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Framer speaks on natural born citizenship

Charles Pinckney

Sen. Pinckney

Charles Pinckney of South Carolina was one of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He was, however, no ordinary delegate because not only was he the one who suggested to the Continental Congress in 1786 that the Articles of Confederation be revised, he carried with him to the Constitutional Convention a set of draft provisions for the the new constitution. He developed this draft through an extensive study of colonial laws and reference materials. Nearly one half (29 components  out of 60) of the adopted United States Constitution follows Pinckney’s provisions.1

Charles Pinckney also has the distinction to be the last of the framers of the Constitution to remain in Congress.

Speaking to the Sixth Congress, on the method by which the Congress certifies election of the President, Senator Pinckney said:

They [the framers] well knew, that to give to the members of Congress a right to give votes [as presidential electors] in this election, or to decide upon them when given, was to destroy the independence of the Executive, and make him the creature of the Legislature. This therefore they have guarded against, and to insure experience and attachment to the country, they have determined that no man who is not a natural born citizen, or citizen at the adoption of the Constitution, of fourteen years residence, and thirty-five years of age, shall be eligible. . . .

CCLXXXVIII.: Charles Pinckney in the United States Senate. 1 – Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, vol. 3 [1911]

“Experience and attachment” was the “original intent” of the framers, according to  one of them who “remembers it well.” It was not “super citizenship” or “purity of blood” or “perfect undivided loyalty” but simple “experience and attachment”.

As best my research shows, this is the only comment by a framer of the Constitution on natural born citizenship that has survived. [John Jay was not a delegate to the Convention. The closest Jay gives to a definition is “not a foreigner.”]


1 Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina by Richart Barry, Ayer Company, Publishers, Inc.,  Salem NH, 1942. p. 314.

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22 Responses to Framer speaks on natural born citizenship

  1. avatar
    Gordon March 30, 2009 at 12:08 am #

    The Framers were vague about the question of “natural born citizen” for a very good reason, almost all of them had parents who were British. In fact slaves and Indians were more likely to be American citizens at that particular time.

  2. avatar
    Mario Apuzzo March 30, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    Would the Framers at the time they wrote Article II allow a person to be President who was born in America to a British subject which in turn also made that person a British subject by descent? Please explain your answer.

  3. avatar
    NBC March 30, 2009 at 10:55 pm #

    Yes because the term natural born status is not depending on the status of the parents. Simple really. After all that’s why they named it natural born just as found in English Common Law and the Common Law which was part of the early colonies.

    How’s your lawsuit going? Missing the requirement to file with the Attorney General is quite an oversight.

    How many early citizens and presidents were born to British parents?…

    Of course, we also have the 14th amendment and several court cases which have clarified the meaning of natural born.

    You must like fighting a lost cause 🙂

  4. avatar
    NBC March 30, 2009 at 10:56 pm #

    Experience and attachment seem to have little to do with the nationality of the parents…

  5. avatar
    Leonard Daneman March 31, 2009 at 1:08 am #

    Your argument is specious. Attachment and Experience are polite terms analagous of natural allegiance and residency.

    Both concepts have been hashed out in legal cases.

    Your lack of concise perspecisity suggest you studied law under a paucity of intellect demonstrated daily by Barack Hussein Obama.

  6. avatar
    myson March 31, 2009 at 4:23 am #

    “Both concepts have been hashed out in legal cases.”
    would u be so kind & give us these cases ??
    Enrich us with knowledge

    But if it does nit say what u claim it says then u too will be guilty of having “studied law under a paucity of intellect demonstrated daily by Barack Hussein Obama.”

  7. avatar
    Gordon March 31, 2009 at 4:29 am #

    The first seven Presidents were British citizens by decent. All of the Framers had similar parentage.

  8. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 31, 2009 at 6:15 am #

    I don’t see why not. George Washington was an English subject when he became president, correct? He was born an English subject, and England acknowledged no way for an English subject to renounce their citizenship. I think the central thinking error among those who want to disqualify Obama based on his dual citizenship is that they view citizenship as a purely external attribute with no requirement for assent on the part of the citizen. They feel that any country whatever has the power to force someone to be their citizen and to prevent someone from being a natural born citizen of the United States by fiat.

    As I see it, you are arguing that British nationality law CONTROLS whether someone is a natural born citizen of the United States, which in my view is a denial of American sovereignty, which I will not accept.

    My reading suggests to me that colonial Americans were not so legalistic in their attitude towards citizenship as the Obama citizenship denial crowd (as evidenced by their lack of definition in the Constitution and the debate). I come back to the Georgia Charter of 1732 that made everyone who “happened to be born” in the colony or born of citizens elsewhere “natural born subjects”. Colonial history shows that the colonies were begging for new citizens because of the high death rate (particularly in the South) due to smallpox, malaria, and yellow fever.

    No I don’t think the the Framers would have had the slightest problem with someone born in the United States being President, no matter who his daddy was, so long as he lived here 14 years (so as not to be a “foreigner”) and be 35 years old (so as to have sufficient life experience).

    Now, Mr. Apuzzo, tell us what you think of this:

    In the early case of The Charming Betsy (1804) it appears to have been assumed by [the Supreme Court] that all persons born in the United States were citizens of the United States, Chief Justice Marshall saying: ‘Whether a person born within the United States, or becoming a citizen according to the established laws of the country, can devest himself absolutely of [169 U.S. 649, 659] that character, otherwise than in such manner as may be prescribed by law, is a question which it is not necessary at present to decide.’ 2 Cranch, 64, 119.

    or perhaps this:

    It thus clearly appears that by the law of England for the last three centuries, beginning before the settlement of this country, and continuing to the present day, aliens, while residing in the dominions possessed by the crown of England, were within the allegiance, the obedience, the faith or loyalty, the protection, the power, and the jurisdiction of the English sovereign; and therefore every child born in England of alien parents was a natural-born subject, unless the child of an ambassador or other diplomatic agent of a foreign state, or of an alien enemy in hostile occupation of the place where the child was born.

    III. The same rule was in force in all the English colonies upon this continent down to the time of the Declaration of Independence, and in the United States afterwards, and continued to prevail under the constitution as originally established.

    That Supreme Court really has a way with argument, wouldn’t you say?

  9. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 31, 2009 at 6:18 am #

    You’re much better at insults than legal argument. Go with your strong suit.

  10. avatar
    marc March 31, 2009 at 7:27 am #

    “NBC” DOESN’T SEEM TO NEED MUCH HELP. HE IS MAKING A PRETTY GOOD CASE, ALL ON HIS OWN–DEMONSTRATING BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT THAT HIS MESSIAH IS NOT ELIGIBLE. “ATTACHMENT” & “SUPER CITIZENSHIP” THIS JUST ABOUT SAYS IT ALL.

  11. avatar
    anon in ca March 31, 2009 at 1:18 pm #

    The insult to intelligence falls flat when words are misspelled and grammar is incorrect.

    Perspicacity, suggests

  12. avatar
    NBC March 31, 2009 at 5:47 pm #

    Huh?

  13. avatar
    NBC March 31, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    Nice find.

  14. avatar
    mimi April 1, 2009 at 6:50 pm #

    Didn’t I see you online at one of those free legal advice websites soliciting answers for Orly’s military issue? Yes, I did. The lawyer told you she was in a pickle.

  15. avatar
    HistorianDude April 1, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    Which “legal cases” might those be? Exactly?

  16. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy April 1, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    You know, your last sentence reminds me of something my late mother once said:

    “You have a propensity for oratorical sonorities which are to pleonastic to be expeditiously assimilated.”

  17. avatar
    smrstrauss June 24, 2009 at 1:52 am #

    Can anyone tell me if this quotation, which is allegedly by Charles Pinckney is true?

    “It was intended to give your President the command of your forces, . . . to insure experience and attachment to the country, . . . A child born to an American mother and alien father could be said to be a citizen of the United States by some affirmative act of law but never entitled to be a natural-born citizen because through laws of nature the child inherits the condition of their father.”

    I have gone to the page cited in Farrands, p. 386, 387, and I cannot find it. I find only the first phrase: “It was intended to give your President…”

    Where is the rest of it, or is it made up?

    This appears in the James v. Obama case, and I have done a search on it, and it is getting quite a play among conservative bloggers. If true, it is the only framer who actually said “no children of foreigners.’

    But I don’t think it is true. Can anyone help?

  18. avatar
    Bob June 24, 2009 at 2:45 am #

    Looks to be a misquote.

    Pinckney never said that; rather, P.A. Madison did.

  19. avatar
    Expelliarmus June 24, 2009 at 2:54 am #

    No, its not a correct quotation — as you have already discovered by going to the SOURCE, at http://tinyurl.com/ldoxcw (Google book links)

    The first clause, “It was intended to give your President the command of your forces” – and only that clause, is a quote from Senator Charles Pinkney, made in March 1800 while the Senate was debating a bill concerning the mode of deciding disputed elections of President & Vice President. (You’ll recall that 1800 was the year that the electoral college vote was tied between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, requiring a tie-breaking decision of the House of Representatives, and ultimately leading to the ratification of the 12th amendment in 1804. See http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/jyinger/Citizenship/history.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1800

    Pinckney provided a long statement about the importance of the independence of the electoral college — the birthers like the quote because Pinckney discussed the importance of keeping the electoral college free from foreign influence, but he was talking about the balloting procedures, arguing that the provision requiring the electors to meet simultaneously in every state and provisions for a secret and sealed ballot would make it impossible for foreigners or others to influence the outcome of the election.

  20. avatar
    Expelliarmus June 24, 2009 at 3:03 am #

    The full Pinckney statement can be read online at these two sources (in addition to the Google book link above):

    http://tinyurl.com/n8ftfc

    and

    http://tinyurl.com/nq93ds

    Here’s the first paragraph, in full:

    It was intended to give your President the command of your forces, the disposal of all the honors and offices of your Government, the management of your foreign concerns, and the revision of your laws. Invested with these important powers, it was easily to be seen that the honor and interest of your Government required he should execute them with firmness and impartiality; that, to do this, he must be independent of the Legislature; that they must have no control over his election; that the only mode to prevent this was to give the exclusive direction to the State Legislatures in the mode of choosing Electors, who should be obliged to vote secretly; and that the vote should be taken in such manner, and on the same day, as to make it impossible for the different States to know who the Electors are for, or for improper domestic, or, what is of much more consequence, foreign influence and gold to interfere; that by doing this the President would really hold his office independent of the Legislature; that instead of being the creature, he would be the man of the people; that he would have to look to them, and to the confidence which he felt his own meritorious actions would inspire, for applause or subsequent appointments. . . .

    You can read the rest and you will see that it has nothing to do with the President’s qualifications or circumstances of birth. In fact, following Pinckney’s logic, it appears that he would have assumed that issues of qualifications were to be decided by the electors, and Congress would have been powerless to object to a votes for unqualified candidates. Since Pinckney’s statements were made 3 years before the Supreme Court decision in Marbury v. Madison, he certainly would not have seen the US Supreme Court as having any role whatsoever in the process.

  21. avatar
    Expelliarmus June 24, 2009 at 3:17 am #

    I can’t find that quote in any of P.A. o Madison’s writings — but I’d note that “P.A. Madison” is just a contemporary writer/blogger who describes himself as a “Former Research Fellow in Constitutional Studies”. (“former” could easily mean “dismissed” — if the writer had a law degree or Ph.D. he’d probably list that rather than describing himself as a “former” anything; similarly, if he had ever published a scholarly work in a reputable journal it would likely be mentioned on his web site.)

    The point is… a quote from “P.A. Madison” is insignificant for legal purposes — it certainly could not properly be used in a legal brief.

  22. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 24, 2009 at 7:34 am #

    The bit about “attachment to the country” is authentic, and part of my article on Senator Pinckney here:

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2009/03/framer-speaks-on-natural-born-citizenship/

    They [the framers] well knew, that to give to the members of Congress a right to give votes [as presidential electors] in this election, or to decide upon them when given, was to destroy the independence of the Executive, and make him the creature of the Legislature. This therefore they have guarded against, and to insure experience and attachment to the country, they have determined that no man who is not a natural born citizen, or citizen at the adoption of the Constitution, of fourteen years residence, and thirty-five years of age, shall be eligible. . . .

    CCLXXXVIII.: Charles Pinckney in the United States Senate. 1 – Max Farrand, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, vol. 3 [1911]