I spent three hours last night reading obscure textbooks, popular guides to government, US Constitution legal commentary, collections of state constitutions and charters and debates held at the state level on ratification of the Constitution from the 17th and 18th centuries. I did not find one hint that “natural born citizen” meant anything more than “citizen at birth,” and further the idea of “citizen at birth” was expansive, including both those born in the territory, and those born of citizens anywhere.
What I found was very little to define “natural born citizen” and I am firmly convinced that everybody understood its intuitive and obvious meaning: citizen at birth. The Constitutional Convention mentions the addition of the phrase to Article II, but there was no debate noted, nor any explanation of the meaning there either. I found no record of any debate or definition on this item among records of state legislatures ratifying.
What I did find was that the definition of natural born citizenship when it did appear was expansive, including anyone born a citizen, including those born in the territory, those made natural born by law, and those born of citizens outside the territory. I found the Immigration Act of 1790 made (or affirmed) the children of citizens born overseas “natural born citizens”. And I found something else:
Charter of 1732 – Georgia
Also we do for ourselves and successors declare by these presents that all and every the persons which shall happen to be born within the said province and every of their children and posterity shall have and enjoy all liberties franchises and immunities of free denizens and natural born subjects The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the United States … By Benjamin Perley Poore, United States
When Georgia ratified the US Constitution, I believe that they would have interpreted “natural born citizen” in light of their own state Charter.
[For much more of what I found, see: The Great Mother of All Natural Born Citizen Quotation Pages.]
Although,of course, Georgia didn’t extend citizenship to slaves or the descendants of slaves! That’s why the 14th amendment was added to COTUS: to get around the Dred Scott case, which declared that Scott had no standing in federal court because he wasn’t, and could never be, a citizen.
“I am firmly convinced that everybody understood its intuitive and obvious meaning: citizen at birth.”
An all knowing mind-reader now, huh?
I guess this is the attitude that just strikes me as odd about this issue. Obama followers are always stating unequivicably how things are – unfortunately, it is only their OPINION that they are wanting to state as TRUTH and FACT.
Actually, according to Vattel, Obama might not even be considered a US Citizen due to his father’s citizenship – therefore, I guess I could state, I’m convinced that everyone is aware that Obama is not a NBC.
There – I said it is so, so it must be. 🙂
And another interesting thought came to mind – if “everybody understood its intuitive and obvious meaning: citizen at birth” why is a lawyer out there writing a paper on reasons to change POTUS requirements so that it no longer includes NBC?
I’ll admit I’ve not read the long-winded collection of words, but do you think perhaps she believes we should allow persons such as Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as POTUS potentials?
“according to Vattel”
was Vattel in on the constitution, was he an American, what does he have to do with it?
why is a lawyer out there writing a paper on reasons to change POTUS requirements so that it no longer includes NBC?
Are you referring to the suggestion that naturalized citizens ought to be able to become POTUS?
The reason as to why such a change would be needed is beyond despite: Everyone agrees naturalized citizens cannot become POTUS.
As to why someone might advocate that position, you would have to ask that author.
Sally, the reason I am so sure is because I have read hundreds of pages of commentary and history. I studied many hours, and I have read the opponents arguments. I came to a reasoned conclusion, and a firm one. The Flat Earth Society would argue that the shape of the earth is a matter of OPINION, but well argued opinions based on facts carry the day for me.
Your friend de Vattel believed in natural law, that all law was inherent in nature and superior to man-made laws. He says that natural born citizens are made by the laws of nature as he understood them, and not by Royal Decree or man-made constitutions. Any one a citizen by man-made law he considered “naturalized”. Go read de Vattel’s section on Naturalization that follows his chapter on Citizens and Natives. In the United States we make our laws, and we decide who is a natural born citizen and who is not. The problem with natural law is that it is difficult to tell the difference between natural law and prejudice. de Vattel was cited by the US Supreme Court in the Dred Scott v. Sanford to support the institution of slavery.
I have yet to see a single sentence from anyone from 18th century America seconding de Vattel’s idea that natural law determines citizenship, or that a natural born citizen needs two citizen parents. If the sole argument you have on the eligibility of the US President is not even from America, I think your argument is pretty poor.
If you are at all open minded, take a look at the facts I have collected from the historical narrative.
It is because in the United States, there is a process through which the people can change the Constitution. One is free to argue for constitutional change. And no, the suggested constitutional changes would not include Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
It might be the one about foreign-born adoptees.
Emmerich de Vattel was a Swiss jurist who wrote a book whose title is usually translated as “The Law of Nations”. In a section with the heading, “Regarding the Laws of Our Nation” (Switzerland) de Vattel explains ius sanguinis (citizenship by ancestry) which is the law of Switzerland. The Birfers argue that one is “natural born” only if one can claim citizenship through both ius sanguinis and ius soli (citizenship by place of birth), an opinion backed by nothing in the U.S. Constitution, statute law, or case law. Whether they are insincere or merely crazy is an open question. Some are, I think, plainly insincere and others are plainly crazy.
Even Vattel admits: “Finally, there are states, as, for instance, England, where the single circumstance of being born in the country naturalizes the children of a foreigner.”
If you are under the impression that simply being born “on the soil” or that the soil and one citizen parent is sufficient to grant natural born American citizenship then you have not considered the very real world implications of such lazy thinking. Imagine, if you will, for a moment( and these are merely examples of a more obvious nature–mind you)—- former KGB boss Vladimir Putin, South Korea’s resident madman, Kim Jong-il, legendary tyrants of days gone by such as Adolph Hitler & Stalin and more contemporary buffoons like Saddam & Ahmadinejad or even Mother Teresa , for that matter, needing to do nothing more than impregnate or becoming pregnant by an American citizen then insure that the birth take place on U.S. soil –meet the age & residency requirement–et viola
What have we wrought???!!!
According to the flawed logic of those obscurantists seeking to pervert the Framers/Founders intent– Well, we have one newly minted,brand spanking new, perfectly acceptable, legally eligible candidate for this nations highest office and command of its armed forces.
your both insincere or mad or both
and btw we went to war with GB over their notion of natural born subject
read post re: real world implications and why no matter how hard you prejudiced , deeply disingenuous folk try the truth exposes your sickness
So, Kim Jong Il is going to fly to the United States, impregnate a woman, have her give birth to a child on US soil to become a natural born citizen, wait 35 years for the child to become eligible to run for President, while having the child live for 14 years in the United States, so that he can then spend the $500 million it now takes to win the Presidency (what will it cost in 35 years?), in the hopes of having a President under his control?
That doesn’t even figure in the cost and expense of having the child run for lesser offices in order to gain credibility as a Presidential candidate. Even Obama ran for Senator first.
And, could a child of Kim Jong Il be elected President? Wouldn’t the voters say, “Hey, you’re the son of Kim Jong Il, I don’t think I’ll vote for you?” At which point it becomes necessary for Kim to pay more money to hide the fact that he’s the father, and now he might as well just pay to create two US citizen parents, so the question doesn’t even come up! And if he’s going to invest 35+ years and $500 million in today’s dollars in the project, wouldn’t be quicker and cheaper just to buy off a President?
Are you serious about this theory, or is this a joke?
Despite going to war with GB over natural born subject, there’s no indication in any of our Founders’ writings that suggests they took any issue with the “natural born” part of the equation.
They had an issue with the permanent allegiance part.
You’d think they would have mentioned it, if they thought it was important!
Not to mention the fact that we even accord Kim Jong Il and his family Diplomatic Immunity, which may mean that this may not even work…
No, it is not sufficient. However, being born on the soil, and subject to our jurisdiction is.
As long as you’re born on the soil, and not the child of an ambassador (or anybody else we grant diplomatic immunity to), and not the child of a foreign invading army in occupied territory, then yes, you are a Natural Born Citizen.
One could turn this argument around and say the same thing:
By your standard, Robert Hanssen, Aldrich Ames, Jonathan Pollard, etc. would be perfectly acceptable candidates for the presidency. They’re all over 35, resident in the U.S. for 14 years (Pollard and Ames have spent that long in U.S. prisons), and born in the U.S. to two U.S. citizen parents.
As usual, liberals cannot use logic.
Nulli, you never cease to amze me, Mr. not a liberal.
As usual, conservatives allow crazy conspiracy theories to trump their ability to think logically about an issue.
Heavy, do YOU think a foreign country is going to have a baby on US soil in the hopes that 35 years later it will run for and win the Presidency?
Do you also believe you were abducted by aliens?
As usual Heavy has self identified himself as a liberal.
Hilarious how our resident ‘light weight’ still wants to play with the grownups.
Greg, pay attention. First of all, COUNTRIES can’t have babies. Maybe you should have paid more attention in health class. Good thing is we won’t have to deal with any of YOUR offspring.
Secondly, you miss the WHOLE point of what the man is saying. Yet, you shoot off your mouth as though you have a clue. THAT is what liberals do.
NBC, I see they have given you some time off for good behavior. Where are your FACTS today?
Seems to me that his point is that Kim Jong Il could come here and “do nothing more than impregnate or becoming pregnant by an American citizen then insure that the birth take place on U.S. soil –meet the age & residency requirement–et viola” a Presidential candidate that would be beholden to North Korea.
Is that not his point? What do you think his point is?
I’m pointing out that that’s not a realistic fear since it presumes a moronically stupid set of facts.
Do you think the Founders were motivated by moronically stupid fantasies of foreign takeover?
Apparently, the Founders are simultaneously incredibly wise and smart (and well read) but so stupid they didn’t write down that they were changing the words “natural born” to mean something totally different and also motivated by moronically stupid conspiracy fantasies!
As expected Heavy would not recognize facts when they would hit him. Which explains why he has failed to present any relevant facts to support his case.
Which case would that be, oh great one?
Actually, it was naturalized subjects (and our inability to make more) that were cited in the grievances against King George.
How kind of you to say so.
I find it ironic that people are claiming that their jus sanguinis ideas of citizenship are going to function as some guarantee of loyalty to the U.S. I was merely pointing out one of the flaws of this concept.
To a certain extent, it’s a legitimate concern, since it’s rooted in how much a constituency can trust its representatives. However, stoking xenophobic fears of a foreign takeover by non-Anglos with funny African names is not the best way to approach such questions.
P.S. My last name is not “Not a Liberal”. Feel free to continue addressing me by my nickname, however.
An argument could be made that one of the causes of the War of 1812 was Great Britain’s refusal to recognize the right of Americans to renounce their status as natural born subjects.
There were arguments among the Founders about whether allegiance was a permanent fixture. You can see this, for example, in Tucker’s commentaries on Blackstone (1803). He disagrees with Blackstone’s view of expatriation. (However, he explicitly agrees with Blackstone’s conception of natural born.)
” A very respectable political writer makes the following pertinent remarks upon this subject. ‘Prior to the adoption of the constitution, the people inhabiting the different states might be divided into two classes: natural born citizens, or those born within the state, and aliens, or such as were born out of it.'”
But, (back to the war) as the judge points out in Lynch v. Clarke, in the run up to the war of 1812, when we complained about the seizing of Americans to be impressed into the British Navy, no one inquired about their parents’ citizenship.
Nulli, xenophobic fears. Ah yes, another liberal talking point. What a creative way of calling people RACIST. Glad you’re NOT one of those!
Please DO tell us how we approach these questions.
Greg, I really lke how YOU assert “Moronic” and then assume that everyone else agrees. Very slick! But then, you are a liberal and slime is your middle name.
You clearly cannot think further than the end of your nose. Good luck in 2010!
Xenophobia means fear of that which is strange or foreign.
Tom’s saying that the NBC clause was put in there to prevent a foreigner from having a baby, letting it grow to age 35 while living here 14 years and becoming president.
How is that not xenophobia.
I don’t assume everyone agrees that it’s a moronic fantasy.
It is, however, a moronic fantasy.
What else to call the idea that a foreign leader will come to the US, have a child here, wait 35 years for that child to become eligible, on the off-chance that said child will win the Presidency and still be loyal primarily to his father’s country?
Tell me, how likely is that scenario? Explain to me how it is reasonable to fear that scenario?
I’m trying to think past my nose, Heavy, I’m trying to think 35+ years down the road. Help me out here.
Which is to say that it’s a point raised which doesn’t fit your received view of what counts as conservatism (and admittedly it doesn’t fit), so you’re going to call it “liberal” because your binary “liberal vs. conservative” view of politics.
Actually, it’s a way of saying that many birther arguments surrounding the notion of natural-born citizen play on a fear of foreignness. But if the white hood fits….
So am I. I’m not a liberal because, after I started moving away from conservatism, I noticed that liberals had a truckload of unexamined issues on the subjects I cared strongly about: poverty and class privilege, racism, sexism, homophobia, corporate power, American empire, etc. I think the tepid-to-negative response of The Nation to both the Civil Rights movement and Reconstruction-era calls for Black equality demonstrates the problem very well. Mother Jones (how the real Mother Jones must be spinning in her grave!) demonstrates the same issues, except in a cruder, hectoring, and demagogic way.
The Nation acts like the propaganda arm for the U.S. State Department, and Mother Jones behaves as if it were a branch of the FBI’s COINTELPRO.
On a purely personal and anecdotal level, I’ve been banned from four “A-list” liberal blogs, and three of these bans were pursuant to discussions of race. The fourth came when I was banned from DailyKos for criticizing Israel’s second invasion of Lebanon.
I’d approach it from the perspective of how U.S. politicians perpetuate authoritarianism and corporate dominance of society at home and abroad. You can see this in how much time they expend crafting legislation like the Ebenezer Scrooge Protection Act of 2005 (otherwise known as the bankruptcy bill) vs. how much time they spend ensuring that levels of toxic particulates in the air and water in poor neighborhoods are in compliance with EPA regulations or examining how the federally-mandated Electronic Benefits Transfer card for welfare recipients can cost a poor person hundreds each year in transaction fees. One can also analyze the effect of corporate interests on foreign policy (e.g. U.S.-backed coups in Guatemala, Iran, Chile, Indonesia, etc.).
It’s not just limited to U.S. politicians either. The ‘socialist’ nations of Western Europe, like Germany, show how social democracy can be exploited for the benefit of business interests.
And contrary to some of examples of far-right xenophobia, corporate interests does not necessarily equate to foreign interests.
Greg, you REALLY need to pay attention! You have no clue what you are talking about. Kindly follow along or just watch.
Nulli, I see that you do have some issues. That is not a cut, just a restatement from you.
You also seem to be confused about what the two movements represent. You seem to give liberals credit for caring about the downtrooden and oppressed. This could not be further from the truth. It is CONSERVATIVES who truly take care of the less fortunate. This is done for the good of the nation and for moral resons. It is liberals who PRETEND to care about the oppressed. This is done for votes and to preserve power. NOTHING else.
If you really think this, then you’re hugely confused about what I wrote.
And if you think this, then you’re hugely confused about reality.
Once upon a time, conservatives did care about the poor, but those conservatives lost the argument with a later group of self-styled conservatives who were actually closer to classical liberals. The conservatives two hundred years ago were deeply suspicious of capitalism, strongly in favor of supporting the poor (as a sort of noblesse oblige), and opposed to what might be called the “contract model” of social relationships. They gradually lost the argument to classical liberals with Malthusian/Spencerian fantasies of letting the poor snuff it for the good of society.
Nowadays, the people who are held up as paragons of conservatism, like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, were advocates for unrestrained capitalism and did their damnedest to demolish every social program they could get their hands on.
Again, you are attempting to reduce my politics to your facile and false liberal vs. conservative binary, and hilariously misreading what I write in the process.
I am not now a conservative. I abandoned conservatism, in part, because I realized that it wasn’t a good fit for my system of ethics. (I was also deeply concerned about the way in which facts suddenly became a partisan issue, as typified by the birthers.)
Now, read this and try to comprehend: just because I abandoned conservatism does not mean that I am now a liberal. In fact, I skipped liberalism wholesale and became a social democrat. I was able to maintain that position for a while until I saw what a social democracy (Germany) looked like up close, and I did not like what I saw.
After which, I gradually shifted to my present politics, which is anarchist. I am not a liberal because I believe in neither capitalism nor government, as they do, and as the conservatives do. American conservatives and liberals quibble about the proper limits of state authority, but they both agree on the underlying concept, and they’re both capitalist ideologies.
If you’re thinking about presenting me with some, frankly dubious, articles showing that self-identified conservatives donate more to charity than self-identified liberals, then I’d prefer if you’d leave it out.
What I am addressing is the institutional policies and philosophies of conservatives and liberals. For better or worse, this has come to be identified in the U.S. with the Republicans and Democrats, respectively. And neither party can be said to give a damn about the poor, which is why I deliberately chose one Bush-era illustration and one Clinton-era illustration. The 2005 bankruptcy bill and the Clinton-era welfare reform (which introduced EBT cards) are both prime examples of assaults on America’s poor. The inaction over the poor environmental quality in low SES neighborhoods is common to all administrations.
Now, I am sure that there are individually charitable conservatives, just as there are individually charitable liberals. But neither of that makes a difference if they’re both committed to parties which will seek to roll back any semblance of a social safety net whenever they get the chance.
(And in recent news, Obama’s USDA wants to force Philadelphia to end a school breakfast and lunch program for poor students—originally an edict coming from the Bush Administration. And America’s permanent government chugs on.)