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What is a “natural born citizen” and is Barack Obama one of them?

The English Common Law and the American Revolution

I was particularly stunned by a comment by birther litigant and frequent Internet commenter David Farrar:

I have no aversion to common law. English common law was never American colonial common law. The English Parliament did not make common law for the American colonies. It was this lack of representation in Parliament that, indeed, lead to the American Revolution.

— David Farrar
Comment at Augusta Free Press (2015)

Not only is this not true, it is the opposite of the truth. The American Revolution was justified in part by the refusal of the English to allow the Americans the rights that would have been afforded them under the English Common Law. I have known this for some time from my reading on the topic of citizenship. Justice Joseph Story wrote about the expectations Americans had for the English Common Law:

§  78 … In the charters, under which all these colonies were settled, with a single exception, there is, an express declaration, that all subjects and their children inhabiting therein shall be deemed natural-born subjects, and shall enjoy all the privileges and immunities thereof; and that the laws of England, so far as they are applicable, shall be in force there; and no laws shall be made, which are repugnant to, but as near as may be conveniently, shall conform to the laws of England.  Now this declaration, even if the crown previously possessed a right to establish what laws it pleased over the territory, as a conquest from the natives, being a fundamental rule of the original settlement of the colonies, and before the emigrations thither, was conclusive, and could not afterwards be abrogated by the crown.  It was an irrevocable annexation of the colonies to the mother country, as dependencies governed by the same laws, and entitled to the same rights.

§  79.    And so has been the uniform doctrine in America ever since the settlement of the colonies.  The universal principle (and the practice has conformed to it) has been, that the common law is our birthright and inheritance, and that our ancestors brought hither with them upon their emigration all of it, which was applicable to their situation.  The whole structure of our present jurisprudence stands upon the original foundations of the common law.

§  80.    We thus see in a very clear light the mode, in which the common law was first introduced into the colonies; as well as the true reason of the exceptions to it to be found in our colonial usages and laws.  It was not introduced, as of original and universal obligation in its utmost latitude; but the limitations contained in the bosom of the common law itself, and indeed constituting a part of the law of nations, were affirmatively settled and recognized in the respective charters of settlement.  Thus limited and defined, it has become the guardian of our political and civil rights; it has protected our infant liberties; it has watched over our maturer growth; it has expanded with our wants; it has nurtured that spirit of independence, which checked the first approaches of arbitrary power; it has enabled us to triumph in the midst of difficulties and dangers threatening our political existence; and by the goodness of God, we are now enjoying, under its bold and manly principles, the blessings of a free, independent, and united government.

Chapter XVI. Justice Joseph Story on Common Law and Constitutional Origins of the United States Constitution

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Legal expert Donald Trump says Canadian birth may be problem for Ted Cruz

Speaking to reporters in West Des Moines, Iowa, Trump addressed the issue head on, reports the Dallas Morning News.

“He’s going to have to solve that problem. It could end up in litigation. It could take a long period of time.… It’s certainly a stumbling block that he has that other people don’t have,” Trump said, suggesting that Cruz might only be able to put any doubts to rest by going to court.

“Perhaps he’s going to have to go in for declaratory judgments. Perhaps he’s going to get rulings from some group of electioneers. He’s going to have to do something. Because it is a problem that a lot of people have been mentioning,” Trump said. “He’s going to have to get it resolved one way or the other. And I hope he gets it resolved in a positive way because I think he’ll add a lot.”

“Electioneers”? I thought he said “Mouseketeers.” Sorry about that.

Birther litigant David Farrar is all over the comments on this story, as he is pretty much any time the topic appears above a comment box. I left this reply:

Farrar can go all day like a lumberjack, but in the end he lost his case in Georgia, and so has every other person who made a similar argument.

Corruption of blood

I learned from the PBS Frontline documentary, “Secret State of North Korea,” that when someone defects from North Korea, the government imprisons their entire extended family. I, and I think most Americans, would find that behavior reprehensible, outrageous and unacceptable for any civilized country.

Such a sentiment also comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition when scripture says:

In those days they shall no longer say: "’The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. ‘ But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.
– The Bible (ESV) Jeremiah 31:29-30

And it is found in the United States Constitution in Article III that mentions the curious term “corruption of blood.” Section 3 includes:

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

The Wikipedia explains:

Corruption of blood is one of the consequences of attainder. The descendants of an attainted person could not inherit either from the attainted criminal (whose property had been forfeited on conviction) or from their other relatives through the criminal. For example, if a person is executed for a crime leaving innocent children, the property of the criminal is forfeited to the crown and will not pass to the children. If the criminal’s innocent father subsequently dies, his property cannot be inherited by the criminal’s children either: it will be distributed among other family members.

In the United States, a person’s crimes are his own, and do not work, at least legally, against his family. This is not, however, a birther-friendly principle. I have seen comments like the following many times over the past 6 years, for example this from the Free Republic:

What if Hitler had had his way with an underage American girl? Would his son be eligible?

Why is this POS student visa overstaying Indonesian in our country?

And just two days ago this appeared at Birther Report:

Hell Conman, let’s just let ANYONE with foreign born parents run for potus. How about President Bin Laden Jr.? President Adolph Hitler Jr. has a nice ring to it. Wait, here’s a better one…President Saddam Hussein the second! We could even start a squat-and-give-birth program whereby any scumbag roaming the surface of the earth could sneak into the country and drop a future potus! Jackpot! Hallelujah, rejoice! To hell with foreign allegiance, let’s become just another third world shithole and have a terrorist prodigy running our country! Doesn’t get any better than that!

They want to stigmatize a child because of his parent. They want corruption of blood.

Donofrio’s early views on “natural born citizen”

I’m not breaking any new ground here because I am sure others have noticed this before me; however, I think it should be mentioned because those people who believe that only persons born in the United States to two US citizen parents claim that this view is not novel.

A commenter at Birther Report named “BornTexas” said recently that objections to Obama’s eligibility based on his non-citizen father were made before Barack Obama was nominated as the Democratic Party’s candidate in 2008.


I challenged that assertion, and now 4 weeks later there has still been no response.1 It certainly seems that if there were any widespread belief in the two-citizen-parent theory, that someone would have raised the objection the moment Obama announced as a candidate.

In my reply to BornTexas, I noted that Leo C. Donofrio had written on his blog, NaturalBornCitizen, about the two-citizen-parent theory in December of 2008, the month the blog started.

When Donofrio wrote of it on December 19, 2008, he talked about Minor v. Happersett, and said that the Court “punted the issue.” Donofrio wrote:

For the purposes of Minor and Wong Kim Ark, the Supreme Court didn’t need to reach the “natural born citizen” issue as neither person was running for President, so they rightfully punted by limiting their holdings to the issue of  whether each person was a “citizen”….

Those “doubts” mentioned in Minor needed to be discussed and adjudicated by the current supreme court.

Shortly after, as we know, Donofrio was to assert that the Minor decision definitively defined natural born citizen, and even developed a conspiracy theory surround the first US President with a non-citizen father, Chester A. Arthur.

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Birther boomerang

I consider this a very important article because without this article and the information following, the “Mailbox 11/7/2014” article would just stay at the top of the blog and I don’t think anybody wants that. I would really rather flip the page to something else.

The boomerang is the birther theory of the meaning of “natural born citizen,” a theory consistently rejected by legal scholars and the courts. The idea that a US President must be born in the United States of two US citizen parents was cooked up to try to make Barack Obama seem ineligible, and the boomerang returning is the effect this may have on certain conservative presidential hopefuls. In a poll this past May, a fairly significant number of potential voters believe it, and I wonder whether any Republican candidate can receive the presidential nomination who was born outside the United States, or has a non-US-citizen parent.

The occasion is a new article at Gerbil Report™ by Paul Hollrah titled “No, Ted Cruz is Not Eligible to be President.” Hollrah singles out more potential candidates than just Cruz—here’s his take on things:

Ted Cruz Born in Canada, foreign father
Bobby Jindal Born in US, two foreign national parents
Marco Rubio Born in US, two foreign national parents
Rick Santorum Born in US, foreign father

I don’t know whether Santorum’s father, who was born in Italy, was a naturalized citizen or not when Rick Santorum was born, but for the purpose of this discussion it doesn’t matter because we’re not really talking about facts but rumors. Have the birthers poisoned the well for these 4 potential presidential candidates? In a remotely close primary race, the birther nonsense seems to be something that would decide it against them. The disinformation factor was well-stated by the polling company, YouGov, who wrote:

That means more than half of Republicans (53%) would disqualify Texas Senator Ted Cruz from the Presidency on principle.  Cruz was born in Canada to a mother who was an American citizen, while his father was not.   But fewer than one in four Republicans think Cruz was born outside the country; only 10% know his mother was a citizen and his father was not.

imageSome suggest that my Senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, will be a candidate for President in 2016. I can just see him running against Hillary Clinton. The whole race would be about Benghazi. Ugh!

Why is Clinton smiling?

Good citizenship, Dr. Conspiracy’s other hat

My joining Civitan International has nothing whatever to do with this blog. Civitan’s motto: “builders of good citizenship” and questions of citizenship covered on this blog are purely coincidental. That said, the question of how a good citizen acts does relate to both of them. While birthers like to put on the robes of patriotism, I think birtherism is neither patriotic nor representative of good citizenship.

I believe that quality public discourse is a civic virtue, and that extends to this blog. I am proud of the 3,562 articles published on this site, particularly those articles that educate, inform and correct misinformation. That said, the 2012 presidential election is over and nothing that birthers do really matters any more (unless a rogue birther branches out into criminal acts). Countering birther nonsense is not as valuable, now that nothing is at stake. Consequently, I am spending less time blogging about birthers these days.

I wrote earlier that I had signed up to be a poll manager in my county. I take my oath next Tuesday and I’ll be putting in 14 hours at the polls come election day. Attending my local political party meetings has also been on my agenda. I have been working on Habit for Humanity houses a lot over the last couple of months. I am on the board of the local Civitan Club and do several jobs for my church. I volunteered at the Special Olympics. Indeed I now have to put everything on a calendar to avoid conflicts, I am scheduled so much. All of that is on top of quite a bit of tourism. So these days I’m wearing many hats.

Dr. Conspiracy on the roof wearing Hard Hat

I don’t list all these volunteer activities to say what a fine citizen I am, but to suggest to birthers more productive ways to channel their energies. I have the luxury of being healthy and retired, making my particular choices possible, but others can be good citizens in other ways.