In order to have all the rights and privileges of a British subject, one had to become a subject of the British monarch. Therefore, because most of the colonial immigrants were from
According to English law, an alien (a stranger, subject to another monarchy with no allegiance to the territorial holding monarchy) could neither hold nor inherit real property, nor pass it to his heirs. If he acquired property it passed to the Crown upon his death. The alien would have to go and submit a letter of intent to the local magistrate, where in they would be given a license allowing them to stay, mandate that they follow all laws which relate to strangers and aliens, and pay double the local tax. After living in the colony for at least 7 years, the alien could apply for a change of status, where the colonial governor could grant by letter of patent the status of “denizen”, a status akin to permanent residency today, for a paid a fee and would take an oath of allegiance to the British Parliament, akin to taking the oath to the US Constitution today. The denizen was not a “natural-born subject”; therefore he did not have any political rights: he could not be a member of parliament or hold any civil or military office.
Colonial naturalization law was made by the Parliament in
The spirit of exclusiveness, however, was by no means overthrown, for we find an English traveler writing as late as 1760 that few people of foreign birth were to be found dwelling in Massachusetts. Connecticut was in the habit of demanding an oath of all strangers who came to dwell within her territory.
Naturalization legislation continued to be enacted, and as late as 1773 it was provided that foreign Protestants who had served for two years in any of the royal American regiments could become naturalized under restrictions regarding office-holding in