A STATUTORY STUDY OF JURISDICTION
Most words used in statutes are undefined, and often to determine the meaning of a particular word requires resorting to that word’s context, which can provide its meaning. The word “jurisdiction” has multiple meanings, such as referring to the statutory jurisdiction of a court or government agency. But this study examines the meaning of “jurisdiction” in a geographical sense: from a Congressional viewpoint, what does Congress mean when it refers to the jurisdiction of a State in this American Union, and what does it mean when it refers to the jurisdiction of the United States? What geographical areas are within State jurisdiction, and what is within that of the United States? Are geographical areas within a State subject to the jurisdiction of the United States?
Art. 1, § 8, cl. 17 of the U.S. Constitution governs the manner by which the United States acquires jurisdiction over “Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings” in the several States. If you are not familiar with this provision of the Constitution, please study this brief. Some of the relevant cases regarding this issue are collected on these pages:
You are also invited to study this 1957 report regarding jurisdiction, authored by the federal government.
In the past when Congress accepted the grant of “exclusive jurisdiction” over a tract of land from a State of this Union, for instance when a lighthouse was going to be constructed, Congress would enact laws specifying that the State where the lighthouse was located had to transfer exclusive jurisdiction over that real property to the United States. Such Congressional acts appear to acknowledge that before the transfer of such land, the State, in fact and as a matter of law, had exclusive jurisdiction of that land and the United States had none.
On February 27, 1801, Congress enacted the law creating Washington, D.C., and that act created two counties, Washington County on the Maryland side, and Alexandria County on the Virginia side. See 2 Stat. 103. Later on July 9, 1846, it was decided to abandon the lands in northern Virginia west of the Potomac, including the city of Alexandria. See below 9 Stat. 36. Please note the language used in this act highlighted in yellow. Is such language significant regarding the jurisdiction that the United States has within the States of this Union?
The chart below collects pages from various Congressional acts published in the U.S. Statutes at Large where the word “jurisdiction” appears. Are these examples of federal laws indicative of the jurisdiction that the United States has within a State?
Is "within the United States" the same as "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States"? Here is an opinion of a U.S. Attorney General. Examine these pages:
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RIGHTFUL SUBJECTS OF LEGISLATION
A phrase used by Congress in the past was "rightful subjects of legislation," or, alternatively, lawful subjects of legislation. The opposite of this phrase is "wrongful subjects of legislation," or, alternatively, unlawful subjects of legislation. This is a particularly useful phrase and should become a common one among legal scholars and freedom lovers.
On March 26, 1804, Congress created the Territory of Orleans from lands acquired via the Louisiana Purchase. See 2 Stat. 283. The legislative council created for that territory was granted power to enact laws applicable to “rightful subjects of legislation.” See 2 Stat. 284. On March 30, 1822, Congress created the Territory of Florida. See 3 Stat. 654. The Florida legislative council’s power extended to "rightful subjects of legislation." See 3 Stat. 655. See amendment at 3 Stat. 750, 3 Stat. 751. On April 20, 1836, the Territory of Wisconsin was created. See 5 Stat. 10. The power to enact laws for that territory extended to “rightful subjects of legislation.” See 5 Stat. 12.
The following table indicates various acts of Congress that have used this phrase, "rightful subjects of legislation." Links are provided to old volumes of the U.S. Statutes at Large published on the Net, as well as to specific pages from the indicated act where this phrase appears:
Territory of Iowa
Territory of Oregon
Territory of Minnesota
Territory of New Mexico
Territory of Utah
Territories of Nebraska and Kansas
Territory of Colorado
Territory of Nevada
Territory of Dakota
Territory of Idaho
Territory of Montana
Territory of Wyoming
District of Columbia
Amendment, Territory of Montana
Territory of Oklahoma
Territory of Hawaii
Territory of Alaska
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In Piqua Bank v. Knoup, 6 Ohio St. 342, 393 (Ohio 1856), that court defined a national government and contrasted it with a federal government: “A national government is a government of the people of a single state or nation, united as a community by what is termed the ‘social compact,’ and possessing complete and perfect supremacy over persons and things, so far as they can be made the lawful objects of civil government. A federal government is distinguished from a national government by its being the government of a community of independent and sovereign states, united by compact.” Black’s Law Dictionary quotes this case in its definition of national government. The Government of the United States is a federal government.
But while many may understand this difference between national and federal government, even fewer understand, in reference to human beings, who is a “national” of the United States. This short memo constitutes an introduction to this topic.
In the late 1800s, the United States was beginning to assert power over islands not contiguous to this country. Then, Hawaii was conquered and made a territory. With time, the same thing happened with the Virgin Islands, the Phillippines, Puerto Rico, Swain's Island, Guam, the Northern Marianas, and similar places. Congress began referring to citizens of those islands as persons owing a duty of allegiance to the United States or obedience to its laws; see 28 Stat. 64, 32 Stat. 694.
Eventually in the first few decades of the 20th century, a name for these people was developed: a national. Examples of this name for these persons can be easily seen from a variety of pages appearing in the U.S. Statutes at Large:
Inherently, “national” means a citizen of the insular possessions. One definition of this word appears in 24 C.F.R. § 5.504, which states: “National means a person who owes permanent allegiance to the United States, for example, as a result of birth in a United States territory or possession.” In § 871-24.60 (96) of the Iowa Administrative Code, “A national is defined as a person who lives in mandates or trust territories administered by the United States and owes permanent allegiance to the United States. An alien is a person owing allegiance to another country or government.” In Washington Administrative Code § 388-424-0001, this word is defined as “a person who owes permanent allegiance to the U.S. and may enter and work in the U.S. without restriction. The following are the only persons classified as U.S. nationals: (1) Persons born in American Samoa or Swain's Island after December 24, 1952; and (2) Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands who did not elect to become U.S. citizens.”
Often, Congress uses in legislation the phrase “citizen or national of the United States”. When this word appears in this context without definition, it means a citizen of the insular possessions. But just as often when a federal law encompasses a citizen or national, that act may provide a specific definition. Such act may define a U.S. Person, or Citizen, as being a “citizen or national”, and in this event, the defined word encompasses a citizen or national.
It is important for students of the law to "data-mine" the U.S. Statutes at Large, which are posted here. Please download all of these word searchable volumes and start studying.