Washington on Immigration…in his wordsPosted: December 13, 2013
First, America should generously welcome as equal citizens people from many nations and religions. The notion of almost always combining the two elements, nations, and religions, for many reasons has lost its viability in the United States. We believe that everyone who reads this article should underline or highlight those two specific elements of nation and religion.
Second, the numbers and kinds of immigrants may need to be limited with a view to the qualities of character required for democratic citizenship. This again is an area of immigration in this country that needs serious “Reform.”
President Washington wrote and subsequently when an occasion called for open remarks he espoused, “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions.”
In his often recalled letter to The Hebrew Congregation in Newport, (RI) it is evident in all aspects his sincerity of religious freedom.
Washington writes: The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people who another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
In Washington’s account, America is different from, and superior to, countries based on a common ethnic or racial background, or a common religion. His steadfastness and resolve based on the government protects the “inherent natural rights” of all humankind should not be understated. As a result, for the first time since ancient Israel, Jews could become full citizens of a political community.
Washington’s generous conception of citizenship was widely held in America. In spite of a strong aversion to Catholicism among a fervently Protestant American people, The Continental Congress of 1774 invited the French-speaking Catholics of Quebec to, “unite with us in one social compact, formed on the generous principles of equal liberty.”
It is noted here that in a follow-up to that invitation, the Congress also wrote, “The common ground of ‘natural and civil rights,’ taught in the writings of ‘your immortal countryman, Montesquieu’ would be the basis of our union.”
Further noted in this writing is that although the (public) mainstream-media of the time were inclined to dismiss this episode as a cynical move for the strong anti-Catholic sentiments voiced against in the earlier Quebec Act. However for almost all Americans this policy proved to be the authentic expression of the American mind during the founding era. The principles became the basis for the extending religious liberty to all Americans in the early state constitutions and laws. (This sentence is read as though, “in early State constitutions and laws.”)
So let us have a look at how the nation was envisioned and subsequently developed into and what the current Congress and chief executive are doing as well as what they plan to do.
During the founding era America was socially, economically, politically, and behavioral in a much different place. One, America should welcome as equal citizens people from many nations and religions. From earlier writings the majority of the then settled, pre- Revolutionary War period most people came from originally from the United Kingdom, Scotland, Ireland, and western European people means the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) as well as Germany and Prussia.
America before thence was settled by the French, Spanish, as well as several other nations. Therefore, most Americans of that time period were anxious to have many people from many nations come to America to join the party.
Furthermore, a theme that is consistent throughout this and other writings is the notion of view to the qualities of character required for democratic citizenship.
So the main themes of immigration during Washington’s administration and the American public these issues carried the prominent weight; first immigration was welcomed for expansion of the nation and allow people to see what benefits there was to sharing various liberties especially religious liberty. Noted however, is the notion of citizenship which will be covered in detail in later writings. And two, the situation did not call for overwhelming refugee status or the needs of asylum; moreover, an unearthing of diversity. Therefore, the qualities of character was a very important reason. More later. .