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The words of the statute are to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man from whose vocabulary they were taken.
Appellee, a high caste Hindu, of full Indian blood, born at Amrit Sar, Punjab, India, was granted a certificate of citizenship pursuant to Section 2169, Revised Statutes, by the District Court of the United States for the District of Oregon, over the objection of the naturalization examiner for the United States. A bill in equity was then filed by the United States, seeking a cancellation of the certificate on the ground that the appellee was not a white person and therefore not lawfully entitled to naturalization. The District Court, on motion, dismissed the bill and an appeal was taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals.
Was the appellant, a high caste Hindu, of full Indian blood, a “white person” within the meaning of section 2169, Revised Statutes?
The Court held that the words "free white persons" were words of common speech, to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man, synonymous with the word "Caucasian" only as that word was popularly understood. According to the Court, the action of Congress in excluding from admission to the United States all natives of Asia within designated limits including all of India, was evidence of a like attitude toward naturalization of Asians within those limits. The Court concluded that this interpretation did not include the body of people to whom appellee belonged.