WHAT DID VATTEL REALLY MEAN WHEN HE SAID, “…CHILDREN NATURALLY FOLLOW THE CONDITION OF THEIR FATHERS?”
by Jesse T. Mims, ©2014
The only place the term “natural born citizen” is found within Vattel’s book is in that exact portion of it, as follows…
“The citizens are the members of the civil society; bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority, they equally participate in its advantages. The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights. The society is supposed to desire this, in consequence of what it owes to its own preservation; and it is presumed, as matter of course, that each citizen, on entering into society, reserves to his children the right of becoming members of it. The country of the fathers is therefore that of the children; and these become true citizens merely by their tacit consent. We shall soon see whether, on their coming to the years of discretion, they may renounce their right, and what they owe to the society in which they were born. I say, that, in 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.”
First note the title of that Section: “Citizens and natives” (During that time, “native” and “natural born” citizen had the same meaning).
In the first sentence, Vattel defines the term “citizens.” In the second sentence, he defines “natural born citizens.” Logic defies all other conclusions other than that the first sentence defines “citizen” and the second defines “natural born citizen.”
Thus, we know the two terms have separate and distinct meanings and are not interchangeable. Therefore, it can only be logically concluded that any time Vattel uses the word “citizen,” he is NOT referring to a “natural born citizen.”
The third sentence is where many really go astray of logic and subsequently get confused in thinking “fathers” are in some way a part of the definition of natural born citizen. That sentence says, “As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights.”
We have previously established that “citizen” and “natural born citizen” have entirely different meanings and cannot be used interchangeably. Therefore, we know that since sentence #3 ONLY mentions citizens, it cannot possibly be speaking of natural born citizens. The same is true throughout the remainder of Chapter 19, § 212 as well as Vattel’s entire work. Since the second sentence of § 212, Citizens and natives, in Book 1, Chapter 19, is the ONLY place Vattel ever uses the term “natural born citizen,” logic demands the conclusion that in no other sentence anywhere within The Law of Nations is he speaking of natural born citizens.
Logic also demands the conclusion that the complete definition of “natural born citizen” lies within the second sentence of Book 1, Chapter 19, § 212, Citizens and natives, as quoted above. Ergo, the complete, and only, definition of “natural born citizen” is “those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.” It is clear Vattel never intended for what he said about fathers to change or be added to the definition of natural born citizen he had just confirmed in the immediately preceding sentence.
Some people also get hung up on the word “rights” in the third sentence. To those people, I would point out that as important as the term “natural born citizen” is in determining who can become president, it is not a right and cannot grant any; but, rather, it is merely a term used to denote a particular circumstance of birth. ALL U.S citizens have the same rights, even naturalized citizens. But ONLY natural born citizens are given the Constitutionally authorized privilege of becoming president of the United States.
The only logical conclusion is this: Natural Law, codified into the centuries-old laws of nations and put into book form by Vattel, dictates that in order to be a natural born citizen of the USA, one must be born on U.S. soil and to two U.S.-citizen parents.