Monday, August 6, 2012
Amanuensis Monday - The Alien & Sedition Acts, Part I
Why did I want to do this as an Amanuensis Monday series of posts? Well, it's for me mostly, but I was amazed at the number of friends I had that would say something along the lines of, "Well, when my ancestors came over, they did it legally." That statement takes history way out of context, because the immigration system was not always as it is today. In fact it's not all that rare to find ancestors that came to America and never applied to become American citizens. Others may have started the ball rolling, but never finished the process and just lived the remainder of their lives in America as aliens.
Today's transcription was taken from the Library of Congress (but you can see an image of the original legislation signed by John Adams by clicking here) and is called "An Act to Establish an Uniform Rule of Naturalization" and was enacted in 1798. I won't lie. There's plenty there to bore you to tears and leave a puddle of drool on your keyboard. Section 1 is the most important (in my humble opinion), as it tells us tells us that:
1) Anyone wanting to become a U.S. citizen needs to make his declaration 5 years beforehand,
2) Needs to have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years beforehand,
3) and, If we're at war with your native country, tough luck.
That is simplifying it to say the least. The rest of the act deals mostly with the registration of aliens, what happens should aliens not register and fees for all of this joy. Also interesting to note is at this time the U.S. Secretary of State was the head of immigration.
Again, this act is the first of four that were labeled the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. The others will find their way to a blog post in the near future (unless my fingers fall off first).
"CHAP. LIV. - An Act supplementary to and to amend the act, intituled [sic] 'An act to establish an uniform rule of naturalization; and to repeal the act heretofore passed on that subject.'
SECTION I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That no alien shall be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, or of any state, unless in the manner prescribed by the act, intituled [sic] 'An act to establish an uniform rule of naturalization; and to repeal the act heretofore passed on the subject,' he shall have declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States, five years, at least, before his admission, and shall, at the time of his application to be admitted, declare and prove, to the satisfaction of the court having jurisdiction in the case, that he has resided within the United States fourteen years, at least, and within the state or territory where, or for which such court is at the time held, five years, at least, besides conforming to the other declarations, renunciations and proofs, by the said act required, any thing therein to the contrary hereof notwithstanding: Provided, that any alien, who was residing within the limits, and under the jurisdiction of the United States, before the twenty-ninth day of January, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five, may, within one year after the passing of this act - and any alien who shall have made the declaration of his intention to become a citizen of the United States, in conformity to the provisions of the act, intituled [sic] 'An act to establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and to repeal the act heretofore passed on that subject,' may, within four years after having made the declaration aforesaid, be admitted to become a citizen, in the manner prescribed by the said act, upon his making proof that he has resided five years, at least, within the limits, and under the jurisdiction of the United States: And provided also, that no alien, who shall be a native, citizen, denizen or subject of any nation or state with whom the United States shall be at war, at the time of his application, shall be then admitted to become a citizen of the United States.
SEC 2. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the clerk, or other recording officer of the court before whom a declaration has been, or shall be made, by any alien, of his intention to become a citizen of the United States, to certify and transmit to the office of the Secretary of State of the United States, to be there filed and recorded, an abstract of such declaration, in which, when hereafter made, shall be a suitable description of the name, age, nation, residence and occupation, for the time being, of the alien; such certificate to be made in all cases, where the declaration has been or shall be made, before the passing of this act, within three months thereafter; and in all other cases, within two months after the declaration shall be received by the court. And is all cases hereafter arising, there shall be paid to the clerk, or recording officer as aforesaid, to defray the expense of such abstract and certificate, a fee of two dollars; and the clerk or officer to whom such fee shall be paid or tendered, who shall refuse or neglect to make and certify an abstract, as aforesaid, shall forfeit and pay the sum of ten dollars.
SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That in all cases of naturalization heretofore permitted or which shall be permitted, under the laws of the United States, a certificate shall be made to, and filed in the office of the Secretary of State, containing a copy of the record repeating the alien, and the decree or order of admission by the court before whom the proceedings thereto have been, or shall be had: And it shall be the duty of the clerk or other recording officer of such court, to make and transmit such certificate, in all cases which have already occurred, within three months after the passing of this act; and in all future cases, within two months from and after the naturalization of an alien shall be granted by any court competent thereto: - And in all future cases, there shall be paid to such clerk or recording officer the sum of two dollars, as a fee for such certificate, before the naturalization prayed for, shall be allowed. And the clerk or recording officer, whose duty it shall be, to make and transmit the certificate aforesaid, who shall be convicted of a willful neglect therein, shall forfeit and pay the sum of ten dollars, for each and every offence [sic].
SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That all white persons, aliens, (accredited foreign ministers, counsels, or agents, their families and domestics, excepted) who, after the passing of this act, shall continue to reside, or who shall arrive, or come to reside in any port or place within the territory of the United States, shall be reported, if free, and of the age of twenty-one years, by themselves, or being under the age of twenty-one years, or holden in service, by their parent, guardian, master or mistress in whose care they shall be, to the clerk of the district court of the district, if living within ten miles of the port or place, in which their residence or arrival shall be, and otherwise, to the collector of such port or place, or some officer or other person there, or nearest thereto, who shall be authorized by the President of the United States, to register aliens: And report, as aforesaid, shall be made in all cases of residence, within six months from and after the passing of this act, and in all after cases, within forty-eight hours after the first arrival or coming into the territory of the United States, and shall ascertain the sex, place of birth, age, nation, place of allegiance or citizenship, condition or occupation, and place of actual or intended residence within the United States, of the alien or aliens reported, and by whom the report is made. And it shall be the duty of the clerk, or other officer, or person authorized, 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 his office, and shall enter and transcribe 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 to him made 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 gaol, 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 twenty-one 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 such 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 application 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.
APPROVED, June 18, 1798."