During World War I Theodore Roosevelt contributed what we would call op ed pieces to The Kansas City Star. They make fascinating reading. It is interesting how many of the issues he discusses remain hot topics today. On March 2, 1918 he wrote about what he called 50-50 loyalty. It should be noted that as a teenager Roosevelt had lived and studied in Germany and was fluent in German. Here is the text of his piece:
A CAPTAIN in the regular army of the United States has just been justly sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment for trying to combine loyalty to this country with loyalty to Germany. He was born here of German parents. In Germany, for such an of fense, he would have been instantly shot or hung. And in Germany organizations and newspapers responsible for causing such action would be instantly suppressed and their organizers and editors heavily punished.
The unfortunate army officer in question is paying the penalty for heeding such organizations as the German-American Alliance. Mr. Gustavus Ohlinger has put before Congress facts concerning the past actions and activities of this organization which warrant and require its instant suppression. Its leaders have sometimes been men who practiced a fifty-fifty loyalty between this country and Germany and sometimes men all of whose loyalty was for Germany and all whose enmity was for the nationality, ideals, and language of the American people. It is an outrage that such an organization should be permitted longer to exist. Congress should act against it at once and the Department of Justice should abandon its slack attitude toward German spies and should so act as to convince our enemies that Uncle Sam is not a timid and soft-headed fool, and that hereafter German spies, dynamiters, and murderers who ply their trade here will do so at the risk of their necks.
Teaching German in the public schools should be prohibited. German language newspapers should have a time limit act, after which it should not be lawful to publish them save in English. A few of their newspapers have a most honorable past and are doing excellent work in the present. A number of English language newspapers have preached moral treason to the American people, often covering it by zeal in denouncing all honest and truthful men who point out the delays and inefficiencies in government, actions which make those responsible for them enemies of the American people and aids to Germany; but moral treason in English is at least open, whereas in a foreign language it is hidden. Moral treason is not necessarily legal treason, but it may be as dangerous, and from senators to school teachers, all public servants who deal in it should promptly be removed from office.
The organizations, newspapers, and public servants who thus betray the honor of America in the interest of Germany wrong all their fellow citizens. But above all they cruelly wrong those loyal Americans, the great majority of our citizens who are in whole or in part of German blood. The loyal majority should lend their utmost energies to securing the condign and summary punishment of the disloyal minority of Americans of German blood who are a disgrace and a menace to this country. Gustavus Ohlinger is an admirable example of the Americans in whole or in part of German blood who is an American and nothing else. All good Americans, and especially all good Americans of German blood, should actively and heartily back him. There is no room in this country for fifty-fifty Americanism.