Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know
State Historical Society of Iowa

Revocation of Babel Proclamation, 1918

    Download PDF Resource

Courtesy of State Historical Society of Iowa, 1918


The Babel Proclamation was issued by Iowa's Governor William L. Harding. He took the anti-German sentiment in the wake of World War I further than any other state, and he proclaimed that "Only English was legal in public or private schools, in public conversations, on trains, over the telephone, at all meetings and in all religious services." This document source is the revocation from Harding that removed executive order from the provisions of the "Babel Proclamation," but upheld the use of English only in classrooms. A revocation is the official cancellation of a decree, decision or promise. 

Excerpt from Revocation of Babel Proclamation

"...the English language should be employed as the medium of instruction in all schools, in conversation in public places and over telephones, and in public address, which, as was said, would “result in peace and tranquility at home and greatly strengthen the country…… While we welcome enlightened and thrifty people to our shores and to all the advantages of free institutions under our representative form of government, this is not with the view, and should not be so interpreted, of enabling them to establish themselves in communities by themselves and thereby maintaining the language and customs of their former country. All should understand that they are welcome to come, but for the purpose of becoming a part of our own people, to learn and use our language, adopt our customs, and become citizens of our common country. In Testimony Whereof, I have here unto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Iowa. Done at Des Moines, this fourth day of December, 1918. By the Governor: W. L. Harding W. S. Allen, Secretary of State."

Transcript of Revocation of Babel Proclamation

Source-Dependent Questions

  • What will Governor William Harding’s proclamation mean for immigrants in Iowa?
  • Where were immigrants expected to speak English?
  • In what ways does requiring immigrants to speak English in school impact an immigrant student's school experience?