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Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition

This is a guide to the Philip L. Carret Thomas Jefferson Essay Competition. The essay competition was endowed in 1997 and was designed to have students reflect on the principles and ideals in Thomas Jefferson's life and career.

2020 Carret Essay Prompt

The “Right of Expatriation” and the “Rights of Citizenship”:  Jefferson and the Debate Over Immigration

Although immigration is one of the fundamental building blocks of the United States, it has also been a flashpoint in American history. How do Thomas Jefferson’s conflicting views on immigration illuminate later controversies? Consider debates about immigration and the current administration’s efforts to change U.S. immigration policy over the last several years. Bring one or more of the following quotes, or the ideas behind the quotes, into dialogue with current immigration policy debates:

“Our ancestors…possessed a right, which nature has given to all men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice, has placed them, of going in quest of new habitations, and of there establishing new societies, under such laws and regulations as, to them, shall seem most likely to promote public happiness.” — Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. ME 1:185, Papers 1:21

“Although as to other foreigners it is thought better to discourage their settling together in large masses, wherein, as in our German settlements, they preserve for a long time their own languages, habits, and principles of government, and that they should distribute themselves sparsely among the natives for quicker amalgamation, yet English emigrants are without this inconvenience. They differ from us little but in their principles of government, and most of those (merchants excepted) who come here, are sufficiently disposed to adopt ours.” — Thomas Jefferson to George Flower, 1817. ME 15:140

“We, like you, are Americans, born in the same land, and having the same interests. . . . Our forefathers were Englishmen, inhabitants of a little island beyond the great water, and being distressed for land, they came and settled here.” — Thomas Jefferson in a speech to John Baptiste Ducoigne, a Kaskaskias Chief, 1781.