I am not a legal scholar and I have no experience drafting legal briefs; I am however an ardent student of American history; beginning in 1765 when the Stamp Act was written and culminating with the ratification of our Bill of Rights in 1791.
I have studied extensively the drafting of our Constitution, as well as the debates both pro and con during the ratification process. In forming my opinions I try to shy away from Supreme Court rulings; as I feel they are interpretations of the document after the fact. I prefer, instead, to seek out the words of those who actively participated in drafting the document and those who eventually breathed life into it through the State Ratifying Assemblies.
It is due to years of study that I believe that Kamala Harris should have her name stricken from the Democratic Presidential ticket; as I do not believe she meets the criteria established by the Constitution for the office of President. I understand that Ms Harris is not running for President, she is on the slate as a Vice-Presidential candidate; however should Joe Biden win, and later die, or become incapable of performing his duties, Kamala Harris would be elevated to the presidency.
This has happened numerous times in our history, with the notable cases of Andrew Johnson assuming the presidency after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and Gerald Ford assuming the presidency after the resignation of Richard Nixon. With rising concern over the degradation of the cognitive functions of Mr Biden it is of real concern that his choice for Vice-President meet the constitutional requirements for president; that is assuming he were to win the 2020 Presidential Election.
The criteria for presidential candidates is found in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, and it states: 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.
Ms. Harris obviously meets the age and residency requirements, but it is her citizenship status that is of concern to me; is she a natural born citizen? You see, there are two distinct categories of citizens mentioned in Article II, Section 1; Citizen of the United States and Natural Born Citizen.
In Holmes v. Jennison, (1840), Chief Justice Roger Taney held, “In expounding the Constitution of the United States, every word must have its due force and appropriate meaning; for it is evident from the whole instrument, that no word was unnecessarily used, or needlessly added.”
Furthermore, in Wright v. United States, (1938), the Court held, “The many discussions which have taken place upon the construction of the Constitution, have proved the correctness of this proposition; and shown the high talent, the caution and the foresight of the illustrious men who framed it. Every word appears to have been weighed with the utmost deliberation and its force and effect to have been fully understood.”
It is clear from these two decisions that the SCOTUS places a great deal of importance upon the exact wording of the Constitution; that words were not used unnecessarily, and that the specific wording carries great weight when one seeks to understand what each Article and Clause mean. So, if Article II, Section 1 mentions two categories of citizen; Citizen of the United States and Natural Born Citizen, it is because there are two categories of citizenship; and one of them is ineligible to hold the office of president. The question now arises, which category applies to Kamala Harris?
To the best of my knowledge the Supreme Court has never handed down a decision which clearly defines what a Natural Born Citizen is. Yes they have referenced it, such as in their decision in Minor v. Happersett, wherein Chief Justice Waite held, “The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that.”
It is unfortunate that people today often base their opinions on legal, or constitutional, issues based upon what they have been taught in school, or hear espoused on the news media; rather than through careful examination of the process of drafting and ratifying our Constitution. As recently as recently as 1969 the Supreme Court held, “The values of the Framers of the Constitution must be applied in any case construing the Constitution. Inferences from the text and history of the Constitution should be given great weight in discerning the original understanding and in determining the intentions of those who ratified the constitution. The precedential value of cases and commentators tends to increase, therefore, in proportion to their proximity to the adoption of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or any other amendments.”
Therefore, in determining what the Constitution says, or means, it is not what you think it means that matters; it is what those who wrote and ratified it that matters. Now I might be accused of being racist or sexist because of my belief that Kamala Harris should not be allowed to run for Vice President; but I assure you, I’m not. I’m apolitical; meaning I don’t care about politics. My only concern is that the rule of law is upheld, and I assure you that I would apply the same standards and criteria upon my own son as I apply to Ms. Harris. The reason I say that will become abundantly clear as I proceed.
Prior to 1787 America was not a nation; it was a confederation of 13 independent and sovereign States. One of the primary arguments against the Constitution was that it did away with that State Sovereignty and consolidated the States into and indivisible nation. I mention that because during the drafting of the Constitution frequent use of Vattel’s Law of Nations was made in framing our Constitution.
Written in 1758, Vattel’s Law of Nations: Or, Principles of the Law of Nature Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns was widely held to be the common rule by which nations were formed, and how they interacted with each other. As many of the drafters of the Constitution were lawyers they would all have been familiar with The Law of Nations and referred to it frequently when framing our Constitution.
The use of Vattel’s Law of Nations in determining American beliefs dates back as far as 1775, when Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to Charles-Guillaume-Frédéric Dumas thanking him for sending copies of it to the Colonies, “I am much obliged by the kind present you have made us of your edition of Vattel. It came to us in good season, when the circumstances of a rising state make it necessary frequently to consult the law of nations.
Accordingly, that copy which I kept, (after depositing one in our own public library here, and sending the other to the college of Massachusetts Bay, as you directed) has been continually in the hands of the members of our congress, now sitting, who are much pleased with your notes and preface, and have entertained a high and just esteem for their author.”
So why is this book, The Law of Nations, of such importance? It is due to the fact that within it Vattel describes the differences between regular citizens and natural-born citizens. First Vattel defines regular citizens as, “The citizens are the members of the civil society: bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority, they equally participate in its advantages.” Then he goes on to differentiate between a citizen and a natural born citizen, “The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.”
This is why Ms. Harris is not qualified to run for the office of Vice President; because she does not meet the criteria. Ms. Harris does hold birthright citizenship as explained in the 14th Amendment; but citizenship does not make one a natural born citizen.
The 14th Amendment states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” The 14th Amendment was originally written to create the new status of United States Citizen for the slaves who had recently been freed by the 13th Amendment…nothing more.
Black’s Law Dictionary, (6th edition) defines the 14th Amendment as follows: The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1868, creates or at least recognizes for the first time a citizenship of the United States, as distinct from that of the states.
Furthermore, in Van Valkenburg v. Brown, (1872), the Courte held, “No white person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, or born without those limits, and subsequently naturalized under their laws, owes the status of citizenship to the recent amendments to the Federal Constitution. The history and aim of the Fourteenth Amendment is well known, and the purpose had in view in its adoption well understood. That purpose was to confer the status of citizenship upon a numerous class of persons domiciled within the limits of the United States, who could not be brought within the operation of the naturalization laws because native born, and whose birth, though native, had at the same time left them without the status of citizenship.”
Although the interpretation of the 14th Amendment has been expanded to include children born to illegal immigrants it’s original intent was to create a citizenship status for the newly freed slaves and it did not apply to those who were born here to immigrant parents; as proven by the SCOTUS in the aforementioned case. So the 14th Amendment is irrelevant in determining the citizenship status of Kamala Harris. Therefore we must refer to, as Chief Justice Waite other sources.
It is claimed that due to the fact that in United States v Wong Kin Ark the Supreme Court held that a child born to parents who were not citizens is a natural born citizen, the Courts decision relies heavily upon English Common Law and makes no reference to Vattel’s Law of Nations; which was used extensively by the drafters of the Constitution.
Therefore, Vattel’s book should be given great weight when deciding what a natural born citizen is; and according to his definition, Kamala Harris IS NOT a natural born citizen; as both her parents were not citizens at the time of her birth in 1964.
I say this not out of spite for the political views of Ms. Harris, nor do I say it because she is a woman. I say these things because the law matters, and a correct interpretation of what the drafters meant when they said “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…” matters.
I mentioned that I would apply these standards to my own son, and if you will forgive me I’ll explain why I said that. My wife is Filipino, having been born on the island of Cebu in 1964. I married her in 1989 and when Mount Pinatubo erupted, forcing her to evacuate, in 1991 she was six months pregnant. My son was born 3 months later on American soil; yet he is not a natural born citizen if you go by Vattel’s definition of the term; for his mother did not become a naturalized citizen until he was around 5 or 6 years old. Therefore, my son, according to my understanding of what a natural born citizen is, is ineligible to run for the presidency.
Our Constitution has been construed to mean many things, with much of this construction coming at the hands of the Supreme Court. Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence wrote extensively about his concern for the power held by the federal judiciary. In one instance Jefferson wrote, “At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance.” (Source: Letter to A. Coray, October 31, 1803)
The Court itself, in Cook vs. Iverson held, “It cannot be assumed that the framers of the constitution and the people who adopted it, did not intend that which is the plain import of the language used. When the language of the constitution is positive and free of all ambiguity, all courts are not at liberty, by a resort to the refinements of legal learning, to restrict its obvious meaning to avoid the hardships of particular cases. We must accept the constitution as it reads when its language is unambiguous, for it is the mandate of the sovereign power.”
I believe that Kamala Harris should be stricken from the ballot, as she does not meet the constitutional requirements for the office she seeks. I’m certain that if this were to happen that she would appeal; probably all the way to the Supreme Court. Whether or not the SCOTUS held to Vattel’s definition of a natural born citizen, or references to English Common Law is another story altogether; but at least the Court would not sidestep the issue as they did in 2008 when questions regarding Barack Obama’s eligibility were challenged, and the Court refused to hear the cases because the person bringing them did not have legal standing to be heard by the Court.
I fear though that the Court has already allowed a precedence to be set. Had they chosen to hear the cases brought against Obama due to his ineligibility we might not find ourselves in the position of already having had a constitutionally ineligible candidate serve not one, but two terms and President. Having allowed a precedent to be set the Court could not dare throw the country into turmoil by ruling that Harris does not meet the constitutional requirements for president; for if she doesn’t, then neither did Obama.
If that were to happen imagine all the challenges to every bill President Obama signed into law; would his ineligibility cause those laws to become null and void? The legal questions that would arise should the Court hold that Vattel’s definition is the correct one would be incalculable and would throw this country into worse turmoil than it already is over the protests regarding the George Floyd incident.
The damage has already been done, but that does not mean that what has been done was in accordance with the law, or with the thoughts of those who actually wrote our Constitution. I fear this will go down in the history books and just another perversion of what those who wrote the Constitution actually meant; one in which political correctness and political party allegiance took precedence over the law.
One final thought. If every American held the same position as I do regarding what is meant by the term natural born citizen, Joe Biden would not get a single vote in November; for the voters would not take a chance that an ineligible Vice President was only one heart attack away from ascending to the Presidency.
But we don’t live in a world where facts and the truth matters, we live in a fairy tale world where emotions take precedence over the truth, and where political party loyalty takes precedence over the document that established our system of government some 230 yrs ago.
There ain’t no getting off this train unfortunately. The American people have, for generations, let ignorance and apathy guide them; giving government all the power it needs to do basically whatever it wants; including allowing an ineligible candidate to run for office. There’s no stopping it now, all we can do is ride it out till the train runs out of track and derails. Hopefully there will those who survive what’s coming who will learn from past mistakes and will do better next time; for our country as we know it, is up shit creek without a paddle.