United States v. Macintosh
Annotate this Case
283 U.S. 605 (1931)
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U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Macintosh, 283 U.S. 605 (1931)
United States v. Macintosh
Argued April 27, 1931
Decided May 25, 1931
283 U.S. 605
1. A petition for naturalization presents a case for the exercise of the judicial power, to which the United States is a proper, and always a possible, adverse party. P. 283 U. S. 615.
2. Naturalization is a privilege, to be given, qualified, or withheld as Congress may determine, and which the alien may claim as of right only upon compliance with the terms which Congress imposes. Id.
3. That admission to citizenship is regarded by Congress as a serious matter is apparent from the conditions and precautions by which it has carefully surrounded the subject. Id.
4. In specifically requiring that the court shall be satisfied that the applicant, during his residence in the United States, has behaved as a man of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, etc., it is obvious that Congress regarded the fact of good character and the fact of attachment to the principles of the Constitution as matters of the first importance. P. 283 U. S. 616.
5. The statute specifically requires examination of the applicant and witnesses in open court and under oath, and authorizes the government to cross-examine concerning any matter touching or in any way affecting the right to naturalization, in order that the court and the government may discover whether the applicant is fitted for citizenship, and, to that end, by actual inquiry, ascertain, among other things, whether he has intelligence and good character; whether his oath to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same will be taken without mental reservation or purpose inconsistent therewith; whether his views are compatible with the obligations and duties of American citizenship; whether he will upon his own part observe the laws of the land; whether he is willing to support the government in time of war, as well as in time of peace, and to assist in the defense of the country, not to the extent or in the manner that he may choose, but to such extent and in such manner as he lawfully may be required to do. These, at least, are matters which are of the essence of the statutory requirements, and in respect of which the mind and conscience of the applicant may be probed by pertinent inquiries, as fully as the court, in the exercise of a sound discretion, may conclude is necessary. P. 283 U. S. 616.
6. The applicant in the case at bar is unwilling to take the oath of allegiance, except with these important qualifications: that he will do what he judges to be in the best interests of the country only insofar as he believes it will not be against the best interests of humanity in the long run; that he will not assist in the defense of the country by force of arms or give any war his moral support unless he believes it to be morally justified, however necessary the war might seem to the government of the day; that he will hold himself free to judge of the morality and necessity of the war, and, while he does not anticipate engaging in propaganda against the prosecution of a war declared and considered justified by the government, he prefers to make no promise even as to that, and that he is convinced that the individual citizen should have the right to withhold his military services when his best moral judgment
7. Whether any citizen shall be exempt from services in the armed forces of the nation in time of war is dependent upon the will of Congress, and not upon the scruples of the individual, except as Congress provides. P. 283 U. S. 623.
8. The privilege of the native-born conscientious objector to avoid bearing arms comes not from the Constitution, but from the Acts of Congress; a naturalized citizen can have no greater privilege. Id.
9. It is not within the province of the courts to make bargains with those who seek naturalization. They must accept the grant and take the oath in accordance with the terms fixed by the law, or forego the privilege of citizenship. If one qualification of the oath be allowed, the door is opened for others, with utter confusion as the probable result. P. 283 U. S. 626.
10. The Naturalization Act is to be construed with definite purpose to favor and support the government, and the United States is entitled to the benefit of any doubt which remains in the mind of the court as to any essential matter of fact. Id.
11. The burden is upon the applicant to show that his views are not opposed to the principle that it is a duty of citizenship, by force of arms when necessary, to defend the country against all enemies, and that his opinions and beliefs would not prevent or impair the true faith and allegiance required by the Act. Id.
42 F.2d 845 reversed; D.C. affirmed.
Certiorari, 282 U.S. 832, to review a judgment which reversed a judgment denying a petition for naturalization and directed that the applicant be admitted to citizenship.