Natural Born Citizens: The Birfer Post

I have been contemplating whether or not to go ahead with this post all evening.  For one thing, this issue is highly charged and, let’s face it, rife with nutters from all walks of the political spectrum.  For another thing, it’s an old subject that has been beaten to death with a two by four.  For that reason, I’ve never been particularly interested in it.  I try to stay away from reporting on things like conspiracy theories, because if I can’t prove it, I don’t really want to send it to press.  I’m ready to admit though, that the Obama birth certificate mystery officially has me a bit stumped.

Hey, hey, hey!  Stop right there!  Don’t close your browser or email on me in mid-post!  I have always been extremely skeptical of the “birfer” movement, as many call it.  I am still skeptical of it, although I must at this point concede that I can’t explain away all of the circumstantial issues that surround the strange case of Barack Obama’s citizenship – or at least his birth certificate.

The first time I ever really heard anything about the birther movement was on Alex Jones.  Yeah, yeah, I’ve admitted that I watch him sometimes.  Alex Jones is my political equivalent of celebrity gossip: I love it, it’s my thing, let it go.  I know that he’s not always right about everything, but he serves his purpose for me, and that’s entertainment, and sometimes I’ll get a good article lead off of his site.  Take that for what you will.  I enjoy watching people rail against bankers and Justin Bieber.

In any case, I never really heard it mentioned until I was sitting in the GM garage in my hometown on afternoon getting my car fixed.  An old gent sat down next to me and, in typical Midwestern fashion, started talking to me about life, the universe, and everything.  During the course of the conversation, he somehow managed to sneak it in that he didn’t think Obama was really an American citizen.  I smiled and nodded politely, but I didn’t really want to encourage a birther that I’d inadvertently rooted out.  Frankly, I wasn’t interested in hearing some conspiracy theory about how our president isn’t really supposed to be our president.

Fast forward about two and a half years, and here I am, sitting in my chair on a Tuesday night, perusing the Internet for articles to write about and post to Twitter.  I ran across an article about two weeks old concerning Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix/Scottsdale, etc.).  My uncle lives in Scottsdale and used to know Sheriff Joe, way back before he was known for putting inmates in pink underwear and rounding up immigrants for deportation.  Back then, he used to occasionally courier tickets and such for his wife’s travel agency.  He also once asked my uncle if he would like to join a “posse,” which Joe was going to create, should be elected sheriff.  My uncle politely declined, but the posses became a reality.  The point is that I feel a mild, mostly senseless personal connection to Sheriff Joe, and I get a kick out of reading about his freaks and foibles.

I came upon an article about Sheriff Joe saying that he had had his forensics team run an investigation on Obama’s long form birth certificate, which was released last year.  The team also did an analysis on his selective service card.  Sheriff Joe called a press conference to release the findings which were… Well, frankly, I watched the shortened videos, and the conclusion seemed to be that the documents themselves were forgeries.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I don’t exactly have gobs of faith in the Maricopa County sheriff’s office.  Joe Arpaio is a character, and you can take that in a good way or a bad way.  It has worked both directions for him.  He is a highly controversial figure who no doubt has/had good intentions in a lot of respects.  I don’t support all of his methods, but I find him interesting.  I also think that he revels in attention.  He is facing some lawsuits right now, too, and I think this might have been a way to draw media fire away from the lawsuits, since election time is pending in Maricopa County.  Sheriff Arpaio has denied this, but you know, it’s Sheriff Joe.

I read through one of the articles and watched the videos, and it got my curiosity up.  I know virtually nothing about Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop or any of those other digital picture-fixing programs, so don’t take anything I say to be professional analysis.   I barely know one from the other, and God knows I never use them.  Occasionally I will use Adobe to reverse one of my webcam photos so that I can post it on here, and I’m frankly amazed that I figured out how to do that.

The videos point out several interesting features of the birth certificate, as well as a “control” copy that was created as a basis for comparison.  Many of the arguments made about the birth certificate are quite clearly debunked.  The video explains Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology and optimization techniques, which some have used to explain the anomalies in the birth certificate.  However, these explanations fall flat, if you take the sheriff’s department analysis as truthful.

I looked up some of the debunking claims that have been posted on sites like Snopes, but I honestly didn’t find any explanations that lived up to my expectations.  I like very thorough, in-depth answers, and I have yet to find an answer that I really like that explains the anomalies on these paperwork items.

My ultimate conclusion is this: someone is lying.  Either the forensics team in Maricopa is lying (quite possible), or Team Obama is lying (again, quite possible).  Something doesn’t smell right here, but it doesn’t just have to do with what’s being said; a lot of it has to do with what’s not being said.

Let’s assume for a moment that the sheriff’s deputies and everyone else who have taken to the Internet are either half-baked or just flat-out lying about the anomalies in this birth certificate.  If that is the case, they are distracting from truly important issues and attempting to destroy the president’s character.  I’m more concerned about the distraction from other issues, like auditing the Fed, the bailouts, the unjust wars, etc.

When it all comes down to it, however, I think that most of the “birthers” have really missed the boat.  They spend all this time fussing about the birth certificates and such, and the answer is in plain view.  According to various legal precedents, Obama technically doesn’t qualify as a “natural born citizen.”

What is a natural born citizen?  According to the traditional ideas of the Framers and natural law, citizenship is inherited from the father, regardless of where that child is born.  Today, we might better view this in that if one parent is not a citizen of the United States, neither is the child.  My husband and I would be a good example of this, as he is a “loyal subject of the Crown” while I am a US citizen.  Our children, according to this rule, would be exempt from ever holding the office of the president.

I guess at the end of the day, I ultimately feel that all of this jibber-jabber and rhetoric about the birth certificate and all is just extraneous.  The real argument is a relatively cut-and-dried legal one, and it stems from the fact that citizenship devolves from the parents.  Stated simply, our Constitution includes the natural birth clause so that individuals seeking office will not have conflicting allegiances.  At the end of the day, considering only the traditional, established definition of natural born citizen, Barack Obama isn’t one.

Am I implying that President Obama has conflicting allegiances?  No.  Just because I don’t think that he legally fits the criterion for holding the office to which he has been elected doesn’t mean that I think he’s out to sell us to Russia or something silly like that.  However, I do think that the respect for our supreme law, the Constitution, has gone completely and utterly out the window.

How is it that a movement can at once be so right and so wrong?  Instead of focusing on the legal precedent, which is easily provable and extremely pertinent, there is a whole movement of people who seem to be focused on turning this thing into a sideshow.  There needs to be a movement towards reason and logic, or the libertarian movement is going to be forever plagued by accusations of lunacy, paranoia, and getting bad reception via those tinfoil hats.

If you want to learn more, check out the links below!

“Natural Born Citizen Defined” – The Federalist Blog

Sheriff Joe’s Full Investigation results, including video


About The Lady Libertarian
I am American, currently expatriated but hopeful about getting back home one of these days. Besides reading and writing about politics, I enjoy camping, sailing, canoeing, making pie, and traveling. I hope you'll enjoy this blog and find it informative and accessible.

9 Responses to Natural Born Citizens: The Birfer Post

  1. You’re a little behind on this. There are lawsuits working all parts of this thing; and there are pundits working all parts. That hearing in Georgia a month or so ago consisted of three separate suits, one of which was the natural born aspect. Meanwhile, Obama’s people are fighting back along the entire front. Perhaps the most shameful thing in the last few years is that deleted references to an early case that seemed to define natural born in the way you discuss. seems to be owned by a good pal of guess-who. At this point the country is so confused about the requirements that even Republicans talk about Marco Rubio as a VP, even though he might not be eligible. But finally with the birth certificate, if it’s not real, a felony is a felony. Obama presented that BC to the country. If it’s not real, that’s like passing a bad check. And the thing about the BC is that even the simplest people can get that part. Real or counterfeit? Yeah, that’s a lot easier to understand than all that constitutional stuff!

    • I agree that I am behind in some ways, and I will admit up front that I did not attempt to cover all the nooks and crannies of this issue, because it is as long and deep as the Mississippi River. I know about the Georgia lawsuit to keep Obama off the ballot, the Philip J. Berg lawsuit, and the Orly Tatiz (sp?) lawsuit. Berg has his own website to keep supporters up to date. Oh, I forgot to throw Jerome Corsi into the mix – he’s always talking about this issue, though I don’t think he has a lawsuit going.

      If there are MSM pundits who are commenting about it, I’m generally unaware of it, as I live overseas and don’t watch much TV, even when I’m home visiting. I know Bill O’Reilly (gag) was heard to remark that he had better things to do than cover this issue. It seems like the media generally and the left specifically treat this issue as though it’s reserved only for conspiracy nutters wearing tinfoil hats and Klan members in white robes who are resentful of having a black man for a president. So far, it has been an extremely effective tactic.

      Obviously, I think there is something to the birther movement, and I understand that if the documents passed as real ones in fact aren’t, then Obama has committed some deeply illegal actions. I just think that it’s a somewhat separate issue, legally, as the question of NBC status can easily be determined in the knowing that his father wasn’t a citizen. I don’t think constitutionality is that hard to understand, when the big words and fancy grammar are broken down. I think the average American is fully capable of understanding that NBC = two parents who are citizens.

      I was unaware that the cases establishing legal precedent have been disappearing from online sources. I’ve stopped believing in coincidence. I’ll have to check that one out.

  2. ellen says:

    Every US citizen who was born on US soil is a Natural Born US citizen. Only naturalized citizens, who of course were not born on US soil, are citizens but not Natural Born citizens. The meaning of Natural Borm comes from the common law, and refers to the place of birth. Not the parents, the place of birth.

    Here is an example of how Natural Born Citizen was used in the USA in 1803, shortly after the Constitution went into effect:

    “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. The first, by their birth-right, became entitled to all the privileges of citizens; the second, were entitled to none, but such as were held out and given by the laws of the respective states prior to their emigration. …St. George Tucker, BLACKSTONE’S COMMENTARIES: WITH NOTES OF REFERENCE TO THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA. (1803)

    Notice that that refers only to the place of birth. Parents are not mentioned. Natural Born Citizens were “those born within a state.’

    And here is how it was used in 1829:

    “Therefore every person born within the United States, its territories or districts, whether the parents are citizens or aliens, is a natural born citizen in the sense of the Constitution, and entitled to all the rights and privileges appertaining to that capacity.”—William Rawle, A VIEW OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. 2d ed. (1829)

    And here is how Edwin Meese, Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, used it in a book a few years ago:

    “Under the longstanding English common-law principle of jus soli, persons born within the territory of the sovereign (other than children of enemy aliens or foreign diplomats) are citizens from birth. Thus, those persons born within the United States are “natural born citizens” and eligible to be President….”—- Edwin Meese, et al, THE HERITAGE GUIDE TO THE CONSTITUTION (2005) [Edwin Meese was Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, and the Heritage Foundation is a well-known Conservative organization.]

    And here is one of the three state court rulings that specifically state that Obama is a Natural Born Citizen due to his place of birth:

    “Based on the language of Article II, Section 1, Clause 4 and the guidance provided by Wong Kim Ark, we conclude that persons born within the borders of the United States are “natural born Citizens” for Article II, Section 1 purposes, regardless of the citizenship of their parents. Just as a person “born within the British dominions [was] a natural born-born subject” at the time of the framing of the U.S. Constitution, so too were those “born in the allegiance of the United States [ ] natural-born citizens.”— Ankeny v. Governor of the State of Indiana, 916 NE2d 678, 688 (2009), (Ind.Supreme Court, Apr. 5, 2010)

    And here is federal court that ruled the same thing:

    Here are sources to turn to for further research:


    By the way, I asked the Ron Paul Campaign whether or not he believes that Obama was born in Hawaii and is a Natural Born US Citizen, and the answer was that Ron Paul does indeed believe that Obama was born in Hawaii and is a Natural Born US citizen.

    • It’s well and good to cite the case of Wong and others, but the fact remains that recognizing someone’s nationality based on location generally goes against the philosophy of natural law, upon which this country was founded. Natural law has it that citizenship is inherited from the parents and most specifically from the father. This is the way the founders intended our law to be interpreted. It bears remembering that our law is NOT English common law and shouldn’t be treated as such.

      According to the old English common law, anyone born in the empire was a subject. Most Americans didn’t have a lot of use for this kind of thinking, especially given that the British still believed that a great many Americans were subjects of the Crown. In fact, we went to war with Great Britain in 1812 because naturalized citizens were essentially being kidnapped off of ships and pressed into military service for the British Empire.

      The way around this way of thinking is to recognize natural law – the view of inherited citizenship – as the correct one. To some extent, this is still true today. Any nation will recognize a child’s nationality based on his/her parentage, but not every nation will recognize someone as a citizen merely because they happened to be born there. For example, I have some friends here in Korea who have a two-year-old. The father is English and the mother Canadian. The daughter has inherited the citizenship of both her parents, but Korea does not recognize her as a citizen. She had to have a passport and visa clearance within 30 days of her birth, in fact.

      Ultimately, the argument here is founding and legislative intent versus legal interpretation. It is also about something conferred by law versus something conferred by birth. It is nearly impossible to argue that children do not inherit citizenship from their parents, as this universally recognized. However, the reverse is not unconditionally true. Yes, the common law approach has frequently been adopted in the US, but to make the claim that this was the original intent is erroneous.

      In regards to the Wong case, it never ruled whether or not he was a natural born citizen – he wasn’t – only that he was a citizen. The case was about whether or not he should be allowed to return to the country, not whether he could hold the office of the president. Using this decision as a precedent seems shaky, at best.

      If one reads up on the intent of the 14th Amendment, one quickly realizes that the intent of the writers was not to confer natural born citizenship on everyone born in the US. Only those citizens born in the jurisdiction of the US and without conflicting allegiance to another nation are considered natural born citizens. This was the intent of the writers of this amendment.

      Senator Jacob M. Howard was the primary author of the amendment, and he made a remark that went thusly: “This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.”

      We can therefore conclude that arguing about physical presence is a bit ridiculous, as alien parents of children born on US soil will still be subject to the laws of their home nation. Their allegiance is not to the US, and neither is their children’s. Someone who is transient in the US is not subject to US jurisdiction, in terms of allegiance or citizenship.

      There are other examples that support this, such Section 1992 of the U.S. Revised Statues (1866), which basically states that anyone born in the US who does not owe allegiance to another nation is considered a citizen. We must assume that the only way a person could owe allegiance to another nation on birth would be if he/she were born of foreign parents.

      At the end of the day, I’m sure that there are precedents on both sides of the argument. It seems that the common law argument is the one most widely recognized in the US today, although it is not immediately apparent that this was the intent of the framers or subsequent legislators.

      Personally, I take the natural rights position, as it makes the most sense to me, and I feel it is most in keeping with my personal philosophy about liberty. However, I can certainly see why folks would disagree with me, and they’re more than entitled to that.

      At this particular juncture, I’m far more interested in other shady things that Obama has done, like attack Libya. The argument at stake with the citizenship question is deeply philosophical, and it is not a question that is likely to be solved any time soon, if ever.

      Oh, and about the Ron Paul campaign… They don’t speak for all libertarians, and I don’t pretend to speak for them. They are entitled to their opinion, as I am to mine. Besides, even if their opinions were to the contrary, I doubt they’d admit it. The birther movement is too full of controversy, and it would damage the campaign.

      In any case, thanks for visiting and commenting! I don’t agree with all your points, but they’re definitely good ones! Have a good day!

  3. ellen says:

    Re: “which this country was founded. Natural law has it that citizenship is inherited from the parents and most specifically from the father. This is the way the founders intended our law to be interpreted. It bears remembering that our law is NOT English common law and shouldn’t be treated as such. ”

    I did not say that the English common law applies. I said that the MEANING of Natural Born comes from the common law, where it had been used for 300 or so years before the US Constitution. And John Jay, the fellow who wrote to George Washington about the need for the president to be a Natural Born Citizen, well John Jay was a LAWYER, and a justice. And John Jay was the main writer of the Constitution of the State of New York, and guess what, the constitution of the state of New York, which Jay mainly wrote, specifies that the common law remains the law of New York state unless and until a New York law is written that specifically changes the common law.

    It said:

    “XXXV. And this convention doth further, in the name and by the authority of the good people of this State, ordain, determine, and declare that such parts of the common law of England, and of the statute law of England and Great Britain, and of the acts of the legislature of the colony of New York, as together did form the law of the said colony on the 19th day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, shall be and continue the law of this State, subject to such alterations and provisions as the legislature of this State shall, from time to time, make concerning the same.”

    The date one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, interestingly, is the date of the battles of Lexington and Concord. In New York, under Jay’s constitution, the common law and statues of England before we started fighting remain the law–until it is changed.

    The purpose of citing the Constitution of New York shows two things. First the common law was important to the writers of the Constitution and other American leaders of the day. (It is mentioned about twenty times in the Federalist Papers). And, second, since the common law was on Jay’s mind, it is highly unlikely that he was thinking of any other use of the term Natural Born than was used in the common law.

    And, in fact, there are NO examples I could find or birthers could find of American leaders at the time of the Constitution that uses the term Natural Born to refer to parents. They only use it the way that it was in the common law.

    In fact, there is an example of the way it was used in America in 1803 cited above:

    “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. The first, by their birth-right, became entitled to all the privileges of citizens; the second, were entitled to none, but such as were held out and given by the laws of the respective states prior to their emigration. …St. George Tucker, BLACKSTONE’S COMMENTARIES: WITH NOTES OF REFERENCE TO THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA. (1803)

    Notice that that refers only to the place of birth. Parents are not mentioned. Natural Born Citizens were “those born within a state.’

    And here is how it was used in 1829:

    “Therefore every person born within the United States, its territories or districts, whether the parents are citizens or aliens, is a natural born citizen in the sense of the Constitution, and entitled to all the rights and privileges appertaining to that capacity.”—William Rawle, A VIEW OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. 2d ed. (1829)

    Neither of them said anything about natural law or parents.

    It would be nice if there really were such a thing as Natural Law. What there is are opinions of what the Natural state should be. Hobbes thinks one thing, Locke another. Vattel, who many birthers cite as a popular writer who influenced the Constitution (he did, on international law but not on elections; he was a monarchist) actually recommends in his book The Law of Nations that every country should have a state religion and force people to join it or make them leave the country. He arrives at this “natural” conclusion by simply pointing out that religion is a good thing and that when there are different religions in a country there can be conflict.

    So there is no evidence that the meaning of Natural Born comes from “natural law” or from Vattel (who is not even mentioned once in the Federalist Papers). None of the writers of the Constitution wrote letters or articles saying “Natural Born Citizen comes from Natural Law.” Or “Natural Born citizen comes from Vattel,” or “Natural Born citizen refers to the parents of the citizen, not the place of birth.”

    So what does it come from? The Wong Kim Ark case states very clearly that it comes FROM THE COMMON LAW. That is what Meese says too, and that is the way that the Tucker and Rawle examples use it too.

    Re: “subjects of the Crown.”

    You seem to be saying that natural born subjects are created by the place of birth and natural born citizens require two citizen parents. That is possible, but there is no evidence for it. Maybe it is the other way around. in fact, if there were really a legal difference between citizen and subject where Natural Born status is concerned, the writers of the US Constitution or other American leaders at the time would have pointed out the fact. Yes, subject and citizen are different, in many ways, but in terms of being a legal resident of the country they mean the same thing.

    The Wong Kim Ark ruling quotes this from Kent:

    “2 Kent Com. (6th ed.) 39, 42. And he elsewhere says:

    And if, at common law, all human beings born within the ligeance of the King, and under the King’s obedience, were natural-born subjects, and not aliens, I do not perceive why this doctrine does not apply to these United States, in all cases in which there is no express constitutional or statute declaration to the contrary. . . . Subject and citizen are, in a degree, convertible terms as applied to natives, and though the term citizen seems to be appropriate to republican freemen, yet we are, equally with the inhabitants of all other countries, subjects, for we are equally bound by allegiance and subjection to the government and law of the land.”

    Re: “not every nation will recognize someone as a citizen merely because they happened to be born there.” Quite true, and the same thing applies to income taxes. Some countries tax only the people who are actually in the country. Others tax their citizens’ earnings abroad. The point is that only one law counts in the United States, our law, and where citizenship is concerned it is based on jus soli, the law of place, not natural law.

    Yes this does mean that there are sometimes dual citizens, people who are considered French citizens because of their parents, and US citizens because of the place of birth. And you know how we deal with it, we say that our law, and only our law applies.

    And it turns out that TWO American presidents were dual citizens when they were president, and one more probably was a dual citizen at birth. Jefferson and Madison were made full voting citizens of France by the French Assembly. And Woodrow Wilson was probably a dual citizen of Britain and the USA at birth because there is no evidence that his mother relinquished her British citizenship when she married. She became a US citizen automatically with her marriage to a US citizen. But since she never relinquished British citizenship, Woodrow Wilson was a dual citizen.

    Re: “Yes, the common law approach has frequently been adopted in the US, but to make the claim that this was the original intent is erroneous. ”

    Once again. It is not a claim. It is the way that Americans actually used the term Natural Born. If the writers of the Constitution intended it to mean something other than the way that they used the term, they would have had to TELL US.

    There are dozens of quotations from the writers of the 14th Amendment. want to see some?

    Representative John Bingham (the author of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment)

    Debate in the House of Representatives, Congressional Globe 37th Congress 2nd session 1862 (page 1639).

    “The Constitution leaves no room for doubt upon this subject. The words “natural-born citizen of the United States” occur in it, and the other provision also occurs in it that “Congress shall have power to pass a uniform system of naturalization.” To naturalize a person is to admit him to citizenship. Who are natural-born citizens but those born within the Republic? Those born within the Republic, whether black or white, are citizens by birth — natural-born citizens. There is no such word as white in your Constitution. Citizenship, therefore, does not depend on complexion any more than it depends on the rights of election or of office. All from other lands, who by the terms of your laws and compliance of their provisions become naturalized, are adopted citizens of the United States; all other persons born within the Republic, of parents owing allegiance to no other sovereignty, are natural-born citizens. Gentlemen can find no exception to this statement touching natural-born citizens except what is said in the Constitution in relation to Indians. The reason why that exception was made in the Constitution is apparent to everybody. The several Indian tribes were recognized at the organization of this Government as independent sovereignties. They were treated with as such; and they have been dealt with by the Government ever since as separate sovereignties. Therefore, they were excluded from the general rule.”

    And: Senator Lyman Trumbull (another key author of the 14th amendment)

    “…in order to be President of the United States, a person must be a native-born citizen. It is the common law of this country, and of all countries, and it was unnecessary to incorporate it in the Constitution, that a person is a citizen of the country in which he is born…. I read from Paschal’s Annotated Constitution, note 274: “All persons born in the allegiance of the king are natural born subjects, and all persons born in the allegiance of the United States are natural born citizens. Birth and allegiance go together. Such is the rule of the common law, and it is the common law of this country as well as of England. There are two exceptions, and only two, to the universality of its application. The children of ambassadors are, in theory, born in the allegiance of the powers the ambassadors represent, and slaves, in legal contemplation, are property, and not persons.” Sen. Trumbull, Cong. Globe. 1st Session, 42nd Congress, pt. 1, pg. 575 (1872)

    Wikipedia says this: “three senators, including Trumbull, as well as President Andrew Johnson, asserted that both the Civil Rights Act and the Citizenship Clause would confer citizenship on them at birth,[12][13][14] and no senator offered a contrary opinion…. Senator John Conness of California expressed support for the Amendment for giving a constitutional basis for birthright citizenship to all children born in the United States to any parentage (including Chinese noncitizen residents who do not intend to reside permanently in the United States), even though he (and others) thought it had already been guaranteed by the Act,[15]”

    It is true that some congressmen and senators held that the meaning of “subject to the jurisidiction” required allegiance. However, if i remember correctly most of the participants considered that “subject to the jurisdiction” was inserted to exclude foreign diplomats and the children of American Indians on reservations (which at the time were considered the equivalent of foreign states).

    At the time of the WRITING of Article II of the Constitution, the view among US leaders was that ALLEGIANCE to the country came from the same thing as Natural Born status, the place of birth:

    In a speech before the House of Representatives in May of 1789, James Madison said:
    ‘It is an established maxim, that birth is a criterion of allegiance. Birth, however, derives its force sometimes from place, and sometimes from parentage; but, in general, place is the most certain criterion; it is what applies in the United States.”

  4. I’m sorry I don’t have time for a longer reply, as I’m about to head to work. If the meaning of NBC COMES from the English Common Law, then obviously it does apply, for all practical purposes. You’ve cited various examples here that include the use of Common Law.

    Yes, I’m aware of the fact that some of the founders were in favor of place taking precedence over parentage. Most of them were considered dual citizens. Most of them would not have been eligible to govern, had they followed the natural rights method.

    Although not stated directly, it appears that you don’t believe in natural rights. As such, we are never going to agree, because I do believe in natural rights. In order to be libertarian, you basically have to believe in them.

    For all practical purposes, the common law view reigns supreme. Does that mean I think it’s necessarily the most correct one? No. That said, I must respect the current rule of law. If the highest courts respect place over parentage, then I will accept it because I must.

  5. ellen says:

    Here is a statement of Natural Rights. It is the strongest statement of Natural Rights made by our founders. The founder may not actually believed this statement, but it is a statement of Natural Rights and many of them did believe it, and there is no reason for us to think that they did not believe it, unless they said that they did.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

    Now, as I said, perhaps the founders really did not believe that. Since many held slaves, surely they could not have.

    But, as I said, there is no reason to believe that they believed that some people were less equal than others unless there was proof that they actually believed that those people really were worse than the others. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, if they did not actually say that they believed that left-handers were less capable than right-handers we should not believe that they thought it.

    And, of course, if it does not make any sense to us that left-handers are worse than right-handers, and the founders did not say that they thought it, then there are two strikes against the idea that the founders thought that they were less equal. And, it occurs to me, that those are two strikes against natural law saying that they are less equal as well.

    So, let us turn now to the US-born children of foreigners. The writers of the Constitution never said that they believed that the US-born children of foreigners were foreigners. They never said any such thing. Moreover, they never said that they thought that the US-born children of foreigners were likely to be worse citizens, less loyal, than the US-born children of US citizens.

    So, turn now to natural experience, the basis of most common law. Is there any real evidence that the US-born children of foreigners are worse citizens than the US-born children of US citizens? Any at all?

    So, if we don’t think that the US-born children of foreign citizens are worse than the US-born children of US citizens, what makes you think that Ben Franklin or Alexander Hamilton or George Washington did either???

    They did think, for sure, that two kinds of people were worse than others–people who were not citizens (you have to be a citizen to be a Natural Born citizen) and naturalized citizens (you have to be natural born to be a Natural Born Citizen). But, unless they actually said it, there is no evidence that they considered US-born children of foreigners to not fall into the definition of Natural Born. That makes Jindal, Rubio and, yes, Obama all eligible (the notion that Obama was born outside of the USA is nutty).

  6. Why would the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have been written if the individuals responsible for it didn’t believe in it? That would be equivalent to me writing a constitution that espouses a firm belief in socialism or some other philosophy that doesn’t support the one in which I truly believe.

    Also, I don’t find it useful to compare citizenship to being left- or right-handed. A preference for the use of one hand or another places no further obligation on a person. There is no particular consequence of it, except that for left-handed people, it is harder to find appliances and such that are easy to use, or so I hear. In any case, being left- or right-handed has no particular consequence beyond the preference itself. This is not the case with citizenship. There are consequences to the having or not having of citizenship.

    The whole point that I’m making is that someone being born a dual citizen, whether one wants to recognize this or not, does create conflicts between possible obligations. Let’s return again to South Korea, since I’m somewhat familiar with their policies here. Say we have a young man with a Korean mother and an American father – hardly uncommon around here. All Korean men are obliged to perform compulsory military service, including dual citizens. For the sake of the argument, let’s say that the US goes to war with South Korea – unlikely, but just for argument’s sake. If the US imposes a draft, the young man suddenly finds himself in a sticky situation whereby he has conflicting obligations.

    No, this situation is not likely, given our current situation with Korea, but it is technically possible. And by the way, no, Korea does NOT recognize any person born in Korea as Korean. Citizenship is inherited through at least one parent. Germany has a similar policy, or at least it did when I was there. In fact, there were quite a few arguments in Germany at the time because of that policy and the number of foreigners living there who wished to acquire citizenship.

    As for the argument about natural rights… Why would Jefferson, Washington, Adams, and other have put so much work into authoring documents that had some basis in the belief of natural rights when they didn’t believe in it? That would be like me writing a document saying that a person should base his or her financial plans on taking out a lot of debt and meeting the minimum payments. I don’t believe in servicing debt just to get by, and it would be kind of silly for me to write a document that tells people to do that very thing.

    In any case, the entire premise of the Declaration of Independence and the formation of our government rests on the premise that the US government was formed to protect the rights of citizens. This necessarily assumes that people have natural rights for the government to protect. Otherwise, one must assume that any rights a citizen has are those rights which are given to him/her by the government – rights which could easily be taken away.

    As for the issue of slavery… I’ve long had qualms with this one myself. I find it hard to believe that a man of Jefferson’s intellect didn’t understand, at least on some level, that slavery was wrong. The only justification that could have gone on in their minds must have been to the effect that African-Americans weren’t really humans but animals on some level. I don’t recall reading anything that explicitly stated this, but it’s the only thing I can think of, off-hand.

    As for the question of worse citizens, I suppose it depends a lot on what you think a “worse citizen” might be. Would that be someone who plots to overthrow the government? Someone who bad-mouths the country? Someone who burns the flag? I suppose without passing too many value judgments, one might say that a “worse citizen” is someone who is conflicted about his or her allegiance to the country. In that case, I can think of some examples when one might be a “worse citizen.”

    Let’s use a theoretical Iraqi-American as an example. Let’s say there is a draft due to another war with Iraq, and the person in question must head to his/her former home country to protect the interests of the new country, the United States. This clearly represents a conflict of interests whereby the person might be compelled to side with the former homeland instead of the new one.

    All that said, it seems there are examples from both sides. Citing the Virginia citizenship laws of 1779 (authored by Jefferson) and 1783, it states that children born in Virginia can inherit Virginia citizenship either by virtue of being born there or through native parents. So in the case of Virginia, at least, it would seem there is a mixture of both the natural law view and the old common law view.

    Ultimately, there haven’t been a lot of cases clarifying this particular matter. I think the final conclusion I’m going to draw is that, not shockingly, we have a mixed tradition in US which includes elements of the common law and elements of natural law. For practical purposes, I think natural law is the better way to go on this one, but lots of folks will disagree with me. I say that not because I hate Obama so much, though he’s hardly my favorite president, but because I see potential practical issues arising from dual citizenship. Still, there are plenty of other folks who will prefer the common law approach. However, for my part, I say that natural law works in all cases internationally, and common law does not. That has been my experience from the time I’ve spent overseas, and that is my opinion on the matter.

    As for Obama, there are plenty of other things I’d rather see him out of office for, like committing US troops to Libya without Congressional approval, for example.

  7. ellen says:

    At least three US presidents were dual citizens. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both were dual citizens because the National Assembly of France voted to make them full voting French citizens (with all the rights and responsibilities). And Woodrow Wilson was a dual citizen of Britain and the USA at birth because his mother had never renounced her British citizenship. She became a US citizen due to her marriage to Wilson, but she never renounced British citizenship.

    Under both the common law and natural law the children of foreigners who were born in the USA are Natural Born Citizens. The meaning of Natural Born under the common law referred o the place of birth. AND since we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, thus the US-born children of foreigners are created equal to the US-born children of US citizens. I agree with you completely, that is what the writers of the Declaration of Independence believed.

    So, BOTH under the principle of natural law that all men are created equal and under the common law which defines Natural Born as determined by the place of birth, US-born children of foreign citizens are Natural Born Citizens, and there have been PLENTY of US court cases that state that the US-born children of foreigners are Natural Born Citizens. In addition to the three state court cases and one federal court case that have ruled that Obama specifically is a Natural Born citizen, there are also, many cases that refer to the US-born children of other foreigners as Natural Born Citizens.

    For example: Mustata v. US Dept. of Justice, 179 F.3d 1017 (6th Cir. 1999) (children born in US to two Romanian citizens described as “natural born citizens” of the US):

    “Petitioners Marian and Lenuta Mustata are citizens of Romania. At the time of their petition, they resided in Michigan with their two minor children, who are natural born citizens of the United States.”

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