by Stephen E. Sachs
History 98a: Junior Honors Research Seminar
Rob MacDougall, TF
January 12, 2001
In the 1920s, laws restricting the teaching of foreign languages were passed in 21 states. These laws were eventually overturned by the Supreme Court in 1923 and 1926, and have been studied mainly for the injuries they inflicted on foreign-language speaking groups. But although the impacts of the laws on minority immigrant populations have been well-documented, the motives and rationales behind them have received comparatively little historical attention. For instance, Thomas Archdeacon, in his survey of immigration entitled Becoming American, hardly addresses the language laws at all. Those works that do examine the laws and their motives generally construe them as no more than aspects of what historian John Higham called the “Tribal Twenties.” The laws are said to have been motivated solely by racism, “anti-German sentiment,” “war hysteria,” or “xenophobic” prejudices against immigrants. More generally, scholars have attributed the laws to ‘nativism,’ a term which Higham defines as encompassing an “intense opposition to an internal minority on the ground of its foreign (i.e., ‘un-American’) connections.”
It is easy to understand why such justifications might be advanced. At the outbreak of World War I, America was a fundamentally heterogeneous country, with nearly one out of three individuals either born in foreign lands or of foreign parentage. Furthermore, the national interests of two of the largest immigrant groups — the Irish and the Germans, who together included almost two-thirds of those Americans of foreign stock — were lukewarm or actively opposed to the Allied cause. Once the U.S. entered the war, an onslaught of anti-German propaganda caused German-Americans to come under increasing scrutiny as uncivilized Huns and possible traitors. Acts of vigilantism occurred against German-Americans thought to be insufficiently loyal. As the war went on, German composers and musicians were boycotted, German towns changed their names, and common German words were replaced with more patriotic alternatives, turning ‘hamburger’ into ‘liberty steak,’ ‘sauerkraut’ into ‘liberty cabbage,’ and ‘dachsund’ into ‘liberty pup.’ The German language had been taught in many public school districts, especially those with large German populations, but with the onset of the war, its use almost immediately came under attack, as schools and universities ceased its teaching and libraries removed German books from circulation.
Given this context, many historians have condemned the foreign language laws, a number of which specifically targeted German, as simple outgrowths of prejudice. However, these justifications seem insufficient. First, the Germans and the Anglo-Saxons were generally viewed as of the same racial stock, disqualifying any racial argument proving German inferiority; this explanation must therefore be confined to areas of the country such as Hawaii and California, where Asians rather than Germans were the presumed target of the foreign language laws. Second, although some of the foreign language laws were enacted during the height of war hysteria, the movement reached its apex only after the war and continued until 1926 — almost eight years after the war’s conclusion. Third, although anti-German sentiment was certainly a motivating factor for many of the laws’ supporters, it is insufficient as a justification, as in many states the movement addressed all foreign languages rather than simply German and found strength in areas (such as Hawaii and California) were German was rarely spoken. Fourth, the explanation of xenophobia fails to admit any substantive difference between the wartime legislation and the postwar Americanization platform. Carolyn Toth, who attributes the laws to a “xenophobic attitude” that gained strength after 1917, is forced to explain the postwar movement by arguing that “with respect to their general ‘state of health,’ foreign languages inevitably rise and fall together,” that the occasions when German was “singled out for repression” were mere special cases of an “indiscriminate campaign against all foreign languages”— a position directly countered by any evidence that the proponents of the “anti-German” position could bring to bear.
A study of the documents that the laws’ supporters left behind leads to the conclusion that a different approach is required. In order to best clarify the justifications for the laws, it is necessary to examine the arguments employed by the defenders of the foreign language laws before the courts and in court rulings. In this forum, the advocates of the laws were consistently charged with the task of rationally justifying their position as best they could to an ostensibly impartial and potentially hostile audience. This focus on rational justification has the additional advantage of avoiding any need to identify the ultimate causes of the laws’ passage or the concealed motives or hidden biases of their advocates, which may forever remain hidden from the researcher. The court data also allows for a detailed and controlled comparison between the two groups of foreign language cases that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, four cases from the Midwest (two from Nebraska and one each from Ohio and Iowa) decided in 1923 and one case from Hawaii decided in 1926. The comparison between these two sets of laws makes clear the elements of ideology that remained constant despite wide differences in the regions’ ethnic composition and in the circumstances surrounding their enactment of foreign language laws.
In the justifications that the laws’ supporters sought to provide, one can see consistent and repeated evidence, arising in different geographical regions subject to widely varying circumstances and ethnic pressures, that political ideology, as opposed to other possible motives such as anti-immigrant prejudice or a need for social cohesion, was at the core of their concerns. The controversy over the foreign language laws was not a straightforward battle between the forces of bigotry and those of free education and knowledge; instead, enlightened public opinion contained a third strand, an ideology of Americanization that sought not to exclude or ghettoize foreigners but rather to bring them into a greater American whole. The ideology on which the foreign language restrictions were based went far beyond any simple dislike of immigrants; instead, it was an ideology of uplift that based its opposition to foreign languages on a supposed relationship between language and political ideals. Those who spoke foreign languages rather than English, the movement’s supporters argued, would feel a natural affinity towards foreign concepts of government and would not be susceptible to the necessary transmission of “American ideals.” Rather than as a means of ensuring social cohesion or as a valuable end in itself, the English language was described as a vehicle whereby ideas and ideals could be communicated to immigrants and to American citizens of foreign descent. Where this connection between language and ideals broke down — where foreign languages were viewed as potential tools for transmission rather than obstacles — the Americanizers chose to co-opt them instead of ban them, promoting American political ideals by any means available.
The ideological impetus for the foreign language laws arose out of the war. Only few months after the war ended, Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard, gave a public address in which he described the dangerous levels of illiteracy in English — in some areas as high as 77 percent — detected in the young men drafted into the army. This ignorance of the English language, mainly on the part of immigrants, was impairing “efficiency and productiveness,” and America needed to take action to reverse it. However, efficiency was not the only goal endangered by the ignorance of English; George B. Strayer, president of the National Education Association, stated that the war had revealed the country’s “failure to provide a system of education which guarantees an enduring democracy.” American political ideals had not been communicated to those groups that did not speak English; the failure to teach English to new immigrants had resulted in the “formation and continuation of racial and language groups with ideals and practices inimical to our free institutions.” Strayer later wrote that the U.S. had allowed “thirteen million of foreign birth and traditions” to grow up without knowledge of English, lacking an understanding of “our purposes” and becoming, in some cases, “openly antagonistic to them.” The war had revealed “thousands of schools in which children were taught in a foreign tongue and in which the ideals and purposes of governments and peoples antagonistic to our democracy were set forth”; the only solution was to “immediately recognize the necessity for a common language and a common inheritance of democratic ideas and ideals. . . . All boys and girls living in America whatever their ancestry must be taught in the English tongue.” Even those who had opposed restrictions on German in wartime distinguished between “the teaching of foreign languages for cultural benefit or for practical ends” and their instruction “for the purpose of perpetuating the alien spirit of those who speak them. . . . The intelligence tests given to our army shocked us into a full realization of the fact that the employment of any tongue to the exclusion of English is a real source of danger.”
During the war itself and especially during the postwar Red Scare, the teaching of English was seen as a necessary antidote to radicalism and a means of promoting faith in the democratic process. Until an immigrant is able to read English and learn American history and ideals of government, one educator wrote, “he still remains a servile worker, discontented and distrustful of the system of government and the people that he cannot understand.” An army psychologist noted that “radical agitators” and agents of the Industrial Workers of the World had printed their pamphlets in foreign languages, while the American government had made no similar efforts to reach those speaking a foreign tongue. A similar tie between language and ideals had been recognized in a wartime editorial in School Review; after castigating anti-German attacks on Brahms and Beethoven, the editorial conceded that “if the retention of a foreign language in American schools tends either directly or indirectly to foster ideas and ideals which are antagonistic to those of the nation, such instruction ought to be excluded by state or federal law.” Clearly, the desire for exclusive teaching of English was not limited to xenophobic zealots.
The ideology constructed by those who sought to unify the country through the English language and prevent radicalism from taking hold took the name of ‘Americanization.’ Although never properly defined, in general it aimed to turn “aliens into citizens” by teaching immigrants civics and the English language. One writer called Americanization “the great problem of American education to-day,” and noted that it must start with the “basic and underlying principles” found in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Educators wrote passionately of the need to spread “American ideals and principles” through a system of “national uniform education,” and teachers were expected to “inculcate love of country, inspire ideals of civic and national pride, [and] encourage a profound respect for the flag and unswerving faithfulness to the principles of democracy.” To learn such values and join American society, however, the children must also learn English: the National Education Association’s “Commission on the National Emergency in Education” resolved unanimously in April of 1918 that the teaching of non-language subjects to children in a foreign tongue was “un-American and unpatriotic,” and that “instruction in the common branches in both private and public schools in all states [should] be given in the English language only.” A National Conference on Americanization, held in Washington that same month, had been attended by 18 governors and similarly resolved that “in all schools where elementary subjects are taught, they should be taught in the English language only”; the New York Times editorialized that were the “should” in that resolution replaced with “must,” that would be “the beginning of Americanization.”
This ideology of Americanization was not limited to national politics or educational circles; indeed, it had vocal proponents in the very states that later restricted the teaching of English, and its mandates can be seen as directly influencing the passage and justifications of the foreign laws. One of its strongest advocates in the state of Nebraska was Sarda Hrbkova, a professor of Slavic languages at the University of Nebraska and an immigrant herself. Hrbkova was very active in the Nebraska State Council of Defense, one of many such extralegal bodies created by the federal and state legislatures to assist with war preparedness and to ferret out dissenters. In 1919, the Council published a collection of her speeches entitled “Bridging the Atlantic,” in which she outlined a program for Americanization; the speeches show clearly that an insistence on English education was compatible with a pro-immigrant outlook. Hrbkova praised the hard work and dedication of immigrants, noting that the “true American” would “seek out and acknowledge the good that other nations have achieved”; in contrast, she criticized the “few self-satisfied native flag flaunters” who, misinterpreting the spirit of Americanism, denounced the “ignorant foreigner” and filled themselves with “smug American spread-eagle self-esteem.” At the same time, however, Hrbkova expressed a worry that the exclusive use of foreign languages by immigrant communities would interfere with their loyalty to the United States. In World War I, she wrote, Germany had “counted on this very heterogenity [sic] of our population as a source of strength to themselves”; they were “cock sure” that German-Americans “would continue in allegiance to Germany for . . . it was inconceivable that there could be any bonds to hold them to America.” The building of these bonds was therefore of the utmost concern: the teaching of English in every public and private school “must be insisted on” so that students may have access to “all that the English language offers of instruction in Americanization.” Hrbkova faithfully repeated the horror stories that had reported hundreds of all-German schools in Minnesota, or parochial schools in Nebraska where the Star-Spangled Banner was absent but ‘Deutschland über Alles’ “had been the favorite tune”; rather than allow such communities to isolate students from the political mainstream, Americans should unite as a people in support of “the essential principles which represent democracy” and of the language in which those principles are expressed.
These considerations heavily influenced the Nebraska legislature and courts. Nebraska had a large and vocal German minority, many of whom belonged to the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church, a denomination which emphasized the use of German in religious services and operated a number of parochial schools where German was the primary language spoken. The Missouri Synod had come under vicious attack during the war, especially by the State Council of Defense, which criticized “the foreign language papers, the sectional school training . . . and the Germanic propaganda emanating from pulpits occupied by Kaiser agents.” In 1917, the Council had released an unenforceable proclamation banning the teaching of foreign languages in Nebraska, and as soon as the war was over, Gov. Samuel R. McKelvie told the legislature that a “genuinely National sentiment” could not be achieved without the common use of the English language. In 1919, the legislature passed the Siman Act, which forbade the teaching of foreign languages below the eighth grade in all Nebraska schools, public and private; the teaching of a non-language subject in a non-English language was forbidden altogether.  The Missouri Synod immediately brought suit to challenge the act. Because the Fourteenth Amendment had not yet been interpreted as applying the Bill of Rights to the states, simple appeals to freedom of speech were not available arguments for the law’s opponents; instead, the Synod alleged that the right to teach and learn a foreign language was among the basic, pre-Constitutional liberties that the state’s police power could not infringe. Similarly, the main legal argument of the state in defending the law was that its interest in the Americanization of its citizenry was strong enough to justify the intervention.
In December of 1919, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the Siman Act’s constitutionality along the lines suggested by the state. The court found that it was “a matter of general of public information” that the war had disclosed that “thousands of men . . . educated in schools taught in a foreign language” were unable to read, write or “understand words of command given in English” — justifying state action in the interest of efficiency.  Yet the court also noted that the state had civic interests at stake: “local foci of alien enemy sentiment” had grown up in communities where foreign languages were spoken, and the “ultimate object” of the law had been to create “an intelligent American citizenship, familiar with the principles and ideals upon which this government was founded.” The law would give the alien child a knowledge of the Founders, a familiarity with American traditions, a “love for his country” and a “hatred for dictatorship.” In order to participate in their democratic government, the court reasoned, citizens must understand their rights and responsibilities, and they could do so fully only after learning English. However, so that the law would not unfairly discriminate against those too poor to hire private tutors, the court interpreted the statute as allowing foreign language instruction in schools on weekends or outside of school hours, when it would not diminish the time available for English instruction.
This exception having been made, the Lutherans decided to test it. The Zion Parochial School changed its school hours to include an “intermission” between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m., during which “optional” German lessons were given. On May 25, 1920, local officials observed Robert T. Meyer teaching a Bible story to students in German, and he was later tried, convicted, and fined $25 for the infraction. The Nebraska Supreme Court denied Meyer’s appeal and reversed portions of its prior opinion, finding that regular school hours include all times when “the pupils of the school should be assembled for the purpose of receiving instruction.” Yet it also reiterated its finding of the “baneful effects” of allowing foreigners “to rear and educate their children in the language of their native land,” so that the children “must always think in that language,” and “as a consequence” adopt “ideas and sentiments foreign to the best interests of this country.” The connection was clear: foreign languages inculcated foreign ideals, and to maintain American ideas of government, children needed to learn English.
After the Meyer decision, the Nebraska legislature explicitly incorporated the court’s new interpretation in the statute; when the Missouri Synod challenged the new law, the state again responded with a defense primarily based upon the importance of political ideals. Those who spoke foreign languages, the state argued, had a “natural tendency towards foreign ideals and ideas of government” and a “natural hesitancy” to adopt their American equivalents; a community employing only foreign languages would be subject to the influences of “foreign newspapers and foreign leaders” and “immune” to the influences of those who sought to create a “uniformly enlightened American citizenship in full sympathy with the ideals of this nation.”
Finally, the state portrayed its efforts as fundamentally beneficial to immigrants. To counter the defendants’ assertions that the law was the result of “war resentment” and the “hatred, national bigotry and racial prejudice engendered by the World War,” Nebraska’s attorneys noted that the law was not seeking to isolate or ghettoize immigrants, but to bring them into the mainstream. The war was over, they noted, and “martial feelings have subsided”; however, the lessons of the war, that “we must have a united people, united in ideals, language and patriotism,” remained. The law was not “arbitrary” or “strong-arm Americanization”, but rather an attempt to improve the lives of immigrants; just as it was within the police power of the state “to compel landlords to place windows in their tenements which will enable their tenants to enjoy the sunshine,” so, the Nebraska attorneys argued, “it is within the police power of the state to compel every resident of Nebraska to so educate his children that the sunshine of American ideals will permeate the life of the future citizens of this republic.” The ideology supporting the state’s actions did not seek to punish immigrants, but to uplift them out of their “physical, moral or intellectual gloom.”
The states of Iowa and Ohio, whose laws were considered by the U.S. Supreme Court at the same time as the Nebraska statutes, show a greater degree of anti-German sentiment in their official pronouncements. Yet those states also drew inspiration for their arguments from the ideology of Americanization and from the belief that language served as a vehicle for ideals. The political climate of postwar Iowa, for instance, was strongly anti-German; in a vindictive proclamation in 1918, the governor of Iowa had attempted to ban the use of foreign languages in all schools, in conversation in public places, on trains, and over the telephone, and in all public addresses: “Let those who cannot speak or understand the English language conduct their religious worship in their homes.” The governor’s efforts ultimately failed, but a statute was enacted in 1919 that forbade the teaching of any secular subject in a non-English language below the eighth grade. A Lutheran, August Bartels, was convicted of teaching reading in German to three students in a private school on Nov. 10, 1919, and the state would later argue before the Supreme Court that at the time of the statute’s enactment “our whole country was discovered to be infested with German spies” — that “people of German birth” were “openly sympathetic” with the enemy, opposing the draft, resisting the Liberty Loan drives, and “circulating a propaganda that was more deadly than German bullets . . . . Because these people retained the language of their birthplace this disloyalty was difficult to detect.”
Yet it would be oversimplifying to state that a paranoid fear of German spies was the sole basis for the Iowa statute. As in Nebraska, the transmission of political ideals was placed at the center of the law’s mission: in June 1921, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the law based on the known and “harmful effects of non-American ideas, inculcated through the teaching of foreign languages . . . below the eighth grade.” During the ensuing appeal to the Supreme Court, Iowa’s attorneys argued that the law was intended to prevent the formation of “social centers” that were un-American and that “tend to perpetuate manners, customs, and modes of thought . . . not in harmony with our political institutions.” In learning German from textbooks that told of “the greatness of the fatherland” and “the divine right of Kaisers,” students were being “educated away from the path of loyalty”; the legislature was therefore within its rights to prohibit the teaching of “those things which tended to alienate the affections of the children and fix them upon some foreign power or upon institutions which have no place in a democracy.”
In 1923, the Supreme Court struck down the Nebraska, Ohio and Iowa laws, agreeing with the defendants that the right to teach and learn foreign languages were protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Yet three years after Meyer, another statute restricting foreign-language instruction reached the Supreme Court. Although the controversy over Hawaii’s regulation of its Foreign Language Schools was not argued before the Court until 1926, the laws at issue had emerged at the same time as their counterparts in the Midwest and found their rational justification in the same basic ideology that had motivated the Nebraska restrictions. Hawaii’s actions regarding the Foreign Language Schools defy simple categorization as anti-foreign attacks or expressions of racial prejudice. Instead, they were again justified as vehicles for the transmittal of American political ideals to the children of immigrants. Moreover, unlike the Midwestern statutes that wished to eliminate the German language root and branch, the Hawaii laws and regulations were willing to co-opt the languages of ethnic minorities for Americanizing purposes, encouraging the teaching of civics and patriotism in any language that the Hawaiian people could understand. The result was a severing of the supposed relationship between language and ideals that had characterized the anti-German laws of the early Twenties, but a retention of the Americanization ideology that had justified them.
As in the Midwestern states, the movement for language restrictions in Hawaii took place in a context of large minority populations; however, the scale of the foreign influx into Hawaii dwarfed anything experienced by Nebraska. The single largest ethnic group in the islands in the 1920s, the Japanese, had increased in population a thousandfold in a forty-year period; from a mere 116 in 1885, the Japanese population rose to 109,274 in 1920 and 128,068 in 1925, when it represented 41 percent of the total Hawaiian population. As more Japanese immigrants arrived and began work on the Territory’s large sugar plantations, their children entered the Hawaiian public and private school systems in significant numbers; nearly half of all public school students in 1924 were of Japanese descent.
The Hawaiian population was thus far more ethnically diverse than those of the Midwestern states, with significant numbers of Japanese Koreans, Chinese, and native Hawaiians in addition to Anglo-Saxons. Yet despite the large numbers of non-English-speaking students, the Hawaiian public and private school systems generally did not conduct lessons in foreign languages like the Lutheran schools of the Midwest. Instead, many immigrant families sent their children to learn their native language and culture in Foreign Language Schools, which operated either before or after normal school hours. The schools mirrored the foreign population’s spectacular rate of growth: in 1900, only about 1,500 students attended such schools; in 1920, enrollment in Foreign Language Schools passed 20,000. Five years later, there were 163 such Foreign Language Schools in operation, and they were primarily a Japanese phenomenon: 9 of the schools taught Korean and 7 taught Chinese, but 143 taught Japanese. Because children born within the Territory automatically gained citizenship, those who attended these schools were almost exclusively American citizens — in fact, these schools actually had a smaller percentage of non-citizen students than did the public school system of Hawaii.
Such a shift in the social composition of the islands cannot have occurred without friction, and there was a great deal of anti-Japanese and anti-immigrant sentiment in Hawaii during and after the war. To this sentiment was added a fear of disloyalty; in 1920, a survey was conducted under the leadership of the federal Bureau of Education to assess the civic education provided by the Foreign Language Schools, and it concluded that the teachers in the schools had a tendency to “teach the pupils to look to Japan as their country, to the Emperor of Japan as their sovereign and to the Japanese language as their language.” In response, the Hawaii legislature passed a bill that same year regulating the conduct of the Foreign Language Schools, many of which had previously operated as unincorporated associations. It defined as a “foreign language school” any school “which is conducted in any language other than the English language or Hawaiian language, except Sabbath schools” — specifically targeting the Asian-language schools — and required of them a permit to operate and a fee to the state Department of Public Instruction of $1 per pupil. To receive a permit, among other requirements, teachers in these schools were required to learn English and demonstrate a proficient knowledge of American history and government. Later regulations issued by the state required the schools to use textbooks generally following the vocabulary curriculum of the public schools and “containing as far as practicable” English equivalents for each new word and idiom, and in some cases specific textbooks were mandated. Furthermore, the regulations suggested material for translation, such as Turkington’s “My Country,” a “Textbook in Civics and Patriotism for Young Americans.”
As has been noted, some historians have argued that these rules were simple expressions of racism or anti-Japanese feeling. According to Eileen Tamura, “overtones of race and power” gave the Americanization campaign in the Territory of Hawaii “a distinctive twist.” In her view, the Americanization efforts in Hawaii were racially motivated, “essentially an anti-Japanese drive, targeting the Japanese language and the [children of Japanese immigrants] while disregarding other non-English languages and the children of other immigrants.” Tamura describes as representative of this line of thought the contemporary pronouncements of the Hawaii newspaper publisher Edward P. Irwin, who characterized the “oriental races” as “of small stature, yellow or brown color and, in the case of the Japanese . . . protruding teeth and short legs,” asking his readers “if we want to incorporate such characteristics in the American body.”
It is in this context that Tamura interprets the restrictions on Foreign Language schools as essentially punitive. She argues that from 1920 onward, the legislature passed a series of laws “aimed at abolishing Japanese language schools,” and that in 1921, “the California legislature enacted a law seeking to dismantle the schools there. . . . As this suggests, the effort to abolish Japanese language schools in Hawaii was apparently part of a national nativist agenda to stamp out language [sic] and cultural diversity.” To this end, the Americanizers insisted that Japanese children “give undivided loyalty to the United States, discard all vestiges of Japanese culture, become Christians, . . . and gain fluency in standard English” — a project that was incompatible with the existence of the Foreign Language Schools.
Yet Tamura’s ‘racial motivation’ or ‘anti-Japanese’ theory is similarly incompatible with the project of Americanization, which sought to meld foreigners into ‘One Hundred Per Cent’ Americans with no consideration for color or national origin. First, some of the most vociferous critics of the Foreign Language Schools objected strongly to the racial denigration of the Japanese. Vaughan MacCaughey, who would become the Territory’s superintendent of Foreign Language Schools, wrote in 1918 that barriers to the naturalization of Asians were “justly resented by Orientals, and necessarily impede[d] the true Americanization of their American-born children.” Yet MacCaughey held at the same time the view that Japanese schools were “narrow, superstitious shrines for Mikado worship” under the control of the Buddhists, whose religion was “basically undemocratic and un-American. . . . So long as 95 per cent of the Japanese population of Hawaii remains Buddhist, so long will Americanization be retarded.” By urging the abolition of the Foreign Language Schools and the increased use of the public schools as Americanizers, MacCaughey sought to protect young American citzens from the “unfavorable and un-American influences of their homes” and foreign-born parents. MacCaughey even supported the teaching of Japanese or “any foreign language desired” in any public school where there is “sufficient demand,” as long as the teaching would be conducted by public school teachers. Clearly, a distaste for Japanese culture — or for the Foreign Language Schools — was not fundamentally dependent on a dislike of the Japanese people per se. Although the undiscoverable ultimate motives behind the Twenties’ restrictions on Hawaii’s foreign-language press or its Foreign Language Schools may have indeed included racial bias, to view the restrictions through a purely racial lens obscures meaningful differences in advocacy and approach; the goal of the Americanizers was to bring the Japanese into the American community, not to segregate and ghettoize them.
Second, this view ignores the primacy given to political issues in the Hawaiian government’s arguments before the courts. After several years of amendments, the Hawaii Department of Public Instruction issued its final regulations on the matter in 1925, and the statutes were challenged and overturned by a U.S. appeals court on the basis of the Meyer decision. In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Hawaii’s attorneys relied heavily on the argument that the Foreign Language Schools taught and encouraged disloyalty, with laudatory references to the Emperor and a lack of instruction on American government. “The question,” stated their brief, “comes down to this: Is it competent for the Legislature to forbid foreign teachers of citizen pupils throughout the Territory to use text books which tend to teach loyalty to foreign countries and disloyalty to the home country. . .” Taking examples from the Bureau of Education study, the Territory argued that the instructors were “fundamentally alien in their viewpoint,” having been “imported from Japan”; the textbooks held the Japanese flag “up to reverence” and referred to the Japanese Emperor as “our Emperor.” Furthermore, the Territory stated, the hours of the schools’ operation lasted into the night and through weekends, causing “fatigue” which “seriously hampered the effective instruction of the child in the public schools,” where loyalty was presumably taught. In short, the content and method of the teaching, and not the language being taught, was responsible for the damage to the students’ citizenship. Again citing the Bureau’s study, the Hawaii attorneys argued that the Schools were “centers of influence which, if not distinctly anti-American, are certainly un-American.” Loyalty to the United States was the paramount interest; the language taught or the race of the students was only a secondary concern.
Third, the emphasis on racial motivation ignores key aspects of the legislation. At least on its face, the bill was not intended to eliminate the teaching of Japanese in Hawaii. Although the lawyers who defended the measure before the Supreme Court may have had to contend with the reasoning of the decision in the Meyer case, that decision had not yet been reached at the time the Hawaii law was crafted in 1920, and there was no precedent preventing the enactment of a complete prohibition similar to Nebraska’s Siman Act. A bill that would have eliminated the schools had in fact been proposed and was defeated in the state legislature — a fact that may testify to the greater political strength of Hawaiian Japanese as opposed to Nebraska Germans, but one that may also show that the ideology of Americanization could manifest itself in different ways in different regions. The regulations that encouraged the translation of Turkington’s My Country recognized that it was possible to use foreign languages to teach American ideals; the justifications offered by the Territory in defense of the laws did not deal with the question of what language was being spoken, but rather what sentiments were being conveyed. In the Hawaii case, the tie between ideals and language came undone, and the Americanization ideology was furthered without abolition of alternative languages.
In 1926, the Hawaii law, like the Midwestern statutes before it, was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court found, as it had in Meyer, that foreign-language-speaking parents had the right to direct the education of their children; “the Constitution protects [them] as well as those who speak another tongue.” Indeed, the Court’s decision in the foreign language cases would serve as a “turning point in American constitutional history,” after which the Supreme Court would slowly accept its present role as a “persistent guardian of personal liberties.” Yet the legal and constitutional consequences of the foreign language decisions had the unfortunate effect of skewing perceptions of the case; as Meyer became identified with individual freedom, those who had fought the case were regarded as agents of autocracy. One commentator’s otherwise well-researched account noted the “elaborate justifications and rationalizations” used by the supporters of the law to conceal their bigotry and expressed surprise that the court decisions had not recognized the laws as instruments of “cultural imperialism.” Such a characterization is flawed, not only because it contains a gross anachronism, but also because it misses the important distinction that a study of the foreign language laws should yield. By looking only for root causes, and by dismissing all the arguments of the laws’ advocates as mere rationalizations, this view simplifies and distorts the events surrounding the laws’ passage.
One does not need to the uphold the moral standing of the foreign language laws to recognize that they were not supported only by an unthinking mob; Americans who were educated, progressive-minded and well-meaning (although perhaps oppressively so) saw in them a means of helping foreigners by bringing them into American society. No better evidence for this position could be found than in the Supreme Court decisions themselves. The author of the decision overturning the Nebraska law was the most conservative member of the Court, Justice James C. McReynolds, whose opinion was guided by his lifelong opposition to state regulation. Conversely, it was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the most progressive member of the Court and the most fiercely protective of civil liberties, who authored a dissent that recognized the political goals of the language laws and encouraged state experimentation to determine how those goals might be reached.
To address the Hawaii laws or those of the Midwestern states as mere outgrowths of anti-immigrant prejudice would miss a great deal about their natures and their justifications — and would blur the line between Americanization and the far more insidious ideologies that surfaced later in the Twenties. As Higham writes, there would be no point in attempting to educate men “inherently incapable of receiving American ideals”; the Americanization ideology presupposed a faith in the power of immigrants to prosper in their new country if only they were taught its political ideals. Although a racist and naively anti-immigrant bias would become more prevalent in the mid-1920s, a process marked by the rise of the Klan and the implementation of the restrictive and racially tilted 1924 immigration quotas, the ideology of Americanization offered a profoundly different vision, seeking to derive a “positive program of emancipation” from postwar impulses that could easily have produced “a wholly negative one of exclusion.” The study of the foreign language laws of the 1920s must be undertaken with an eye to the ways in which they were advocated and justified at the time; rather than dismiss these laws out of hand, historians would be better suited to view them as aspects of a principled — if short-sighted — drive to improve immigrants’ lives and transform aliens into citizens.
 By 1923, laws in some way restricting the teaching of foreign languages were on the books in California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia (Meyer State Brief 29)
 Thomas J. Archdeacon, Becoming American (New York: Free Press). Archdeacon addresses the actions of individual school districts to remove German from the curriculum, but does not discuss the actions of state governments to regulate the teaching of languages (p. 167-8).
 John Higham, Strangers in the Land (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ. Press), 264.
 Eileen H. Tamura, “The English-Only Effort, the Anti-Japanese Campaign, and Language Acquisition in the Education of Japanese Americans in Hawaii, 1915-40,” History of Education Quarterly 33.1 (Spring 1993): 37.
 Neil Johnson, “The Missouri Synod Lutherans and the War Against the German Language, 1917-1923,” Nebraska History 56.1 (Spring 1975): 138.
 Orville H. Zabel, God and Caesar in Nebraska: A Study of the Legal Relationship of Church and State, 1854-1954 (Lincoln, Neb.: Univ. of Nebraska Press), 140.
 Carolyn Toth, German-English Bilingual Schools in America. (New York: Peter Lang), 82.
 Higham 4. It should be noted that Higham himself takes a much more nuanced view of the language laws, as will be emphasized below.
 According to data from the 1910 census, out of 47,332,277 Americans, 18,897,837 had at least one parent of foreign birth (U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970, Part I (Washington, DC: GPO), C195-227.
 Sarka B. Hrbkova, Bridging the Atlantic: A Discussion of the Problems and Methods of Americanization (Lincoln, Neb.: Nebraska State Council of Defense), 5. Irish- and German-Americans represented 17.5 and 30.0 percent of those Americans with at least one parent foreign birth in 1910 (Historical Statistics, C195-227).
 See generally Archdeacon 167-8.
 Walter H. Beck, Lutheran Elementary Schools in the United States (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House), 324-5; Paul I. Johnston, “Freedom of Speech Means Freedom to Teach: The Constitutional Battle in Nebraska, 1919-23,” Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 52.3 (Fall 1979): 118-9.
 “German in the Schools,” School and Society 7.179 (June 1, 1918): 645-647. Even many members of the educated class upheld the attacks on German. The New York Times repeated allegations that the teaching of German in the United States was a plot to bring about German control “within 100 years” (“Quote Bryan as Aiding Foreign Propaganda,” New York Times 11 April 1918, 24); it also editorialized that teaching German would put young people in danger of acquiring the “mental and moral diseases” of Germany, as well as “German thoughts unfit to be printed” (“Why Teach German?” New York Times 31 May 1918, 12). One writer in the Educational Review complained that the German language was “animalistic,” “lacking in euphony” and unfit for use by “civilized people” (H. Miles Gordy, “The German Language in Our Schools,” Educational Review 36.3 (Oct. 1918): 261-2); another in School and Society called for a reform of English spelling so that it, not German, would become the language of world commerce (Joseph V. Collins, “Language Reform and Education,” School and Society 8.195 (Sept. 21, 1918): 332). Opposition to German was in no way unanimous, however; P.P. Claxton, the commissioner of the Bureau of Education, emphasized in a letter to educators that the U.S. was fighting the German government, not the German language or literature (P.P. Claxton, letter to Dr. Robert L. Slagle, March 12, 1918, rpt. as “The Retention of the Teaching of German in the Public Schools,” School and Society 7.170 (March 30, 1918): 374).
 Toth 83-4.
 “Societies and Meetings: The National Education Association,” School and Society 8.190 (Aug. 17, 1918): 209.
 “Societies and Meetings” 209-10.
 G.D. Strayer and N.L. Engelhardt, The Classroom Teacher at Work in American Schools (New York: American Book Company), 15, quoted in Beck 325.
 Beck 325.
 “Societies and Meetings” 210.
 Oscar Burkhard, “The Future of the Study of German in America,” School Review 28.5 (May 1920): 362.
 C.F. Switzer, “Larger Plans for Americanizing the Foreigner,” Elementary School Journal 19.5 (Jan. 1919): 370.
 Charles Scott Berry, public lecture, U. of Michigan, 1920; rpt. in “Some Problems of Americanization as Seen by an Army Psychologist,” School and Society 13.317 (Jan. 22, 1921): 97-104.
 “The German Language,” School Review 25.8 (Oct. 1917): 599-600.
 “Americanization Through Kindergarten,” School and Society 9.219 (Mar. 8, 1919): 291.
 Louise Barnes La Bella, “The Spirit of Americanization,” Education 41.8 (Apr. 1921): 494-499.
 Ralph E. Tieje, “Suggestions for Americanization,” School and Society 13.334 (May 21, 1921): 600.
 Nazareth L. Mangouni, “Immigration and Americanization,” Education 41.10 (June 1921): 629.
 I. David Cohen, “Teaching Patriotism in the Schools,” Education 39.2 (Oct. 1918): 65-6.
 “Resolutions of the Commission on the National Emergency in Education,” School and Society 7.175 (May 4, 1918): 529-30.
 David Rosenstein, “A Crucial Issue in War-Time Education — Americanization,” School and Society 7.179 (June 1, 1918): 634. At the time,
 New York Times, 5 April 1918, 14.
 In performing its functions, the Council had been one of the most vicious persecutors of Germans suspected of disloyalty; see generally Robert N. Manley, “Language, Loyalty and Liberty: The Nebraska State Council of Defense and the Lutheran Churches, 1917-1918,” Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 37.1 (April 1964): 1-16.
 Hrbkova 7-8.
 Hrbkova 27.
 Hrbkova 15, 20-1.
 Hrbkova 6.
 Hrbkova 21.
 Hrbkova 21, 28.
 In 1910, 176,662 individuals out of Nebraska’s population of 1,192,214 were foreign born; of those, 57,302 (lor 4.8 percent of the whole) were German, and Nebraska was thirteenth in the country in German population (Hrbkova 32).
Manley 8. A number of Lutheran pastors were accused of disloyalty, and acts of vigilantism against the church were frequent (Manley 7).
 Manley 12.
 Zabel 140.
 Some have argued that the bill passed only as a compromise, in place of a bill that would have banned all private elementary education (Meyer Oral Argument 2). While it is unclear whether such a bill could have found majority support, another Nebraska bill passed in 1919 attempted similarly to restrict the political use of foreign languages; it required that English be the language used in all public meetings dedicated to the discussion of “political or non-political subjects or questions of public interest,” except for religious meetings or lodge organizations (G. W. A. Luckey, “Important Changes in Nebraska School Law,” Educational Review 58.2 (Sept. 1919): 110).
 William G. Ross, Forging New Freedoms: Nativism, Education, and the Constitution, 1917-1927 (Lincoln, Neb.: U of Nebraska P), 100.
 Nebraska District of Evangelical Lutheran Synod v. McKelvie, 104 Neb. 93, 97 (1919) (hereinafter “McKelvie I”).
 McKelvie I 97.
 McKelvie I 104.
 McKelvie I 104.
 McKelvie I 100.
 McKelvie I 100-102.
 The transcript of Meyer’s trial shows that the defense understood well the political overtones; it carefully established that Meyer’s objections to the statute were religious in nature (Meyer Transcript 33), that the teaching of German did not interfere with the full quota of secular work (Meyer Transcript 34), and that Meyer was a good American — teaching American history and civil government, conducting patriotic exercises, maintaining a flag and flagpole, and instructing his students in the proper flag drill and salute to the flag (Meyer Transcript 38).
 Meyer v. State, 107 Neb. 657, 662 (1922).
 Meyer v. State 661-2. Emphasis added.
 Among other provisions, the Reed-Norval Act declared English to be the official language of Nebraska, banned all teaching of foreign languages per se below 8th grade except in Sabbath schools or in one’s own home, and added a possible jail sentence of no more than 30 days (Meyer State Brief 4).
 Again, the strategies at trial showed that both sides made use of the political nature of the case; the Synod’s lawyers made sure to establish that the Missouri Synod sent missionaries to Germany, that it was not the official church of the German government, and that its members were not welcomed by Germany (McKelvie II Transcript 27-8). The state, on the other hand, called witnesses to tell stories of German schools with no U.S. flags, no paintings of prominent Americans such as Washington or Lincoln, and “no attempt at teaching civics or citizenship (McKelvie 63-4). It also claimed that in Emerald, Nebraska, “the use of English was prohibited in religious exercises, although many parents . . . did not desire to have their children learn German before they learned English,” and, most tellingly, introduced evidence that the Synod’s official name according to documents on file with the Secretary of State was the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod (McKelvie II Transcript 59).
 Answer of Defendants, Nebraska District of Evangelical Lutheran Synod v. McKelvie, Lancaster County, Neb. July 26, 1921. Record of Nebraska District of Evangelical Lutheran Synod v. McKelvie, No. 440, Bartels v. State of Iowa, 262 U.S. 404 (1923): 14-6 (hereinafter “McKelvie II Answer”), 15.
 McKelvie II Answer 15-6. The American Legion, which applied to intervene in the case as an amicus curiae, argued the act was “most conducive to the promulgation of and training in the principles of good citizenship” and was specifically calculated to promote “loyalty to the traditions, ideals and institutions” of the American Republic (Application of the American Legion, Department of Nebraska, for Leave to Appear as Amicus Curiae, Nebraska District of Evangelical Lutheran Synod v. McKelvie, 108 Neb. 448 (1922). Nov. 28, 1921. Record of Nebraska District of Evangelical Lutheran Synod v. McKelvie, No. 440, Bartels v. State of Iowa, 262 U.S. 404 (1923): 72-4).
 Brief and Argument for State of Nebraska, Defendant in Error. Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923) (hereinafter “Meyer State Brief”), 13. Perhaps the most celebrated portion of the brief was its use of criteria for state action from a then-popular legal textbook as a series of rhetorical questions: “‘Does a danger exist?’ ‘Is it of sufficient magnitude?’ Any intelligent observer can see it . . .” (Meyer State Brief 13).
 Meyer State Brief 14. Emphasis added.
 Meyer State Brief 12-3.
 Meyer State Brief 13. Emphasis added. One example among the “American ideals” discussed by the brief was “the belief that the American government is one of, by, and for the people, that it is a government whose just powers are derived from the consent of the people, that it is a true democracy established in a republic, as a sovereign nation of forty-eight sovereign states, a perfect union, one and inseparable, established on principles of freedom, equality, justice and humanity, for the foundation and perpetuation of which American patriots have and will sacrifice their lives and imperil their fortunes” (Meyer State Brief 12-3).
 Reply Brief in Behalf of Plaintiffs in Error, Nebraska District of Evangelical Lutheran Synod v. McKelvie, No. 440, Bartels v. State of Iowa, 262 U.S. 404 (1923) (hereinafter “McKelvie Reply Brief”), 2.
 Brief in Behalf of Plaintiffs in Error, Nebraska District of Evangelical Lutheran Synod v. McKelvie, No. 440, Bartels v. State of Iowa, 262 U.S. 404 (1923) (hereinafter “McKelvie Brief”) 63.
 Meyer State Brief 50. The state’s brief in the Synod’s appeal was more blatantly martial in its approach, calling for a standard of “One God, the God of our fathers; one flag, the banner symbolizing the bitter sacrifices of American soldiers in the field from Valley Forge to the Meuse-Argonne; one language, the tongue of the land where these plaintiffs have sought asylum” (Brief and Argument of Defendants in Error, Nebraska District of Evangelical Lutheran Synod v. McKelvie, No. 440, Bartels v. State of Iowa, 262 U.S. 404 (1923) (hereinafter “McKelvie State Brief”), 76.
 Meyer State Brief 50.
 Meyer State Brief 15.
 Meyer State Brief 15.
 Surprisingly, although the vitriol against Germans in Iowa and Ohio was more intense than it had been in Nebraska, the German population of the former two states (4.4 and 3.7 percent, respectively) was smaller than that of Nebraska (U.S. Census Bureau, 15th Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1910, Vol. I (Washington, D.C.: GPO), 816.
 “No German in Iowa,” New York Times 18 June 1918, 12.
 Brief of the State of Iowa, Defendant in Error. No. 134. Bartels v. State of Iowa, 262 U.S. 404 (1923) (hereinafter “Bartels State Brief”), 11.
 State v. Bartels, 191 Iowa 1060, 1074 (1921).
 Bartels State Brief 11.
 Bartels State Brief 12.
 Bartels State Brief 10.
 Bartels State Brief 10. The need to look beyond anti-Germanism for an explanation of the laws is given by the experience of Iowa’s Danish-Americans, who, after the loss of Schleswig-Holstein, were as opposed to the German government as could be imagined. They protested the impact of the law upon their schools, saying that they had not been opposed to the war; Iowa Gov. William L. Harding, however, argued that “the widespread use of Danish in the area, especially in schools and churches,” was impeding the Americanization of Iowan citizens, and that the children graduated from Danish schools as “100 per cent Dane” without a “proper American upbringing” (Peter L. Petersen, “Language and Loyalty: Governor Harding and Iowa’s Danish-Americans During World War I,” Annals of Iowa 42.6 (Fall 1974): 411).
 Brief on Behalf of Plaintiffs in Error. Bohning v. Ohio, No. 181; Pohl v. Ohio, No. 182. Bartels v. State of Iowa, 262 U.S. 404 (1923) (hereinafter “Bohning Brief”), 15.
 The law was challenged after H.H. Bohning, a member of the board of trustees of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, and Emil Pohl, a teacher at the school operated by St. John’s, and were observed teaching German to elementary-school students on September 8, 1919 and were arrested for violating the Ake Law.
 Brief on Behalf of Defendants in Error. Bohning v. Ohio, No. 181; Pohl v. Ohio, No. 182. Bartels v. State of Iowa, 262 U.S. 404 (1923) (hereinafter “Bohning State Brief”), 6-7.
 Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923). By finding that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed substantive rather than simply procedural protections, this decision became the precedent for a good deal of 20th-century jurisprudence (Ross 185).
 As this phrase is consistently capitalized in the sources, I will follow their style and capitalize it as well.
 Tamura 37; Brief of Wallace R. Farrington et al., appellants, on Writ of Certiorari. Farrington v. T. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284 (1927) (hereinafter “Farrington Brief”), 11.
 Brief of Wallace R. Farrington et al., appellants, on Petition for Writ of Certiorari. Farrington v. T. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284 (1927) (hereinafter “Farrington Petition Brief”), 10.
 Tamura 43.
 Bill for an Injunction, Equity No. 278, T. Tokushige et al. v. Wallace R. Farrington et al., U.S. District Court for the District and Territory of Hawaii, June 13, 1925. Record of Farrington v. T. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284 (1927): 48.
 Only 1.73 percent of Foreign Language School students were foreign-born; the percentage was 2.4 in the public schools (Henry B. Schwartz, Affidavit as Respondent and Territorial Supervisor of Foreign Language Schools, June 17, 1925, T. Tokushige et al. v. Wallace R. Farrington et al., U.S. District Court for the District and Territory of Hawaii. Record of Farrington v. T. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284 (1927) (hereinafter “Schwartz Affidavit I”): 86.
 In addition, anti-German sentiment was at least as strong in Hawaii as elsewhere; in fact, the government there quickly evicted the entire German population of the territory (Vaughan MacCaughey, “Americanization and the Schools of Hawaii,” School and Society 8.184 (July 6, 1918): 25).
 Farrington Brief 12.
 Territory of Hawaii. Laws Relating to Foreign Language Schools, Being Act 30 of the Session Laws of 1920, as Amended by Act 171 of the Session Laws of 1923 and by Act 152 of the Session Laws of 1925, and attendant regulations. Exhibits A and B, Bill for an Injunction, Record of Farrington v. T. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284 (1927) (hereinafter “Hawaii Laws”): 57.
 Farrington Petition Brief 11.
 Hawaii Laws 66-7.
 Grace A. Turkington, My Country: A Textbook in Civics and Patriotism for Young Americans (Boston: Ginn and Co).
 Tamura 37.
 Tamura 38.
 Tamura 39, quoting Edward P. Irwin, “Ed Irwin More Than Suggests That We Should Not Try to ‘Americanize’ Orientals in Hawaii, Even If We Can,” Paradise of the Pacific 37 (Dec. 1924), 55.
 Tamura 44.
 At the National Conference on Americanization mentioned above, Interior Secretary Franklin K. Lane gave the keynote address affirming in ringing tones that “blood alone does not control the destinies of man,” and that education and environment could form an ideal “that will master his blood” (Rosenstein 634) — an belief crucial to the Americanization program.
 MacCaughey 26.
 Tamura 57; MacCaughey 25.
 Tamura 57.
 Farrington Brief 55.
 Farrington Petition Brief 9-10.
 Farrington Petition Brief 10.
 Farrington Petition Brief 10.
 In order to distance themselves from Meyer, the Hawaii attorneys repeatedly characterized the statute as a regulatory and not a prohibitory law” (Farrington Petition Brief 22).
 Farrington Brief 13.
 Farrington v. T. Tokushige, 273 U.S. 284, 299 (1926).
 Ross 185.
 Norman J. Chachkin, “The Law and Foreign Languages,” Address to the Annual Conference of the Florida Foreign Language Association, 17 October 1974. Rpt. as Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL) Bulletin 6.4 (May 1975): 28-32; available online at http://www.adfl.org/adfl/bulletin/V06N4/OLD/064028.HTM.
 Bartels v. State of Iowa, 262 U.S. 404, 412 (1923).
 Higham 262.
 Higham 262.