Chapter 19: Dual Citizen or Crown Subject?

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This week, I’ve been kicking around the idea that Emmett may or may not have been an American citizen. In our last post, we learned this was one of his hot buttons.

And, we learned that his father, Dr. Francis Childria Wilson, decided to leave the United States to start over, because the life he and his parents, and some of his siblings wanted didn’t exist anymore. Why not just create the life you want where you can have it?

You see, when Emmett’s father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, moved family, kit, and kaboodle 900 miles from the Port of New Orleans to the jungle wilderness  of British Honduras, he went in halfsies on a sugar plantation. The Brits needed people expert in raising sugar to settle their wild country and to develop an export crop; the expat Confederates, who basically felt they were without a country needed to find a place where they could start over without the tyranny of carpetbaggers and the Republican party lording it over them. British Honduras offered everyone a win-win situation.

Thing is, back in the day, one couldn’t just buy a piece of the Crown’s land and settle down on it as you pleased. Nope. Those who purchased the land from the British government had to swear a loyalty oath to Queen Victoria — in effect, becoming British citizens.

Sooooo… What did Dr. Wilson do? Did he actually take that oath so that he and his colleagues began to build new homes and a sugar business? If so, it happened several years before Emmett was born — which means Emmett may have actually been a British subject when he was born in 1882.

Which means Emmett wasn’t qualified to run for political office in 1913.

You could, of course, hold dual citizenship. Some American citizens assigned to foreign embassies, for example, would have children born in other countries. Those children could be considered dual citizens of that country. If Emmett’s father did not take a loyalty oath, then his American citizenship would still be intact.

But:

  • We are talking about someone who was part of a group who wanted to leave the United States soon after the end of the Civil War, because they found the political and social living conditions intolerable. It seems as if Dr. Wilson may have held his American citizenship lightly.
  • We are talking about a group of people (of which Dr. Wilson belonged) who packed up family and belongings and risked sailing almost 900 miles over rough waters and through dangerous conditions — pirates were in the Gulf of Mexico at the time — to start a new life.
  • We are talking about an official partner in a potential lucrative business — Emmett Wilson said so himself in that interview — where ownership of that property required a loyalty oath to another country.

A few questions about the whole enterprise:

Did partial ownership of the property require ALL holders to swear loyalty to the crown, though, or was this more of an under-the-table kind of deal, where someone else was actually the owner, and Dr. Wilson was quietly financing part of the sugar plantation, an ‘angel’ of sorts?

Emmett, of course, always referred to the family’s time in British Honduras as a ‘temporary’ residency, but did the word temporary mean something different back then than today? It just seems rather odd to me that one would risk one’s family’s life and well being for a ‘temporary’ thing, like moving away for several years, to a foreign country. This was also an expensive undertaking for a family that had lost everything after the Civil War.

I believe the question of property ownership may have been more angelic, based on a document I found in 2015:

 

affidavit of citizenship

Source of document: Elizabeth Meade Howard

The date on this affidavit is March 27, 1943. This document was created for Elizabeth Meade Howard’s grandmother Katie Wilson Meade (Emmett’s sister). Katie Meade didn’t have an official birth certificate, and needed one for identification purposes. Katie would use this to obtain a delayed birth certificate.

Her brother, Frank (Francis Jr.) was who she selected to provide the relevant information. He says that his father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson, did not relinquish his American citizenship; ergo, our Emmett is a legit all-American boy.

I’ll accept this sworn statement as proof of Emmett’s story as truth — unless something else comes up!

 

 

 

 

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