America in search of labor opportunities, its secondary was to more clearly define the color of citizenship.. . . any Alien being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof on appli-cation to any common law Court of record in any one of the States wherein he shall have resided for the term of one year at least.9While the racist rhetoric of the statute narrowed the constitutional loophole created by the Three-Fifths Compromise, it failed to address the condition of free native-born blacks because it presup-posed that native-born individuals were already national citizens on account that they were neither alien nor slave. So, while the law solidified white as the color of federal citizenship, it did nothing to address the fact that US federalism endowed states with the power to grant or deny citizenship to whom they pleased.10This discretionary power to bestow or deny civic status produced a black constituency that enjoyed varying degrees of citizenship. For instance, in parts of New England where the free black population was low, blacks were given voting rights; in areas of the mid-Atlantic region, propertied blacks both voted and served on juries.11At the same time, though, because state jurisdiction ceased beyond state boundaries, states unsupportive of black citizenship were under no obligation to recognize or honor the civic liberties granted free blacks by other states. Rejecting black citizenship were states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, which outright denied freepersons residence, and states like Maryland, Tennessee, and North Carolina, which recognized black citizenship but later came to revoke it.12State laws ignoring, denying, curbing, and outright revoking the This content downloaded from 184.108.40.206 on Thu, 07 May 2020 23:47:17 UTCAll use subject to
Constituting the “Citizen Race”37citizenship rights of black freepersons worked to geographically ensure the separation of slaves and free blacks. White racial logic reckoned freepersons a threat because they infected slaves with the spirit of freedom. Establishing geographical barriers to divide these populations, then, was tactical in that it sought to ward off insur-gency. Planned revolts led by Haiti’s Toussaint Louverture (1791), South Carolina’s Denmark Vesey (1822), and Virginia’s Nat Turner (1831) provided further impetus for white America’s suspicion of free blacks, their assumed ability to influence black slaves, and the ever-constant need to monitor and police the movements of both. As one South Carolinian put it, all blacksshould be watched with an eye of steady and unremitted observation, . . . Let it never be forgotten, that our Negroes are freely the JACOBINS of the country; that they are the ANARCHISTS and the DOMESTIC ENEMY: the COMMON ENEMY OF CIVILIZED SOCIETY, and the BARBARIANS WHO WOULD, IF THEY COULD, BECOME THE DESTROYERS OF OUR RACE.