After 9 months of study, and dozens of articles written, I have made up my mind about who is a natural born citizen of the United States. This is the way I reasoned it out.
One striking omission from the US Constitution as originally adopted, was any definition as to who were citizens of the United States, except to say, “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”1 That opens the possibility of different requirements for citizenship among the states.
Given the obvious conclusion that all “natural born citizens are citizens”, it would be impossible for the Framers to have had any specific list of qualifications for “natural born citizen” in mind when they penned the presidential eligibility clause2 because the states defined an essential part of the phrase and they may define it differently. The only possibility remaining is that the Framers had a more generic understanding of the term that could apply whatever the states defined as citizens.
In British common law, the moment of birth created an immutable bond between subject and monarch. While Americans reject the immutable nature of citizenship, it nonetheless seems reasonable that they would consider someone who was always a citizen superior to someone who changed loyalties (or pretended to). For this reason, I have concluded that the Framers intended that Natural Born Citizen mean “citizen from birth”. It was not their intent to define the criteria under which someone was a citizen from birth, only to require that it be so for our president.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution instituted a uniform rule of citizenship for persons born in the United States and under its jurisdiction. Its rule makes everyone born within the United States, except for those excluded from our jurisdiction such as the families of ambassadors, and those born in territory held by an invading army, and the Indian Tribes recognized as sovereign nations, were born citizens of the United States. It is established precedent that Congress has the power to make other citizens at birth, such as the children of citizens born outside the country, and members of the Indian tribes. All these persons who are born as citizens are our natural born citizens.
1 US Constitution, Article 4, Section 2.
2 US Constitution, Article 2, Section 1.