James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Congress, 5 November 1812

To Congress

November 5th 1812

The Bill entitled, “An Act supplementary to the Acts heretofore passed on the subject of an uniform rule of naturalization” which passed the two Houses at the last Session of Congress,1 having appeared to me liable to abuse by Aliens having no real purpose of effectuating a naturalization, and therefore not been signed; and having been presented at an hour too near the close of the Session to be returned with objections for reconsideration; the Bill failed to become a law. I recommend that provision be now made in favor of Aliens entitled to the contemplated benefit, under such regulations as will prevent advantage being taken of it, for improper purposes.2

James Madison

RC (DNA: RG 46, President’s Messages, 12A-E2). In the hand of Edward Coles, signed by JM. Transmitted to both houses of Congress on 6 Nov. 1812 (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 12th Cong., 2d sess., 17, 141).

1On 27 June 1812 Rep. Abner Lacock of Pennsylvania pointed out to the House of Representatives that because of the declaration of war, current law required courts to deny naturalization to all foreigners, regardless of whether they had met conditions for citizenship. A naturalization bill to allow resident foreigners to become U.S. citizens was then passed by the House on 2 July and by the Senate on 4 July. The bill permitted alien enemies to receive U.S. citizenship if they declared their intention to be naturalized within six months of the passage of the law (ibid., 12th Cong., 1st sess., 318, 1561, 1571, 1574).

2JM’s message was referred on 6 Nov. 1812 to a House select committee, which reported “An act supplementary to the acts heretofore passed on the subject of an uniform rule of naturalization” on 18 Nov. The bill stipulated that all naturalization laws already in force would continue to operate regardless of the state of war between the U.S. and Great Britain, provided that “no alien enemy shall be admitted to the rights of citizenship, who shall not within nine months after the passing of this act make his application, and such declaration of his intention, as is required by law,” and provided that this law should not be construed “to interfere or prevent the apprehension and removal, agreeably to law, of any alien enemy at any time previous to the actual naturalization of such alien.” This version of the naturalization bill passed the House on 23 Feb. 1813 and the Senate on 3 Mar. but was not signed into law (ibid., 12th Cong., 2d sess., 120–21, 141, 152–53, 1110).

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