Monday, June 03, 2013

Of Guelzo, Gettysburg, Meade and Natural Born Citizenship

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!

1 comment:

  1. See Attorney Mario Apuzzo's response to the logical fallacies argued by Atty Maskell in that Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report which was written to give both major political parties cover to run politically attractive candidates by changing the meaning of terms, without properly amending the U.S. Constitution instead:

    Also my remarks on this too: A “positive man-made law“, statutory law, “Citizen” at Birth does not make one a “natural law” “natural born Citizen” at Birth. The “at Birth” part at the end of the term tells the reader when one became a Citizen, i.e., at birth. It does not tell one “how” they got their citizenship. The “natural born” adjectives in the term “natural born Citizen” tell one more, not only when but how they obtained their citizenship, i.e., via “natural law”, not positive man-made laws such as Title 8 Section 1401 of U.S. Code. That law never mentions the term natural born Citizen and does not make any. Atty Jack Maskell and others are engaging in disinformation by telling people it does. He and the others are doing this at the behest of both major political parties who wish to ignore and water down the meaning of the presidential eligibility clause in our U.S. Constitution in order to run politically attractive candidates without amending the U.S. Constitution, as provided by the Constitution. They know that will be very difficult to do once the national security and foreign influence reasoning for the natural born Citizen clause being in there in the first place are discussed in the amendment process. So instead they are both just ignoring it and trying to change the meaning of the term, manipulating language, etc. U.S. laws can create Citizens, at birth or later, but they cannot create natural law “natural born Citizens”. Only the laws of nature and nature’s God and the facts at birth can do that.

    CDR Charles Kerchner, P.E. (Retired)
    Lehigh Valley PA USA

    P.S. Also read this essay regarding the legal term of art “natural born Citizen” and basic logic, i.e., trees are plants but not all plants are trees. Natural born Citizens are a subset of “born Citizens (citizens at birth)” but not all “born Citizens (citizens at birth)” are “natural born Citizens”: and


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