The Historical Meaning of “Natural Born Citizen” —
Part 1: Before the Constitution [up to 1787]

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: Offers a Clue to the Meaning of 'Natural Born Citizen'

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: Offers a Clue to the Meaning of 'Natural Born Citizen'

“Your… argument is absurd given that historically a “natural born Citizen” had only one definition, i.e., a child born in the country to citizen parents. There never has been any other definition. So your attempt to go looking for one or inventing one is contrary to the historical record and case law of our U.S. Supreme Court.” — Mario Apuzzo, responding to a critic at his blog

The US Constitution provides that only a natural born citizen is eligible to be President of the United States.

Recently, “birther” lawyer Mario Apuzzo — and others — have claimed that in order to be a “natural born citizen,” a person must have parents who were citizens at the time of that person’s birth, as well as be born on US soil.

In previous articles, we’ve looked at case law from the US Supreme Court (most importantly, US v Wong Kim Ark and Minor v Happersett) as well as some of the major legal and historical authorities.

In this article, we’re going to take an overview of the historical understanding of the term “natural born citizen.”

That’s right! In one series of posts, we’re going to get an understanding of what “natural born citizen” has meant throughout all of American history.

And we won’t just cover the points that are favorable to the conclusions we’ve reached in past articles, either. I’m going to include as many “birther-favorable” points as I’ve been able to come up with.

Of course, there’s much more that could be said about this subject than we will have time to cover in one extended article. Nevertheless, if you’re still wondering what Americans have always understood the term “natural born citizen” to mean, you should be able to gain a clear picture.

And if you have further questions about any particular point, I would invite you to research the matter for yourself. As we go along, I’ll give enough information to point the way for you to do further reading and research which will confirm the points we go over.

So let’s get started!

Sources of Information for the Historical Definition of “Natural Born Citizen”

Mr. Apuzzo is crystal clear in his statement that there “never has been any other definition” of “natural born citizen” except one that requires both birth “in the country” and “citizen parents.”

If this is the case, then we obviously ought to find clear and unambiguous evidence of that in the historical record.

In my quest for the historical meaning of “natural born citizen,” I’ve found dozens of possible sources that might give us indications as to what the phrase has historically meant. I mention in this article all the significant sources of information I was able to think of — including both those that seem to lend support the Apuzzo/ birther claim, and those that don’t.

For convenience’s sake, we’ll split our article up into parts. Part One will cover sources of information roughly before and up to the writing of the Constitution in 1787. So on this first page, we’ll cover:

  • Actual known usages of the phrase “natural born citizen” before it appeared in our Constitution (from antiquity to 1787)
  • The early laws of American Colonies and States (1600s to about 1820)
  • Early naturalizations in American Colonies and States (1600s to 1800s)
  • Any association of Swiss philosopher Emer de Vattel and the writers of the Law of Nations with the phrase (1600s to about 1820)
  • Thomas Jefferson’s citizenship law for the Commonwealth of Virginia (1779, updated in 1783)
  • Wording from a proposed treaty between the United States and France (1781)
  • and the historical events regarding the use of the phrase at the Constitutional Convention itself (1787).

We’ll comment on each of our sources in turn (trying to keep the comments reasonably brief), before reaching our final conclusion on the historical evidence as to what “natural born citizen” has always meant. And at the end of the entire series, I’ll have a graphic that will give a bird’s-eye overview of the historical evidence.

Here we go!

Actual Known Usages of the Phrase “Natural Born Citizen” Prior to its Appearance in Our Constitution (antiquity to 1789)

The known usages of the exact phrase “natural born citizen” before its use in our Constitution don’t seem to lend much support to the idea that being one required two citizen parents.

I was able to find a total of NINE known usages of the precise phrase before it appeared in our Constitution; earlier, I wrote a full article on this topic.

None of these nine usages supports the birther/ Apuzzo claim.

In the end, I concluded, “…not only does the known American and legal usage of the term prior to the Constitution fail to support Mr. Apuzzo’s claim — it provides additional evidence that — except for the difference between ‘subject’ and ‘citizen’ — ‘natural born citizen’ meant exactly what ‘natural born subject’ had always meant.”

And “natural born subject” in English law, of course, always included virtually all children born in the country. This was true whether or not their parents were themselves citizens or subjects of England. (For further information on the English history and meaning of the term “natural born subject” and its origins in the English concepts of natural law, study this article.

The early laws of American Colonies and States (1600s to about 1820)

The descriptive words “natural born” didn’t just suddenly appear in America. They were used for a long time in the phrase “natural born subject” before they were ever used in “natural born citizen.” And “natural born subject” was used in law in Maryland, at least, well back into the 1600s.

In New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, use of the phrase “natural born subject” before the Revolution and the Constitution gave way to “natural born citizen” afterward, in exactly the same way that the word “subject” gave way to the use of the word “citizen.”

Laws were passed in Delaware in 1788 and in Pennsylvania in 1797 even after the writing of the Constitution, which referred to “natural born subjects.” And the 1793 Constitution of the State of Vermont also referred to “natural born subjects as well”

By 1799, though, the Pennsylvania law had changed its phrasing to “natural born citizen or citizens.” (The Vermont State Constitution uses the phrase “natural born subject” to this day.)

Also, as has been noted at this blog many times, the terms “natural born subject” and “natural born citizen” were for a time used absolutely interchangeably in law in the State of Massachusetts.

In 1838, Justice Gaston of the Supreme Court of North Carolina stated that the term “citizen” is “precisely analogous” to the term “subject:”

“Upon the Revolution, no other change took place in the law of North Carolina than was consequent upon the transition from a colony dependent on an European King to a free and sovereign State… British subjects in North Carolina became North Carolina freemen… and all free persons born within the State are born citizens of the State… The term ‘citizen,’ as understood in our law, is precisely analogous to the term ‘subject’ in the common law, and the change of phrase has entirely resulted from the change of government. The sovereignty has been transferred from one man to the collective body of the people, and he who before was a ‘subject of the king’ is now ‘a citizen of the State.’”State v Manuel, 1838

Justice Gaston’s opinion was later quoted approvingly by the US Supreme Court in US v Wong Kim Ark (1898).

All of this very strongly implies that the only difference between “natural born citizen” and “natural born subject” is simply the difference between a “citizen” and a “subject,” and that “natural born” means the same thing in both cases.

Early naturalizations in American Colonies and States (1600s to 1800s)

“William St. George” over at Mario Apuzzo’s blog wrote:

“It has occurred to me that early naturalization documents could serve as an indirect proof of what the nation believed in the early decades. Births in the USA indicated in these documents would show alien parentage. And not citizenship by birth. Woodman’s theory would maintain that no one ever born in the USA needed to be naturalized.”

a) In fact, all naturalization Acts and documents of which I am aware have had to do with the naturalization of persons from other countries.

In other words (aside from one exception which isn’t actually an exception, as I will note below), there are NO known naturalization documents for US-born persons which “show alien parentage” and “not citizenship by birth.”

Not one.

After reading the above-mentioned poster’s suggestion, I went out and did additional research — to see whether I could turn up any Act or document to support the Apuzzo/ birther claim. Except for the one oddity we will cover below, a pretty fair search turned up nothing.

There does not seem to be the slightest indication that anybody born within the United States, or within an American State, ever needed to be or was naturalized by the US or by that State. And this lack of any known persons born on US soil who were subsequently naturalized as US citizens is further evidence against the Apuzzo/ birther position.

b) There does exist one single known incident that at first looks like an exception to the above.

The only instance I’ve ever located of a naturalization act passed in America on behalf of a person born in the United States was passed by the Vermont legislature in 1785. This Act naturalized a citizen of New Hampshire, and granted him “the freedom of the State of Vermont.”

However… this Act completely fails to support any claim by birthers.

Why? Because in the year 1785, Vermont was what has since been called “the Vermont Republic” — it was politically a completely separate nation outside of the United States of America!

Therefore, when the Vermont legislature naturalized a man from New Hampshire, they were truly naturalizing a citizen not just of another State of the Union (which they were NOT a part of yet), but a citizen of a foreign country — the United States of America.

So the act was very much like Canada naturalizing someone from the United States to be their citizen (except, of course, that Canada did not later join the USA).

Six years later, the independent State of Vermont — the “Vermont Republic” — gave up their independence and joined the USA as the 14th State of our Union.

The example thus reinforces what we already know — naturalization was always for those who were foreign-born.

c) Peeking ahead a bit, it also doesn’t seem that any American legislature ever passed any law providing for the “naturalization” of any class of people born in the United States or in that State or Commonwealth — except for laws that eventually naturalized Native Americans, or persons who were in territory that had previously not belonged to the United States. Or (possibly) former slaves, depending on the view you take.

Slaves were legally regarded as property, not people. It does not seem entirely clear by what mechanism freed slaves became citizens. Some said that they didn’t. But our legislators who passed laws to ensure citizenship for former slaves and other black Americans generally seemed to believe they were only codifying and clarifying what American law actually already was.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment specified that all persons born in the United States (with the traditional limited exceptions of Indians, children of ambassadors, etc.) were American citizens. And that Act and Amendment were clearly geared toward ensuring the privileges of citizenship for all native-born black Americans. (Native-born Chinese people and Gypsies were mentioned in the debates as well).

However, those sponsoring the Civil Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment were clear in stating their opinion that that Act and Amendment were merely a declaration of the law as it already was.

While some laws provided that minor children of aliens being naturalized would become citizens along with their parents, there’s no indication this provision was ever needed for children who had been born on American soil. Such children were already US citizens simply by virtue of their birth. This is evident, for example, in Thomas Jefferson’s citizenship law for the Commonwealth of Virginia, which we’ll touch on in a minute.

d) Likewise, there doesn’t appear to be any mention in any law of any “alien” who was a “native of the United States.” Such a creature simply doesn’t appear to exist. Nor does there appear to be any mention of such a thing as “a native-born citizen” who was not a “natural-born citizen.”

So there appears to be no known evidence from any naturalization laws or documents, in the entire history of the American Colonies and States, and of the United States as a whole, to provide even the slightest support to the Apuzzo/ birther claim.

My research for this point included tracking down as many internet-published early “session laws” in all of the thirteen original colonies as I could fine available; plus additional searches for naturalization Acts, including advanced searches through Google Books.

Any association of Vattel and the writers of the Law of Nations with the phrase (1600s to about 1820)



As we’ve seen in three previous articles, there is no known actual association of Vattel or any of the writers on the Law of Nations with the phrase “natural born citizen.” For full details, see:

It has also been pointed out by French attorney “Lupin” (see comments below) that a solid translation of Vattel is not particularly kind to the Apuzzo/ birther claim. For more on Vattel viewed from the perspective of a French attorney with experience in editing English translations of Vattel’s work, see here.

Thomas Jefferson’s citizenship law for the Commonwealth of Virginia (1779 and 1783)

In 1779, Thomas Jefferson wrote a citizenship law for the Commonwealth of Virginia that provided that “all white persons born within the territory of this commonwealth” were Virginia citizens.

In spite of the fact that Mario Apuzzo has insisted on misinterpreting the clear words of this law to supposedly support his claims, the wording of the law provides clear support instead to the idea that citizenship in America was based on place of birth, without reference to citizenship status of parents.

[Note: I don’t mean by this to exclude that in some instances people might also become citizens through jus sanguinis, or the “law of blood.” Our mother country, England, certainly made use of both. Our first Congress specified a law stating that children born overseas to US parents were also to be regarded as “natural born citizens.” And, as noted in a comment below, the Georgia Charter of 1732 provided that both those born in the province “and every of their children and posterity” should have “all liberties franchises and immunities of free denizens and natural born subjects.”]

Wording from a proposed treaty between the United States and France (1781)

Mario Apuzzo claims, “The Founding generation knew that ‘les naturels, ou indigenes’ [in Vattel’s 1758 book] meant ‘natural born Citizen.’ Here is some strong historical evidence of this. The French phrase, ‘sujects naturels,’ [sic] was used in a 1781 trade treaty between the United States and France. The French word ‘naturels’ was translated into English as ‘natural born.’ Here are the treaty provisions showing this understanding: The French: ‘ARTICLE III Les consuls et vice consuls respectifs ne pourront être pris que parmi les sujets naturels de la puissance qui les nommera’ was translated into English thus: ‘The respective Consuls and Vice Consuls shall only be taken from among the natural born subjects of the power nominating them.’ Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, Friday, July 27, 1781, accessed at . So, ‘naturels’ was understood to mean ‘natural born.’ This shows that when members of the founding generation, many of whom were fluent in French, read Vattel’s French term ‘naturels,’ they translated the clause into ‘natural born.’

The claim sounds plausible, but it is without any real merit. As ought to be obvious even to those who know no French, the word “naturel” in French (as an adjective) generally means “natural” — with very much the same meaning it has in English. A direct translation would therefore have been “natural subjects.” But in England and in America we used the phrase “natural born subjects,” so that’s how it was translated.

From a linguistic point of view, the plural adjective “naturels” does not mean “natural born.” Just as when one reads “natural” in English, “born” is not necessarily implied. The word means “natural.”

It is the entire phrase “sujets naturels” (“natural subjects”) that was translated as “natural born subjects.” So here we have the translation of a phrase, not a literal translation done word for word.

In fact, the incident clearly illustrates that not only the States, but the United States government itself, in the year 1781 — five years after the Revolution — spoke of their people as “natural born subjects.”

During that period of our history, the word “subject” in America began changing to “citizen,” but the transition did not occur everywhere instantly.

In fact, since “sujets naturels” was translated to “natural born subjects,” one could just as readily argue that “naturels” (as a noun) is an abbreviation of “sujets naturels” — and therefore means “natural born subjects,” which always included the children born in the country of alien parents.

Except, of course, that’s not how Vattel used the noun “naturel” in his 1758 book.

But Vattel’s usage does not seem to be quite typical, even of his day.

The 1694 Dictionnaire de l’Académie française gave as one definition of “naturel,” “A native inhabitant of a country,” e.g, “the French naturels,” “the naturel Spanish.” It further elaborated, “‘Naturel’ also means a man born, a man who has taken birth in a country, etc.” Later versions of this dictionary drop the last sentence, but none indicate that ancestry is required in order to be “a native inhabitant of a country.”

“Native” is defined as “having origin in a particular place or land.”

The Émile Littré Dictionary (1872) gives this definition: “Natural subjects of a sovereign; those who are born within his state.”

This dictionary also gives the “native inhabitant of a country” definition, using as an example a 1675 letter from Paul Pellisson, who wrote that the Sicilians in Paris, forced to accept the rule of France, said that a child prince (the Duke of Mayne, age 5) would be more agreeable than any other, because if he were sent to Messina to be put in power, the people would regard him as a Sicilian naturel.

Obviously, this specific use is one in which a person would have been regarded “as a naturel,” even though he was not born in a place and did not have citizen parents — simply because he was raised there from the age of five.

So a good deal of the time, the word “naturel” in French — even in Vattel’s day — simply meant someone who was from a place, without any regard as to whether his family was from there as well.

The word, in 1872, does also appears to carry with it some of the sense of the English word “native,” as shown in this remark: “Naturel, in the sense of native, is not used in speaking of civilized nations: One does not say, ‘the naturels of France, or of Spain.'” However, it was used less formally to refer to people from a particular locality: “the naturels of this province, of this village.”

The definitions and examples of these dictionaries can be found here.

In modern usage as well, the noun “naturel” appears to be ambiguous. It can be used in the sense of someone who is from a particular place — as in having been born there, without regard to citizenship of parents. Or, it can be used in the sense of a person who is indigenous, that is, whose entire family and ancestors came from the place where he is.

Even as a noun, the term is therefore ambiguous, and apparently always has been.

In short, there is once again nothing to the claim that this particular treaty translation is any evidence at all that the Founding Fathers meant the concept expressed in Vattel’s 1758 book when they used the English phrase “natural born citizen” in the Constitution.

The historical events regarding the use of the phrase at the Constitutional Convention itself (1787)

In July 1787, George Washington, while presiding over the Constitutional Convention, received a letter from John Jay which suggested that the President should be a “natural born citizen.”

Birthers have claimed that the Framers of the Constitution “rejected” Alexander Hamilton’s desire for the President to be “born a citizen” in favor of Jay’s term “natural born citizen.” However, there is no historical evidence to suggest this. In fact, the available historical evidence rather strongly suggests that the phrase represents a shared idea between two friends.

This article fully examines the relationship between the qualification that Alexander Hamilton wanted for President, and that proposed by John Jay.

To Be Continued in Part Two

This completes our list of sources of evidence from before the writing of the Constitution. This is a crucial period — because if the Framers of the Constitution decided to use the phrase “natural born citizen” to mean “born on US soil of two citizen parents,” they would have to have made that decision either before or at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

And yet, there is no actual evidence known at all dating from before or during the Convention that would indicate that the Framers — or anybody else, for that matter — ever relied on Vattel for the meaning of “natural born citizen,” or ever used the term “natural born citizen” to mean “born on US soil of two citizen parents.” For example, the facts surrounding John Jay’s letter — far from supporting the birther claims — strongly suggest that the two terms mean exactly the same thing.

In fact, all available historical evidence from this period seems to indicate that “natural born citizen” was simply an American update of the ancient term “natural born subject.”

It’s possible, though, that we will find some record from after the Constitutional Convention that would indicate that such a conclusion is wrong. Maybe one of the Founders left a memoir that says, “We relied on Vattel for our concept of ‘natural born citizen.'” Or maybe we will find an authority who says, “‘Natural born citizen’ and ‘natural born subject’ are different, in that whereas a ‘natural born citizen’ requires citizen parents, a ‘natural born subject’ does not.”

We’ll continue our investigation in Part Two of this article.

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68 Responses to The Historical Meaning of “Natural Born Citizen” —
Part 1: Before the Constitution [up to 1787]

  1. Suranis says:

    First comment!! Woot!

    • John Woodman says:

      The first comment is yours! 🙂

      I’ve invited folks from both the birther and anti-birther sides.

      I should set out a few ground rules.

      I request of all participants in the discussion here:

      1) Differences of opinion are expected, but please keep it civil. Behave like a decent human being.

      2) I am not an “Obot.” Use of the “O” word is not allowed at this blog. Sorry.

      3) It’s not forbidden to accuse somebody of something, but you need to have a good, facts-based reason for doing so.

      4) Spammy posts are not allowed. Your post should have meaningful content.

      5) Repeatedly reasserting discredited arguments again and again, rather than actually answering the objections made, is not allowed. That gets old in a hurry.

      6) Please keep it civil. Behave like a decent human being.

  2. Great article and congratulations on your retirement!

    I would take a small issue with the wording “citizenship in America was based on place of birth, without reference to citizenship status of parents.” While place of birth alone was sufficient for citizenship, parentage was an additional source of citizenship for the foreign born. By the Georgia Charter of 1732, both those born in the Colony and their children were natural born subjects:

    Also we do for ourselves and successors declare by these presents that all and every the persons which shall happen to be born within the said province and every of their children and posterity shall have and enjoy all liberties franchises and immunities of free denizens and natural born subjects

    Those persons born subjects of Georgia subsequent to 1732 would have been considered citizens of Georgia and of the United States after independence.

    For further reading on the translation of Vattel, I suggest:

    • John Woodman says:

      Dr. Conspiracy,

      You make a very excellent comment, and I have added a note to the article because of it. 😉

  3. Lupin says:

    I have frequently posted under the name of “Lupin” on Dr. Conspiracy’s blog.

    I am a French attorney with 30+ years’ experience, currently semi-retired and living in the South of France; amongst other things, I have edited translations of Vattel into English.

    First, when tackling this issue, one has to decide (a) whether the term “natural-born citizen” is a correct translation of Vattel’s term “indigene” and “naturel”; and (b) whether Vattel has any relevance at all to the issue at hand.

    Both of these propositions seem highly debatable to me, but not being an expert on U.S. law, this is not my place to comment.

    When reading Vattel’s article on citizenship, often quoted by Mr Apuzzo, one must keep in mind the following:

    (a) the terms “parents” actually means blood relatives, not just parents; this is easily verifiable: ask any Frenchman if the sentence “j’ai des parents en Amerique” means “my parents are in America” or “I have family in America” — he will answer the latter.

    (b) the term “parents” is used by Vattel as a group plural, ie: either parent, not both; as in “only children whose parents are club members may use the pool”; there is no ambiguity here.

    (c) further on, Vattel mentions the father, but only as an illustration of his “jus sanguinis” approach to citizenship as stated above; he does not exclude the mother or indeed any relatives on either side; as a matter of fact, the mother is specifically included/added in a footnote the second edition;

    (d) finally, Vattel mentions that other countries like England favor a “jus soli” method, and claims no universality.

    So, if one were were to apply Vattel’s theory to the hypothetical case of a young Obama born in Switzerland at the time of Vattel’s writings from a visiting English student and a Swiss woman, it would be unambiguously clear that the child would be considered by the Swiss authorities to be a Swiss “indigene” from his mother’s side of the family.

    Had his father hypothetically taken the child back to England to be raised there, he might ALSO be eligible to become a British citizen because of his father, but that would in no way impact his “quality” as a Swiss “indigene” in Switzerland.

    As I have often pointed out, there is nothing in Vattel (even if he were deemed relevant) that bolsters the birthers’ agenda — quite the contrary.

    • John Woodman says:


      It’s great to see you over here — thanks for coming and joining the party.

      Apologies that it took so long to approve your first post. I had an email glitch and some other things that delayed seeing it. From now on, your messages should post immediately.

      You have some very interesting and relevant comments here. I think the following bears repeating:

      So, if one were were to apply Vattel’s theory to the hypothetical case of a young Obama born in Switzerland at the time of Vattel’s writings from a visiting English student and a Swiss woman, it would be unambiguously clear that the child would be considered by the Swiss authorities to be a Swiss “indigene” from his mother’s side of the family.

      As I have often pointed out, there is nothing in Vattel (even if he were deemed relevant) that bolsters the birthers’ agenda — quite the contrary.

  4. It is my personal view after a lot of reading of old writing that the citizens in 1787 were not of one mind concerning the term “natural born citizen.” I think that for most of the Framers (some of whom were lawyers trained in England), it was a term of art derived from the English “natural born subject.” That group may have understood it to refer only to those physically born in the country, following Calvin’s Case, or they may have understood it to include those long made subjects in England who were born abroad to British parents. Others, I think, less formally considered “native” and “natural born” the same, but I think the broad mass of citizens held the dictionary definition that “natural born” meant “having the nature at birth” or “born a citizen.”

    Also I do not think that notions of who was a citizen were necessarily uniform. For example new-elected Congressman William Smith of Charleston in 1789 cited Vattel in saying that the citizenship of the child follows the father, while in the same context James Madison said that place of birth is what mattered in the United States. (Ironically they were on the same side in the debate but derived their result through a different argument.)

    We may focus on what the Framers meant, but that’s really not valid since the Framers didn’t enact the Constitution. Whether Franklin or Washington read Vattel is largely irrelevant. If any original intent can be claimed, it is the intent of those delegates to the state ratifying conventions: they are the ones who enacted the Constitution. This is why I have difficulty with the “term of art” definition because that presumes the Constitution was debated in the streets and in the newspapers only by lawyers and ultimately ratified by lawyers. If any original intent is to be invoked, the definition must come from the common usage of the people. This is borne out by the absence of anything in the historical record where anyone tried to explain the concept to the people.

    • gorefan says:

      “Also I do not think that notions of who was a citizen were necessarily uniform.”

      Case in point is the rebuttal to Madison’s speech by Representative Jackson of Georgia, who said that at July 4th, 1776, the nation returned to a state of nature in which the child’s citizenship was dependent on the father.

      Jackson made the point that a great number of former loyalists were returning to the US and claiming confiscated properties on the grounds that they were in fact US citizens.

      “If the gentleman’s [Madison] doctrine of birth were to be supported, those minors who, with British bayonets, have plundered and ravaged, nay, cruelly butchered their more virtuous neighbors – the sons of the most inveterate traitors, whose names deservedly sounded in every bill of confiscation; and the minors, sons of those who sheltered themselves under the shade of the British King, and supported his armies, if not with arms, with resources of war, until the hour of danger was over – those, I say, after the blood of thousands has been spilt in the establishment of our Government, can now come forward and sneer at the foolish patriots who endured every hardship of a seven year war, to secure to them the freedom and property they had no hand in defending. Sir, did we fight for this?”

  5. Regarding the translation of Vattel’s indegenes as “natural born citizen”:

    A couple of years ago someone commented to me that if the 1798 translation “natural born citizen” offended Vattel then there should be evidence of him complaining about it.

    I have pondered this question since then and I believe I have figured out how to obtain the evidence. Since Vattel was long dead in 1798, we might exhume his body to determine if he’d “turned over in his grave.”

  6. gorefan says:

    Hi John, thanks for putting in the time to create this site. Best of luck in the future.

  7. Lupin says:

    The thing about the citizenship of the child following that of the father is that it is indeed correct — but what the birthers miss is that it is not exclusive.

    Vattel had a tendency to repeat (and sometimes contradict) himself, but he wasn’t shy in explaining what he thought at least twice. If he had wanted to exclude the mother, he most certainly would have done so. Further, the opening of his article, which takes precedence over what follows (which is more in the way of illustrations of what precedes), makes reference to both “parents” in an either/or situation.

    This slight imprecision (I wouldn’t call it a contradiction per se) was further elucidated in the footnote of the second edition that does mention that citizenship of the child may follow that of the mother.

    Leaving aside the matter that, by 20th and 21st centuries standards, such sex discrimination would be illegal and/or unconstitutional in most countries, we’re still left with the fact that our hypothetical child (English/Swiss) will be deemed Swiss if he is raised in Switzerland and British is he is raised in England. To be clear: the Swiss wouldn’t certainly have considered him British just because of his father.

    As I have repeated ad nauseam, a correct reading of Vattel does nothing to further the birthers’ theories. I will note that this interpretation (the only one, really) was also shared by your Congressional legal analyst.

    • John Woodman says:

      Thanks for the additional insight!

      Lupin, I would like to get your opinion, if I might, on my comments regarding the word “naturel” above. Have I represented its meaning correctly? I will be very happy to make changes if I have not.

      • Lupin says:

        My understanding is that the word “naturel” is applied by French philosophers to a right, a state, a condition, that predates the social contract, i.e.: human society.

        Cf. Hobbes, Locke and esp. Jean-Jacques Rousseau who wrote at great length about the “natural” state of Man (and Woman! paraphrasing the running joke from Monty Python – Life of Brian) in his SOCIAL CONTRACT.

        (Famous quote: “Man is born free and still, everywhere he is in chains.” Note that “born” here clearly means “natural-born.”)

        By extension, therefore, the word “naturel” applied to birth and citizenship would mean the state of birth that precedes the imposition of social contract notions such as citizenship. Hence a “natural birth” would refer to a “jus soli” birth as opposed to a “jus sanguinis” birth, which, after all, implies societal notions such as inheritance, etc.

        According to Rousseau, Obama’s “natural-born” condition would clearly be that of an American, notwithstanding his father’s citizenship — or his mother’s for that matter.

        • John Woodman says:

          What I have specific reference to is the entire section of the article, above, where I discuss Mario Apuzzo’s claim:

          “The Founding generation knew that ‘les naturels, ou indigenes’ [in Vattel’s 1758 book] meant ‘natural born Citizen.’”

          Specifically, I’ve said that I see very little difference, in general, between the French word “naturel” used as an adjective, and the English word “natural.”

          And that when used as a noun, it appears that “naturel” has an ambiguous meaning (for details, see above).

          Do you agree with the assessment above, or have I missed some things?

          • Lupin says:

            I don’t think it’s that ambiguous myself; you may think of it as a synonym of “natif” (“native”in English), but with a more abstract, philosophical & academic semantic field. (sort of like “intelligence” and “cleverness”)

            • John Woodman says:

              Maybe we’re talking a bit of semantics here. I personally find the English word “native” a bit ambiguous as well. It can mean:

              • someone who was born in a place
              • (more likely) someone who grew up in a place
              • someone who was born and grew up in a place, and whose parents and family were from that place, or
              • someone who is a member of an ethnic group of people (often separate from the more dominant and advanced civilization) that have all, for centuries, lived in a place

              I would be interested in your translation of “Nul, excepté un naturel né Citoyen…” over in Part 2. 🙂

    • John Woodman says:

      By the way, there’s more French coming! 😀

  8. Paul Pieniezny says:

    From me too, congratulations on this website.

    I am just a translator (well, I actually taught translation for many years, but no reason to dwell on that) and Franch is not one of the languages I translate to or from, but as a Belgian I know the language and can understand some of its grammatical and semantical idiosyncracies. I more or less stumbled accidentally and in real time (writing a reply at Doc’s conspiracy) upon the correct interpretation of “parents”.

    The paragraph that birthers always only quote the first sentence of (and that Donofrio probably googled up sometime in 2008) is a typical Vattel or Law of Nations paragraph. It starts with a general point taken from nature (people are what they are because of birth, but also because of how relatives brought them up). It then goes on to explain how Vattel sees Natural Law – er, his Prussian version of it – is treating citizenship (that is basically ius sanguinis through the father). The last sentence is an emphatical assertion of Vattel’s deepest opinion about it. The last sentence is interesting because it switches from “pays” and “citoyen” to “patrie” (literally “fatherland”). From a legal concept to an emotional one. (I must confess it was Lupin who first noticed this switch) The fact that this is an emotional point later helps Vattel to accept the English way of treating citizenship.

    My problem with this “semiotic” approach to Vattel was: looking at what he writes elsewhere, why does he refer to the mother in the first sentence? Taking the chance that the father dies before birth into consideration? Taking matriarchal cultures into account? Does not seem very normal. That is when it hit me that it makes perfect sense if you interpret “parents” as relatives. Looking elsewhere in the Law of Nations, and finding a reference to the Athenian custom of the civil arrest of foreigners by the “parents” of an Athenian killed by a foreigner of the same nation as the “hostages” (obviously, this must refer to relatives, since it would mean foreigners may kill an Athenian who lost both parents with impunity) for me confirms that Vattel stuck to the “correct” French of the period which said that “parents” did not mean father and mother only (there is evidence for this being the correct “usage” at the time of Vattel’s writing on the internet, see below). Note that the Oxford English Dictionary recognizes the use of “parents” in the sense of “relatives” even in English, under the influence of Romance languages, so Vattel’s translators were not the only ones to “mistranslate” the French word “parents”.

    In 1789, the new French citizenship law switched to ius soli (with ius sanguinis exceptions for diplomats and … descendants of Huguenot refugees, even through the female line). Napoleon later changed “back” to ius sanguinis through the father. In 1798, however, both France and the USA were ius soli countries. (France after 1880 veered away from Vattel and Napoleon because of concerns over birth rates lower than the German ones and the possible allegiance of Polish immigrants from the Russian Empire, who were believed to be more positive towards Germany and made it much easier for children of immigrants born in France to get French citizenship) I do not think it coincidental that the switch from indigenes or naturals to “natural born” happened during the short period when both countries had the same citizenship law.

    Of course, as Lupin also ponted out, if that one sentence from Vattel is considered an unalterable Natural Law (it is not) and we forget about “relatives” being the correct translation of “French “parents” (actually, “parens” I think in the pre-1789 spelling) the fact remains that “parens” is a grammatical plural – even if only one parent was meant or deemed sufficient, the plural needs to be used.

    One of the French grammarians who objected to the use of “parents” to mean father and mother, was Dominique Bouhours – funnily, during his lifetime he was known as a moderate man, who rarely condemned deviant expressions. Being a Belgian myself, I suspect he may have known that “parents”with that meaning was good English usage, and he may not have liked that.

    French and English “share” a lot words from Latin that mean different things in the two languages. Eventually does not mean eventuellement. Actual is not the same as actuel. Translators call those words “false friends”.

  9. Apparently, word that the Birthers have lost hasn’t reached Florida yet. Sam Sewell, aka the Drip, and Jerry Collette’s bud, says that, as a matter of fact, they have won and he is declaring victory. Birthers Declare Victory

    Sam also links to a document he says proves the CRS is in on the big conspiracy too!

    [Question for JW: Why is there an “f” in front of the title now?]

  10. Thomas Brown says:

    Hi guys…. sorry I’m late to the party.

    By the way, where can I park my 12 moose with cases of cold Molsons on their backs, and where can I tie up the hot-air ballon I had made in the shape of Orly Taitz’s head? Oh, and is there a stream nearby where I can put my cages of Marching Frogs?

    Great writing as usual John. You’re a formidable asset to your country.

  11. ProudWASP says:

    I am following the topic NBC for some time now – from the sidelines. I have found the one author who has the balls to call a spade a spade:

    Andrew Fraser, a Canadian / Australian professor.

    Read more here:

    A. Fraser has found the truth:

    only WhiteAngloSaxonProtestants (WASPs) are NBCs and can be POTUS. No Catholics, no Hispanics, No Jews, No Blacks. And no women !

    I only doubt that with the actual SCOTUS this goal can be achieved:

    not one of the actual Justices is a WASP ! Check yourself.

    And look at the people on the forefront of the Birther Cause: most are Italians like Apuzzo and Arpaio or Jews like Orly (Orlana!) Taitz and Klayman. Farrar is Lebanese, just like Issa !

    And look at Jerome Corsi. He is a mixture of all the bloods of the meditarranean coasts. Even BHO looks more like a (suntanned) Anglo-Saxon warrior than this sad example of the human race.

    There is no hope. These people will only destroy the cause.


  12. nbc says:

    ProudWASP references

    In 1875, Minor v Happersett, the only Supreme Court decision to pronounce upon the issue, defined a natural born citizen as a person born in the United States to parents (i.e., mother and father) who are both citizens of the American Republic.

    It seems that he is unfamiliar with US v Wong Kim Ark and instead relies on pure dicta in a case which refused to address the extent of the meaning of natural-born.

    Fascinating… Buzzz on my friend.

  13. John Woodman says:

    Part Two is published!

    This part of the article looks at what people understood “natural born citizen” to mean after the Constitution was written, up to about 1825 — or about the lifetime of the Framers.

  14. Foggy says:

    Great article. I’ll find time to read Part 2 tomorrow.

    Too bad only one apprentice birther showed up, with a comment so far from reality that it’s pretty clear he didn’t even read your article.

    • John Woodman says:

      Hopefully we’ll have more join us. I may send another email. This is an opportunity for them to speak and make their case. Such as it is.

  15. KindandNatural says:

    Please permit me to lead you to this quotation from Shakespeare’s King Henry V:

    “Were all thy children kind and natural?”

    What does the poet mean by natural children? This may be the answer to natural born citizen.

    Kind and Natural.

    • Suranis says:

      Now all the youth of England are on fire,
      And silken dalliance in the wardrobe lies:
      Now thrive the armourers, and honour’s thought
      Reigns solely in the breast of every man:
      They sell the pasture now to buy the horse,
      Following the mirror of all Christian kings,
      With winged heels, as English Mercuries.
      For now sits Expectation in the air,
      And hides a sword from hilts unto the point
      With crowns imperial, crowns and coronets,
      Promised to Harry and his followers.
      The French, advised by good intelligence
      Of this most dreadful preparation,
      Shake in their fear and with pale policy
      Seek to divert the English purposes.
      O England! model to thy inward greatness,
      Like little body with a mighty heart,
      What mightst thou do, that honour would thee do,
      Were all thy children kind and natural!
      But see thy fault! France hath in thee found out
      A nest of hollow bosoms, which he fills
      With treacherous crowns; and three corrupted men,
      One, Richard Earl of Cambridge, and the second,
      Henry Lord Scroop of Masham, and the third,
      Sir Thomas Grey, knight, of Northumberland,
      Have, for the gilt of France,–O guilt indeed!
      Confirm’d conspiracy with fearful France;

      Seen in full context that half sentence has little to so with citizenship, parentage or birth, but with moral and incorruptible character.

      Interesting question though, and I never turn down a chance to read some Shakespeare. 🙂

      • Thomas Brown says:

        Actually, in the 1623 Folio version the line is ended with neither a question nor exclamation mark, but a colon. It is not a question, but a reverie. It reads:

        O England: Modell to thy inward Greatnesse,
        Like little Body with a mightie Heart:
        What mightst thou do, that honour would thee do,
        Were all thy children kinde and naturall:

        But see, thy fault France hath in thee found out,
        A nest of hollow bosomes…

        At the time, “kind” still carried the echoes of cognate “kin,” which is also the root of “king,” as in “one of us.” Also, “naturall” carried traces of “nature” as regards parentage, out-of-wedlock offspring being referred to as “natural” children. They are simply “born to me” and that’s that. They have no family birthright, but they are nonetheless definitely subjects/citizens. So since “thy” refers to England, these are natural born Englishmen, and the legal circumstances of their nativity are irrelevant.

        Furness’ Variorum glosses these “kinde and naturall” children as “affectionate and loyal,” those who love and honor the country of their birth, who can be counted on not to betray her.

        America should be so lucky. Alas, the vile purveyors of seditious Birther lies have discovered and exploited “a nest of hollow bosomes…” who refuse to respect the fairly elected leader of their country just because he is not of their political stripe.

        As a Liberal, I will respect a Conservative President. As a Democrat, I will accept as legitimate a democratically-elected Republican President. That is what a kind and natural-born citizen, who feels affection and loyalty to America, does.

    • Northland10 says:

      Hello DancingRabbit/DraggingCanoe/evattel/bushpilot1.

      Still pushing the kind and natural thing? Did you even read the article?

      • John Woodman says:

        “Did you even read the article?”

        This is a really good question! One would hope that people coming here to discuss this blog’s final article… would actually read this blog’s final article.

  16. John Woodman says:

    Part 3 is now published — along with a side tour of the American common law meaning of “natural born citizen,” published yesterday.

    Part 3 covers events relevant to the meaning of “natural born citizen” in Antebellum America.

    One incident in particular from that era, I think, makes the public understanding very clear — the 1856 Presidential candidacy of Colonel John Charles Fremont, and the details published in his authorized campaign biography.

  17. John Woodman,

    Response by Mario Apuzzo to John Woodman, The Historical Meaning of “Natural Born Citizen” — Part 1: Before the Constitution [up to 1787], accessed at

    1. There is no evidence from the Founding that the Founders and Framers defined a “natural born Citizen” as the English “common law” defined a “natural born subject.” On the contrary, Jean Jacques Rousseau explained in his, The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right, Book I, 6. The Social Compact (1762) (G.D.H. Cole trans. 1782) that there is a great difference between a “citizen” and a “subject.” “This public person, so formed by the union of all other persons formerly took the name of city,4 and now takes that of Republic or body politic; it is called by its members State when passive. Sovereign when active, and Power when compared with others like itself. Those who are associated in it take collectively the name of people, and severally are called citizens, as sharing in the sovereign power, and subjects, as being under the laws of the State. But these terms are often confused and taken one for another: it is enough to know how to distinguish them when they are being used with precision.” Read Rousseau’s Footnote 4 and accompanying text in 6. Social Compact. Thomas Jefferson specifically obliterated “subject” from the Declaration of Independence and replaced it with “citizen.” John Jay’s letter of 1787 said “natural born citizen,” not “natural born subject.” David Ramsay and St. George Tucker said that only children born to “citizen” parents could be “natural born Citizens.” Additionally, Minor said that the “common-law” to which the Founders and Framers looked to define a “natural-born citizen” gave that status to a child born in a country to parents who were “citizens” of that country. This is not the English common law, but rather the law of nations definition of a “natural-born citizen.” So, given how Minor defined a “natural-born citizen” and that such definition was the definition that existed at “common-law” with which the Founders and Framers were familiar, it informed us that the Founders and Framers did not define a “natural-born citizen” the same way that the English “common law” defined a “natural born subject.”

    2. Any reliance on the fact that the states through reception statutes continued to selectively apply the English common law until abrogated by their legislatures is misplaced. When the Constitution was adopted and Congress passed it naturalization acts, national citizenship was defined under a national standard and not one found in state English common law.

    3. Historically, there was no need for such children who were born in the United States to alien parents to naturalize on their own. These children, if their parents naturalized before their 21st birthday, automatically became “citizens of the United States” derivatively and did not need any further naturalization. Also, before 1922, if an alien woman had children and married a U.S. citizen, both the alien woman and her alien children automatically became U.S. citizens. There was no need for these children to obtain any naturalization from any court. Researchers using naturalization records will find relatively few early entries for women actually going through any naturalization process. ] From the beginning of our nation until 1922, naturalization was automatically conferred on the wife of any male citizen. An alien woman who married a U.S. citizen automatically became a citizen and American woman who married an alien lost her U.S. citizenship, even if she never left the United States. This phenomenon would also explain why there are also no naturalization records for children born in the United States to alien parents, who automatically became U.S. citizens when their parents naturalized, if done before their age of majority.

    4. The James McClure citizenship case of 1811 proves that the early naturalization acts (in his case it was the Naturalization Act of 1802) applied to children born in the United States to alien parents. McClure, who was born in South Carolina on April 21, 1785 to a British subject father who naturalized on February 20, 1786 while his son was a minor and dwelling in the United States, was ruled by U.S. Supreme Court Justice, William Johnson, to be “Citizen of the United States” (not a “natural born Citizen”) under that naturalization act. Furthermore, Minor confirmed in 1875 that “there have been doubts” whether mere birth in the United States to alien parents made anyone a “citizen.” Actually, not only were there doubts, but under Congress’s naturalization acts, such children were aliens as is shown by the McClure case.

    5. Lupin’s interpretation of Vattel’s “parens,” which she says means any of the child’s relatives or extended family and not only the child’s father and mother, has no support in Vattel’s text and in his treatise itself. Vattel says “nes dans le pays, de parents citoyens. This means born in the country of citizen parents. Children are born to their father and mother. They are not born to their relatives or extended family. See also Section 122 where Vattel talks about “parents . . . gave him birth.” Parents can only mean mother and father. It surely cannot mean uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., who do not give birth to any child.

    6. Jefferson’s citizenship laws had one standard (jus soli) for adults in being who were born in Virginia. But when it came to infants, “wheresoever” born, he required birth to “citizen” parents.

    7. There is no denying that the U.S.-French treaty of 1781 said “naturels” which was translated to “natural born.” This does not mean that they were referring to “natural born Citizens,” but only that “naturels” meant “natural born.” Even the French translation of the Constitution in 1792 translated the clause “natural born Citizen” into “naturel né Citoyen.” These translations, along with subsequent U.S. Supreme Court and lower court cases which specifically cite and quote Vattel on “natural born Citizen,” are more than sufficient evidence to establish the link between Article II’s “natural born Citizen” clause and Vattel’s Section 212 “Les naturels, ou indigenes.”

    8. Regarding Alexander Hamilton’s proposal which contained the clause “born a citizen” for presidential eligibility, it is hard to believe that he would not have shared his language with members of the constitutional convention. We know that the convention did not select “born a citizen,” but rather a “natural born Citizen.”

  18. Ballantine says:

    It is amazing how you keep making claims you can’t cite any authority in history to support. Kind of explains you success. We see you still claims native children of aliens are aliens even though you can’t find a single dictionary, treatise or court who has ever said so. Arguing is so easy when one makes one’s own definitions. And, we see you cannot name a single person in history to support your delusional definition of “citizen of the United States.” Sadly, you keep repeating your nonsense even though you can’t even respond to overwhelming evidence you are wrong. So please tell us how all these citiations mean “naturalized citizen?” You can’t, yet will keep repeating something you know you cannot support. Such is not normal behavior.

    “And the trial of issues in fact in the Supreme Court in all actions at law against citizens of the United States shall be by jury.” Judiciary Act of 1789.

    “the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond Sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born Citizens.” Naturalization Act of 1790.

    “And the Creek nation do hereby relinquish all claims to any part of the territory inhabited or claimed by the citizens of the United States, in conformity with the said treaties.” Creek Treaty of 1790

    “If any citizen of the united states shall, within the territory or jurisdiltion of the same, accept and exercise a commission to serve a foreign prince or state in war, by land or sea, the person so offending shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor…” Act of 1794

    “That nothing in this act shall be construed to prevent any trade or intercourse with Indians living on lands surrounded by settlements of the citizens of the United States, and being within the ordinary jurisdiction of any of the individual states.” Indian Act of 1796

    “And in consequence of the stipulation’s contained in the fourth article, his Catholic Majesty will permit the citizens of the United States for the space of three years from this time, to deposit their merchant dises and effects in the port of New-Orleans,” Treaty with Spain of 1795

    “and the children of citizens of the United States born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, shall be considered as citizens of the United States.” Naturalization Act of 1795

    “Should the cruiser of Algiers capture any vessel, having citizens of the United States of North-America on board, they having papers ta prove they are really so, they and their property shall be immediately discharged.” Treaty with Algiers of 1796

    “In like manner the citizens of the United States of America may frequent all the coasts and countries of his Majesty the King of Prussia, and reside and trade there, in all sorts of produce, manufactures and merchandise…” Treaty with Prussia of 1799.

    “It shall be free for the citizens of the United States to carry on what commerce they please in the kingdom of Tunis, without any opposition.” Treaty with Tunis of 1799.

    “The Cherokee nation agree, that the Kentucky road, running between the Cumberland mountain and the Cumberland river, where the same shall pass through the Indian land, shall bean open and free road for the use of the citizens of the United States in the like manner as the road from Southwest point to Cumberland river.” Cherokee Treaty of 1799.

    ” That if any citizen or citizens of the United States shall, without the limits of the same, fit out and arm, or attempt to fit out and arm, or procure to be fitted out and armed, or shall knowingly aid or be concerned in the furnishing, fitting out, or arming any private ship or vessel of war, with intent that such ship or vessel shall be employed to cruise or commit hostilities upon the subjects, citizens, or property of any prince or state with whom the United States are at peace, or upon the citizens of the United States, or their property, or shall take the command, or enter on board of any such ship or vessel for the intent aforesaid, or shall purchase an interest in any vessel so fitted out and armed, with a view to share in the profits thereof, such person or persons so offending shall, on conviction thereof, be adjudged guilty of a high misdemeanor, and shall be punished by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars, and imprisonment not exceeding ten years.” Privateering Act of 1797.

    “If any citizen or citizens of the united states shall, without the limits of the same, arm, or attempt to fit out and are, or procure to be fitted out and armed, or shall knowingly aid ..” Act of 1796

    “If any person, being a citizen of the united states, whether he be actually resident, or abiding within the united states, or in any foreign country, shall, without the permission or authority of the government of the united states, directly or indirectly, commence, or carry on, any verbal or written correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government….’ Act of 1799

    “That from and after the termination of the war in which the United States are now engaged with Great Britain, it shall not be lawful to employ, on board of any public or private vessels of the United States, any person or persons except citizens of the United States, or persons of color, natives of the United States.” Act of 1813

    “That if any citizen or citizens of the United States shall contrary to the true intent and meaning or this act, take on board, receive or transport any such persons, as above described in this act…” Slave Trade Act of 1794.

  19. Lupin says:

    Mr. Apuzzo wrote:

    “5. Lupin’s interpretation of Vattel’s “parens,” which she says means any of the child’s relatives or extended family and not only the child’s father and mother, has no support in Vattel’s text and in his treatise itself. Vattel says “nes dans le pays, de parents citoyens. This means born in the country of citizen parents. Children are born to their father and mother. They are not born to their relatives or extended family. See also Section 122 where Vattel talks about “parents . . . gave him birth.” Parents can only mean mother and father. It surely cannot mean uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., who do not give birth to any child.”

    The point is simply that “parens” (as it is spelled in Vattel’s text, without the “t”) does mean “relatives” as well as “parents” and, as Paul Pienezny has correctly pointed out above, Vattel does reference the Athenian custom of the civil arrest of foreigners by the “parents” of an Athenian killed by a foreigner of the same nation which obviously meant “relatives” and not father and mother only.

    So Mr. Apuzzo whose knowledge of Vattel is partial (in every sense of the word) is wrong on that account.

    Further, Mr. Apuzzo continues to use the quote “nés dans le pays de parens citoyens” as meaning BOTH parents, whereas both it and the rest of the text makes it clear that Vattel meant EITHER parents — unambiguously, since he refers to the father a few lines later.

    The larger semantic field of the word “parens” becomes clear in the context in which Vattel writes: an uncle, for instance, might very well transmit citizenship to a child in the event of the death of one or two parents.

    No matter how hard Mr. Apuzzo tries, Vattel infirms, not confirms, the theory of the “two parents citizens”.

  20. Lupin says:

    Mr. Apuzzo wrote:

    “7. There is no denying that the U.S.-French treaty of 1781 said “naturels” which was translated to “natural born.” This does not mean that they were referring to “natural born Citizens,” but only that “naturels” meant “natural born.” Even the French translation of the Constitution in 1792 translated the clause “natural born Citizen” into “naturel né Citoyen.” These translations, along with subsequent U.S. Supreme Court and lower court cases which specifically cite and quote Vattel on “natural born Citizen,” are more than sufficient evidence to establish the link between Article II’s “natural born Citizen” clause and Vattel’s Section 212 “Les naturels, ou indigenes.” ”

    Mr. Apuzzo is once again (and unsurprisingly) totally wrong. As his own quote proves, a “naturel” IS [born] a “citizen”; there is no difference. When the U.S.-French treaty of 1781 said “naturels” it absolutely referred to “citoyens,” the two terms being used together for avoidance of doubt, hence the correct translation of “natural-born citizens”.

    Further, as we have seen, Vattel’s 212 provides a classic “jus sanguinis” transmission of citizenship through parents, i,e.: EITHER parents, not both, being born “naturels.”

    Mr. Apuzzo’s insistence on clumsy distortions and obfuscations would get him sanctioned in a French Court in a very short time.

  21. Trevor says:


    So terribly average to see you here.

    Now, do tell, since your “magical” thesis is that in some “interesting” way, the 14th Amendment created a 3rd category of citizen, to whit one that is born naturally but not natural born. You remember the whole born on the soil but not of 2 existing citizen parents schtick of course.

    Further, in your own words they are “naturalized” and therefore not NBC and there will of course have been and are multiple millions of said “statutory”, “naturalized”, non NBC citizens, living and dead.

    There must in that case be millions (or at least one or two) examples of said naturalization by statute as you like to pontificate.

    So, care to show, with your scintillating and incisive legal mind and research skills par excellence, an example or two.

    You know, an example of a born on the soil of US citizen who was “naturalized”.

    Obviously excluding any children born of those with diplomatic immunity or historically from one of the sovereign Indian nations.

    I mean you can ACTUALLY support your thesis, surely..?

  22. KindandNatural says:–4.html

    In the Litany we pray God that it would please Him, “to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth”. What meaning do we attach to this epithet, “the kindly fruits of the earth”?

    Probably we understand by it those fruits in which the kindness of God or of nature towards us finds its expression. This is no unworthy explanation, but still it is not the right one.

    The “kindly fruits” are the “natural fruits”,

    those which the earth according to its kind should naturally bring forth, which it is appointed to produce.

    To show you how little ‘kindly’ meant once benignant, as it means now, I will instance an employment of it from Sir Thomas More’s Life of Richard the Third.

    He tells us that Richard calculated by murdering his two nephews in the Tower to make himself accounted “a kindly king”—not certainly a ‘kindly’ one in our present usage of the word{204}; but, having put them out of the way, that he should then be lineal heir of the Crown, and should thus be reckoned as king by kind or natural descent; “

    • Suranis says:

      So, you don’t have any rebuttal to the evidence of what natural born citizen meant in America at the time of the framing of the constitution then. *rolls eyes*

      Would you kindly tell me why are all birthers natural born idiots?

  23. Apuzzo said:

    6. Jefferson’s citizenship laws had one standard (jus soli) for adults in being who were born in Virginia. But when it came to infants, “wheresoever” born, he required birth to “citizen” parents.

    Still pushing that lie? Neither of the Virginia citizenship laws said that and you know it. It is lies like this that explain why you have lost every case and your arguments have lost in additional cases. It also might help explain why you were unable to obtain temporary admission to both Pennsylvania and Virginia.

    Also, have you still been unable to find even one contemporary publication that agreed with your interpretation of Minor and WKA?

  24. Reality Check,

    You continue to publish lies about me in your effort to tarnish my professional reputation. Now you say that I was refused admission in Viriginia which is a total lie. You also know that there was no basis to the Pennsylvania matter. You have also lied in saying that I was sanctioned in the Third Circuit. You and I went through that one on my blog. Now you lie about me not being admitted in Virginia. You better make the correction here immediately. I have had it with your lies and attempt to damage my professional reputation. Get it done now or we will find out for sure whether you are that professor.

    • Mario

      In Pennsylvania, your PHV petition for admission to be co-counsel in the Kerchner ballot challenge (that contained over 200 pages of your arguments) was denied. Is that not correct? In Virginia, either you could not locate a practicing attorney who would sponsor a petition for the Tisdale appeal or did you not even try to find one? You would have needed a sponsoring attorney to submit one. Is that not correct? So a petition was not denied because you didn’t submit one! Congratulations! Your stunning legal arguments were unfortunately relegated to an amicus curiae brief in the appeal. How did that work out?

      My deepest apologies Mario! Thank you for the correction! It was never my intention to invent failures for you because there are are plenty of real ones (8 and counting) from which to choose.

    • I found this in Apuzzo’s Amicus brief in Tisdale:

      It was not until March 5, 2012 that Mr. Tisdale contacted amicus by telephone and asked amicus whether he would consider filing an amicus brief on his behalf. He told amicus he would call him again to provide further details. On March 7, 2012, Mr. Tisdale called amicus again and told him that the Clerk’s Office had instructed him that an amicus brief could be filed but only with a motion asking leave to file it. On March 13, 2012, amicus contacted the Clerk’s office regarding the status of filing the amicus brief. Amicus was advised that he would have to pass an examination on electronic case filing in the Fourth Circuit and then register for such filing. He was not informed that he had to be a member of the Fourth Circuit to be able to file electronically. On March 13, 2012, amicus took and passed the test. By email dated March 14, 2012, the Clerk’s Office advised amicus that he would also have to be a member of the Fourth Circuit Bar in order to be able to file the amicus brief. On March 14, 15, and 16, 2012, amicus attempted to find a Virginia attorney who would move his admission application. He was not successful. On Monday, March 19, 2012, he contacted various attorneys in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He then called Wayne Steedman in Maryland who agreed to sign his application. Upon receipt of the signed application by Mr. Steedman, amicus uploaded it to the Court’s web site and paid his $196.00 fee on March 19, 2012. On March 20, 2012, Clerk’s Office advised amicus by email that he was admitted. During this whole time, amicus worked to finalize the amicus brief. He was not able to complete it until March 20, 2012 at which time amicus files his appearance, this motion, and the proposed amicus curiae brief.

      Again congratulations Mario on your stunning success of being admitted in the Fourth Circuit for purpose of submitting the amicus brief and I apologize for only remembering you could not find an attorney in Virginia to sponsor you! I will gladly credit you with success when it is warranted.

      • As to Pennsylvania I quote your own words, Mario:

        Also, the same Pennsylvania Court denied twice without both times stating any reason Karen Kiefer’s motion to have me admitted pro hac vice.

        • Reality Check,

          You think you are real smart. This is what you said:

          “It also might help explain why you were unable to obtain temporary admission to both Pennsylvania and Virginia.”

          In the past you lied when you published that I was sanctioned by the Third Circuit.

          Now you lie that I was not able to gain “admission” to practice in Virginia.

          Throwing in about Pennsylvania is also a lie in the context of your attempt to damage my professional reputation regarding the Third Circuit and Virginia because there is no legal or factual basis to the court’s decision. The court never even gave any reasons at all.

          So if you want to play with me, we can do that. So prepare yourself.

          • Mario

            We can all speculate why the court in Pennsylvania denied Ms. Kiefer’s applications on your behalf. Judges do not have to give reasons for such denials. I am entitled to my opinion why it was denied. Do you dispute that it was denied? Do you dispute your own words?

            If you have had any other successes in court I am sure John Woodman would be glad to publish them and once confirmed I will be glad to acknowledge them. The list so far is that you avoided monetary sanctions by the Third Circuit after they issued an OSC when Kerchner’s appeal was denied and you were admitted to file the amicus brief on behalf of Mr. Tisdale. That appeal was also denied.

            On your blog I posted what the defendant included in a motion filed in Tennessee about the Kerchner appeal. I later concluded that you were not sanctioned and said that in a subsequent comment. I have yet to see any correction filed by the defendant in Tennessee but I assume you contacted them after I alerted you to the filing.

            • John Woodman says:

              Yes, I will be happy to note here any successes you have had in court on any of your birther challenges.

              By the way, Mario, when are you going to publicly apologize for having falsely and publicly accused me of calling you a racist?

          • John Woodman says:


            I’m struggling here to distinguish exactly what you find objectionable to Reality Check’s statements.

            It almost seems to be a matter of semantics. I frankly can’t tell the difference between what you think would be a factual representation of the truth in regard to your past failures in court, and Reality Check’s statements regarding your past failures in court.

            Maybe you could clarify things by saying:

            — This is what RC said about the Third Circuit. This is what is correct.
            — This is what RC said about Pennsylvania. This is my view of the correct situation.
            — This is what RC said about Virginia.
            This is my view of the correct situation.

            I would also suggest that RC is not anywhere near being the most significant source of tarnishing of your professional reputation.

            This is just a suggestion, but personally, I would do something about the guy who has done far more to destroy your professional reputation than anybody on earth. I believe he can be reached at 185 Gatzmer Ave in Jamesburg.

          • Suranis says:

            This reminds me of when you challenged me on Gogop to produce proof where the court called your case frivolous, and I produced, from your own blog, your own brief responding to the court order to show cause that you should not be sanctioned for filing a frivolous case. Where of course you had to write yourself that the court had found your case frivolous.

            It was, what, 2 months ago? Good times. You never replied to that either.

          • Since we all want to be accurate, I should clarify that the judge in Pennsylvania denied motions to admit Apuzzo not once but twice. The defense opposed the first motion noting that the objectors had failed to disclose in their motion that attorney Apuzzo and client Kerchner had already unsuccessfully made an identical argument that President Obama is not a natural born citizen in the District of New Jersey and that the Third Circuit deemed the appeal frivolous. The motion for admission was denied and then denied later when it was resubmitted.

            Apuzzo also supplied a 199 page brief that the objectors filed at around the same time. It is easy to infer that the judge was fully aware of Attorney Apuzzo’s argument and capabilities at the time the application was denied and denied again when resubmitted. Apparently the judge agreed with the President’s attorneys.

            If Mr. Apuzzo wants dispute any of this he is welcomed to try.

  25. Trevor says:


    Still waiting on a response on the whole magical 3rd category of citizen thing. I mean, SURELY, as part of your undoubted due diligence in research, you identified exemplars of those individuals, born on the soil, who were “naturalized”.

    Actually, whilst you’re on the line, I noted that you singularly failed to respond to a question over at Doc C’s requesting information in support of a wild assed observation you made.

    You remember the one, how you were at a Barnes & Noble when matters nefarious and illegal were going on.

    It seems that you have as yet to provide the information as to data and location.

    Care to share?

  26. You are all a bunch of liars and manipulators, including John Woodman. I’ll deal with Mr. Woodman on the issues and not on the personal attacks which Obama’s enabler have to resort to in order to even have a chance of winning.

    John Woodman, maybe you should post something over at my blog to defend yourself because your positions are surely getting some beating over there.

    • Jim says:

      Mario Apuzzo, Esq. says: “You are all a bunch of liars and manipulators, including John Woodman.”

      Interesting, and yet you’ve been given a pretty free rein to post your opinions, thoughts, and arguments for a long time here. However, your opinions have not stood up in court, with people here, or with the politicians. It seems more like you’re attempting to manipulate history for your own profit than to actually try to win a case.

      • John Woodman says:

        For his own sake, that had better be what he’s doing, because he doesn’t stand the slightest chance of ever prevailing in our legal system.

    • I might point out that I have been called much worse at Mario’s blog including being accused of being a socialist who is poisoning young peoples’ minds.

    • John Woodman says:

      You are all a bunch of liars and manipulators, including John Woodman.

      Perhaps you can back that statement up with one instance, out of more than 500 pages worth of writing on birther issues that I’ve done, which is factually, demonstrably untrue?

      One is all I’m asking for.

    • Scientist says:

      Are legal matters decided on blogs or in court, Mr Apuzzo? While you may be a legend on your own blog, sir, it appears that judges (at least the living ones who decide cases in 2012) consider you a buffoon.

    • Why should anyone go to a blog where your comments are held in moderation for hours, the editor stinks, you have to fight CAPCHA, and deal with the likes of idiots like MichaelN?

    • I’ll deal with Mr. Woodman on the issues and not on the personal attacks which Obama’s enabler have to resort to in order to even have a chance of winning.

      Actually, all we have to do to win is sit back and watch the judges do their jobs. They seem to have done them very well so far. Joe DiMaggio only hit safely in 56 straight games. We are at 137 wins and counting. Birthers are bench warmers in the Class D league soon to be looking for another profession.

      The score:
      Birthers 0 – Constitution 137

  27. Trevor says:

    So Mario, no answer I see, why is that I ask?

    You are asked to substantiate the core of your thesis as well as to support an outrageous calumny regarding a national retailer and your response appears to be “WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH you’re all horrid poopyheads”.

    Oh John, if you really want to see Mario at his failing and flailing best I recommend the CAAFLOG web site where Mario, during the Lakin court martial, posted much amusing “stuff” that is almost epic in it’s stupidity and arrant and arrogant ignorance.

    A few links for your edification…… 😎

    (the longest and most toothsome one)

    • John Woodman says:

      Thanks for posting those links. I haven’t managed to get to them. Hopefully will, just for the entertainment value.

  28. John Woodman says:

    I have actually made a comment over at Mario’s blog, which I will repost here, as it has to do with meaning of “natural born subject/ citizen” prior to the Constitution.

    In English common law, actually.

    MichaelN has a pet claim that he repeatedly rides, which is that in order for someone to be a “natural born subject” back in the English common law, the parents had to be English subjects. The claim is false, of course, and has been debunked many times. The parents only had to be subject to the King as visitors in his realm in friendship.

    And of course, Michael will go on making the debunked claim forever. It doesn’t matter that it’s been debunked repeatedly. He likes it, so he’ll keep making it.

    By the way, this “subjection” of alien visitors on English soil is analogous to non-citizens being “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” in our own 14th Amendment. It means here under the jurisdiction of our laws. But I digress.

    Michael has come up with a new claim (shocking in itself, but true) which is in fact interesting. He claims that Lord Coke, in Calvin’s Case, the seminal 1607 English case from which a good deal of precedent regarding citizenship is derived, said:

    “An alien born is of foreign birth OR foreign allegiance.”

    The implication, of course, is that it doesn’t take “foreign birth” in order to be an alien. This would mean that there are — or at least were, historically in England — “aliens” who were born on English soil.

    That’s the implication he’s driving at.

    I posted the following response to this claim over at Mario’s blog:
    I don’t often comment over here, and I especially don’t waste my time any more answering MichaelN (since he is given to endlessly repeating the same disproven nonsense) — but this time Michael has produced a claim that is genuinely new. So I congratulate him on that.

    It is completely bogus, of course, but at least it’s genuinely new.

    Michael’s quote is not in the original text of Calvin’s case at all. It is in a FOOTNOTE TRANSLATION provided by an anonymous translator of a comment written by Lord Coke in Latin. So the original is not in English. It’s in Latin.

    And the translation that Michael gives (“An alien born is of foreign birth OR foreign allegiance…”) is only a loose translation, and not very accurate.

    In context and in its actual words, the passage actually says:

    “An Alien is a subject that is born out of the ligeance of the king, and under the ligeance of another, and can have no real or personal action for or concerning land; but in every such action the tenant or defendant may plead that he [the plaintiff] was born in such a Country which is not within ligeance of the king, and demand judgment if he shall be answered.”

    So right before Coke’s Latin quote, we have the definition of an Alien: Someone who “was born in such a Country which is not within ligeance of the king.” (This, by the way, comes from Littleton’s writing in Law French back in the 1400s.)


    “And this is in effect the description which Littleton himself maketh, lib. 2. cap. 14. Villen. fol. 43.”

    Now, Michael’s quote:

    “Alienigena est alienae gentis seu alience ligeantiae, qui etiam dicitur peregrinus, alienus, exoticus, extraneus, &c.

    Extraneus est subditus, qui extra terram, i.e. potestatem regis natus est.”

    Here is a more accurate translation:

    “A foreigner is of another house, clan, or race, or of another allegiance, who is also said to be from foreign parts, alien, exotic, foreign, from without, etc.

    A foreigner or stranger is a subject who is born outside of the land, that is, outside of the power, of the king.”

    So the passage Michael quotes (as supposedly being in support of the bogus birther “natural born citizen” two-parents claim) in fact tells us, not once but twice — explicitly — what an alien is.

    It is someone who is born “in such a Country which is not within ligeance of the king,” and “a subject who is born outside of the land, that is, outside of the power of the king.”

    And the very SENTENCE he quotes does NOT draw any clear distinction between being of “foreign birth” [that is, birth outside the country] and of “foreign allegiance,” but in fact adds to this by implying that such a person is from foreign parts, and from without.

    Like pretty much everything else birther, the quote is cherry-picked, while studiously ignoring the text all around it that says what Michael doesn’t want it to say.

    The rest of Michael’s tedious argument has been effectively refuted elsewhere, many times.

    By the way, I would like to congratulate BrianH on his excellent demonstration of the nonsensical nature of the claims of the birther crew here. They will go on repeating the same debunked nonsense forever, but Brian has done an excellent job of showing, once again, that it is in fact debunked nonsense.

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