Question of Citizenship Essay

Submitted By radhanavin
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The Question of Female Citizenship The Martin vs. Massachusetts case began in 1801 when the son of William and Anna Martin, James Martin, sued Massachusetts for his mother’s confiscated land. After losing his case, he challenged the decision of the lower courts and brought it upon the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The fuss of this case in 1805 rested on the question of citizenship, specifically female citizenship, and what acts included them. First, citizens must be defined. According to Anglo-American government, citizens were the inhabitants of New America. The citizens of the republic declared themselves independent of the British Crown. Citizens must abide by the laws their government set in place and must enter a social contract. Furthermore, having property entitled the citizens to economic and political independence needed to enter the social contract (p. 138). Citizenship in the republic required certain qualities, like land ownership, which excluded many groups. Citizens did not include those without property or who were not sufficient to provide for themselves such as the poor, children, slaves, and servants (p. 138). The government expected the adult males to fulfill their duties in time of need by serving in the militia. Women and children were not able to aid in war. Citizens must remain within the boundaries of the United States. The previous definitions of citizenship took on a masculine role. Within the United States, the women had a form of citizenship because they were inhabitants and members of the nation. Although, they were not “fully enfranchised citizens (p. 138).” A married woman was considered feme-covert, which translated into “wife was literally covered by husband (p. 139).” They were to act under their husband. Under this law, they were exempt from the privileges given to citizens. Married women were not allowed to buy, sell, or own property independent of their husband. She could not enter into contracts, act in a court of law, vote, serve on juries, or hold public office (p. 139). Citizenship largely rests on the ownership of property and the ability to provide aid and defense in the United States. George Blake argued that Anna Martin was not a member of the new nation at all. She had no political relations to the states, he said. Citizens were required to take oath, but the women were never asked to take an oath nor did they. “A married woman’s status as a feme-covert severely restricted her access to property (p. 139).” Anna Martin had to surrender the management of her property to her husband. William Martin had many rights over the land, except he could not sell the land without consent of his wife. Those who did not have property did not have the economical and political power to enter a social contract, which were the married women, were not fully enfranchised citizens. Yet, the government argued that by staying within the United States, the women had a choice to act on their own judgement. The government stated that women, too, are members and inhabitants of the new nation. Why were they not included in the benefits the citizens had? The preamble said that every member must provide his personal service in time of need in arms and defense for the United States. Yet, the government expected adult males to serve in the militia. Surely, they did not want to exercise women in the militia for aid. Going back on the idea that women were femes-covert, according to the law of God, a wife had to obey what her husbanded commanded. She simply could not have remained in the states if her husband fled for exile due to the personal vows she had taken. Justice Sedgwick made a