The History of Sovereign Citizenship

by Scott Eric Rosenstiel

Where did Sovereign Citizenship originate? Sovereign Citizenship is the status held by our forefathers. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and everyone else who won their freedom from the British Empire had this status. It was the birthright of all Americans, and we were generous in extending this most important right to foreign-born persons through the naturalization laws. With this status, our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and property couldn't be infringed. During the Civil War a method was discovered by the leading attorneys, financiers, and politicians of the day to deprive us of this status. Fortunately, we can get it back. This brings us to the question, "What are we getting back?" What does it mean to be a Sovereign Citizen?

The word "sovereign" is defined in the 6th edition of Black's Law Dictionary, published in 1990, as being, "A person, body, or state in which independent authority is vested; a chief ruler with supreme power; a king or other ruler in a monarchy." Prior to the War for American Independence, the British king was the sovereign and the American people were his subjects. The war's outcome changed all this:

"The sovereignty has been transferred from one man to the 
collective body of the people - and he who before was a 
'subject of the king' is now 'a citizen of the State.'" 
State v. Manuel, North Carolina, Vol. 20, Page 121 (1838) 

Thus, the people became Citizens of their respective states. But more importantly, for the first and only time in recorded history, the people were recognized as being the true sovereigns:

"It will be sufficient to observe briefly, that the 
sovereignties in Europe, and particularly in England, 
exist on feudal principles. That system considers the 
prince as the sovereign, and the people as his subjects; 
it regards his person as the object of allegiance... 
No such ideas obtain here; at the revolution, the sovereignty 
devolved on the people; and they are truly the sovereigns of 
the country, but they are sovereigns without subjects... 
and have none to govern but themselves..." 
Chisholm v. Georgia, Dallas' Supreme Court Reports, Vol. 2, 
Pages 471, 472 (1793)

Each individual, at least so far as respects his unalienable rights is his own sovereign. These rights weren't given to any government. In fact, they can't be. Perhaps you can give up all of your rights, if you so choose, but who has the power to give your rights up for you? In America, no one can, because we're all equal.

In American this principle of popular sovereign is recognized by all governments - state and federal. When the states became independent, the state governments were formed, all of them based on the authority of the people, and not the will of one man or a small body of men. The federal government as we know it today was created in 1789 when the federal constitution went into effect.

The constitution mentioned something previously unknown in American law:

Citizenship of the United States:

"The term, citizens of the United States, must be understood 
to intend those who were citizens of a state, as such, after 
the Union had commenced, and the several states had assumed 
their sovereignties. Before this period there was no citizen 
of the United States..."
Manchester v. Boston, Massachusetts Reports, 
Vol. 16, Page 235 (1819)

Thus a Citizen of a state is, by the federal constitution, made a Citizen of the United States. This means the following:

"A citizen of one state is to be considered as a citizen 
of every other state in the union." 
Butler v. Farnsworth, Federal Cases, Vol. 4, Page 902 (1821)

A Citizen of any one of the states is considered and treated as being a Citizen of all of them. The phrase "Citizen of the United States" does not refer to a separate class of citizenship:

"A citizen of any one of the States of the Union, is held 
to be, and called a citizen of the United States, although 
technically and abstractly there is no such thing. To conceive 
a citizen of the United States who is not a citizen of some one 
of the States, is totally foreign to the idea, and inconsistent 
with the proper construction and common understanding of the 
expression as used in the Constitution, which must be deduced from
its various other provisions." 
Ex parte. - Frank Knowles, California
Reports, Vol. 5, Page 302 (1855)

Because of the principles enunciated in the above cases and others like them, it's correct to say that the American people are Citizens of our respective states. But we're more than this. We're in a very real sense Citizens of all the states. We are, in the greatest sense, and proudly so, Citizens of the several United States.

This brings us to what are considered as being the rights inherent in Citizenship in America:

"When men entered into a State they yielded a part 
of their absolute rights, or natural liberty, for political 
or civil liberty, which is no other than natural liberty 
restrained by human laws, so far as is necessary and
expedient for the general advantage of the public. The rights 
of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring and 
protecting reputation and property, - and, in general, of 
attaining objects suitable to their condition, without injury 
to another, are the rights of a citizen; and all men by nature 
have them." 
Douglass, Adm'r., v. Stephens, Delaware Chancery, 
Vol. 1, Page 470 (1821)

These are the rights inherent in Sovereign Citizenship. So long as we remained Citizens, they couldn't be taken away from us. So the key was to take our Citizenship away from us.