Over at Bull Runnings, Harry Smeltzer has a great interview with Prof. Allen C. Guelzo of Gettysburg College on the occasion of the release of Prof. Guelzo’s new book on the Battle of Gettysburg, entitled Gettysburg: The Last Invasion. Prof. Guelzo is a fine writer and a wonderful speaker, but I hadn’t considered reading yet another Gettysburg book until I saw the interview.
While I won’t supply too many spoilers, I particularly enjoyed Prof. Guelzo’s take on George Gordon Meade. I, like most people, I suspect, have never given much thought to his personality or political views. Other than being aware of the old “Snapping Turtle” sobriquet, suggesting a short temper and perhaps a didn’t-suffer-fools-gladly outlook, I didn’t give him much thought, assuming he was an apolitical do-your-duty career officer type in the best Army tradition. Prof. Guelzo, however, paints a startling portrait of a McLellanesque Democrat who believed that radical Republicans were intentionally prolonging the war and who was not above giving advice to the Confederate peace commissioners on the talking points they should use in their negotiations. Yikes!
I do, however, want to correct, and at the same time reassure, Prof. Guelzo on one point. In the interview, Professor G (if I may be so familiar) asserts that he became a “harmless drudge” writing history after he learned that he could not become president:
I am an Army brat (born in Yokahama, Japan; when I discovered in 5th grade that this disabled me constitutionally from being president, I was left with nothing better to do in life than write history).
Well, Professor G, assuming (as I do) that your mother was a United States citizen at the time of your birth, you are wrong. A child born of an American citizen is constitutionally eligible to become president even if he or she is not born on U.S. soil. Here is an excerpt from a post by NRO’s Ed Whelan on the subject:
As this Congressional Research Service report sums it up (p. 25; see also pp. 16-21), the “overwhelming evidence of historical intent, general understandings [in 18th-century America], and common law principles underlying American jurisprudence thus indicate[s] that the most reasonable interpretation of ‘natural born’ citizens would include those who are U.S. citizens ‘at birth’ or ‘by birth,’ . . . under existing federal statutory law incorporation long-standing concepts of jus sanguinis, the law of descent.” In other words, there is strong originalist material to support the semantic signal that “natural born Citizen” identifies someone who is a citizen by virtue of the circumstances of his birth – as distinguished from someone who is naturalized later in life as a citizen.
So no more books about the Civil War or that boring old Abraham Lincoln, Professor G. 2016 awaits!