We would like to make mention of just how staunch the Founders were in matters of immigration, especially having control over the entire issue. We have a small story to share with you. Most of this story involved primarily Thomas Jefferson and his longtime opponent Alexander Hamilton. Please feel free to comment on how relative this story is to the USA today, feel free to use names, situations, even actual events. We will…promise.
The need for good and reasonable immigration at this country’s founding was so important to those who lived here that Thomas Jefferson actually accused the British king of meddling in the affairs of men trying to fill a sparsely populated land that Jefferson included the complaint in the Declaration of Independence.
“He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither.”
Jefferson in most of his years given over to public service, did not favor unlimited immigration any more than Washington or any other of the Founders. In Query 8 of his book, Notes on Virginia, he questioned “the present desire of America…. To produce rapid population by as great an importation of foreigners as possible.” In doing so he gave one of the fullest explanations of the principles shared by the founding generation guiding their thoughts on immigration.
Thomas Jefferson’s point of departure was his concern for liberty:
“Every species of government has its specific principles. Ours perhaps are more peculiar that those of any other in the universe. It is a composition of the freest principles of the English constitution, with others derived from natural right and natural reason.”
What Jefferson is referring to in this case is the “Natural right and natural reason” referring to the “laws of nature and of nature’s God” of the Declaration of Independence. These laws, discovered by reason, teach us “truths” that are “self evident;” that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In an earlier submission we had noted that the “pursuit of happiness” as written by Jefferson, edited by Franklin, and served upon the British king was a loaded clause at minimum. As more and more scholars read the works behind the actual wording they have come upon a wondrous notion; that is, “the pursuit of happiness” was originally penned as creativity or creativeness. Jefferson actually meant for all people to enjoy being creative, enjoying the arts, and encouraged those to paint, sculpt, or whatever brought them happiness.
On with the story…. Somewhere in the narrow victory of the election between Jefferson-Burr of 1800, Jefferson began to change his mind about immigration after his election to the presidency. It is alleged and quite clearly so that Burr received many votes from immigrants who were entitled either permanent residency or otherwise.
In fact, during his First Annual Message to Congress, Jefferson proposed immediate naturalization of foreigners instead of the then fourteen year residency requirement. He argued that this long period of assimilation and residency only discouraged desirable immigration; moreover, that it was viewed as refusing hospitality to the “unhappy fugitives from distress.”
All of this should sound very, very familiar insofar as how many issues have been at stake by those who strongly oppose amnesty and/or any deviation of it. Everything from economic prowess, doing the dirty work Americans will not do, even the skills they need to excel in the high-paid, highly-rewarding fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM program) has been used to justify amnesty to over one million individuals. Are you ready for 15 million more?
Jefferson’s opponent, Alexander Hamilton, criticized this proposal in two newspaper editorials. Based on a book about his recent experience in Europe, Hamilton in 1791 Report on Manufactures, which was written when he was the Secretary of the Treasury under President Washington. Hamilton did not think that citizenship should be given as cheaply as Jefferson (or Obama, the Senate, et al) recommended in 1801.
His strategic planning on how to prevent Jefferson’s citizenship program was a brilliantly conceived construction of using Jefferson’s own publications against him. From Notes on Virginia he quoted at length on the dangers of too rapid an admixture of foreigners into America. In sum, Hamilton wrote:
“In the recommendation to admit indiscriminately foreign emigrants of every description to the privileges of American citizens, on their first entrance into our country, there is an attempt to break down every pale which has been erected for the preservation of a national spirit and a national character;”
In spite of Jefferson’s call for immediate naturalization, Congress, dominated by Jefferson’s own party sided with Hamilton (and the earlier Jefferson) against President Jefferson. Congress did however reduce the residency requirement from fourteen years back to five years where it was originally. Still much more…later.