We The People USA

Citizens Dedicated To Preserving Our Constitutional Republic

Defining Natural-Born Citizen

Federalist Blog By P.A. Madison on November 18, 2008

“The common law of England is not the common law of these States.” —George Mason

UPDATED 11/28/08

What might the phrase “natural-born citizen” of the United States imply under the U.S. Constitution? The phrase has always been obscure due to the lack of any single authoritative source to confer in order to understand the condition of citizenship the phrase recognizes. Learning what the phrase might have meant following the Declaration of Independence, and following the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, requires detective work. As with all detective work, eliminating the usual suspects from the beginning goes a long way in quickly solving a case.

What Natural-Born Citizen Could Not Mean

Could a natural-born citizen simply mean citizenship due to place of birth?

Unlikely because we know one can be native born and yet not a native born citizen of this country prior to the year 1866. There were even disputes whether anyone born within the District of Columbia or in the territories were born citizens of the United States (they were referred to as “inhabitants” instead.) National Government could make no “territorial allegiance” demands within the several States because as Madison explained it, the “powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

Jurisdiction over citizenship via birth within the several States was part of the “ordinary course of affairs” of the States that only local laws could affect. Early acts of Naturalization recognized the individual State Legislatures as the only authority who could make anyone a citizen of a State. Citizens of each State were united together through Article IV, Sec. II of the U.S. Constitution, and thus, no act of Congress was required to make citizens of the individual States citizens of the United States.

Prior to the Revolutionary War place of birth within the dominions of the crown was the principle criterion for establishing perpetual allegiance to the crown in this country. After independence, this maxim was only recognized as far as individual States were willing to recognize it. The State of Virginia in 1777 moved to recognize parentage (citizenship of father) in determining allegiance and citizenship. States that were slow in enacting laws controlling birth and citizenship forced the courts to adjudicate citizenship disputes under common law rules.

Congress was vested only with the power to make uniform rules of naturalization in order to remove alienage from those who were already born abroad (outside of the States) who had immigrated to any one of the individual States. The best Congress could do is declare children born to fathers who were already a citizen of some State to be a citizen themselves. In other words, naturalization only provides for the removal of alienage and not for the creation of citizens within individual States.

Additionally, if the framers merely intended for birth alone on U.S. soil then all would had been necessary was to say the President shall be “native born.”

Could a natural-born citizen perhaps be synonymous with the British term “natural-born subject”?

It is very doubtful the framers adopted the doctrine found under the old English doctrine of “natural-born subject.” The British doctrine allowed for double allegiances, something the founders considered improper.

Framer Rufus King said allegiance to the United States depended on whether a person is a “member of the body politic.” King says no nation should adopt or naturalize a person of another society without the consent of that person. The reason? Because “he ought not silently to be embarrassed with a double allegiance.

The powers of the general government were limited and defined, preventing Congress from exercising the same kind of sovereignty that Britain had over its claimed dominions within established States of the Union.

Under the old English common law doctrine of natural-born subject, birth itself was an act of naturalization that required no prior consent or demanded allegiance to the nation in advance. Furthermore, birth was viewed as enjoining a “perpetual allegiance” upon all that could never be severed or altered by any change of time or act of anyone. England’s “perpetual allegiance” due from birth was extremely unpopular in this country; often referred to as absurd barbarism, or simply perpetual nonsense. America went to war with England over the doctrine behind “natural-born subject” in June of 1812.

Because Britain considered all who were born within the dominions of the crown to be its natural-born subjects even after becoming naturalized citizens of the United States, led to British vessels blockading American ports. Under the British blockade, every American ship entering or leaving was boarded by soldiers in search of British born subjects. At least 6,000 American citizens who were found to be British natural-born subjects were impressed into military service on behalf of the British Empire, and thus, the reason we went to war.

Fourteenth Amendment

The adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment obviously affects how we view natural-born citizens because for the first time there is a national rule of who may by birth be a citizen of the United States. Who may be born citizens of the States is conditional upon being born “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States. The legislative definition of “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” was defined as “Not owing allegiance to anybody else.”

This national rule prevents us from interpreting natural born citizen under common law rules because it eliminates the possibility of a child being born with more than one allegiance.

The primary author of the citizenship clause, Sen. Jacob M. Howard, said the “word jurisdiction, as here employed, ought to be construed so as to imply a full and complete jurisdiction on the part of the United States, whether exercised by Congress, by the executive, or by the judicial department; that is to say, the same jurisdiction in extent and quality as applies to every citizen of the United States now.”

United States Attorney General, George Williams, whom was a U.S. Senator aligned with Radical Republicans during the drafting of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1866, ruled in 1873 the word “jurisdiction” under the Fourteenth Amendment “must be understood to mean absolute and complete jurisdiction, such as the United States had over its citizens before the adoption of this amendment.” He added, “Political and military rights and duties” do not pertain to anyone else.

Essentially then, “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” means the same jurisdiction the United States exercises over its own citizens, i.e., only citizens of the United States come within its operation since citizens of the United States do not owe allegiance to some other nation at the same time they do the United States. This makes a great deal of sense for the time because there was a great deal of controversy over conflicts arising from double allegiances. In fact, Congress issued a joint congressional report on June 22, 1874 that said the “United States have not recognized a double allegiance.

Fourteenth Amendment framer, Rep. John A. Bingham, argued before the House in 1871 that Dr. John Emilio Houard was a natural-born citizen of the United States. According to Bingham he was a natural-born citizen because he was “born of naturalized parents within the jurisdiction of the United States” by the “express words of the Constitution, as amended today.” A naturalized male (women became naturalized through their husbands) were required to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity” to other nations, and thus, could no longer be said to owe allegiance to anyone but the United States.

Because “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” requires not owing allegiance to any other nation, and because the nation does not recognize double allegiances that can be created at common law, narrows the possibilities to what “natural-born citizen” can mean.

Natural-Born Citizen Defined

One universal point most all early publicists agreed on was natural-born citizen must mean one who is a citizen by no act of law. If a person owes their citizenship to some act of law (naturalization for example), they cannot be considered a natural-born citizen. This leads us to defining natural-born citizen under the laws of nature - laws the founders recognized and embraced.

Under the laws of nature, every child born requires no act of law to establish the fact the child inherits through nature his/her father’s citizenship as well as his name (or even his property) through birth. This law of nature is also recognized by law of nations. Sen. Howard said the citizenship clause under the Fourteenth Amendment was by virtue of “natural law and national law.” The first Naturalization Act passed by Congress recognized “natural-born citizens” to be those born beyond the States to resident fathers who were already established citizens of the United States.

The advantages of Natural Law is competing allegiances between nations are avoided, or at least with those nations whose custom is to not make citizens of other countries citizens without their consent. Additional alternations or conflicts due to a child’s natural citizenship are strictly a creature of local municipal law. In the year 1866, the United States for the first time adopted a local municipal law under Sec. 1992 of U.S. Revised Statutes that read: “All persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are declared to be citizens of the United States.

Rep. Bingham commenting on Section 1992 said it means “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.” This national law does not endow upon any person allegiance through birth alone as was the custom under the old English common law practice but only recognizes citizenship of those born to parents who do not owe allegiance to another nation. In other words, national law prevented the creation of conflicting dual citizenships between other nation’s citizens.

Secretary of State Bayard ruled under Section 1992 of U.S. Revised Statutes in 1885 that although Richard Greisser was born in the United States, his father at the time of his birth was a subject of Germany, and thus, Richard Greisser could not be a citizen of the United States. Furthermore, it was held his father was not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The constitutional requirement for the President of the United States to be a natural-born citizen had one purpose according to St. George Tucker:

That provision in the constitution which requires that the president shall be a native-born citizen (unless he were a citizen of the United States when the constitution was adopted,) is a happy means of security against foreign influence, which, wherever it is capable of being exerted, is to he dreaded more than the plague. The admission of foreigners into our councils, consequently, cannot be too much guarded against; their total exclusion from a station to which foreign nations have been accustomed to, attach ideas of sovereign power, sacredness of character, and hereditary right, is a measure of the most consummate policy and wisdom. … The title of king, prince, emperor, or czar, without the smallest addition to his powers, would have rendered him a member of the fraternity of crowned heads: their common cause has more than once threatened the desolation of Europe. To have added a member to this sacred family in America, would have invited and perpetuated among us all the evils of Pandora’s Box.

Additionally, Charles Pinckney in 1800 said the presidential eligibility clause was designed “to insure … attachment to the country.”

What better way to insure attachment to the country then to require the President to have inherited his American citizenship through his American father and not through a foreign father. Any child can be born anywhere in the country and removed by their father to be raised in his native country. The risks would be for the child the return in later life to reside in this country bringing with him foreign influences and intrigues.

Therefore, we can say with confidence that a natural-born citizen of the United States means those persons born whose father the United States already has an established jurisdiction over, i.e., born to father’s who are themselves citizens of the United States. A person who had been born under a double allegiance cannot be said to be a natural-born citizen of the United States because such status is not recognized (only in fiction of law). A child born to an American mother and alien father could be said to be a citizen of the United States by some affirmative act of law but never entitled to be a natural-born citizen because through laws of nature the child inherits the condition of their father.


What “Subject to the Jurisdiction Thereof” Really Means

Wong Kim Ark Analysis


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Comment by Dale Stensland on May 25, 2009 at 12:26pm

Posted on Sunday, May 24, 2009 8:56:04 PM by Joiseydude

WASHINGTON – A bill approved by the House of Representatives and referred to the Senate would prohibit federal employees of executive branch from being compelled to release any document unless a court makes a specified determination by a preponderance of evidence – legislation at least one group suspects is designed to protect Barack Obama's elusive birth certificate from release.

The legislation, HR 985, resides in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sovereignty Alliance has issued a "red alert" about the bill it calls "stealth legislation ... to protect Obama from providing his birth certificate."

(Excerpt) Read more at wnd.com ...
Comment by Jerry Dean on January 12, 2009 at 10:04pm
FYI and Consideration

Date: Sat, 10 Jan 2009 18:32:40 -0800
The United States is facing the worst Constitutional Crisis since South Carolina seceded from the Union. It could well split the military between those who will stand by the Constitution vs. those who stand by traitors in order to keep their military offices. The major difference is that the secession was covered by the media of the day but this crisis is being hidden by the media or when covered, much misinformation has been provided to deceive We the People. When we who know about this crisis try to BUY time on TV, we are refused.


1. The Electors failed to do their Constitutional duty after being educated as to the crisis.

2. On Jan 8, 2009, the entire Senate and House of Representatives dishonored their oath to sustain and defend the Constitution after also being educated about this crisis.

3. The Federal Courts, including the Supreme Court, are using all types of legal technicalities as an excuse not to keep their oath.

The ONLY group that is left to turn to is the military. If you fail us we have two choices left. First, we can submit to the fall of our Constitutional Republic and live under a New World Order or SECOND we can do as the Patriots did in 1776 and win back our liberties under God. I believe most retired military will take that position as I would. "Don't Tread On Me" will be our theme like it was the former Patriots.

I spent four years as USAF Officer from 1963-1967. Then, I spent 7 years as an Officer in the Indiana Air National Guard while obtaining my Doctorate Degree in Business at Indiana University.

When I was Commissioned as a USAF ROTC Officer at Penn State University in March, 1963, I swore to "Uphold and Defend the Constitution of the USA against ALL enemies foreign and DOMESTIC so help me God." I have always taken that oath seriously and feel it is still applicable even though I no longer serve in the USAF.

I KNOW that you took that same oath and hold it dear to your heart as I do. I also KNOW that implied within that oath is to follow all orders given by the President as Commander in Chief IF they are Constitutional. That oath clearly places loyalty to the Constitution above anyone who gives unlawful orders, including the POTUS.


There are three types of citizens.

First is the natural born. This person can run for President if in addition he/she is at least 35 years old and has lived in the USA for 10 years or more. The two relevant requirements to be natural born are listed below.

Second, is the native citizen. This person is born to at least one parent who is an American citizen.

Third, is to become a naturalized citizen through a legally defined process.

It is either the second or third category that Mr. Obama belongs in. In terms of elected office, all three types of citizens can legally run in EXCEPT for the office of POTUS.

THE PROBLEM is that Mr. Obama cannot be Commander in Chief and give any lawful orders to follow. Why? The Constitution REQUIRES that any POTUS be a natural born citizen which entails:

(1) being born on US soil and
(2) having both parents be USA citizens at the time of birth.

Mr. Obama meets neither of these two requirements. His father was a citizen of Kenya. He even admits this in his book. As such, he was a citizen of the British Empire. At that time (1961) one could not have duel citizenship. Citizenship followed the father.

Mr. Obama also was born in Kenya, not as falsely claimed in Hawaii.

Mr. Obama has spent many 1000s of dollars for law firms to make sure NO ONE sees his long form, original, vault birth certificate in Hawaii. The reason is???? We think it's because the Hawaiian long form, original, vault birth certificate will show that he was ph
Comment by usfrog on December 6, 2008 at 5:57pm
As far as I'm concerned, I don't think OBAMA is a natural born citizen of the US because his father was not a US citizen. Period. Whether he was born in Hawaii or not is irrevelent. He cannot become POTUS.
If his birthplace IS Hawaii, he's just a US citizen, not a natural born citizen and thus not eligible for POTUS.
Comment by Greta M. on December 2, 2008 at 12:47pm
It would not only be an assoult it would be the end of our Constitution as we know and enjoy today.
Comment by Mary Brown on November 30, 2008 at 5:39pm
This is the first time I have understood anyone's explanation of "natural born" status and I now feel justified in my belief that Obama is not a natural born citizen. Obama was born of a Kenyan father and this heritage has been an influence on his life, as witnessed by Obama's interaction with his Kenyan relatives and his willingness to participate in his cousin's, Raila Odinga, campaign for the Presidency of Kenya. Obama also lived in Indonesia as a child and was recognized as an Indonesian citizen. His childhood experiences of attending school and Islam religious services, as well as his home life with his mother, stepfather and half-sister must have some influence on his feelings for Indonesia. .

The way things have changed over the years though and with the liberal influence now affecting our courts, I doubt if this explanation will be the same interpretation the Supreme Court Justices will rely upon in making their decision. IF there is anyway to "lawyer-speak" another interpretation to "allow" Obama to be considered eligible to serve as President, I am sure they will try to find it. I do not believe the Justices of the Supreme Court have the fortitude and strength of character to base their decisions strictly on the wording of our Constitution. I don't even believe they will require the release of Obama's birth certificate. I am sure the "long-arm" of Obama has already found a way to "warn, threaten, coerce, intimidate, bargain, etc." the Supreme Court Justices into seeing it their way.

Our founding fathers were men of extreme dedication and honor, plus they had offered the greatest sacrifice - their very lives - to the idea of an independent and democratic nation. You can tell by the precise wording in the Constitution that they were writing a document to guide future generations. They included the words, "natural born citizen" to prevent someone with allegiances to another country from holding the office of President of the United States. Our nation today consists of men who believe the Constitution is outdated and the principles no longer apply to the events of today. We can only hope that our current Supreme Court Justices will take into consideration the monumental importance of this decision. To allow someone who may have personal feelings through intimate associations to other countries would be a severe assault on the integrity of our Constitution.
Comment by Bob Stevens on November 30, 2008 at 9:07am
This is a nice article, but to be more useful, it needs scholarly references. Was this published anywhere? Peer reviewed? Does the author hold any kind of research position or academic position? These all should be listed. If this is done, this article will be much more helpful.
Comment by Phil Dedrick 3% OKer's on November 30, 2008 at 5:54am
This is a great write. When I was in High School though, in the Government Class, I was taught that in order to be a President, both of your parents must have been born on American Soil. This is what was in the classroom book.

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