Sunday, February 12, 2017

A precedent

That decency always overcomes evil is an axiom of American exceptionalism. And yet it was ‘founding father’ Ben Franklin who lapsed into indecent, if not evil fury on the subject of immigration: “Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant stupid sort of their own nation. Not being used to liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of it. The Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes are generally of what we call a swarthy complexion, as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted. Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion.”

Franklin's animosity towards Germans may have another explanation; sour grapes. In 1732 as a young man in Philadelphia Ben Franklin published the first German language newspaper in America, the Philadelphische Zeitung which failed in after only one year. He would have extended no warm welcome to anyone called Müller, Mayer or Schmidt. Or Drumpf.

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