Just four years after the 1798 Naturalization Act, United States legislators were once again scratching away at their parchments. The administration of Thomas Jefferson sought to repeal the Naturalization Act of 1798. He believed that under “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” (www.northamericanimmigration.org). It seems Thomas Jefferson came to the same conclusion blogged by the gringa May 29, 2015, in my post titled “1798, Immigrant Until Death”. The naturalization process was designed to deny an immigrant an opportunity at citizenship by establishing residency periods that would fulfill the average immigrant’s natural life span, thus being denied citizenship by death. In April 14, 1802, as recorded in the Library of Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America got together. It was out with the old, in with the new, the new conditions of citizenship, that is, with the 1802 Naturalization Act:
Section 1 stipulations
- The immigrant shall declare an oath at a United States state or territorial court that three years prior to admission into the country it was the immigrant’s “bona fide” intention to become a citizen of the United States and that the immigrant renounces any prior allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereign and must particularly name that prince, potentate, state or sovereign.
- At the time of citizenship application, the immigrant shall declare an oath before a United States state or territorial court that the immigrant supports the Constitution of the United States and renounces all allegiance to every foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereign of which the immigrant was previously subject to, and must specifically name that prince, potentate, state or sovereign. These proceedings shall be recorded by the clerk of the court.
- Documentation must be provided to prove residency requirements have been met. The court cannot accept an oath as testamentary proof of meeting residency requirements. The act states “Provided that the oath of the applicant shall in no case be allowed to prove his residence”. Residency requirements are five years within the United States, one year within the particular state or territory of the court where citizenship proceedings are being held. In addition to documentation of residency requirements, the immigrant must also satisfy the court that the immigrant has “behaved as a man of 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”
- If the immigrant previously carried a hereditary title or was of foreign nobility, the immigrant must expressly renounce such title or order of nobility. Such renunciation shall be recorded in the court. No immigrant who was a native citizen or subject of any country or state at war with the United States at the time of citizenship application shall be admitted to be a citizen of the United States unless the immigrant met all other citizenship requirements and can prove residency began before January, 29, 1795, and had resided in the U.S. for at least two years, with the preceding year being in the state or territory of the court where citizenship application has been made. The immigrant must declare an oath supporting the United States Constitution and entirely renounce allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereign and specifically name the prince, potentate, state, or sovereign of prior allegiance. If the court is satisfied that during the term of two years the immigrant “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”, the clerk shall record all and any immigrants who resided within the jurisdiction of the United States between January 29, 1795 and June 18, 1798, may, within two years after the passing of this act, be admitted to become a citizen without compliance to the first condition specified in Section 1.
Section 2 stipulations
- In addition to Section 1 requirements, all free, white immigrants who arrive in the United States after the passing of this act must register and obtain certificates if they desire citizenship. Free, white immigrants 21 years of age or older must report to the clerk of the nearest court upon arrival into the United States. The report will determine the immigrant’s name, birthplace, age, nation of migration origin and intended place of settlement. The court clerk will record the report and issue to the immigrant a certificate with the seal of office for a fee of 50 cents (about the modern day equivalent of $11, according to http://www.davemanuel.com). If an immigrant is under the age of twenty-one years or is in service, the immigrant’s registration shall be made by the parent, guardian, master, or mistress.
Section 3 stipulates
- Any immigrant naturalized by the authority of any court of the United States of common law jurisdiction, and such court having a seal and a clerk, that immigrant, having been naturalized, “shall enjoy… the same rights and privileges as if he had been naturalized in a district or circuit court of the United States”.
Section 4 stipulates
- Children of persons naturalized under any of the laws of the United States or who previously became citizens under the laws of a particular state, and are under the age of twenty-one years when their parents became naturalized, and are currently residing in the United States shall be considered citizens of the United States. Children born outside of the United States are to be considered citizens of the United States provided that the father is a US citizen and has not been convicted of joining the army of Great Britain during the revolutionary war.
Section 5 stipulates:
- All prior naturalization acts are repealed.
Once again, the question must be asked. What did all of this mean to an immigrant in 1802? What conditions within the country motivated Congress to invest the time and effort to repeal past legislation and enact new naturalization law?
The most distinct change from the 1798 Naturalization Act requirements was the residency period. Residency requirements were reduced by about two-thirds of the previous time required. Court and document fees were also reduced from an overall total of $4.50 in 1798 to fifty cents in 1802. It was becoming a little easier to become a United States citizen provided you were a white male. The race and gender requirements remained the same. Excluded from US citizenship were women and non-whites. However, the gringa is hopeful that the pendulum is beginning to swing in favor of the immigrant. Now that residency requirements actually make it possible to survive long enough to become a citizen, racial and gender equality issues could now become an issue to fight for.
Although there are many details, the 1802 Naturalization Act has streamlined, simplified, and economized the process of becoming a United States citizen. For an oath of intention and allegiance, renunciation of title, renunciation of allegiance to nation of origin, five years, and fifty cents, a free, white, male immigrant could become a United States citizen. The new law clarified citizenship status for immigrants who had been naturalized in any U.S. court other than a district or circuit court prior to this act. The new law established citizenship status of children born to fathers that were U.S. citizens regardless of where the child was born, except in cases of children fathered by men convicted of serving the British during the Revolutionary War. The Naturalization Act of 1802 made it possible for many new citizens to fill the ranks of the United States population records much more quickly. It would then seem the United States government saw population growth as a good thing in 1802.
By 1802 the United States had enjoyed nineteen years of recovery from the end of hostilities with Great Britain and establishing independence as a nation. The only military conflict the U.S. was involved in was the First Barbary War that commenced as a naval war in 1801. As reflected by the “Enabling Act of 1802”, the U.S. was preparing to enter into a period of geographical expansion (www.ohiohistorycentral.org). Continental expansion and the need for more settlers, rather than soldiers, was more than likely the motivation for relaxing naturalization standards. According to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (www.ourdocuments.gov), with regards to a U.S. territory, “whenever any of the said states shall have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein, such state shall be admitted by its delegates into the Congress of the United States, on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever”. This ordinance established the requirement of a population of 60,000 before a territory could achieve state status. So, once again, please understand that the U.S. was not making things easier for the immigrant because of a humanitarian reason. There was a strategic national interest behind the 1802 Naturalization Act. The United States had a need for warm bodies to fill the population requirements in order to expand the nation’s borders. Expansion meant control of more natural resources. More natural resources meant greater national wealth. Once again, the U.S. is motivated by the most common motivators of all time, power and greed. A humanitarian viewpoint on immigration has yet to enter the mind of the typical American legislator. The gringa’s advice to the immigrants in the barrio, find a way to convince Congress there is a significant national benefit to immigration reform. In the United States legislature, money talks. Immigrants will get their immigration reform when the U.S. government realizes it will result in increased wealth and power for the nation.