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by Paul R. Hollrah, ©2014

Our first president, George Washington, was not a “natural born Citizen” because his parents were British subjects, but he became eligible because of Article II, Section 1, clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution

(Feb. 15, 2014) — In recent days I have been drawn into yet another debate over presidential eligibility, as specified in Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution.  Given that Barack Obama has occupied the Oval Office illegally for more than five years without so much as a whimper of protest from most American voters or the mainstream media, some may feel that any further discussion of this matter may be akin to “beating a dead horse.” Nevertheless, if we insist on referring to ourselves as a constitutional republic, and if we continue to insist that we honor constitutional principles and the rule of law, then we have no choice but to understand precisely what the Founders intended when they drafted our governing document in 1787.

What generated my recent exchange on the subject of presidential eligibility was an article in the January 31, 2014 edition of pegAlert, the newsletter of the Pennsylvania Business Council. The article in question was titled, “SANTORUM PREPPING FOR ANOTHER RUN IN 2016.”

In response, I asked the question, “Who keeps propping up Santorum’s ambitions… other than Rick Santorum?  Unless I’m wrong, his father was still an Italian citizen when he was born.  That makes him ineligible for the presidency.”  To which a representative of the Business Council replied, “That might be so, but Santorum was born in the USA so that makes him a citizen.”

To that nonsensical assertion I replied, “… If Santorum was born in the US, which I assume he was, that does make him a ‘citizen.’  But that’s not what is at issue.  What is at issue is his status as a ‘natural born’ citizen,’ which he must be if he wants to run for president.  In order for him to be a ‘natural born’ citizen, both of his parents must have been US citizens.  If Santorum’s father was still an Italian citizen when he was born, then he is not a ‘natural born’ citizen…” 

The final response from the Pennsylvania Business Council brought us straight to the nub of the issue.  The reply read, “Under (that) definition, none of our initial 6 or 7 presidents, would have qualified.”  Bingo!! Without even trying, he inadvertently proved my point. 

Once again I found myself confronted face-to-face with the harebrained notion that the terms “citizen” and “natural born Citizen” are synonymous… that to be a “citizen” equates to being a “natural born” citizen.  That simply is not true.  One would think that simple intellectual curiosity would lead those who share that mistaken belief to question why the Founders found it necessary to modify the phrase, “No person except a natural born Citizen,” with the phrase, “… or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution…”

Even the most unthinking and uneducated among us must agree that the use of the word “or” requires an implicit understanding that those who would seek the presidency had to be either “natural born citizens,” or citizens of the United States” on the day that the Constitution became the law of the land. 

On the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, every citizen of the thirteen original colonies became citizens of a new nation, the United States of America.  And the very first child born to newly-minted US citizens on July 4, 1776, before the ink was dry on John Hancock’s signature, became the nation’s very first “natural born” citizen. 

The Constitution required that, in addition to being a resident of the United States for at least fourteen years, those who would seek the presidency must be at least thirty-five years of age.  There were a great many men who met those two criteria, but the country needed a president, and the only “natural born” citizens available on June 21, 1788, the day the Constitution was ratified, were children under twelve years of age.  To solve that problem, the Framers added a grandfather clause, making it possible for newly-minted US citizens, none of them “natural born,” to serve as president.  This was necessary until such time as a body of individuals, born to US citizen parents after the Declaration of Independence, reached age thirty-five.

George Washington, our first president, was born at Wakefield, Virginia on February 22, 1732, forty-four years before the Declaration of Independence.  He was a “citizen,” but not a “natural born” citizen because both of his parents were British subjects at the time of his birth.

John Adams, our second president, was born at Braintree, Massachusetts on October 30, 1735, forty-one years before the Declaration of Independence.  He was a “citizen” because he was born in Massachusetts, but he was not a “natural born” citizen because both of his parents were British subjects at the time of his birth and owed their allegiance to the British crown.

Thomas Jefferson, our third president, was born at Shadwell, Virginia on April 13, 1743, thirty-three years before the Declaration of Independence.  He was a “citizen” because he was born in Virginia, but he was not a “natural born” citizen because both of his parents were British subjects at the time of his birth.

James Madison, our fourth president, born in Virginia on March 16, 1751, twenty-five years before the Declaration of Independence; James Monroe, our fifth president, born in Virginia on April 28, 1758, eighteen years before the Declaration of Independence; John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, born in Massachusetts on July 11, 1767, nine years before the Declaration of Independence; and Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, born in South Carolina on March 15, 1767, nine years before the Declaration of Independence; were all “citizens” because they were born in what came to be the United States of America, but they were not “natural born” citizens because their parents were not US citizens at the time of their birth.  

However, Martin Van Buren, our eighth president, was born at Kinderhook, New York on December 5, 1782, six years and five months after the Declaration of Independence.  Unlike his seven predecessors, he was not just a “citizen,” he was a “natural born” citizen… the first president, at least thirty-five years of age, who was born to US citizen parents after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 

What a great many patriotic, but ill-informed, Americans refuse to accept is the fact that, while the Founders intended that only “natural born” citizens should ever serve as president, there were no 35-year-old “natural born” citizens available during the first 35 years of our nation’s history. Accordingly, it became necessary to provide an exemption of limited duration covering those citizens born prior to July 4, 1776.  All were “grandfathered” and made eligible under the phrase, “or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution…”

Every U.S. president since Van Buren… with the exception of Chester A. Arthur, whose Irish father was a British subject at the time of his birth, and Barack Obama, whose Kenyan father was also a British subject at the time of his birth… has been a “natural born” U.S. citizen, as required by Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

Barack Obama was born with dual US-British citizenship “by descent” from his Kenyan father and his American mother. However, under Chapter VI, Sec. 97(1) of the Kenyan Constitution of December 12, 1963, Kenyan Independence Day, Obama lost his British citizenship on August 4, 1984, his twenty-third birthday.  However, his eligibility status is now complicated by the fact that, under Chapter 3, Section 14 of a revised Kenyan Constitution, adopted on August 4, 2010, he became a citizen of Kenya “by birth” and is required to obey the laws of Kenya, should he ever set foot in that country during or after his stay in the White House. 

The Framers found it inconceivable that a president of the United States, commander-in-chief of the Army and the Navy, should ever be required to obey the laws of a foreign nation.  Barack Obama provides, if nothing else, a definitive example of why the Founders insisted that the president must be a “natural born” citizen, untainted by any hint of foreign allegiances.

Although Democrats have successfully defended Obama’s illegal presidency, based largely on the fact that he is a black man, insulated from the rule of law by the color of his skin, we must insist that constitutional mandates apply equally to presidents of both parties, Democrats and Republicans.  This means, of course, that conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)… all born to one or more non-US citizen parents… are not natural born citizens and must be eliminated from consideration for the 2016 GOP nomination.

If Obama’s parents are who he claims, he is not a “natural born Citizen” as the Framers defined the term

In the days of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, a man of Barack Obama’s background and qualifications would have received zero consideration for the presidency. Without question, he would have been declared ineligible. Yet, in spite of the fact that the Constitutional criteria for the presidency have not changed one iota since 1787, millions of Americans today insist that he is eligible for the office. By what tortured reasoning, what conceivable standard, they won’t say.

Liberals and Democrats being what they are, we can always count on them to expect to have things both ways.  But conservatives and Republicans believe in constitutional principles and the rule of law and we simply cannot allow the bandwagon-riders in our party to circumvent the Constitution.  So, sorry, Ted, Nikki, Bobby, Marco, and Rick… we love you all and you’re a great credit to our country, but you just can’t play in our presidential sandbox.


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  1. Fleshing out and adding meat to the bones of the National Security concern expressed by John Jay and reiterated by Chief Justice Joseph Story in his Commentaries on the Constitution is the “horse hitched to the front of the cart”.

    Leaving the “cart” to be the structure of the “term of words”.

    What I have been trying to impress upon those who will listen is that WE have been led on a fools errand when “resorting” to foreign laws, ancient doctrines and political writings of philosophizers.

    The Congress was mandated to “establish an uniform Rule of naturalization” and considered its-self to be fulfilling that mandate with the enactment of the 1790 & ’95 Acts.

    I suggest that the Rule of Law demands that any inquiry into the nature of circumstances required to be a U.S. natural born Citizen must begin there and with the lack of any Amendment to the contrary simple reconciliations for “race & gender & marital status”, (14th / 19th Amds & Cable Act), accounts for any and all societal changes.

  2. Also from The Obama Timeline:

    The purpose of the natural born citizen restriction is, of course, to reduce the likelihood of a president being unduly influenced by his or her ties to foreign nations. The assumption is that a son or daughter of parents who are both already U.S. citizens means that he or she is further removed “from the homeland” than the child of non-citizen immigrants. If Senators Marco Rubio [R-FL] or Ted Cruz [R-TX] were elected president, for example, and the United States for some reason saw fit to attack Cuba, what would Rubio or Cruz do if he still has relatives living on the island? Would he call off or delay the strike and put Americans at risk while Cuba attacks the United States? If Governors Bobby Jindal or Nikki Haley were president and India and Pakistan engaged in war, which side would he or she take? Would Jindal or Haley automatically side with India because of ancestry? Even if Pakistan happened to be on the right side of the issue? What if Jindal and Haley have relatives in India? Would Jindal or Haley persuade India to make unreasonable concessions to Pakistan to reduce the chances of those relatives being killed in an attack? Former Senator Rick Santorum may seem to be a bit further removed from Italy than the others are from Cuba and India, but that is irrelevant. So is the argument that the United States is not about to bomb Cuba, or would probably be more likely to support India in any confrontation it might have with Pakistan. The law is the law, and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Those who want the natural born citizen clause changed should call on their Congressman, Senators, and state to legally amend the Constitution. (Obama’s un-American actions with regard to Kenya have been noted in this Timeline, of course, as have his anti-British and anti-Israel actions, and they were no doubt influenced by his Kenyan father’s ideology. Although it is impossible to find a presidential candidate who is not influenced to some degree by the ancestry, ideologies, and religions of his or her parents, that the natural born citizen restriction was ignored in the case of Obama has had disastrous effects is obvious.)

  3. From “The Obama Timeline”:

    On the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1862, Congressman John Bingham—the “father of the 14th Amendment”—stated, “All from other lands, who by the terms of [congressional] laws and a compliance with their provisions become naturalized, are adopted citizens of the United States; all other persons born within the Republic, of parents owing allegiance to no other sovereignty, are natural born citizens. Gentleman can find no exception to this statement touching natural-born citizens except what is said in the Constitution relating to Indians.” In 1866 Bingham stated, “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.” Bingham’s definition was never disputed by other Congressmen. (Note: Obama supporters—including attorneys filing briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court—have omitted the words “of parents” when quoting Bingham’s statement, in a shameful and intentional effort to mislead.)

    It is also worth noting that the Founding Fathers were more than familiar with Emerich Vattell’s The Law of Nations, in which he discussed natural born citizens: “[I]n order to be of the country, it is necessary that a person be born of a father who is a citizen; for, if he is born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country,” and “natural-born citizens are those born in a country of citizen parents.” Additionally, the “grandfather clause” in Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution makes no sense if “natural born citizen” means nothing more than born on U.S. soil: “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution [emphasis added], 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.” That grandfather clause had to be included because neither George Washington nor anyone else was a natural born citizen of the United States in 1789, even though they may have been born on U.S. soil.

  4. By Democrat/liberal reasoning the following would be eligible to run for POTUS!?!??

    Say Fidel Castro impregnated an American citizen, and this woman came to the United States, or was living here since her birth and had the child on U.S. soil. This “U.S. Citizen” would then be eligible to run for POTUS when he attained the age of 35 years the same as Obama did?!!?
    Even if the child returned to Cuba to live with his father and was educated and reared under Communist influence he would have the same qualifications as Obama and the rest of the above mentioned candidates?!!?!

    I don’t believe this is what my ancestors meant to happen and they inserted the “natural born” citizen clause as a qualification for POTUS?!!?!?! I don’t see any difference in the above hypothetical scenario and these want to be eligible candidates as well as the Usurper now in office?!!?!?!

    Correct me if I am wrong as I am just a 70 year-old disabled veteran AMERICAN patriot with what I am reasonably sure is sound common sense!!!!

  5. Outstanding article! I loved it, and I have to say as Stephen Hiller did, until I got to the last paragraph. (smile)

    It would seem a conundrum to say that “liberals and democrats” want it “both” ways, and then assert the list of republicans with probably cause seeking the office of the presidency which seems much longer.

    In actual effect with rational reasoning it would appear Barack Obama is actual blazing a trail for these would-be unqualified seekers.

    This has long been my assertion, and I’ve written about each of those you mentioned outraged that they would dare collect one red cent, from those who innocently contributed to their campaign chest, Rick Santorum’s was 11 million dollars!

    I can’t imagine being able to sleep at night having collected from Bible thumping Grandma’s and Grandpa’s unbeknownst to the unqualified state of their candidate not being able to fill or seat the position they had campaigned for.

    It seems the height of deception, fraud, and forgery to me that in no uncertain terms would demand a refund at the very least.

    2nd point, being the Democrat I am (chuckle chuckle) I was always proud of the American Civil Liberties Union because it did provide and defend individual’s on their individual constitutional rights historically.

    My rights as a candidate for President began being infringed when I filed on Sen. John McCain in 2008 about 3 or 4 days BEFORE he was made to the nominee, and the Republican National Committee was included in that suit, so they knew!

    McCain was born on foreign turf, needed an 1st Act of Congress to make him a “Citizen” 11 months after his birth, 2nd Act of Congress was a non-binding U.S. Senate Res. named 511, which granted ‘natural born citizen’ status, which we all know is a naturalization process of an alien through man made law.

    How much did the R’s contribute to his campaign? Near 384 million dollars. I also sued Obama whose campaign in 2008 totaled near 779 million and in 2012 one billion.

    The point being that once the money starts running towards a candidate its difficult to stop on ‘eligibility’ because many people have pinned hopes or dollars on that candidates fund raising tree.

    I’m the only candidate in the United States who sued both McCain and Obama in all their illegal campaign elections, which I hoped for all intensive purposes would indeed be a capitalization on the principle rather than the “race”, which has come to be a scape-goat for Republicans because I have begged and pleaded with them, reaching across the isle as a Democratic Party candidate in 2012, to Republican Members of Congress to hold a hearing after I worked 5 years through the court process through the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 and 2013, that also had Sheriff Joe’s Cold Case Posse findings asserted in the Georgia State Circuit-and State Supreme Court.

    My hand is certainly continually extended and the cost is a bargain compared to what we have not only suffered but are suffering in obamacare one fifth of our entire economy. The cost I fear will be far more if we continue the next 3 years under a usurper, then if we trudge back to 2008 and our last legal president George W. Bush, who I happily never complained about not being qualified.

    I just can’t get the REPUBLICANS in Congress, being what they are,(smile), to even have a hearing on it.

    Thanks for a great article, and that was the exact argument in my suit on the natural born citizen clause on McCain and Obama. The wisdom of our Founders and Framers was so great, you’d have to be completely bereft seeing the benefits of principle existing throughout generations to say it wasn’t inspired.

    Cody Robert Judy

  6. Speaking to the issue of who is and who is not a U.S. natural born Citizen and therefore who is or is not eligible to occupy the Office of POTUS under Constitutional Statutory Law, as I have ‘till blue in the face.

    In all of these past 6 years of researching and initiating Federal Agency & State & Federal Court actions advancing the “Adjudicative Fact” that;

    “Currently there is no uniformly acknowledged “legal”, (enforceable), definition or identification of circumstances that constitutes being in conformity with the intended Constitutional usage of the term of words, (U.S.) “natural born Citizen.”

    I’ve had a number of “eureka” moments that cleared away the flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict propositions that has been advanced in rationalizing the Constitutional answer.

    The MOST prescient authoritive response that I have encountered came from Judge Thomas Anderson of USDC for the Western District of Tennessee Western Division in Case 2:12-cv-02143-STA; as he recently found in a Ruling on Motions in a Case at Bar;

    “… ANALYSIS .. It is undisputed that the material fact at issue in this case is whether under the circumstances of President Obama’s birth, the President is a “natural born citizen,” a term set out in the United States Constitution and construed under federal law. “


    “…The federal issue presented is obviously contested in this case. Likewise, the Court holds that the federal issue is substantial …”[pg 6/7/8]

    Judge Anderson at once validated my expressed “Adjudicative Fact” which is affirmed by removing the “o”s name and insert “a person”, and then pointed to the ONLY means of determining the truly Constitutional “definition” of a U.S. natural born Citizen by noting,

    “a term set out in the United States Constitution and construed under federal law”

    Show me a Federal Case that has pursued the subject “singular” question by “construing” the U.S. Federal Laws on the subject to its conclusion.

    There are NONE.

    Justice Waite in Minor v. stopped short of “declaring” that his conclusion of V. Minor being a “natural born Citizen” was consistent with the Article II term of words, that was NOT the question of the case.

    Although Justice Waite remarked that the Constitution did not say in words who would be a (U.S.) natural born Citizen” and suggesting that “resort” must be made elsewhere.

    When you look closely at the preceding and proceeding paragraphs you’ll note that he consulted the 1790 to [98 Acts of the Congress on the subject, where the FEDERAL LAW resides.

    The Constitution at A1S8C4 gave the plenary power by mandate to the Congress over the subjects of Citizenship, Nationality and naturalization so it would seem proper that they would not take it away in the Executive Articles by defining the circumstances that would produce a (U.S.) natural born Citizen, perhaps being confident that the uniform Rule to be established by the Congress would be Citizenship birthright, aka, Jus Sanguinis, given that the Federal Government would have only a limited amount of “soil”, the remainder being retained by the States.

  7. Speaking to the distinctions between “Political Parties” I’ve come to the conclusion that it is INAPPROPRIATE for ANY party to lay claim, in name, to the fundamental aspects of our Constitutional form of Government.

    Small “r” and small “d” are aspects of our form of government that are intended to be synchronistic, i.e., a Constitutional Republic, (the Rule of Law as expressed in the founding document enumerating the lengths and limits of powers), with Democratically elected Representatives, (bound to the lengths and limits of the enumerated powers).

    Parties, in and by their very “names” gives the undeniable impression of favoring one aspect over the other in the established form of government meant to be inseparable and perpetual, e pluribus Unum, and creates an irreconcilable schism in the understanding the original intent.

    Jeffersonian democracy was clearly intended to address the “LOCAL” concerns of States and their communities allowing for adjustments in the expressions of their liberties and prejudices of local concerns as well as the ‘local elections” of Federal Representatives to express their will on National concerns, (Senators owing fidelity to the States majority will).

    The modern Republican Party is clearly a manifestation of “Northern States” desire to exert the Federal authority of the Constitutional Union over the Southern States, abolition of slavery being the primary plank of its platform.

    The current Two Party structure no longer address the concerns in the terms of a majority will of the people and can be traced directly to their supporting constituents which are disparate coalitions of super minority special interests & issues group, in large measure.

    Each of the parties pay lip service to their constituents as they move “forward” toward their shared “pragmatic” self-interest of consolidating Federal Power to their parties and exerting their will into every crevice and orifice of We the People, regardless of Our Special Interests,i.e., to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and ITS idealistic and pragmatic intent of respecting the Laws of Nature and Natures God.

  8. This should be part of CORE CURRICULUM if that system were worthy and fair. In any case, this should be reading for all High School US History and Government classes. Thanks for this!

  9. Very well presented, but if I may, let me take exception to a statement in your last paragraph: “conservatives and Republicans believe in constitutional principles”. There is not a single one of them taking action on what they claim to believe, thus I have come to the conclusion that they truly do not believe in constitutional principles. Otherwise we would not have had 5 years of Obama and who knows how many more years to go.