I have no intention to invite immigrants, even if there are no restrictive acts against it. I am opposed to it, altogether...from a letter written by the first president of the United States, and written to Sir John St. Clair of England.*
“I want to thank the governor of Arizona because she’s awakened a sleeping giant,” according to labor organizer John Delgado, one of 6,500 persons who attended a New York rally protesting an Arizona immigration law. This rally was one of many gatherings held across the United States on May 1, 2010. The rallies were organized to support “rights for immigrants.” The protesters demanded “that President Obama tackle immigration reform immediately.” **
Delgado’s statement reached cliché proportion by May 2, after my husband Monte and I had traveled the 500-or so miles between our Southwestern Pennsylvania home and northern New York to celebrate his brother’s 90th birthday. While traveling, I began writing a two-part post on immigration pros and cons. My interest developed while researching material for a historic romance novel. During its time setting, between 1791 and 1824, land availability stimulated a land speculation similar to the housing speculation in today’s world—with similar disastrous results.
Many of the characters in my novel—including Gen. Henry Knox, Col. William Duer, Gen. Henry Jackson, Pres. Thomas Jefferson, even Pres. George Washington—were land speculators. Except for Washington, they favored immigration, wanting to supply the settlers to fulfill their land purchase contracts.
In Roy L. Garis’s book on immigration I discovered the “great immigration” controversy that existed in the decades immediately following the American Revolution. This volume provides the opinions of persons opposing immigration—Washington, Jefferson, and James Jackson.
My intention is not to indicate any personal preference or bias in the immigration issue. It is to present both sides of the issue as found in early United States documents. This post offers opinions of those who oppose immigration. To read opposing viewpoints, click on Immigration is Positive for the USA
Washington made his viewpoints clear. In a letter to J. Q. Adams dated Jan 20, 1790: You know, my good sir, that it is not the policy of this government to employ foreigners when it can well be avoided, either in the civil or military walks of life… in a letter to John Adams dated November 17, 1794: My opinion with respect to immigration is, that exempt of useful mechanics and some particular description of men and professions there is no use of encouragement…and in a letter to Patrick Henry, dated October 9, 1795: In a word I want an American character, that the powers of Europe may be convinced we act for ourselves and not for others. This, in my judgment, is the only way to be respected abroad, and happy at home…
John Adams expressed a similar view in a letter to Christopher Gadsden: Foreign meddlers, as you probably denominate them, have a strange, a mysterious influence in this country. Is there no pride in American bosoms?…The plan of our worthy friend, John Rutledge, relative to the admission of strangers to the privileges of citizens, as you explain it, was certainly prudent. Americans will find that their own experience will coincide with the experience of all other nations, and foreigners must be received with caution, or they will destroy all confidence in government.
Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence author, also wrote Virginia’s liberal naturalization law of Virginia, enacted in May, 1779. In this law, the “Sage of Monticello” asserted the natural right of expatriation***, although he opposed immigration, considering it “a problem…full of menace” and a “serious problem.”
In 1788, while minister to France, he wrote to Mr. Jay: Native citizens, on several valuable accounts, are preferable to aliens, or citizens alien born…To avail ourselves of native citizens, it appears to me advisable to declare by standing law that no person, but a native citizen, shall be capable of the office of consul…
In Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, first printed in 1782: But are there no inconveniences to be thrown into the scale against any advantage expected from a multiplication of numbers by the importation of foreigners? It is for the happiness of those united in a society to harmonize as much as possible in matters which of necessity they must transact together. Civil government being the sole object of forming societies, its administration must be conducted by common consent. Every species of government has its specific principles. Ours, perhaps, are more peculiar than those of any other. It is a composition of the freest principles of the English Constitution with others derived from natural right and natural reason. To these nothing can be more opposed than the maxims of absolute monarchies. Yet, from such we are to expect the greatest number of immigrants. They will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, or if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as usual from one extreme to the other. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language they will transmit to their children. Its proportion to their numbers, they will share legislation with us. They will infuse it into their spirit, warp or bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass…
And I hope we may find some means in the future of shielding ourselves from foreign influence—political, commercial, or in whatever form attempted. I can scarcely withold (sic) myself from joining in the wish of Silas Dean, that there were an ocean of fire between this and the old world!…then years later he asked whether it is desirable for us to receive the dissolute and demoralized handicraftsmen of the old cities of Europe…
James Jackson, of Georgia, not only favored a long residence, but he was anxious to guard against the admission of improper persons: He hoped to see the title of a citizen of America as highly venerated and respected as a citizen of Old Rome. I am clearly of opinion, that rather than have the common class of vagrants, paupers, and other outcasts of Europe, that we had better be as we are, and trust to the natural increase of our population for inhabitants.
The immigration issue persists in our 2010, post 9/11/01 nation. Arguments given against immigration include:
— free immigration fosters socialism
— immigrants generally modify American culture negatively with their native countries customs, practices, and ideas, which, on balance, compromise the tradition of American liberty embraced by native-born Americans
—free immigration constitutes a de facto trespass against the private-property rights of Americans.
—work visas are given to foreigners when there are all kinds of unemployed software people here.”**** After 9/11, immigration control became more serious. But as 9/11 fades into the past, the natural inclination of cheap-labor employers and ethnic pressure groups reasserts itself … (taking us) back to the way things were. Which almost certainly will be very dangerous.*****
*Immigration Restriction: A Study of the Opposition to and Regulation of Immigration Into the United States by Roy L. Garis, 1927. The statements of historical figures in this post are excerpted from this book
**Arizona immigration law passed April 24, 2010. made the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and gave the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/24/us/politics/24immig.html
***expatriation: an action that is usually voluntary—Generally it applies to those persons who have renounced nationality and citizenship in one country to become citizens or subjects of another… http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/expatriation.aspx
Intertwined Love: Novel Synopsis— https://intertwinedlove.wordpress.com/intertwined-love-the-novel/