free inhabitants a real thing in the United States
It appears to be a belief based on a misunderstanding of what the Articles of Confederation says, combined with other selective readings of the law.
The Articles of Confederation says this:
“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…”
— Article IV of the Articles of Confederation (1777)
Let’s break this down a bit.
Were the Articles of Confederation actually Repealed?
Actually, no, it was never repealed and is still the law. However, anything in the U.S. Constitution that conflicts with the Articles of Confederation would result in whatever the U.S. Constitution says taking precedence.
This is suggested by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the 1869 Texas v. White case, which stated that since the Articles stated “Perpetual Union”, and the Constitution states “More perfect Union”, the perpetuity of the union remains in effect, since the Articles were never actually repealed.
Anything in the Articles of Confederation that does not conflict with the U.S. Constitution is still legally in effect.
Privileges & Immunities
If you read this closely, in context with the rest of the Articles of Confederation, you will find that what it actually says is that states must treat “free inhabitants” from another state the same way they treat “free inhabitants” of their state.
This is similar to how the U.S. Constitution says “The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states” in Article IV, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.
It even goes onto say “subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively.”
It does not mean states cannot pass laws regulating citizens. What it means is that a state can’t have different laws for citizens and non-citizens. And it indirectly says that states can impose duties, impositions, and restrictions on free inhabitants.
It should also be noted that “free inhabitant” was basically a way of saying “white landowners” and “freedmen.” Slaves, indentured servants, paupers (people getting state assistance), vagabonds (the homeless and nomads), and convicted criminals did not have the same rights as “free inhabitants.”
Free Ingress and Regress
You will note that it specifically says “to and from any other State” after “the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress.”
What this means is that states are required to have open borders with other states. They can’t tax imports from another state, and they can’t require people from other states to have a visa to enter.
Notice it says nothing about the state regulating travel within their own state. It just says that free inhabitants are to be “subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively.”
So as long as a state requires its own citizens to have a driver’s license, it can require people from other states to have a driver’s license.
Selective Reading Doesn’t Make It Law
Legal scholars and the courts don’t accept the arguments made in this video, and the few people who try to use this argument don’t get far.
Are free inhabitants a real thing in the United States?
Free inhabitants believe they are free to do whatever they want in the world without following the laws of the land. So this includes things like not having a driver’s license, not getting any license plates, etc.
They get this idea from taking one part of the articles of confederation and basically generalizing them to include everything else so they can say they are a person of the land and thus, don’t have to follow the laws.
The U.S. doesn’t recognize this as having any legitimacy. About the only people that do are the “free inhabitants” themselves.
When they don’t comply with the law, it usually goes like it did in this video.
- I’m a free inhabitant, I don’t have to have a driver’s license
- starts fighting the police
- You’re under arrest
- You can’t arrest me, I’m a free inhabitant!
- shoved into the police car.
They generally piece together their alleged rights based on out of date laws or opinions which have since been overruled, or picking and choosing different pieces of laws and cases, taking them out of context and trying to use them where they are not applicable.
For the most part, these are people who want to have the benefits of living in the United States without accepting any of the requirements that come with living here. I.e., paying taxes, obeying the laws that apply to everyone else and so on.
This is Article 4 of the Articles of the Federation:
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 restriction 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.
The Articles of the Confederation was created in 1777 and ratified by the 13 States in 1781.
The current constitution was ratified in 1788 and replaced the Articles of the Confederation in 1779.
It fixed a lot of the previous issues that the Articles had and gave the Federal Government the power it needed to maintain a union of the states.
I won’t get into much detail on why the Articles were ineffective, because that deserves its own answer.
That said, I can’t stress enough that the Constitution nullified the Articles of Confederation and should be considered a different government than our current one.
That is why we consider General George Washington as our first President, not any of the “Presidents of Congress.”
That said, let us pretend that the Articles are still in effect.
Now let us ask, what does the term “Free inhabitants” mean?
Take a look at the US Census data. For 1790, it would collect data on the following categories of those living in the US:
- The number of free white males. This was divided into two sub-categories: Free white males under 16 and those over 16.
- A number of free white females.
- The number of other free persons.
- A number of slaves.
By 1850, the Census had two schedules:
- Schedule Number 1: Free Inhabitants.
- Schedule Number 2: Slave Inhabitants.
With this data point, I think it is safe to assume that “Free inhabitant” means “not a slave.”
Thus, the female in the video is correct, she is a “Free inhabitant” (as she is not a slave), but is wrong in the interpretation that the laws do not apply to her.
It fact, Article IV says that “Free inhabitants” will be treated equally, regardless of what state they are in.
Once again, the Articles of the Confederation have been replaced by the Constitution of the United States so the argument is moot.
I wanted this to be short and to the point. Hopefully, this answers your question in a satisfactory way.