Citizenship Debate: CONCLUSION

02 Mar

This is the conclusion of a multi part series.  To properly understand it you need to scroll to or link to the post entitled “Straw Men, Red Herrings, and Big Lies” and read it along with the comments from a reader named “Ellen.”  THen starting with “Citizenship Debate: Introduction” this series attempts to answer her objections.)


So, after all of these parts, here is what I see as the bottom line for our little debate.  You have just waded through material showing the contrasting opinions on this topic.  All of this has simply been to show that, in accordance with the first assertion that started this, there is a divergence of thought on it even currently.  After reading the initial assertion along with Ellen’s comments, you, the reader, will have a simple question to answer:  “Did I mislead you when I asserted that this whole topic is a red herring to detract from more important issues, and, (and this is the part Ellen attacked) that it has not been truly settled by the courts?”

As the only judge in the courts of your own personal opinions, each of you gets to make that ruling as you see fit.  You could certainly pick up research where Ellen and I have left off to further enlighten and inform your own conclusions.  Which side you take is not the point of this; the point is that there is, in my opinion, more than one side that is still in play.

But if the only point of continuing or commenting is to post something where you will latch onto the parts you like and denigrate the parts you do not like, that is no longer reasoned discussion or debate.  Personally I’m inclined to quit wasting time on a project that can have no practical value even if my conclusions were accepted as true but will only result in you selecting more quotes to support your position.  All that is really being shown is that each of us can find resources to support our own positions.  I did not think that was ever in question.  Hammer away at it till readers are all brain dead if you wish but I am done with it, over it, and ready to move on.

If anyone, wishes to continue posting comments and arguing it out then I will allow those comments so long as they remain reasoned, civil, and do not resort to ad hominem or personal attacks; those I will excise from the comment list.  I, on the other hand wish to get back to the more important issues of the day and times and do not intend to respond again on this topic since, for me, I am satisfied in the validity of my position that it is unsettled.

But I do want to thank Ellen.  Although this specific issue remains an irrelevant one to me, and a real time waster in and of itself, the research it has inspired – as all good research will do – has brought other things to my attention.  Some of those are simply the kinds of fun stuff someone like me with an insatiable curiosity finds fascinating but some of which feeds into parts of the current political debate that ARE relevant for us.  I would not have done that without the kick her comments inspired so I am grateful to her.

But now, can we get on to questions that actually have an impact?  Even if i am right i am not convinced anyone would take any action in this case, and wsith the precedence set it will be hard to assert it in the future.  But maybe the result will be that an amendment will be created that DOES answer it once and for all in the proper method.

One can only hope…


Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Uncategorized


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2 responses to “Citizenship Debate: CONCLUSION

  1. ellen

    March 9, 2012 at 11:04 am

    The courts and the legal community overwhelmingly agree that the meaning of Natural Born Citizen comes from the common law, not from Vattel, and that it refers to the place of birth, not the parents, and that because of this meaning all persons born in the USA except for the children of foreign diplomats are Natural Born.

    This is actually the common language meaning of Natural Born. As an example, in WWI men who registered for the draft were asked whether they were citizens, and then, if they were, whether they were naturalized citizens or natural born citizens. You see there were only two categories, not three. But if Natural Born referred to parents, there logically would have to be three categories: naturalized, native born to foreign parents, and natural born. But in fact there were only two, naturalized and natural born. The meaning of Natural Born thus cannot refer to parents.

    And historical research at the time that the US Constitution was written shows this too. The term Natural Born Citizen was used only to refer to the place of birth, not the parents. Here is an example from 1803:

    “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)

    As you can see, that refers only to the place of birth. Natural Born Citizens were “those born within a state.” And here is an example from 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 an example of how it was used in a book by Edwin Meese, Ronald Reagan’s attorney general:

    “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.]

    Three State Courts (Indiana, Georgia and Arizona) have specifically ruled that Obama is a Natural Born US Citizen. One Federal Court has done so too ( One state court stated in a ruling in 1844 that every child born in the USA is Natural Born, and that the US born children of foreign citizens are Natural Born US Citizens and eligible to run for president. Lynch v. Clarke, 3 N.Y.Leg.Obs. 236, 1 Sand. Ch. 583 (1844).(

    Here are sources to turn to for further research:


    Now let us turn to the question whether the US Supreme Court would ever overturn a famous Supreme Court ruling, Wong Kim Ark, which held that every child born in the USA is Natural Born.

    It is extremenly unlikely for three reasons:

    1. the Wong court was correct in its interpretation of common law. The meaning of Natural Born really did refer to the place of birth.

    2. A court would not overturn the Wong Kim Ark decision without actual evidence that Americans used the term Natural Born Citizen to refer to parents at the time that the Constitution was written, and there is no such evidence–and in fact the contrary.

    3. To believe that the writers of the US Constitution excluded the US-born children of foreigners from the presidency requires you to believe that the writers of the US constitution thought that the US-born children of foreigners were not as good as the US-born children of US-citizens.

    That would be the only reason to exclude the US-born children of foreigners. Yes, the US constitution does exclude foreigners themselves from becoming president, because to be a Natural Born Citizen you must be a citizen. And, yes, it also excludes naturalized citizens, persons not born in the USA. But there is no evidence that it excludes the US-born children of foreigners, and no evidence that the writers of the US constitution thought that the US-born children of foreigners were not as good as the US-born children of US citizens.

    Perhaps you know or are yourself a US-born child of foreign parents. Do you really consider that person is not as good as a US-born child of US-parents? Do you think that this person is likely to be less loyal? Well, if not, then what makes you think that the writers of the US constitution did either?

    To be sure, there might be a chance that they believed that the US-born child of a foreigner is not as good, or is more of a security risk, than the US-born child of a US citizen. But they did not say it. And if they did not say it, why believe it–especially since it does not make any sense; there is no evidence that the US-born children of foreigners are not as loyal as the US-born children of US-citizens.

    And, as I said elsewhere, it is highly unlikely that justices with the names Alito and Scalia and a chief justice whose mother’s maiden name was Podrasky would hold that the writers of the US constitution really believed that the US-born children of foreigners were not as good as the US-born children of US citizens. Yes, of course, if the writers had said that they believed that, then they believed it. But the writers of the constitution never said any such thing. And no US supreme court cases have said that either (the claim that they did is birther myth, in part fostered by birther lawyers cutting off quotations and not explaining the legal concept of “dicta.”)

  2. ndking

    March 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Dear “Ellen.”

    I tried to email you off line on the email you gave to wordpress but it was kicked back so i will do this publically. As you can see i approved for your latest comment to be posted on the blog. i want readers to see both sides and be able to make up their own minds based on the best arguments available and i think you have made the best case i have heard for your position. Thanks for being willing to get so involved and to passionately defend your side in a way that shows people can disagree, sometimes passionately, about conclusions and perhaps as in this case even the “facts” underpinning those conclusions, and still do it intelligently and with resorting to personal labelling and invective.

    In that vein I would invite your attention to the post put up today dealing with another exchange. In that exchange i tried to make a case for disavowing surrilous and hateful labelling on either side of the political debate. THe title is “Hate is Hate…”. i would be curious to see if you agree or disagree with that conclusion despite the probablility that we will disagree on some of the issues being spun off of the events leading to the debate. i think you have shown it possible to disagree virtually in every point and still not resort to invective as a debate tactic and that is a model for how debate should be conducted, in my opinion at least. So i thank you for providing that model I can point to.

    I’m about to answer an email i got directly that tries to take attention from that point and start a different discussion based on morality but i will label my response as an “Addendum” to keep it separate from the original.

    Thanks again for your participation in an important process.



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