Mandeville, LA – On January 8th’s Mike Church Show, Mike explores what Vattel’s Law of Nations says unequivocally on natural birth, and an article by Publius Huldah on the subject “The Constitution, Vattel, and ‘Natural born Citizen’: What Our Framers Knew.” An excerpt…
Vattel on “natural born citizens”, “inhabitants”, and “naturalized citizens”:
From our beginning, we were subjects of the British Crown. With the War for Independence, we became citizens.1 [READ this footnote!] We needed new concepts to fit our new status as citizens. Vattel provided these new republican concepts of “citizenship”. The gist of what Vattel says in Law of Nations, Book I, Ch. XIX, at §§ 212-217, is this:
§ 212: Natural-born citizens are those born in the country of parents who are citizens – it is necessary that they be born of a father who is a citizen. If a person is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country.
§ 213: Inhabitants, as distinguished from citizens, are foreigners who are permitted to stay in the country. They are subject to the laws of the country while they reside in it. But they do not participate in all the rights of citizens – they enjoy only the advantages which the law or custom gives them. Their children follow the condition of their fathers – they too are inhabitants.
§ 214: A country may grant to a foreigner the quality of citizen – this is naturalization. In some countries, the sovereign cannot grant to a foreigner all the rights of citizens, such as that of holding public office – this is a regulation of the fundamental law. And in England, merely being born in the country naturalizes the children of a foreigner.
§§ 215, 216 & 217: Children born of citizens in a foreign country, at sea, or while overseas in the service of their country, are “citizens”. By the law of nature alone, children follow the condition of their fathers; the place of birth produces no change in this particular.
Do you see? The republican concept of “natural born citizenship” is radically different from the feudal notion of “natural born subjectship.” Under feudalism, merely being born in the domains of the King made one – by birth – a “natural born subject”. But in Vattel’s Model and Our Constitutional Republic, Citizens are “natural born” only if they are born of Citizens.
How Our Framers applied Vattel’s Concept of “natural born citizen” in Our Constitution:
The Federal Convention was in session from May 14, through September 17, 1787. John Jay, who had been a member of the Continental Congress [where they “pounced” on Vattel], sent this letter of July 25, 1787, to George Washington, who presided over the Convention:
“…Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise & seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of foreigners into the administration of our national government and to declare expressly that the Command in Chief of the american army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen…”4
According, Art. II, §1, cl. 5 was drafted to read:
“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.” [boldface added]
In § 214, Vattel states that “fundamental law” may withhold from naturalized citizens some of the rights of citizens, such as holding public office. The Constitution is our “fundamental law”; and, following Vattel, Art. II, §1, cl. 5 withholds from naturalized citizens (except for our Founding Generation which was “grandfathered in”) the right to hold the office of President.5
Remember! None of our early Presidents were “natural born Citizens”, even though they were all born here. They were all born as subjects of the British Crown. They became naturalized citizens with the Declaration of Independence. That is why it was necessary to provide a grandfather clause for them. But after our Founding Generation was gone, their successors were required to be born as citizens of the United States – not merely born here (as were our Founders), but born as citizens.
And do not forget that the children born here of slaves did not become “citizens” by virtue of being born here. Their parents were slaves; hence (succeeding to the condition of their parents) they were born as slaves. Black people born here did not become citizens until 1868 and the ratification of the 14th Amendment.
So! Do you see? If Our Framers understood that merely being born here were sufficient to confer status as a “natural born citizen”; it would not have been necessary to grandfather in our first generation of Presidents; and all the slaves born here would have been “natural born citizens”. But they were born as non-citizen slaves, because their parents were non-citizen slaves.
David Ramsay’s 1789 Dissertation on Citizenship:
David Ramsay was an historian, Founding Father, and member of the Continental Congress [REMEMBER: This is where they “pounced” on Vattel], whose Dissertation On The Manner Of Acquiring The Character And Privileges Of A Citizen Of The United States was published in 1789, just after ratification of our Constitution and the Year the new Government began.
It is an interesting dissertation and only 8 pages long. At the bottom of his page 6, Ramsay states:
“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.” [modernized spelling & emphasis are mine]
Do you see? Ramsay’s Dissertation sets forth the understanding of the Time, formally stated by Vattel and incorporated by our Framers, that a “natural born Citizen” is one who is born of citizens. And we had no “citizens” until July 4, 1776.
Now, let us look at the First Congress.
How the First Congress followed Vattel and our Framers:
Article I, §8, cl. 4 delegates to Congress the power “To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization”.6 Pursuant to that power, the First Congress passed the Naturalization Act of 1790. Here is the text, which you can find at 1 Stat. at Large, 103:
“SECTION1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That any alien, being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof, on application to any common law court of record, in any one of the states wherein he shall have resided for the term of one year at least, and making proof to the satisfaction of such court, that he is a person of good character, and taking the oath or affirmation prescribed by law, to support the constitution of the United States, which oath or affirmation such court shall administer; and the clerk of such court shall record such application, and the proceedings thereon; and thereupon such person shall be considered as a citizen of the United States. And the children of such persons so naturalized, dwelling within the United States, being under the age of twenty-one years at the time of such naturalization, shall also be considered as citizens of the United States. And the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond 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 … APPROVED, March 26, 1790.” 7
So! This Act of the First Congress implements the Principles set forth in Vattel, embraced by our Framers, and enshrined in Art. II, §1, cl. 5, that:
- A “natural born Citizen” is one who is born of parents who are citizens.
- Minor children born here of aliens do not become citizens until their parents are naturalized. Thus, they are not “natural born” citizens.
Our Framers rejected the anti-republican and feudal notion that mere location of birth within a Country naturalizes the children of a foreigner. 8
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