Quotes: Two Perspectives
“Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant stupid sort of their own nation.”
- Benjamin Franklin
“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”
- George Washington
While the United States is indeed largely a nation of immigrants and their descendants, American sentiment toward immigrants has always been mixed and complex.
Display projection or direct students to read, Two Perspectives on Immigrants (reproduced above):
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Online Student Guide: Two Perspectives on Immigration
Read the quotes aloud. These quotes, by two Founding Fathers of the United States, represent the mix of positive and negative perceptions that America has always held of immigrants. These sentiments have both shaped and been shaped by the history of immigration to the United States.
Franklin’s quote refers specifically to Germans, who were the target of significant anti-immigrant sentiment at the time. This may surprise students since German immigrants are no longer typically subject to such sentiments. (In fact, today more Americans trace their ancestry back to Germany than to any other foreign nation.) It may be worth noting that although anti-immigrant sentiment has always existed in the United States, its primary target changes over time.
Play a “Now or Then?” anti-immigrant quote game here? Show students a series of paraphrased quotes from 1700s/1800s or 2000s, and have them guess which century. Points: (1) anti-immigrant sentiments have always been around the U.S. and are still around; (2) the targets have changed. Discussion: Did the 1700s fears come true? Do you think they’ll come true today?