In an 1894 article on immigration, Roosevelt said, “We must Americanize in every way, in speech, in political ideas and principles, and in their way of looking at relations between church and state. We welcome the German and the Irishman who becomes an American. We have no use for the German or Irishman who remains such….. He must revere only our flag, not only must it come first, but no other flag should even come second.”
Roosevelt took an active interest in immigration, and within months of assuming the presidency had launched an extensive reorganization of the federal immigration depot at Ellis Island. Roosevelt himself “straddled the immigration question,” taking the position that “we cannot have too much immigration of the right sort, and we should have none whatever of the wrong sort.” As president, his stated preferences were relatively inclusive, across the then diverse and mostly European sources of immigration:
It is unwise to depart from the old American tradition and discriminate for or against any man who desires to come here and become a citizen, save on the ground of that man’s fitness for citizenship…We can not afford to consider whether he is Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Gentile; whether he is Englishman or Irishman, Frenchman or German, Japanese, Italian, or Scandinavian or Magyar. What we should desire to find out is the individual quality of the individual man…
Roosevelt was the first president to appoint a representative of the Jewish minority to a cabinet position – Secretary of Commerce and Labor, Oscar S. Straus, 1906–09. Straus (who had helped co-found the Immigration Protective League in 1898) became thereby, in 1906, the Roosevelt Administration’s cabinet official overseeing immigration, through which appointment he helped secure passage of, and implement, the U.S. Immigration Act of 1907.
In 1886 Roosevelt said: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth. The most vicious cowboy has more moral principle than the average Indian. Turn three hundred low families of New York into New Jersey, support them for fifty years in vicious idleness, and you will have some idea of what the Indians are. Reckless, revengeful, fiendishly cruel, they rob and murder, not the cowboys, who can take care of themselves, but the defenseless, lone settlers on the plains. As for the soldiers, an Indian chief once asked Sheridan for a cannon. “What! Do you want to kill my soldiers with it?” asked the general. “No,” replied the chief, “want to kill the cowboy; kill soldier with a club.” He later became much more favorable.
Regarding African-Americans, Roosevelt said, “I have not been able to think out any solution of the terrible problem offered by the presence of the Negro on this continent, but of one thing I am sure, and that is that inasmuch as he is here and can neither be killed nor driven away, the only wise and honorable and Christian thing to do is to treat each black man and each white man strictly on his merits as a man, giving him no more and no less than he shows himself worthy to have.”
Roosevelt appointed numerous African Americans to federal office, such as Walter L. Cohen of New Orleans, Louisiana, a leader of the Black and Tan Republican faction whom he named register of the federal land office.
Contrasting the European conquest of North America with that of Australia, Roosevelt wrote: “The natives [of Australia] were so few in number and of such a low type, that they practically offered no resistance at all, being but little more hindrance than an equal number of ferocious beasts”; however, the Native Americans were “the most formidable savage foes ever faced ever encountered by colonists of European stock.” He regarded slavery as “a crime whose shortsighted folly was worse than its guilt” because it “brought hordes of African slaves, whose descendants now form immense populations in certain portions of the land.” Contrasting the European conquest of North America with that of South Africa, Roosevelt felt that the fate of the latter’s colonists would be different because, unlike the Native American, the African “neither dies out nor recedes before their advance”, meaning the colonists would likely “be swallowed up in the overwhelming mass of black barbarism.”
Starting in 1907 eugenicists in many States started the forced sterilization of the sick, unemployed, poor, criminals, prostitutes, and the disabled. Roosevelt said in 1914: “I wish very much that the wrong people could be prevented entirely from breeding; and when the evil nature of these people is sufficiently flagrant, this should be done. Criminals should be sterilized and feeble-minded persons forbidden to leave offspring behind them