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Rawle’s “therefore”

The citizens of each state constituted the citizens of the United States when the Constitution was adopted. The rights which appertained to them as citizens of those respective commonwealths accompanied them in the formation of the great compound commonwealth which ensued. They became citizens of the latter without ceasing to be citizens of the former and he who was subsequently born a citizen of a state became at the moment of his birth a citizen of the United States. Therefore every person born within the United States its territories or districts whether the parents are citizens or aliens is a natural born citizen in the sense of the Constitution and entitled to all the rights and privileges appertaining to that capacity. … [the balance of this paragraph is discussed below]

–William Rawle – A View of the Constitution (1829)

William Rawle, a confidant of Washington and Franklin, has impressive credentials.  The preceding citation has appeared on this site a number of times in support of the eligibility of Barack Obama to be President of the United States, and the eligibility of anyone else born a US citizen within the country.

Rawle was a US Attorney and a noted jurist, and we may assume that he forms his arguments like a lawyer, and this looks like a logical argument because of the use of the word “therefore.” The most common argument form ending in “therefore” is like this:

1) All (a) are (b)
2) All (b) are (c)
Therefore: All (a) are (c)

Rawle doesn’t provide a second premise, but I think he intended one to be understood, because otherwise the argument doesn’t work. His conclusion doesn’t follow solely from his explicit premise.

In a formal argument, the first premise and the conclusion are sufficient to derive the second premise. Here’s Rawle’s argument substituted into the standard argument form:

1) All persons born in the United States are citizens at birth
2) All (b) are (c)
Therefore: All persons born in the United States are natural born citizens.

In the preceding (b) is “citizens at birth” and (c) is “natural born citizens.”

Therefore: the missing second premise, all (b) are (c), by substitution must be:

“All citizens at birth are natural born citizens.”

If Rawle’s statement is a logical argument in the standard form and there is a missing 2nd premise, then we have undoubtedly derived it. It is reasonable to assume that “natural born citizen” was a term generally understood in 1787, given the paucity of discussion about it, and if it was generally understood, the omission of an explicit second premise is justified and the assumption that Rawle’s argument follows the standard form is very likely. Indeed Rawle tells us as much, writing:

It cannot escape notice that no definition of the nature and rights of citizens appears in the Constitution. The descriptive term is used, with a plain indication that its meaning is understood by all, and this indeed is the general character of the whole instrument. …

Now let’s consider the balance of the paragraph from the opening of this article from Rawle:

… It is an error to suppose as some (and even so great a mind as Locke) have done, that a child is born a citizen of no country and subject of no government, and that he so continues till the age of discretion, when he is at liberty to put himself under what government he pleases. How far the adult possesses this power will hereafter be considered, but surely it would be unjust both to the state and to the infant, to withhold the quality of the citizen until those years of discretion were attained. Under our Constitution the question is settled by its express language, and when we are informed that, excepting those who were citizens, (however the capacity was acquired) at the time the Constitution was adopted, no person is eligible to the office of president unless he is a natural born citizen, the principle that the place of birth creates the relative quality1 is established as to us.

Rawle’s initial argument left a hole. What if being born in the country just makes one a citizen upon majority? Rawle says that this question is settled by the Constitution’s “express language.” How would it be settled if the phrase “natural born citizen” in the Constitution is defined by place of birth? By that definition, the Constitution says nothing more than that there exists citizens born in the country who at age 35, when they become eligible to run for President, are citizens. The only way the Constitution could settle the question of citizenship for children with its “express language” is for “natural born citizen” to be generally understood as “citizen from birth” thereby proving that people born in the country are citizens from birth.

Rawle says that the “relative quality” (which I take to be “citizenship from birth”) is established by place of birth (as he says clearly in the opening of the paragraph). Under the Constitution, the only way to be a citizen at birth is to be born in the country, but that is sufficient for his argument. However, under statute, there are other ways (as we saw in the Naturalization Act of 1790) to become a citizen at birth, but Rawle’s book is about the Constitution, not statutory law.

I believe that it was Rawle’s opinion that “all citizens at birth are natural born citizens” based on his writing in A View of the Constitution.

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28 Responses to Rawle’s “therefore”

  1. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 10, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    Yeah, I was mowing yesterday.

  2. avatar
    nbc November 10, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    the principle that the place of birth creates the relative quality is established as to us.

    and

    Therefore every person born within the United States its territories or districts whether the parents are citizens or aliens is a natural born citizen in the sense of the Constitution and entitled to all the rights and privileges appertaining to that capacity.

    Location location

  3. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 10, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    I added a footnote, probably after you read the piece:

    In context “relative quality” refers to that of a citizen, not a natural born citizen. I think that what Rawle is saying is that the Constitution implies that there are citizens at birth, and therefore children must be citizens (refuting Locke).

    I think it is worth noting that when the Constitution was adopted, the only way to be a citizen at birth was to be born in the country. Hence location had to be used in the argument. Do you say that there is no tacit premise, or that I derived it in error?

    nbc: the principle that the place of birth creates the relative quality is established as to us.

    and

    Therefore every person born within the United States its territories or districts whether the parents are citizens or aliens is a natural born citizen in the sense of the Constitution and entitled to all the rights and privileges appertaining to that capacity.

    Location location

  4. avatar
    nbc November 10, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

    I think it is worth noting that when the Constitution was adopted, the only way to be a citizen at birth was to be born in the country.

    The book was written in 1829 and the status of children born abroad to US citizens had been established by statute, and in the early 1800’s temporarily removed due to a poor phrasing problem. Rawle must have been familiar with the concept.

    Virginia in 1779 had passed laws declaring who were citizens of the state, so the argument needs some careful attention.

    In Ms Randall’s second trial the court made many of the same observations as later used in US v WKA.

  5. avatar
    Keith November 10, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    I have just started reading “The Art and Science of Logic” by Daniel Bonevac (1990).

    I haven’t revised formal logic since about 19mumphmumble, and since I moved to Oz I don’t have a group of friends to ‘formally’ argue with.

  6. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 10, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Yes, but it is a book about the Constitution, not what came after. BTW, the original of View was in 1825 and was said to have only minor corrections in the 1829 edition.

    I made a major addition to the end of the article, providing another argument.

    nbc: The book was written in 1829

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 10, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    John’s thread hijack has been moved to the Open Thread. This article is about Rawle, not Wong Kim Ark, or natural born citizenship in general.

  8. avatar
    Slartibartfast November 10, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    Nice Doc! Too bad no birther is both intelligent enough and honest enough to understand your argument…

  9. avatar
    h2ooflife.wordpress.com/ November 11, 2013 at 2:42 am #

    Rawle was an intelligent fool who had no unerring compass needle that pointed to the truth. His mental process was very sloppy and lazy as seen in that lead paragraph. But equally distorting of his thinking was the fact that he was a Virginian [William Rawle was born and lived his whole life in Pennsylvania. Doc.], and Virginia , unlike nine of the other States as well as the central government, allowed “son of the soil” citizenship from birth. That fact colored his view of citizenship in a distortionary way because the Virginia model was not the model of the vast majority of the States nor the Federal Government. As proof of that distortion, consider these intellectually inadequate statements:

    “he who was subsequently BORN A CITIZEN of a state…” NOTE: Not all who are citizens AT birth are citizens BY birth since children of foreigners are citizens BY LAW and not citizens BY NATURE. They are NOT natural citizens but merely legal citizens.

    “…became at the moment of his birth a citizen of the United States.” That is only true of legal citizens. If the location of the mother is moved over the border just before birth, then citizenship is not conferred.

    If the law moved the timing of citizenship from “at birth” to “one week after birth” or “one month after birth”, or “one year after birth” then everyone would grasp that such citizenship is merely the product of an event in space and time, and not a result of an organic natural process. The children of citizens, on the other hand, are predestined for citizenship from conception, and nothing related to space or time can alter that inevitability. Natural citizens are citizens without the interference of law or government. Their only role is to protect and defend that fact. Natural citizenship is A Priori Citizenship.

    “Therefore every person born WITHIN the United States…” Within??? Where did reference to place of birth suddenly come from? From nowhere. He first referenced being born a citizen, but that phrase fails to differentiate between the 98% who were born of citizens from the two percent who were born of foreigners, -and that two percent were not born as citizens unless they were born in one of the few States that granted citizenship to such alien-born children. In all the other States, and in the eyes of the federal government, they were aliens just like the father that begat them. Like father, like son.

    “…whether the parents are citizens or aliens, is a natural born citizen.” Based on what??? Based on nothing except his distorted Virginian [William Rawle was born and lived his whole life in Pennsylvania. Doc.] thinking. Virginia, and its fellows, were NOT the United States. They were only a small piece of the puzzle but because they were contemporaries of the framers of the Constitution, their distorted perspective is given weight which it does NOT deserve since it was a very minor perspective.
    To fail to grasp that 98% of citizens were new members of the American nation because they were born into it by blood connection is to fail to grasp reality. They were not citizens by law but by an association were pre-dates all law. It is known as the principle of natural membership.

    Learn more by reading my latest exposition at obama–nation.com “TRANSCENDENT, INVIOLABLE, A PRIORI CITIZENSHIP Pt. 1.

  10. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 11, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Nash is usually banned, but if he really wants show how sloppy he is in his argument, I guess I’ll give him exposure this one time only. Nash argues that Rawle is warped in his thinking because he is a Virginian. I would reject any argument of this form on its face, but it is even more ludicrous given that Rawle was born and lived his whole life in Pennsylvania.

    It’s pretty clear with the following comment, and his use of the phrase “a priori citizenship” in the article he’s advertising that Nash believes that he has an “unerring compass needle” pointing the truth; however, his internal needle has no external validity. It is so bad that it led him to make up false biographical information about Rawle.

    Rawle is an authority. Nash is a crank.

    h2ooflife.wordpress.com/: Rawle was an intelligent fool who had no unerring compass needle that pointed to the truth. His mental process was very sloppy and lazy as seen in that lead paragraph. But equally distorting of his thinking was the fact that he was a Virginian .

  11. avatar
    The Magic M November 11, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    h2ooflife.wordpress.com/: The children of citizens, on the other hand, are predestined for citizenship from conception, and nothing related to space or time can alter that inevitability.

    So that means citizenship, according to you, is conferred at conception? Hmm, I wonder if you had said the same if Obama had been the son of two parents who were US citizens at the time of conception but had renounced their citizenship before the child’s birth. In that case, you would have to tell your fellow birthers that the son of two non-citizens is eligible. *bwahahahahaha*

    h2ooflife.wordpress.com/: If the law moved the timing of citizenship from “at birth” to “one week after birth” or “one month after birth”, or “one year after birth” then everyone would grasp that such citizenship is merely the product of an event in space and time, and not a result of an organic natural process.

    If you change the initial conditions, you get a different result. Your argument is a bit like “If the law moved the timing of personhood from ‘at birth’ to some later time, you’d realize that personhood is not the result of an organic process”.
    Or more absurdly, “if the rules counted a goal as ‘-1’, the team with the fewest goals wins, therefore Britney Spears”.
    What the duck?!

  12. avatar
    The Magic M November 11, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    h2ooflife.wordpress.com/: Virginia, and its fellows, were NOT the United States. They were only a small piece of the puzzle but because they were contemporaries of the framers of the Constitution, their distorted perspective is given weight which it does NOT deserve

    That’s awfully close to the “Hawaii isn’t really America” crap that many of your fellow birthers are spewing. Interesting how many states you are willing to sacrifice as “not really American” and “distorted” in your quest to find one guy ineligible.

  13. avatar
    gorefan November 11, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    h2ooflife.wordpress.com/:
    Virginia , unlike nine of the other States as well as the central government, allowed “son of the soil” citizenship from birth.

    Apparently Nash doesn’t know that the Virginia citizenship law was drafted by Thomas Jefferson. And that James Madison, the father of the Constitution, was from Virginia. Or that a number the states incorporated the English Common Law into their state constitutions.

  14. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 11, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    I think that if Nash had substituted “abolitionist” for “Virginian” in his comment, it would have been both historically accurate and closer to Nash’s actual thinking.

  15. avatar
    Dr Kenneth Noisewater November 11, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    The Magic M: So that means citizenship, according to you, is conferred at conception? Hmm, I wonder if you had said the same if Obama had been the son of two parents who were US citizens at the time of conception but had renounced their citizenship before the child’s birth. In that case, you would have to tell your fellow birthers that the son of two non-citizens is eligible. *bwahahahahaha*If you change the initial conditions, you get a different result. Your argument is a bit like “If the law moved the timing of personhood from ‘at birth’ to some later time, you’d realize that personhood is not the result of an organic process”.Or more absurdly, “if the rules counted a goal as ‘-1′, the team with the fewest goals wins, therefore Britney Spears”.What the duck?!

    This is why I always ask birthers if they are absolute in their two citizen parents concept. Two citizen parents at birth taken to its absolutist conclusion would mean that both parents have to be alive when the child is born. Often times many fall into the trap when I point out that several presidents had fathers who died before they were born.

  16. avatar
    gorefan November 11, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    I think that if Nash had substituted “abolitionist” for “Virginian” in his comment, it would have been both historically accurate and closer to Nash’s actual thinking.

    Of course that argument would also need to include that John Jay was an abolitionist as Jay tried to get slavery abolished in the 1777 New York Constitution.

    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/jay/JaySlavery.html

    Jay’s definition of natural born citizen must therefore be the same as Rawle’s.

  17. avatar
    ballantine November 11, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    h2ooflife.wordpress.com/:
    Rawle was an intelligent fool who had no unerring compass needle that pointed to the truth.

    Yes, everyone is stupid but you. Even famous legal scholars who knew the founders.

    His mental process was very sloppy and lazy as seen in that lead paragraph.But equally distorting of his thinking was the fact that he was a Virginian [William Rawle was born and lived his whole life in Pennsylvania. Doc.], and Virginia , unlike nine of the other States as well as the central government, allowed “son of the soil” citizenship from birth.

    Wrong again. Can’t you get anything right. Ever other state adopted and followed the common law.

    “he who was subsequently BORN A CITIZEN of a state…”NOTE: Not all who are citizens AT birth are citizens BY birth since children of foreigners are citizens BY LAW and not citizens BY NATURE.They are NOT natural citizens but merely legal citizens.

    Which, of course, no one in history other than you has ever said. Oh, that’s right, you are the only one in history to understand natural citizenship. When will you realize that no one cares about the law you just make-up in your head.

  18. avatar
    Slartibartfast November 11, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Nash has always had a problem with double standards—Rawle, Madison, and Jefferson are all unreliable because they are biased towards the laws of the state they are from (or not from in Rawle’s case), yet Adrien himself (who presumably was born a citizen of one of the several states) is a source of gospel truth on the matter.

    Just to clarify Doc, is the exception to his ban just the single comment or will you let him reply further on this thread?

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    Nash is usually banned, but if he really wants show how sloppy he is in his argument, I guess I’ll give him exposure this one time only. Nash argues that Rawle is warped in his thinking because he is a Virginian. I would reject any argument of this form on its face, but it is even more ludicrous given that Rawle was born and lived his whole life in Pennsylvania.

    It’s pretty clear with the following comment, and his use of the phrase “a priori citizenship” in the article he’s advertising that Nash believes that he has an “unerring compass needle” pointing the truth; however, his internal needle has no external validity. It is so bad that it led him to make up false biographical information about Rawle.

    Rawle is an authority. Nash is a crank.

  19. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 11, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

    Single comment.

    That said all bans are subject to exception on my whim.

    Slartibartfast: Just to clarify Doc, is the exception to his ban just the single comment or will you let him reply further on this thread?

  20. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 11, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    I write fairly often about defining “natural born citizen” and many of the articles draw large numbers of comments. However, comments rarely engage the specific arguments I make, but the general question.

    I’m really interested in whether folks agree with my particular parsing of Rawle’s remark and the syllogistic interpretation.

  21. avatar
    James M November 11, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

    Dr Kenneth Noisewater: This is why I always ask birthers if they are absolute in their two citizen parents concept.Two citizen parents at birth taken to its absolutist conclusion would mean that both parents have to be alive when the child is born.Often times many fall into the trap when I point out that several presidents had fathers who died before they were born.

    It’s entirely possible to have both parents dead before one’s birth.
    It happened at least half a dozen times on my mom’s L&D shift, enough that she became numb to it.

  22. avatar
    Slartibartfast November 11, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    Doc,

    I would agree that the implicit premise has to be what you said (or something logically equivalent). Furthermore, in light of, for instance, what James Madison said about location being the primary method of determining birth citizenship, it seems reasonable to assume that this premise would be understood by contemporary readers (certainly there must be some implicit second premise which would have been understood by his audience). This is yet another example of how obots can find circumstantial evidence which fits flawlessly into their worldview laying about on the ground while the birthers cannot even come to a consensus regarding the basic elements elements of what happened, let alone a complete and consistent “theory of the crime”.

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    I write fairly often about defining “natural born citizen” and many of the articles draw large numbers of comments. However, comments rarely engage the specific arguments I make, but the general question.

    I’m really interested in whether folks agree with my particular parsing of Rawle’s remark and the syllogistic interpretation.

  23. avatar
    Dave B. November 12, 2013 at 3:18 am #

    Slartibartfast: Too bad no birther is both intelligent enough and honest enough to understand your argument…

    And speak of the devil…

    h2ooflife.wordpress.com/: Rawle was an intelligent fool who had no unerring compass needle that pointed to the truth. His mental process was very sloppy and lazy as seen in that lead paragraph. But equally distorting of his thinking was the fact that he was a Virginian [William Rawle was born and lived his whole life in Pennsylvania. Doc.], and Virginia , unlike nine of the other States as well as the central government, allowed “son of the soil” citizenship from birth. That fact colored his view of citizenship in a distortionary way because the Virginia model was not the model of the vast majority of the States nor the Federal Government, etc., etc., etc.

  24. avatar
    Keith November 12, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    Keith:
    I have just started reading “The Art and Science of Logic” by Daniel Bonevac (1990).

    I haven’t revised formal logic since about 19mumphmumble, and since I moved to Oz I don’t have a group of friends to ‘formally’ argue with.

    Dr. Conspiracy: I’m really interested in whether folks agree with my particular parsing of Rawle’s remark and the syllogistic interpretation.

    Since I was actually studying up on formal logic I decided to see what Bonevac had to say about this.

    My notes became rather long, way to long to impose on you here, so I put them into a post on my blog: Open Mouth, Insert Foot. I’ve been trying to get motivated to write more blog stuff anyway. There is not much worthwhile reading there, but there it is.

    The main points are:

    1) Are you justified in your identification of Rawles unstated assumption?

    Yes. Unstated assumptions are allowed in ‘good’ arguments if (and only if) such assumption is in the common ground between the arguer and the audience. Clearly for Rawles to make such an argument, he implicitly understood that unstated assumption to lie in the common ground between him and his audience.

    2) Did Rawles make a good argument?

    Yes. His argument meets all 5 criteria for a ‘good’ argument: Evidence, Relevance, Grounding, Truth, and Reliability.

    3) What does that mean?

    It means that the founding generation understood that what was meant by ‘Natural Born Citizen’ was ‘just’ being born a citizen. It means that the founding generation understood that, in America, the citizenship of the parents had nothing to do with whether or not the child was a natural born citizen.

    It means that the argument that a natural born citizen must have two citizen parents is false. It means that the ‘two citizen parent argument’ was false when the Constitution was written and it means that it is false today.

  25. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy November 13, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    You wrote:

    (1) Socrates is human.
    All humans are mortal.
    (therefore) Socrates is human.

    I think that should end:

    (therefore) Socrates is mortal.

    Keith: My notes became rather long, way to long to impose on you here, so I put them into a post on my blog: Open Mouth, Insert Foot. I’ve been trying to get motivated to write more blog stuff anyway. There is not much worthwhile reading there, but there it is.

  26. avatar
    Keith November 13, 2013 at 1:22 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    You wrote:

    (1) Socrates is human.
    All humans are mortal.
    (therefore) Socrates is human.

    I think that should end:

    (therefore) Socrates is mortal.

    Yes. My bad.

  27. avatar
    brygenon November 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: I’m really interested in whether folks agree with my particular parsing of Rawle’s remark and the syllogistic interpretation.

    I’m not convinced Rawle thought that much about it. In this instance he was arguing that children are citizens.

    What’s special about Rawle’s writing is that he explicitly referenced the constitutional language in 1829. Though his interpretation is not entirely clear and came over forty years after the adoption of Constitution, it is as close as we can get.

    One giant unstated premise in these discussions is that the founders, framers and ratifiers were in wide agreement about the Article II meaning of “natural born citizen”. Where’s the evidence for that? What we have from back in the day is Jay’s letter to Washington in which “born” is underlined, the text of the clause itself, the Naturalization Act of 1790, some state laws, and then Rawle. That’s not much.

    Are we practicing rigorous logic, or necro-telepathy?

  28. avatar
    JPotter November 13, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    Rawle also doesn’t mention slaves. I would agree that all my reading leads me to believe the meaning of NBC was generally understood, but not quite so simple. Various considerations were taken for granted. And the vagueness was very convenient when someone had an incentive to challenge the liberal view that ultimately prevailed. Recall for example, the plaintiff and defendant in the Lynch case. “What, you really mean someone that just happens to be born here is a citizen …. in perpetuity?” “Well, I don’t see an expiration date set out in statute anywhere … or in common law …. so, yep, that’s exactly what we mean.”