Federalist 2 and the Immigration Debate


immigrants we get job done

Did Hamilton write Federalist 2? No. But I believe this is still relevant because Jay and Hamilton were co-authors (plus Hamilton #amiright). 

Earlier this week in class, Dr. Kirkpatrick had the class research modern political arguments that used federalist or anti-federalist arguments as support for a modern debate. During this search, I found a Slate article that talked about how anti-immigration reform congressmen used Federalist Paper #2 as support for nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiments. In the article, Levinson writes for Slate, “Federalist 2, one of the few written by Jay, was an attempt to respond to such arguments by claiming that the heterogeneity of the states was greatly exaggerated; far more important, Publius argues was the homogeneity of the American people. … The ability of the Unit4d States to achive some kind of political unity out of the plurality of groups that inhabit it is very much the subject of debate, and a fevered one, of late, thanks to neo-nativist presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz” (Levinson). The use of Federalist #2 as support for anti-immigration movements surprised me, as I previously had read Federalist Paper #2 as potential support for an open immigration policy.

In Federalist 2, John Jay writes, “That, being convened from different parts of the country, they brought with them and communicated to each other a variety of useful information. That, in the course of the time they passed together in inquiring into and discussing the true interests of their country, they must have acquired very accurate knowledge on that head. That they were individually interested in the public liberty and prosperity, and therefore that it was not less their inclination than their duty to recommend only such measures as, after the most mature deliberation, they really thought prudent and advisable.” In this quote, many themes of identity and shared experiences are explored, summarizing the main argument of the article. Jay states that due to facing many of the same experiences, heartaches, and wars, colonists are truly more similar than dissimilar. Federalist Paper 2 came as a counter argument against those who said that people from different colonies were too different to be united under the same country. Jay countered this claim by expressing that with patriotism and interest in liberty, no citizen was too different to be included in the nation. If one uses these same sentiments of inclusion and citizenship based on shared interest, Federalist Paper 2 could be read as support for open immigration.

By analyzing Federalist 2 through both arguments, it’s easy to see how ideas can be viewed differently based on how they’re framed. As seen through the Slate article and my own analysis, founding ideas and texts can be used to support policies, ideas, and believes on all ideological spectrums. How one views founding documents, however, potentially impacts how the citizen views the many political questions we face today. In this example, if someone views Federalist 2 as proof that there is an important American essence one can only gain from being born in this country, he or she might want strict policies against immigration. On the other hand, if someone views Federalist 2 as support for the belief that anyone can be an American by having patriotism and liberty, he or she might call for more inclusive immigration. Clearly, just like modern issues, historical texts can be viewed from multiple different angles.

Click here to read the Slate article or Federalist #2.

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