Illegitimate borders: jus sanguinis citizenship and the legal construction of family, race, and nation.
ARTICLE CONTENTS INTRODUCTION I. PERSONAL STATUS LAWS, CITIZENSHIP, AND THE CIVIL WAR A. Guyer v. Smith B. Domestic Relations Law and the Legal Construction of Race II. GUYER'S LEGACY A. A Primer on Racially Nativist and Gender-Based Nationality Laws B. Guyer as a Rule of Empire 1. Samoa and "an Institution of Our Civilization" 2. Half-Castes, Polygamy, and the Presumption of Legitimacy 3. Presumptions and the Pliability of Domestic Relations Law C. Guyer as a Rule of Exclusion 1. Chinese American Fathers and Jus Sanguinis Citizenship 2. The Legitimation Exception and Polygamous "Stock-Farms" 3. Race, Polygamy, and Legitimacy D. The Practice of Jus Sanguinis Citizenship III. THE GUYER RULE IN THE MODERN ERA OF NATIONALITY LAW A. Modernizing and Codifying Guyer: The Drafting of the Nationality Act of 1940 1. Women's Claims to Equal Citizenship Rights as a Threat to the Exclusion Laws, 1922-1940 2. Nonmarital Children of American Fathers and the Proposed Code 3. The Maternalist Exception: Nonmarital Children of American Mothers B. The Guyer Rule at War: War Brides, War Babies, and "Bui Doi" C. On Nation Building, Nationality, and Family Law IV. REFLECTIONS ON THE PRACTICE AND POLITICS OF MODERN DERIVATIVE CITIZENSHIP A. Re-reading the Present B. "Biological Inevitability" and Constitutional Choices CONCLUSION
[I]t seems clear that illegitimate half-castes born in semi-barbarous countries of American fathers and native women are not American citizens.
--Edwin Borchard, The Diplomatic Protection of Citizens Abroad (1915)
Children born in the United States are citizens by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment's Citizenship Clause, but the citizenship status of children born to Americans living outside the United States is governed by a complex set of statutes. (1) When the parents of such children are unmarried, those laws encumber citizenship transmission between the father and his child, while providing nearly automatic citizenship transmission between an American mother and her child. (2) In three constitutional challenges to the gender-based regulation of parent-child citizenship transmission-Miller v. Albright, Nguyen v. INS, and Flores-Villar v. United States--the Supreme Court upheld these distinctions while laboring to explain why Congress has drawn such sharp lines between the nonmarital children of American mothers and fathers. (3) Historians and legal scholars have also addressed this issue, and the resulting scholarship has largely focused on the origin of the gender-based regulation of jus sanguinis citizenship in the traditional cultural and legal norms that governed mothers' and fathers' respective parental rights and responsibilities outside marriage, and the perpetuation of those norms in what is now called derivative citizenship law. (4)
In this Article, I argue that a primary and overlooked explanation for the development and durability of gender-asymmetrical jus sanguinis citizenship law was the felt need of judges, administrators, and legislators to further the racially nativist policies (5) that were central to American nationality law until 1965. (6) At formative moments in the development of American nationality law, gender- and marriage-based domestic relations laws (7) were enlisted by administrators, judges, and legislators to deny the citizenship claims of nonwhite children, especially those who were excludable under the race-based immigration and naturalization laws.
Although the statutes governing parent-child citizenship transmission were facially race neutral, the practices and legal regulation of family formation and recognition were not. Once incorporated into jus sanguinis citizenship law by judges, administrators, and legislators these racialized domestic relations law principles could be, and regularly were, used to exclude nonwhite children from citizenship. In some instances, these racialized practices were explicit as administrators and legislators incorporated race-based domestic relations laws governing marriage and legitimacy into jils sanguinis citizenship law. (8) In other instances the practices were race salient, in that officials used restrictive conceptions of marriage and legitimacy in cases involving jus sanguinis citizenship claims of nonwhite children. (9) Regardless of the particular means by which citizenship transmission between American fathers and their nonmarital foreign-born children was restricted, it is clear that gender-based domestic relations law principles incorporated into jus sanguinis citizenship law served a larger racially nativist nation-building project. (10) And they did so in a very literal way: by determining which citizens' children would be recognized as citizens, they helped regulate the actual reproduction (11)--and racial composition--of the citizenry. By focusing on the citizenship status of children, (12) this history makes visible, in granular detail, the means by which laws regulating birth status--long used to create and maintain racial social and legal hierarchies within the American polity (13)--were regularly used to shape the racial composition of the polity as well.
My account begins in Part I with a little-studied but influential case decided by the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1864, Guyer v. Smith. (14) In Guyer the court denied the citizenship claims of two brothers born in St. Barthelemy. The Guyer brothers' American father was white, but their mother was reportedly "of African descent." The jus sanguinis citizenship statute then in effect recognized as citizens foreign-born "children of persons who ... are ... citizens of the United States." (15) The statute was silent regarding the marital status of the parents, but the Guyer court declared that foreign-born illegitimate children of American fathers were not citizens under the statute. The Guyer court said very little about race, but even as the legal substructure of slavery was crumbling, it silently incorporated into citizenship law a set of domestic relations law principles that had been instrumental to the maintenance of slavery and the denial of citizenship for persons of African descent: laws that recognized the unmarried mother as the source of status for her children, including slave status. (16)
The Guyer case is a crucial starting point for any thorough examination of the evolution of jus sanguinis principles as applied to the citizenship claims of nonmarital foreign-born children of American fathers. (17) As shown in Part II, Guyer's legacy was long and impressive, as the opinion became part of the legal lexicon of American citizenship and empire over the course of the nineteenth and into the early twentieth century. The interpretive rule that nonmarital foreign-born children of American fathers were not citizens figured prominently in administrative decisions concerning the citizenship status of Samoan-born children of American fathers (18) and was also deployed in efforts to enforce race-based exclusion statutes--the laws that barred the entry of Chinese, and eventually all Asians, into the United States. (19) The Guyer rule (20) thus served as an important resource for judges and administrators, who were regularly called on to interpret the jus sanguinis citizenship statute in the course of administering racially restrictive immigration laws.
The jus sanguinis citizenship statute, although modified several times, remained silent on the question of nonmarital children's citizenship (21) until 1940, when Congress codified a modernized version of the Guyer rule by continuing the default exclusion of nonmarital foreign-born children of American fathers. (22) Part III tells the story of how and why pre-1940 judicial and administrative rulings concerning the citizenship of nonmarital children became the basis of the Nationality Act's jus sanguinis provision--a provision that, in its basic contours, survives to this day. It then turns to the implementation of the jus sanguinis statute during the U.S. military's multi-decade tour of duty in Europe and Asia. In these theaters of war, the jus sanguinis citizenship laws operated in tandem with race-based immigration laws and race-based military marriage policies to exclude Amerasian children from citizenship. (23) In sum, well into the twentieth century, officials charged with policing membership in the American polity consistently relied on the gender- and marriage-based regulation of jus sanguinis citizenship to help enforce racially nativist nationality policies.
The fact that, during significant periods of American history, nationality law was designed and implemented in ways that served racially nativist objectives is not news, nor is the fact that many of the laws used to achieve those objectives were facially race neutral. (24) What is distinctive about the account of jus sanguinis citizenship provided here is the particular legal technology that was enlisted in the service of a nativist agenda: durable but pliable gender-based domestic relations law principles. (25) In this regard, this detailed history of jus sanguinis citizenship contributes to a growing body of literature that examines the important roles nationality law played in nation-building and in the development of the administrative state by examining the central role that family law played in those processes. As others have demonstrated, much of the administrative apparatus developed to implement the increasingly elaborate body of federal nationality law in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was built up in the service of a nativist agenda. (26) The history of jus sanguinis citizenship law demonstrates that laws governing marriage and birth status served this agenda as well, and they did so by providing officials with an exclusionary tool that appeared both natural and race neutral in the lines it drew between citizen and noncitizen. (27)
For some students of American nationality law, the importance of this account lies not in its historiographical significance, but in what it may mean for how we reason about the continued vitality of gender-asymmetrical jus sanguinis citizenship law today. Standing alone, history cannot resolve modern citizenship debates, but it can provide critical perspective on those debates, a project I undertake in Part IV. It can do so, first, by alerting us to the ways that gender- and marriage-based jus sanguinis principles continue to function in a race-salient manner in the practice and politics of American citizenship law. (28) Second, it challenges the view that gender-asymmetrical jus sanguinis citizenship laws reflect natural and "biologically inevitable" (29) means of regulating parent-child derivative citizenship - an understanding that has been developed and embraced by government attorneys and the Supreme Court in litigation challenging the constitutionality of gender-based regulation of derivative citizenship today. (30) The genealogy of jus sanguinis citizenship provided here reveals, instead, that those laws are the product of choices made by legal actors at formative moments in the development of American nationality law, and acting under various institutional and ideological pressures. Far from "inevitable," those choices were shaped by contemporary norms and mores concerning gender, parental roles, sexuality, and--as I demonstrate in great detail--the official imperative to enforce race-based nationality laws. To speak of these laws as inevitable thus obscures their origins and elides the ways that they continue to play an illiberal role in the practices and politics of citizenship today.
I. PERSONAL STATUS LAWS, CITIZENSHIP, AND THE CIVIL WAR
The Nationality Act of 1940 was the first statute to explicitly regulate the citizenship of nonmarital foreign-born children of American mothers or fathers. But the differential treatment of foreign-born children based on the gender of their citizen-parent predated the Nationality Act by at least a century and a half. (31) For children born outside of marriage, that gender-asymmetrical system can be traced to Guyer v. Smith, an 1864 Maryland Court of Appeals decision. (32) Guyer established the centrality of marriage as a requirement for patrilineal citizenship transmission. But the Guyer case was also about racial limitations on father-child citizenship transmission. The Guyer opinion written during the Civil War by judges sitting in Maryland, the "middle ground" of slavery--incorporated a set of gendered and racialized domestic relations law principles concerning the status of nonmarital children. The Guyer opinion then served as an important and long-lasting resource for jurists, administrators, and lawmakers who interpreted, enforced, and enacted America's racially nativist nationality laws.
A. Guyer v. Smith
At first blush, Guyer appears to be an unlikely precedent for the interpretation of federal citizenship law, as it was a state court case and did not involve anyone's right to enter or remain in the United States. Rather, Guyer was a legal dispute over the ownership of a fifty-acre parcel of property in Allegany County, Maryland. John Guyer, an American citizen, had purchased the property in 1792. Approximately eight years later Guyer left Maryland and the United States, and eventually took up residence in St. Barthelemy. (33) John Guyer died in 1841, devising the property to his two sons, Benjamin and James. (34) In the 1850s, the sons' ownership was called into question in an ejectment proceeding: George Smith and Israel Thompson asserted ownership over the parcel after they secured an escheat patent-a legal document that allowed Maryland to expropriate the property and sell it, in this case to Smith and Thompson. (35)
The problem, as Guyer's lessee either knew or soon learned, and as Smith and Thompson may very well have known, was that John Guyer's sons had fragile claims to American citizenship and hence to the property itself. In the nineteenth century, in many states--including Maryland--one's property rights were partially contingent on one's citizenship status. (36) Under Maryland law, non-citizens could own land, but they could take land only as "purchasers," a term of art that meant that their land was always subject to escheat. (37)
Thus, a central question in Guyer v. Smith was whether the Guyer brothers were American citizens. They were born in St. Barthelemy, at the time a Swedish colony; hence, no argument was made that they were citizens via the doctrine of jus soli. No one suggested that they had been naturalized. (38) Rather, they claimed to be citizens by virtue of an 1802 federal statute that provided that
the children of persons who now are, or have been citizens of the United States, shall, though born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, be considered as citizens of the United States: Provided, that the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never resided within the United States. (39)
On the face of it, the assertion that the Guyer brothers were American citizens looked probable. After all, their father, John Guyer, had been a citizen and had, in fact, resided in the United States, as required by the 1802 Act. No one denied that James and Benjamin were his children. Thus, the attorney for the Guyer brothers' lessee, Thomas McKaig--a respected Maryland attorney and former state senator--argued that the Guyer brothers were citizens under the 1802 statute, and that the state had no right to escheat their property, by then called Yamland. (40) But McKaig did not argue the point forcefully, perhaps for good reason. Testimony offered into evidence revealed that Benjamin's and James's mother, Margaret, was of "African descent." (41)
With this fact in mind, it is notable that the Guyer brothers or their lessee chose to pursue the matter for six years and bear the expense of an appeal. After all, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, decided just one year before the Guyer case was filed, Chief Justice Taney made clear that persons of African descent could not be citizens of the national polity by any means. (42) Dred Scott had not been overruled by 1864, when the Maryland Court of Appeals decided Guyer, and it would seem that the appellees had a strong argument that the Guyer brothers were ineligible for citizenship simply because of their race. That argument was undoubtedly cognizable, as other officials confronted with similar claims around the same time had reasoned along similar lines when interpreting the jus sanguinis statute. For example, in the 1860s, an American consul in China had relied on Dred Scott to resolve the citizenship claim of the son of an American "negro" father. The son was born in Amoy, China before the Civil War. When the American consul was asked to determine the son's citizenship, he concluded that "as the Dred Scott decision before the war had deprived negroes of their rights as citizens, ... the ban of that decree" barred the son's claim to American citizenship under the jus sanguinis statute. (43) But in the Guyer appeal, that argument was not made.
Even more curious than the plaintiffs' persistence in pursuing Yamland is the relatively minor role that race played in the defendants' arguments. Attorneys for Smith and Thompson-Oliver Miller and Thomas Devecmon--certainly did not hesitate to bring the matter to the attention of the Court of Appeals, noting that "[s]he, (their mother) ... is not of pure white blood, but partly of African blood or descent." (44) They also contended that under Maryland property law, the Guyer brothers' racial status should have weighed in the defendants' favor:
These plaintiffs are not only aliens, but are proved to be of African descent, and it is against the policy of our laws that such persons should hold real estate in Maryland, and the rule, therefore, that an alien cannot bring an action to recover this land, should be rigidly enforced against these parties. (45)
But the available documents suggest that Miller and Devecmon did not argue that the Guyer brothers' claim to citizenship under the federal statute was categorically barred because of their race. (46) They also said nothing about Dred Scott, which was still technically good law, even though it would seem to have provided extremely powerful precedent, and a possibly winning argument.
Court of Appeals Judge James Bartol, the author of the opinion, appears to have been equally hesitant to make much of the Guyer brothers' race. He does not mention Dred Scott in the opinion, even though he might have been able to resolve the entire case in short order by doing so. Instead, in dealing with the question of the Guyer brothers' citizenship, he simply declared that illegitimate children did not have the benefit of the 1802 federal law:
These appellants claim the benefit of that section, as the children of John Guyer, who was a citizen of the United States. But the proof shows that they were not born in lawful wedlock, they are therefore illegitimate; under our law nullius filii, and clearly therefore not within the provisions of the Act of 1802. (47)
The "proof' to which Judge Bartol referred was the sole witness's statement that [h]e cannot say whether the father and mother of the plaintiffs were lawfully man and wife, or whether the said children were born in lawful wedlock. To the best of my belief it was not so." (48)
It is impossible to establish with certainty why the Maryland Court of Appeals did not also, or simply, rely on Dred Scott to determine the Guyer brothers' citizenship, but one can engage in informed speculation based on the specific circumstances surrounding the Guyer litigation. Dred Scott was not formally overruled until the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868. But in November 1864, fifteen days before the court issued its opinion in Guyer, Maryland adopted a new state constitution that abolished slavery and declared that "all men are created equally free" (49)--a proclamation that may have offered a symbolic challenge to the validity of the Dred Scott opinion. (50) This is not to suggest that the many questions regarding black people's status in the United States--or in Maryland-=had been resolved by the time Guyer was decided; far from it. The Civil War was not yet over, and even if Union forces prevailed it was not clear what that victory would mean for black people. However, it is quite possible that, because of these uncertainties and the violent, nation-rending upheaval that questions concerning black people's citizenship had precipitated, the Guyer court turned to domestic relations laws--laws that were facially race neutral but palpably race salient in their operation--to determine the Guyer brothers' claims to citizenship.
B. Domestic Relations Law and the Legal Construction of Race
Judge Bartol's reference to the domestic relations law principles governing the status and rights of nonmarital children was summary in nature, possibly because his readers would have been familiar with the rudimentary legal principles on which he relied. In the nineteenth century, the common law of domestic relations differentiated sharply between marital and nonmarital children. Within marriage, the father had custodial rights over his children, as well as rights to their labor. In return, so to speak, the father was required to support his marital children, and they inherited his name, status, property, and domicile. (51) Mothers had no, or very few, legal rights vis-a-vis their marital children. (52) But outside marriage, the opposite pattern prevailed. The putative father's estate and status did not pass to his "natural child" unless he adopted the child as his own--a measure that was left to the father's discretion and in the nineteenth century was generally limited to situations where the father married the child's mother after the birth of the child. (53) By contrast, although the strict common law originally prevented the nonmarital child from inheriting property or status from or through his mother, by the early nineteenth century many states had moderated this rule by statute, so that nonmarital children could often inherit from their mothers, and mothers had a duty to support such children. (54) As it developed in America, then, domestic relations law established default rules that enabled patrilineal property and status transmission in marriage and matrilineal property and status transmission outside marriage. The Guyer court incorporated these well-known principles of nineteenth-century domestic relations law into federal citizenship law.
The system of sexual ethics and racial status that these domestic relations law principles reproduced was also well known. Under these principles, women of all races bore responsibility for, and the social stigma of, children born out of wedlock. (55) In addition--and crucial to understanding the Guyer case--the gender-based bastardy laws on which Judge Bartol drew had long shaped and sustained the practice of slavery in slave states like Maryland. Although the line between slavery and freedom was demarcated in different ways at different times, the principle that the bastard child's status was determined by the condition of the mother frequently functioned to differentiate blacks from whites and free blacks from slaves, and it effectively ensured that the children of slave mothers and white fathers (often masters) were slaves. (56) Moreover, given the prohibitions--both legal and social--on slave marriage, (57) a rule that recognized the maternal line as the source of personal status for nonmarital children meant that children of female slaves were almost always born slaves, regardless of their father's status, and, in most cases, his race. Even in states that determined racial status based on a drop or percentage of "African blood," that rule was often based on the maternal line.
For example, in Daniel v. Guy, an Arkansas case, a woman sued for her freedom claiming that she was white, and hence not a slave. The Arkansas Supreme Court adopted a maternal descent rule for determining blackness: "a one-drop-of-blood rule," as long as that drop passed through the maternal line. (58) Similarly, in the canonical slave law case Hudgins v. Wrights, the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia explained that "by the uniform declaration of our laws, the descendants of the females remain slaves, to this day, unless they can prove a right to freedom, by actual emancipation, or by descent in the maternal line from an emancipated female." (59) Maryland was no exception to this rule, which jurists traced to both common law and Roman law principles. (60) Given the ubiquity of this rule, it is unsurprising that when son-of-Maryland Chief Justice Taney set out slavery's long pedigree in his Dred Scott opinion, he explained that in the Roman Empire slave status "was decided by the condition of the mother," and quoted the Institutes of Justinian to show that slaves had long been "born such of bondwomen." (61)
These basic principles of domestic relations law--that within marriage the status of children followed that of the father, while outside marriage the status of children followed that of the mother--were deeply embedded in the logic and practice of slavery and were a fundamental component of the laws that constructed race as a sociolegal category in the antebellum South. They were frequently used to help determine the racial status of mixed-ancestry individuals--that is, whether that individual would be classified by law as black or white or some other race. (62) Importantly for present purposes, these principles were also instrumental to how nineteenth-century jurists reasoned about black people's exclusion from citizenship. When Chief Justice Taney wrote in Dred Scott that slave status was "decided by the condition of the mother," he was explaining not only why black people were enslaved, but also why they were not citizens. (63) And when the Maryland Court of Appeals was asked to determine the citizenship of Benjamin and James Guyer, it drew on the very same domestic relations law principles to provide an interpretation of the statute governing jus sanguinis citizenship, and to explain why the Guyer brothers were not citizens. Thus, although the opinion does not rely on the Guyer brothers' race as justification for their exclusion from citizenship, the laws governing racial identity and status operated just below the surface of the opinion. By turning to domestic relations laws, the Maryland Court of Appeals was able to determine the Guyer brothers' citizenship without more than passing reference to their race, with no mention of Dred Scott, with no mention of the violent unwinding of slavery that served as the backdrop of the Guyer appeal, and with no mention of the promises of racial equality that Union victory would have signaled at least to some people. However present the race question--and, in particular, the question of black people's citizenship--was in the everyday lives of those involved in the Guyer case, to those reading the opinion today, the racial content and context of the case barely register.
II. GUYER'S LEGACY
But who reads Guyer v. Smith today? Who, other than the parties affected, ever read Guyer? After all, less than a year after the Maryland Court of Appeals decided Guyer, the Civil War was over, and in short order Congress enacted the 1866 Civil Rights Act, which provided that "all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are ... citizens of the United States." (64) Two years after that, the Fourteenth Amendment constitutionalized jus soli citizenship ("the right of the place"), which largely put an end to the struggle over freedmen's formal citizenship status--although contests over freedmen's rights as citizens surely continued. (65) And in 1870, Congress made naturalization available to people of "African nativity." (66) Seen in this light, Guyer would seem to be a relic of a bygone moment, and of a repudiated understanding of American citizenship.
But Guyer lived on and continued to function as a tool of racial exclusion in the practice of American jus sanguinis citizenship. The opinion was relied on by government attorneys, cited in judicial opinions, debated in intra-and interdepartmental administrative memoranda, and enforced by various government agencies. (67) It was discussed in treaties, in articles, and in an important Attorney General Opinion issued in 1920. (68) In these sundry sources and contexts, Guyer's primary holding--the interpretive rule that nonmarital foreign-born children of American fathers were not citizens--was regularly given its strictest, most exclusionary application in cases involving nonwhite children, and therefore had the tendency to exclude such children from the American polity. (69) However, the racialized origins and operation of the Guyer opinion were omitted from accounts of the case. In the hands of administrators, judges, and legal scholars who regularly worked with and interpreted American nationality laws, Guyer--and the ostensibly race-neutral domestic relations law principles for which it stood--thus provided a useful resource for those who sought to enforce racially nativist nationality policies. As I demonstrate in the Sections that follow, it was useful in part because its racialized operation was frequently obscured.
A. A Primer on Racially Nativist and Gender-Based Nationality Laws
Well into the twentieth century, the Fourteenth Amendment notwithstanding, other formal rules that governed membership in the American polity--such as immigration and naturalization laws--were shaped in significant ways by racial nativism. Perhaps the best known chapter in that story is the categorical exclusion of people of Asian descent, starting with the Chinese, from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century. On the state level, efforts to expel and exclude people of Chinese descent began as early as the 1850s, when the California legislature began enacting laws intended to discourage the immigration--and encourage the emigration--of Chinese laborers who had flocked to California in search of work during the gold rush. (70) Federal exclusion of Chinese people began in the late nineteenth century, first with the Page Law of 1875 and next with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which suspended immigration of Chinese laborers for a period of ten years and also declared that "no State Court or Court of the United States shall admit Chinese to Citizenship." (71)
Exclusion laws barring the entry of Chinese and other Asian people were expanded over the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, culminating in the National Origins Act of 1924, which both re-codified the race-based exclusion laws and created a national origins quota system that would remain in place for three decades. (72) Through this exclusionary legislation and related administrative regulations and judicial rulings, federal officials constructed a body of nationality law that was premised on a firm belief in a natural racial hierarchy: white Anglo-Saxon Protestant immigrants were welcomed, southern and eastern Europeans were allowed to enter in limited numbers, and Asians and most people of African descent likely to immigrate were excluded. (73) The belief in a hierarchy of races also informed the federal government's response to questions concerning the citizenship status of indigenous residents of America's "insular territories"--places like Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines--which were controlled by the United States but were not given statehood or a path to statehood. (74)
In addition to explicitly race-based nationality laws, gender-asymmetrical domestic relations law principles were incorporated into U.S. nationality law in order to resolve various conundrums created by mixed-nationality marriages, almost always in ways that compromised American women's citizenship status. Starting in 1855, Congress incorporated the gender-based principle of "marital unity"--the notion that "the husband and wife are one person in law" and the "legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage" (75)--into nationality law by decreeing that when a foreign woman married an American man, she automatically became an American citizen. (76) However, the converse was not true: an American woman who married a foreign man could not secure citizenship for her husband. Indeed, starting with an influential federal appeals court opinion in 1883, (77) the principle of "marital unity" and women's subordinate and dependent status in marriage translated into laws that stripped American women of their citizenship upon marriage to a foreigner. Congress codified that principle in the Expatriation Act of 1907, and thereby preserved the doctrine of coverture in federal citizenship law. (78)
By design, the race-and gender-based principles that informed the core functions of American nationality law often operated together. For example, the benefits of the 1855 citizenship law that automatically bestowed American citizenship on the non-citizen wife of an American man were limited to foreign women who "might lawfully be naturalized"--thus restricting naturalization-by-marriage to white women, since at that time only white people could naturalize. (79) Moreover, although all American women were expatriated upon marriage to a foreign man under the Expatriation Act of 1907, when that law was partially repealed by the Cable Act of 1922, lawmakers purposefully left intact formal race-based restrictions on married women's citizenship rights by continuing to expatriate American women who married foreign men who were "ineligible to citizenship." (80) In 1922, that category included men of Asian descent, thus confirming the continued expatriation of all American women, whatever their individual racial identity, who married a non-citizen Asian man. (81)
The principle of "marital unity" and racially exclusionary immigration laws--operating separately and in conjunction--not only shaped the citizenship rights of men and women who entered mixed-nationality marriages, but also helped determine the rights of children under American nationality law. Within marriage, until 1934,jus sanguinis citizenship followed the male line: the foreign-born children of American fathers, but not mothers, were recognized as citizens. (82) This patrilineal rule conformed to the principle of coverture and the related understanding that fathers determined the national culture and political allegiance of their children, in addition to that of their wives. (83) Even after 1931, when Congress recognized American women's right to retain their citizenship upon marriage to a non-citizen, regardless of his race, (84) women's organizations had to fight several more years to secure citizenship for American women's foreign-born children. In 1934, married American mothers could, for the first time, secure citizenship for their foreign-born children, although after 1940 their ability to do so was more constrained than that of married American fathers. (85)
But what about children who were born outside marriage? Until 1940, this issue was not addressed by the jus sanguinis statute. As I demonstrate in detail below, however, their citizenship status was determined by a body of judge-and administrator-made gender-asymmetrical standards. Starting in the early twentieth century, administrators in the Department of State and the Bureau of Immigration recognized the nonmarital foreign-born child of an American mother as an American citizen (before the jus sanguinis statute provided for mother-child citizenship transmission). (86) And, as a default rule, the nonmarital foreign-born child of an American father was not a citizen--the principle that the Maryland court established in Guyer. This rule was not race neutral, however. Just as we miss a crucial dimension of Guyer if we fail to understand the case as part of the larger contest over the citizenship status of black people in the mid-nineteenth century, we miss a crucial dimension of the development of gender-asymmetrical jus sanguinis citizenship law if we fail to account for the important ways that restriction of father-child citizenship transmission outside the marital family regularly operated to exclude nonwhite children from citizenship.
In the following two Sections, I support that core assertion by drawing on the historical records from two important periods in the history of American nationality law. First, I demonstrate how, in the late nineteenth century, domestic relations law served as an important tool for American officials who sought to limit the citizenship claims of "half-caste" children of American men living in Samoa, at that point the location of a small outpost in the fledgling American empire. Next, I examine the Guyer rule's role as an instrument of exclusion in the enforcement of the infamous Chinese exclusion laws, as it provided a means by which Bureau of Immigration officials could limit the entry of foreign-born children of Chinese American fathers. By tracing the Guyer rule's long legacy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, I demonstrate that the gender-and marriage-based regulation of jus sanguinis citizenship was shaped by the logic of racial hierarchy and exclusion that informed American nationality law well into the twentieth century.
B. Guyer as a Rule of Empire
In the second half of the nineteenth century, as America's international presence expanded, officials began to actively protect and define the contours of American citizenship in consular offices around the world: China, Puerto Rico, Samoa, the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, and elsewhere. American expansion gave rise to all manner of legal puzzles, many of which were vetted in the Insular Cases. (87) Likely the best-known of these issues was whether the indigenous residents of U.S. territories were American citizens, enjoying the full protection of the Constitution. In other words, did the Constitution follow the flag? (88) The answer, although notoriously complicated, was generally understood to be no. (89)
Another, less well-documented concern of officials charged with tending to America's interests abroad was the citizenship status of children born to American parents in the insular territories and in foreign countries. The United States's presence abroad was not virtual; it was physical. In addition to military personnel, the United States sent ambassadors, consuls, commercial agents, and other civil servants and employees to foreign countries near and far to represent American interests and to spread American values. (90) In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the vast majority of those Americans abroad were men, (91) and some of them had relationships with local women. Many of the children born of these unions, and their parents, were of the view that the child of an American father and a local woman was an American citizen. Given that the jus sanguinis citizenship statute appeared to recognize children of American fathers as citizens regardless of the fathers' marital status, the children's claims were, at the very least, grounded in the letter of the law. Moreover, some of these children claimed that their parents were married, a fact that would seem to guarantee the children's status under any interpretation of the statute.
But the citizenship claims asserted by children of American fathers and local women were not generally given the benefit of the jus sanguinis citizenship statute, as the case of Samoan-born children of American fathers illustrates. Officials evaluating these children's claims not only presumed that a child must be legitimate in order to qualify for American citizenship but also employed a definition of marriage that denied the legality of marriages that American men entered into "beyond Christendom"--marriages that frequently involved interracial unions. The children born of those unions were illegitimate and hence not citizens.
1. Samoa and "an Institution of Our Civilization"
The first American commercial agent arrived in Samoa in 1853, joining Calvinist, Methodist, and Catholic missionaries who had settled there in the 1830s, along with English and German traders and officials. (92) For several decades, Samoa remained a relatively sleepy way station, but in the 1870s, with an eye toward "increasing our commercial relations" in the South Pacific, President Grant appointed Albert Barnes Steinberger as a special agent with instructions "to secure more reliable information in reference" to Samoa. (93) Steinberger's report, written in the style of Victorian ethnography, catalogued the flora and fauna of the islands and the language, religion, and customs of the people, including their marriage rituals and practices. "Polygamy," he explained, "is common on the part of men, never on the part of women, though two wives seldom live in the same house. A plurality of wives is not common, a husband usually sending a wife to her people when he takes to himself a new one." (94) Missionaries tried to eradicate the practice of polygamy in Samoa. Their influence is evident in a provision in the Samoan council's 1873 laws that--as reported by Steinberger to Congress--declared that "[p]olygamy is strictly forbidden" and criminalized the practice with a penalty of two years' hard labor for the guilty parties and a hundred-dollar fine for the husband. (95) One suspects that the 1873 law and other bans on polygamy were directed not only at native Samoans but also at the western men living in Samoa. One of the first American commercial agents in Samoa, Jonas Coe, married at least six Samoan women and fathered at least eighteen children. (96) And Albert Steinberger became intimately involved with Coe's famously beautiful daughter Emma Coe, who was the second child of Coe's first wife. (97)
Eventually, questions concerning the citizenship of the Samoan-born children of American fathers made their way to Washington, D.C. In 1887, Assistant Secretary of State George Rives received an inquiry from Harold Marsh Sewall, the American Consul General in Samoa. Soon after talcing up his post, Sewall had received an inquiry from one "A[viga] Chapin, who ha[d] applied for protection as a citizen of the United States." (98) Aviga Chapin was the adult son of an American man, Virginius P. Chapin, and an unnamed "native woman." (99) The elder Chapin had served as the commercial agent of the United States in Samoa from 1853 to 1854, and he remained in Samoa for some time thereafter operating a private partnership. (100) Sewall explained that, upon his departure, Virginius had left Aviga in the charge of a British man, George Pritchard, who "states that [Aviga] has always claimed American protection." (101) Nevertheless, Sewall had "refused [the younger] Chapin's application" for citizenship, but was uncertain enough about the matter that he requested "instructions not only upon [Chapin's] case" but also "the status of men who, like him, are the children of American fathers by Samoan women." (102) Sewall advised his superior that his own "opinion is strongly in favor of restricting this recognition [of the children of Samoan mothers and American fathers] as much as possible." (103)
The response from Assistant Secretary of State Rives was as telling for what it assumed as for what it made explicit. After setting out the facts, Rives immediately began his analysis of the law governing the enforceability of foreign marriages in America. In so doing, he assumed that only marital foreign-born children of American fathers could claim American citizenship, even though the governing jus sanguinis citizenship statute said nothing about marital status. (104) As a consequence, marriage was central to his analysis, and the important question was whether marriages between American men and Samoan women qualified as legal marriages, which would make the children born of those unions legitimate and citizens.
Rives's answer was no, despite the "general principle of private international law that a marriage celebrated according to the requirements of the law of the place where the ceremony is performed is to be recognized as valid." (105) Rives explained that "this rule completely applies only to the countries of Christendom." (106) "In Mohammedan ... or in uncivilized lands like Samoa ... the privileged foreign residents carry with them their local law." (107) "It follows," he continued,
that the custom of Samoa in regard to the lawful cohabitation of men and women can not be accepted as a rule by which to determine the character of the cohabitation of an American citizen with any woman, whether native or foreign. The character of such cohabitation must be decided by the law of the United States. (108)
With that in mind, Rives concluded that, "[v]iewed as an institution of our civilization," a valid marriage contract "should be exclusive and for life. Cohabitation for a term of years or at will does not constitute a matrimonial alliance." (109)
Relying on Steinberger's 1874 report, Rives then observed that "[p]olygamy is common on the part of [Samoan] men" (110) and concluded that "cohabitation 'fa'a Samoa' is neither exclusive nor for life and so fails to fulfill the essential conditions of marriage in the United States." (111) Given this, the children of American men and Samoan women were not American citizens. In Rives's assessment, this conclusion applied to the claim of Aviga Chapin, despite the fact that Sewall had not stated with any clarity that Virginius Chapin's relationship with the unnamed "native woman" was, in fact, polygamous. Indeed, in a further letter that was intended to clarify the standards that the Department of State would use in assessing the legitimacy of the "half-caste" children of American fathers residing in Samoa, Rives explained that no marriage between a Samoan woman and an American father could satisfy the American standard for legal marriage--"exclusive and for life"-because, regardless of the intent of the parents or the nature of their union, if Samoan law allowed the parties to separate, then such a marriage would not be recognized under American law. (112) Under this interpretation, no child of an American father and a Samoan mother could be recognized as a citizen under the jus sanguinis citizenship statute.
2. Half-Castes, Polygamy, and the Presumption of Legitimacy
On the one hand, Rives's analysis, and his insistence that "half-caste" children in Samoa were not American citizens, is hardly surprising. In the 1880s, many considered racial mixing a sin that posed a danger to the purity of the white race. (113) In the United States, most of the states had laws barring interracial marriage, and the practice was socially taboo. (114) Although Rives did not rely on such laws as the foundation of his opinion, a construction of the law of marriage that denied the legitimacy of marriages between white American men and Samoan women under any circumstances was consistent with prevailing legal and social norms of the time.
Rives's ready assumption that all American-Samoan marriages were polygamous and his conclusion that polygamous marriages were invalid was also predictable given the ferocious anti-polygamy sentiment of the time. By the 1880s, the federal government had committed substantial resources to exorcising Mormon polygamy from the nation-state. (115) In that campaign, Mormon polygamy was portrayed as a perversion of monogamous, Christian marriage. (116) And polygamy's routine identification with African and Asian peoples imbued the domestic anti-polygamy campaign with racial salience. (117) For example, eight years before Rives rejected Chapin's claim to citizenship, the Supreme Court upheld the federal government's power to criminalize polygamy, explaining that polygamy was a practice of "Asiatic and ... African people" that was "odious" to European nations. (118) It was feared that Mormon polygamy was evidence of white people's slippage into practices associated with supposedly lower-order races, and hence their racial denigration." (119) American men's alleged predilection toward polygamy in Samoa may have triggered a similar anxiety in officials charged with determining the citizenship claims of foreign-born children of American men residing in Samoa. If the government would not tolerate-or grant statehood to-a white, arguably Christian people who practiced polygamy within the geographical bounds of the United States, they surely would not welcome the offspring of possibly polygamous relationships between American men and Samoan women, born oceans away, into the American polity. In many respects, then, Rives's analysis and conclusion seems to have been overdetermined by contemporary cultural and legal commitments against interracial marriage and polygamy.
But one should not overlook the relevant legal authorities and norms that pointed in the other direction. As an initial matter, it bears repeating that the governing jus sanguinis statute was silent regarding the father's marital status. (120) Moreover, not everyone thought that an interpretation of this statute that recognized nonmarital foreign-born children of American fathers as citizens would have strained common sensibilities of the day. Significantly, Rives's opinion effectively overruled an earlier practice that recognized the possibility of Samoan-American marriage and limited citizenship rights for "half-caste" children born of such unions. (121) And just a few years before Rives penned his letter, an American diplomat stationed in China, John Russell Young, concluded that the illegitimacy of a "negro" American father's foreign-born child was irrelevant to the Department of State's determination of that child's citizenship under the same jus sanguinis statute. Young based his reading of the statute on the guiding principle that "the misfortune of an illegitimate birth cannot deprive a man of his nationality.... He is a part of society." (122) In short, like the judges who presided in Guyer, Rives made an interpretive choice in reading the statute to limit citizenship to marital children of American fathers, and in determining that, regardless of the nature of the particular marriage, Samoan-American marriages did not constitute legal marriages.
Rives's interpretation of the jus sanguinis statute also ignored one of the most fundamental principles of nineteenth-century marriage law. The legal maxim semper praesumitur pro matrimonio--always presume marriage--was a well-established and closely followed tenet of late nineteenth-century domestic relations law. (123) Its influence was considerable, and, quite intentionally, it operated to legalize marriages and legitimize children in a whole range of circumstances. For example, as Rives surely knew, in most parts of the United States, common law marriage--"cohabitation for a term of years" combined with public recognition of the couple as husband and wife--constituted a lawful matrimonial alliance." (124) Judges and lawyers acknowledged that a primary purpose of common law marriage was to ensure that children born of such a union were legitimate. (125) In many states' domestic relations laws, the child born to a couple who married after the child's birth was deemed legitimate nunc pro tunc, from the day he or she was born. (126) The presumption of legitimacy was so strong that even if adultery was suspected on the part of a married woman, any child she bore was assumed to be the child of her husband, subject only to strong contrary proof. (127) Indeed, a whole body of evidentiary law supported the presumption in favor of marriage and legitimacy. (128) In light of these strong norms, Rives's determination that the marriages of American men and Samoan women were invalid-and the children illegitimate-denied those children the presumption of legitimacy that helped protect many children in America from the legal liabilities and profound social stigma of illegitimacy at that time.
But in domestic relations law, as in nationality law, there were racial limits on the operation of the presumptions of marriage and legitimacy. For example, the children of interracial couples did not benefit from legal presumptions that would have made them legitimate. (129) One can see similar racialized understandings of the law of marriage and legitimacy operating in the citizenship determinations of Samoan-born children of American fathers that resulted in those children's exclusion from membership in the American polity. The role that racialized domestic relations laws served in the hands of officials charged with making citizenship determinations was by no means identical to the ends they served in other contexts. Domestically, such laws reinforced sociolegal racial hierarchies by limiting nonwhite children's access to the status and material benefits of legitimacy. In the context of interpreting the jus sanguinis statute, the non-recognition of marriages between American men and the "native women" of Samoa reflected anxieties of empire-the fear that America's imperial project at the periphery would dilute or corrupt the polity at the center, in this case by recognizing "half-castes" as American citizens. (130) But whether deployed at home or in the furthest reaches of America's fledgling empire, malleable but durable domestic relations law principles aided in the racial construction of family and nation.
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|Title Annotation:||Introduction through II. Guyer's Legacy B. Guyer as a Rule of Empire 2. Half-Castes, Polygamy, and the Presumption of Legitimacy, p. 2134-2167|
|Author:||Collins, Kristin A.|
|Publication:||Yale Law Journal|
|Date:||May 1, 2014|
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