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the court was asked to pronounce upon the status of the Postnati, i.e. persons born in Scotland after the accession of James I to the throne of England, but went further and took the opportunity of a lengthy examination of the law of nationality. There are two courses open to us. We might trace the development of the idea of British nationality and the processes of Denization and Naturalization in the law reports and on the statute roll. On the other hand, we might, and shall, go straight to the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act, 1914 (which is both an amending and a consolidating statute), as amended by a nation smarting under four bitter years' experience of war by a further statute in 1918 (8 & 9 Geo. V. ch. 38).
A British subject may be so either by birth or by annexation of territory or by naturalization.
(1) Natural-born British subjects. The Act of 1914 boldly attempts what no previous Act and few judges have ever attempted, namely to give a comprehensive definition of this class. This is contained in section 1, which reads as follows, the 1918 amendments being italicized:
'1. (1) The following persons shall be deemed to be natural-born British subjects, namely:
'(a) Any person born within His Majesty's dominions and allegiance; and
'(6) Any person born out of His Majesty's dominions, whose father was a British subject at the time of that person's birth and either was born within His Majesty's allegiance or was a person to whom a certificate of naturalization had been granted, or had become a British subject by reason of any annexation of territory, or was at the time of that person's birth in the service of the Crown; and
*(C) Any person born on board a British ship whether in foreign territorial waters or not:
'Provided that the child of a British subject, whether that child was born before or after the passing of this Act, shall be deemed to have been born within His Majesty's allegiance if born in a place where by treaty, capitulation, grant, usage, sufferance, or other lawful means His Majesty exercises jurisdiction over British subjects.
(2) A person born on board a foreign ship shall not be deemed to be a British subject by reason only that the ship was in British territorial waters at the time of his birth.
(3) Nothing in this section shall, except as otherwise expressly provided, affect the status of any person born before the commencement of this Act.
‘(4) The certificate of a Secretary of State that a person was at any date in the service of the Crown shall for the purposes of this section be conclusive.'
Upon this section it should be noted that:
(a) by sub-section (3) of section 1 the status of any person born before the beginning of the year 1915 is not to be affected by anything in this section except in the not very important cases mentioned in the proviso at the end of sub-section (1), whereby section i may operate to confer the status of naturalborn British subject upon some persons not already having it. Therefore it will still be necessary for some time to come to refer to the ante-1915 law in the case of persons born, and events happening to them, before 1915;
(6) ‘any person born within His Majesty's dominions and allegiance' is a natural-born British subject, even if his parents are aliens. The words 'and allegiance' are probably designed to except from the scope of the definition two previously recognized exceptions from the rule:
(i) Persons born of alien enemy parents in a part of the British dominions then in the occupation of an enemy; and
(ii) Children of a foreign sovereign or of an alien ambassador or other diplomatic agent of a foreign State, not being a British subject.
(c) Sub-section (1) (6) represents a change. Previously a child born out of the British dominions, whose father or paternal grandfather was born in the British dominions, and whose father at the time of the birth had not ceased to be a British subject, was himself a natural-born British subject. Now, however, the paternal grandfather disappears, and the father may be either natural-born or naturalized, but this effect is not retrospective, and the child born abroad of a naturalized British subject before 1915 is not a British subject1.
1 R. v. Albany Street Police Station Superintendent (Carlebach's case)  3 K. B. 716.
(2) British Subjects by Annexation. Sections 1 (1) (b) and 27 (1) of the Act of 1914 as amended in 1918 draw attention to an important section of British subjects, namely those who become so ‘by reason of any annexation of territory.' Generals Botha and Smuts naturally occur as illustrations of this class.
(3) Naturalized British Subjects, either by private Act of Parliament, or (which is the normal mode) by the certificate of a Secretary of State or the appropriate authority in a British possession under a general statute such as the Naturalization Act, 1870, or the Act of 1914 which repeals it, or by the marriage of an alien woman to a British subject, if the latter process may be called 'naturalization' without doing violence to the meaning of that term. The requirements of the new Act (section 2) may be summarized as follows:
(a) Residence in the King's dominions for not less than five years, of which one year must be immediately before the application and the other four within the period of eight preceding the application, or service of the Crown for not less than five years within the same period:
(6) Good character, and adequate knowledge of the English language or (in a British possession) of some other language (if any) which is recognized as on an equality:
(c) Intention to continue such residence or continue in such service:
(d) The taking of the oath of allegiance when the certificate of naturalization has been granted.
It should be noted that under the Act of 1914 the grant or refusal of a certificate of naturalization is in the absolute discretion of the Secretary of State (in practice the Home Secretary) who may withhold it without assigning any reason and without any appeal from his decision. Until 1918 there was no provision by statute or common law to prevent the naturalization of alien enemies during war, and in the early months of the war a number of them were naturalized. Now, however, by section 3 of the amending British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act, 1918, no person who on August 8, 1918, was an enemy subject can obtain a certificate of naturalization
'before the expiration of a period of ten years after the termination of the present war,' unless he served in the British, allied, or associated forces or was 'a member of a race or community known to be opposed to the enemy governments,' e.g. a Pole or an Armenian, or ‘was at birth a British subject.' And in the case of a person naturalized during the present war 'who at, or at any time before, the grant of the certificate was a subject of a country which at the date of the grant was at war with His Majesty,' the Home Secretary is obliged by the same section to refer the question of the desirability of revoking the certificate to the Committee constituted by the Act.
REVOCATION OF NATURALIZATION. It has been remarked by some observers that during the last few decades before the recent war insular feeling in England was becoming intensified, and the traditional welcome extended to foreigners who for one reason or another, not necessarily political, did not wish to remain in their native countries was being abandoned. The Aliens Act, 1905, may be mentioned, and the gradually increasing precariousness of British nationality acquired by naturalization points to the same conclusion. The Naturalization Act, 1870, contains no provision for the revocation of a certificate of naturalization, and assumed that the Home Secretary would only grant certificates after adequate consideration. By the Act of 1914, s. 7, the Home Secretary may revoke a certificate obtained by 'false representations or fraud,' and by the Act of 1918, which substitutes two new sections 7 and 7 a for section 7 of the Act of 1914, the following alternative grounds may vitiate naturalization:
(1) Obtaining his certificate by 'false representation or fraud' or
(2) 'By concealment of material circumstances';
(3) Disaffection or disloyalty 'to His Majesty' by act or speech (whether or not this includes the bona fide expression of republican opinions which is permitted to the natural-born British subject, is not clear);
(4) Unlawful intercourse with the enemy during the war, or association with a business which to his knowledge assists the enemy during war;
(5) Sentence by a British court within five years of grant of certificate to imprisonment for twelve months or more, penal servitude, or a fine of £100 or more;
(6) Lack of good character at the date of grant of the certificate;
(7) Seven years' ordinary residence outside His Majesty's dominions otherwise than as the representative of a British subject, firm, company, or institution, or as a servant of the Crown, coupled with failure to maintain 'substantial connexion with His Majesty's dominions'; or
(8) The fact of remaining according to the law of a State at war with His Majesty a subject of that State.'
In cases (1) to (3) inclusive, the Home Secretary when satisfied' that a case has arisen,‘shall... revoke the certificate.' In the remaining cases he must also be satisfied that 'the continuance of the certificate is not conducive to the public good.' In any case he may order an inquiry by the committee constituted by the Act, and in cases (1) to (4) inclusive, (6) and (8) he ‘shall' give the naturalized British subject an opportunity of claiming an inquiry, but no express right is conferred upon him by the Act of attending or being represented at the inquiry.
We are not concerned here with the policy of these provisions, but it is clear that if an alien contemplating an exchange of nationality knows that he is liable at some future time to have his naturalization revoked and to find himself suspended in international mid-air, because at the time of his naturalization his character was not 'good' in the opinion of a committee of whose composition and moral standards he is ignorant, or because within five years of his naturalization he is sentenced (perhaps for an offence involving no moral turpitude) to a fine of £100, he will not regard British acquired nationality as the premier security that it was in the Victorian age; which is probably the result the framers of the Act of 1918 desired to achieve.