[the final part examined Minor v. Happersett in light of some of the arguments being offered against its precedent, providing new analysis of key provisions of the holding therein. I am reprinting the section on Minor now as a separate post because it is crucial to understanding the case, and it appears to have been somewhat swallowed up by the first two parts.]
MINOR v. HAPPERSETT REVISITED.
…the only time the US Supreme Court ever did define the class of persons who were POTUS eligible under Article 2 Section 1 was in Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1874), wherein it was held:
“The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners.” Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162, 168.
There’s a quote for you. It really exists. And it tells you exactly who are natural-born citizens; those born in the country of parents who are citizens. The words are plain-spoken and self-evident. There are two classes of persons discussed in the above quotation. Those born in the country of citizen parents were labeled by the Court as “natives or natural-born citizens”, but these were also further identified as being “distinguished from aliens or foreigners”. The distinction is crucial.
On one side are those who have no citizenship other than that of the United States… as distinguished from those on the polar opposite side who have absolutely no claim to citizenship in the United States; “These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners.” Those who fall in between these two extremes make up a third class of persons whose citizenship status, the Court noted, was subject to doubt:
“Some authorities go further and include as citizens children born within the jurisdiction without reference to the citizenship of the parents. As to this class there have been doubts, but never as to the first.” Id. (Emphasis added.)
First, on pgs. 165-166, the Court defined the meaning of the word “citizen”. Then, on pgs. 167-168, the court defined the class of “natural-born citizens”. The Court left open the issue of who were “citizens” under the 14th Amendment, which the Court wisely avoided by exercising judicial constraint. Instead, the Court construed Article 2 Section 1, Clause 5, the natural-born citizen clause. In doing so, they defined and closed that class to persons born in the country to parents who are citizens.
The Minor Court’s unanimous opinion and definition of natural-born citizen have never been overruled or even questioned. In fact, the very passage defining the natural-born citizen class was re-stated in Justice Gray’s opinion from Wong Kim Ark. Had he intended to take issue with that definition, or to expand it, then his opinion would certainly contain something like this:
Wong Kim Ark is a natural-born citizen eligible to be President.