“Dingy Harry” Reid, Democratic Senator from Nevada and the minority’s leader, just doesn’t get it when it comes to America. After last night’s vote in the Senate that overwhelmingly approved (63-34) an amendment to the immigration reform bill that declares English is the national language of the United States, Reid blabbered to the Associated Press: “Although the intent may not be there, I really believe this amendment is racist, I believe it is directed at people who speak Spanish.”
One recent poll found that 84% of Americans want English to be our official language.
One study showed there are 322 languages spoken in the United States, ranging alphabetically from Abnaki to Zuni, and in number of speakers from English (215,423,555) to Kalispel (4). Read that information here.
I’ll take Teddy Roosevelt over Harry Reid any day of the week (and twice on Sunday...isn’t that how the saying goes?) President Roosevelt said, “The one absolute certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, or preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities. We have but one flag. We must also learn one language and that language is English.”
Opponents of official English often refer to articles by Professor Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University, who asserts that "[i]n rejecting a national language academy, the founding fathers made clear their choice not to designate a national tongue…."
Well, Professor Brice may be overstating the case just a bit. Remember, the founders didn’t think to protect religion either. That shows up as the first amendment in the Bill of Rights. All fifty-five delegates spoke English. Though they were fluent in other languages and some documents of the Revolutionary War were printed in French and German, it is clear they presumed English would dominate America as the nation's unifying language. And, after 1789, researchers cannot find a single example of Congress approving multilingual publications during the time of the founders.
Six years after the Constitution became law, Congress deliberately rejected a request to publish copies of federal laws in German (which gave rise to a pernicious myth that, by one vote, German failed to become our national language). Two years later, Congress rejected another similar request. Their debates referenced the cost of printing in multiple languages and the confusion that might result from problems in translation—concerns as valid today as two hundred years ago.
John Adams said “English is destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries more generally the language of the world than Latin was in the past or French in the present.”
Noah Webster envisioned the same. He wrote in 1786: “A national language is a national tie, and what country wants it more than America?” Webster also wrote: “It must be considered further, that the English is the common root or stock from which our national language will be derived. All others will gradually waste away -and within a century and a half, North America will be peopled with a hundred millions of men, all speaking the same language.”
And in 1811, President James Madison (author of the Constitution) signed the Louisiana Enabling Act, establishing the conditions under which Louisiana could become a state. It required the laws, records, and written proceedings of the new state to be in English.
The founders loved, appreciated and valued the English language. They clearly recognized the threat of bi-lingualism long before American had 322 different languages. We can respect national heritages, but we must have a single, uniting, national language.