Skip to comments.Founding Fathers Were Immigration Skeptics
Posted on 07/24/2007 7:19:15 PM PDT by CathNY
The American people continue to be involved in a long-overdue national discussion of immigration. And yet, during the debate over the immigration bill that recently died in the Senate, I do not recall hearing the views of the Founding Fathers -- even if only out of curiosity -- considered, pursued or even raised.
Contrary to what most Americans may believe, in fact, the Founding Fathers were by and large skeptical of immigration. If the United States lacked people with particular skills, then the Founders had no objection to attracting them from abroad. But they were convinced that mass immigration would bring social turmoil and political confusion in its wake.
In one of the most neglected sections of his Notes on Virginia, Thomas Jefferson posed the question, "Are there no inconveniences to be thrown into the scale against the advantage expected by a multiplication of numbers by the importation of foreigners?"
What was likely to happen, according to Jefferson, was that immigrants would come to America from countries that would have given them no experience living in a free society. They would bring with them the ideas and principles of the governments they left behind -- ideas and principles that were often at odds with American liberty.
"Suppose 20 millions of republican Americans thrown all of a sudden into France, what would be the condition of that kingdom?" Jefferson asked. "If it would be more turbulent, less happy, less strong, we may believe that the addition of half a million of foreigners to our present numbers would produce a similar effect here."
Alexander Hamilton was even more blunt. He invited his fellow Americans to consider the example of another people who had been more generous with their immigration policy than prudence dictated: the American Indians. Hamilton wrote, "Prudence requires us to trace the history further and ask what has become of the nations of savages who exercised this policy, and who now occupies the territory which they then inhabited? Perhaps a lesson is here taught which ought not to be despised."
Hamilton was likewise unconvinced that diversity was a strength. The safety of a republic, according to him, depended "essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment, on a uniformity of principles and habits, on the exemption of the citizens from foreign bias and prejudice, and on that love of country which will almost invariably be found to be closely connected with birth, education and family." He then drew out the implications of this point: "The influx of foreigners must, therefore, tend to produce a heterogeneous compound; to change and corrupt the national spirit; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities. In the composition of society, the harmony of the ingredients is all-important, and whatever tends to a discordant intermixture must have an injurious tendency."
George Washington contended in a 1794 letter to John Adams that there was no particular need for the U.S. to encourage immigration, "except of useful mechanics and some particular descriptions of men or professions." He continued: "The policy or advantage of its taking place in a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for by so doing, they retain the language, habits, and principles (good or bad) which they bring with them."
Rufus King, a Massachusetts delegate to the Constitutional Convention, wrote in 1798 that emigrants from Scotland had typically brought with them certificates from "the religious societies to which they belonged" that testified to their good character. King proposed that something similar be required of all those wishing to settle here.
And the list goes on.
The problem here is not that the question -- "Did the Founding Fathers support immigration?" -- is usually answered incorrectly or badly. The problem is that it is never raised in the first place. (That's why it's the very first entry in my new book, 33 Questions About American History You're Not Supposed to Ask.)
The Founding Fathers were not infallible, of course, and they were sometimes wrong. But on a matter as critical as this one, shouldn't we at least be aware of what they thought?
Mr. Woods' most recent books are 33 Questions About American History You're Not Supposed to Ask, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.
“...shouldn’t we at least be aware of what they thought?”
But..but...they are just a bunch of old dead guys. Why should we care what they think?
Probably should have quotation marks on the above, but I cannot remember the Liberal A-hole that stated that.
Somebody actually said that? Wow
The Founding Fathers also didn’t have to grapple with the problem of the huge and powerful magnet that is drawing undesirable people here by the millions. There were no government handouts back then, and private charity generally went only to those who could convince the givers that they were truly worthy of it. And we didn’t have a legal system where it was more expensive for an employer to keep you even though you’re lazy and worthless, than to fire you and face colossal legal bills to defend against unfounded claims of “discrimination”. And we didn’t have a legal system in which employers are forced to pay huge sums into a workers’ compensation scheme, to support former workers who may have been injured on the job due to their own carelessness or refusal to follow instructions, or who aren’t even injured at all but have a doctor helping them to fake it in order to share in the payout.
Back in the late 1700s and early 1800s, anybody who came here was going to have work very, very hard to survive, and refrain from committing any serious crimes unless willing to face long imprisonment in conditions that nobody outside concerned themselves with (or being shot by angry citizens, who wouldn’t face prosecution). Try to imagine what would have happened to this Liberian guy in Maryland who raped a 7 year old girl and molested an 18 month old girl, if he’d come here and done these things 200 years ago. He most likely would have been executed within weeks of his arrest, and he most certainly wouldn’t have been provided a free attorney and a psychologist to tell the court he really needed a free interpreter for some obscure dialect even though he clearly knows English just fine.
It’s not just the immigrants who are the problem. It’s the mess we’ve made of our society, with the cancer of socialism and routine travesties of justice.
Mass immigration was going on before there was a United States, so the views of the Founding Fathers almost had to be in agreement with the policy of letting in as many as WANTED to be here. In the 18th Century, immigration was a strenuous chore, enduring a sea voyage that could take up several weeks, which was a serious obstacle for many. Once here, the surest way to secure a position was to indenture oneself, first to get established while learning the new culture, and also to sharpen up and hone any skills brought from the former country. At the end of the indenture, as a freeman, many more opportunities beckoned, as territory to the west seemed to be opening up all the time. There was not much of going home, at least not until a sizable fortune had been accumulated.
you're only hope is Ron Paul.
“Back in the late 1700s and early 1800s, anybody who came here was going to have work very, very hard to survive, and refrain from committing any serious crimes unless willing to face long imprisonment in conditions that nobody outside concerned themselves with (or being shot by angry citizens, who wouldnt face prosecution). Try to imagine what would have happened to this Liberian guy in Maryland who raped a 7 year old girl and molested an 18 month old girl, if hed come here and done these things 200 years ago. He most likely would have been executed within weeks of his arrest, and he most certainly wouldnt have been provided a free attorney and a psychologist to tell the court he really needed a free interpreter for some obscure dialect even though he clearly knows English just fine.”
B T T T
Of course, they were. They were sane.
Good points. I’m sure the founding fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew what was going on now.
Yup, but cannot remember if it was some Hollywood A-hole, or if it was a response from some student upon questioning about the founding fathers, or what, but that was the answer given. My wife and myself remember the statement.
He was reading on the ‘La Raza’ site about all the govt agencies that are donating to them! Including the military.
He mentioned that the ‘Fox Corporation’ has donated to them also. That explains why O’Reilly went cold on illegal immigration after he blew up at Geraldo!
How can we fight back on this when our own govt agencies are donating our tax payer money to enable this illegal movement? James is on at 9pm pacific:
"A Republic, if you can keep it!"
Who wants to bet the MSM has NO interest in this story. None, nada, zip.
Not true at all. Congress restricted immigration in the 1790s.
Why is it that we cannot have a good discussion on Free Republic without someone having to mention the current bottom feeder of the Republican party?
You can choose to ignore it.
I did not mention Rudy McRomney.
Ron Paul is our only hope, otherwise we get Hillary.
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