The undersigned have seen published in the Richmond Dispatch
an opinion that our foreign citizens would violate their oaths of naturalization by voting for candidates advocating the severance of Virginia
from the Union
Please give us your written opinion of same.
Richmond, Jan. 31, 1861.
Your note submits to me the important inquiry, whether the relation which the naturalized citizen holds to the Federal Union, by reason of his oath at the time of naturalization, is different from that which exists in the case of any native-born citizen?
And whether the one, any more than the other, owes allegiance to the United States
--which would make his assent to an act of secession by a State improper or treasonable and against his oath and obligation of allegiance?
I feel no hesitation, in reply to your question, in stating, that all citizens, native and naturalized, stand upon the same basis in their obligations to the Federal Union, and are, in all respects, equal; and that there is no such thing known in this country as an oath of allegiance to the Federal Government
, or to the United States
, by a foreigner, in order to his becoming a citizen.
The oath, which the law requires of the applicant for naturalization, is ‘"that he will support the Constitution of the United States;
and that he doth absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign Prince
, Potentate, State or Sovereignty whatever, and particularly, by name, the Prince
, Potentate, State or Sovereignty, whereof he was before a citizen or subject."’
He abjures all allegiance to foreign powers: but he swears no allegiance to the Government
of the United States
It is true he swears to support the Constitution of the United States
So does every officer of Government, Federal and State.
But no one ever swears allegiance
to any Government. Virginia
requires her officers to swear to be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Virginia,
but not to hold allegiance to its Government.
The reason of this distinction is obvious.
It is a cardinal doctrine of our American system that all governments are ‘"instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people,"’ and ‘"when a government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal."’--[Bill of Rights
, 3d article.
, when she ratified the Constitution of the United States
, declared further, ‘ "that the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive to the good and happiness of mankind."’
Every citizen of Virginia
, under these solemn declarations, made when she was establishing her liberty and independence, and when she was ratifying the Constitution
, must feel that he owes no allegiance
to any man, or set of men, who may hold power in the Government
; and that they may be changed, and the Governments themselves be abolished, if inconsisted with the well-being of the people.
In the oath to support the Constitution
, which the naturalized citizen has taken, he is not only not bound to allegiance to the United States
, but he is bound to support the Constitution
against its violation by the Government
of the United States
The Government, in violating the Constitution
, commits treason against the States, which formed it. It cannot be treason, then, in the citizen to overthrow these who traitorously violate a Constitution which he is sworn to support.
On the contrary, it is his duty, and if his oath has any force in the matter, his sworn
duty, to aid his State in arresting the violation, and in maintaining the Constitution
against the usurping Government, which tramples upon it.
But it is urged, I am informed, that the naturalized citizen is a citizen of the United States
, and not of Virginia
This is a great error.
Every man in Virginia
is a citizen of the United States
, only because he is a citizen of this State.--Congress has power to naturalize for each State--a power which each State exercised prior to the Constitution. Congress now, as each State had done previously, naturalized foreigners for each State; and the result is the same in each case: the foreigner becomes a citizen of the State
where he resides.
The law of Virginia
makes every naturalized citizen resident in the State
a citizen of Virginia
The Constitution provides, that ‘"the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."’--Thus, the citizen of each State becomes the citizen of every State, in regard to privilege and immunity — and may well be called a citizen of these United States
, because he is a native or a naturalized citizen of one of them.
Nor have I any doubt that every citizen supports the Constitution
when he finds it necessary to favor a withdrawal of his State from a Union which has violated the Constitution
Each State is bound to the other States by the bargain of the Constitution
Each has the right to judge finally when the bargain has been broken.
No State is bound by a bargain broken by the other parties.
To defend the Union
, in such violation of the Constitution
, is to oppose, not to support it. To withdraw from the Union
to protect the rights which Virginia
has reserved under the Constitution
, and which are violated by the Federal Government
, is the only way to support it left to the people of the State
, when she adopted the Constitution
, declared as a part of her act of ratification, that whenever the powers granted by her to the Federal Union should be perverted to the injury and oppression of her people,
those powers might be reserved
by her. That was the condition of her accepting the bargain.
The other parties knew it; and that condition is, as to her, a part of the Constitution
Her right to withdraw, when her people are oppressed, is a part of the Constitution of the United States
for her citizens; nor can they doubt they support it when they shall support her in the exercise of a right which it reserved and secured to her. Nor can it be treason in them to obey her, who created the Government
, rather than the Government
, which is only her creature.
And it would be treason to her to refuse to obey her sovereign voice, should it be declared, for protecting her reserved rights under the Constitution
, by secession from a Union which violated them.
is one of a community of States, as each citizen is one of the community of this State.
No one denies the right of a citizen to withdraw from Virginia
, in case she should oppress him. Every naturalized citizen has broken the bond of his former allegiance to secure his rights, violated or impaired in his native country, and his right to do so is recognized and protected by the Federal Government
The right of Virginia
to secede from the Union of States is as clear as, I think clearer than, the right of a citizen to withdraw from his native land.
The right of secession by a State is, therefore, stronger than the right, of expatriation by the citizen.
I regret the length of my letter, which I trust you will excuse, as I desired to meet the whole difficulty presented by your inquiry.
I am, very respec'y, your ob't serv't,
fe 1--3t J. R. Tucker