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Much information (he said) might be obtained by the experience of others, if, in despite of it, we were not determined to be guided only by a visionary theory. The ancient Republics of Greece and Rome (said he), see with what jealousy they guarded the rights of citizenship against adulteration by foreign mixture. The Swiss nation (he said), in modern times, had not been less jealous on the same subject. Indeed, no example could be found, in the history of man, to authorize the experiment which had been made by the United States. It seemed to have been adopted by universal practice as a maxim, that the republican character was no way to be formed but by early education. In some instances, to form this character, those propensities which are generally considered as almost irresistible, were appeased and subdued. And shall we (he asked) alone adopt the rash theory, that the subjects of all governments, despotic, monarchical, and aristocratical, are, as soon as they set foot on American ground, qualified to participate in administering the sovereignty of our country? Shall we hold the benefits of American citizenship so cheap as to invite, nay, almost bribe, the discontented, the ambitious, and the avaricious of every country to accept them ? We had (he said) on this subject not only example, but warning. Will gentlemen (said Mr. S.) recollect the rage of ages, which existed in the country from which we camo, between the Saxon, Danish, and Norman immigrants and the natives of the country? The cruelties, the oppressions, the assassinations, in a word, the miseries to which this gave birth?
Perhaps it might be said that in this instance the immigrants were hostile invaders; but the same events took place in the decline of the Roman empire, between the immigrants who were invited to occupy the vacant frontiers and the ancient inhabitants; although the former ought to have been united to the latter by every principle of affection and gratitude. By these and almost an infinity of other instances, it would not be rash to conclude, that, by the undeviating principles of human nature, whenever the inhabitants of one country should be permitted to settle in another by national affections, a union would be formed unfriendly not only to ancient inhabitants, but also to social order. Our own experience was not, he believed, in opposition to the general observation. Although this reasoning was to his mind conclusive against a general and indizcriminate admission aliens to the right of citizenship, yet he did not wish it should go to a complete exclusion.
William Vans Murray, of Maryland, declared :
“ He was quite indifferent if not fifty immigrants came into this country in a year's time. It would be unjust to hinder them, but impolitic to encourage them. He was afraid that, coming from a quarter of the world so full of disorder and corruption, they might contaminate the purity and simplicity of the American character.”
Ezekiel Gilbert, of New York, said :
“ The term of residence, before admitting aliens, ought to be very much longer than mentioned in the bill.”
Theodore Sedgwick, of Massachusetts, said:
“ He agreed to the idea of Mr. Gilbert. He wished that a method could be found of permitting aliens to possess and transmit property, without, at the same time, giving them a right to vote."
James Madison, of Virginia, remarked as follows: “ There was no class of immigrants from whom so much was to be apprehended, as
those who should obtain property in shipping. Much greater mischief was to be feared from them than from any influence in votes at an election. If he were disposed to manke any distinction of one class of immigrants more than another, as to the length of time before they should be admitted citizens, it would be as to the mercantile people as these persons may, by possessing themselves of American shipping and seamen, be en. abled clandestinely to favor such particular nations in the way of trade as they may think proper."
For carrying into more complete effect the power given by the Consti. tution, this bill finally passed the House, met with no oppositiou in the Senate, and was approved January 29, 1795. By it a residence of five years was required, and some other important conditions to the admission of citizenship imposed. The main provisions of it were as follows:
That any alien, being a free whito person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, or any of them, on the following conditions, and not otherwise. First. He shall have declared, on oath or affirmation, before the Supreme, Superior, District, or Circuit court of some one of the States, or of the Territories Northwest or South of the river Ohio, or a Circuit or District court of the United States, three years at least before his admission, that it was, bona fide, his intention to become a citizen of the United States, and to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, State, or sovereignty, whereof such alien may at that time be a citizen or subject. Secondly. He shall, at the time of his application to be admitted, declare, on oath or affirmation, before some one of the courts aforesaid, that he has resided within the United States five years at least, and within the State or Territory where such court is at the time held, one year at least; that he will support the Constitution of the United States; and that he doth absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, State, or sovereignty whatever, and particularly by name, the prince, potentate, State or sovereignty, whereof he was before a citizen or subject ; which proceedings shall be recorded by the clerk of the court. Thirdly. The court admitting such alien shall be satisfied that he has resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States, five years; and it shall further appear to their satisfaction that, during that time, he has behaved as a man of a good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the same. Fourthly. In case the alien applying to be admitted to citizenship shall have borne any hereditary title, or been of any of the orders of nobility, in the Kingdom or State from which he came, he shall, in addition to the above requisites, make an express renunciation of his title or order of nobility, in the court to which his application shall be made ; .which renunciation shall be recorded in the said court.
Sec. 2. Provided always, and be it further enacted, That any alien now residing within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States, may be admitted to become a citizen, on his declaring, on oath or affirmation, in some one of the courts aforesaid, that he has resided two years, at least, within and under the jurisdiction of the same, and one year, at least, within the State or Territory where such court is at the time held ; that he will support the Constitution of the United States, and that he doth absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any
foreign prince, potentate, State or sovereignty whatever, and particularly by name, the prince, potentate, State, or sovereignty, whereof he was before a citizen or subject; and
moreover, on its appearing to the satisfaction of the court, that, during the said term of two years, he has behaved as a man of good moral character, attached to the Constitution of the United States, and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the same ; and when the alien applying for admission to citizenship shall have borne any hereditary title, or been of any of the orders of nobility in the Kingdom or State from which he came, on his, moreover, making in the court an express renunciation of his title or order of nobility, before he shall be entitled to such admission ; all of which pro
1 ceedings, required in this proviso to be performed in the court, shall be recorded by the clerk thereof.
See. 3. And be it further enacted, That the children of persons duly naturalized, dwelling within the United States, and being under the age of twenty-one years, at the time of such naturalization, and the children of citizens of the United States born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, shall be considered as citizens of tho United States: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend on persons whose fathers have never been resident of the United States : Provided also, That no person heretofore proscribed by any State, or who has been legally convicted of having joined the army of Great Britain, during the late war, shall be admitted as aforesaid, without the consent of the Legislature of the State in which such person was proscribed.
NATURALIZATION LAW OF 1798.
On the 17th of April, 1798, Joshua Coit, of Connecticut, said, in the House of Representatives, that “from the present situation of things, he apprehended some alterations would be necessary in the present law for the naturalization of foreigners ;” and he therefore proposed that “the committee appointed for the protection of commerce and the defence of our country, be directed to inquire and report whether it be not expedient to suspend or to amend the act establishing an uniform rule of naturalization." As will be found by reference to the Annals of Congress of 1797-99, vol. ii., p. 1454, this resolution was unanimously adopted a day or two afterwards, and of which the following account is given :
Mr. Sitgreaves wished the committee to have the whole subject before them, in order that they might report a new system respecting naturalization of foreigners, if they should think it necessar
He thought our pre
situation called for regulations on this head; since, at a time when we may very shortly be involved in war, there are an immense number of French citizens in our country. He could not say what might be the proper measures to be taken with respect to those persons; they should be such as the interests of the country require; these might be to place them under certain regulations, or by sending them out of the country. He moved to add to the resolution, therefore, the following words, viz. : “ And further to consider and report upon the expe
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 aliens 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 residenco 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 Massachusetts, 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 bo 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 coun-" try. 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.