the undersized man of letters, who flees his country because
he, with his delicate, effeminate sensitiveness, finds the conditions of life on this side of the water crude and raw; in
other words, because he finds that he cannot play a man’s part among men, and so goes where he will be sheltered
from the winds that harden stouter souls. This emigre may write graceful and pretty verses, essays, novels; but he
will never do work to compare with that of his brother, who is strong enough to stand on his own feet, and do his
work as an American. Thus it is with the scientist who spends his youth in a German university, and can
thenceforth work only in the fields already fifty times furrowed by the German ploughs. Thus it is with that most
foolish of parents who sends his children to be educated abroad, not knowing – what every clear-sighted man from
Washington and Jay down has known – that the American who is to make his way in America should be brought up
among his fellow Americans. It is among the people who like to consider themselves, and, indeed, to a large extent
are, the leaders of the so-called social world, especially in some of the northeastern cities, that this colonial habit of
thought, this thoroughly provincial spirit of admiration for things foreign, and inability to stand on one’s own feet,
becomes most evident and most despicable. We believe in every kind of honest and lawful pleasure, so long as the
getting it is not made man’s chief business; and we believe heartily in the good that can be done by men of leisure
who work hard in their leisure, whether at politics or philanthropy, literature or art. But a leisure class whose leisure
simply means idleness is a curse to the community, and in so far as its members distinguish themselves chiefly by
aping the worst–not the best–traits of similar people across the water, they become both comic and noxious elements
of the body politic.
The third sense in which the word “Americanism” may be employed is with reference to the Americanizing of the
newcomers to our shores. We must Americanize them in every way, in speech, in political ideas and principles, and
in their way of looking at the relations between Church and State. We welcome the German or the Irishman who
becomes an American. We have no use for the German or Irishman who remains such. We do not wish GermanAmericans and Irish-Americans who figure as such in our social and political life; we want only Americans, and,
provided they are such, we do not care whether they are of native or of Irish or of German ancestry. We have no
room in any healthy American community for a German-American vote or an Irish-American vote, and it is
contemptible demagogy to put planks into any party platform with the purpose of catching such a vote. We have no
room for any people who do not act and vote simply as Americans, and as nothing else. Moreover, we have as little
use for people who carry religious prejudices into our politics as for those who carry prejudices of caste or
nationality. We stand unalterably in favor of the public-school system in its entirety. We believe that English, and no
other language, is that in which all the school exercises should be conducted. We are against any division of the
school fund, and against any appropriation of public money for sectarian purposes. We are against any recognition
whatever by the State in any shape or form of State-aided parochial schools. But we are equally opposed to any
discrimination against or for a man because of his creed. We demand that all citizens, Protestant and Catholic, Jew
and Gentile, shall have fair treatment in every way; that all alike shall have their rights guaranteed them. The very
reasons that make us unqualified in our opposition to State-aided sectarian schools make us equally bent that, in the
management of our public schools, the adherents of each creed shall be given exact and equal justice, wholly
without regard to their religious affiliations; that trustees, superintendents, teachers, scholars, all alike shall be
treated without any reference whatsoever to the creed they profess. We maintain that it is an outrage, in voting for a
man for any position, whether State or national, to take into account his religious faith, provided only he is a good
American. When a secret society does what in some places the American Protective Association seems to have
done, and tries to proscribe Catholics both politically and socially, the members of such society show that they
themselves are as utterly un-American, as alien to our school of political thought, as the worst immigrants who land
on our shores. Their conduct is equally base and contemptible; they are the worst foes of our public-school system,
because they strengthen the hands of its ultra-montane enemies; they should receive the hearty condemnation of all
Americans who are truly patriotic.
The mighty tide of immigration to our shores has brought in its train much of good and much of evil; and whether
the good or the evil shall predominate depends mainly on whether these newcomers do or do not throw themselves
heartily into our national life, cease to be Europeans, and become Americans like the rest of us. More than a third of
the people of the …
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