If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my free Email alerts. Thanks for visiting!


by Don Fredrick, ©2015, blogging at The Obama Timeline

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Morrison Waite wrote the majority opinion in the case of Minor v. Happersett, which tangentially touched upon the definition of “natural born Citizen” found in Article II, Section 1, clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution

(Mar. 24, 2015) — With Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) having officially announced that he is a candidate for president, apologists have immediately hit their keyboards to declare that he “is constitutionally eligible to be president.” Those defenders are mistaken. The historical meaning of the term “natural born citizen” is birth on U.S. soil to two U.S. citizen parents. That was the definition understood and followed by the Founding Fathers, and the authors of the U.S. Constitution. By that definition, Cruz is ineligible to serve as president—as are Obama, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. [73363]

Many claim that the 14th Amendment applies to Cruz, but the 14th Amendment never even uses the term natural born citizen! One cannot magically pretend that any time the generic word “citizen” is used in the Constitution, its Amendments, or federal legislation that it automatically also means “natural born citizen.” It does not. Any first year law student would receive a failing grade from his professor if he made such an argument. Claiming that the word “citizen” in legislation also means “natural born citizen” is as wrong-headed as claiming that wherever a city ordinance uses the term “automobile” it also means “truck” or “motorcycle.” Words have meanings.

Others note that federal law confers citizenship on persons born outside the United States, if both parents are U.S. citizens or if at least one citizen parent has resided in the United States for at least five years after age 14. But that law only confers “generic” U.S. citizenship. It does not state that such person would also be a natural born citizen. No one is arguing that Cruz is not a U.S. citizen. But he is not a natural born citizen.

Those who somehow believe the 14th Amendment “proves their case” should be told that Congressman John Bingham—who authored that amendment—said on the floor of the House of Representatives in 1862, “All from other lands, who by the terms of 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 [italics added], are natural born citizens.” Read that again and let it sink in. In 1862, the members of Congress understood that a natural born citizen was someone born on U.S. soil to two U.S. citizen parents. Let it also sink in that no law has been passed since then to change the meaning of the term, nor has there been an amendment to the U.S. Constitution with regard to that issue.

In 1866 Bingham stated, “Every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty [italics added] is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen.” Obama supporters—including attorneys filing briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court—have intentionally omitted the words “of parents” when quoting Bingham’s statement, in a shameful effort to mislead. Ask yourself, “Why would Obama-supporting attorneys have thought it might help their client if they omitted the words ‘of parents?’”

Yes, Cruz is a citizen of the United States, but he is not a natural born citizen because he was neither  born “within the jurisdiction of the United States” nor “of parents [plural!] not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty.” Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, and his father was a citizen of Cuba at the moment of his birth. By no stretch of the imagination can one claim Cruz was born on U.S. soil and to two U.S. citizen parents. In fact, Cruz was born with dual citizenship: U.S. and Canadian. (Some might even argue that he was also born with Cuban citizenship.)

In the 1885 U.S. Supreme Court case Minor v. Happersett, Chief Justice Morrison Waite wrote, “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 [italics added] 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.” That is, there was agreement by all legal scholars in 1885 that the term natural born citizen meant “born in the United States to two U.S.-citizen parents.” (A minority argued that the citizenship of the parents was not material but, without justification, Obama supporters—and now Cruz supporters—accept the less common interpretation.)

The Supreme Court has never ruled on the meaning of the term natural born citizen. It certainly had the opportunity to do so with the Obama eligibility challenge lawsuit Kerchner v. Obama, but the Justices declined to accept the case for review. One must ask why the court was afraid to accept the case for review if it would have put the issue to rest once and for all. The answer is that the court knew it would have to rule against Obama, and it was reluctant to do so—because it might have resulted in nationwide race riots. Because the Court chose not to hear Kerchner, the issue is again rearing its ugly head for Cruz (and perhaps for Rubio, Santorum, Jindal, and Haley if they enter the race).

Those who think they understand the issue should take a moment to read the actual presidential eligibility rule. Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution reads:

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution [italics 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.” Note the italicized “grandfather clause.” That text was made necessary after the term “born citizen” was changed to read “natural born citizen.” An earlier draft of the document read as follows:

“No Person except a Born Citizen 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.”

“Born Citizen” simply means born on U.S. soil—without regard to the citizenship of one’s parents. John Jay then wrote George Washington and asked that all presidents be required to be natural born citizens—that is, born on U.S. soil to two U.S. citizen parents. But simply making that change (“born” to “natural born”) would have been inadequate:

“No Person except a natural born Citizen 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.”

Why would that text be insufficient? The problem with that text was that neither George Washington nor John Adams (nor anyone else) was a natural born citizen! Those potential presidents age 35 or older who were born on U.S. soil (such as George Washington, who was born in Virginia) obviously could not have had U.S. citizen parents at the time of their births—because the nation did not yet exist. (Washington’s parents were citizens of Great Britain, as were the majority of the residents of the 13 colonies). In other words, it would be 35 years before anyone could serve as president! To allow for that problem, the final version read:

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution [italics 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.”

The italicized “grandfather clause” is essentially a “loophole” that means, “We can’t go without a president for decades while we wait for natural born citizens to reach age 35, so we will temporarily allow individuals who are not natural born citizens to serve as president, as long as they were present here in the colonies and became U.S. citizens in 1776 when the nation was founded.” Considering all of the above, it is clear that the U.S. Constitution prohibits Obama, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) from serving as president.

Obama is actually the nation’s second illegal president. (The first illegal president was Chester A. Arthur, who hid from the public the fact that his father was not a U.S. citizen at Chester’s birth. Arthur even went so far as to burn his father’s documents—something that would not have been necessary if his father’s citizenship was irrelevant.) Regardless of where Obama was born, his father was not a U.S. citizen—if one assumes his father was the drunken Kenyan communist. Obama is therefore not a natural born citizen. (Of course, if Obama’s father was actually Frank Marshall Davis, his communist mentor in Hawaii, then Obama is a natural born citizen. Ironically, Obama’s efforts to hide the identity of his father are what caused the question of his eligibility to come up. Had he made it known from the start that Davis was his father, no one would have questioned whether he was a natural born citizen—but they would have better understood his resentment toward America, white people, Jews, Israel, and capitalism.)

Although Obama is hiding his past, the GOP candidates generally have not. Marco Rubio was born in Florida to Cuban citizen parents. He is a U.S. citizen but he is not a natural born citizen. Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley were born in the United States to Indian citizen parents. They are U.S. citizens but are not natural born citizens. Rick Santorum’s father was a citizen of Italy, and Rick is therefore only a “generic” U.S. citizen. Ted Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, and is also not a natural born citizen—although he is a U.S. citizen. (A Senator is not required to be a natural born citizen. Senators need only be citizens.)

None of this is to suggest that Cruz, Rubio, Jindal, Haley, or Santorum would not be good presidents. But the law is the law and the Constitution is the Constitution. Nowadays, of course, millions of Americans seem not to know what is in the Constitution, and others—including legislators and even Supreme Court Justices—seem not to care what is in the document or that it is routinely being violated. Nevertheless, it would be nice if the pundits would at least stop lying about history. Go ahead and lobby for an amendment to change the Constitution if you want to eliminate the natural born citizen requirement, but don’t insult our intelligence by changing the meaning of a historical term simply because it suits your political purposes.

Join the Conversation


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


    John Armor Bingham (January 21, 1815 – March 19, 1900) was an American Republican congressman from the U.S. state of Ohio, judge advocate in the trial of the Abraham Lincoln assassination and a prosecutor in the impeachment trials of Andrew Johnson. He is also the principal framer of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    Rep. John Armor Bingham clearly knew what it meant to be naturalized and he knew the exact definition of “natural born citizen” as did all of the framers and founders.

    Rep. John Armor Bingham in the House of Representatives on March 9, 1866:”

    “I find no fault with the introductory clause, which is simply declaratory of what is written in the Constitution, that every human being born within the JURISDICTION of the United States of PARENTS (plural) NOT OWING ALLEGIANCE to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen”

    United States V. Wong Kim Ark (1898), the Supreme Court said this:

    “…A person born out of the jurisdiction of the United States can only become a citizen by being naturalized, either by treaty, as in the case of the annexation of foreign territory, or by authority of Congress, exercised either by declaring certain classes of persons to be citizens, as in the enactments conferring citizenship upon foreign-born children of citizens, or by enabling foreigners individually to become citizens…”

    Here’s how Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who wrote the majority opinion in the citizenship case of Afroyim v. Rusk, said it in Rogers v Bellei (1971):

    “Although those Americans who acquire their citizenship under statutes conferring citizenship on the FOREIGN-BORN CHILDREN of citizens are not popularly thought of as naturalized citizens, the use of the word “naturalize” in this way has a considerable constitutional history. Congress is empowered by the Constitution to “establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization,” Art. I, Sec 8. Anyone acquiring citizenship solely under the exercise of this power is, Constitutionally speaking, A NATURALIZED CITIZEN.”

    In the Rogers v Bellei case, Aldo Bellei, like Ted Cruz, was born outside US territory. Aldo Bellei, like Ted Cruz, had a father who was NOT a US citizen. Aldo Bellei, like Ted Cruz, had a US citizen mother who provided a pathway to statutory US citizenship at birth. Aldo Bellei, was considered by the entire Court to be a naturalized citizen. If Aldo Bellei was a naturalized citizen, then Ted Cruz must also be a naturalized citizen. Naturalized, NOT Natural Born.

    Cruz is not a Natural born citizen. He may be a citizen and that is all.

    Here’s how Justice William O. Douglas said it in Schneider V. Rusk (1964):

    “We start from the premise that the rights of citizenship of the native born and of the naturalized person are of the same dignity, and are coextensive. The only difference drawn by the Constitution is that only the “natural born” citizen is eligible to be President. Art. II, § 1.”

    And in Luria v. United States, 231 U.S. 9 (1913), the Supreme Court said:

    “Under our Constitution, a naturalized citizen stands on an equal footing with the native citizen in all respects save that of eligibility to the Presidency.”

    In U.S. v. Fisher , 48 F S 7, the court said:

    “A naturalized citizen, broadly speaking, enjoys all the rights of the native citizen, except so far as the Constitution makes the distinction, Const. rt. 2, par 1, cl 4 and this constitutional exception is limited alone to the occupancy of the office of President of the United States.”:

    And finally, Justice Brennan opines “Concededly, petitioner was a citizen at birth, not by constitutional right, but only through operation of a federal statute. . . . distinguishing among citizens whose naturalization was carried out within the physical bounds of the United States, and those, like Bellei, who may be naturalized overseas. . . ”

    He later continued in noting “All means of obtaining American citizenship which are dependent upon a congressional enactment are forms of naturalization.” And in commenting on the majority opinion, Justice Black observed, “The majority opinion appears at times to rely on the argument that Bellei, while he concededly might have been a naturalized citizen, was not naturalized “in the United States.”.” . . . So the principal dissenting opinion ALSO thought Bellei was “naturalized”.

    Cruz CANNOT be a Natural Born Citizens !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Excellent article. The current trend of both parties having proffered ineligible candidates to become President proves without a doubt that neither party “respect[s] the Constitution” as preached by Ted Cruz.

  3. Great article and mostly correct.
    Santorum, a candidate I do not support, is in fact qualified to be president, but of course never will be.

    It is understandable why the author, as others have been concerning Santorum, have gotten this wrong.

    His grandfather came to this country years before he sent for Rick’s father. During the time his grandfather was here, he went through the process of getting his citizenship and several years later he sent for the rest of his family, including his son, Rick’s dad.

    Upon taking up residence in America, Rick’s dad became a citizen because that position was handed down to him from his now citizen father. Rick’s grandad.

    So what has got everyone thinking that Rick’s dad was not a citizen at the time of Ricks birth was a request his father made looking for verification of his citizenship. That request was made after Rick’s birth. He was not filing for citizenship, he was just verifying it. Hope this clears up this thing a bit.

    Otherwise, great article.
    Dwight Kehoe

    1. Rick Santorum’s father, Aldo Santorum did not naturalize until 1961. This was THREE years after Rick Santorum was born. Aldo Santorum was still an Italian National when Rick Santorum was born.
      Mrs. Rondeau replies: Has anyone been able to procure documentation of the father’s citizenship?

  4. “once a person is a U.S. Citizen, then so too are their children, at birth or otherwise”

    That is the “established uniform Rule of (U.S. Citizenship) naturalization” as construed as the residual effect of the 1790 Act by that title.

    That Rule applied immediately upon those persons who were “made” U.S. Citizens by the “collective naturalization event” of the Ratification of the COTUS.

    The POTUS eligibility Clause makes an “exclusionary distinction” between a U.S. Citizen, i.e., a 1st generation U.S. Citizen having been made a U.S. Citizen by some naturalizing event, and a U.S. natural born Citizen, i.e., a 2nd generation U.S. Citizen whose mother was the wife of their U.S. Citizen father.

    Being born as a U.S. natural born Citizen to two (2) U.S. Citizens was UNAVOIDABLE, anywhere in the world, when born to a married U.S. Citizen father between March of 1790 and January of 1795 due to the EFFECT of the Doctrine of Coverture which provided that a wife’s political character became that of her husbands upon marriage. That condition continued until the 1922 Cable Act, aka, the Women’s Independent Citizenship & retention Act.

    The FACT that the 14th Amendments declaratory born Citizen provision IS a “collective naturalization provision” is twice proved; 1st in that it “made” U.S. Citizens of all those Stateless, (insofar as national political character was concerned), emancipated persons of the black race with the Ratification of the Amendment; and 2nd being acknowledged as such within the U.S. Code its-self; 8 U.S. Code Chapter 12, Subchapter III – NATIONALITY AND NATURALIZATION Part I—Nationality at Birth and Collective Naturalization (§§ 1401–1409) https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/chapter-12/subchapter-III

    SO, the only persons in all the history of U.S. Laws that were “considered as” U.S. natural born Citizens at birth were the children born to two (2) U.S. Citizen parents when “out of the limits of the U.S.” which then must include anywhere in the world between March of 1790 and January of 1795 and then thereafter born anywhere EXCEPT “out of the limits of the U.S.”.