Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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ALLEGIANCE (IN U.S. HISTORY). I 1774-89. Until the opening of the American revolution, native or naturalized British subjects owed allegiance to the British crown, and, for more than a year after the armed forces of the king and his American dominions had met in battle, this obligation of allegiance was still acknowledged. The royal proclamation of Aug. 23, 1775, declaring the American colonists rebels, the act of parliament in December, 1775, authorizing the capture of American vessels, wherever found, the pamphlet of Payne, Common Sense, and, still more, the bombardments of Falmouth, (now Portland, Maine), Oct. 18, 1775, and of Norfolk, in Virginia, Jan. 1, 1776, were all arguments which convinced the colonists that allegiance, being dependent on protection, was no longer due to the king. The continental congress, however, which had already, in great measure, come under the control of the state legislatures, did not claim the allegiance of the American people, but resolved June 24, 1776: "That all persons abiding within any of the united colonies, and deriving protection from the laws of the same, owed allegiance to the said laws, and were members of the same; ***** and that all persons members of, or owing allegiance to, any of the united colonies, who should levy war against any of the said colonies within the same, or be adherent to the king of Great Britain, or other enemies of the said colonies, or any of them, within the same, giving to him or them aid or comfort, were guilty of treason against such colony." Jan. 25, 1777, Sir William Howe by proclamation offered protection to such citizens of New Jersey as should take the oath of allegiance to the king. Washington at once replied by a counter-proclamation, ordering all persons, who had thus received protection, to surrender their protections and take the oath of allegiance to the United States, or retire within the British lines. The novel idea of allegiance to the United States was the subject of very general and adverse criticism until Washington explained that he had prescribed no form of oath, and had only instructed his subordinates to insist upon an obligation "in no manner to injure the states." In February, 1778, congress prescribed the form of an oath, to be taken by officers of the army, and all others serving under congress, which was simply a renunciation of allegiance to the king of Great Britain, an acknowledgment of the independence of the United States, and an obligation to defend and serve them. This non-committal obligation remained the rule throughout the confederation. The state constitutions, adopted during the revolution and confederation, all provided for an oath of allegiance to the state alone, of which the following may serve as an example: "I, A.B., do truly and sincerely acknowledge, profess, testify and declare that the commonwealth of Massachusetts is, and of right ought to be, a free, sovereign and independent state, and I do swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the said commonwealth ****."


—II. UNDER THE CONSTITUTION. The constitution (articles III. VI.) introduced two new features into the national government: not only United States senators and representatives, but all members of state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers of the United States and of the several states, were to be sworn to support the constitution; and the crime of "treason against the United States," which had no existence under the confederation, was stated and defined. The 1st congress at once enforced both these provisions. The act of June 1, 1789, provided for the new oath of allegiance; and the act of April 30, 1790, declared the punishment of treason against the United States (see also ALIEN AND SEDITION LAWS). The state constitutions, thereafter adopted, contain the oath of allegiance to the state, but bound up in it is the oath of allegiance to the United States.


—The wave of reaction against the establishment of the national will as the basis of national government, (see UNITED STATES), which began to be apparent in the south about 1830, and which culminated in the rebellion, was marked by the introduction of a new and subtle doctrine as to allegiance. It defined allegiance as the paramount submission due by the citizen to the constitution and government of the state to which he belongs; and held that the citizen of a state owed to the government of the United States not allegiance, but obedience, because his own state, as a party to the confederation, enjoined it. It would follow from this that the citizen was bound as well to refuse obedience to the United States, and to array himself in arms against the national government, whenever ordered to do so by his state. A clear conception of this doctrine, and of its general acceptance by educated men in the south, will show the reason of the astonishingly sudden disappearance of the union party in the south in 1861; and will explain the course of A. H. Stephens, for example, who repeatedly and sincerely urged the maintenance of the union in December, 1860, and ninety days afterward, his state having seceded in the interim, was vice-president of the confederate states, with his own full concurrence.


—The result of the rebellion settled the question of the citizen's obligation to "follow his state" against every other possible authority. The state constitutions formed in 1867-8 (see SECESSION, RECONSTRUCTION) contain provisions of which the following extract from that of Alabama is an example: "That this state has no right to sever its relations to the federal union, or to pass any law in derogation of the paramount allegiance of the citizens of this state to the government of the United States."


—After the states had been re-admitted to the union under these constitutions, some of them, as Texas and Arkansas, framed new constitutions in which the above provision was omitted. But as the supreme court has decided that the conditions, of which the above was a principal one, under which the state was admitted are binding upon the state, and that the state is estopped to deny their validity, it would seem that this provision, though omitted, is still binding in law. As matter of fact and politics it has been still more emphatically settled by war.


—The doctrine of the federal courts has always been that allegiance may be dissolved by the mutual consent of the government and its subjects or citizens, though the few decisions on this point touch only the deposition of allegiance by aliens, and the southern doctrine as to domestic allegiance has never been formally before the federal courts. A single case (cited in 3 Dall., below) lays down the principle that renunciation of allegiance to a state government does not imply or draw after it renunciation of allegiance to the United States. The British government, on the other hand, until the passage of its liberal naturalization act in 1844, refused to recognize the American doctrine (see EMBARGO, II.).


—See (I) 2 Public Journals of Congress, 216; 4 Washington's Writings, 298-319; 4 Public Journals of Congress, 49; 1 Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; 4 Cranch, 209; (II) 1 Stat. at Large, 23, 112; The Book of Allegiance, (arguments in South Carolina court of appeals, 1834); Thomas Cooper's Consolidation; 1 Tucker's Blackstone App., 170-187, and authorities cited under STATE SOVEREIGNTY and SECESSION; 2 Stephens' War Between the States, 297; 2 Appleton's Annual Cyclopædia, 270 (Debates in Confederate Congress, 1862); 13 Wall., 646; S.C. 39 Geo., 306; W.B. Lawrence's Visitation and Search, 13; 3 Pet., 125; 3 Dall., 133.


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