Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Thesis


Today's conventional wisdom tells us that the Constitution of the Untied States does not define natural born citizen.  I agree.  Today's conventional wisdom tells us that a natural born citizen of the United States is a person who is born in the United States and who, as a result, is a citizen from the moment of birth.  I'm not convinced because this definition is inconsistent with the Constitution.


The intent of natural born citizen requirement must be considered along with two other elements of the Constitution.  First, the president's oath of office and second, the terms under which the Constitution exempts some would-be presidents who were citizens of the Untied States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.


PART I: THE CONSTITUTION'S OATH OF OFFICE FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES
While the Constitution creates three branches of the government, it requires only one to be occupied by a natural born citizen - the Executive.  While the Constitution creates the three branches of the government, it prescribes verbatim an oath for only one branch - the Executive.  Article II, Section I, Clause 8 prescribes the president's oath:


I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
It's interesting that the president does not simply swear to preserve, protect and defend the Untied States.  Rather, the oath is to a more narrow element: the Constitution of the United States.  This is not a small distinction.  The United States existed for many years before the Constitution established its second government.  (The Constitution was itself a revolution - a coup d'etat - replacing the government established by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.) The United States may in the future exist under a different government than the one established by the Constitution.


The Constitution requires that the president pledge his allegiance to the government which it established - and to no other government, even if that government may be one of the United States.


The oath of office is an eligibility requirement for president.  That is, a person may not be president of the Untied States, even if duly elected by the Electoral College and confirmed in the House of Representatives, if s/he does not affirm the oath.  This requirement of a person who would be president is a test of sole allegiance to the government established by the Constitution, forsaking all other allegiances that s/he acquired throughout a lifetime.


Natural born citizen is too a test of allegiance.  It is impossible to measure the allegiances and loyalties a person develops throughout a lifetime.  But it is possible to measure objectively the allegiances and loyalties a person experiences as a result of the circumstances of birth.  Natural born citizen is a test of the immutable and objective allegiances and loyalties to government(s) that result from the circumstances of birth.


PART II: THE CONSTITUTION'S TERMS OF EXEMPTION FROM THE NATURAL BORN CITIZEN REQUIREMENT


Article II, Section 1, Clause 5:


No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
The Constitution exempts certain people from the natural born citizen eligibility requirement, i.e. those who were citizens of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.  According to today's conventional wisdom, people such as George Washington needed this exemption because when he was born the United States did not exist.  But today's conventional wisdom does not reconcile the Constitution with Zachary Taylor.


President Zachary Taylor was born in the United States, in Virginia on November 24, 1784.  He was a citizen of the United States from the moment of his birth in the United States.  He was also a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution on June 21, 1788.  By today's conventional wisdom, he was a natural born citizen.  Yet, the Constitution exempts him (and many others of similar circumstances).


Does the Constitution exempt those who do not need exempting?  Is the Constitution sloppy?  Did the Constitution unnecessarily open wide the door of the presidency to foreign-born people who were citizens of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution (see William Paterson of New Jersey), all while tightly closing that door to foreign-born people who became US citizens after the adoption of the Constitution?  No.  The Constitution did not open the door of the presidency unnecessarily wide to foreign-born people.  It did it for an explicit reason: there were no natural born citizens of the Untied States until the adoption of the Constitution.


The Constitution exempts Zachary Taylor who was born in the United States and who was a citizen of the United States from the moment of birth for an explicit reason:  Zachary Taylor was born with allegiances and loyalties to a government other than the one established by the Constitution of the Untied States.


CONCLUSIONS
There are many people who are born in the United States and who are citizens of the United States from the moment of birth who are not natural born citizens of the Untied States, like president Zachary Taylor.  The Constitution exempts the would-be presidents in this group who were citizens of the Untied States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution from the natural born citizen requirement.  The Constitution requires that presidents who were not citizens of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution be born with sole allegiance and loyalty to the government established by the Constitution of the Untied States.


Today's conventional wisdom with regard natural born citizen is wrong.


NOTES
(1) Some may say that the reason Zachary Taylor was not a natural born citizen, and thus required the Constitution's exemption, is because the Untied States did not exist at the time of his birth in 1784.  However, the Constitution tells us that George Washington was a resident of the United States for fourteen years at the time of his inauguration on April 30, 1789.  Therefore, according to the Constitution, the United States has existed at least since May 1, 1775.


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