Margaret Sanger, "The Danger of Carrying an American Passport," 24 Oct 1915.

Source: " New York Sunday Call, Oct. 24, 1915, p. 3."



An American passport in Europe at the present is useless! In fact, it is worse than useless in helping one to get either in or out of England, to or from the Continent. To be an American today in England is almost as unfortunate as to be a German, but to have a passport in the bargain brings upon you all the cunning trickery of which the official English mind is capable.

There is no American who is traveling in Europe who is not disgusted with the passport nuisance, and yet so few of them seem to blame or censure the American government for this torture by English officials through which they must pass. It is ridiculous that the United States makes a clashing noise over the Lusitania and Arabic because some of her citizens have suffered the fate of all on board, while hundreds, yes, thousands, of her citizens are suffering insult upon insult by the allied governments. It is rumored that many have been shot as spies. Of course, no one says an American was shot; but they do say that many Germans holding American passports were shot.

While coming into France last month, via Folkstone Dieppe, two Americans, a man and a woman, were arrested and taken off to be searched. Another man holding an American passport was ahead of me in the line. I saw the official look at him with the suspicion and cunning that would make the most innocent uncomfortable. He was held over, called a liar and insulted as few men allow themselves to be in these days. He was not allowed to proceed to France, and where he was taken to I cannot say. Later, on the boat, I heard he was a Dr. Price, of Boston, a well-known and wealthy physician there, who had donated $75,000 to the French Red Cross.

The English official in charge at Folkstone, by the way, seems to be a special species of animal which all England must have been scoured to find. He and others of his kind were chuckling in glee over their brilliant detection in finding Dr. Price a "suspect."

At Hyde Park Corner, about the end of August, at a meeting of the Anti-Naturalization League, a suggestion came from one of the speakers to intern all the German women and children at present in Great Britain. Then came another suggestion--this one from the audience--to intern the Americans in England first. This was wildly cheered and the air was thick with words of "swine," "dirty swine" and "worse than the Germans."

When I went to present my passport at the French Consul's office in London to get a vize--for which one pays $2--the official in charge only glanced at the seal and saw it was an American passport. He returned it to me, saying, "Do you know any English man or woman in London?"

"Yes," said I.

"Well, then, go and get a letter from a British subject that you are the person stated on your passport and what your purpose is in going to France."

I could scarcely believe my ears. I asked him to repeat the words.

This he did most maliciously.

I then asked, "Am I to understand you right? The American passport with the seal and signature of the United States government is not to receive the respect that any British Tommy in the streets of London would receive?"

He bowed politely and said, "It is the regulation of the House, Madam."

Are Americans to tolerate this? If the United States government issues passports, then it has some responsibilities toward those to whom it issues them, or it should decline to give them.

The British government, on the other hand, takes mighty good care that anyone holding an English passport is not inconvenienced. For instance, for some time all applicants for passports for France were to call from 10 to 12 and from 2 to 4 at 20 Bedford Square, London. Each day the scramble and push was like a wild rush of cattle. Often people stood there for three or four days waiting to enter. French, Belgians, Italians, Russians, English and Americans all stood and waited in the rain or sunshine outside the house like patient cattle.

Finally, one rainy day, two strong and sturdy Irishmen broke in the door, were arrested, but released. Then the British government rented the house next door at once for all British subjects only, and thus secured a double staff of officers from the French authorities and held the doors open continuously from 9 to 5 each day. This is only one instance. There are many. The English government has secured for its subjects carrying its passports conveniences and comforts that no other people have.

Even many Americans who carry British passports have stated to me that they have no difficulty, while their friends or relatives with them holding American passports, have been held over and had to undergo the greatest indignities.

The American government is a laughing stock in Europe today. Every one knows that her population is mainly German and Irish descent and has never had particular reason to love England. They know, too, that another large proportion of her population are Russian Jews, who, in turn have no reason to bow in grateful adoration to the powers of the Czar. How, then, can the United States pretend that her people are on the righteous side of the allies--according to the press? Many English have stated not that they blame the United States for not "coming in," but for making the bluff that she is making, knowing that she cannot carry out her threats.

The feeling is very bitter in England against Americans. I have not felt it in France to the same extent, though several Americans have said thousands have been arrested in France, too, during the past five months.

It does seem that the American Government should demand from the European countries the same treatment accorded civilians carrying its passports as that of other neutrals. Either that, or it should cease to give passports at all. The United States should look into the question without delay.

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Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project