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A Senator Calls for a More Democratic Immigration System

In the midst of debating the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which concerned the rights of all Americans, regardless of race, to become citizens and vote, Senator Charles Sumner often urged more liberal and democratic application of the law. In 1870, as Congress took up the issue of Chinese immigration, he urged that naturalization laws not favor one race over another. He made his case in the days leading up to and on the Fourth of July.  However, he could not prevent Congress from denying Chinese immigrants the ability to be come naturalized citizens.

I offer a new section, which has already been reported upon favorably by the Judiciary Committee:

And be it further enacted, that all acts of Congress relating to naturalization be, and the same are hereby, amended by striking out the word "white" wherever it occurs, so that in naturalization there shall be no distinction of race or color.  

You are now revising the naturalization system, and I propose to strike out from that system a refinement disgraceful to this country and to this age.  I propose to bring our system in harmony with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.  The word "white" cannot be found in either of these two great title deeds of the Republic.  How can you place it in your statutes?  

Source | Charles Sumner, Congressional Globe, 2 July 1870.
Creator | Charles Sumner
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | Charles Sumner, “A Senator Calls for a More Democratic Immigration System,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 25, 2023,

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