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There’s a lot of talk today, particularly among candidates for the office of President of the United States about immigration, who can come, who should leave, who can vote, etc.

whigpartyInterestingly, the same debate raged on a smaller scale in 1836—180 years ago. It seems that in Illinois, there were a large number of foreign–born (mostly Irish) workers who were building the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The brouhaha was over the right for these immigrates to vote. The Democrats were in favor of giving them the vote. The Whigs (precursor to today’s Republican party) were opposed. Abraham Lincoln, a Whig, “shared the standard Whig belief that property holding ought to be a prerequisite for voting…” 1

The issue went unresolved at that time.The Whig party later fractured over the issue of slavery and self-destructed. Most Whigs migrated to the new Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln being the first man elected President under their banner.

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that their is nothing new under the sun. And so it is that today, the battle over immigration still rages and the Republican Party may be following the path of the ill-fated Whig Party.

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1 Lincoln, David Herbert Donald, p.59

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