I left the following comment on Leo C. Donofrio’s Natural Born Citizen blog.
I am writing this comment to ask you to reconsider, in the light of new information, some statements made on this web site in regard to the late President Chester A. Arthur.
It has been said that 1) Chester A. Arthur knew he was ineligible for the office of Vice President when he ran in 1880 and 2) that statements made by Arthur so confused his opponents, that they were misdirected away from examining the naturalization status of his father.
A prior (1844) statement from the Supreme Court of New York in the case of Lynch v. Clarke states that the contemporary opinion both of the legal community and of the public at large was that Chester A. Arthur was eligible to be president. If true, one must infer from the Court’s statement that Arthur also believed that he was eligible.
Vice-chancellor Sandford, speaking for the Court said:
Upon principle therefore I can entertain no doubt but that by the law of the United States every person born within the dominions and allegiance of the United States whatever were the situation of his parents is a natural born citizen…the general understanding of the legal profession and the universal impression of the public mind so far as I have had the opportunity of knowing it…
Second, A. P. Hinman, Arthur’s arch foe and proponent of the “born in Canada” theory, included in his own 1884 book, How a British Subject became President of the United States, a letter he received from Senator Bayard in response to his query in early 1861:
Senate of the United States
City of Washington, January 10th, 1881.
A. P. HINMAN, Esq., New York.
DEAR SIR :-In response to your letter of the 7th instant-
the term” natural-born citizen,” as used in the Constitution
and Statutes of the U. S., is held to be a native of
the U. S.
The naturalization by law of a father before his child
attains the age of twenty-one, would be naturalization of
T. F. BAYARD.
It appears to me that Hinman, by raising the question about a father becoming naturalized and its effect on his child, knew of Arthur’s father’s naturalization status, and at the very least, he was considering such a scenario. He was not misdirected so far as to ignore the possibility.
Why did Hinman, a New York lawyer, not raise this issue in his book, prepared to attack Arthur in the 1884 election? Perhaps because he too held the general opinion of the legal community of New York that every person born within the dominions and allegiance of the United States whatever were the situation of his parents is a natural born citizen.
Thank you for your consideration.
The comment is currently awaiting moderation. I took a slight liberty in the ellipsis in my quotation from Lynch v. Clarke which I think is fair given what appears the view of the opinion as a whole. It doesn’t matter for this purpose whether the decision in Lynch is correct, or what the definition of natural born citizen is. The important point is that a judge on the Supreme Court of New York would reasonably be expected to speak with authority on what his colleagues believed.