The Expatriation Act of 1868

“I’ll also add that the 1907 Act was partially “inconsistent with the fundamental principles of this government,” for it declared that “no American citizen shall be allowed to expatriate himself when this country is at war.” Ironically, this was precisely the condition under which droves of Englishmen sought naturalization in the United States in the early 1800s; their predicament engendered the home-grown philosophical defenses of self-expatriation that made the 1907 Act possible.”

Rice on History

Article I, Section 8 empowers Congress to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”—to regulate the terms by which foreigners may acquire American citizenship. Simple enough, right? Except that Old World nations generally embraced the doctrine of perpetual allegiance (that a natural-born Ubekibekibekibekistanstani remained an Ubekibekibekibekistanstani until death). English common law, for example, effectively denied the legitimacy of the concept of self-denaturalization. As the Royal Navy began to impress into its service British expatriates stationed on American vessels, President Jefferson wrote to Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin that “I hold the right of expatriation to be inherent in every man by the laws of nature . . . the individual may [exercise such right] by any effectual and unequivocal act or declaration.”

In the mid-1860s, naturalized Americans were conscripted into the French and Prussian Armies while visiting relatives in their former homelands. In 1867, two naturalized Americans were charged with treason against…

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