There?s a video that keeps popping up in my youtube recommendations lately. People keep reuploading it. I?ll have to admit, I kind of like seeing it every time. It?s the video of the article 4 free inhabitant passenger refusing to exit the car, or vehicle. I think they skip over the conveyance talk for more pressing issues. So, what is an article 4 free inhabitant?
It?s a reference to the articles of confederation, which is an agreement between the states that predates the constitution. There?s a lot of things about the history of the United States of America that I don?t know, which isn?t surprising given that I live and was educated elsewhere. Fortunately, some things are fairly easy to find out about these days. Historical documents happen to be one of them. With a bit of searching, I?m now staring at the articles of confederation. What surprises me is that it?s fairly brief. I?m used to looking at fairly lengthy and wordy. It starts off with a pre-amble that really doesn?t say anything too profound. The preamble basically states that the states are agreeing to a set of rules to govern the union of those states. Presumably, I suppose this means that only people from the original 13 colonies would get to call themselves article 4 free inhabitants. Though most people feel that the current constitution replaces the articles of confederation and those no longer apply.
Article I. The Stile of this Confederacy shall be ?The United States of America.?
Article II. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.
Article III. The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.
There?s nothing too horridly profound in the first three articles. On a side note, I don?t see article 2 mentioned much, but it does look like it would be of interest. As for the one that we?re interested in:
Article IV. The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, to any other State, of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State, on the property of the united States, or either of them.
If any person guilty of, or charged with, treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the united States, he shall, upon demand of the Governor or executive power of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offense.
Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other State.
Now we?re getting into more in depth things that have some nuance to them. It?s more like what I expect legal stuff to look like. Let?s try to break it down a bit. ?The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this union,? basically says that we want the states to be friends. Then the free inhabitant part comes into play, and lists a few other groups, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from justice. The last one is fairly self explanatory, but the free inhabitants, paupers, and vagabonds are no longer terms in common useage. So, going to the dictionary,
Vagabondnoun1. a person who wanders from place to place without a home or job.adjective1. having no settled home.verb archaic1. wander about as or like a vagabond.
That?s kind of amusing, you have to have a home or job to avoid being a vagabond.
Paupernoun: pauper; plural noun: paupersa very poor person.
I guess it?s just a reflection of the times that it was written at that they want to exclude poor people. I?m not sure how that helps narrow down who is a free inhabitant other than you have to have some wealth and either employment or a home. There?s also the matter of slavery. If you were a slave, you were presumably not free.
Moving on with the monstrosity of a sentence, free inhabitants ?shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States;? So, this kind of says that one state can?t put restrictions on citizens of other states. Another interesting point here is that it says free citizens. I guess this little bit is where the article 4 free inhabitant says the driver who is also an article 4 free inhabitant has all the rights of a citizen. The next clause, ?and the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State,? means that you don?t get to prevent people from crossing the borders from one state to another. This is followed by, ?and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively,? so the same business rules apply to everyone in the state, or once again a state can?t write rules to favor their citizens to the exclusion of citizens in other states of the United States of America.
At this point I?m starting to wonder if modern legal subheadings and the format that I?m used to seeing are a later invention as article 4 continues with, ?provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, to any other State, of which the owner is an inhabitant;? which to me looks like a way of saying that you can move your property from one state to another. This is followed up with, ?provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State, on the property of the united States, or either of them.? So, the previous bit says that you get to move things around, and this one stipulates that it has to be done without import taxes.
Fortunately, that?s the worst of it, the rest is pretty straight forward. ?If any person guilty of, or charged with, treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the united States, he shall, upon demand of the Governor or executive power of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offense.? The short version of that is that if you commit a crime, you can?t just run to another state, you?re fair game for law enforcement. Finally, ?Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other State.? We?re going to respect the records, legislation and court rulings of other states.
Now that we?ve been through article 4 of the articles of confederation, we can see that it?s an agreement on some rules for dealing with people from other states. It also doesn?t define a class of people as being free inhabitants with all the rights and protections of a citizen but none of the obligations. Maybe it?s stuff like this that most legal documents start with a long list of definitions these days. There is nothing there establishing a right to travel. In fact, it can surprisingly be read as establishing a right for states to stop poor people at the border. Nothing in there suggests that a citizen of Delaware can drive around Virginia without a driver?s license. It says that you can?t be restrictive of people from other states. So if one state requires a driver?s license then everyone driving in that state will need one. The full faith and credit line about the records of each state might have an impact on things so that you wouldn?t need to have a license in each state that you want to drive in.
The words ?article 4 free inhabitant? don?t seem to hold any meaning. Free inhabitant just happens to be a term used in article 4. It almost feels like saying article 5 first monday in November of each year, or an article 6 tent, the first part of the term has nothing to do with the second part.