Loyalty is devotion to a cause and is marked by faithfulness, a sense of just purpose, and a willingness to serve in spite of any suffering that may result from service. Dual loyalty involves simultaneous obligations, express or implied, to two parties, with the second party typically constituting a state. Multiple loyalties can threaten the security and survival of a state. Nationality may affect political allegiance by prompting immigrants to place the interests of their country of origin over the welfare of their adopted home. Religion may influence loyalty when those people holding minority religious views feel a loyalty to their faith that is greater than the duty owed to their country. Soldiers fight and citizens pay taxes out of loyalty, a fact that has led many states to link dual loyalties with treason.
The question of loyalty is an age-old one. In ancient Greece, Socrates (c. 470–399 b.c.e.) remained loyal to the laws of the state even though they were unjust and resulted in his death. Plato (c. 428–348 or 347 b.c.e.), identifying internal political conflict as a far stronger test of loyalty than a foreign war, demanded the death penalty for any citizen who turned against the gods or the state. Aristotle (384–322 b.c.e.) argued that loyalty based upon usefulness or pleasure, such as that accorded a tyrant or corrupt politician, disappeared as soon as the motives vanished. None of these ancient philosophers addressed the question of dual allegiance except in the form of conflict between loyalty to the state and loyalty to family members or friends.
As long as the people of a state shared the same religion, loyalty involved allegiance to rulers or forms of government. The rise of Christianity threatened this type of loyalty by presenting a strong competing claim for allegiance. In the Bible, early Christians are recorded as asking Jesus Christ for guidance on dual loyalties. They were advised that no compromise was possible where spiritual matters were involved. Duty to God involved obedience to all of the commandments with any act of disloyalty categorized as sinful.
The Christian Era
After the ascendancy of Christianity to a position of worldly power, the issue of loyalty to God became entangled with the problems of loyalty to the church as an institution with influence in the world. The theologist Saint Augustine (354–430) believed that the church should be the supreme ruler of all Christian nations. Underpinning Saint Augustine's idea of the unity of Christendom was the notion that secular kings owed loyalty to the pope, the earthly leader of Christianity. This idea of rule by the church did not appeal to the secular world, and history records a divergence of views about the proper role of the church. Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), the most prominent of the dissenters, made a sharp distinction between a person's loyalty to God and to an earthly superior by declaring a right to resist tyranny.
The Renaissance and Reformation witnessed the emergence of dual loyalties as the hold of the Catholic Church weakened and power concentrated in the hands of European monarchs. The Italian political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) did not rely upon religion to justify loyalty but instead advised rulers to use cruelty to keep subjects united and faithful. The first loyalty tests grew out of the development of a new religious-political system during this time. When in the 1530s Henry VIII split with the Catholic Church and elevated Protestantism in England, he needed to identify and intimidate his opponents to maintain power. Loyalty tests weakened domestic enemies by forcing them to publicly declare allegiance to the English monarchy. As late as the seventeenth century, they would be required of Catholics settling on English land in the New World.
Enlightenment and Revolution
The idea that the divine right of kings mandated loyalty began to die in the seventeenth century. Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) tied loyalty to passion and self-interest by arguing that the power of a state derived from fear of disorder. He saw no personal loyalty to a monarch, only allegiance to the person providing peace and security. John Locke (1632–1704), perhaps the most widely read political philosopher of the eighteenth century, built upon Hobbes's idea of a contract. Locke stated that the right to govern derived from the consent of the governed. People gave loyalty to a government that governed justly, protected property, and ensured certain liberties. If a government violated the natural rights of the individual, it reneged on its contract and forfeited the loyalty of its subjects.
In proclaiming the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the founding fathers of the United States relied upon the ideas of Locke. The British government had violated its contract with the American people, thereby forfeiting any right to allegiance. The American stance on loyalty would be duplicated throughout the world as newly liberated peoples used the Declaration as a model for their own definitions of loyalty. Allegiance would be not to a king or a section of land but to the purpose of protecting citizens against the exercise of abusive power by government officials.
Various political regimes, such as that of Henry VII(r. 1485–1509) and the new American state, have demanded tests for allegiance, typically during wartime. Whenever a political culture or institution is firmly established and feels no threat to itself from any quarter, the question of loyalty is pushed to the background. All kinds of doctrines that are hostile to the culture may be tolerated. However, if the culture feels its existence is threatened, there may be vigorous attempts to gain complete political conformity. Requirements and loyalty tests are instituted.
Loyalty played a primary role in structuring the American Revolution in the form of tests that became widespread throughout the many years of political upheaval. With the population evenly divided between supporters of the king, supporters of liberty, and those committed to neutrality, a means had to be devised to create unity. These loyalty tests, often just a public voicing of support for the revolutionaries, helped spur the creation of an American patriotism and accelerated the development of a decade of discontent by placing Americans in increasingly extreme stances regarding allegiance to the British crown. Such positioning finally made independence inevitable by creating an American identity. Both John Adams (1735–1826) and George Washington (1732–1799) viewed such statements of faithfulness as the cornerstone of discipline for troops and the source of national spirit for civilians.
Dual loyalty has formed a political threat in the modern era because difference is only acceptable between national identities and not within them. The modern state sought to instill political loyalties in order to maintain territorial concentrations of power. In doing so, it came into competition with communal centers of loyalty. These ethnic, religious, and regional ties resisted the state's declaration of power and rights as seen among the Aborigines of Australia, the Jews of the diaspora, and the Kurds of southwest Asia. Such expressions of dual loyalty threatened national unity by presenting the image of a divided community.
While many political regimes retain a fear of multiculturalism and attack dual loyalty, this concept of allegiance is becoming superseded by the idea of shared loyalties. The twentieth-century transportation and communication revolutions enabled immigrants to maintain close ties with their countries of origin and maintain multiple cultural identities. The many countries granting dual citizenship recognize the shared loyalties of these immigrants. The challenge for governments is to be able to distinguish between those immigrants who are benign and those who pose a security threat.
See also Americanization, U.S. ; Assimilation ; Identity, Multiple ; State, The .
Hyman, Harold M. To Try Men's Souls: Loyalty Tests in American History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959.
Shain, Yossi. The Frontier of Loyalty: Political Exiles in the Age of the Nation-State. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1989.
Waller, Michael, and Andrew Linklater, eds. Political Loyalty and the Nation-State. London: Routledge, 2003.
Caryn E. Neumann