2 Judd v. Lawrence, 1 Cush. 531.
§ 98. The question whether an alien is at liberty to renounce all allegiance to the United States, at his pleasure, has been much discussed, and considerable difference of opinion has been expressed.2 The rule of the common law is, that natural-born subjects owe a perpetual allegiance, which cannot be divested by any act of their own, unless authorized specially by legislative provisions.3 But it has been doubted whether this strict rule was applicable to this country. Mr. Chancellor Kent, after a historical review of all the cases in the federal courts, states that "the better opinion would seem to be, that a citizen cannot renounce his allegiance to the United States without the permission of government, to be declared by law, and that as there is no legislative regulation in this case, the rule of the English common law remains unaltered.4
1 Taylor v. Carpenter, 3 Story, 458. Mr. Justice Story, in this case, said, "Various grounds of objection are suggested in the answer of the defendant, none of which appear to me to be of any validity. First, it is suggested that the plaintiffs are aliens. Be it so. But in the courts of the United States, under the Constitution and Laws, they are entitled, being alien friends, to the same protection of their rights as citizens. There is no pretence to say, that if a similar false imitation and use of the labels of a citizen put upon his own manufactured, articles, had been designedly and fraudulently perpetrated and acted upon, it would not have been an invasion of his rights, for which our law would have granted ample redress. There is no difference between the case of a citizen and that of an alien friend, where his rights are openly violated." See also Coats v. Holbrook,
2 Sandf. Ch. 586.
2 Talbot v. Janson, 3 Dall. 133; The Case of Isaac Williams, 2 Cranch, 82, note; Murray v. The Charming Betsy, 2 Cranch, 64; U. S. v. Gillies, Pet. C. C. 159; Santissima Trinidad, 7 Wheat. 283; Ainslie v. Martin, 9 Mass. 454-461.
3 Story's Case, Dyer, 298 6, 300 b; 1 Black. Comm. 370, 371; 1 Hale, P. C. 68; Foster, C. L. 7, 59, 183.
4 2 Kent, Comm. pt. iv. lect. 25, p. 49. See also Shanks v. Dupont, 3 Pet. 242; and Inglis v. The Trustees of the Sailors' Snug Harbor, ib. 99. The naturalization laws of the United States, requiring the alien who is to be naturalized to abjure his allegiance, without evidence of a which the authority of the guardian in chivalry continued until his male ward arrived at the age of twenty-one years, because, until then, the ward was incapable of doing knight-service and attending his lord to the wars. But the suggestion of Sir William Blacks tone, that this rule was probably copied from the old Saxon constitution on the continent, which extended the age of minority " ad annum vigesimum primum, et eo usque juvenes sub tutelam reponunt" seems to have more weight.1 Probably the original reason upon which the rule was founded was a physical one, for, according to Pliny, "Homo crescit in longitudinem ad annos usque ter septenos." The age at which persons are competent to contract is different in different countries. By the Roman law, full age is fixed at twenty-five years, and such is generally the law on the continent of Europe. But in France, twenty-one years is the age of majority.2 In the United States, the rule of the common law, making twenty-one years the age of majority, generally obtains, although in some of the States female infants attain their majority at the age of eighteen years.3