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The Citizenship Status of Our 44 Presidents

The Citizenship Status of Our 44 Presidents



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Published by puzo1
14 Feb 2011: The Citizenship Status of Our 44 Presidents. Copyright (c) 2011 Mario Apuzzo, Esq., All Rights Reserved. Last revision: 16 Feb 2011.

For more information on the eligibility issue see:
14 Feb 2011: The Citizenship Status of Our 44 Presidents. Copyright (c) 2011 Mario Apuzzo, Esq., All Rights Reserved. Last revision: 16 Feb 2011.

For more information on the eligibility issue see:

More info:

Categories:Types, Research
Published by: puzo1 on Feb 15, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Citizenship Status of Our 44 Presidents
By: Mario Apuzzo, Esq.Written: February 14, 2011
Revised: February 16, 2011
 A famous Holmesian dictum provides that "a page of history is worth a volume of logic."New York Trust Co. v. Eisner, 256 U.S. 345, 349 (1921) (Holmes, J.). There have been43 Americans that have served as President (not including Barack Obama). Ten wereborn before 1787. Until Martin Van Buren (who was born in 1782 or six years after thesigning of the Declaration of Independence) became President in 1837 (making him the8th president), all the Presidents had been born before 1776 to parents who, undoubtedly,at the time considered themselves to be loyal subjects of one of the British Kings. Thepresident following Van Buren, William H. Harrison (the 9th president), was also bornbefore 1776 to parents who were British “natural born subjects.” All Presidents bornbefore July 4, 1776, were born British “natural born subjects.” Those early presidentswere naturalized to become “Citizens of the United States” through the Declaration of Independence and by adhering to the American Revolution. These presidents includedWashington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, and Harrison. ArticleII, Section 1, Clause 5, allowing anyone who was a “Citizen of the United States” at thetime of the adoption of the Constitution to be eligible to be President, grandfathered thesepresidents to be eligible. All presidents born after 1787, except for Chester Arthur andBarack Obama, met the “natural born Citizen” criteria, i.e., born on U.S. soil to a motherand father who were themselves U.S. citizens at the time of the President’s birth. NeitherArthur nor Obama were “natural born Citizens” at the time of birth. Arthur was born toan alien father who also made his U.S. citizen mother an alien. Obama was born to a non-U.S. citizen father who never became a U.S. citizen and, being here only on a temporarystudent visa, was never even an immigrant. There have been 46 Americans that haveserved as Vice-President (not including Mr. Biden). Ten were born before 1787. AllVice-Presidents born after 1787, except for Chester Arthur, met the “natural bornCitizen” criteria. Fourteen Vice Presidents have gone on to be President.
Some believe that John Tyler was our first "natural born Citizen" President. They believethat a President had to be born after the adoption of the Constitution in 1787 in order tobe a “natural born Citizen.” Since Tyler was born in 1790 in Virginia, they conclude thathe was the first President to be a “natural born Citizen.” I do not agree with this approachto determining who our first "natural born Citizen" President was.The citizens made the Constitution and their government. The Constitution andgovernment did not make the citizens. The citizens had the unalienable rights to life,liberty, and the pursuit of happiness granted to them by nature and their Creator and notby the Constitution or government. On July 4, 1776, our first Americans declaredindependence from Great Britain and created the new American community of free andindependent states. July 4, 1776 is therefore the critical date which established Americancitizenship. The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, the first constitution of the United States, which went into use in 1777 and which were formally ratified onMarch 1, 1781, officially recognized the nation as the "United States of America." Hence,all those who helped create the new nation became its members and therefore its citizens.These were the first "Citizens of the United States," which Article II, Section 1, Clause 5grandfathered to be eligible to be President provided they were born before the adoptionof the Constitution.Hence, anyone born after July 4, 1776 in the U.S. to parents who became "Citizens of theUnited States" as a result of the Declaration of Independence and by adhering to theAmerican Revolution was born in the country to U.S. citizen parents and therefore a"natural born Citizen." The First Congress in the Naturalization Act of 1790 evenextended the “natural born Citizen” status to persons born abroad to U.S. citizen parents.The Third Congress, through the Naturalization Act of 1795, repealed the 1790 Act anddeclared such children born abroad to U.S. citizen parents to be considered as “citizens of the United States” and not “natural born Citizens.”The first President to be born after July 4, 1776 in the U.S. to parents who became"Citizens of the United States" on July 4, 1776 was Martin Van Buren, who was born in1782 in New York. He was therefore the first President to be a "natural born Citizen."Tyler was the second President to be born under these birth circumstances which makeshim the second President to be a "natural born Citizen."Let us now examine how President James Buchanan, who had an Irish father, WoodrowWilson, who had an English mother, and Herbert Hoover, who had a Canadian mother,were “natural born Citizens.” As we have seen, President Thomas Jefferson, whosemother was born in England, and Andrew Jackson, whose parents were both born inIreland, were grandfathered to be eligible to be President. Chester Arthur, not being eithergrandfathered or a “natural born Citizen,” will be treated separately.
When determining whether a child born in the U.S. is an Article II “natural born Citizen,”the question is not whether the parents of the child are foreign born. Rather, the questionis whether they are “citizens of the United States” at the time of the child’s birth in theUnited States. In Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162, 167-68 (1875), our U.S. SupremeCourt, providing the same definition of a “natural born citizen” as did Emer de Vattel inhisThe Law of Nations, Section 212(1758), but without citing Vattel, and not in anyway referring to the English common law, stated:"The Constitution does not in words say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort mustbe had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common law, with the nomenclature of which theframers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in acountry of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizensalso. These were natives or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens orforeigners. 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 therehave been doubts, but never as to the first. For the purposes of this case, it is notnecessary to solve these doubts. It is sufficient, for everything we have now to consider,that all children, born of citizen parents within the jurisdiction, are themselves citizens."Id., 169 U.S. at 679-80. So as we can see, the Supreme Court told us that a “natural borncitizen” is a child born in the country to citizen parents. See also, U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark,169 U.S. 649, 708 (1898) (distinguished between a “natural born Citizen” and a “citizenof the United States” and cited Vattel and quoted his definition of “natural born Citizen”as did Minor v. Happersett but relied on the English common law to define a born“citizen of the United States” under the 14th Amendment).The status of being “citizens of the United States” can be acquired by the parents byeither being “natural born Citizens” or by becoming “citizens of the United States” bynaturalization under an Act of Congress or treaty or if born in the U.S. under the 14thAmendment. The case of Perkins v Elg 307 U. S. 325 (1939) makes the point and showshow a child born in the U.S. to naturalized parents was declared a “natural born Citizen.”The central question in the Perkins case dealt with whether the Elg child lost her U.S.birth citizenship status because of the acts of her parents and not because of anything sheelected to do or some treaty or Act of Congress. But the case is also important inunderstanding the meaning of a “natural born Citizen.”Under out naturalization laws, citizenship can be derived from a close relation to a familymember. Historically, a number of U.S. laws have provided for the automaticnaturalization of children or wives (not husbands) of naturalized U.S. citizens. In someperiods of our history, these laws provided that married women derived citizenship fromtheir husband and had no control over their status. Under the Act of 10 February 1855, awoman automatically became an American upon marrying a U.S. citizen or following thenaturalization of her foreign husband. Kelly v. Owen, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 496 (1868). The1922 Married Women's Act (or the Cable Act) finally severed the link betweennaturalization and marital status for most women.

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