Who is a citizen?

The idea of who could be a citizen in the new world was relatively concurrent with the rest of Europe, but varied slightly from state-to-state. to understand who could be a citizen i think it’s important to define what makes a citizen. Some might state that a citizen is a member of the population that can take advantage of the benefits of the collective efforts of the state, to include voting, protection by the military, participation in the militia, etc. But, at this point in the late 1700’s only a select group could vote to have their opinions heard by congress anyway, which was limited to white landowners who were particularly more affluent than not, which was consistent for most of Europe as well. If we take the meaning of the general participation within the state militias as another factor, then we would still only have men recognized as citizens and in the north we’d still not include freed slaves. Citizenship then seems to be much harder to define in such an empirical sense. To account for those groups who did not appear to hold the same benefits as wealthy white men, we must examine from their level in what way they viewed themselves as citizen.

From Mary Bronson’s point of view, she most certainly would view herself as a citizen of the United States, but what qualified that? Well, let’s first take a look at the empirical data that might be justified. Her husband, Ethan Allen, was a landowner and prominent participant in both the revolution as well as state affairs, which would make her (in part) a landowner and a prominent member of the community. Her status was partially dependent upon her husband’s (primarily) and by his position she could have her voice heard. She could not take part in the militia, but most women, in times of war, would work as seamstresses or nurses in aid of the military behind the scenes. And of course she was under the protection of both the militias and the military. This seems to simplify things then, a citizen is one who contributes to society and benefits from it. In the North, this could still include freed-slaves, who could come to own land or businesses, just like white men and women. Yet, as slaves they contributed to society by means of commerce labor, but received only the benefit of associative protection by the military. Citizenship is the pride of belonging to a society as well as the cultivation of benefits awarded by the society as rights or privileges.


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