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Natural Born Timeline

  • 1712 – South Carolina General Assembly passes law on inheriting property saying that natural born subjects may have alien parents (see Page 92).
  • 1732 – Charter of Georgia declares every one who “happened to be born” in the province and their children born anywhere “natural born subjects”.
  • 1758 – Swiss philosopher Emmerich de Vattel writes a philosophical work, applying the concept of “natural law” to the laws of nations and international relations. De Vattel’s The Law of Nations was an influential work in America, and was considered authoritative in the area of international relations. (De Vattel is cited later in court cases in support of slavery and withholding citizenship from the children of immigrants.) De Vattel describes the natives (or indengnes) as those born in the country of citizen parents.
  • 1787 – John Jay letter to Gen. Washington expresses concern about “foreigners” in the government and suggests that the Commander in Chief be a “natural born citizen.” (underlining in original).
  • 1787 – United States Constitution drafted. The Constitution describes two kinds of citizens: “natural born citizens” in Article II as a qualification for President of the United States and “naturalization” under the enumerated powers of Congress.
  • 1788 – Unites States Constitution ratified.
  • 1790 – The Immigration Act – The first Congress extends (or affirms) natural born US citizenship to the children of citizens born overseas. This act was repealed in 1795 and the phrase “natural born citizen” never again appeared in US immigration law.
  • 1797 – The first version of de Vattel’s The Law of Nations appears that contains the phrase “natural-born citizen”.
  • 1844 – Lynch v. Clarke, Supreme Court of New York surveyed the history of citizenship law and concluded that the correct  interpretation of citizenship in the US Constitution is based on British Common Law (the law of the United States at the time of the American Revolution). The decision commented that a person born in the United States of alien parents was eligible to be president!
  • 1856 – Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 19 How. 393 393 (1856). US Supreme Court decides that slaves are not and cannot be citizens. Citing de Vattel, the court concluded “the slave, [is] … one devoid of rights or capacities, civil or political”.
  • 1860 – South Carolina secedes from the United States to counter perceived threats to the institution of slavery. Other slaveholding states follow, leading to the US Civil War.
  • 1862 – Attorney General Bates Opinion on Citizenship publishes formal opinion that all children born in the United States are natural born citizens.
  • 1868 – 14th Amendment to US Constitution says: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This affirms that there are two types of citizen: born and naturalized.
  • 1881Chester A. Arthur elected vice president. Arthur was born in the United States and his father was a British subject. (Presidents and vice presidents must meet the same citizenship qualifications.) Arthur became president after the assassination of President Garfield.
  • 1898 – United States v. Wong Kim Ark declares a US born child of Chinese subject parents to be a citizen. The Wong decision includes a survey of history of citizenship law and concludes that British common law forms the basis for understanding citizenship in the Constitution. The court noted that under British Common Law, everyone born in England was a natural born subject without regards to their parents.
  • 2009 Barack Obama becomes President of the United States, our second president born in the United States to a British citizen father.

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8 Responses to Natural Born Timeline

  1. avatar
    Ian Gould March 13, 2009 at 6:07 pm #

    Should Chester A Arthur be mentioned in there?

  2. avatar
    Jez March 13, 2009 at 6:44 pm #

    One small correction: de Vattel’s work was published in 1758. He died in 1767.

  3. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 13, 2009 at 8:40 pm #

    A-yup.

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 13, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    Sorry about the typos in some of the dates.

  5. avatar
    Sally Hill March 14, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    Yup – but only if you disclose all the controversies surrounding his presidency. The fact that he lied about his birth date, lied about where and when his father entered the US and about where all his mother had lived. Might also want to mention that he appointed Justice Grey [sic, Dr. C] as well – and let’s not forget the 2 cases that Grey [sic, Dr. C] sat on with opposite findings. In my opinion, this at the very least calls into question the suspect Ark decision.

  6. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy March 14, 2009 at 7:08 pm #

    Hi Sally,

    If you had the good judgment to click the link provided in the TimeLine for further information, you would have been presented with a very long and detailed discussion of all the controversies you mentioned.

    I cannot be held responsible for your negligence.

    The Ark decision was 6-2, and Arthur had been dead for a decade.

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy May 8, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    This article has been revised to correct some dates and to add new information.

  8. avatar
    AXJ September 4, 2009 at 3:49 am #

    I thought this was about the facts about OBAMA:

    Born somewhere between 1955-1963, raised in Indonesia, educated at OCCIDENTAL, but no records, bo documents, no proof of anything?

    Strange huh?