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Founder and Historian David Ramsay defines “natural born Citizen” in 1789
“CITIZENSHIP…BELONGS TO NONE BUT THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN BORN OF CITIZENS”
by Mario Apuzzo, Esq.
(Apr. 2, 2010) — In defining an Article II “natural born Citizen,” it is important to find any authority from the Founding period who may inform us how the Founders and Framers themselves defined the clause. Who else but a highly respected historian from the Founding period itself would be highly persuasive in telling us how the Founders and Framers defined a “natural born Citizen.” Such an important person is David Ramsay, who in 1789 wrote “A Dissertation on the Manners of Acquiring the Character and Privileges of a Citizen,” (1789) a very important and influential essay on defining a “natural born Citizen.”
David Ramsay (April 2, 1749 to May 8, 1815) was an American physician, patriot, and historian from South Carolina and a delegate from that state to the Continental Congress in 1782-1783 and 1785-1786. He was the Acting President of the United States in Congress Assembled. He was one of the American Revolution’s first major historians. A contemporary of Washington, Ramsay writes with the knowledge and insights one acquires only by being personally involved in the events of the Founding period. In 1785 he published History of the Revolution of South Carolina (two volumes); in 1789 History of the American Revolution (two volumes); in 1807 a Life of Washington, and in 1809 a History of South Carolina (two volumes). Ramsay “was a major intellectual figure in the early republic, known and respected in America and abroad for his medical and historical writings, especially for The History of the American Revolution (1789)…” (Arthur H. Shaffer, Between Two Worlds: David Ramsay and the Politics of Slavery, J.S.Hist., Vol. L, No. 2, May 1984). “During the progress of the Revolution, Doctor Ramsay collected materials for its history, and his great impartiality, his fine memory, and his acquaintance with many of the actors in the contest, eminently qualified him for the task….”
In 1965 Professor Page Smith of the University of California at Los Angeles published an extensive study of Ramsay’s History of the American Revolution in which he stressed the advantage that Ramsay had because of being involved in the events of which he wrote and the wisdom he exercised in taking advantage of this opportunity. “The generosity of mind and spirit which marks his pages, his critical sense, his balanced judgment and compassion,” Professor Smith concluded, “are gifts that were uniquely his own and that clearly entitle him to an honorable position in the front rank of American historians.”
In his 1789 article, Ramsay first explained who the “original citizens” were and then defined the “natural born citizens” as the children born in the country to citizen parents. He said concerning the children born after the Declaration of Independence, “[c]itizenship is the inheritance of the children of those who have taken part in the late revolution; but this is confined exclusively to the children of those who were themselves citizens….” Id. at 6. He added that “citizenship by inheritance belongs to none but the children of those Americans, who, having survived the Declaration of Independence, acquired that adventitious character in their own right, and transmitted it to their offspring….” Id. at 7. He continued that citizenship “as a natural right, belongs to none but those who have been born of citizens since the 4th of July, 1776….” Id. at 6.
Here we have direct and convincing evidence of how a very influential Founder defined a “natural born citizen.” Given his position of influence and especially given that he was a highly respected historian, Ramsay would have had the contacts with other influential Founders and Framers and would have known how they too defined “natural born Citizen.” Ramsay, being of the Founding generation and being intimately involved in the events of the time, would have known how the Founders and Framers defined a “natural born Citizen,” and he told us that definition was one where the child was born in the country of citizen parents. In giving us this definition, it is clear that Ramsay did not follow the English common law but rather natural law, the law of nations, and Emmerich de Vattel, who also defined a “natural-born citizen” the same as did Ramsay in his highly acclaimed and influential The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns, Section 212 (1758 French) (1759 English). We can reasonably assume that the other Founders and Framers would have defined a “natural born Citizen” the same way that Ramsay did, for being a meticulous historian he would have gotten his definition from the general consensus that existed at the time.
Ramsay’s article and explication are further evidence of the influence that Vattel had on the Founders in how they defined the new national citizenship. This article by Ramsay is one of the most important pieces of evidence recently found (provided to us by an anonymous source) which provides direct evidence on how the Founders and Framers defined a “natural born Citizen” and that there is little doubt that they defined one as a child born in the country to citizen parents. Given this time-honored definition, which has been confirmed by subsequent United States Supreme Court and some lower court cases such as The Venus, 12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 253, 289 (1814) (Marshall, C.J., concurring and dissenting for other reasons, cites Vattel and provides his definition of natural born citizens); Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857) (Justice Daniels concurring took out of Vattel’s definition the reference to “fathers” and “father” and replaced it with “parents” and “person,” respectively); Shanks v. Dupont, 28 U.S. 242, 245 (1830) (same definition without citing Vattel); Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36, 21 L.Ed. 394, 16 Wall. 36 (1872) (in explaining the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment clause, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” said that the clause “was intended to exclude from its operation children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign States born within the United States;” Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U.S. 94 (1884) (“the children of subjects of any foreign government born within the domain of that government, or the children born within the United States, of ambassadors or other public ministers of foreign nations” are not citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment because they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States); Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162, 167-68 (1875) (same definition without citing Vattel); Ex parte Reynolds, 1879, 5 Dill., 394, 402 (same definition and cites Vattel); United States v. Ward, 42 F.320 (C.C.S.D.Cal. 1890) (same definition and cites Vattel); U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898) (quoted from the same definition of “natural born Citizen” as did Minor v. Happersett); Rep. John Bingham (in the House on March 9, 1866, in commenting on the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which was the precursor to the Fourteenth Amendment: “[I] find no fault with the introductory clause, which is simply declaratory of what is written in the Constitution, that every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen. . . . ” John A. Bingham (R-Ohio), U.S. Congressman, March 9, 1866 Cong. Globe, 39th, 1st Sess., 1291 (1866), Sec. 1992 of U.S. Revised Statutes (1866).
The two-citizen-parent requirement would have followed from the common law that provided that a woman upon marriage took the citizenship of her husband. In other words, the Framers required both (1) birth on United States soil (or its equivalent) and (2) birth to two United States citizen parents as necessary conditions of being granted that special status, which under our Constitution only the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Military (and also the Vice President under the Twelfth Amendment) must have at the time of his or her birth. Given the necessary conditions that must be satisfied to be granted the status, all “natural born Citizens” are “Citizens of the United States” but not all “Citizens of the United States” are “natural born Citizens.” It was only through both parents being citizens that the child was born with unity of citizenship and allegiance to the United States which the Framers required the President and Commander-in-Chief to have.
Obama fails to meet this “natural born Citizen” eligibility test because when he was born in 1961 (wherever that may have been), he was not born to a United States citizen mother and father. At his birth, his mother was a United States citizen. But under the British Nationality Act of 1948, his father, who was born in the British colony of Kenya, was born a Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC) which by descent made Obama himself a CUKC. Prior to Obama’s birth, Obama’s father neither intended to nor became a United States citizen. Being temporarily in the United States only for the purpose of study and with the intent to return to Kenya, his father did not intend, nor did he ever become, a legal resident or immigrant to the United States.
Obama may be a plain born “citizen of the United States” under the 14th Amendment or a Congressional Act (if he was born in Hawaii). But as we can see from David Ramsay’s clear presentation, citizenship “as a natural right, belongs to none but those who have been born of citizens since the 4th of July, 1776….” Id. at 6. Hence, Obama is not an Article II “natural born Citizen,” for upon Obama’s birth his father was a British subject and Obama himself by descent was also the same. Hence, Obama was born subject to a foreign power. Obama lacks the birth status of natural sole and absolute allegiance and loyalty to the United States which only the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Military and Vice President must have at the time of birth. Being born subject to a foreign power, he lacks Unity of Citizenship and Allegiance to the United States from the time of birth which assures that required degree of natural sole and absolute birth allegiance and loyalty to the United States, a trait that is constitutionally indispensable in a President and Commander-in-Chief of the Military. Just as a naturalized citizen, who, despite taking an oath later in life to having sole allegiance to the United States cannot be President because of being born subject to a foreign power, Obama too cannot be President.