The Minutes of Our Last Meeting – 1790 House Committee on Immigration Meets with President George Washington
by Joe Janes
1790 House Committee on Immigration
Meets with President George Washington
524-30 Market Street
In Attendance: Representatives, Baldwin, Hartley, Madison, Tucker and President George Washington
Notes taken by the president's scribe
January 11, The Year of Our Lord 1790
Baldwin – Thank you for seeing us, Mr. President. The current proposal is that anyone who weathers the grueling voyage across the ocean to be here, deserves to be welcomed. Same with anyone who crosses the rivers and canyons from the south or comes down from the icy frost land of the north. They have made sacrifices to be here. Many will die in their attempt to be here. We should not turn our backs to them.
Washington – That’s seems a little broad. Can we add “as long as they’re white”? Why do we have to welcome all these people coming from shithole countries like in Africa?
Baldwin – You mean slaves?
Washington – Slaves. Aliens. Immigrants. Seasonal help. Call them what you like.
Baldwin – Legally, the term would be property.
Washington – Semantics! They live here, they work here. What about the French?
Baldwin – What about the French, Mr. President?
Washington – They seem like decent people. They’d probably do well here.
Baldwin - The French have already taken over much of the southern regions of this continent.
Washington – Perfect. Let’s invite them to become Americans. They just need to stop speaking that foreign language of theirs.
Hartley – French?
Washington – Whatever they call it. I don’t speak foreign languages. If you’re going to come to America speak the native tongue, for God’s sake.
Hartley – Cherokee?
Washington – Oh, don’t even get me started on those people. They need to go back to India, where they came from.
Baldwin – I’m not sure what you are suggesting then, Mr. President, for what should be considered criteria for citizenship.
Washington – I think it is simple, Mr. Baldwin. If you come to America, you need to represent American values. Speak the mother tongue. Not try to start your own country. And, most important, show you can add value, like those immigrants on my plantation.
Baldwin – Your slaves?
Washington – My workers work their tails off. I, of course, don’t mean that literally. Their tails are intact. It would be cruelling to remove them. I mean that they show their worth. They do jobs that no other people are willing to do for that cost.
Baldwin – Free?
Washington – This is a free country. And my “workers” would be free to go, if they wanted to, but I am sure they don’t because I clothe and feed them. They would be lost without me.
Baldwin – So, who should we allow into our country?
Madison - It is no doubt very desirable that we should hold out as many inducements as possible for the worthy part of mankind to come and settle amongst us, and throw their fortunes into a common lot with ours.
Washington - Why don’t we ever get people from Norway stacking themselves in the bowels of ships clamoring to come to America?
Madison – Wait. Are people from Norway white?
Washington - I don’t know. I’ve never been there.
Tucker – White as the snow in which they inhabit. What I wouldn’t give for a good Nordic slave. They’re good at handling the winter months. They’re difficult to understand, but so is my dog.
(Author’s note: In my modest and lazy research, I came across the minutes of the actual 1790 House of Representatives Committee Meeting on Naturalization. You will be appalled, and probably not surprised, at how many sentences begin “If the person is white…” They were very racist, but at least they were more eloquent about it.)