My subject is the requirement that new citizens abjure prior allegianc-es. It was introduced into federal naturalization law in 1795 and it isstill the law of the land.
A seemingly small historical topic, it pro-
vides cause to reect about changes in the concept of citizenship that
have taken place over time, especially in recent decades.The 1795 “Act to establish a uniform rule of Naturalization”
provided that an alien, in order to become a citizen, had to have been a
resident of the United States for at least ve years and had to declare,in court, three years before his admission, on oath or afrmation,that “it was bona de his intention to become a citizen of the United
and to renounce forever all allegiance and delity to any for
-eign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatever, and particularly, by name, the prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whereof such alienmay, at the time, be a citizen or subject.”The actual forswearance of allegiance took place at the timeof naturalization and was to be recorded by the clerk of the court thatadmitted the applicant to citizenship. At that
occasion, it had to appear to the satisfaction of the court that the candidate had behaved “as aman of good moral character, attached to the principles of the consti-tution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order andhappiness of the same.”
On oath or afrmation, the applicant had to declare his will
-ingness to support the constitution of the United States and that he did“
absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure
allegiance and del
-ity to every foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatever,
President Emeritus, Stanford University. For more information, go to:http://www.stanford.edu/~gcasper/
8 U.S.C. 1448.
2 Stat. 414.
The requirement to le a declaration of intent was eliminated as recently as 1952.