On any list of America’s greatest Presidents one will invariably find Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1915 during the First World War a man from New Orleans wrote the US Department of State with a question: He had been born in the United States in 1880 to a father of French nationality and had lived his entire life in the United States. Now he contemplated a trip to France on business, but was concerned that should he go there, he might be conscripted into the French Army. The Department of State considered the facts of his case, cited the 14th Amendment and the French Civil Code, and replied:
It thus appears that you were born with a dual nationality, and the Department cannot therefore give you any assurance that you would not be held liable for the performance of military service in France should you voluntarily place yourself within French jurisdiction.
This reply did not sit well with former President Theodore Roosevelt. It disturbed him to the extent he devoted an entire chapter of his book, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, to the State Department’s position in this case. Roosevelt concluded:
The United States cannot with self-respect permit its organic and fundamental law to be overridden by the laws of a foreign country. It cannot acknowledge any such theory as this of "a dual nationality"-which, incidentally, is a self-evident absurdity. (p 291)
Of special interest to us are the examples of US Presidents who would be born “dual citizens” under the conflicting laws of the United States and other countries. Despite claims from Leo Donofrio, parroted by birthers ever since, that President Chester A. Arthur’s dual-citizen birth was a great secret only discovered in 2008, President Roosevelt certainly knew about it, listing Arthur among the examples of prominent Americans would could in theory be conscripted into foreign armies:
Let me point out a few of the possible applications of the doctrines thus laid down by the Department of State. If Colonel Goethals went to Holland he would be liable to be shipped out for military service in Sumatra. If Admirals Osterhaus and Schroeder had gone to Germany they could have been forced to served under Admiral von Tirpitz in the Germany navy. If General Barry should visit England he could be seized and sent to the trenches in France. If my neighbor Messrs. Peter Dunne and Mark Sullivan, and my friends Judge O’Brien and James Conolly and Charles Conolly went to England they could be impressed into the British army for service in Flanders or Ireland. If the sons of Jacob Riis went to Denmark they could be retined in the Danish forces. If the son of the great war correspondent McCahan whose mother was a Russian lady, went to Russia, he could be sent to serve in the Carpatians. President Andrew Jackson on this theory could have been impressed for military service in the English army against which he fought at New Orleans if he had ever happened to visit England; and President Arthur would have been in the same plight.