Originally posted March 2006. This issue has cost the Republican Party dearly, perhaps fatally. Had conservatives realised the reality of what they were defending, they might have taken a different view. Then again perhaps not…
It wasn’t so long after the first English settlers came to Jamestown, VA, that black slaves were forcibly brought from Africa to labour in the fields of the New World. That fact is a great tragedy of American history, but it seldom occurs to anyone to ask why it was so. The answer is both simple and obvious: “To do the work.”
Such a simple answer, however, overlooks the fact that the British Isles were full of people who could be brought over. In succeeding years, the British could and did bring people over against their will, either as indentured servants or prisoners. Many others were evicted through the enclosure system, and so came to find the land they had lost back home.
Now the English speaking peoples cannot be accused of having a general low self-esteem about themselves. It was they who overthrew “popery” and then made it stick with breaking the Armada. Surely such a race of people would be able to build a continent without the assistance of African help. Or anyone else’s for that matter.
Those who led the establishment of the Southern colonies, however, were successful men who set these up as business ventures either for themselves or on behalf of the Crown. They and their ancestors had good knowledge of the willingness of those they could bring over from Britain to do the work. Hence the early importation of Africans.
Eventually people realised that slavery was not good. But those who depended upon it decided to fight for their right to keep others in bondange. Unfortunately, in part because of their attitude towards the work, they had not built an industrial base large enough to sustain the “Lost Cause” in what turned into a modern war. As a result the North, with patently inferior military leadership, wiped them out. This is all too familiar to me: while one side of the family fought for the Confederacy, the other operated a foundry that kept Mr. Lincoln’s army in cannonballs.
Now we once again are treated to the spectacle of people coming to this county en masse to do the work, and others–both the desendants of those who came from Britain and those who have adopted their style of mind–are livid that they are here against the law and “taking jobs away.” But four centuries of North American experience tells us that their analysis goes against historical memory. Moreover these immigrants–mostly Hispanic–are receptive to the Gospel, certainly more so than those from the Magreb who are turning Europe into an extension of the Middle East.
At this point those who oppose illegal immigration–security considerations excluded–have two choices.
The first is to accept–and fairly regulate–the arrival of these people, who for the most part come to do the work. (We won’t delve into the problems of People’s Republics like California whose welfare systems make it attractive to come and not do the work. The welfare systems of most of the Old Confederacy is chintzy enough to cover that problem.)
The second is to do what we have not done these last four centuries–all of the work. If we are too old, we must inculate in our children the ethic to learn a trade or profession, arrive at the job at the appointed time and stick with the work until it is done. (That, by the way, is how the illegal immigrants won the support of the business community.) If we don’t like the idea of us or our children doing this kind of work, we need to push our schools to educate people in the basics so they can learn one or more job skills in a lifetime to keep ahead of our changing world.
This continent wasn’t a “closed door” proposition even when it took an ocean voyage in a sailboat to get here. It certainly isn’t now. We have to realistic choices. As always, it’s our move: we need to make it.