1918 September 2

Theodore Roosevelt: Men Who Loaf on Defense Jobs Are “Traitors”


In the midst of World War I, former president Theodore Roosevelt on this day declared that people who loafed on the job were “traitors.” Presumably, he meant that they should be prosecuted or even possibly shot. Roosevelt was one of the most belligerent super-patriots in American history, before he was president, during his presidency, and after he left office.

While president, Theodore Roosevelt had been an aggressive advocate of restrictive immigration laws and was instrumental in promoting the 1903 Immigration Act, which became the model for subsequent restrictive and discriminatory immigration laws. See his anti-immigration speech on December 3, 1901, and passage of the anti-anarchist immigration law on March 3, 1903. The 1903 law served as a model for subsequent anti-immigrant laws, particularly the 1924 immigration act (May 26, 1924), which imposed a notoriously discriminatory “national origins” quota system that discriminated against potential immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe.

Learn more: Hans Vought, The Bully Pulpit and the Melting Pot: American Presidents and the Immigrant, 1897–1933 (2004)

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