Citizen “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “citizen” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (6th edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and Webster’s Dictionary (1828):




One who has acquired citizenship by birth, naturalization, or other lawful means; in a popular but nonetheless appropriate sense of the term, one, who by birth, naturalization, or other means, is a member of an independent political society [3 Am J2d Aliens §1].



  1. One who, under the constitution and laws of the United States, has a right to vote for representatives in congress, and other public officers, and who is qualified to fill offices in the gift of the people. In a more extended sense, under the word citizen, are included all white persons born in the United States, and naturalized persons born out of the same, who have not lost their right as such. This includes men, women, and children.
  2. Citizens are either native born or naturalized. Native citizens may fill any office; naturalized citizens may be elected or appointed to any office under the constitution of the United States, except the office of president and vice-president. The constitution provides, that “the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.” [Art. 2, s. 2]
  3. All natives are not citizens of the United States; the descendants of the aborigines, and those of African origins, are not entitled to the rights of citizens. Anterior to the adoption of the constitution of the United States, each state had the right to make citizens of such persons as it pleased. That constitution does not authorize any but white persons to become citizens of the United States; and it must therefore be presumed that no one is a citizens who is not white. [1 Litt. R. 334; 10 Conn. R. 340; 1 Meigs, R. 331].
  4. A citizen of the United States, residing in any state of the Union, is a citizen of that state [6 Pet. 761 Paine, 594; 1 Brock. 391; 1 Paige, 183 Metc. & Perk. Dig. h. t.; vide 3 Story’s Const. 1687 Bouv. Inst. Index, b.t.; 2 Kent, Com. 258; 4 Johns. Ch. R. 430; Vatt. B. 1, c. ld, 212; Poth. Des Personnes, tit. 2, s. 1. Vide Body Politic; Inhabitant]



In general, a member of a free city or jural society, (civitas) possessing all the rights and privileges which can be enjoyed by any person under its constitution and government, and subject to the corresponding duties.

In American law, one who, under the constitution and laws of the United States, or of a particular state, and by virtue of birth or naturalization within the jurisdiction, is a member of the political community, owing allegiance and being entitled to the enjoyment of full civil rights [U.S. v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 23 L. Ed. 588; White v. Clements, 39 Ga. 259; Amy v. Smith, 1 Litt. (Ky.) 331; State v. County Court, 90 Mo. 593, 2 S.W. 788; Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162, 22 L. Ed. 627; U.S. v. Morris (D.C.) 125 Fed. 325].

  • The term “citizen” has come to us derived from antiquity. It appears to have been used in the Roman government to designate a person who had the freedom of the city, and the right to exercise all political and civil privileges of the government. There was also at Rome, a partial citizenship, including civil, but not political, rights. Complete citizenship embraced both [Thomasson v. State, 15 Ind. 451].

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside [Amend. XIV, Const. U.S.].

  • There is in our political system a government of each of the several states, and a government of the United States. Each is distinct from the others, and has citizens of its own, who owe it allegiance, and whose rights, within its jurisdiction, it must protect. The same person may be at the same time a citizen of the United States and a citizen of a state; but his rights of citizenship under one of these governments will be different from those he has under the other. The government of the United States although it is, within the scope of its powers, supreme and beyond the states, can neither grant nor secure to its citizens rights or privileges which are not expressly or by implication placed under its jurisdiction. All that cannot be so granted or secured are left to the exclusive protection of the states [U.S. v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 23 L. Ed. 588].
  • “Citizen” and “inhabitant” are not synonymous. One may be a citizen of a state without being an inhabitant, or an inhabitant without being a citizen [Quinby v. Duncan, 4 Har. (Del.) 383].
  • “Citizen” is sometimes used as synonymous with “resident;” as in a statute authorizing funds to be distributed among the religious societies of a township, proportionably to the number of their members who are citizens of the township [State v. Trustees, 11 Ohio, 24].

In English law, an inhabitant of a city [1 Rolle, 138]. The representative of a city in parliament [1 Bl. Comm. 174]. It will be perceived that, in the English usage, the word adheres closely to its original meaning, as shown by its derivation, (civis, a free inhabitant of a city). When it is designed to designate an inhabitant of the country, or one amenable to the laws of the nation, “subject” is the word there employed.




1. The native of a city, or an inhabitant who enjoys the freedom and privileges of the city in which he resides; the freeman of a city, as distinguished from a foreigner, or one not entitled to its franchises.
2. A townsman; a man of trade; not a gentleman.
3. An inhabitant; a dweller in any city, town or place.
4. In general sense, a native or permanent resident in a city or country; as the citizens of London or Philadelphia; the citizens of the United States.
5. In the United States, a person, native or naturalized, who has the privilege of exercising the elective franchise, or the qualifications which enable him to vote for rulers, and to purchase and hold real estate.
If the citizens of the United States should not be free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.

CITIZEN, a. Having the qualities of a citizen.

This entry was posted in "Legally" Defined Words. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Citizen “Legally” Defined

  1. Pingback: Anarchist Odyssey of the Federalist Papers, Part 2 - Liberty Under Attack

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s