The right to leave | Curio

The right to leave

32 mins | Apr 15, 2022

Thomas Jefferson was a proponent of open migration. But who qualified as a refugee? In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote that every person has just as much "right to live on the outside of an artificial geographical line as he has to live within it." When looking back at the past, it's common to denounce the actions or statements of historical figures as outdated. However, in Jefferson's case, the effect is the opposite. After all, with many today opposing migration, it's almost shocking that an American founding father would assert the arbitrariness of national borders. American immigration has been chiefly a story of restriction and subsequent hostility, as demonstrated by the reception of Chinese migrants in the 19th century. So Jefferson's views were radical in many ways. However, upon examining his thoughts on people with foreign traditions and his very circumscribed ideas of who could qualify as an immigrant to America, Stephanie DeGooyer argues that the context which formed his views was incomparable to today.

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From Lapham's Quarterly

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