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Live With Ben Franklin

Turn on talk radio, or look up the nativist web sites, and you will learn that today’s immigrants refuse to speak English and try to vote illegally; that they speak and write in their own languages, making interpreters necessary, and that if they are not sent elsewhere they will threaten the English language and the Republic itself. If Benjamin Franklin had had a talk radio show, you might have heard him saying the same things, for he felt the same way. Fortunately, the nation survived what he saw as the clear and present danger of that time.

Here, for example, is an extract of a writing in which Mr. Franklin discourses on the most ignorant Stupid Sort of Germans:

Those who come hither are generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation…and as few of the English understand the German Language, and so cannot address them either from the Press or Pulpit, ’tis almost impossible to remove any prejudices they once entertain…

Not being used to Liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of it…I remember when they modestly declined intermeddling in our Elections, but now they come in droves, and carry all before them, except in one or two Counties;

Few of their children in the Country learn English…Advertisements intended to be general are now printed in Dutch and English; 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…the German Business so encreases that there is continual need of Interpreters; and I suppose in a few years they will be also necessary in the Assembly, to tell one half of our Legislators what the other half say;

In short unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so out number us, that all the advantages we have will not in My Opinion be able to preserve our language, and even our Government will become precarious.

Mr. Franklin knew whereof he spoke: he published the first German-language newspaper in North America, the Philadelphische Zeitung. It lasted less than one year.

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