One of the more vexing nObama arguments is their redefinition of Natural Born Citizen. The primary way they attempt to do this is to assert that the definition of “natural born citizen” in the Constitution should be determined by a book by a Swiss philosopher and jurist from the 18th century name Emmerich de Vattel writing in a book loosely called “The Law of Nations”. The approach inflates de Vattel’s influence.
A mindless literalism appears among the nObama when they say that an 18th century Swiss jurist de Vattel’s work, Le Droit des Gens. ou Principes de la Loi Naturelle, appliques a la conduite & aux affaires des Nations & des Souverains, is written into the US Constitution because the phrase “the Law of Nations” appears therein (and that is a translation of a bit of Vattel’s French title).
Some assert that the word “natural” in “natural born citizen” is a reference to “natural law”. That is, they assert that a natural born citizen is some who is born a citizen by natural law. Let’s run with that.
De Vattel describes exactly two kinds of citizen in his book, natural born citizens (or natives) who are citizens by natural law (this is described in Book 1, Chapter 212), and naturalized citizens who are citizens made so by statute (described in Book 1, Chapter 214).
The essential problem in any discussion is determining what “natural law” is. For de Vattel, natural law makes one a citizen based on who one’s parents are. For him, loyalty and national allegiance are inherited. The problem with arguments based on natural law is that there is no source to which an appeal can be made to determine what natural law is. One cannot question nature directly. Natural law is at one time a consensus view of what is “right” and at another an excuse for inflating one’s own prejudices and biases to superhuman levels.
If natural law is a window on prejudice, then we might consider the conditions of the United States as compared to Switzerland.
Particularly in the southeastern colonies of British North America, disease was so severe that only immigration kept the population from declining. Naturalization standards were lenient (one year’s residence with good conduct). Americans who had just asserted that they were no longer British citizens seemed ready to deny their blood and swear allegiance to the place. It makes no sense for a nation of immigrants to consider “natural allegiance” to be determined by where their father’s came from.
For more information on citizenship issues, look at our Citizenship category.