Monday, February 29, 2016


The “Natural Born Citizen” Issue Explained

It’s not a court issue—the Founders defined it—we’ve just forgotten.

February 24, 2016

by Alan Korwin
The Uninvited Ombudsman (


Can just anyone be elected President of the United States? No, of course not. Foreigners for example are not eligible. The Constitution spells out the eligibility standards:

Article II, Section 1: “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.”

As you can see, Article II distinguishes between Citizens and natural born Citizens. Although we know the Founding Fathers used language with extreme care, this is now raising a ruckus. I’m a researcher, I’ve done the legwork, so let me set the record straight. The answers we need are right there in the historical record. This is not a judiciable matter for courts as has been recently suggested, along with other modern-day distractions and red herrings. Here’s the short version.

At the time of our nation’s founding Benjamin Franklin obtained three copies of Law of Nations by Emer de Vattel. There is a record of the acquisition from Franklin backing this up that still exists today. I’ll quote that in a moment. It was the preeminent guide on the subject. Franklin put one in a library, sent one to the College of Massachusetts, and brought one to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for the delegates to use, which they did.

This book they used defines “natural born citizen” clearly as a person born in a country, both of whose parents are citizens of the country at the time of birth. It’s a plain, clear definition of the term they used in the Constitution.

It’s a three-part requirement. It allows for no foreign birth or parentage in a person who is a natural born citizen. It is distinct from ordinary citizenship. Article II in the Constitution recognizes the distinction.

John Jay, who became our first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, sent a letter to George Washington, which also still exists, which I’ll also quote in a moment, confirming that the only way to ensure the U.S. presidency remains free of what today we would call “foreign entanglements” was to require that eligibility be limited to natural born citizens only. Washington replied, thanking him for the advice. In editing the final version of the Constitution, the Framers changed Article II from citizen to natural born Citizen, capitalized that way. Records of all this exist.

There, in a nutshell, is the entire situation.

No court decision is needed. The idea that a court must weigh in because the Founders didn’t define the term in the Constitution is nonsense. It is the same type of nonsense modern people have created to undermine other fundamental elements of our Constitution. The Founders knew exactly what the term meant, just like they knew what “weights and measures” meant when they used that (without defining it) and they used it with precision, for deliberate reason.

The presidency is the only office in our entire legal structure that has this requirement. Citizen appears throughout the law. Natural born citizen appears in one place and one place only—as a requirement for the highest office in the land. You can stop here and you have the truth of the matter, or read further if this interests you and you want the details.

This White Paper is not about liking one candidate over another—I do not endorse or oppose candidates, as people who know me are well aware. This is about liking the Constitution over any candidate. It would be wrong to let the fact that we have allowed a person into office who somehow avoided proper review and does not meet the eligibility requirements stated in our Constitution, to justify offering up additional candidates who similarly do not meet the fundamental test set out in our nation’s charter.

A Way Out of Our Dilemma

Those running who fit this category of ineligible to hold the office of President would do the nation an immense service, cement their place in history forever, and find the love of their countrymen, by stepping down gracefully and with honor. They can state publicly they have seen the light and have come to understand the facts as they should properly be understood. The Constitution comes first.

“Sometimes wisdom comes late,” as Justice Antonin Scalia presciently said. Since they cannot all rise to the top, it would be a far more elegant, courageous and honorable departure than simply conceding the race to someone else based on poll numbers. Such a tactful move would leave them, admired and respected, available for virtually any other office in the land.
[Editor: Short version, 796 words to here]



From Ben Franklin’s letter to Charles William Frederic Dumas:
Philadelphia, 9 December, 1775.

“...I am much obliged by the kind present you have made us of your edition of Vattel. It came to us in good season, when the circumstances of a rising state make it necessary frequently to consult the law of nations. Accordingly that copy, which I kept, (after depositing one in our own public library here, and sending the other to the College of Massachusetts Bay, as you directed,) has been continually in the hands of the members of our Congress, now sitting, who are much pleased with your notes and preface, and have entertained a high and just esteem for their author. Your manuscript “Idee sur le Gouvernement et la Royaute” is also well relished, and may, in time, have its effect. I thank you, likewise, for the other smaller pieces, which accompanied Vattel...”

The letter addresses other matters concerning employment of colleagues, and translations of the proceedings of the Congress.

Vattel’s definition of a natural born citizen:

Law of Nations, Book I, Ch. XIX, at § 212:
§ 212: The citizens are the members of the civil society: bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority, they equally participate in its advantages. The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.

There is more, concerning ordinary citizens, inhabitants, naturalization, duties and responsibilities of citizenship, renouncing citizenship once you become of age, children born of foreigners, or at sea, it is a complex subject and a big book. Read it all here if you wish:

John Jay wrote to George Washington:

July 25, 1787
“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 expresly that the Command in chief of the american army shall not be given to, nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen.”

In Sep., 1787, the “Committee of Eleven,” chosen at the Constitutional Convention to work out details on numerous occasions, changed the presidential requirement from citizen to natural born citizen, after receiving Jay’s letter. The Convention accepted the changes, hence the wording we have today.

Additional valuable resources

-- Attorney Mario Appuzo has made this situation a core of his life’s work and has assembled, in one place, the references, if you care to delve more deeply, with links to the complete edition of Vattel and more. He has been attacked by everyone who wants to hide all this from public view. His lawsuit on this issue on behalf of retired Navy Cmdr. Charles Kerchner and others reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where it was declined.

-- The Publius Huldah blog has serious flaws but makes interesting reference to the vast array of wild conjecture that has effloresced lately as to what a natural born citizen is, based upon nothing but idle speculation and blather, giving these examples:

-- Bret Baier (Fox News) asserts that Congress may define (and presumably redefine, from time to time) terms in the Constitution by means of law.

-- Chet Arthur in American Thinker quips that “the original meaning of ‘natural born citizen’” is determined by reference to “The Heritage Guide to the Constitution” (available on Amazon) and to the definition of “citizen” at Sec. 1 of the 14th Amendment, ratified 1868. (For the record, the 14th Amendment did not amend or even address Article II.)

-- Human Events claimed in 2012 that anyone born within The United States is a “natural born citizen” eligible to be President, and based on a “common-sense logical approach” that includes any foreigner naturalized or otherwise obtaining citizenship as eligible. No support is included (because there isn’t any).

-- Jake Walker at Red State confuses natural born subjects (a function of the British Crown) and natural born citizens (in this Republic which we fought a war to achieve).

-- I’ve seen worse examples on TV but didn’t take notes. Rush Limbaugh suggested on radio the issue is not an issue. Bill O’Reilly said on his FOX-TV show The Factor definitively he will not mention the matter again. The collection of official sounding commentary, from Harvard to hashtags, is mind boggling. One learned fellow tells me Article II was added to keep foreign-born Alexander Hamilton out of office, which makes little sense since all Founders were British subjects when the nation began, and Article II accounts for that. CNN has aired a bewildering array of self-contradictory pontification on who is eligible with barely any reference to history, much of it from talking heads whose ignorance of the subject is self evident.