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Another early writer on natural law and citizenship

Just as most of us had never heard of Emerich de Vattel before the birthers discovered him, and based a new theory of presidential eligibility on a section of his book (short-titled in English) The Law of Nations, so I was until a couple of years ago unaware of another author on the law of nations and natural law, Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui. A quotation of his appears in a letter to the editor of the Charleston City Gazette in 1789 in the Smith-Ramsay exchange of letters regarding Smith’s eligibility to run for Congress (see: The Documentary History of the First Federal Elections 1788-1790 by Jensen and Becker, pages 188-190). The unattributed quotation is from a 1748 work by Burlamaqui called (in English) The Principles of Natural and Politic Law. If anything, this is evidence of how well-read some Americans were in 1789: in their debate, Smith invokes Vattel and Ramsay cites Blackstone and invokes Burlamaqui.

So for your edification and debating pleasure, I present this extended citation from The Principles of Natural and Politic Law (1752 translation by Mr. Nugent), courtesy of Constitution.org.

Of the sovereign, sovereignty; and the subjects.

VIII. Now a person becomes a member or subject of a state two ways, either by an express or by a tacit covenant.

IX. If by an express covenant, the thing admits of no difficulty. But, with regard to a tacit covenant, we must observe, that the first founders of states, and all those, who afterwards became members thereof, are supposed to have stipulated, that their children and descendants should, at their coming into the world, have the right of enjoying those advantages, which are common to all the members of the state, provided nevertheless that these descendants, when they attain to the use of reason, be on their part willing to submit to the government, and to acknowledge the authority of the sovereign.

X. I said provided the descendants acknowledged the authority of the sovereign; for the stipulation of the parents cannot, in its own nature, have the force of subjecting the children against their will to an authority, to which they would not of themselves choose to submit. Hence the authority of the sovereign over the children of the members of the state, and the right, on the other hand, which these children have to the protection of the sovereign, and to the advantages of the government, are founded on mutual consent.

XI. Now if the children of members of the state, upon attaining to the years of discretion, are willing to live in the place of their parentage, or in their native country, they are by this very act supposed to submit themselves to the power, that governs the state, and consequently they ought to enjoy, as members of that state, the advantages naturally arising from it. This is the reason likewise, that, when once the sovereign is acknowledged, he has no occasion to tender the oath of allegiance to the children, who are afterward born in his dominions.

XII. Besides, it is a maxim, which has been ever considered, as a general law of government, that whosoever merely enters upon the territories of a state, and by a much stronger reason those, who are desirous of enjoying the advantages, which are to be found there, are supposed to renounce their natural liberty, and to submit to the established laws and government, so far as the public and private safety require. And, if they refuse to do this, they may be considered as enemies, in this sense at least, that the government has a right to expel them the country; and this is likewise a tacit covenant, by which they make a temporary submission to the government.

I add three observations:

  1. Barack Obama, giving no consent to the sovereign of Great Britain when he attained majority would not be bound by any allegiance to said sovereign according to Burlamaqui.
  2. Barack Obama Sr. merely by being in the United States “submit[ted] to the established laws and government, so far as the public and private safety require.”
  3. Both Burlamaqui and Vattel recognize that the ultimate arbiter is the local laws and customs of individual governments, that is to say that citizenship is a matter of national law, not international law.

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15 Responses to Another early writer on natural law and citizenship

  1. avatar
    JPotter June 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    XII is an excellent reminder for sovcits!

    The birther obsession with Vattel is one of the silliest, and telling, things about them. There are hundreds of major legal treatises from the Colonial period back to the Classical period. They continue to hang on to one phrase from one book that says what they like to hear.

    The truth is that Vattel was important. The Founders were aware of him, and Congress cites him in debate all though the 19th century ….. along with many, many others. Cicero, Gaius, Aquinas, Vattel, Locke, Grotius, Puffendorf, Wickeufort, Bynkershoeck, Burlamaqui, Blackstone. Vattel was cited in relations to property rights, matters of war, sovereignty, diplomacy. The only references to their favorite phrase I find are in dissenting opinions, on the losing sides of debates in the second half of the 19th century, when the concept of American citizenship was fleshed out and defined.

    So, when a birther flogs Vattel, I offer this response*, from Senator Willey back in 1870:

    “Away with your Vattel! Stand by the Constitution. It is posterior to Vattel. It supersedes Vattel, even if the Senator from New Jersy rightly interprets him. Our Constitution, not Vattel, is our rule of action. Its requirement is founded in justice.”

    Sen. Waitman T. Willey
    January 6th, 1869
    The Congressional Globe, Third Session, Fortieth Congress, p. 209

    Apparently New Jersey has a long history of Vattelism. 😉

    __________________

    * Full disclosure, this is from a debate on whether the government is obligated to compensate citizens when confiscating property in eminent domain actions.

  2. avatar
    John Woodman June 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Don’t know whether you saw it, Doc, but I did a series of two articles on “natural born citizen” and the Law of Nations. I also have an article on Vattel.

    I think my favorite quote from the Law of Nations writers is Christian Wolff: “…there is no one who does not know that foreigners staying in alien territory are called temporary citizens.”

    Well, THAT would kinda disturb the birther universe!

    As soon as I announced I was retiring from the birther issues (2 months ago), someone showed up and challenged my conclusions regarding “natural born citizen.” So I thought, “Okay, there’s more to write.” I’ve done 15 or 20 articles over the past couple months and am about to wrap up my writing on nbc and retire from the birther issues again. Hopefully this time for good!

    Anyway, I mentioned Burlamaqui’s views on citizenship, noting: “In Burlamaqui’s view, foreigners who established permanent residence in a new country were no longer even subjects of the country that they had left!”

  3. avatar
    Rambo Ike June 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    JPotter: XII is an excellent reminder for sovcits!The birther obsession with Vattel is one of the silliest, and telling, things about them. There are hundreds of major legal treatises from the Colonial period back to the Classical period. They continue to hang on to one phrase from one book that says what they like to hear.The truth is that Vattel was important. The Founders were aware of him, and Congress cites him in debate all though the 19th century ….. along with many, many others. Cicero, Gaius, Aquinas, Vattel, Locke, Grotius, Puffendorf, Wickeufort, Bynkershoeck, Burlamaqui, Blackstone. Vattel was cited in relations to property rights, matters of war, sovereignty, diplomacy. The only references to their favorite phrase I find are in dissenting opinions, on the losing sides of debates in the second half of the 19th century, when the concept of American citizenship was fleshed out and defined.So, when a birther flogs Vattel, I offer this response*, from Senator Willey back in 1870:Apparently New Jersey has a long history of Vattelism. __________________* Full disclosure, this is from a debate on whether the government is obligated to compensate citizens when confiscating property in eminent domain actions.

    JPotter: “The truth is that Vattel was important. The Founders were aware of him……”

    This is encouraging. What a big change from a month or even a week ago when I was viciously attacked & smeared for saying basically the same. This site is starting to get educated in regards to the importance of Vattel’s Law of Nations’s influence on the American colonists during that revolutionary period. You still have a ways to go.

    It’s important to understand the fears & anger of the colonists during that period & what they were attempting to overcome. It’s not about how much any certain philosopher was used, but instead which particular parts in the writings of the different philosophers supported their arguments in what they were attempting to do.

    I was aware of Vattel along with many other philosophers like Blackstone. 7 years ago I used them both along with Cicero [my favorite] and some others in a debate on another subject. What I didn’t know anything about was the citizenship-nbC issue till late in 2008. Spent alot of time with a couple others through email going over all we could find online trying to understand the issue. Before the end of 2009 I had drawn my conclusions on what mattered.

  4. avatar
    Majority Will June 2, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    JPotter:
    XII is an excellent reminder for sovcits!

    The birther obsession with Vattel is one of the silliest, and telling, things about them. There are hundreds of major legal treatises from the Colonial period back to the Classical period. They continue to hang on to one phrase from one book that says what they like to hear.

    The truth is that Vattel was important. The Founders were aware of him, and Congress cites him in debate all though the 19th century ….. along with many, many others. Cicero, Gaius, Aquinas, Vattel, Locke, Grotius, Puffendorf, Wickeufort, Bynkershoeck, Burlamaqui, Blackstone. Vattel was cited in relations to property rights, matters of war, sovereignty, diplomacy. The only references to their favorite phrase I find are in dissenting opinions, on the losing sides of debates in the second half of the 19th century, when the concept of American citizenship was fleshed out and defined.

    So, when a birther flogs Vattel, I offer this response*, from Senator Willey back in 1870:

    “Away with your Vattel! Stand by the Constitution. It is posterior to Vattel. It supersedes Vattel, even if the Senator from New Jersy rightly interprets him. Our Constitution, not Vattel, is our rule of action. Its requirement is founded in justice.”

    Sen. Waitman T. Willey
    January 6th, 1869
    The Congressional Globe, Third Session, Fortieth Congress, p. 209

    Apparently New Jersey has a long history of Vattelism.

    __________________

    *Full disclosure, this is from a debate on whether the government is obligated to compensate citizens when confiscating property in eminent domain actions.

    Well stated and a great quote. Thanks.

  5. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    No, you have a long ways to go in your ability to responsibly contribute to an online forum without proving to be an insufferable asshole. You will never learn anything until you first respect other people, and no one is going to listen to you until you lose the attitude. The example from your below is just one example of your arrogant ignorance.

    Rambo Ike: This site is starting to get educated in regards to the importance of Vattel’s Law of Nations’s influence on the American colonists during that revolutionary period. You still have a ways to go.

    A proper respect for the importance of Vattel has been this site’s position for years. Long before your sneering insults this site included:

    Vattel cited by delegate to constitutional convention, John Rutledge:

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2011/06/framer-cites-vattel-on-citizenship/#more-13457

    I wrote in February of 2011:

    “Vattel was an influential writer on international law, and his work highly respected at the time the United States came into being.”

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2011/02/re-mr-nussbaum/

    In my article De Vattel Reprise, I cited four examples of De Vattel being favorably cited on the question of the acquisition of citizenship.

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2010/10/de-vattel-reprise

    In my article Vattel for Dummies, I described The Law of Nations as an “influential work.”

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/2009/03/de-vattel-for-dummies/

    You have added nothing to the discussion but ill will and have served no purpose but to bring out the worst in other people. You violated the blogs rules against personal insults. I deleted your other unworthy comment. You may not post on this web site again.

  6. avatar
    John Woodman June 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    Speaking personally, I’ve been quick to note that Vattel was quoted by the Founding Fathers 1/16th the number of times that they quoted Blackstone, the authority on the English common law. But I’ve also tried to give him his due, writing recently:

    Was Vattel influential on our Founding Fathers? Absolutely. But his level of influence — particularly on our idea of citizenship — has been rather exaggerated by Mario Apuzzo and other birthers.

    While by some accounts Vattel was the most influential writer on the Law of Nations, two of the other Law of Nations writers were actually quoted more frequently by our Founding Fathers.

    I’ve also stated,

    It’s clear that our Founders’ generation did, for the most part, believe that there was such a thing as the “Law of Nations.” Furthermore, they believed it was important, and that our new country should absolutely fulfill its obligations to this international law or code of conduct.

    So Vattel was — at the very least — roughly the third most important writer on an important subject. And the Founding Fathers had some good things to say about some of his ideas.

    OTOH, does that mean they completely adopted his doctrine of citizenship? I’ve found no evidence at all to support that belief.

  7. avatar
    Rickey June 2, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

    Rambo Ike:

    This is encouraging. What a big change from a month or even a week ago when I was viciously attacked & smeared for saying basically the same. This site is starting to get educated in regards to the importance of Vattel’s Law of Nations’s influence on the American colonists during that revolutionary period. You still have a ways to go.

    More hogwash.

    The Founders could have had shrines to Vattel in their homes and it would matter not a whit in regard to natural born citizenship.

    The fact is that that there is no evidence that the Founders gave even a passing thought to Vattel when they drafted Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.

  8. avatar
    JPotter June 2, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    John Woodman: Speaking personally, I’ve been quick to note that Vattel was quoted by the Founding Fathers 1/16th the number of times that they quoted Blackstone, the authority on the English common law.

    I was running searches on the American Memory Project site, Google Books, Congressional debates, and some university libraries, brute force and not at all scientific. Interesting results and findings.

    Blackstone and Locke always return the most hits, depending on the collection and time period, one leads the other by as much as 2:1, but Vattel is always far behind the leader, almost always outnumbered 4:1. And when Vattel pops up, in writings predating the Constitution, it’s usually a passing reference, someone requesting a copy, and often to Droits des gens, not Law of Nations.

    When Vattel is being cited as an authority, its nearly universally in regards to international relations, diplomacy, questions of sovereignty, and military conflict. When searching the Congressional Globe (debates of Congress ~1830–1870), the hits cluster around 1848–50, and 1860–1872, and are about war with a foreign power (other than Britain!), and a civil war. Both events were, at the time, without precedent in our history, naturally debates tended to cite external authority. Thanks to a militaristic 20th century, we don’t have that problem anymore.

    And I agree …. have yet to find a citation of Vattel in reference to citizenship from the 18th century. Anyone have one?

  9. avatar
    JPotter June 2, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    JPotter: and often to Droits des gens, not Law of Nations.

    Wow, could I be less clear? I meant to note the references I find are often to the French, eliminating the silliness that all of the Founders were sitting around reading ‘faulty’ English tanslations.

  10. avatar
    gorefan June 3, 2012 at 12:02 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy: A proper respect for the importance of Vattel has been this site’s position for years.

    With all due respect to the natural French speakers in the group, I concede that its possible the Founders would have translated “Les Naturels, ou Indigènes ” as “the Natural Born or Indigenes” or as “the Natural Born, or Native”.

    I base that on the fact that on July 27th, 1781, the Continental Congress reviewed a treaty with France, “for the purpose of determining and fixing the functions and prerogatives of their respective Consuls, Vice Consuls and Agents.”
    .
    Both the French and English versions are presented in the Journals of the Continental Congress.

    Article III has the phrase “les sujets naturels de la puissance qui les nommera” and the English translation is given as ” the natural born subjects of the power nominating them.”

    That’s the nature of translations, sometimes the translation is dependent on the translator.

  11. avatar
    JPotter June 3, 2012 at 12:29 am #

    Rambo Ike: What I didn’t know anything about was the citizenship-nbC issue till late in 2008.

    Quite a telling date. Thanks for adding more confirmation on top of Doc’s hypothesis.

  12. avatar
    Lupin June 3, 2012 at 2:49 am #

    Rambo Ike is once again (still?) confused.

    The point is not whether Vattel was important or relevant to your founders — I’ll leave that discussion to your experts.

    The point is that, loosely speaking, according to Vattel, Obama is an indigene. Period.

  13. avatar
    Arthur June 3, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    Sung to the tune of “American Pie”

    So bye, bye,
    un-American Ike.
    Drove the Dr. to distraction
    So you must take a hike.
    Doc’s a good ol’ boy
    But his hands were tied,
    He banned you for your insults and lies,
    Banned you for your insults and lies.

    Dr. Conspiracy: You have added nothing to the discussion but ill will and have served no purpose but to bring out the worst in other people. You violated the blogs rules against personal insults. I deleted your other unworthy comment. You may not post on this web site again.

  14. avatar
    Lupin June 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    Arthur:
    Sung to the tune of “American Pie”

    So bye, bye,
    un-American Ike.
    Drove the Dr. to distraction
    So you must take a hike.
    Doc’s a good ol’ boy
    But his hands were tied,
    He banned you for your insults and lies,
    Banned you for your insults and lies.

    I say, good riddance. We have a three-strike saying in French: “une fois passe, deux fois lasse, trois fois casse” (once is okay, twice is tiresome; thrice is breaking point). I think Rambo Ike was on his firth or sixth strike.

  15. avatar
    Arthur June 3, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    Lupin: I say, good riddance.

    You like Green Day, too?!

    Another birther gone, who was insufferable
    Doc grabed him by the wrist and told him where to go
    So make the best of this test, n’ here’s a little clue–
    You were banned for all you misconstrued
    It wasn’t unpredictable, we warned you left and right
    May Rambo find a better brain than Ike’s.