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Under the clause of the Constitution, and this legis. lative provision for giving it effect, if a judgment have the effect of record evidence, or, in other words, be conclusive evidence, i. e., admitting neither of impeachment nor contradiction in the courts of the state in which it was rendered, it has the same effect in the courts of all the other states. And the Supreme Court of the United States, in so ruling, declared that the common law gives to a judgment of the courts of one state the effect of prima facie evidence, i. e., evidence open to impeachment, explanation, or contradiction, in the courts of every other state; but that the Constitution contemplates a power in Congress to give a conclusive effect to such judgments; which power it has exercised by rendering a judgment conclusive when the courts of the particular state would pronounce the same decision.t And in a recent case, it was declared that the clause in question cannot, by any just construction of its words, be held to embrace an alleged error in a decree of a state court, asserted to be in collsion with a prior decision of the same case. I
V. The power" to establish a uniform system of naturalization, which was the next we proposed to examine, is necessarily exclusive; especially as it is provided, in a subsequent part of the Constitution, that " the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states."
The dissimilarity of the rules of naturalization which existed in the different states, had given rise, under the Confederation, to some intricate and delicate questions, from the ambiguous terms of the article in relation to the subject. To put an end to all
*7 Cranch, 481.
+ 3 Wheaton, 234.
# 14 Peters, 481.
such questions in future, the new Constitution authorized the General Government to establish a uni. form rule throughout the United States. There is, indeed, no express prohibition of state legislation in regard to it; but if each state retained the power of naturalization, while the citizens of each state were entitled to the privileges of citizens in the several states, any one state might impose on all the others such persons as citizens whom it might think proper to admit. In one state, a short residence, with a slight declaration of allegiance, as was the case under the first Constitution of Pennsylvania, might confer the right of citizenship: in another, higher qual. ifications, as was, in fact, generally the case, might be required; and an alien, desirous of eluding the latter, might, by complying with the former, become a citizen of a state in opposition to its own regulations ; and thus the laws of one state might become paramount in a matter of vital consequence to another. Hence the importance of rendering this power exclusive. That it is, indeed, so vested in Congress, was considered incontrovertible by the Supreme Court of the United States, in a case in which the decision depended on that point ;* and it was declared, subsequently, to have been so held on the ground of a direct repugnancy or incompatibility in the exercise of a similar power by the states.
No definition of the character of a citizen is con. tained in the Constitution of the United States. The term is used with a plain indication that its meaning must have been generally understood, by reference to that system of national jurisprudence which, as I had occasion to observe in a former lecture, is justly regarded as the means or instrument of exercising the
* 2 Wheaton, 269.
+ 5 Wheaton, 49.
jurisdiction conferred by the Constitution. At the time of its adoption, the citizens of the several states collectively constituted the citizens of the United States. They were either native citizens, or those born within the states, or naturalized citizens, or persons born elsewhere, but who, upon assuming the allegiance, became entitled to the privileges of native citizens. All who were resident citizens at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and deliberately yielded to that measure an express or implied assent, became parties to it, and are considered as natives, their social tie being coeval with the nation itself.
It has been admitted, both in the English courts and our own,* that all persons born within the colonies, while subject to the crown of Great Britain, were natural-born British subjects; but it was held as a necessary consequence that this character was changed by the separation of the colonies from the parent state, and the acknowledgment of their independence. The rule, however, as to the point of time at which Americans born before the separation ceased to be British subjects, differs in this country and in England. The rule established by the English courts adopts the date of the treaty of peace in 1783, while ours have fixed upon that of the Declaration of Independence. But in the application of the rule to different cases, some difference of opinion may arise. The settled doctrine in this country is, that a person born here, who left the colonies before the Declaration Independence, and never returned, thereby became an alien; and, as a general rule, the character in which Americans born before the Revolution are to be regarded, depends on the situation of the party, and the election made by him, at the Dec
* 3 Peters, 128.
laration of Independence, according to our rule, and at the treaty of peace, according to the English. Difficulties, however, have occurred where rights have accrued between these dates. But if the right of election be admitted at all, it must be determined by what took place during the Revolution, and between the Declaration of Independence and the treaty peace.
It is a doctrine of the English law, that naturalborn subjects owe an allegiance which is intrinsic and perpetual, and which cannot be diverted by any act of their own.' But it has been a question frequently and gravely debated whether this doctrine of perpetual allegiance applies in its full extent to the United States. The best writers on public law* have treated this subject rather loosely, but seem generally to favour the right of the citizen to emigrate and abandon his native country, unless there be some positive restraint by law, or be is, at the time, in possession of some public trust, or his country be in distress, or at war, and in need of his services. The principle declared in some of our state constitutions, that the citizens have a natural and inherent right to emigrate, goes far towards a renunciation of the doetrine of the English law, as repugnant to the natural liberty of mankind-provided emigration is intended in those cases to be used as synonymous with expatriation. But the allegiance of our citizens is due, not merely nor principally to the local government of the state in which they reside, but primarily and chiefly to the United States, which government alone affords them national protection, and imparts to them their national character; and the doctrine of final and absolute expatriation, though
* Grotius, b. ii., ch. v. Puffend., b. viii., ch. xi. Vattel, b. i., ch. xix.
frequently discussed in our courts, remains yet to be settled, and requires to be defined with precision, and subjected to certain established limitations, before it can be admitted into our jurisprudence, or laid down broadly as a wise and salutary rule of national policy.
It is not, however, applied by the English courts to the American ante-nati ; as is manifest from a case decided some years since in the Court of the King's Bench,* in which the treaty of peace was considered as a release from their allegiance of all British subjects who remained in this country. The British doctrine, therefore, is that the American ante-nati, by remaining in this country after the peace, lost their character as British subjects; and our doctrine is, that by withdrawing from this country they lost, or, perhaps, more properly speaking, they never acquired the character of American citizens.
All persons born out of the jurisdiction of the United States are termed aliens. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule derived from the ancient English law; as in the case of the children of public ministers born abroad, for their parents owed not even a local allegiance to the foreign power. So, also, in every case, the children born abroad of English parents were considered as natives of England if the father went and continued abroad in the character of an Englishman. By the existing law of the United States relative to naturalization, it is declared that the children of persons who were or had been citizens of the United States at the time of passing the act, should, though born out of the United States, be considered as citizens; but that the right of citizenship should not descend to persons whose fathers had never resided within the United States. This provision not being prospective in its operation, the ben
* 2 Barn, and Cresw., 779.