WHAT IS A “NATURAL BORN CITIZEN?”
by CDR Charles F. Kerchner, Jr., P.E. (Ret), ©2018, blogging at CDRKerchner
During the process of developing a new U.S. Constitution Alexander Hamilton submitted a suggested draft for a Constitution on June 18, 1787. At some point, he also suggested to the framers a proposal for the qualification requirements in Article II as to the necessary Citizenship status for the office of President and Commander in Chief of the Military. Another version of Hamilton’s proposed Constitution and which principles were stated during the convention’s deliberations per Madison notes and journal (see work of Farrand – pg 619), was given to Madison near the close of the convention for inclusion in Madison record of events for the convention. Hamilton’s proposed Constitution was not accepted.
Alexander Hamilton’s suggested presidential eligibility clause:
“No person shall be eligible to the office of President of the United States unless he be now a Citizen of one of the States, or hereafter be born a Citizen of the United States.”
Many of the founders and framers rightly had a fear of foreign influence on the person who would in the future be President of the United States since this particular office was singularly and uniquely powerful under the proposed new Constitution. The President was also to be the Commander in Chief of the military. This fear of foreign influence on a future President and Commander in Chief was particularly strongly felt by John Jay, who later became the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He felt so strongly about the issue of potential foreign influence that he took it upon himself to draft a letter to General George Washington, the presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention, recommending/hinting that the framers should strengthen the Citizenship requirements. John Jay was an avid reader and proponent of natural law and particularly Vattel’s treatise on Natural Law and the Law of Nations. In his letter to Washington he said that the Citizenship requirement for the office of the commander of our armies should contain a “strong check” against foreign influence and he recommended to Washington that the command of the military be open only to a “natural born Citizen”. Thus Jay did not agree that simply being a “born Citizen” or “born a Citizen” was sufficient enough protection from foreign influence in the singular most powerful office in the new form of government. He wanted another adjective added to the eligibility clause, i.e., ‘natural’. And that word natural goes to the Citizenship status of one’s parents, both of them, when their child is born, as per natural law.
The below is the relevant proposed change language from Jay’s letter which he proposed to strengthen the citizenship requirements in Article II and to require more than just being a “born Citizen” of the United States to serve as a future Commander in Chief and President.
Read the rest here.