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diency of establishing by law, regulations respecting aliens arriving or residing within the United States.” Some conversation took place as to the propriety of letting this resolution lie for the present, on account of some constitutional objections; but Mr. Davis, of Kentucky, stating the necessity of some regulation of this kind, from a fact within his own knowledge of a Frenchman residing iu that State, who, some time ago, had issued a number of commissions for a certain expedition, which commissions are yet in existence, and that this person constantly employs himself in alienating the affections of the people of that State from their government; the resolution was immediately and unanimously adopted.
The Committee to which the resolution was referred, made a report thereon—accompanied by the following resolutions, the two first of which, after some discussion, were adopted, as will be seen by referring to the Annals of Congress of 1797–99, vol. ii., p. 1566 :
Resolved, That provision ought to be made by law, to prolong the term of residence within the United States, which shall be proved by an alien before he shall be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, or of any State.
Resolved, That provision be made, by law, for a report and registry of all aliene who shall continue residents, or shall hereafter arrive within the United States, with suitable descriptions of their places of birth and citizenship, and places of arrival and residence within the United States.
Resolved, That provision be made by law for the apprehending, securing, or removal, as the case may require, of all aliens, being males, of the age of fourteen years and upwards, who shall continue to reside or shall arrive within the United States, being native citizens, or subjects of any country the government whereof shall declare war against the United States, or shall threaten, attempt, or perpetrate any invasion or predatory incursions upon their territory, as soon as may be after the President of the United States shall make proclamation of such event. Providing in all cases where such aliens are not chargeable with actual hostility, that the period settled by any treaty with such hostile nation, or other reasonable period, according to the usages of nations, and the duties of humanity, shall be allowed for the departure of such aliens, with all their effects, from the territory of the United States; and excepting all cases of such aliens to whom passports or licenses of residence may be granted consistently with the public safety.
Pending the consideration of these resolutions, an animated debate was had, as appears by the Annals of Congress of 1797–99, vol. ii., 1568 to '80. Mr. Harper, of Maryland, moved to amend the first resolution as follows: " That provision ought to be made by law for preventing any person - becoming entitled to the rights of a citizen of the United States, except by birth.”. This was declared would be a substitute to the resolution, and therefore not in order, whereupon Mr. Otis, of Massaehusetts, proposed to add, "and that no alien born, who is not at present a citizen of the United States, shall hereafter be capable of holding any office of honor, trust, or profit, under the United States;" to which Mr. Harper moved to add, “or of voting at the election of any member of the Legislature of the United States, or of any State ;" which he subsequently withdrew, until he had an opportunity to examine the Constitution and had satisfied his mind that it was not in violation of it. At a subsequent stage of the debate, Mr. Otis also withdrew his amendment. During the discussion, many of the members, however, expressed themselves in favor of a much longer period of residence to acquire citizenship than was then required.
Robert Goodloe Harper, of Maryland, who was a member of the Convention which formed the Federal Constitution, spoke as follows:
He believed that it was high time we should recover from the mistake which this country fell into when it first began to form its constitutions, of admitting foreigners to citizenship. This mistake, he believed, had been productive of very great evils to this country, and, unless corrected, he was apprehensive those evils would greatly increase. He believed the time was now come when it would be proper to declare that nothing but birth should entitle a man to citizenship in this country. He thought this was a proper season for making the declaration. He believed the United States had experience enough to cure them of the folly of believing that the strength and happiness of the country would be promoted by admitting to the rights of citizenship all the congregations of people who resort to these shores from every part of the world. Under these impressions, which, as he supposed they would have the same force upon others as upon himself, he should not detain the Committee by dilating upon, he proposed to amend the resolution by adding to it the following words, viz. : “ that provision ought to be made by law for preventing any person becoming entitled to the rights of a citizen of the United States, except by birth.”
Mr. Harper said he was for giving foreigners every facility of acquiring property, of holding this property, of raising their families, and of transferring their property to their families. He was willing they should form citizens for us; but as to the rights of citizenship, he was not willing they should be enjoyed, except by persons born in this country. He did not think even this was desirable by the persons themselves. Why, he asked, did foreigners seek a residence in this country? He supposed it was either to better their condition or to live under a government better and more free than the one they had left. But was it necessary these persons should at once become entitled to take a part in the concerns of our government? He believed it was by no means necessary, either to their happiness or prosperity, and he was sure it would not tend to the happiness of this country. If the native citizens are not indeed adequate to the performance of the duties of government, it might be expedient to invite legislators or voters from other countries to do that business for which they themselves are not qualified, But if the people of the country, who owe their birth to it, are adequate to all the duties of the government, he could not see for what reason strangers should be admitted ; strangers who, however acceptable they may be in other respects, could not have the same views and attachments with native citizens. Under this view of the subject, he was convinced it was an essential policy, which lay at the bottom of civil society, that no foreigner should be permitted to take a part in the government. There might have been, Mr. H. acknowledged, individual exceptions, and there may be again, to this general rule, but it was necessary to make regulations general, and he believed the danger arising from admitting foreigners, generally, to citizenship, would be greater than the inconveniences arising from debarring from citizenship the most deserving foreigners. He believed it would have been well for this country, if the principle contained in this amendment had been adopted sooner ; he hoped it would now be adopted.