Status as a natural-born citizen of the United States is one of the eligibility requirements established in the United States Constitution for holding the office of president or vice president.

Articles concerning US Citizenship 

July 04, 2016

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Written by Dr. Tolbert Dec. 2015

Written by Dr Tolbert Nov 2014

Understanding Citizenship

August 23, 2015 By KrisAnne Hall 18 Comments

George WashingtonOur Founders established the criteria of Natural Born Citizen upon our President for a very important reason. Natural Born Citizen meant, to our framers, a child born of two parents who were citizens of the United States at the time of the birth of that child. If you are not sure of this, or perhaps disagree, please read this article based upon fact & history before you go on:

A person who is born of just one parent who is a citizen of the United States is a citizen by birth, but not Natural Born Citizen. Someone cannot hold or have held dual citizenship with a foreign country and be a Natural Born Citizen. The fact that we are confused by this qualification, or perhaps even wish to alter this qualification, must be because we do not understand WHY this qualification was established in the first place. So, before we take a stand either way, we must consider the reasons why this qualification was established by the framers of the American Constitution.

The whole reason the president must be a Natural Born Citizen is because our framers had a history full of foreign kings imposing foreign law and foreign favor upon the people and they knew how dangerous foreign influence was to Liberty. George Washington spent a great bit of effort trying to drive this understanding home in his Farewell Address of 1796:

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

Washington knew from his history the real dangers of foreign influence. Part of Washington’s British Constitution was a document called the Grand Remonstrance of King Charles 1,with a Letter in His Hands1641 in which the people of Great Britain listed many grievances against their King, Charles I. They indicated that these grievance were indicative of a larger design to overturn and undermine Liberty of the people and the Law of the Land. One of the grievances illustrates how foreign influence and foreign law have contributed to that destruction of Liberty:

“Such Councillors and Courtiers as for private ends have engaged themselves to further the interests of some foreign princes or states to the prejudice of His Majesty and the State at home.”

In another part of the British Constitution, this time the English Bill of Rights of 1689, the people of Great Britain actually require an oath of their King and his council to shun all foreign influence:

“And I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.”

Protecting the United States from foreign influence was very prominent in the minds of our framers, especially in the office of president. At the time of the creation of the Constitution by the States there were no Natural Born Citizens so an exception was made until that qualification could be met. Article 2 section 1 clause 5 reads:

“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;”

revolutionThe exception to the Natural Born Citizen requirement was that the President must be a “Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution.” Joseph Story in his “Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833” explains that this was to ensure that people who were “Patriots of the Revolution” could be considered for this office.

“This permission of a naturalized citizen to become president is an exception from the great fundamental policy of all governments, to exclude foreign influence from their executive councils and duties. It was doubtless introduced (for it has now become by lapse of time merely nominal, and will soon become wholly extinct) out of respect to those distinguished revolutionary patriots, who were born in a foreign land, and yet had entitled themselves to high honours in their adopted country.”

This is an important distinction that helps us understand WHY the Natural Born Citizen requirement is a must. The President is the commander in chief of the military. Our framers knew from their history that it would be extremely dangerous to allow someone of foreign influence to exercise power over our military. Founder, John Jay wrote a letter to George Washington on July 25, 1787, expressing this very point.

john jay“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 devolved on, any but a natural born Citizen.”

The commander in chief could have no fractionalized loyalty. The commander in chief must be loyal to the United States, first and only. Prior to being a Natural Born Citizen, the candidate for president would have proven that loyalty by having been a “distinguished revolutionary patriot.” Once time established the availability of Natural Born Citizen candidates, that unbroken loyalty would be proven in party by the fact that both parents were citizens of the United States and establishing that the candidate would have been raised in a home with loyalty only to the United States.

When a child is raised in a home where one or both parents are citizens of a foreign country, then that child will naturally be raised with an attachment to that foreign militarycountry out of love for that parent. Our framers knew that in time of military crisis, our commander in chief must be free from all attachments and bias with a foreign country and mattered not if that bias was for or against the foreign country. The president must not hesitate or haste in matters of war. He must only act upon the best interest of the United States, free from internal conflict. George Washington explains this fact in his Farewell Address:

Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.”

Alexander Hamilton gives another perspective upon the Natural Born Citizen requirement. He postulates why a foreign country might actually want to actually raise up someone to become president of the United States and the inherent danger in that possibility:

alexandar hamilton“Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

Just as the birth of a child on US soil does not create citizenship in the parent, the birthplace of the child does not establish the status of Natural Born Citizen. Throughout history citizenship has been based upon the criteria of the parents. It has not been linked to the child. This criteria of Natural Born Citizen does not deviate from that norm.

In summary, the entire reason for establishing the criteria for a president to be a Natural Born Citizen was to help to eliminate any possibility that the commander in chief of the military be influenced by love or hate of a foreign nation. Because of this well established and historically justified reason, we should think very long and hard before we consider altering or diluting this established requirement through modern interpretation or modern court opinions. Our framers did what they did on purpose and with a purpose. We only endanger our Liberty when we assume they didn’t know what they were doing, and our advanced intellect means we can disregard their reasons for our own personal preferences. We would do well to learn from this history, instead of dooming ourselves to repeat history’s mistakes.

In general, a child for citizenship and naturalization provisions is an unmarried person who is: The genetic, legitimated, or adopted son or daughter of a U.S. citizen; or. The son or daughter of a non-genetic gestational U.S. citizen mother who is recognized by the relevant jurisdiction as the child’s legal parent.Jul 5, 2020

Challenges in 2008 to the eligibility of both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama to be President, and “ballot access” challenges to President Obama in 2012, have prompted numerous court decisions which appear to have validated the traditional, historical, and legal meaning of the term “natural born” citizen as one who is entitled to U.S. citizenship “by birth” or “at birth.” This would include those born “in” the United States and under its jurisdiction (i.e. “native” born), even those born to alien parents; those born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents; or those born in other situations meeting legal requirements for U.S. citizenship “at birth.” Such term, however, would not include a person who was not a U.S. citizen by birth or at birth, and who was thus born an “alien” required to go through the legal process of “naturalization” to become a U.S. citizen.

According to the Supreme Court, words and phrases used, but not defined, within the Constitution, should “be read in light of British common law,” since the U.S. Constitution is “framed in the language of the English common law.”3 Although the English common law is not “binding” on federal courts in interpreting the meaning of words or phrases within the Constitution, nor is it necessarily to be considered the “law” of the United States (as it is for the individual states specifically incorporating it), it can be employed to shed light on the concepts and precepts within the document that are not defined there, but which are reflected in the corpus of British law and jurisprudence of the time. As noted by Chief Justice (and former President) Taft, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, the framers of the U.S. Constitution “were born The term “natural born” in the context of citizenship appears to derive from the British concept that those born with a “natural liege” (allegiance, tie, or connection) to the nation or to the sovereign, were (under English terminology) “natural born” subjects under the law in England and in the American colonies at the time of independence. There appears to be little scholarly debate that the English common law at the time of independence included at least all persons born on the soil of England (jus soli, that is, “law of the soil”), even to alien parents, as “natural born” subjects (unless the alien parents were diplomatic personnel of a foreign nation, or foreign troops in hostile occupation). As noted by the Supreme Court of the United States, this “same rule” was applicable in the colonies and “in the United States afterwards, and continued to prevail under the
Although the British common law at the time of independence with regard to jus soli was
apparently clear, there were varying opinions as whether those born abroad of English subjects
were “natural born” subjects under the common law, or were considered “natural born” subjects
merely by long-standing statutory law. Some commentators have claimed that the statutory
provisions of English law, first appearing during the reign of Edward III in 1350, were
“incorporated” into, or in the alternative, “reflected” the already established English common
law. RegardlessofthetechnicalstateofthecommonlawinEnglandwithrespecttochildren
born abroad, however, there appear to be significant arguments that the corpus of English law applicable within the American colonies, known to the framers and adopted in the states, was broader than merely the “law of the soil.” Legal commentators have contended that the body of English law carried forward in the United States relating to citizenship included both the strict common law notion of jus soli, as well as that part of the law of descent (jus sanguinis) included in long-standing British law7 (including as “natural born” subjects those born abroad of an English father), and that this was part of the “common understanding” of the term “natural born”
4 Ex parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87, 108-109 (1925).
5 United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649, 658 (1898). See also Inglis v. Sailor’s Snug Harbour, 3 Pet. (28 U.S.)
99, 120 (1830), see specifically Story, J., dissenting on other grounds, 28 U.S. at 164.
6 See discussion of controversy of whether the English common law included only those born on the soil, regardless of the nationality of the parents (jus soli), or whether the common law also included those born abroad of an English father (jus sanguinis), in Flourny, Richard W. (Assistant Solicitor, Department of State), Dual Nationality and Election, 30 YALE LAW JOURNAL 545, 548 (1921).
7 See Blackstone, COMMENTARIES ON THE LAWS OF ENGLAND, Volume I, “Of the Rights of Persons,” 354-358, 361 (1765): “ … by several more modern statutes … all children, born out of the king’s ligeance, whose fathers were natural- born subjects, are now natural born subjects themselves, to all intents and purposes, without any exception; unless their said fathers were attainted, or banished beyond sea, for high treason; or were then in the service of a prince at enmity with Great Britain.” As noted by the Supreme Court in Weedin v. Chin Bow, 274 U.S. 657, 660 (1926): “These statutes applied to the colonies before the War of Independence.” For early references to the term natural liege subjects in the American colonies, see Sydney George Fisher, THE EVOLUTION OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, (Lippincott 1897) at 189, citing the Virginia Charter of 1611-1612, and the Concessions of East Jersey, 1665.
8 See, for example, Charles Gordon, Who Can Be President of the United States: The Unresolved Enigma, 28 MD. L. REV. 1, 12, 18 (1968). Charles Gordon was formerly General Counsel of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Constitution” with respect to “natural born” U.S. citizenship.
to the framers at the time of the drafting of the Constitution.

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