Contrary to the popular impulse toward a historically uninformed view of the term ″natural born citizen,″ a cursory reading of Vattel coupled with an understanding of its significance to the Framers suggests that the requirement is not a novel term invented by the Framers, but rather a term of art with a fixed meaning which would have been known to scholars and statesmen of the day. Indeed, this understanding seems to comport with what one would expect of a group of learned men convening to lay out a framework for government--the Framers did not invent terms when invention was improper. They used accepted, established terms to convey meanings in ways that would not be subject to later arbitrary revision.
25 March 2015
No simple-minded birther controversy here but a well-reasoned article looking at a frequently-forgotten Founding-era resource, Emmerich Vattel and his 1758 book, The Law of Nations. Download and read Regent law student John Jones's piece, Natural Born Shenanigans: How the Birther Movement Exacerbated Confusion Over the Constitution's Natural Born Citizen Requirement.
Just what does "natural-born citizen" mean? Born anywhere in the world to American citizens? Of course. Born in America to non-citizens? Seems so. But might there be more to the constitutional phrase than the obvious? And would the Framers of the Constitution have intended to convey the "more"?
As for the latter question, Jones asserts a strong conclusion:
Yes, Virginia, there may be more to "natural-born citizen" than meets most eyes (including Paul Clements), but I won't spoil your reading by telling you what Vattel included in his understanding of the expression or how, of all people, Chester Arthur fits into this peculiar picture. You'll simply have to read Jones's piece for yourself and draw your own conclusions.