natural born

I moved this up from the comments section of the earlier post.

It is clear that any person born on US soil is a citizen. The question is:  What constitutes a natural born citizen?

It is safe to assume the authors of the Constitution were intelligent men, well versed in the usages and nuances of the language. It is clear these men had an appreciation of the necessity for clarity within the document as well as it’s need to endure over time. Logically, there is no reason to use the term ‘natural born citizen’ at one point and ‘citizen’ at another unless there are unique definitions for each. The use of synonyms in creative writings is common practice; to do so in an official document opens the door for misinterpretation.

Attorney General Bates, in his opinion on citizens and race, clearly references his “fruitless search” for a clear definition of “citizen of the United States”. He does reference the Constitutional use of Natural Born Citizen and states “not made by law or otherwise, but born”.

Perkins v. Elg, 307 U.S. 325 (1939)

This case pertains to dual citizenship and the term natural born citizen, while mentioned in passing, is hardly part of the discussion.

In fact, the idea that a person with dual citizenship could live abroad until their 45th birthday and then return to the US to run for President is ludicrous. This gives credence to the idea the founding fathers would use terminology prohibiting just such an occurrence, especially since absentee rulership was a major issue of the revolution. Including the term citizen to signify “born in the US” and natural born citizen to signify “born to citizen parents and reared by citizens as a citizen” would help to ensure Presidential eligibility for only those people with a demonstrated family allegiance to the country.

In re LOOK TIN SING, on Habeas Corpus.
(Oirouit Oourt, D. (JaUfornia. September 29, 1884.)

the rights of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose
fathers never resided in the United States.

United States v. Wong Kim Ark (No. 18)

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.[emphasis mine]

The true bond which connects the child with the body politic is not the matter of an inanimate piece of land, but the moral relations of his parentage. . . . The place of birth produces no change in the rule that children follow the condition of their fathers, for it is not naturally the place of birth that gives rights, but extraction.[emphasis mine]

To what nation a person belongs is by the laws of all nations closely dependent on descent; it is almost an universal rule that the citizenship of the parents determines it — that of the father where children are lawful, and, where they are bastards, that of their mother, without regard to the place of their birth, and that must necessarily be recognized as the correct canon, since nationality is, in its essence, dependent on descent. [emphasis mine]

Personally, I don’t care if he’s born again born here born there. The rule should be established and some one should be checking eligibility before the damn election. The NCAA checks thousands of student athletes for eligibility each year, we have the technology. They checked McCain. The info should be presented, checked, verified, and made public. Anyone running for office should have their info in hand and be proud to show it. At a minimum his proofs are suspect and it should have been resolved prior to any election.

The point remains “natural born citizen” is different than “citizen”. It stands to reason that ‘natural born” implies an additional ‘level’ (for lack of a better term) of citizenship. I see no realistic way to quantify ‘increased citizenship’ except with longevity – an additional generation or requiring US citizen parentage is logical and reasonable.

We can reference citizenship, and dual citizenship all day long. Until there is a difinitive ruling (which we should have had long since) on the usage of the terms when the document was written it’s up in the air.


Posted on April 12, 2009, in constitution, politics. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but how much time did you actually spend reading those cases? The part of In re Look Tin Sing you quoted is from a footnote detailing a pre-14th Amendment law on the citizenship status of children born outside the US to citizen parents, which is irrelevant to the issue. The part of Wong Kim Ark you quoted was from the dissent, meaning that it is not part of judicial precedent.

    Perkins v. Elg is very relevant – it declares that a citizen born of foreign parents is in every respect the same as one born of citizens, with the full rights of any other native-born citizen, including the right to seek the office of the Presidency.

    Furthermore, I think you’ve misunderstood how the SCOTUS works. It does not issue advisory opinions, meaning that it will not make a “definitive ruling” on what it means to be a NBC unless a case comes before it. Pending that judgement, we must rely on what precedent shows us, which is that natural-born equals native-born.

    One last thing:

    The point remains “natural born citizen” is different than “citizen”. It stands to reason that ‘natural born” implies an additional ‘level’ (for lack of a better term) of citizenship. I see no realistic way to quantify ‘increased citizenship’ except with longevity – an additional generation or requiring US citizen parentage is logical and reasonable.

    You’re almost right, but then you get it completely wrong. Sorry.

    “Natural-born citizen” is a subset of “citizen”, just as “naturalized citizen” is; it’s not some variety of super-citizen. It implies no extra right(s) beyond the ability to run for President; there’s case-law which states exactly that, but I’m buggered if I can remember what it is right now. I’ll try to remember and give you a citation.

  2. Agh. Screwed up tags there. Sorry. Could you edit so that the blockquote closes after “an additional generation or requiring US citizen parentage is logical and reasonable”? Thanks!

  3. blockquote ok ?

    wordpress really needs a comment preview capability

  4. first of all, leave your arrogance on YOUR site, don’t make this personal. How fast I read is really not important. I read the entire document, some of them several times, for each of the links I posted and that should be sufficient.

    You picked the cases, in for a dime in for a dollar. Where the quotes are located in the original document doesn’t matter much. Taking the bits and pieces you agree with from sources and ignoring the parts you don’t, won’t stand up in any intelligent debate. All I did was show that dissenting info can be pulled from the very articles you reference. Of course there is dissenting opinion within, one of them is an appeal.. it says ‘dissenting opinion’ at the top.

    The point is that none of those cases were about the definition of natural born. They are all about plain citizenship, and other terminology isn’t addressed.

    “Natural-born citizen” is a subset of “citizen”, just as “naturalized citizen” is; it’s not some variety of super-citizen. It implies no extra right(s) beyond the ability to run for President

    I agree completely

    You can quote case after case from the SCOTUS if you want, its not their job to make law, its their job to debate its use. They might mention this term or that term, but until you can show one that states “natural born citizen = citizen as it is used in the Constitution” without another big shot lawyer/judge saying it doesn’t, you’re just blowing smoke. Those judges live to re-argue things so even if someone ‘decided’ 150 years ago, they might argue it again next week.

    If you want to bring the 14th amendment into it, ok

    Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.
    Note: Article I, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of the 14th amendment.

    Section 3.
    No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

    Having associated with William Ayers, a known domestic terrorist, the man is ineligible.

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