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Harrison Gray Otis, of Massachusetts, said :
“Gentlemen could certainly read the Constitution for themselves, and draw their own conclusions from it. He himself had not the smallest doubt as to the constitutionality of restricting aliens in the way proposed. He believed that Congress, having the power to establish an uniform rule of naturalization, could, if they thought proper, make a residence of forty or fifty years necessary before an alien should be entitled to citizenship, which would extend to the whole life of a person, and prove an effectual exclusion. If Congress, then, had a right to exclude foreigners altogether from citizenship, any modification of that right was certainly within their power, and would be an advantage to aliens, for which they ought to be grateful. There would be nothing in this contrary to the Constitution; for it was always acknowledged that where an absolute power may be exercised, a conditional power may also be exercised. What advantage, he asked, was derived to this country from giving aliens eligibility to office? The people of this country were certainly equal to the legislation and administration of their own government, comprising all the aliens who are now become citizens. He had no doubt but many aliens would become very valuable acquisitions to this country; but he had no idea of admitting them into the government. He did not wish to open the door to the intrigues of other countries, whose chief attention is paid to the obtaining of influence in the internal concerns of the countries over which they wish to have dominion. And he could see it possible that persons might be furnished by such a country to come here and buy lands, and by that means, in time, get into the government. Great Britian, he said, was very careful of the avenues which led to her liberty in this respect. Aliens were there excluded from holding all places of honor, profit, or trust. The situation of America heretofore was different from what it is at present. It had not only been thought good policy, in times past, to encourage foreigners to come to this country, but also to admit them into the Legislature, and other important offices. But now, said he, America is growing into a nation of importance, and it would be an object with foreign nations to gain an influence in our councils; and, before any such attempt was made, it was proper to make provision against it; for if the time ever should arrive when a number of persons of this description had found their way into the Legislature, a motion of this kind would of course be very odious. If, however, gentlemen were of a different opinion, and think the object would be better accomplished by extending the residence of aliens, he should not object to that course being taken, though he thought the one he proposed perfectly within the power of the House."
Samuel Sitgreaves, of Pennsylvania, said :
"He wished that, in attaining an object in which all seemed to concur, they might avoid any constitutional embarrassment; and this, it was allowed, might be done by extending the time of residence of aliens so far as to prevent them from ever becoming citizens, by which means persons who could not be considered as having a common interest with the citizens of the country, would be effectually excluded from holding offices in the government.
“ The great object was to prevent such persons from being elected into either branch of the Legislature, or into the offices of President or Vice President; offices in which the sovereignty of the country is materially concerned, and in which, of course, foreign influence might prove most mischievous. He hoped, therefore, that the present motion would be withdrawn, and that the same object would be attained in the way he had mentioned."
report is made. And it shall be the duty of the clerk, or other officer or person autho rized, who shall receive such report, to record the same in a book to be kept for that purpose, and to grant to the person making the report, and to each individual concerned therein, whenever required, a certificate of such report and registry; and whenever such report and registry shall be made to and by any officer or person authorized as aforesaid, other than the clerk of the District court, it shall be the duty of such officer, or other person, to certify and transmit, within three months thereafter, a transcript of such registry to the said clerk of the District court of the district in which the same shall happen, who shall file the same in a book, to be kept by him for that purpose. And the clerk, officer, or other person authorized to register aliens, shall be entitled to receive, for each report and registry, of one individual or family of individuals, the sum of fifty cents, and for every certificate of a report and registry the sum of fifty cents, to be paid by the person making or requiring the same, respectively. And the clerk of the District court, to whom a return of the registry of any alien shall have been made, as aforesaid, and the successor of such clerk, and of any other officer or person authorized to register aliens, who shall hold any former registry, shall and may grant certificates thereof, to the same effect as the original register might do. And the clerk of each District court shall, during one year from the passing of this act, make monthly returns to the Department of State, of all aliens registered and returned, as aforesaid, in his office.
Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That every alien, who shall continue to reside, or who shall arrive, as aforesaid, of whom a report is required as aforesaid, who shall refuse or neglect to make such report, and to receive a certificate thereof, shall forfeit and pay the sum of two dollars; and any justice of the peace, or other civil magistrate, who has authority to require surety of the peace, shall and may, on complaint made to him thereof, cause such alien to be brought before him, there to give surety of the peace and good behavior during his residence within the United States, or for such term as the justice or other magistrate shall deem reasonable, and until a report and registry of such alien shall be made, and a certificate thereof received as aforesaid; and in failure of such surety, such alien shall and may be committed to the common jail, and shall be there held, until the order which the justice or magistrate shall and may reasonably. make in the premises, shall be performed, and every person, whether alien or other, having the care of any alien or aliens, under the age of 21 years, or of any white alien holden in service, who shall refuse and neglect to make report thereof, as aforesaid, shall forfeit the sum of two dollars, for each and every minor or servant, monthly, and every month, until a report and registry, and a certificate thereof shall be had, as aforesaid.
Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That in respect to every alien, who shall come to reside within the United States after the passing of this act, the time of the registry of such alien shall be taken to be the time when the term of residence within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States, shall have commenced, in case of an application by such alien, to be admitted a citizen of the United States; and a certificate of such registry shall be required, in proof of the term of residence, by the court to whom such applications shall and may be made.
Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That all and singular the penalties established by this act, shall and may be recovered in the name, and to the use, of any person who will inform and sue for the same, before any judge, justice, or court, having jurisdiction in such case, and to the amount of such penalty, respectively.
NATURALIZATION LAW OF 1802, AND SUPPLEMENTS.
THOMAS JEFFERSON, though at an ealier period greatly adverse to what was then denominated liberal legislation towards foreigners, was opposed to the act of 1798, and in his first Message to Congress, after his election to the Presidency, referred to the subject as follows, as will appear by a reference to his Message, December, 1801, in the Annals of Congress of 1801-2, p. 16:
I cannot omit recommending a revisal of the laws on the subject of naturalization. Considering the ordinary chances of human life, a denial of citizenship under a residence of fourteen years, is a denial to a great proportion of those who ask it, and controls a policy pursued from their first settlement, by many of these States, and still believed of consequence to their prosperity. And shall we refuse to the unhappy fugitives from distress, that hospitality which the savages of the wilderness extended to our fathers in arriving in this land? Shall oppressed humanity find no asylum on this globe? The Constitution, indeed, has wisely provided that, for admission to certain offices of important trust, a residence shall be quir sufficient to develop character and design. But might not the general character and capabilities of a citizen be safely communicated to every one manifesting a bona fide purpose of embarking his life and fortunes permanently with us ?—with restrictions, perhaps, to guard against the fraudulent usurpation of our flag—an abuse of which brings so much embarrassment and loss on the genuine citizen, and so much danger to the nation of being involved in war, that no endeavor should be spared to detect and suppress it.
In obedience to this recommendation, and in pursuance of a number of petitions presented, at the commencement of the session, from aliens in New York and other places, a committee was appointed on the subject in the House of Representatives, which reported a bill at an early day. This bill seems to have elicited no discussion, its opponents in the House contenting themselves with a call of the yeas and nays, which were : 59 yeas, 27 nays. See Annals of Congress of 1801-2, pages 464, 986–88– 93, 1132–33-55–57. In' the Senate, the bill was amended and finally passed by a vote of 18 yeas to 8 nays. The act thus passed, again reduced the residence required to five years, where it still remains. It was approved April 14, 1802. The first section of the act is a copy of that of 1795, with the following modifications and amendments : that the person applying shall, at the time of his admission, swear or affirm to support the Constitution of the United States ; that the court shall be satisfied that he has resided, not only within the United States five years at least, but within the State or Territory where such court is at the time