PENNumbra Essay Explores the Meaning of U.S. Citizenship under the Constitution

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In his essay Original Citizenship, Josh Blackman asks what the Constitution means when it refers to “citizen[s] of the United States.” Acknowledging the lack of guidance on the topic, Blackman looks to contemporary notions of citizenship, including the theories of birthright citizenship and “citizenship by election,” for help. In concluding that one could only become a citizen of the United States as of the Declaration of Independence, Blackman tracks early case law at critical points in the nation’s early history. He looks to treason cases, contested elections, and interpretations of Jay’s Treaty to determine that the only logical starting point for “original” citizenship must be the Declaration. Blackman’s piece is a much-needed contribution to a sparse area of scholarship and helps to lay the groundwork for future work on the implications of his findings.

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