The Meaning of “Natural Born”: What if Blackstone Was Wrong?

In thinking about the phrase “natural born Citizen” in the Constitution’s eligibility clause, I have assumed (1) that it follows from the English law phrase “natural born subject” and (2) that “natural born subject” at minimum meant anyone born within sovereign territory (apart from children of invaders and diplomats).  The latter point seems clear from Blackstone, who says as much, quite clearly. 

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Natural Born Citizens and Minor v Happersett

I had an interesting exchange by email with a reader I’ll identify (at his request) just as TJ, an independent researcher, about the original meaning of “natural born citizen” and my views expressed in this post.  We’ve covered a lot of ground so I’m just going to pick out a part of it here, regarding the Supreme Court’s 1874 decision in Minor v. Happersett.

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Amicus Brief in Tuaua v. United States

Last week I joined a group of distinguished scholars on this amicus brief filed in support of plaintiffs/appellants in Tuaua v. United States, the Samoan citizenship case now at the D.C. Circuit.  As I’ve discussed before, the issue is whether the Constitution allows the United States to treat inhabitants of American Samoa (a U.S. territory) as something less than American citizens (they are called “non-citizen nationals”).

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