enjoyment by a citizen of civil and political rights of a polity, as well as incurring of duties
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Citizenship is membership in a political community. The term derives from membership of a city (as was the term citizen), but now normally refers to a nation. Citizenship carries with it rights of political participation; many also consider it brings duties to exercise those rights responsibly.

It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it... ~ George Washington


  • Is not true that, in this world, before being paper citizens we are our mother's sons in the flesh. What is a human being in reality? To start from the beginning: What are peoples, cultures and what are then custom-houses, parliaments and states? Everybody carries a nursery rhyme in the soul, but nobody carries a passport or a custom-house in the soul.
  • This is not a contest between persons. The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error. I come to speak to you in defence of a cause as holy as the cause of liberty—the cause of humanity.
    • William Jennings Bryan, Cross of Gold Speech at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, (9 July 1896)
  • The effects of the late civil strife have been to free the slave and make him a citizen. Yet he is not possessed of the civil rights which citizenship should carry with it. This is wrong, and should be corrected. To this correction I stand committed, so far as Executive influence can avail.
  • Good roads, good schools and good churches are a sure sign of the best citizenship produced by a free republic. How about our roads?
    • Author unknown; reported in "Sign of Citizenship", Good Roads, A Monthly Journal Devoted to Our National Highways (December 1906), p. 176; Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Citizenship is no light trifle to be jeopardized any moment Congress decides to do so under the name of one of its general or implied grants of power.
    • Hugo Black, Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 267–68 (1967).
  • The power of citizenship as a shield against oppression was widely known from the example of Paul's Roman citizenship, which sent the centurion scurrying to his higher-ups with the message: "Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman".
  • It is not the function of the government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error.
    • Robert H. Jackson, American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 442-43 (1950).
  • Rome was not by any means unique in fostering this concept of legal and social privilege – there were citizens in ancient Greece, Carthage and numerous other Mediterranean states of the era. But Rome was unique in the way it developed and extended the concept of citizenship over its long history to help sustain its own imperial dominion. The root purpose of the empire was to funnel wealth to be spent in Rome: in that sense it was a racket based on rampant exploitation. Yet through the promise of citizenship – a share in the plunder – conquered aristocrats could usually be brought alongside. Accordingly, during the first two centuries of empire, as the imperial provinces expanded, citizenship was gradually rewarded to high-status groups outside Italy. Noblemen and magistrates, auxiliaries who had completed their service in the army, retired officials and their freed slaves could all acquire citizenship – either full-status or one of the numerous qualified forms which came with a limited but still desirable slew of rights. Finally, in AD 212, the emperor Caracalla finished what Claudius started and decreed that all free people across the provinces could claim citizenship in some form. The entire populace, announced Caracalla, ‘should share in the victory. This edict will enhance the majest of the Roman people.
    • Dan Jones, Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (2021), p. 24
  • If citizenship is a matter of shared beliefs, then I believe in the democracy of species. If citizenship means an oath of loyalty to a leader, then I choose the leader of the trees. If good citizens agree to uphold the laws of the nation, then I choose natural law, the law of reciprocity, of regeneration, of mutual flourishing.
  • Our government was designed to be run by informed, engaged citizens. We have an incredibly dangerous form of government for people who don't know how it works.
  • Before Man made us citizens, great Nature made us men.
    • James Russell Lowell, "On the Capture of Certain Fugitive Slaves Near Washington", Boston Courier, 19 July 1845; anthologized in Poems (1848)
  • Each one of us is... called upon to give a judgment upon an immense variety of problems, crucial for our social existence. If that judgment confirms measures and conduct tending to the increased welfare of society, then it may be termed a moral, or, better, a social judgment. It follows, then, that to ensure a judgement's being moral, method and knowledge are essential to its formation. ...[T]he formation of a moral judgment—that is, one which the individual is reasonably certain will tend to social welfare—does not depend solely on the readiness to sacrifice individual gain or comfort, or on the impulse to act unselfishly: it depends in the first place on knowledge and method. The first demand of the state upon the individual is not for self-sacrifice but for self-development. ...[T]he man who gives a vote... in the choice of a representative, after forming a judgement based upon knowledge, is... acting socially, and is fulfilling a higher standard of citizenship.
  • The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight
  • Regardless of their formal standing within this system, the one thing all involved parties had in common was the obligation to contribute military manpower under Roman leadership and to fund military operations: citizens paid a direct tax (tributum) specifically for this purpose while allied communities were expected to support their own levies. Scale and mobilization intensity were the two critical variables. Scaling-up was achieved by aggressive co-optation. Unlike in Greek city-states, where citizenship was often viewed as a prized privilege, Rome readily bestowed citizen status on outsiders, many of whom were defeated former enemies. Also unlike among the Greeks, citizenship thus became “divorced from ethnicity or geographical location.” The effectively oligarchic nature of Roman government appears to have sufficiently devalued citizen status to ensure this unusual openness. The fact that Romans who resettled in most colonies forfeited citizenship also reflects the relatively low value of formal membership in the Roman state. Allied polities retained their existing governmental arrangements and merely contributed military resources without being incorporated into the republic.
    • Walter Scheidel, Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity (2019), p. 59
  • It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency.
    • George Washington, in "Sentiments on a Peace Establishment" in a letter to Alexander Hamilton (2 May 1783); published in The Writings of George Washington (1938), edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 26, p. 289.
  • The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
    • George Washington, From George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, 18 August 1790, National Archives and Records Administration.
  • What does naturalization give? All that belongs to the character of a British Subject. What does it take away? All that does not appertain to that character. It makes the party ipso facto a British Subject, to all intents and purposes.
    • Wilde, C.J., Reg. v. Manning (1849), 4 Cox, C. C. 37; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 180.
  • Bearing the discomfiture and cost of a prosecution for crime even by an innocent person is one of the painful obligations of citizenship.
    • Cobbledick v. United States, 309 U.S. 323, 325 (1940)

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