When Descriptions Are Kings, Definitions Are Gods
In the Supreme Court decision in Minor v Happersett (1875), Justice Waite relied on a description of national membership given by Emmerich de Vattel in which he observed that those born in a country of parents who are its citizens are themselves upon birth citizens also. Or put differently; one born in a nation to citizens of that nation will be citizens also. In both observations/ descriptions the thing being described is those who are born. They’re defined by the detail that describes their parents (they’re citizens) and the location of their birth (their parents’ homeland). They are described as “citizens”. But they are not “defined” as (nor declared to be) the only citizens.
If one added the fact that they’re known as “inhabitants”, that additional bit of information does not change the thing that is being described from being that which is born, to being that which is an “inhabitant”. The added descriptive term is not a necessary element of the statement that it has been appended to.
Those who are born, (-who are the subject of the statement) remain as the subject. “Inhabitant” does not supplant the born ones as the subject of the statement and therefore one cannot define “inhabitant” as the subject of the statement.
All who would mistakenly think that “inhabitant” (“natural born citizen” in Vattel’s abstract observation) somehow is the subject of the statement have a bias-induced blind spot that is blocking their conscious mind from seeing the illogical conclusion that they’ve drawn.
I make the logical statement (declaration) that Vattel’s description is a description and not a declaration or definition.
Others make the illogical statement (declaration) that they, in effect, are declaring that his description is a declaration of authoritative fact and is therefore a definition and not just a simple description. They place a crown of royal authority upon it and defy any presumptuous fool who might beg to differ. But calling a crappy car a “lemon” doesn’t make it an actual lemon, and calling a description a definition does not make it a definition, because definitions can only be derived from descriptions which possess adequate specificity about exactly what is being described, in what circumstances, with what exceptions, exclusions and inclusions.
If one says: “All of A is called X” then that defines what all of A is called. But if one says: “Some of A is called X some of the time” -that defines nothing. Similarly vague is the non-definitive statement: “A is called X.” No specificity! There are no details which tell what is, nor what is not included or excluded all of the time.
So it is with the so-called definition of “natural born citizen” as used by Vattel and Justice Waite. Justice Waite pointed out that there has never been any doubt that native-born children of citizens are citizens just like their parents who gave birth to them. But his and Vattel’s statements do not constitute definitions because they are merely general observations of the normal order of things.
They don’t extend to describing the unusual exceptions that are sometimes an overlooked element of a thing being discussed, observed, described, or defined (like a foreign birth to citizens). The fact that their observations are true does not result in a boundary being drawn around the subject of their observations, -one which declares that the observed facts are therefore the only facts and any other possibilities are therefore false. Rather, it merely confirms that the facts stated are true in that context. It doesn’t declare that there are no other contexts which could also exist.
Another context does exist, and it’s one such as when a pregnant American woman, wife of a Medal of Honor recipient, gives birth a couple yards over the Canadian border. Such a rare occurrence would not be a part of any general observation about typical citizenship but it doesn’t therefore follow that a rare occurrence is not a part of the natural order of things which sometimes includes complexities.
Would their son be barred from the office of the President because of an abstract invisible line drawn across a geographic landscape which they were not even aware of? Anyone who argues that the founding fathers wanted it to be so has a very poor grasp of just how intelligent and thoughtful they were, and just how illogical such a definition of natural citizen would be in the real world.
How does that which is natural relate in the least to that which is man-made, artificial, abstract, and imaginary? Well, it doesn’t. Nothing that is man-made is a part of that which is natural. Nothing of human law is an element of natural law though much of what is natural law has been used as a basis for human law. After all, which one came first and isn’t dependent on man at all?
It’s the same with natural citizenship. It’s not dependent on anything of a human construct other than the construct of the nation of which the parents are members. A nation’s existence is the result solely of human effort and decisions, not nature. But its structure needs to be founded on identifiable principles, and many of them are natural principles, some are religious principles, and some are philosophical principles of Natural Rights. The rest are mostly laws and court rulings based on common law, -that traditional history of laws & decisions which first laid out a basis for how various conflicts should be decided.
The belief that natural citizenship requires one to be born within the artificial borders of the United States is an idea based on no principle whatsoever, because the two principles that it combines, (jus soli and jus sanguinis) don’t combine into a new principle. They are complete opposites. So mixing them together produces no principle on which to base the definition of a natural citizen. Instead it results in a Mulligan stew, a Frankenstein’s monster combo, an unnatural hybrid principle that is neither this nor that but instead an unholy mixture of the two. Such a mixture can never be described as “Natural”.
Some may nevertheless embrace that unfair and illogical definition of a natural born citizen because it seems to have a veneer of superficial logic to it. But scratch the surface and you find it isn’t made of gold but of lead.
a.r. nash feb. 2012 http://obama–nation.com