Subject vs. Citizen: Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary (9th edition)

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Submitted by exfacie on Sat, 06/18/2011 - 23:15

The following definitions are provided by Black's Law Dictionary, 9th edition. By virtue of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, all people of the Commonwealth are subjects of the Crown.

The reader should identify and understand the differences of allegiances between subjects (to a sovereign) and citizens (to a state; to a republic).

Sections of interest to the author are emphasised with underline font.


subject, n. (14c) 1. One who owes allegiance to a sovereign and is governed by that sovereign's laws <the monarchy's subjects>.

"Speaking generally, we may say that the terms subject and citizen are synonymous. Subjects and citizens are alike those whose relation to the state is personal and not merely territorial, permanent and not merely temporary. This equivalent, however, is not absolute. For in the first place, the term subject is commonly limited to monarchical forms of government, while the term citizen is more specially applicable in the case of republics. A British subject becomes by naturalisation a citizen of the United States of America or of France. In the second place, the term citizen brings into prominence the rights and privileges of the status, rather than its correlative obligations, while the reverse is the case with the term subject. Finally it is to be noticed that the term subject is capable of a different and wider application, in which it includes all members of the body politic, whether they are citizens (i.e., subjects stricto sensu) or resident aliens. All such persons are subjects, all being subject to the power of the state and to its jurisdiction, and as owing to it, at least temporarily, fidelity and obedience." John Salmond, Jurisprudence 133 (Glanville L. Williams ed., 10th ed. 1947).

liege subject. See natural-born subject

natural-born subject. A person born within the dominion of a monarchy, esp. England. - Also termed liege subject. Cf. NATIONAL.

2. The matter of concern over which something is created <the subject of the statute>. - Also termed (in sense 2) subject matter.


citizen, n. (14c) 1. A person who, by either birth or naturalization, is a member of a political community, owing allegiance to the community and being entitled to enjoy all its civil rights and protections; a member of the civil state, entitled to all its privileges. Cf. RESIDENT; DOMICILIARY. [Cases: Aliens, Immigration, and Citizenship 652.]

citizen by naturalization. See naturalized citizen.

federal citizen. A citizen of the United States.

natural-born citizen. A person born within the jurisdiction of a national government. [Cases: Aliens, Immigration, and Citizenship 689-728.]

2. For diversity-jurisdiction purposes, a corporation that was incorporated within a state or has its principal place of business there. 28 USCA 1332(c)(1). [Cases: Federal Courts 297, 300.]


allegiance. 1. A citizen's or subject's obligation of fidelity and obedience to the government or sovereign in return for the benefits of the protection of the state. Allegiance may be either an absolute and permanent obligation or a qualified and temporary one.

acquired allegiance. The allegiance owed by a naturalized citizen or subject.

actual allegiance. The obedience owed by one who resides temporarily in a foreign country to that country's government. Foreign sovereigns, their representatives, and military personnel are typically excepted from this requirement. - Also termed local allegiance.

natural allegiance. The allegiance that native-born citizens or subjects owe to their nation.

permanent allegiance. The lasting allegiance owed to a state by its citizens or subjects.

temporary allegiance. The impermanent allegiance owed to a state by a resident alien during the period of residence.

2. Hist. A vassal's obligation to the liege lord. See LIEGE.


oath. (bef. 12c) 1. A solemn declaration, accompanied by a swearing to God or a revered person or thing, that one's statement is true or that one will be bound to a promise. The person making the oath implicitly invites punishment if the statement is untrue or the promise is broken. The legal effect of an oath is to subject the person to penalties for perjury if the testimony is false. [Cases: Oath 1; Witnesses 227.]

2. A statement or promise made by such a declaration.

3. A form of words used for such a declaration.

4. A formal declaration made solemn without a swearing to God or a revered person or thing; AFFIRMATION. Cf. PLEDGE (1).

"The word 'oath' (apart from its use to indicate a profane expression) has two very different meanings: (1) a solemn appeal to God in attestation of the truth of a statement or the binding character of such a promise; (2) a statement or promise made under the sanction of such an appeal." Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boycec, Criminal Law 515 (3d ed. 1982).

oath of allegiance. An oath by which one promises to maintain fidelity to a particular sovereign or government. This oath is most often administered to a high public officer, to a soldier or sailor, or to an alien applying for naturalization. - Also termed loyalty oath; test oath.


affirmation, n. (15c) A solemn pledge equivalent to an oath but without reference to a supreme being or to swearing; a solemn declaration made under penalty of perjury, but without an oath. Fed. R. Evid. 603; Fed. R. Civ. P. 43(b). While an oath is "sworn to," an affirmation is merely "affirmed," but either type of pledge may subject the person making it to the penalties for perjury. Cf. OATH. [Cases: Oath 4; Witnesses 227.] - affirm, vb. - affirmatory, adj.


naturalization. (16c) The granting of citizenship to a foreign-born person under statutory authority.

[Ed: it appears that the term naturalization only considers the naturalization of citizens and not subjects. However, in Australia the term naturalization was used to "convert" aliens into subjects prior to the introduction of the concept of Australian citizenship.]



  1. Black's Law Dictionary, 9th edition, pp. 68, 87, 278, 1126, 1176, 1561.