The linguistic and logical aspects of the term “Natural Born Citizen”
Recently, I was advised by a fellow Texan, who supported an ineligible candidate for POTUS, that:
“In order for your argument to have any merit at all, you must provide evidence that the authors of the Constitution intended that there be some class of persons who are born a citizen but are not natural born citizens. You could do that from their writing or from legal sources at the time, but you must prove that precise point, or you might as well be clucking like a chicken.”
I wish to invite them and all other supporters of ineligible candidates to consider that this entire discussion boils down to linguistics and logic. Fortunately, both my parents were trained in linguistics and passed some of that knowledge on to me by traipsing our family all around the world. I proceeded to add to that by taking a handful of linguistics courses while in college and studying a number of foreign languages over the years, including English.
First, let us begin with the logic which is informed by the linguistics of the English language and review the language in the Constitution that is at the center of this controversy. To have a complete understanding, we need to compare the differences between the requirements for President/Vice President and the requirements for the other Federal offices.
1) Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states that:
“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”
2) Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution states that:
“No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”
3) Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution states that:
“No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.”
An interesting point of fact, is that there is nothing in the Constitution regarding the citizenship of our Federal Judges, including those who sit on the Supreme Court. Consequently, we have had a number of Justices on the Supreme Court who were in fact born outside the United States, the most recent being Felix Frankfurter, who was born in Vienna, Austria and served as a Justice from 1939 until 1962.
Returning to the topic of discussion, if the Founding Fathers had meant for there to be only ONE class of citizen, then they would have only ever referred to citizens as such and no other terms would have ever been in use. Under this scenario, Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution would have simply read:
No person except a citizen shall be eligible to the office of the President.
In actuality, the Founding Fathers were referring to a fact of birth, not a legal status. As the outstanding researcher, who discovered that President Chester A. Arthur had not been a natural-born citizen, Leo Donofrio, Esq. once said, “it’s the difference between a fact and a legal status.”
Furthermore, if there was only one type of citizen and a natural-born citizen didn’t even exist, then the grandfather clause would have also been unnecessary. This is confirmed by the Supreme Court in Marbury v. Madison, which states:
“It cannot be presumed that any clause in the Constitution is intended to be without effect, and therefore such construction is inadmissible unless the words require it.”
All of the Founding Fathers were citizens of the United States by virtue of the Declaration of Independence and having survived the trials and tribulations of the Revolutionary War. Additionally, all of the Founding Fathers had lived on the American continent for quite a while, in some cases 50–60 years, depending upon their age at the time of the Constitution. However, because the Constitution was ratified just 12 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, none of them had even been a “Citizen” for the proposed 14 year requirement to be President, thus the reference is to “resident”.
You will notice the difference between the requirements for the Presidency and those of the Senators and Representatives with regard to length of time as a citizen or resident. In the latter cases, they are required to have been “a Citizen of the United States” for Nine (9) years and Seven (7) years, respectively, while the President is only required to be “a Resident within the United States” for Fourteen (14) years.
If “natural-born citizen” and citizen were completely the same in meaning, then the residency requirement for President would have undermined the effort to make it more difficult to become President in the first place.
Additionally, if in fact they felt that any old citizen could be President, then a British subject stepping off the boat in 1788, could have sought citizenship and run for the Presidency or Vice-Presidency after reaching the age of 35 and having fulfilled the simple requirement of 14 years residency.
By it’s very existence, the grandfather clause illustrates that the Founding Fathers did NOT in fact presume to be anything other than natural-born British subjects themselves, who changed their own citizenship upon signing the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers knew that none of them could be natural-born citizens of the United States and that none of them had even been a Citizen for more than 12 years, thus the 14 year requirement was made of Residency, not Citizenship.
It follows that because of the difference between Citizen and Natural-born Citizen, our nation would need to wait for an entire generation, born after the Declaration of Independence, to grow up to adulthood before we would see our first natural-born citizen elected President. Everyone prior to that point, would only qualify via the Grandfather clause, which specifically states that one must be a citizen, “at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution”.
Logic will not allow us to recognize the Grandfather clause as anything other than a work-around until our nation would finally be old enough to even have natural-born citizens of the appropriate age to run for President.
Here is an excellent reference that gives the status of each of the Presidents who fell under the Grandfather clause: http://www.scribd.com/doc/48856102/All-U-S-Presidents-Eligibility-Grandfather-Clause-Natural-Born-Citizen-Clause-or-Seated-by-Fraud
See also: http://www.scribd.com/doc/48894388/The-Citizenship-Status-of-Our-44-Presidents
In his article, Two Minute Warning: Vattel Decoded, Mr. Donofrio, Esq. states:
“Whether you are a natural born citizen is a fact of nature which can’t be waived or renounced, but your actual legal citizenship can be renounced. The difference is subtle, but so very important. “Natural born citizen” is not a different form of “citizenship”. It is a manner of acquiring citizenship. And while natural born citizens may end their legal tie to the country by renouncing citizenship, they will always have been naturally born into that nation as a citizen.”
In addition to Mr. Donofrio’s statement, it should be additionally noted that every government on earth has the authority to revoke a person’s citizenship status for a number of reasons, most especially treason. However, the facts surrounding one’s birth cannot be revoked by any government on earth. Thus a natural-born citizen could find himself in exile and his citizenship and passport revoked, but that will never change the fact that he was born in a country of two citizen parents and had natural-born citizenship status at the time of his birth.
Our Founding Fathers utilized a unique term that only applied to the candidates for the highest offices in the new United States of America, which means that they felt these two offices were so important that they required a special type of citizen. In fact, this special type of citizen wouldn’t need to be required for any other office of our government because the President and Vice President were that important.
Keep in mind, there were some who didn’t even want there to be a single executive in charge of the nation because that would smack of the English royalty and nobility, which the Founding Fathers were desperately trying to avoid.
With this possibility weighing on our Founding Fathers, they chose to utilize a unique term “natural-born citizen” for the Presidency and Vice Presidency that wouldn’t apply to ANY other elected officials in the entire nation. Which leads us to a further use of linguistics, as in what EXACTLY is meant by this term?
To understand this we need to understand which sources throughout history actually used the EXACT term “natural-born citizen”.
To the best of my knowledge only ONE source has ever used this exact turn of phrase, natural-born citizen, and that was Vattel in his “Law of Nations”:
“The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.”
There are those who would rather reference Blackstone’s more liberal interpretations but Blackstone’s Commentaries use the term “natural born subject” and there is a tremendous difference linguistically.
There is a very specific reason this linguistic difference is so important and fortunately we can reference a Founding Father on exactly why this difference exists. David Ramsay (April 2, 1749 — May 8, 1815) was an American physician, public official, and historian from Charleston, South Carolina. He was one of the first major historians of the American Revolution. During the Revolution he served in the South Carolina legislature until he was captured by the British. After his release he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1782–1783 and again in 1785–1786. Afterwards he served in the state House and Senate until retiring from public service. (Wikipedia)
In 1789, after the Constitution was ratified and George Washington was elected our first President, Ramsay wrote an essay titled “A Dissertation on the Manners of Acquiring the Character and Privileges of a Citizen”. This essay can be found through Mario Puzo’s excellent post from July 4th, 2015.
Because Ramsay states the linguistic difference between citizen and subject so eloquently and succinctly, here it is verbatim:
“The “United States” are a new nation, or political society, formed at first by the declaration of independence, out of those “British subjects” in “America,” who were thrown out of royal protection by act of parliament, passed in “December,” 1775.
“A citizen of the “United States,” means a member of this new nation. The principle of government being radically changed by the revolution, the political character of the people was also changed from subjects to citizens.
“The difference is immense. Subject is derived from the latin word, “sub” and “jacio,” and means one who is “under” the power of another; but a citizen is a “unit” of a mass of free people, who, collectively, possess sovereignty.
“Subjects look up to a master, but citizens are so far equal, that none have hereditary rights superior to others. Each citizen of a free state contains, within himself, by nature and the constitution, as much of the common sovereignty as another. In the eye of reason and philosophy, the political condition of citizens is more exalted than that of noblemen. Dukes and earls are the creatures of kings, and may be made by them at pleasure; but citizens possess in their own right original sovereignty.” (emphasis in the original).
In this sense, one cannot hope to find a clearer definition of “natural-born citizen” than Vattel’s. In fact, because Blackstone’s definition is colored by the perspective of living under the power of a monarch, he only ever used the phrase “natural-born subject”.
Our Founding Fathers well knew that a monarch’s power was subject to ever-changing whims and thus, in the light of Mr. Ramsay’s statement, believed that power to be untrustworthy!
To go a step further in the separating of the definitions of “citizen” and “subject”, please refer to the Merriam-Webster full online definition for the word subject which states in the very first part:
1 : one that is placed under authority or control: as
a : vassal
b (1) : one subject to a monarch and governed by the monarch’s law
The definition in 1a is by far the most succinct and to the point. A subject is a vassal and in looking at the definition of “vassal”, we see:
1 : a person under the protection of a feudal lord to whom he has vowed homage and fealty : a feudal tenant
2 : one in a subservient or subordinate position
All of this leaves us with no choice but to admit that the Founding Fathers were seeking a separate and distinct definition of citizen that was more uniquely qualified than that required by any other position that could ever be a part of our nation’s government. In this manner, they sought to protect our nation from any and all possible usurpers, as well as protect us from ourselves by enshrining such protections in the highest law of the land. Since that time, we have NEVER had occasion to amend the Constitution to change this requirement for the offices of the President and Vice President, so there can be no mistaking the original intent of our Founders.
Now we come to the question: What in fact was Vattel’s definition for a natural-born citizen?
To be honest, anything I could say on the matter would simply be a rehashing of what others have stated before me, including the reference above to Mr. Donofrio, Esq.’s article: “Two Minute Warning: Vattel Decoded”
The original article no longer exists on Donofrio’s archived Natural Born Citizen blog that I can find, but fortunately it was archived for posterity via the link provided. All you’ll need to do is scroll down a little ways, or go ahead and read it all. It’s quite fascinating.
However, since you have trusted me enough to read this far, I will share a number of the key details. Hopefully, you will find it enlightening, but rest assured that I’m not the first or the last to identify this definition.
In Vattel’s book, Law of Nations, the XIX Chapter is where citizenship is discussed as it relates to our “Native Country, and Several Things that Relate to It”. Section 212 is the relevant text and is appropriately titled: Citizens and natives.
Honestly, the title says it all. There are Citizens and then there are Natives and each has it’s own definition. The first two sentences are the respective definitions, while the rest of the section discusses the legalities of citizenship.
In order to assist with our understanding of the definitions, I’ve taken the liberty of dividing the paragraph into sections to reflect the two definitions, followed by the legalities:
§ 212. Citizens and natives.
“The citizens are the members of the civil society; bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority, they equally participate in its advantages.
“The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.
“As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights. The society is supposed to desire this, in consequence of what it owes to its own preservation; and it is presumed, as matter of course, that each citizen, on entering into society, reserves to his children the right of becoming members of it. The country of the fathers is therefore that of the children; and these become true citizens merely by their tacit consent. We shall soon see whether, on their coming to the years of discretion, they may renounce their right, and what they owe to the society in which they were born. I say, that, in order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country.”
If you notice, Vattel references in the definition for citizen, that citizens participate equally in civil society’s advantages by virtue of being bound to this society and subject to it’s authority.
For a definition to be true, it’s reverse must also hold true.
In this instance, if a person changes citizenship, then said person is no longer subject to the authority of the previous civil society or able to participate in it’s advantages. Instead, they are bound to a new civil society, subject to it’s authority and participating in it’s advantages.
Now let us turn to the phrase “natural-born citizens” and dissect Vattel’s sentence:
“The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.”
Firstly, Vattel starts with the more commonly utilized word “natives” and immediately tells us that the term “natural-born citizens” is identical. Remember, the heading for this section is “Citizens and natives”, so we already know that we are dealing with two separate categories of residents within a nation who are loyal to said nation and are NOT foreigners, aliens or non-citizens, in any way, shape or form.
Keep in mind, that it was impossible in the 18th Century to hold “dual” citizenship, as most Kings and Emperors wouldn’t take kindly to having anything less than a citizen’s full devotion! By using the term “natives”, Vattel is telling us that there is something special about this type of person that makes them more than just an average citizen.
These are citizens without any form or possibility of divided loyalty, as we’ll get to in a moment.
Furthermore, by providing a unique turn of phrase, Vattel is trying to quantify in a new manner what makes this category of citizenship different. To do so Vattel must provide further definition, which is what follows the commas. Before we do so, let’s re-write the sentence into two equal statements that mean the same thing:
1. The natives are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.
2. The natural-born citizens are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.
Grammatically and linguistically, these two statements are completely equal based upon the sentence structure provided by Vattel.
The definition itself is further split into two sections divided by a comma:
1. “those born in the country”
2. “of parents who are citizens”
Remember the verb in the sentence is “are”, which is an affirmative verb meaning that everything that follows is required. Since there are no additional qualifiers, both of the following parts of the definition are required in order to qualify as a “native” or “natural-born citizen”.
In other words, we are NOT allowed to select which part of the sentence we like and ignore the other parts. To complete the process, let’s examine both sections for any qualifiers or exceptions.
1. “those born in the country”
Vattel wrote this in 1758, so it was NOT written specifically for the United States but rather for anyone seeking to understand the issues of citizenship and national rights and responsibilities, in the context of natural law.
With that in mind, “the country” means ANY country that has citizens. In other words, anyone born in a country would qualify to be a “native” or “natural-born citizen”, as long as they meet ALL of the rest of the qualifiers.
Vattel goes on to talk about those born on the seas or abroad in another country to ambassadors or the military and how that affects their citizenship in subsequent sections, but in this section and this definition, a “native” or “natural-born citizen” is defined as one who is “born in the country”.
The word “in” is very specific and doesn’t allow for someone born anywhere but inside the borders and boundaries of a particular country and it’s territories. Vattel doesn’t use the words “near” or “close by”, so there can be no mistaking the fact that those born outside of a country’s borders may still be citizens at birth but they will NEVER qualify as a “native” or “natural-born citizen”.
Remember, we are talking about a fact, not a legal status that can be changed at the whim of any man, woman or government on earth. Once you are born, the circumstances surrounding your birth are immutable and unchanging. You may renounce your citizenship and live wherever you wish, but you will never be able to change how, where or when you were born.
2. “of parents who are citizens”
Once again we run into the verb “are”, which means that there can be no exceptions to the statement being made. It is a fact, that is beyond dispute and without ambiguity.
Additionally, Vattel uses the plural for both “parents” and “citizens”, which means that BOTH parents MUST be citizens.
This is particularly fascinating because at the time Vattel wrote this women in most countries did not have separate citizenship from their husbands. In fact, that didn’t change in the United States until almost 150 years after the Constitution was written.
However, unlike in later sections while talking about citizenship and the various legalities that affect it, Vattel did not choose to only state that one must have a citizen father to be a “native” or “natural-born citizen”. Instead he said parents.
Meaning that in the case of bastard children, depending upon the law in their country of birth, they could be just as much a “native” or “natural-born citizen” as anyone else whose parents were in fact married at the time of their birth.
If Vattel had simply meant that only the father could transmit “native” or “natural-born citizen” status, he would have written the phrase as “of a father who is a citizen”, but that isn’t what he wrote. In this manner, we have identified another difference between Vattel and Blackstone, because Blackstone only makes reference to the father and not the parents.
This means that in our modern world, in which liberated women have their own citizenship, separate from their husband’s citizenship, we still have an operative sentence that still applies to the situation and doesn’t need to be adjusted in any way. All that is required is that both husband and wife have the same citizenship on the day the child is born, nothing else is required.
An extreme example would be a woman who marries a husband from another country and they initially have different citizenship, but the day before their child is born, her citizenship is officially changed by the government to match her husbands. In this case, while the parents had different citizenship their entire lives up until that day, they have the same citizenship on the only day that matters for the child, the day of his birth.
On this point, we can thank Mr. Leo Donofrio, Esq., whom I quoted earlier, for being the legal and historical researcher who discovered that President Chester A. Arthur failed to meet the “natural-born citizen” qualification because President Arthur’s father failed to be naturalized as an American citizen until 14 years after Chester’s birth. It’s a fascinating story of historical sleuthing made especially challenging because President Arthur had almost all of his official papers burnt the day before he died.
No other President has ever gone to such lengths to hide his background and personal information than Chester A. Arthur. Considering he was President when a major citizenship decision was considered by the Supreme Court, Minor v. Happersett, one would think that President Arthur felt he had something to hide in order to protect his legacy. In reality, President Arthur nearly succeeded since it took nearly 120 years before Mr. Denofrio was able to crack the case.
Before we can completely move on, let us consider whether anyone else at the time of the founding of our nation confirmed Vattel’s definition as it specifically relates to the United States Constitution. Fortunately, we’ve already introduced Mr. David Ramsay’s fascinating essay titled “A Dissertation on the Manners of Acquiring the Character and Privileges of a Citizen” and even though Mr. Ramsay, doesn’t use the exact term “natural-born citizen”, he did give an almost identical definition:
“The citizenship of no man could be previous to the declaration of independence, and, as a natural right, belongs to none but those who have been born of citizens since the 4th of ‘July,’ 1776. . . . From the premises already established, it may be farther inferred, that citizenship, from inheritance, belong to none but the children of those ‘Americans,’ who, having survived the declaration of independence, acquired that adventitious character in their own right, and transmitted it to their offspring.” (emphasis in the original)
Let us restate the relevant part into two sentences, so that it is easier to understand:
1) No man could hold citizenship previous to the Declaration of Independence.
2) Citizenship as a natural right belongs only to those who have been born of citizens since July 4th, 1776.
The first reason is simple enough, prior to the Declaration of Independence everyone was still a British subject and loyal to the crown, thus there was no such thing as American citizenship, only British citizenship.
The second reason sounds eerily similar to Vattel’s definition, with the simple caveat that it only applies to those born after Independence Day, as there was no separate nation prior to that date. Even though Ramsay doesn’t use Vattel’s exact definition, he does include the very specific phrase “those who have been born of citizens”.
Once again we run into the plural form of citizens, not the singular.
Essentially, Ramsay is quoting Vattel without including the additional word parents. I would go so far as to say that in his mind the word parents is grammatically understood and assumed, because in order to be “born of citizens”, a person must have parents plural. As far as this fact is concerned, all other aspects of the parental situation is immaterial once the child is born.
Additionally, Ramsay points out that he is specifically referencing those who would claim “citizenship as a natural right”. Well we already know that Vattel separated regular citizenship from those who were natives and had a natural-born citizenship, thus in essence Ramsay is simply restating Vattel and applying it to only those Americans who were born after July 4th, 1776.
For clarity sake, let’s further re-state the relevant part of Ramsay’s sentence and see if the grammar and logic becomes easier to understand:
2) A natural right to Citizenship belongs only to those who have been born of citizens since July 4th, 1776.
Additionally, although earlier we dismissed Blackstone’s Commentaries as being different due to the use of the word subject, as in “natural born subject” and not citizen. If we are to be complete and whole with this discussion we need to compare Blackstone to Vattel and Ramsay for confirmation.
In doing so, I have referenced George Tucker’s edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries, first printed in Philadelphia in 1803 and published online for all to reference by Jon Roland beginning in 1997. This edition can be found and searched here: http://www.constitution.org/tb/tb-0000.htm
The relevant passage from Blackstone’s Commentaries is eerily similar to Vattel’s:
“The first and most obvious division of the people is into aliens and natural-born subjects. Natural-born subjects are such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England, that is, within the ligeance, or as it is generally called, the allegiance of the king; and aliens, such as are born out of it.”
However, Blackstone goes on to add an additional passage that most people completely overlook:
“A denizen is an alien born, but who has obtained ex donatione regis letters patent to make him an English subject: a high and incommunicable branch of the royal prerogative. A denizen is in a kind of middle state between an alien, and natural-born subject, and partakes of both of them.”
Before proceeding, let us return to Blackstone’s first definition:
“The first and most obvious division of the people is into aliens and natural-born subjects.”
IF this is to be the first division of the people as Blackstone states, then logic dictates that there will be more and that these are not the only two legal statuses one might have. Hold on to that thought, because we’ll return to it below.
In the very next sentence, Blackstone provides his definition of “natural-born subject” as:
“Natural-born subjects are such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England, that is, within the ligeance, or as it is generally called, the allegiance of the king; and aliens, such as are born out of it.”
This is where Blackstone and Vattel seemingly differ but a close examination finds otherwise.
First, Blackstone states that “Natural-born subjects are such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England”. In other words, just as Vattel states that to be a “natural-born” citizen, one must have been born “in country”; Blackstone states that subjects are, “born within the dominions of the crown of England”.
Both statements are declarative and allow for no exceptions.
For American purposes, we could change Blackstone’s statement as follows and maintain his meaning:
“Natural-born citizens are born within the territory of the United States”
Second, so far we’ve only looked at the first half of Blackstone’s definition, so now let us review the second half, which states: “that is, within the ligeance, or as it is generally called, the allegiance of the king;”
This is the part where Blackstone differs from Vattel, because Blackstone is operating from the perspective of one who is showing deference to a feudal lord or majesty; whereas Vattel and the Founding Fathers are approaching this from a status of equal rights between citizens.
However, there is room for similarity when one considers that typically a child follows the allegiance of his parents, at least until he is old enough to make his own contracts and decisions.
Taking this thought further, we could state that it is impossible for a new-born child to be in complete allegiance to their government unless their parents are also in allegiance to the same. This is why most nations that follow English common law provide citizenship to a new-born child who is born upon their shores to non-citizens, with the proviso that upon their age of majority the child makes a declarative effort to maintain their citizenship.
This is especially the case when the child may not have lived in the country of their birth for their entire lives.
Let us now consider the definition of “denizen” by Blackstone that was referenced earlier. In returning to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, we find the definition for “denizen” as follows:
1: inhabitant <denizens of the forest>
2: a person admitted to residence in a foreign country; especially : an alien admitted to rights of citizenship
On this point, George Tucker the editor of the referenced edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries, includes a note where he admits that post-Constitution America:
“Since the adoption of the constitution of the United States, I have been led to consider aliens admitted to take the oath of fidelity to a particular state, or otherwise admitted to the rights of citizenship in any particular state, since that period, as a species of denizens; whereby they acquire a right to hold lands, and perhaps to hold offices, under the state thus admitting them; yet not being naturalized pursuant to the directions of the laws of the United States, they cannot be regarded as completely citizens of the United States, until they have complied with the requisitions of the acts of establishing an uniform rule of naturalization.”
Both Blackstone and Tucker are in fact referencing something that would later come to describe the naturalization process of the United States. Tucker continues to include further references to all of the Naturalization Acts of 1790, 1795, 1798 and 1802 and describe the changes and differences therein.
In another note on the matter Tucker states:
“Persons naturalized according to these acts, are entitled to all the rights of natural born citizens, except, first, that they cannot be elected as representatives in congress until seven years, thereafter. Secondly, nor can they be elected senators of the United States, until nine years thereafter. Thirdly, they are forever incapable of being chosen to the office of president of the United States. Persons naturalized before the adoption of the constitution, it is presumed, have all the capacities of natural born citizens.”
In this day and age, most people do not wish to acknowledge that Blackstone allowed for anything other than simply “aliens” and “natural-born subjects”, but even back in the 18th century the legalities of immigration were forcing new and additional definitions to describe the status of the people.
Keep in mind that while some would have us believe that if you follow Natural law, that you should discard Common law and others believe the opposite. In fact, Common law was based upon Natural law and should be considered a subset there of.
This statement can be made in complete confidence because Natural law is considered to the laws of nature and nature’s God and thus come from time immemorial. English Common law is just that, it’s English and represents a codification of the history of law in England or Great Britain, depending upon how you look at it, that developed over a period of nearly a thousand years.
Finally, there are apparently some people who continue to reference the Naturalization Act of 1790 and claim that it somehow imparts “natural-born citizen” status as well. Even though George Tucker who was quoted earlier, addresses this quite plainly, we will provide several problems with that theory, all of which render the argument fraudulent.
First, as we have throughout this article we will consider the linguistic aspect of the relevant Act, which states:
“And the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural-born citizens: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States; Provided also, That no person heretofore proscribed by any state, shall be admitted a citizen as aforesaid, except by an act of legislature of the state in which such person was proscribed.”
The relevant section can be simplified as follows:
“Children of citizens, born beyond the seas (overseas) or outside the United States, shall be considered as natural-born citizens.”
To determine whether this has any bearing whatsoever, we only need to consider that it says “shall be considered as”, which means that it is a purely legal definition of simple citizenship and has NO bearing on the facts of one’s birth which is what is required for true natural-born citizenship.
If the authors of this statute had desired to impart full and complete “natural-born” status upon these children, they would have needed to drop the two words “considered as”. The inclusion of those two words means that these children were NOT in fact “natural-born citizens” in the eyes of the government but were to be treated as if they had the same rights and protections as an actual “natural-born citizen” would have.
Second and more importantly, in 1795 James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and a Congressman at the time, wrote a new Naturalization Act that was to completely repeal and replace the Act of 1790. In doing so, he deleted the words “natural-born citizen”, so that our nation returned to a state in which only Article II of the Constitution has the term “natural-born citizen” and that phrase has never returned to any Act of Congress since that time.
To repeal and replace means that it is as if the previous Act never existed. Thus when the Act of 1795 was replaced by the Act of 1798, some of the provisions of the law obviously changed, but the term “natural-born citizen” never returned after Mr. Madison deleted it from the text in 1795.
Finally, in Tucker’s previously mentioned comment regarding all of these Naturalization Acts, never once does he mention that these Acts bestow true and complete “natural-born citizen” status upon anyone who qualifies. In fact, here is the appropriate quote again:
“Thirdly, they are forever incapable of being chosen to the office of president of the United States. Persons naturalized before the adoption of the constitution, it is presumed, have all the capacities of natural born citizens.”
If you notice, the second sentence completely explains the theory behind the previously discussed Grandfather clause that allowed our Founding Fathers themselves to be President having been previously subjects of the Crown of England.
Without that clause it would have been impossible for any of the Founding Fathers to be President.
Keep in mind that the Act of 1790 was rewritten by the Father of the Constitution and repealed by the signature of the first President of the United States, over 220 years ago. Can there really be any claim that our Founding Fathers didn’t actually understand what was in the Constitution? No, they absolutely knew what it meant and deleted the only text that might have cast doubt on the meaning of “natural-born citizen”.
In summary, we have found that there are three requirements for Article II, Constitutional “natural-born” citizenship status:
1) Born in the country
2) Born to a mother who is a citizen of the country
3) Born to a father who is a citizen of the country
Anyone with all three in place at the exact moment of their birth is a “natural-born citizen” in the most complete sense.
However, if just one is missing then they are citizens at birth, or naturalized citizens depending upon the circumstances, but can never change the circumstances of their birth to make themselves a “natural-born citizen”.