Tag Archives: Immigration
I did not mean to suggest that I thought the object, even as I supposed it, to be in any degree immoral, that it could be criminal to counteract an immoral law. if ever there was a case where a law could impose no other obligation than the risque of the arbitrary penalty it is that which makes the country in which a man happens to be born his perpetual prison, obliging him to starve in that rather than seek another where he can find the means of subsistence.
To Alexander McRae, August 27, 1809
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Principled leaders understand that immigration can be wrong … and right.
Through previous imprecise communication, each man misunderstood the other regarding McRae’s effort to recruit skilled workmen from England to America. England’s laws criminalized that activity, punishing both the recruiters and the immigrants who took tools of their trade with them when left.
The men cleared the air, and Jefferson expressed interesting thoughts about immigration, morality and criminality.
1. It was not immoral to break an immoral law, even thought it might subject one to criminal penalty.
2. A law that tied a man forever to the land of his birth, making it his prison, was immoral.
3. Natural law allowed a man to feed himself, and if he could not do that in one country, he had a moral right to go to another where he could.
“You were a “HIT.”
…thank you for such an excellent presentation …”
University of Missouri College of Business and Public Administration
Institute for Executive Development
Mr. Jefferson will be a HIT for your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
… my general opinion is that, man having a right to live somewhere on the earth, no nation has a better right to exclude him from their portion of the earth than every other has; & consequently has no such right at all. motives of safety may authorize a temporary denial of certain privileges, but they must be limited with reason & good faith, or they become tyrannical.
To Benjamin Vaughn, June 7, 1801
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders don’t fear outsiders. They welcome them.
Vaughn had written a long letter to Jefferson about what rights aliens should have. He suggested those rights be limited but increased yearly. After 14 years in America, an immigrant’s rights should equal those born here. Jefferson acknowledged Congress could define citizenship and its rights, and individual states could further define the rights of aliens living within their boundaries.
While Jefferson didn’t comment on the specifics of Vaughn’s proposal, he had a broad view of individual rights. He thought no nation on earth had the right to limit where any person might live. A nation could limit an alien’s rights for reasons of safety (national security), but those limitations should be temporary, limited, and characterized by food faith.
Of course, America was a new nation with great promise for its residents. Immigrants eager to share in that promise would make the nation stronger and more prosperous. Jefferson welcomed them.