Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Was Benjamin Franklin America's First Nativist?

In my current reading, I've come across a quote from Benjamin Franklin, uttered in the 1760s. In speaking of German immigrants coming to Pennsylvania, Franklin worried that they would, "swarm into our settlements, and by herding together, establish their language and manners, to the exclusion of ours."

Sounds rather familiar doesnt' it? Similar arguments have been made by Americans regarding foreign immigrants ever since. Today, these arguments are most likely posited by those opposing illegal immigration from Latin America. While I am by no means condoning illegal immigration, I think it's interesting that Americans have held these views since pre-independence. I also think that the quote shows that just because Franklin may have been one of our most enlightened citizens, he still had a conservative streak in him. I'm quite sure he wasn't alone in his sentiment. And for the record, my German ancestors came to Pennsylvania in 1830, long after Ben had left this world. I'm glad they were of no concern to him.


Michael W. said...


Wow, I thought you were of Polish descent. What I get for thinking.......

In seriousness, I would bet it has always been that way. No doubt the natives at Plymouth and Jamestown and St Augustine saw those ships pulling up and said, "Damn, there goes the neighborhood."

Andrew Duppstadt said...

Polish!? Damn, that's as bad as my dear wife jokingly calling me a Slovak the other day. Not that there's anything at all wrong with either one, but there should be no mistaking either for German. (grin) as you would say.