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.”
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.”
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