“Why, sir, I have not an unkind feeling to a foreigner. I extend the hand of charity and the arm of protection as soon to him, personally, as I would to my native-born neighbor; but, sir, I am called upon as an American Senator, representing this great Confederacy, to dispose of any rights, whether personal or political, or to make any donations
which it is supposed Congress power to make, I will never do injustice to the citizens of the country for the benefit of a foreigner.
“Now, sir, I wish to state one thought that has occurred to my mind during this discussion. The Constitution of the United States contemplates a difference between the native and the foreigner, and requires a uniform system of naturalization. There is a constituiional difference between personal and political rights in some degree. By our naturalization laws we declare to the world that all foreigners, whatever may be their age–who arrive within the limits of this country, are not of full age–speaking after the manner of men–are not twenty-one years of age until they remain here five years, and
qualify themselves to become American citizens. Those persons then, who are not qualified for want of proper time or examination into our institutions, are to be entitled, according to this bill as it stands, to one hundred and sixty acres of land, when sons of native American people over the age sixteen years, understanding our language, living here, having, in all probability, rendered service to the country, cannot, in anticipation of their majority, claim to settle upon one hundred and sixty acres of land, because they are not full age. A foreigner who cannot utter an English sentence, whose parents, and who himself, never rendered a particle of service to this country, can go under this bill, and settle himself upon one hundred and sixty acres of land, while an American young man of intelligence, even he he in his nineteenth year, is not entitled to it.
“Why do you require a pupilage of five years before a foreigner can become a citizen? It is to enable him to qualify himself for the duties of citizen. Why is a young man of sixteen deprived of political rights until he becomes twenty-one? Why does this bill require that Americans, to receive its benefits, shal be of full age, while a foreigner who has just arrived, may take land it? Why not say to the young man of sense, the poor of your soil, who have been here from foundation of your Government, “Go Whilst pupilage exists, place yourself upon the lands, and wait until you are twenty-one years of age, and then a patent shall issue to you?” Why do gentlemen discriminate between foreigners and native Americans? I do not wish gentlemen to understand me, or to charge me with being unkind or ungenerous, or wanting in proper philanthropy towards foreigners. I love them as much as others. There is no difference between us on that score.
“But here comes up another great point of view. Is not this a disposition of the public land? Is it a disposition founded upon justice, upon liberality, or upon any principle of equity? Answer me, if you please, gentlemen. Do it candidly, uninfiuenced bv foreign feeling or native American feeling. You are giving away the public lands. On what principle are you doing it? Are you giving them as a compensation for services rendered to the country? No, sir, but you are giving away your public lands because you want to get rid of them. You want to give them somebody, and why do you give them to foreigners, instead of to the whole American people? The question cannot be answered. Here, you may say ,is a foreign gentleman of education, of honor, honesty, and property, leaving his country and coming here to enjoy the privileges and happinesa of this Government. As soon as he steps upon our shores, he is disconnected from his old home, and is seeking a new one here. He is free to gt anywhere. He is invited to take the public lands as a free gift. Here stands by on the very spot where he lands, a mechanic in the city of New York, who was bound an apprentice boy to learn his occupation, who has been toiling from morning till night to sustain himself and family. You say to him that he shall not be entitled to one hundred and sixty acres of public land unless he abandons his trade, goes from the State of New York, and settles upon one hundred and sixty acres in the West, and there remains for five years. You require that, before he can receive the land, he shall abandon an occupation calculated to benefit and prosper the country, and one for which he had been taught and reared. You say to him in language so plain that no man can doubt: “Although you paid your taxes and aided in fighting the battles of your country, yet in consequence of your occupation, which is necessary to the subsistence of society, and to the prosperity of the country, your hands are so completely tied to a particular location that you shall not enjoy the glorious privileges obtained by your labor, and protected by your arms, but a foreigner who is afloat, and can settle where he pleases, shall enjoy them.” You say the like to the poor dependent widow, with a family, perhaps of ten children, whose husband has been in the army of the country, and has perished in the service, though poverty surrounds her, that she is fixed like a plant to one peculiar spot, and shall stay there, because her poverty is too great to allow her to pick up her all and travel with those children to the great western regions, and settle there and cut down the forest trees. She is to be denied justice, and the foreigner is to receive the land which she ought to have enjoyed, because she is incapable of going there.
“Contrast this bill as you please, gentlemen, and it is an outrage upon justice, upon the equal rights of this country, and I tell you to-day there will be a rising up of public indignation against the inequality of this measure; an there ought to be. It seeks to disconnect society, to dissolve the relationship of neighborhood, by seducing men to leave their homes, and go out and settle upon distant soils, and it says to them, “If you do not do it you shall be entitled to nothing.” I may be a man with but one arm and one leg, or with neither, with none of the means of locomotion. I may be a poor man, settled on one particular spot which I cannot leave. I must stay there. Those legs and arms may have been lost in the service of the country, but that is immaterial. I cannot enjoy this boon; you say to me that I cannot, although the very man who may have inflicted those wounds in the opposite ranks among the enemies of the country, now comes here as a foreigner, and receives a hundred and sixty acres of land, while there I am compelled to stay because I cannot go on the public domain. Is this right? it is unjust; it is cruel, because it violates the principles of justice. Hence it is, that seeing that the public lands will have to go, I have come to the determination that they should be divided fairly….”
– Senator William Dawson, from Georgia, July 11, 1854. [THE GONGRESSIQNAL GLOBE: CONTAINIIG THE DEBATES, PROCEEDINGS, AND LAWS, OF THE FIRST SESSION OF THE THIRTY-THIRD CONGRESS. VOLUME XXVIII.–PART III. BY JOHN C. RIVES. CITY OF WASHINGTON: PRINTED AT THE OFFICE OF JOHN C. RIVES. 1854. Pg. 1669.[