Monday, October 31, 2011

Ben Franklin on immigrants ...

Despite its reputation as a melting pot of the world’s people and cultures, America often feels threatened, in the past and today, when large groups of immigrants, speaking languages other than English and not appearing to assimilate quickly enough into American life, arrive on its land. Even in the mid-1700s, Benjamin Franklin was concerned when a new group of immigrants – the Germans – began populating Pennsylvania. H.W. Brands, author of The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, quotes this most famous and legendary founding father:  “Few of their children in the country learn English; they import many books from Germany. ... The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages, and in some places only German. They begin of late to make all their bonds and other legal writings in their own language, which (though I think it ought not to be) are allowed good in our courts, where the German business so increases that there is continual need of interpreters; and I suppose in a few years they will also be necessary in the Assembly, to tell one half of our legislators what the other half say.”

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