Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Natural Born Citizenship: U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

The following is a direct excerpt from the U.S. Supreme Court. Hopefully it will resolve questions about the meaning of the term Natural Born Citizen. Please be patriotic enough to read the entire excerpt, direct references to the term and context are in red.
There is no doubt that women may be citizens. They are persons, and by the Fourteenth Amendment "all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof" are expressly declared to be "citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." But in our opinion it did not need this amendment to give them that position. Before its adoption, the Constitution of the United States did not in terms prescribe who should be citizens of the United States or of the several states, yet there were necessarily such citizens without such provision. There cannot be a nation without a people. The very idea of a political community such as a nation is implies an

Page 88 U. S. 166

association of persons for the promotion of their general welfare. Each one of the persons associated becomes a member of the nation formed by the association. He owes it allegiance and is entitled to its protection. Allegiance and protection are in this connection reciprocal obligations. The one is a compensation for the other; allegiance for protection and protection for allegiance.

For convenience, it has been found necessary to give a name to this membership. The object is to designate by a title the person and the relation he bears to the nation. For this purpose, the words "subject," "inhabitant," and "citizen" have been used, and the choice between them is sometimes made to depend upon the form of the government. Citizen is now more commonly employed, however, and as it has been considered better suited to the description of one living under a republican government, it was adopted by nearly all of the states upon their separation from Great Britain, and was afterwards adopted in the Articles of Confederation and in the Constitution of the United States. When used in this sense, it is understood as conveying the idea of membership of a nation, and nothing more.

To determine, then, who were citizens of the United States before the adoption of the amendment, it is necessary to ascertain what persons originally associated themselves together to form the nation and what were afterwards admitted to membership.

Looking at the Constitution itself, we find that it was ordained and established by "the people of the United States,"  and then going further back, we find that these were the people of the several states that had before dissolved the political bands which connected them with Great Britain and assumed a separate and equal station among the powers of the earth, and that had by Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, in which they took the name of "the United States of America," entered into a firm league of

Page 88 U. S. 167

friendship with each other for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other against all force offered to or attack made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.

Whoever, then, was one of the people of either of these states when the Constitution of the United States was adopted became ipso facto a citizen -- a member of the nation created by its adoption. He was one of the persons associating together to form the nation, and was consequently one of its original citizens. As to this there has never been a doubt. Disputes have arisen as to whether or not certain persons or certain classes of persons were part of the people at the time, but never as to their citizenship if they were.
Additions might always be made to the citizenship of the United States in two ways: first, by birth, and second, by naturalization. This is apparent from the Constitution itself, for it provides that

"No person except a natural-born citizen or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution shall be eligible to the office of President, "
and that Congress shall have power "to establish a uniform rule of naturalization." Thus, new citizens may be born or they may be created by naturalization.

The Constitution does not in words say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners. Some authorities go further and include as citizens children born within the jurisdiction without reference to the citizenship of their

Page 88 U. S. 168

parents. As to this class there have been doubts, but never as to the first. For the purposes of this case, it is not necessary 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. The words "all children" are certainly as comprehensive, when used in this connection, as "all persons," and if females are included in the last, they must be in the first. That they are included in the last is not denied. In fact, the whole argument of the plaintiffs proceeds upon that idea.

Under the power to adopt a uniform system of naturalization, Congress, as early as 1790, provided "that any alien, being a free white person," might be admitted as a citizen of the United States, and that the children of such persons so naturalized, dwelling within the United States, being under twenty-one years of age at the time of such naturalization, should also be considered citizens of the United States, and that the children of citizens of the United States that might be born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States, should be considered as natural-born citizens. These provisions thus enacted have in substance been retained in all the naturalization laws adopted since. In 1855, however, the last provision was somewhat extended, and all persons theretofore born or thereafter to be born out of the limits of the jurisdiction of the United States, whose fathers were or should be at the time of their birth citizens of the United States were declared to be citizens also.
U.S. Supreme Court
Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 21 Wall. 162 162 (1874)

Notes: each U.S. Supreme Court determination of Natural Born Citizen uses the plural "parents" or "citizens" referencing that both parents must be citizens.


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