UPDATE: Please read my Comment below, containing an excerpt from the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Slaughterhouse Cases, which emphasizes this point with relation to the 14th Amendment’s language on citizens. In short, if the 14th Amendment can be said to be conferring citizenship rather than merely codifying those definitions already understood in law and practice then, it does so only by establishing the distinction between the rights accruing to citizens as citizens of the U.S.A. which rights are now uniform; versus the rights of citizens as citizens of the states (in which they reside), which vary according to the state.
© 2011 jbjd
No legally binding definition exists of the phrase “natural born citizen” as written in Article II, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution; and no such definition will be forthcoming until a federal appeals court, including the U.S. Supreme Court, rules, this is the definition, in the holding of a case or controversy directly on point, that is, one which requires the court to formulate such definition so as to reach resolution of the matter properly before the court.
I have said this a ‘million’ times, with only slight variation, since I began blogging in 2008. And, as I have also indicated, for a couple of reasons, at this point, that is, now that President Obama has been elected; I couldn’t care less whether he is a NBC; and I have been saying this for a long time, too. What difference does it make whether he is a NBC when we enacted no laws that required our state Electors to elect only a President who is Constitutionally eligible for the job! (This would explain my insistence that present calls for Impeachment cannot be predicated only on his Constitutional ineligibility for office.) And, regardless of the absence of documentary evidence available in the public record that, he is even a C, which status certainly was well defined and accepted by the aforementioned legal authorities even before this definition was codified in the 14th Amendment for the purpose of qualifying who is entitled to “privileges and immunities”; it appears true that, millions of my fellow citizens who voted for (Electors for) the man, could not have cared less whether he is a NBC, either, even before his election.
Thus, I have steered clear of substantively addressing the ‘legal’ arguments out there which insist, a binding definition of NBC exists.
However, obviously, this recognition of the status quo, that is, no legally binding definition exists of NBC; and my present indifference to Obama’s Constitutional eligibility for office; have had little to do with my continuing efforts to identify a mechanism for determining whether he is a NBC, for those people who want to know. Indeed, my mission has always focused on the larger issue of understanding how our government, in general; and particularly our electoral system works and, where it does not work, how we might fix it. (Yes, in so doing, I figured out how to spark the court case that could result in a legally binding definition of NBC but, that is not the focus of this post.)
And it is because my focus is on fixing what is broken in our system that, notwithstanding I have refused to enter the ‘legal definition of NBC’ fray in the past; for the moment, I changed my mind. Because now, 3+ years into our national discussion about Constitutional eligibility; about to dive into a new general election cycle; we are still being sidetracked by such folly. So, responding to a comment from long-time “jbjd” reader, Mick; I decided to weigh in, once and for all, on the case most often cited to sustain this drivel.
Again, a circular firing squad you present. If there is no judiciable definition of natural born Citizen, as you say, then how can the Secretary of State of any state verify whether a POTUS candidate is eligible? As usual, many words in this post saying nothing, except the whining about someone stealing your “work”. How about this definition, straight from SCOTUS in Minor v. Happersett: “The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners.” Pretty plain to most people with any sense.
Here is my response.
Mick: The legal case you mention – Minor v. Happersett – does not rest on defining what is meant by the term “natural born citizen.” Indeed, the case is not at all concerned with distinguishing from among “natural born citizen”; or “native citizen”; or “naturalized citizen.” Rather, this is a (state) voting rights case to determine only whether MO law can rightly prohibit women from voting, brought under the “rights and privileges” clause of the 14th Amendment. In other words, is suffrage a “right” or “privilege” that now must be protected for female citizens otherwise prohibited under state law from voting on account of their gender? But as a threshold matter, the court must first determine whether the word “citizen” as this is used in the 14th Amendment; means women, too.
Thus, the court conducts an extensive analysis (non-binding dicta) of the legal posture of historical authorities, both in common law, statutes, and state constitutions, with respect to the meaning of citizen, as this applies generically. It acknowledges, these authorities have always been consistent in saying, the child born in this jurisdiction, of citizen parents is a natural born native citizen; but inconsistent on whether the same can be said of children born here of non-citizen parents. Both of Ms. Minor’s parents were citizens at the time of her birth. The court wrote, therefore, there was no need to “reach” the question as to whether she would still be a native natural born citizen if her parents were not citizens.
Here is the whole quote from that same passage you excerpted in your comment. Now, see if this makes more sense.
The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners. Some authorities go further and include as citizens children born within the jurisdiction without reference to the citizenship of their parents. As to this class there have been doubts, but never as to the first. For the purposes of this case it is not necessary to solve these doubts. It is sufficient for everything we have now to consider that all children born of citizen parents within the jurisdiction are themselves citizens.
Then, having determined, Ms. Minor is by all other means, a citizen; the court similarly conducts an extensive analysis (non-binding dicta) of the legal posture of historical authorities, both in common law, statutes, and state constitutions, with respect to the meaning of citizen, as this applies to women. And, it concludes, women were always historically considered citizens (who satisfied the uniformly accepted threshold requirement of birth in this jurisdiction to citizen parents). Thus, the word “citizen” in the 14th Amendment as this relates to the “privileges and immunities” clause, means, women, too. (The court makes clear that, as she is a natural born native citizen, her citizenship, and impliedly the citizenship of all women and men similarly situated, (though not necessarily the citizenship of people born here to non-citizen parents, or who achieved citizenship through naturalization because, as the court had already pointed out, the authorities had heretofore been mixed as to whether these were citizens and, it would not resolve that issue here) was not newly conferred by the 14th Amendment but only newly codified as entitling them as citizens to the same “privileges and immunities” as all citizens of the several states. That is, the 14th Amendment does not create a new definition of citizen.)
Then, having determined, Ms. Minor is by all other means, a citizen; and that, citizen means, women; the court similarly conducts an extensive analysis (non-binding dicta) of the legal posture of historical authorities, both in common law, statutes, and state constitutions, with respect to whether suffrage can be said to be a “right” or “privilege” under the 14th Amendment. And that’s where Ms. Minor’s case fails. Because voting in the several states had always been largely exclusive to men. Even when it was not exclusive to citizens.
Besides this, citizenship has not in all cases been made a condition precedent to the enjoyment of the right of suffrage. Thus, in Missouri, persons of foreign birth, who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, may under certain circumstances vote. The same provision is to be found in the constitutions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas. Id.
In other words, Ms. Minor was entitled to all of the privileges and immunities of all citizens; and voting wasn’t one of those privileges and immunities.
Finally, you ask, how can the Secretary of State of any state verify whether a candidate for President is eligible for the job? S/he cannot. Because, right now, no law says, s/he must, even in those states that require candidates to be qualified for office to appear on the ballot. Yep; even in those states where the legislature has already acted, no SoS had promulgated rules and regulations defining such ballot eligibility, let alone identifying whose job will be, to check.
In conclusion, Mick, no legally binding definition exists of the phrase “natural born citizen” as written in Article II, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution; and no such definition will be forthcoming until a federal appeals court, including the U.S. Supreme Court, rules, this is the definition, in the holding of a case or controversy directly on point, that is, one which requires the court to formulate such definition so as to reach resolution of the matter properly before the court. And, absent a legally binding definition of NBC; no state with a law requiring candidate eligibility to appear on the ballot, has even (attempted) to enact rules and regulations to define NBC for the sole purpose of determining ballot eligibility.
Make sense? ADMINISTRATOR
For those of you who will not read the whole case, here is a syllabus, prepared by the court.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
88 U.S. 162
Argued: February 9, 1875 — Decided: March 29, 1875
ERROR to the Supreme Court of Missouri; the case being thus:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States, and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction, the equal protection of the laws.”
“Every male citizen of the United States shall be entitled to vote.”
Under a statute of the State all persons wishing to vote at any election, must previously have been registered in the manner pointed out by the statute, this being a condition precedent to the exercise of the elective franchise.
In this state of things, on the 15th of October, 1872 (one of the days fixed by law for the registration of voters), Mrs. Virginia Minor, a native born, free, white citizen of the United States, and of the State of Missouri, over the age of twenty-one years, wishing to vote for electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, and for a representative in Congress, and for other officers, at the general election held in November, 1872, applied to one Happersett, the registrar of voters, to register her as a lawful voter, which he refused to do, assigning for cause that she was not a “male citizen of the United States,” but a woman. She thereupon sued him in one of the inferior State courts of Missouri, for wilfully refusing to place her name upon the list of registered voters, by which refusal she was deprived of her right to vote.
The registrar demurred, and the court in which the suit was brought sustained the demurrer, and gave judgment in his favor; a judgment which the Supreme Court affirmed. Mrs. Minor now brought the case here on error.
1. The word “citizen” is often used to convey the idea of membership in a nation.
2. In that sense, women, of born of citizen parents within the jurisdiction of the United States, have always been considered citizens of the United States, as much so before the adoption of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution as since.
3. The right of suffrage was not necessarily one of the privileges or immunities of citizenship before the adoption of the fourteenth amendment, and that amendment does not add to these privileges and immunities. It simply furnishes additional guaranty for the protection of such as the citizen already had.
4. At the time of the adoption of that amendment, suffrage was not coextensive with the citizenship of the States; nor was it at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.
5. Neither the Constitution nor the fourteenth amendment made all citizens voters.
6. A provision in a State constitution which confines the right of voting to “male citizens of the United States,” is no violation of the Federal Constitution. In such a State women have no right to vote.
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