In defining anArticle II “natural born Citizen,”it is important to find any authority fromthe Founding period who may inform us how the Founders and Framers themselvesdefined the clause. Who else but a highly respected historian from the Founding perioditself would be highly persuasive in telling us how the Founders and Framers defined a“natural born Citizen. ” Such an important person is David Ramsay, who in 1789 wrote,A Dissertation on the Manners of Acquiring the Character and Privileges of a Citizen(1789), a very important and influential essay on defining a “natural born Citizen.”David Ramsay (April 2, 1749 to May 8, 1815)was an American physician, patriot, andhistorian from South Carolina and a delegate from that state to the Continental Congressin 1782-1783 and 1785-1786. He was the Acting President of the United States inCongress Assembled. He was one of the American Revolution’s first major historians. Acontemporary of Washington, Ramsay writes with the knowledge and insights oneacquires only by being personally involved in the events of the Founding period. In 1785he published History of the Revolution of South Carolina (two volumes), in 1789Historyof the American Revolution (two volumes), in 1807 a Life of Washington, and in 1809 aHistory of South Carolina (two volumes). Ramsay “was a major intellectual figure in theearly republic, known and respected in America and abroad for his medical and historicalwritings, especially for The History of the American Revolution (1789)…” Arthur H.Shaffer, Between Two Worlds: David Ramsay and the Politics of Slavery, J.S.Hist., Vol.L, No. 2 (May 1984). “During the progress of the Revolution, Doctor Ramsay collectedmaterials for its history, and his great impartiality, his fine memory, and his acquaintancewith many of the actors in the contest, eminently qualified him for the task….”http://www.famousamericans.net/davidramsay/ .
In 1965 Professor Page Smith of the University of California at Los Angeles publishedan extensive study of Ramsay's History of the American Revolution in which he stressedthe advantage that Ramsay had because of being involved in the events of which he wroteand the wisdom he exercised in taking advantage of this opportunity. “The generosity of mind and spirit which marks his pages, his critical sense, his balanced judgment andcompassion,'' Professor Smith concluded, “are gifts that were uniquely his own and thatclearly entitle him to an honorable position in the front rank of American historians.”In his 1789 article, Ramsay first explained who the “original citizens” were and thendefined the “natural born citizens” as the children born in the country to citizen parents.He said concerning the children born after the declaration of independence, “[c]itizenshipis the inheritance of the children of those who have taken part in the late revolution; butthis is confined exclusively to the children of those who were themselves citizens….” Id.at 6. He added that “citizenship by inheritance belongs to none but the children of thoseAmericans, who, having survived the declaration of independence, acquired thatadventitious character in their own right, and transmitted it to their offspring….” Id. at 7.He continued that citizenship “as a natural right, belongs to none but those who havebeen born of citizens since the 4th of July, 1776….” Id. at 6.Here we have direct and convincing evidence of how a very influential Founder defined a“natural born citizen.” Given his position of influence and especially given that he was ahighly respected historian, Ramsay would have had the contacts with other influentialFounders and Framers and would have known how they too defined “natural bornCitizen.” Ramsay, being of the Founding generation and being intimately involved in theevents of the time would have know how the Founders and Framers defined a “naturalborn Citizen” and he told us that definition was one where the child was born in thecountry of citizen parents. He giving us this definition, it is clear that Ramsay did notfollow the English common law but rather natural law, the law of nations, and Emer deVattel, who also defined a “natural-born citizen” the same as did Ramsay in his highlyacclaimed and influential,The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature,Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns, Section 212 (1758French) (1759 English). We can reasonably assume that the other Founders and Framerswould have defined a “natural born Citizen” the same way the Ramsay did, for being ameticulous historian he would have gotten his definition from the general consensus thatexisted at the time.
Ramsay’s article and explication are further evidence of the influence that Vattel had onthe Founders in how they defined the new national citizenship. This article by Ramsay isone of the most important pieces of evidence recently found (provided to us by ananonymous source) which provides direct evidence on how the Founders and Framersdefined a “natural born Citizen” and that there is little doubt that they defined one as achild born in the country to citizen parents. Given this time-honored definition, which hasbeen confirmed by subsequent United States Supreme Court and some lower court casessuch as The Venus, 12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 253, 289 (1814) (Marshall, C.J., concurring anddissenting for other reasons, cites Vattel and provides his definition of natural borncitizens); Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857) (Justice Daniels concurring took out of Vattel’s definition the reference to “fathers” and “father” and replaced it with“parents” and “person,” respectively); Shanks v. Dupont, 28 U.S. 242, 245 (1830) (samedefinition without citing Vattel); Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36, 21 L.Ed. 394, 16Wall. 36 (1872) (in explaining the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment clause,“subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” said that the clause “was intended to exclude from itsoperation children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign States bornwithin the United States;” Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U.S. 94 (1884) (“the children of subjectsof any foreign government born within the domain of that government, or the childrenborn within the United States, of ambassadors or other public ministers of foreignnations” are not citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment because they are not subject tothe jurisdiction of the United States); Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162, 167-68 (1875)(same definition without citing Vattel); Ex parte Reynolds, 1879, 5 Dill., 394, 402 (samedefinition and cites Vattel); United States v. Ward, 42 F.320 (C.C.S.D.Cal. 1890) (samedefinition and cites Vattel); U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898) (quoted fromthe same definition of “natural born Citizen” as did Minor v. Happersett); Rep. JohnBingham (in the House on March 9, 1866, in commenting on the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which was the precursor to the Fourteenth Amendment: "[I] find no fault with theintroductory 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 notowing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself,a natural born citizen. . . . ” John A. Bingham, (R-Ohio) US Congressman, March 9, 1866Cong. Globe, 39th, 1st Sess., 1291 (1866), Sec. 1992 of U.S. Revised Statutes (1866)).Thetwo-citizen-parent requirementwould have followed from the common law thatprovided that a woman upon marriage took the citizenship of her husband. In otherwords, the Framers required both (1) birth on United States soil (or its equivalent) and (2)birth to two United States citizen parents as necessary conditions of being granted thatspecial status which under our Constitution only the President and Commander in Chief of the Military (and also the Vice President under the Twelfth Amendment) must have atthe time of his or her birth. Given the necessary conditions that must be satisfied to begranted the status, all "natural born Citizens" are "Citizens of the United States" but notall "Citizens of the United States" are "natural born Citizens." It was only through bothparents being citizens that the child was born withunity of citizenship and allegiancetothe United States which the Framers required the President and Commander in Chief tohave.