Module 2: Group Discussion – The Creation of American Identity in the Late 18th Century

In the words of Arthur Mann, late eighteenth-century Americans could not claim “an ancestral land, a long history, an old folklore, a common church, or the same progenitors” (quoted in Jon Gjerde, ed., Major Problems in American Immigration History, 1st ed., 92). In the early years of the republic, different people had very different ideas about what it meant to be an American.

How did these ethnically diverse Americans forge a national identity in the late eighteenth century?

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How did the Constitution and Naturalization Act of 1790 legally define who was included in citizenship and set the stage for U.S. race/ethnic relations in the nineteenth century?

Be sure to answer the questions completely and support your argument with evidence from both Daniels (book)…

  Strangers in the Realm: Mig rams to British Colonial North America, 1609-1775
many, Switzerland, and France. Fa r fewer than one in ten of the immigrants were
h’nglish. What is now the United States was a society of immigrants before it was a
If the origins of migrants were diverse, so were their conditions of life. The statuses of immigrants varied greatly-unfreedom, semifreedom .. and autonomy. .
Many Europeans arrived as indentured servants or “~edemptzoners” that r~quzred
them to labor a period of time (in effect, to pay off thezr passage to the colomes) for
propertied gentry who aspired to greater wealth in the empire. Others were lured
to the colonies with promises of freedom to practice their own religions or of better
conditions of life, which they often’rea!ized. For most Africans, the migration was
a forced journey that typically ended in slave communities in ~he rapidly grou:mg
southern colonies. In sum, the British American colonial emp1re was an atypzcal
society for many reasons that were linked to migration. Composed of people of diverse origins, it was a place celebrated by some for its great freedoms and cursed by
others for its brutal slavery.
Strangers in the Realm: Migrants
to British Colonial North
America, 1609-1785
The formation of the British American colonies was predicated on a migration that
would people newly claimed tracts of land. To Native Americans, it was, as historian Russell Menard points out, an invasion; to the European colonists, it was settlement; to slaves, it was forced migration followed by coerced labor. The result,
according to historian Philip Morgan, was a society fra med by a mingling of
strangers in the British imperial realm. It is tr~e that the earliest efforts at colonization were an English affair. Beginning in the late sixteenth century, groups of
English people endeavored to plant colonies on American shores. Arriving with
hopes of entrepreneurial gain or the freedom to practice their own religions, migrants had formed permanent settlements by the early seventeenth century in what
would become Virginia and New England. If all the immigrants left an England
undergoing immense change, their conditions of migration dzffered from the experience of those who arrived as indentured servants to propertied gentry.
What began as an English enterprise, however, soon was transformed into a
society with a population diverse in its origins. Native Americans, whose numbers
were greatly depleted by disease and war, nonetheless continued to oppose colonial
incursions onto their land. As early as 1619, the first Africans arrived in Virginia
and soon their status-and the status of those who followed them from Africawas locked into a condition of perpetual slavery. By the mid-seventeenth century,
the British empire had absorbed a group of colonies on the Atlantic seaboard that
had been founded as Dutch and Swedish enterprises. And the migration from Eu rope itself expanded to include a wide variety of Europeans of non-English background. The migration to the colonies was especially remarkable in the eighteenth
century. As late as 1700, only about 250,000 white and black people resided in the
British colonies. In the next seventy-five years, an estimated half-million people
would arrive, the vast majority of whom were not English. Rather, according to
historian Aaron Fogleman, nearly half were of African birth, one-fifth were from
Ireland, and one-seventh were German-speaking people from what is today Ger30
0 0 C U M E N T S
As the fo llowing documents reveal, m igrants to the Bri tish A meri can co lonies arrived
in diss imilar circumstances and for a variety of reasons. The first two documents illustrate the di ffere nt contex ts of the journey to the colonies. Olaudah Equiano, in a rare
1757 nan·ative of a s lave, describes the terror of ens lavement in Africa, the journey to
the West Indies, the bewi lderment of slavery, as well as its cruelties. Gottlieb Mittelberger, in a work dating from 1750, s hows th at im migration from Germany was difficul t as well, especiall y regarding what he calls the “comme rce in hu man beings”
know n as the redemptioner migration. The second pair of documents illustrate how labor was defin ed by cond iti on and race . W illi am Mora ley ( 1743), h imself an indentured
servant, and Peter Ka lm ( 1750) depict the condit ion of s laves, indentu red servants, and
free laborers, and they both observe how race had become inex tricably tied to status of
freedom or s lavery. The final three documents, however, show how immigrants also
saw the poss ib ili ties of the colonies. A govern ment offic ia l in northern Ireland , in a letter penned in 1728, bemoans the “evils” of migration as the residents from thi s region
flee its oppressions. Benjam in Franklin (in 1794) illustrates how ~ppo rtu111t y ex 1 s~s fo r
laborers to gain a com petence. And, in 1736, a land speculator wn tes to h1s agent 111
Europe in the hopes of attracting imm igrants to develop his vast tracts of rich land .
Olaudah Equiano, an African, Recounts the Horror
of Enslavement, 1757
.. . One d ay, w hen all o ur p eopl e were g o ne out to the ir works as usual , and on ly
I and my dear sister were left to mind the ho use, two men and a woma n got
over our walls, and seized us both, and they stopped o ur m ouths, and ran o ff w ith
us into the nearest wood . Here they tied our ha nds, and continued to c arry us as fa r
From Olaudah Equiano, The Life of Ola11dah Equiano, 1789.
Major Problems in American immigration & Ethnic Histoty
a they could , till night came on, when we reached a small house, where the robbers ha lted for refreshme nt, and spent the nig ht. We were then unbou nd, but were
unable to take any food ; and, being quite overpowered by fatig ue and grief, our
only relief was some sleep, whi ch allayed our misfortune fo r a short time. The next
morn ing we left the house, and continued travelling a ll the day… . When we went
to rest the followi ng night they offered us some victuals; but we refused it; and the
only comfort we had was in bei ng in one another’s arms all that night, and bathing
each other with our tears. But a las! we were soon depri ved of even the small comforL of weeping together. T he next day proved a day of greater sorrow than I had
yet experi enced; for my sister and I were then separated, while we lay c lasped in
each other’s arms. It was in vai n that we besought them not to part us; she was torn
fro m me, and immediately ca rri ed away, while l. was left in a state of distraction
not to be described. I cried and gri eved continually; and fo r several days I did not
eat any thing but what they forced into my mouth.
The fi rst object which salu ted my eyes when l arrived on the coast was the sea,
and a slave ship, whi ch was then riding at anchor, and waiti ng fo r its cargo. T hese
filled me with aston ishme nt, which was soon converted into terror when I was carried on board … . I was now persuaded that I had gotten into a world of bad spirits, and that they were goi ng to kill me. Thei r complexions too differing so much
fro m ours, their long hai r, and the language they spoke, (which was very different
fro m any I had ever heard) united to confirm me in thi s belief.. . . When I looked
round the ship too and saw a large furn ace of copper boili ng, and a multitude of
black people of every description chained together, every one of their cou ntenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no l9nger doubted of my fate; and, qui te
overpowered with horror and ang uish, I fe ll motionless o n the deck and fainted.
When I recovered a little I found some blac k people about me, who I believed were
some of those who brought me on board, and had been receiving their pay; they
talked to me in order to c heer me. but all in vain. I asked them if we were not to be
eaten by those white men with horri ble looks, red faces, and loose hair. They to ld
me I was not; … Soon after this the blacks who brought me on board went off,
and le ft me abandoned to despair. I now saw myself depri ved of all chance of retu rni ng to my nati ve country, or even the least gl impse of hope of ga ining the
shore, which I now considered as friendly; and I even wished for my fo rmer slave ry in preference to my present situation, w hich was filled with horrors of every
kind, still he ightened by my ignorance of what I was to undergo. I was not long
suffe red to indu lge my grief; I was soon put down under the decks, and there I received such a salutat ion in my nostri ls as I had never experienced in my life: so
that, wit h the loathsomeness of the stenc h, and c rying together, I became so sick
and low that I was not able to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste any thing. I now
wished for the last friend, death, to re lieve me; but soon , to my grief, two of the
white men offered me eatables; and, on my refu sing to eat, one of them he ld me
fas t by the hands, and laid me across I think the windlass, and tied my feet, whil e
the other flogged me severely. I had never experienced any th ing of thi s kind before; and a lthough, not being used to the water, I naturally feared that e lement the
first time I saw it, yet neverthe less, could I have got over the nettings, I would have
jumped over the side, but I could not; and, besides, the crew used to watch us very
Strangers in the Realm: Migrnllls to British Colonial North America, 1609- 1775
closely who were not cha ined down to the decks, lest we sho uld leap into the water: and I have seen some of these poor African prisoners most severely cut fo r attempting to do so, and hourly whipped fo r not eating. This indeed was often the
case with myself. In a little time after, amongst the poor c hained men, I found
some of my own nation, w hi ch in a small degree gave ease to my mind. I inquired
of these what was to be done with us; they gave me to understand we were to be
carried to these w hite people’s country to work for them . I then was a li ttle rev ived,
and thought, if it were no worse than worki ng, my situation was not so desperate:
but still I feared I should be put to death , the white people looked and acted, as I
thought, in so savage a man ner; fo r I had never seen among any people such instances of brutal cruel ty; and this not onl y shew n towards us blacks, but a lso to
some of the whites themselves. One white man in particular I saw, when we were
permitted to be on deck, flogged so unmercifully with a large rope near the foremast that he died in conseque nce of it; and they tossed him over the side as they
wou ld ha ve done a brute. This made me fear these people the more; and I expected
nothing less than to be treated in the same manner. I coul d not he lp expressing my
fea rs and apprehensions to some of my countrymen: I asked them if these people
had no country, but li ved in thi s hollow place (the ship): they told me they did not,
but came from a di stant one. “Then,” said I, “how comes it in all our cou ntry we
never heard o f them?” T hey told me because they lived so very far off. I the n asked
where were thei r women? had they any li ke themselves? I was told they had “and
why,” said I, “do we not see them?” they answered, because they were left behind.
I asked how the vessel could go? they to ld me they could not tell; but that there
were cloths put upon the masts by the help of the ropes I saw, and then the vessel
went on and the white me n had some spell or mag ic they pu t in the water when
they li ked in order to stop the vessel. I was exceedin gly amazed at this account,
and really thought they were spiri ts. I therefore wished much to be from a mongst
them, for I expected they would sacrifice me: but my w ishes were va in . . ..
… At last we came in sigh t of the island of Barbadoes, at whic h the whites on
board gave a great shout, and made many sig ns of joy to us. We did not know what
to think of this; but as the vessel drew nearer we plainl y saw the harbour, a nd other
ships of different kinds and sizes; and we soon anchored amongst them off Bri dge
Town. Many merchants and planters now ca me on board, though it was in the
evening. They put us in separate parcels, and examined us attenti vely. They a lso
made us jump, and pointed to the land, signifying we were to go there. We thought
by this we should be eaten by these ug ly men as they appeared to us; and , when
soon after we were all put dow n unde r the deck again , there was much dread and
trembling among us, and nothi ng but bitter cries to be heard a ll the night from
these appre hensions, insomuch that at last the white people got some o ld slaves
from the land to pacify us. They told us we were not to be eaten, but to work , and
were soo n to go on land, w here we should see many of our country people. This report eased us much ; and sure e nough, soon after we were landed, the re came to us
Africa ns of all languages. We were co nduc ted immediately to the me rchant’s yard ,
whe re we were all pent up together li ke so many sheep in a fold, without regard to
sex or age. As every object was new to me every thing I saw fi lled me with surprise. What struck me first was that the houses were built wi th stories, and in every
Major Problems in American Immigration & Ethnic History
other respect different from those in Africa: but I was stillmore astoni shed on seeing people on horsebac k. I did not know what this could mean ; and indeed I
thought these people were full of nothing but magical arts …. We were not many
days in the merchant ‘s c ustody be fore we were sold a fter the ir usual manner, which
is thi s:- On a signal give n (as the beat of a drum), the buyers rush at once into the
yard where the slaves are confined, and make c hoice o f that parcel they like best.
The noise a nd clamour with which thi s is attended , and the eagerness visible in the
countenances of the buyers, serve not a little to increase the apprehensions of the
te rrifi ed Africans, who may we ll be supposed to consider them as the ministers of
th at destruction to which they think the mselves devoted. In thi s manner, wi thout
scruple, are relations and frie nds separated, most of the m never to see each other
again. I re member in the vessel in whi ch I was brought over, in the men’s apartme nt, there were se veral brothers, who, in the sale, we re sold in different lots; and
it was very moving on thi s occasion to see and hear their cri es at parting.
Whi le I was thus e mployed by my master I was ofte n a witness to c ruelties of
every kind, whic h were exerc ised on my unhappy fellow slaves. I used freque ntl y
to have different cargoes of new negroes in my care for sale; and it was a lmost a
consta nt practice with our clerks, a nd other whi tes, to commit viole nt depredations
o n the chastity of the female slaves; and these I was, though with reluctance,
obliged to submit to a t a ll times, be ing unable to help the m. When we have had
some of these slaves on boa rd my master ‘s vessels to carry the m to other isla nds,
or to America, I have known our mates to commit these acts most shamefull y, to
the disgrace, not of Christians only, but of men. I have even known them gratify
the ir brutal passion with females not ten yryars old; . .. And yet in Montserrat I
have seen a negro man staked to the ground, and cut most shocki ng ly, and the n his
ears cut off bit by bit, becau se he had been connected with a white woman who was
a common prostitute : as if it were no c rime in the whites to rob an innocent African
girl of he r virtue; but most he inous in a black ma n only to gratify a passion of nature, where the temptation was offe re d by o ne of a different colour, though the
most abandoned woma n of her species. A nothe r negro man was hal f hanged , a nd
then burnt, for attempting to poison a crue l overseer. Thus by repeated crue lties a re
the wretched first urged to despair, and the n murde re d, because they still retain so
much of human nature about them as to wish to put an e nd to the ir mise ry, and reta lia te on their tyrants! …
Gottlieb Mittelberger, a German, Describes the Difficulties
of Immigration, 1750
Whe n the ships have we ighed anchor for the last time, usuall y off Cowes in O ld
England, then both the long sea voyage a nd mi sery begin in earnest. For from there
the ships often take e ight, nine, ten, or twelve weeks sailing to Philadelphia, if the
From Gottlieb Mittel berger, Reise nacil Pennsylvania {Joumey to Pennsylvania/, 1756.
Strangers in the Realm: Migrallls to British Colonial North America, 1609-1775
wi nd is unfavorable. But even given the most favorabl e winds, the voyage takes
‘ l’Vcn weeks.
During the j ourney the ship is full o f pitiful signs of distress-smells, fumes,
horrors, vomiting, various kinds of sea sic kness, fever, dysentery, headaches, heat,
l’onstipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth-rot, and similar afflictions, all of the m
r aused by the age and the hi ghl y-sa lted state of the food, especially of the meat, as
well as by the very bad a nd filth y water, whic h brings about the miserable destruction and death of man y. Add to all that shortage of food , hunger, th irst, frost, heat,
da mpness, fear, mi sery, vexation, and lamentation as we ll as other troubl es. Thus,
l’or example, there are so many lice, espec ially on the sick people, that the y have to
h~ scraped off the bodies. All this misery reaches its c limax when in addition to
l’Vcrything else one must also suffer through two to three days and nights of storm ,
with everyone con vinced that the ship with all aboard is bound to sink. In such
misery all the people on board pray and cry pitifull y together.
In the course of such a storm the se a begins to surge and rage so that the waves
often seem to rise up like hi gh mountains, some times sweeping over the ship; and
nne thinks that he is going to sink alo ng with the ship. All the whi le the ship, tossed
hy storm and waves, moves constantl y from one side to the othe r, so tha t nobody
aboard can e ither walk, sit, or lie down a nd the tightly packed people on the ir cots,
the sick as well as the healthy, a re thrown eve ry which way. One can e asil y imagine that these hardships nece ssa rily affect many people so severe ly that they cannot
survive the m.
Among those who arc in good health impatience sometimes grows so great
unci bitter that one person beg ins to c urse the other, or hi mself and the day of his
birth , and people sometimes come c lose to murderi ng one anothe r. Misery and
mali ce are readi ly associated , so that people begin to c heat and steal from one another. And then one a lways blames the other for having underta ken the voyage. Ofte n the childre n c ry out against the ir parents, husbands against wives and wives
against husbands, brothe rs against their siste rs, fri ends and acquaintances against
one another.
But most of all they c ry out aga inst the thi eves of human beings! Many groan
and exclaim: “Oh! If onl y I were back at home, even lying in my pig-sty!” Or they
call out: “Ah, dear God, if I onl y o nce again had a piece of good bread o r a good
fres h d rop of water.” Many people whimper, igh, and cry out pitifully for home.
Most of them become ho mesick a t the thought th at ma ny hundreds of people mu st
necessarily peri sh, die, and be throw n into the ocean in such misery.. . . In a word ,
groani ng, crying , and lamentation go on aboard day and ni ght; so that even the
hearts of the most harde ned , hearing all th is, begin to bleed.
When at last after the long and diffi cult voyage the ships finall y approach
land, when one gets to see the headlands for the sight of wh ich the people on board
had longed so passionate ly, the n everyone c rawls fro m below to the dec k, in orde r
to look at the la nd from afa r. A nd people c ry for joy, pray, and sing pra ises and
thanks to God. The glimpse o f land revives the passengers, especially those w ho
are ha lf-dead of illness. Their spirits, however weak they had become, leap
Major Problems in American Immigration & Ethnic Histo1y
triumph, and rejoice within them. Such people are now willing to bear a ll ills patiently, if only they can disembark soon and step on land. But, alas, alas!
When the ships finally arrive in Philadelphia after the long voyage only those
are let off who can pay their sea freight or can give good security. The others, who
lack the money to pay, have to remain on board until they are purchased and unti l
their purchasers can thus pry them loose from the ship. In this whole process the
sick are the worst off, for the healthy are preferred and are more readily paid for.
The miserable people who are ill must often still remain at sea and in sight of the
city for another two or three weeks-which in many cases means death. Yet many
of them , were they able to pay their debts and to leave the ships at once, might escape with their lives.
This is how the commerce in human beings on board ship takes place. Every
day Englishmen, Du tchmen, and High Germans come from Philadelphia and other
places, some of them very fa r away, sometime twenty or thirty or forty hours’ journey, and go on board the newly arrived vessel that has brought people from Europe
and offers them for sale. From among the hea lthy they pick out those suitable for
the purposes for which they require them. Then they negotiate with them as to the
length of the period for which they will go into service in order to pay off their
passage, the whole amount of wh ich they generally still owe. When an agreement
has been reached, adult persons by written contract bind themselves to serve for
three, four, five, or six years, according to their J1ealth and age. The very young,
between the ages of ten and fifteen, have to serve until they are twenty-one,
Many parents in order to pay their fares jn this way and get off the ship must
barter and sell their children as if they were cattle. Since the fathers and mothers
often do not know where or to what masters their children are to be sent, it frequently happens that after leaving the vessel, parents and children do not see each
other for years on end, or even for the rest of their lives.
It often happens that whole families-husba nd, wife, and children-being
sold to different purchasers, become separated, especiall y when they cannot pay
any part of the passage money. When e ither the husband or the wife has died at sea,
having come more than halfway, then the surviving spouse must pay not only his
or her fare, but must also pay for or serve out the fa re of the deceased.
No one in this country can run away from a master who has treated him
harshly and get far. For there are regulations and laws that ensure that runaways
are certainly and quickly recaptured. Those who arrest or return a fugitive get a
good reward. For every day that someone who runs away is absent from his master
he must as a punishment do service an extra week, for every week an extra month,
and for every month a half year. But if the master does not want to take back the recaptured runaway, he is entitled to sell him to someone else for the period of as
many years as he would still have had to serve.
Strangers in the Realm: Migrants to British Colonial North America, 1609-1775
William Moraley, an Indentured Servant, Explains the
Condition of Labor in Pennsylvania, 1743
Almost every inhabitant, in the Country, have a P lantation, some two or more;
there being no Land lett as in England, where Gentlemen live on the Labour of the
rarmer, to whom he grants a short Lease, whi ch expiring, he is either raised in his
Rent, or discharged his Farm. Here they improve their Lands themselves, with the
Assistance both of bought Servants and Negroes.
At the first Peopling [of] these Colonies, there was a Necessity of employing a
great Number of Hands, for the clearing the Land, being over-grown with Wood
f’or so me Hundred of Miles; to which Intent, the first Settlers not be ing sufficient
of themselves to improve those Lands, were not only obliged to purchase a great
Number of English Servants to assist them, to whom they granted great Immunities, and at the Expiration of their Servitude, Land was given to encourage them to
continue there; but were likewise obliged to purchase Multitudes of Negro Slaves
rrom Africa, by which Means they are become the richest Farmers in the World,
paying no Rent, nor giving Wages either to purchased Servants or Negro Slaves; so
that instead of finding the Planter Rack- rented, as the English Farmer, you will
taste of their Liberality, they living in Affluence and P lenty.
The Condition of the Negroes is very bad, by reason of the Severity of the
Laws, there being no Laws made in Favour of these unhap[p]y Wretches: For the
least Trespass, they undergo the severest Punishment; but their Masters make
them some amends, by suffe ring them to marry, wh ich makes them easier, and oflen prevents their runnin g away. The Consequence of their marrying is this, a ll
their Posterity are Slaves without Redemption ; and it is in vain to attempt an Escape, tho ‘ they often endeavour it; for the Laws against them are so severe, that
being caught after running away, they are unm ercifully whipped; and if they die
under the Discipline, their M asters suffer no Punishment, there being no Law
against murdering them. So if one Man kills another’s Slave, he is only obliged to
pay his Value to the M aster, besides Damages that may accrue for the Loss of him
in his Busi ness .
The Masters generally allow them a Piece of Ground, with Materials for improving it. The Time of working for themselves, is Sundays, when they raise on
their own Account divers Sort of Corn and Grain, and sell it in the Markets. They
buy with the Money Cloaths for themselves and Wives; as for the Children, they
belong to the Wives M aster, who bring them up; so the Negro need fear no Expense, his Business being to get them for his Master’s use, who is as tender of them
as his own Children. On Sundays in the evening they converse with th ei r Wi ves,
and drink Rum, or Bumbo, and smoak Tobacco, and the next Morning return to
their M aster’s Labour.
As found in Susan E. Klepp and Billy G. Smith (eds.) , The Jnfortunate: The Voyage and Adventures of
William Moraley, an Indentured Servant, (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press,
Nation and CiTizenship in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1800
Major Problems in Americanlmmi9ration & Ethnic Histo1y
their Inability to manage Law suits with the Same Advantage that others can, or a
dread of Power; . …
6. Because such Bills have passed into Laws in the other Colonies, Particularly it~ New
York, Pensilvania [sic) and Virginia, and the want of such a provision here will depri ve this province of the Benefit accruing to the other Colonies frot~ thei r bett~r
Policy in this Article, for the Situation and Circumstances of the !nha~ltants of thts
Country (except a few Mechanicks) are such th~t they cant Substst _wtthou:,the Allowance of Some portion of real Property, and A hens are not Naturahze_d by t~e Act
of Parliament for naturalizing of Foreign Protestants” till after a restdence m the
Plantations for a Term of Years . . ..
7. Because the Miscarriage of the Bill in this House may set greedy men upon Disturbing the Possessions of Aliens from an Expectation of the Countenance ?f the G~v
ernment and should any of these Alien Inhabitants be hereafter naturaltzed (whtch
depends’ upon the Probable Contingency of their Living the Time required ~~ the
Statute), after being Stripped of their Possessions for want of knowledge or a~tltty or
a defect of Spirit to defend their Rights, they might recover their Lands agamst Es
cheat Patentees from the Legal Operation of their Naturalization, and great opprcs
sion Confusion and mu ltiplicity of Law Suites and other Inconveniencies may ensue.
9. Lastly, because the suggestion is as groundless as the apprehens~on is_ Chimer~ca~ .
that if this Bill were passed into a Law some expressions artifictally ~nserte_d tn ~~
may possibly introduce rule of Determination in the Courts of La_w tendmg to mvalt
date hi s Lordships General Ri ght in the, matter of Escheats, and 1f ther:e were Really
such expressions they ought to be pointed out_ ~nd correcte? ~not Asst~ned as a t:~n
son fo r rej ecting the whole Bill. The Compos ttlon of the Blllts so Concise and pl.utt,
and the subject Matter of it so Confined and Simple, that the Drea_d of ~n~ Intent De
sign in the Framers of it Seems to be rather the effect of an excessive D1ff1dence tluttt
a prudent Caution.
Patrick M ‘Rob ert Defends Immigration, 1774
The misrepresentations and contradictory accounts r~cei ~ed from th~t :’estern
world [America], since the spirit of emigration preva1led m North Bnta m , may
perhaps apologize for publishing thi s Tour. For, while one represe~ted the ~asl’
of the emiorants as a state of pe rfect felicity, as if they had entered mto e lysn1 n1
upon their~etting foot on the American shore; another described it to be the most
deplorable, as if when they crossed the Atlantic, they h~d plunged themse_l ~l’ ‘>
into labyrinths of endless misery. These are only the re latiOns of party and pte.Jll
dice, and are exaggerated on both sides. For, as in thi s life, w_e need not e xpcl’ t
uninte rrupted prosperity in America more than in Europe, ne1ther are they w lto
have e migrated wre tched to any degree like what has been represented . On the
contrary, the writer of these Letters will ventu re to affirm, that it was the best
cou ntry in the world for people of small fortunes; or in other words, the best poor
man ‘s country, before these unhappy disputes arose. It takes a good while howe ver, to get established on an agreeable footing even in this country; the difficul ties to encounter in America are many: in the first place, a long sea voyage, there
e very thing is strange; you have all to seek, and as it were, to begin the wor ld anew; to acq uire acqua inta nces; to struggle hard for a c haracter, &c. T hese require
courage and resoluti on in the advel’lturer, and with a little share of these is easily
overco me by young people, or by those who have emigrated from hard ships at
home; fo r men in this particular are like trees, they do not answer so well after a
certain age for transplanta tion , nor do they do so well from a good soil as from a
J . Hector St. J ohn de Crevecoeur Celebrates th e
Possibilities of Am erica for Its Immigrants, 1782
I wish I could be acquainted with the feelings and thou ghts which must agitate the
hea rt and present themselves to the mind of an e nlightened Englishman w hen he
l’irst lands on this continent. He must greatly rejoice that he li ved at a time to see
this fair cou ntry di scovered and settled; he must necessarily feel a share of national
pride when he views the cha in of settlements which embellish these extended
shores. When he says to himself, “This is the work of my cou ntrymen, who, when
convul sed by factions, afflicted by a variety of miseries and wants, restless and impatie nt, took refuge here. They brought along with them their national geniu s, to
which they principally owe what liberty they e njoy a nd what substance they possess.” Here he sees the industry of his native cou ntry displayed in a new manner
and traces in their [sic] works the embryos of all the arts, sciences, and ingenuity
wh ich flourish in Europe. Here he beholds fai r cities, substantial villages, extensive fields, an immense country filled with decent houses, good road s, orchards,
meadows, and bridges whe re an hundred years ago all was wild, woody, and uncultivated! What a train of pleasing ideas this fai r spectacle must suggest; it is a
prospect which mu st inspire a good citizen with the most heart-felt pleas ure. T he
di f’ficulty consists in the man ner of viewing so extensive a scene. He is arrived on
u new continent; a modern society offers itself to his contemplation, different
lrom what he had hitherto seen. It is not composed, as in Euro pe, of great lords
who possess everything and of a he rd of people who have nothing. Here are no
aristocratical families, no courts, no kings, no bishops, no ecclesiastical dominion,
110 invisible power giving to a few a very visib le one, no great manufactures employing thousands, no great refine ments of luxu ry. The rich and the poor are not so
l’ar removed from each other as they are in Europe. Some few towns excepted, we
h om J. Hector St. John de Crcvecoeur, ·’What Is an American?” Leuers from an American Farme1;
From “Patrick M’ Roberts Tour Through Part of the North Provinces of America,” 1774.
I /H2.
Major Problems in American Immigration & Ethnic Hist01y
are all tillers of the earth, from Nova Scotia to West Florida. We are a people or
cultivators scattered over an immense territory, communicating with each other by
means of good roads and navigable rivers, united by the silken bands of mild gov
ernment, all respecting the laws without dreading their power, because they are eq
uitable. We are all animated with the spirit of an industry which is unfettered and
unrestrained, because each person works for himself. If he travels through our
rural districts, he views not the hostile castle and the haughty mansion, contrasted
with the clay-built hut and miserable cabin, where cattle and men help to keep each
other warm and dwell in meanness, smoke, and indigence. A pleasing uniformit y
of decent competence appears throughout our habitations.
The next wish of this traveller will be to know whence came all these people.
They are a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and
Swedes. From this promiscuous breed, that race now called Americans haVl’
ansen ….
In this great American asylum, the poor of Europe have by some means mr 1
together, and in consequence of various causes; to what purpose should they ask
one another what countrymen they are? Alas, two thirds of them had no country.
Can a wretch who wanders about, who works and starves, whose life is a continual
scene of sore affliction or pinching penury- can that man call England or an y
other kingdom his country? A country that had no bread for him, whose fields pro
cured him no harvest, who met with nothing·but the frowns of the rich, the severit y
of the laws, with jails and punishments, who owned not a single foot of the ex ten
sive smface of this planet? No! Urged by a variety of motives, here they came.
What, then, is the American, this new man? He is neither an European nor tlw
descendant of an European; hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will
find in no other country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather wa ~
an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and
whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations. H e is an Amcr
ican, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receiv e~
new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government lw
obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received irt
the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted
into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great
changes in the world. Americans are the western pilgrims who are carrying a)Oil )’
with them that great mass of arts, sciences, vigour, and industry which began lon1•
since in the East; they will finish the great circle. The Americans were once scat
tered all over Europe; here they are incorporated into one of the fi nest systems ol
population which has ever appeared, and which will hereafter become distinct by
the power of the different climates they inhabit. The American ought therefore to
love this country much better than that wherein either he or his forefathers wctt·
born. Here the rewards of his industry follow with equal steps the progress of hi~
labour; his labour is founded on the basis of nature, self-interest; can it. want 11
stronger allurement? Wives and children, who before in vain demanded of him n
Nation and Citizenship in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1800
111orsel of bread, now, fat and fro licsome, gladly help their father to clear those
Ill’ Ids whence exuberant crops are to arise to feed and to clothe them all, without
‘”Ypart being claimed, either by a despotic prince, a rich abbot, or a mighty lord.
1!tore religion demands but little of him: a small voluntary salary to the mini ster
utd gratitude to God; can he refuse these? The American is a new man, who sets
11pon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas and for m new opinIIHI S . From involuntary idleness, servile dependence, penury, and useless labor, he
lt.ts passed to toils of a very diffe rent nature, rewarded by ample subsistence. This
I· un American.
An European, when he first arri ves, seems limited in his intentions, as well as
Ill his views; but he very suddenly alters his scale; two hundred miles formerly apIH’:I red a very great distance, it is now but a trifle; he no sooner breathes our air
tl mn he forms schemes and embarks in designs he never would have thought of in
lt1 s own country. There the plenitude of society confines many useful ideas and ofh 11 exti nguishes the most laudable schemes, which here ripen into maturity. Thus
I tr ro peans become Americans.
But how is this accom plished in that crowd of low, indigent people who flock
l11·rc every year from all parts of Europe? I wilt tell you; they no sooner arrive than
tl wy immediately feel the good effects of that plenty of provisions we possess ….
. .. He is encouraged, he has gained friends; he is advised and directed; he
I• ~· Is bold, he purchases some land; he gives all the money he has brought over, as
\\,· II as what he has earned, and trusts to the God of harvests for the discharoe
1!11· rest. His good name procures him credit. He is now possessed of the deed, con,·y ing to him and his posterity the fee simple and absolute property of two hundt,·d acres of land, situated on such a river. What an epocha in this man’s life! He is
IH·t·ome a freeholder, from perhaps a German boor. He i s now an American a

l’c ·nnsylvanian, an English subject. He is naturalized; his name is enrolled with
lhnsc of the other citizens of the province …. From nothing to start into being;
lt11m a servant to the rank of a master; from being the slave of some despotic
pttnce, to become a free man, invested with lands to which every municipal blesslop is an nexed! What a change indeed! It is in consequence of that change that he
l11·comes an American. This great metamorphosis has a double effect: it extinl’llt ‘> hes all his European prejudices, he forgets that mechanism of subordination,
ll wt servility of dispos.ition which poverty had taught him; and sometimes he is apt
111 l’mget it too much, often passing from one extreme to the other. … Ye poor Eutt tpL’ nns-ye who sweat and work for the great; ye who are obliged to give so many
ltl’aves to the church, so many to your lords, so many to your government, and
ltor vt• hardly any left for yourselves; ye who are held in less estimation than
‘•lvourite hunters or useless lap-dogs; ye who on ly breathe the air of nature because
tl ‘ an not be withholden from you- it is here that ye can conceive the possibility of
tltnsc feelings I have been describing; it is here the laws of naturalization invite
• Vl’ ry one to partake of our great labours and felicity, to till unrented, untaxed
l.r nds!
Major Problems in American Immigration & Ethnic Histo1y
The German Press in Philadelphia Defends the War
for Independence, 177 6
-Remember-and remind your families-, you came to America, suffering
many hardships, in order to escape servitude and enjoy liberty.
-Remember, in Germany serfs [‘leibeigene’] may not marry without the consent of their master, . . . they are regarded as little better than black slaves on
West Indian islands . . . .
-Remember the forced labor [‘Frondienst’] which subjects, especially peasants, must in some places still perform for their overlords . . ..
– Remember the almost unbearable taxes with which the princes burden their
subjects … .
– Remember, how in many places a farmer is not permitted to shoot the deer
which devastates his freshly sown fields ….
-Remember, how in times of war soldiers drive the citizen and farmer almost
out of his house, occupy his best rooms and his beds, and make the owner himself sleep on straw or on a bench.
– Remember that the administration of Britain and its Parliament intends to
treat Americans the same way, or worse.
African Americans Petition for Tlieir Freedom, 1774-1777
To his Excellency Thomas Gage Esq Captain General and Governor in Chief
in and over this Province. To the Honourable his Majestys Council and the
Honourable House of Representatives in General Court assembled may 25
177- The Petition of a Grate Number of Blackes of this Province who by divine permission are held in a state of Slavery within the bowels of a free and christian Country
Humbly Shewing
That your Petitioners apprehind we have in common with all other men a nature! right to our freedoms without Being depriv ‘ d of them by our fellow men as
we are a freeborn Pepel and have never forfeited this Blessing by aney compact or
agreement whatever. But we were unjustly dragged by the cruel hand of power
from our dearest frinds and sum of us stolen from the bosoms of our tender Parents
and from a Populous Pleasant and plentiful country and Brought hither to be made
slaves for Life in a Christian land. Thus are we deprived of every thing that hath a
tendency to make life even tolerable, the endearing ties of husband and wife we are
strangers to for we are no longer man and wife then our masters or mestreses
As found in Bernard Bailyn and John B. Hench (eds.), The Press and the American Revolution.
(Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1981).
As found in Donald McQuade et al., Th e Ha1p er American Literature, volume l , second edition (New
York: HarperColl ins, 1990).
Nation and Citizenship in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1800
th inkes proper marred or onmarred. Our children are also taken from us by force
and sent maney miles f rom us wear we seldom or ever see them again there to be
made slaves of for Life which sumtimes is vere short by Reson of Being dragged
rrom their mothers Breest [sic] Thus our Lives are imbittered to us on these acrounts By our deplorable situation we are rendered incapable of shewi ng our obedience to Almighty God how can a slave perform the duties of a husband to a wife
or parent to his child How can a husband leave master and work and cleave to his
wife How can the wife submit themselves to there husbands in all things. How can
the child obey thear parents in all thi.ngs. There is a grat number of us sencear [sincere]. .. members of the Church of Christ how can the master and the slave be said
lo fulfil that command Live in love let Brotherly Love contuner and abound Beare
yea onenothers Bordenes How can the master be said to Beare my Borden when he
Hcares me down whith the Have [heavy] chanes of slavery and operson [oppres~ io n] against my will and how can we fulfill our parte of duty to him whilst in this
condition and as we cannot searve our God as we ought whilst in this situation
Nither can we reap an equal benefet from the laws of the Land which doth not justify but condemns Slavery or if there had bin aney Law to hold us in Bondege we
are Humbely of the Opinion ther never was aney to inslave our children for life
when Born in a free Countrey. We therfor Bage your Excellency and Honours will
give thi s its deu weight and consideration and that you will accordingly cause an
ac t of the legislative to be pessed that we may obtain our Natural right our freedoms and our children be set at lebety [liberty] at the yeare of Twenty one for
whoues sekes more petequeley your Petitioners is in Duty ever to Pray.
To the Honorable Counsel & House of [Representa]tives for the State of Massachusitte Bay in General Court assembled, Jan. 13, 1777.
The petition of A Great Number of Blackes detained in a State of slavery in the
13owels of a free & Christian Country Humbly shu with that your Petitioners apprehend that thay have in Common with all other men a Natural and Unaliable Right
to that freedom which the Grat Parent of the Unavers hath Bestowed equalley on
all menkind and which they have Never forfuted by any Compact or agreement
whatever-but thay wher Unjustly D ragged by the hand of cruel Power from their
Derest friends and sum of them Even torn from the Embraces of their tender Parents-from A popolous Pleasant and plentiful contry and in violation of Laws of
Nature and off Nations and in defiance of all the tender feelings of humanity
13rough[t] hear Either to Be sold Like Beast of Burthen & Like them Condemnd to
Slavery for Life- Among A People Profesing the mild Religion of Jesus A people
Not Insensible of the Secrets of Ration able Being Nor without spirit to Resent the
unjust endeavours of others to Reduce them to a state of Bondage and Subjection
your honouer Need not to be informed that A Life of Slavery Like that of your
petioners Deprived of Every social privilege of Every thing Requiset to Render
Life Tolable is far worse then Nonexistance.
[In imitat]ion of the Lawdable Example of the Good People of these States
your petiononers have Long and P atiently waited the Evnt of petition after petition
By them presented to the Legislative Body of this state and cannot but with Grief
Reflect that their Sucess hath ben but too similar they Cannot but express their
Astonishment that It has Never Bin Consirdered that Every Principle from which
Major Problems in American Immigration & Ethnic History
Amarica has Acted in the Cours of their unhappy Deficultes with Great Briton
Pleads Stronoer than A thousand arguments in favowrs of your pet~oners they ~her­
fo r humble Beseech your honours to give this peti[ti]on its due we1ght & consider·ation and cause an act of the Legislatur to be past Wherby they may Be ~esto:ed to
the Enjoyments of that which is the Nature! Right of all men-and their Chlld_~·en
who wher Born in th is Land of Liberty may not be heald as Slaves after they auve
at the age of Twenty one years so may the Inhabitance of thes Sta_ts No longer
charoeable with the inconsistancey of acting themselves the part wh1ch they c~n­
dem0and oppose in others Be prospered in their present Glorious struggle for Liberty and have those Blessing to them, &c.
Congress Establishes Its Initial Policy on
Naturalization, 1790
An Act to establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.
SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of t~1e
United States of Am.erica in Congress assembled, That any alien, ?e~ng_ a ~ree wh1te
person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the JUnSdlctwn ~·~the
United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a Cltlzcn
thereof, on application to any common law court of record, in any one ~f the states
wherein he shall have resided for the term of year at least, and maktng p_roof to
the satisfaction of such court, that he is a person of good character, and takmg. the
oath or affirmation prescribed by law, to support the constitution of the Umtcd
States, which oath or affirmation such court shall adm.inister; and the clerk ~f such
court shall record such application, and the proceedmgs thereon; and ther~upon
such person shall be considered as a ~itize~ o~ the Unit.ed States. An~ the ch1 l ~rc t:
of such persons so naturalized, dwellmg w1thm th~ U~1ted States, bemg u n~ei t_ht
a oe of twenty-one years at the time of such natu ralizatiOn, shall also be ~ons1de1 cd
a~ citizens of the United States. And the children of citizens of the Umted States.
that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of t_he Unit~~ State~, shall be cot~
sidered as natural born citizens: Provided, That the nght of c1t1zens~1p shall not dl
scend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the Umted State~: Pro
vided also, That no person heretofore proscribed by any state, ad~1ttcd a
citizen as aforesaid, except by an act of the legislature of the state m which such
person was proscribed.
APPROVED, March 26, 1790.
Nation and Citizenship in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1800
Congress Restricts the Rights of Alien s, 1798
An Act Concerning Aliens.
SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
Un ited States of America in Congress assembled, That it shall be lawful for the
President of the United States at any time during the continuance of this act, to order all such aliens as he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the
United States, or shall have reasonable grounds to suspect are concerned in any
treasonable or secret machinations ·against the government thereof, to depart out
of the territory of the United States, within such time as shall be expressed in such
order, which order shall be served on such alien by delivering him a copy thereof,
or leaving the same at his usual abode, and returned to the office of the Secretary
of State, by the marshal or other person to whom the same shall be directed. And
in case any alien, so ordered to depart, shall be found at large within the United
States after the time limited in such order for his departure, and not having obtained a license from the Pres ident to reside therein, or having obtained such license shall not have conformed thereto, every such alien shall, on conviction
thereof, be imprisoned for a term not exceeding three years, and shall never after
be admitted to become a citizen of the United States. Provided always, and be it
.fitrther enacted, that if any alien so ordered to depart shall prove to the satisfaclion of the President, by evidence to be taken before such person or persons as the
President shall direct, who are for that purpose hereby authorized to administer
oaths, that no injury or danger to the United States will arise from sufferin g such
al ien to reside therein, the President may grant a license to such alien to remain
within the United States fo r such time as he shall judge proper, and at such place
as he may designate.
SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for the President of the
lln ited States, whenever he may deem it necessary for the public safety, to order to
be removed out of the territory thereof, any alien who may or shall be in prison in
pursuance of this act; and to cause to be arrested and sent out of the United States
such of those aliens as shall have been ordered to depart therefrom and shall not
have obtained a license as aforesaid, in all cases where, in the opinion of the President, the public safety requires a speedy removal. And if any alien so removed or
sent out of the United States by the President shall voluntarily return thereto, unk ss by permission of the President of the United States, such alien on conviction
!hereof, shall be imprisoned so long as, in the opinion of the President, the public
safety may require.
From The Naturalization Act of 1790. United States Statutes, vol. l, p. l 03 (First Congress, Session Il l
I 1om T he Alien Act of 1798. United States Statutes, vol. 1, pp. 570- 571 (Fifth Congress, Session II).
Major Problems in American Immigration & Ethnic History
The definition of citizenship and naturalization and the creati on of national identity
·were questions that Americans were forced to address when they created the United
States. As hi stori an James H. Kettner of University of California at Berkeley argues
(1978), the concept of American citizenship had deep roots in English tradition. Despite thi s fo undation, however, events in the United States forced Americans to reeval uate the nature of citizenship. During the era of the American Revolution, Kettner contends , Americans beoan
to see the tie between citi zens and their nation as a volitional
contract, rather than a perpetual and natura l condition. These new patterns of Citizenship were seriously tested, Kettner observes, in the late 1790s, when national ~ecurity
was linked to the presence of aliens as the United States nearly went to war w1th
France. Arthur Mann, formerly of the University of Chicago, considers (1979) the issue of national identity in relation to the di versity of the non-native American population at the time of the American Revolution. Importantly, Mann argues that the diversity of the United States was critical in creating an American identity based on
ideological forms . Because the United States was not a nation in the traditional sense,
its people had to create novel forms in conceiving the new nation , its people, and citizenship.
The Creation of Citizenship in the British American
Colonies and Early United States
The concept of American citizenship that achieved full legal form and force in the
mid-nineteenth century grew from English roots. It was the product of a development that stretched over three hundred ye~rs, a development in which the circumstances of life in the Ne w World shaped and transformed the quasi-medieval ideas
of seventeenth-century English jurists about membership, community, and allcoiance. The process of c hange was gradua l, and those who participated in it did not
fully perceive its patterns or direction. Nevertheless, as Americans first experi enced, then sought to articulate the meaning of, their transformation from subjects
to citizens, they made piecemeal changes and partial modifications of English
ideas that developed, step-by-step, into a new concept of citizenship.
America ns inherited a complex set of ideas about the sources and character or
“subj ectship.” These ideas were rooted deep in the English past, but not until the
early seventeenth century were they integrated into a coherent doctrine. The basic
theory of subjectship was coeval with the beginnings of American colonization and
was the product of the period that formed the bridge between the eras histori ans
have cateoorized
as ” medieval” and ” modern.” Conflicting conce pts of communit y
characterized those two eras. The medieval notion of “allegiance” reflected tlw
From The Development of American Citizenship, 1608- 1870 by J.ames H. Kettner. C?pyrig~t © 197X
by the University of North Carolina Press. Publi shed for the Institute of Early Amencan H1story and
Culture. Used by permission of the publisher.
Nation and Citiwrship in the Age of Revolution, 1750-1800
fe udal sense that personal bonds between man and lord were the primary ligaments
of the body politic; the modern notion of “nationality” assumed a legal tie binding
individuals to a territorial state and rendering them subject to its jurisdiction. The
“community of allegiance” was in essence personal, the “national state” primarily
Historians have discovered elements of the modern doctrine of nationality as
far back as the fou rteenth century, particularly in connection with practices of natu rali zation, but such notions clearly were planted and nourished in an intellectual
context dominated by medieval ideas of personal subjection and by a wide variety
of statuses. Indeed, despite the early emergence of some elements of ” nationality,”
English law long continued to stress the personal nature of the subject-king relationship and the gradation of ranks characteristic of an older social and political order.
Early English law had no fixed concept of subj ectship or of nationality as a
statu s; no consistent and fundamental distinction divided subject and alien. R ather
there were levels and ranks of persons with varying rights and pri vileges-or conversely with differe nt disabilities-that defined a broad spectrum and hierarchy of
possible individual statuses. The notion of a primary distinction between member
and non-member emerged slowly, in response to specific issues of landholding,
taxation, and access to the king’s courts. Before the Tudor period there appears to
have been no firm sense of a fixed “national” status identified with a more or less
specific complex of rights from whic h “non-nationals” were excluded. Naturalization-in the modern sense of a grant of status with an accompanying package of
rights- was preceded by, and for a time coexisted with, the practice of removing
disabilities and bestowing privileges piecemeal. Medieval English law posited a
continuum of ranks and rights, but did not create distinctly separate categories of
subject and alien.
By the seventeenth century the line dividing subject and alien was well
marked; yet traces of the older ideas re mained. English subjectship still comprised
a variety of ranks and relationships. Jurists distinguished between natural-born
subjects, naturalized subj ects, and “denizens,” all of whom were me mbers of the
community in some sense, although there were important differences in the nature
of the ties that bound them as subj ects and in the rights that they could claim. The
general category of aliens, too , embodied separate classes of persons-perpetual
aliens, alien friends, and a lien enemies-whose respecti ve lega l positions varied in
detail. Procedures fo r adopting ou tsiders into the community had become standardized, even though the rationale behind the processes of admission would not
receive an articulate theoretical justification until the mid-seventeenth century.
… It was not until Sir Edward Coke’s influential opinion in Calvin’s Case
( 1608) that a theory of allegiance and su bjectship was fully articulated.
Coke’s explication of the nature of membership and community may be seen
as the first of four distinct phases in the development of the concept of citizenship.
Written in response to the controversies surrounding the accession of James I,
Coke ‘s decision in Calvin’s Case dominated English law for several centuries.
The central conclusion of this decision was that subj ectship involved a personal
relationship with the king, a relation ship rooted in the laws of nature and hence

Major Problems in American Immigration & Ethnic Histo1y
perpetual and immutable. The conceptual analogue of the subject-king.relationshi.p
was the natural bond between parent and child. Although England s law envisioned various types of subjectship, ranging from the natural status of the native. born to the legally acquired status of the naturalized alien, all varieties of membership mirrored permanent hierarchical principles of.the natur~l order. Once
became a subject-by birth or otherwise-he remamed a subject forever, owmg a
lastino- obedience to his natural superior the king.
Coke’s quasi-medieval assumption that social and governmental organization
grew out of natural principles of hierarchy and subordination preceded, and eventually conflicted with, newly emerging concepts of society and government as ~he
product of individual consent and contract. … Coke’s authoritative interpretatton
of subjectship remained embedded in the law, where it continued to exer~ a pr?found influence. By the mid-eighteenth century English concepts of subjectshlp
and community consequently encompassed a central ambiguity : on the one hand ,
society and government had come to be seen as resting on individual consent and
compact~ on the other, the legal status and obligations of the individual remained
natural, perpetual, and immu table. . . .
The second stage in the development of American theories about C1t1zensh1p
occurred across the Atlantic, where colonial attitudes slowly diverged from thost·
of Coke and his English successors. Circumstances in the New World led men to
attenuate and modify these concepts of natural allegiance. Change was most appar
ent in the naturalization policies that quickly became a common feature of colonial
o-overnments. The concerns involved in the incorporation of aliens into colonial
;ocieties were preeminently practical, and little attention was paid to doctrin;d
consistency. There was at this time no attempt to rethink the traditional theory ol
membership from initial premise to ult1mate conclusion. Americans continued
to value their status as subj ects and to affirm their allegiance to the king, but they
also moved toward a new understanding of the ties that bind individuals to tlw
In the mid-seventeenth century when English judges turned their attention to
the process of naturalization , they took as their starting point Coke’s analysis ol
natural subjectship. Working from thi s theoretical base, the judges concludt•d
that the essential purpose of naturalization was to make the alien legally tiH’
“same” as a native Englishman. Although in fact the adopted member’s ri ghh
mio-ht remain somewhat less extensive than those of born subjects, in law his al
legiance, though acquired by a lega l process, must be considered to share the at
tributes that Coke had described ; that is, it must be deemed natural, personal, and
In the colonies this pattern of thinking was reversed. Amencans first came In
see the allegiance of adopted members as reflecting the character of the natural i:.n
tion process. This legal procedure involved a form of contract betwe.en an all r n
who chose a new allegiance and a community that consented to adopt h1m as a suh
ject, and the colonists began to view the allegiance that resulted as volitional

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