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Natural born citizenship primer

The historical consensus

Prior to 2008, no American authority in history ever denied the universal consensus that anyone born a citizen of the United States within one of the 50 states qualifies as a natural born citizen and, meeting the additional requirements of age and residency, is eligible to run for President of the United States. The Framers of the Constitution had very little to say on the subject, but other contemporary authorities such as William Rawle, appointed by George Washington as District Attorney for Pennsylvania, wrote in 1825:

…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 Continue Reading →

The Great Mother of all Native Born Citizenship Pages

There seems to be strong historical evidence that the founders of the country considered native born citizen and natural born citizen the same thing. Consider the following from commenter Ballantine and see of you don’t agree:

No court has ruled on NBC. The court has not defined many terms, but that does not mean a definition is in doubt. Even if it was in doubt, the court will look to all early legal authorities to define such term…

With respect to native birth, Wong stated that since the common law was adopted, all children born in the US are generally native born citizens. You are simply trying to read an implication into a choice of terminology. The court made clear the English common law rules controlled and under the common law all the native born (subject to common law exceptions) were by definition “natural born.” I think you need to refresh your Blackstone as you would see there are only 2 classes of people at birth under the common law, the natural born and the alien born. The natural born were also referred to as natives. There is no authority anywhere that says there is a difference between native and natural born under the common law.

Finally, here is a list of early authorities saying that the president needs to be native born citizen or a native. Take notice it includes the most influential scholars of the early republic that court consistently relies upon. If you or Leo [Donofrio] disagree with this multitude you need to find authority to the contrary. Clearly, there you have no such authority.

“No man but a native, or who has resided fourteen years in America, can be chosen President.” Elliot’s Debates –DEBATES IN THE CONVENTION OF THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, ON THE ADOPTION OF THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION, pg 195-196 (statements of future Supreme Court Justice James Iredell, July 30, 1788).

“That provision in the constitution which requires that the president shall be a native-born citizen (unless he were a citizen of the United States when the constitution was adopted) is a happy means of security against foreign influence,…” St. George Tucker, BLACKSTONE’S COMMENTARIES (1803) Continue Reading →

Searching for “natural born citizen”

US Constitution

US Constitution

Not many folks have spent more time than I searching the Internet and WestLaw for keywords including “natural born citizen”. You can see the results of such activity on pages like my The Great Mother of All Natural Born Citizen Quotation Pages and Tes’s SCOTUS & “Natural Born Citizen” – A Compendium. While that’s useful, finding short paragraphs with keywords is not the way to understand the subject in depth. Even those who disagree with me fall into the same pattern, for example, citing E. de Vattel without reading the chapters that follow.

To really understand what’s going on one must read those works where the subject is developed: this happens in some scholarly works, and in some imp0rtant court decisions. Here are some useful texts, by far not all.

Commenters here may suggest additions to the list.

Natural Born Timeline

  • 1712 – South Carolina General Assembly passes law on inheriting property saying that natural born subjects may have alien parents.
  • 1732 – Charter of Georgia declares every one who “happened to be born” in the province and their children born anywhere “natural born subjects”.
  • 1758 – Swiss philosopher Emmerich de Vattel writes a philosophical work, applying the concept of “natural law” to the laws of nations and international relations. De Vattel’s The Law of Nations was an influential work in America, and was considered authoritative in the area of international relations. (De Vattel is cited later in court cases in support of slavery and withholding citizenship from the children of immigrants.) De Vattel describes the natives (or indengnes) as those born in the country of citizen parents.
  • 1787 – John Jay letter to Gen. Washington expresses concern about “foreigners” in the government and suggests that the Commander in Chief be a “natural born citizen.” (underlining in original).
  • 1787 – United States Constitution drafted. The Constitution describes two kinds of citizens: “natural born citizens” in Article II as a qualification for President of the United States and “naturalization” under the enumerated powers of Congress. Continue Reading →

Bates on Citizenship

AG Opinion

AG Opinion

Many say, and perhaps rightly, that the US Supreme Court has never stated what the definition of natural born citizen is and so they conclude that it is necessary for a court to make this decision before the legitimacy of Barack Obama as president can be known.

But, the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency and the definition of natural born citizen has been thoroughly studied by the Abraham Lincoln’s Attorney General way back in 1862, and he rendered his opinion quite clearly and plainly.

United States Attorney General opinions are carefully reasoned statements based on law, and form the basis for practice in the Executive Branch. Unless there is a change in the law or a court ruling to the contrary, these opinions are reliable statements of the law. No court having ruled otherwise, the following opinion is still as valid today as it was in 1862. This means that Barack Obama is the legitimate president of the United States right now. You can all stand down, relax, and get on with your lives. You don’t have to thank me. Continue Reading →

The Great Mother of All Natural Born Citizen Quotation Pages

Partial lists don’t carry the full impact of citations scattered here and there. This project is to collect everything accessible and to the point into one place If it takes much context or argument, a brief reference and a link is included. I promise you that the quotations will mean the same thing when you read them here than they mean if you read the larger context, and the larger context will be linked to the text. No tricks, no deception.

For additional citations, see The “Natural Born Citizenship” Clause (Updated) to whom this article is indebted for some of these citations. And for EVEN MORE citations see SCOTUS & “Natural Born Citizen” – A Compendium, Books on Google that define “Natural Born Citizen” and History of US citizenship laws.

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