Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 4

Contents:

Seamen’s Bill
February, 1813

For the Regulation of Seamen on Board
the Public Vessels, and in the Merchant Service of the
United States.

Mr. SEYBERT. The Constitution of the United States declares, Congress shall have power "to establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies, throughout the United States." Sir, the rule only relates to the mode; it is only operative during the nascent state of the political conversion, and it ceases to have effect the moment after the process has been completed. Your Constitution only recognizes the highest grade of citizenship that can be; conferred. The alien is thus made a native, as it were, and is fully vested with every right and privilege attached to the native, with the exception impressed on the Constitution. Your statutes cannot deprive any particular species of citizens of the right of personal liberty, or the locomotive faculty, because the Constitution does not characterize the citizens of the United States as native and naturalized. Our great family is composed of a class of men forming a single genus, who, to all intents and purposes, are equal, except in the instance specified—that of not being eligible to the presidency of the United States. The only exception to the rule is expressed [p.461] in the Constitution. If other exceptions had been contemplated by the framers of that instrument, they would also have been expressed. None other having been expressed, he said, it followed that your legislative acts could not make individual exceptions touching the occupation of a citizen. All freemen, citizens of the United States, may pursue their happiness in any manner and in any situation they please, provided they do not violate the rights of others. You cannot deny to any portion of year citizens, who desire to plough the deep, the right to do so, whilst you permit another portion of them the enjoyment of that right.

Mr. ARCHER. The framers of our Constitution did not intend to confine Congress to the technical meaning of the word naturalization, in the exercise of that power—the more especially when the comprehensive word rule was made use of. The principle upon which the power was to be exercised was left to the judicious exercise of Congress; all that was required was, that the rule should be uniform throughout the states. In the grant there is no other specification, as to the exercise of it, than that of its uniformity. The term naturalization was borrowed from England. It must be understood here in the sense and meaning which was there attached to it. Whether it was absolute or qualified, it was still a naturalization. But the grant of a power in general terms necessarily implied the right to exercise that power in all its gradations. It was in the political as it was in the natural world: the genus included the species. Besides, the power to naturalize was an attribute to sovereignty. It was either absolute or qualified; and if the grant to Congress only implied a power of unlimited naturalization, the power to qualify existed in the states or in the people, for what was not specifically granted was reserved.

In treating of the executive power, the Constitution defines the qualifications of the President. It declares that he should be a natural-born citizen, or a citizen at the adoption of the Constitution. This article is unquestionably no limitation of the power of Congress upon the subject of naturalization. It was impossible to abridge a specific grant of power without a specific limitation, and the article alluded to could not be tortured, by the most ingenious mind, to diminish, even by implication, the authority of Congress upon a subject to which it was totally irrelevant.

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Chicago: Elliot, Jonathan, ed., "Seamen’s Bill February, 1813," Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 4 in The Debates in the Several State Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787 (Philadelphia: J. B. Lipincott Company, 1901), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DCWTRIGCU91NM27.

MLA: . "Seamen’s Bill February, 1813." Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 4, edited by Elliot, Jonathan, in The Debates in the Several State Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787, Vol. 4, Philadelphia, J. B. Lipincott Company, 1901, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DCWTRIGCU91NM27.

Harvard: (ed.), 'Seamen’s Bill February, 1813' in Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Vol. 4. cited in 1901, The Debates in the Several State Conventions, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787, J. B. Lipincott Company, Philadelphia. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DCWTRIGCU91NM27.