United States Naturalization Law

The original United States Naturalization Law of March 26, 1790 provided the first rules to be followed by the United States in the granting of national citizenship. This law limited naturalization to immigrants who were “free white persons” of “good moral character”. It thus, left out indentured servants, slaves, free blacks, and later Asians. While women were included in the act, the right of citizenship did “not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States….”

Since the writing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 and to 1791 when it became ratified, Congress passed the first “uniform Rule of Naturalization” the entire practice of having Congress – or for that matter any faction of the federal government – attempt to regulate or otherwise control immigration and naturalization for our Nation has been nothing shy of abysmal.

We intend to show just that – at first chance, even at a second chance – it does appear that the entire “Immigration and Naturalization Service” has been the most often visited and/or changed portion of our Constitution in comparison with other matters. Therefore we ask: How could just about every administration since 1790 still have problems with this appalling and neglected portion of the American Way? Let’s do some discovering!
As early as 1795 the “residency requirement” was increased to five years residence and three years after notice of intent to apply for citizenship, and again to 14 years residence and five years notice of intent in 1798.
Someone had to let the legislator’s of the time realize that something was amiss insofar as during the first eleven years of this Nation’s existence Congress had changed the requirements of immigration law four times!
Congress passed the first law regulating naturalization in 1790 (1 Stat. 103). As a general rule, naturalization was a two-step process that took a minimum of 5 years. After residing in the United States for 2 years, an alien could file a “declaration of intent” (so-called “first papers”) to become a citizen. After 3 additional years, the alien could “petition for naturalization.” After the petition was granted, a certificate of citizenship was issued to the alien. As a general rule, the “declaration of intent” generally contains more genealogically useful information than the “petition.” The “declaration” may include the alien’s month and year (or possibly the exact date) of immigration into the United States, the name of the alien, where their first allegiance belonged and to what nation, and other such information including the alien’s parents and family.
How prone all human institutions have been to decay; how subject the best-formed and most wisely organized governments have been to lose their check and totally dissolve; how difficult it has been for mankind, in all ages and countries, to preserve their dearest rights and best privileges, impelled as it were by an irresistible fate of despotismJames Monroe, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 10, 1788

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