Fear, Foreigners and Federalism: The Naturalization Act of 1790 and American Citizenship/foundering Friendship: French Disillusionment after the Battle of Yorktown
Master of Arts (M.A.)
The Naturalization Act of 1790’s requirements of residency and “good character,” reveal that the First Congress set the limits on the access of immigrants to citizenship to mostly restrict European foreigners, rather than African Americans or Native Americans. These residency and “good character” clauses resulted from a combination of concerns regarding foreigners that came to prominence during the Confederation Period. Among these fears were the perceived abilities of immigrants to the gain control over land in the trans-Appalachian West and control over political influence in the unstable political order after the American Revolution. These worries about national stability were inflamed by long standing concerns over integration of immigrants on the basis of language or tendencies towards “monarchism,” which were seen as contrary to republican values. Using British legal understanding of subjecthood and naturalization, policymakers in the First Congress framed the Naturalization Act of 1790 as a narrower definition of citizenship derived from prejudice against foreign outsiders. The conception of the United States as an asylum for mankind came to ironic demise through the republican principles it sought to uphold. On October 22, 1782, a Westchester County sheriff entered the Crompond, New York headquarters of the French Expeditionary Force to the Americas to arrest General Rochambeau. The shocking treatment of Rochambeau revealed the increasing tensions in the Franco-American relations that began after the Battle of Yorktown and developed through the winter residence of the French Army in Williamsburg, Virginia. Historians of the Franco-American relationship, such as Durand Echeverria and Peter P. Hill, commonly suggest the beginning of the Confederation Period as the start of French disillusionment, relying on French views of confederation politics as “chaos or fears of an “imperial reconciliation” as motivation for the decline. However, a comparison in the rhetoric by the French Expeditionary Force over the winter at Newport in 1780-1781 and the winter in Williamsburg in 1781-1782 revealed that discourteous observations in journals of French officers dramatically increased. Additionally, the claims letters sent by common Virginians to the governor’s office suggest that the quartered French soldiers had worn out their welcome, even as the government officials attempted continuing displays of friendship. The process of Franco-American disillusionment occurred just after General Cornwallis’s defeat at Yorktown and the loss of a common American and French objective.
© The Author
Nager, Cody, "Fear, Foreigners and Federalism: The Naturalization Act of 1790 and American Citizenship/foundering Friendship: French Disillusionment after the Battle of Yorktown" (2017). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1516639569.
Available for download on Monday, May 01, 2023