CHARLES EVANS HUGHES’S FATHER WAS A BRITISH SUBJECT, JUST AS OBAMA’S WAS; THE ONLY DIFFERENCE WAS, HE LOST
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 5, 2010) — The year 2008 is not the first time a presidential candidate’s eligibility has been questioned based on the “natural born Citizen” requirement of Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution.
Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) served on the Supreme Court, was elected governor of New York, and was nominated as Secretary of State under President Warren Harding from 1921 to 1925. He was later nominated Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Herbert Hoover. His appointment to that position overlapped Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency, during which time Hughes sometimes voted in favor of Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and sometimes against them. However, he opposed FDR’s attempt to reorganize the Supreme Court in 1937, also known as “court-packing.”
In 1916, Hughes resigned from his first Supreme Court appointment to launch an unsuccessful bid for the presidency against Woodrow Wilson, the incumbent. The electoral vote count was extremely close, 277 to 254.
During his presidential campaign, Hughes’s eligibility for the presidency was questioned because his father remained a British citizen. Breckenridge Long, an attorney and graduate of Washington University Law School who later served as Secretary of State as well as U.S. ambassador to Italy under FDR, examined the issue in an article entitled “Is Mr. Charles Evans Hughes a ‘Natural Born Citizen’ within the Meaning of the Constitution?” Published in the “Chicago Legal News,” Vol. 146, p. 220 in 1916, the article begins:
Whether Mr. Hughes is, or is not, a “natural born” citizen within the meaning of the Constitution, so as to make him eligible, or ineligible, to assume the office of President, presents an interesting inquiry.
He was born in this country and is beyond question “native born.” But is there not a distinction between “native born” and “natural born”? At the time he was born his father and mother were subjects of England. His father had not then been naturalized.
In discussing the difference between “citizen” and “natural born citizen,” Long stated:
The Constitution of the United States puts a particular qualification upon those who shall become President and Vice-President. For all other offices it requires that they be “citizens of the United States,” but for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency it requires that they be “Natural Born citizens.”
Long’s definition of “natural born citizen” was “one who was naturally, at his birth, a member of the political society;…It would mean, further, that no other government had any claim upon him; that his sole allegiance the government into which he had been born and that that government was solely, at the time, responsible for his protection.”
The citizenship of the father is the determining factor for a child’s citizenship, according to Long. He states that in the case of Hughes, his father was a British citizen when Hughes was born, which precluded him from qualifying as a “natural born citizen”:
If the father becomes naturalized before the birth of the child and is at the time of the birth of the child a citizen of the United States, then the child is a ‘natural born’ citizen. But in the case of Mr. Hughes the father was not naturalized at the time the son was born and was at that time a subject of England. How could the son be a “natural born” citizen of the United States?…There can hardly be…any dispute that Mr. Hughes was at the time of his birth an English subject. If he was at that time an English subject, he became a citizen of the United States by a process of naturalization, and is not a “natural born” citizen of the United States.
Long also analyzes the matter of dual citizenship:
It must be admitted that a man born on this soil, of alien parents, enjoys a dual nationality and owes a double allegiance. A child born under these conditions has a right to elect what nationality he will enjoy and to which of the two conflicting claims of governmental allegiance he will pay obedience. Now if, by any possible construction, a person at the instant of birth, and for any period of time thereafter, owes, or may owe, allegiance to any sovereign but the United States, he is not a “natural born” citizen of the United States…The doctrine of dual citizenship and of double allegiance are too well known and too well founded in international law to be doubted or disputed.
Long discusses various examples of children of foreign parents who, although born in the United States, received protection from their parents’ home countries once taken there by their parents. He cites a case from 1866 in which a 19-year-old young man born in Massachusetts to French parents who had returned to France with them and was called to military duty by that country. The young man disputed his obligation to serve by appealing to the American Embassy in France. The Secretary of State at the time, Thomas Bayard, instructed the American Embassy to “to use ‘its good offices'” to secure a release from French military service for the young man. However, according to Long, Bayard issued the following admonition: “You will, however, advise him that his remaining in France after he becomes of age may be regarded as an election of French nationality and that his only method of electing and maintaining American nationality is by a prompt return to this country (December 28th, 1887).”
The author then provides a detailed but seldom-discussed account of how the term “natural born citizen” was placed in the Constitution by the Framers:
It was originally proposed in the Constitutional Convention that the presidential qualifications be a “citizen of the United States.” It was so reported to the Convention, by the Committee which had it in charge, on the 22nd day of August, 1787. It was again referred to a Committee, and the qualification clause was changed to read “natural born citizen,” and was so reported out of Committee on September the 4th, 1787, and adopted in the Constitution. There is no record of debates upon the subject, but the Federalist contains a contemporary comment on it written by Alexander Hamilton.
Hamilton is then quoted as having said:
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 quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils…(Federalist, LXVIII).
Long’s final argument against Hughes’s eligibility for the office of president states that in 1862, which happened to be the year Hughes was born, the United States declared that certain people residing in the country were exempted from military service, described as “All foreign born persons who have not been naturalized;” and “All persons born of foreign parents and who have not become citizens.” Long argues that because neither Hughes nor his father could be called upon to “defend the flag” of the United States, Hughes could not be considered a “natural born citizen.”
As if reaching almost 100 years into the future, Long then states, “The government he now aspires to preside over classed him under the general head of “Aliens” the year he was born and drew a line of distinction between him and “natural born citizens…”
If Breckenridge Long was correct that the citizenship of a father determines that of the son, then Obama was never eligible to run, much less serve, as president. Long uncannily raised the three major factors which preclude Obama from being a “natural born Citizen”:
- his father was not a naturalized citizen of the United States before Obama’s birth;
- Obama had been taken to Indonesia and reportedly made a citizen of that country;
- on his campaign website, Obama admitted to having been born with dual citizenship.
Obama’s actual birthplace and original citizenship remain unknown.
Is Obama a “natural born Citizen”? If not, why was he allowed to seek the presidency? What were the influences at work in promoting a candidate with so many challenges to the “natural born Citizen” requirement? Have foreign powers seized control of our government, the possibility of which had been predicted by Alexander Hamilton?
If so, why has Congress allowed that to happen? Why will the courts not order discovery about Obama’s citizenship status?