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2007

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Originalism And The Natural Born Citizen Clause, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2007

Originalism And The Natural Born Citizen Clause, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The enigmatic phrase "natural born citizen" poses a series of problems for contemporary originalism. New originalists, like Justice Scalia, focus on the public meaning of the constitutional text, but the notion of a "natural born citizen" was likely a term of art, derived from the idea of a "natural born subject" in English law--a category that most likely did not extend to persons, like John McCain, who were born outside sovereign territory. But the constitution speaks of "citizens" and not "subjects," introducing uncertainties and ambiguities that might (or might not) make McCain eligible for the presidency.

What was the original ...