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Comment: Natural-Born Citizen Defined

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Natural-Born Citizen Defined

History & logic yield a clear definition of "natural born citizen" even without resort to Court decisions:

1) On July 25, 1787 John Jay wrote to George Washington, then presiding over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, proposing that the President be a "natural born citizen" (NBC): “Permit me to hint, whether it would be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government; and to declare expressly that the Commander in Chief of the American army shall not be given to nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen.” Foreigners were those with foreign citizenship or allegiance, including "dual" citizens.

2) Shortly after the convention concluded, Alexander Hamilton proposed that the President be "born a citizen of the United States": "No person shall be eligible to the office of President of the United States unless he be now a Citizen of one of the States, or hereafter be born a Citizen of the United States.” Works of Alexander Hamilton (page 407);

3) The Convention adopted the more stringent NBC requirement for Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution presidential eligibility clause, as distinguished from Hamilton's "born a citizen" standard, and of course, from a mere "citizen" standard: "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."

4) NBC was a legal phrase with which the founders were well familiar from the works of Emmerich de Vattel's "The Law of Nations" and from other authors and works which they used to accomplish their goal of insuring that future Presidents would have undivided loyalty and allegiance to America;

5) Americans had recently won their independence from the British in a bloody 8-year long war and were justifiably concerned about the loyalty and allegiance of future Presidents and the risk of foreign influence on their new nation and its chief executive and commander-in-chief;

6) It is inconceivable that the founders would have chosen NBC if it meant that anyone could be President merely by his birth on US soil, regardless of the citizenship of his parents, since such a definition would allow a child born to one or even two foreign (including British) parents to be eligible for the US Presidency, a result that was totally unthinkable to the founders and could not have been overlooked or adopted by them.

7) The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 in the wake of he Civil War, merely defined "citizens" as "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof"; it says nothing about NBC, which is a special type of citizen. In not even attempting to redefine NBC or amend or delete Article II, Section 4, it left NBC alone, ratifying its status as a special type of citizenship.

THEREFORE: the only logical and intelligent conclusion is that NBC requires:

1) Child's birth on US soil; and
2) US citizenship of both parents at child's birth.

Furthermore, citing and following its dicta (opinions not needed for its rulings) in several of its earlier Supreme Court cases, NBC was
defined by the US Supreme Court in its holding in Minor v. Happersett (1875), which held that the plaintiff was a CITIZEN of the US because she happened to be a NBC, stating that: “The Constitution does not in words say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives or natural-born citizens". This holding has been followed and cited by the Supreme Court in subsequent cases and has never been overruled.

The Court in Minor, in light of the 14th Amendment, chose not to define "citizen", leaving that definition for another day, but determined that Ms. Minor was in fact a NBC, as defined in its dicta in previous decisions, and therefore logically was, of course, a "citizen". This finding that Minor was a citizen was essential to its decision in the case; therefore, its definition of NBC is not merely dicta, or comment in passing not necessary for its decision, but law binding on other Courts as precedent until overruled by the Court itself.

Despite the foregoing, many people and even some misguided lower Courts, have ignored or dismissed Minor and subsequent Supreme Court cases that have cited it, thought it is binding law and precedent, and continue, whether intentionally or negligently, to confuse, misunderstand or equate "natural born citizen" (NBC) with "born citizen", "citizen at birth", or "native-born citizen", or with mere "citizen", when logic and common sense make it clear that NBC is a more stringent subset of citizenship, the type of citizenship that most of us acquired "naturally" upon our birth in this country to American citizen parents.

This type of citizenship is "natural" since it is the only type of citizenship that requires no special laws, treaties or constitutional amendments and results naturally upon our birth; so logically we can be nothing other than American citizens, free of foreign identity or allegiance, whether dual or otherwise. Shouldn't American presidents be required to have the same type of citizenship that most of us Americans have, free of foreign identity and influence? Of course! That's why the founding fathers chose the "natural born" citizenship requirement for President, and not merely "citizen", nor "born citizen, "citizen at birth", "native-born citizen" or their equivalent.

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