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RC Radio: Interview with French Attorney Lupin

Vattel made clear

RC Radio continues in its tradition of interesting and distinguished guests, this time a French attorney who is also an editor of works (in English translation) by Emerich de Vattel! What a powerhouse combination for any discussion of both the language and the context into which Vattel wrote on citizenship.

Readers here will know well our distinguished commenter Lupin. Listen to him on RC Radio.

It was a great show. Here are early articles where Lupin has commented here (oldest first):


Obama taught Vattel at The University of Chicago

President Obama, when an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago Law School, taught a course  on Constitutional Law and one titled “Current Issues in Racism and the Law.” The New York Times published the syllabus for the latter back in July of 2008 in an article called “Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Slightly Apart.”

There are some interesting items in the reading list Obama gave his students. On the issue of the removal of Indians, he cited Vattel’s The Law of Nations. We don’t have the over 500-page reading packet itself, so we don’t know what the particular reading from Vattel was1. It is nevertheless instructive that then professor Obama picked such a source, which in modern times is rather obscure. Obama also included a reading about the Dred Scott case and the Slaughterhouse Cases (both having been cited in the Presidential eligibility debate). Of course no discussion of citizenships is complete without the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, both of which appear in the Obama syllabus.

While the Obama reading list is extensive, still it is remarkable that there is as much overlap between it and what we talk about on this site, and I do not think that this is a coincidence, because a discussion about racism is one of the practice of discrimination and exclusion and eligibility criteria are about the same thing.

1I suggest that the text might have been from The Law of Nations, Book 2:

§ 97 The savages of North America had no right to appropriate all that vast continent to themselves; and since they were unable to inhabit the whole of those regions, other nations might, without injustice, settle in some parts of them, provided they left the natives a sufficiency of land. If the pastoral Arabs would carefully cultivate the soil, a less space might be sufficient for them. Nevertheless, no other nation has a right to narrow their boundaries, unless she be under an absolute want of land. For, in short, they possess their country; they make use of it after their manner; they reap from it an advantage suitable to their manner of life, respecting which they have no laws to receive from any one. In a case of pressing necessity, I think people might, without injustice, settle in a part of that country, on leading the Arabs the means of rendering it, by the cultivation of the earth, sufficient for their own wants, and those of the new inhabitants.

Vattel, of course, had no notion of the vast size of the native population of the Americas before it was decimated by diseases from the European explorers.

Framer cites Vattel on citizenship

John Rutledge of South Carolina

One of the lesser-known framers of the US Constitution was John Rutledge of South Carolina. In addition to being one of the men who met in Philadelphia to draft the US Constitution, he was the first Governor of South Carolina and the second Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. It has been said by some that Rutledge was responsible for the Americans defeating the British during the Revolutionary War: he insisted that the Americans shoot from behind trees rather than standing out in the open.1 He also took with him to the Constitutional Convention a draft Constitution, about 1/3 of which was incorporated into the final document, and chaired the Convention’s five-member Committee of Detail that turned the debate into written language. Rutledge, the product of a London legal education, was appointed Chief Justice by Washington while the Senate was in recess, and he served until Congress adjourned because his appointment was not confirmed.

During the short term of Chief Justice Rutledge, the Supreme Court decided two cases, one of which included a question of citizenship, Continue Reading →

Re: Mr. Nussbaum

The tug of war continues between the denialists of President Obama’s eligibility for office and their opponents over the  role of Emmerich de Vattel, Swiss jurist and author of The Law of Nations (short English title of the French work) — one side attempting to drag him into obscurity and the other literally making him a god.

Vattel was an influential writer on international law, and his work highly respected at the time the United States came into being. The debate should, in my opinion, be focused on the narrow question of how influential Vattel was on the subject of citizenship, and what he said on that topic. Evidence of such influence is generally lacking.

The denialists have of late cited the work of Arthur Nussbaum, A Concise History of the Law of Nations, making a claim:

Vattel was by far the most quoted legal source in pleadings in American cases, by almost a factor of 4, between 1790 and 1820. (Nussbaums Concise History of the Law of Nations, 1962).

I was able to obtain a copy of the 1954 edition and used it to research the claim and to look more broadly on the question of Vattel’s influence on our topic of interest. Continue Reading →


I got the following email on the 10th, the day I left for vacation and only saw it this evening. I told this fellow in previous emails that I didn’t have time to deal with individual cranks, and that he should post on the blog.

This is basically a regurgitation of Apuzzo I think (although I haven’t read Apuzzo lately).

You’ve scoured the Internet and cannot find a single thing you say that backs my assertion? You must be blind indeed. Seeing that you act like a child then I shall treat you as one, doing YOUR homework since you admit lack of intellectual capacity. At the end of this rather lengthy letter I have some questions for you. I expect you to provide answers to MY questions.

First I shall DESTROY your argument with the English common law itself and play off YOUR suposition. I had originally thought there were no distinctions to be made in English common law but luckily… I was wrong. In the English common law itself there were laws that were created for the sole purpose of EXCLUDING those who were NOT born in England by English ParentS – again, plural. Continue Reading →

De Vattel reprise

Emer de Vattel

Emerich de Vattel, Swiss jurist and philosopher, has been a football in the Obama conspiracy game. One side wants to make him a “nobody” and the other wants to carve his face on Mount Rushmore as an American founder. The truth is in between.

I have written a bit already on Emerich de Vattel including these articles:

A birther example is that John Jay, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, cited de Vattel. Jay also referenced other political philosophers: John Locke,  Lord Sommers, and Dr. Priestly. De Vattel was one of several philosophers that provided input to the founders of our nation. When we see de Vattel cited by the courts, it is typically on the subject of international law (i.e. “the law of nations”).

Indeed, it is very, very unusual to see Emerich de Vattel cited favorably on the topic of American citizenship. For example, in James Kettner’s 1978 scholarly work, The Development of American Citizenship, 1608-1870, de Vattel is not mentioned a single time mentioned only once and that not in the context of the acquisition of citizenship!

There are four instances that I know of, where de Vattel was cited in regard to the acquisition of American citizenship. Continue Reading →