The 1790 Alien Naturalization Act, enacted by Congress on Mar. 26, 1790, dictated the following:
"Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any alien, being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen therof, on application to any common law court of record, in any of the states wherein he shall have resided for the term of one year at least, and making proof to the satisfaction of such court, that he is a person of good character, and taking oath of affirmation prescribed by law, to support the constitution of the United States... And the children of such persons so naturalized, dwelling within the United States, being under the age of twenty-one years at the time of such naturalization, shall also be considered as citizen of the United States. And the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits..., shall be considered as natural born citizens..."
Charles Gordon, LLB, Former Deputy General Counsel of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, in a Mar. 1945 University of Pennsylvania Law Review essay entitled "The Racial Barrier to American Citizenship," offered:
"The first American nationality law, enacted by Congress on March 26, 1790, restricted eligibility for naturalization to 'free white persons.' Although there was no contemporaneous Congressional expression to clarify the legislative intent, it seems clear that the racial limitation was designed to exclude two categories: (1) chattel slaves, both Negro and White, and (2) Indians. Both groups evidently were deemed unfit for participation in full political privilege. The designation of 'free white persons' as the sole group eligible for naturalization continued without change for eighty years."
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in a document entitled "This Month in Immigration History: March 1790," from its "About Us" website section (accessed May 3, 2007), offered the following:
"The original U.S. naturalization law of March 26, 1790 (1 Stat 103-104) provided the first rules to be followed by all of the United States in the granting of national citizenship. At that time and by that law naturalization was limited to aliens who were 'free white persons' and thus left out indentured servants, slaves, and most women, all of whom were considered dependents and thus incapable of casting an independent vote. The 1790 Act also limited naturalization to persons of 'good moral character.' And the law required a set period of residence in the United States prior to naturalization, specifically two years in the country and one year in the state of residence when applying for citizenship. When those requirements were met, an immigrant could file a Petition for Naturalization with 'any common law court of record' having jurisdiction over his residence asking to be naturalized. Once convinced of the applicant’s good moral character, the court would administer an oath of allegiance to support the Constitution of the United States. The clerk of court was to make a record of these proceedings, and 'thereupon such person shall be considered as a citizen of the United States.' It is from this structure of steps and requirements that U.S. naturalization evolved. While we still require new citizens to be persons of 'good moral character,' limitations based on gender or race eventually disappeared, while new requirements were introduced by subsequent legislation."