Two Perspectives

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The United States is indeed largely a nation of immigrants and their descendants, but American sentiment toward immigrants has always been mixed.  In the slideshow below, there are two quotes in regards to the sentiment of immigration. Can you guess who said these quotes ? and when? 


“Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant stupid sort of their own nation.” [1]


“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.”[2]

When do you think these quotes were said?

Make an educated guess.

What clues informed your guess?

Who do you think said these quotes?

These quotes are from the second half of the 18th century, around the time of the American Revolution.

These quotes are from two Founding Fathers of the United States: Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.


These quotes 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.

When Benjamin Franklin made this comment, he was referring to a specific immigrant group in the United States.

Which group was it? 

“Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant stupid sort of their own nation.”

Franklin’s quote was referring to Germans, who were the target of significant anti-immigrant sentiment at the time. Does this surprise you?

Today more Americans trace their ancestry back to Germany than to any other foreign nation. [3]

Although anti-immigrant sentiment has always existed in the United States, its primary targets have changed over time.


[1] Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Peter Collinson, 9 May 1753. Available online at [4 July 2018].

[2] Letter from George Washington to Reverend Francis Adrian Vanderkemp, 28 May 1788. Available online at [4 July 2018].

[3] Cristina Costantini, “Fear of Immigrants Is as Old as America Itself,” ABC News, 14 May 2013, [4 July 2018].

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