Commentary on United States v Wong Kim Ark

Congressional authority respecting citizenship extends to naturalization only.

U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 4.

To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

“Citizen,” “naturalization” and “natural born Citizen” are ALL in the Original, unamended Constitution; therefore, none can mean the same thing.

Marbury v Madison:“It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect; and therefore such construction is inadmissible, unless the words require it.”

A citizen by statute can not be a natural born citizen.

Treaties are part of the supreme law of the land.

U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Gray abrogated treaties with China.

Do note that the common law of England is not included, nor are the constitution or laws of any state. (So don’t bother commenting about state statutes, rulings, etc, eg Chancellor Sandford)

Aside from abrogating treaties, Gray applies the “common law” of England. England’s common law is not the supreme law, but foreign law.

Madison letter to Washington October 18, 1787

What could the Convention have done? If they had in general terms declared the Common law to be in force, they would have broken in upon the legal Code of every State in the most material points: they wd. have done more, they would have brought over from G.B. a thousand heterogeneous & antirepublican doctrines, and even the ecclesiastical Hierarchy itself, for that is a part of the Common law. If they had undertaken a discrimination, they must have formed a digest of laws, instead of a Constitution.”

Madison called the English common law “a dishonorable and illegitimate guide” in defining terms in the Constitution.

Aside from abrogating treaties and applying English common law, Gray deliberately misinterprets the jurisdiction clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The 14th Amendment:

Section. 1. 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. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment explained the jurisdiction clause:

Rep. Bingham:

The Fourteenth Amendment is “simply declaratory of what is written in the Constitution, that every human being born within the jurisdiction of the United States of parents not owing allegiance to any foreign sovereignty is, in the language of your Constitution itself, a natural born citizen.”

Sen. Trumbull:

“‘subject to the complete jurisdiction thereof.’ What do we mean by ‘complete jurisdiction thereof?’ Not owing allegiance to anybody else. That is what it means.”

Sen. Williams:

Senator during the drafting of Amend. XIV, later as US Attorney General ruled the word “jurisdiction” under Amend. XIV “must be understood to mean absolute and complete jurisdiction, such as the United States had over its citizens before the adoption of this amendment.” “Political and military rights and duties do not pertain to anyone else.”

The jurisdiction clause is specifically stated to be political allegiance, not territorial bounds.

Ignoring legislative history Gray “presumes” the intent of the jurisdiction clause:

The words “in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” in the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution must be presumed to have been understood and intended by the Congress which proposed the Amendment, and by the legislatures which adopted it, in the same sense in which the like words had been used by Chief Justice Marshall in the well known case of The Exchange and as the equivalent of the words “within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States,” and the converse of the words “out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States” as habitually used in the naturalization acts. This presumption is confirmed by the use of the word “jurisdiction” in the last clause of the same section of the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbids any State to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” It is impossible to construe the words “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” in the opening sentence, as less comprehensive than the words “within its jurisdiction” in the concluding sentence of the same section; or to hold that persons “within the jurisdiction” of one of the States of the Union are not “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”

The Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment make clear that “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” is political and not geographic bounds, specifically stating “allegiance”. Gray ignores their intent conflating “jurisdiction” in the first sentence with the last. The first sentence confers citizenship, the last sentence applies law. These are entirely different matters, in the first instance political and in the last instance geographical.

Having misconstrued the jurisdiction clause as territorial Gray then proceeds to examine the common law of England.

To lend a sheen of legitimacy Gray cites State v. Manuel:

The term “citizen” as understood in our law, is precisely analogous to the term subject in the common law, and the change of phrase has entirely resulted from the change of government. The sovereignty has been transferred from one man to the collective body of the people – and he who before was a “subject of the king” is now “a citizen of the State.”

State v. Manuel is an 1838 case before the North Carolina Supreme Court. The following is the first portion of the paragraph containing the cited sentence:

It has been said that before our Revolution, free persons of colour did not exercise the right of voting for members of the colonial legislature. How this may hvae been, it would be difficult at this time to ascertain. It is certain however that very few, if any, could have claimed the right of suffrage, for a reason of a very different character than the one supposed. The principle of freehold suffrage seems to have been brought over from England with the first colonists, and to have been preserved almost invariably in the colony ever afterwards. In the act of 1743, ch. 1, (Swan’s Revisal, 171,) it will be seen that a freehold of fifty acres was necessary to entitle the inhabitant of a county to vote, and by the act of 2d Sept. of 1746, ch. 1, Ibid. 223, the freeholders only of the respective towns of Edenton, Bath, Newbern and Wilmington were declared entitled to vote for members of the Colonial Legislature. The very Congress which framed our constitution, was chosen by freeholders. That constitution extended the elective franchise to every freeman who had arrived at the age of 21, and paid a public tax; and it is a matter of universal notoriety that under it, free persons without regard to colour, claimed and exercised the franchise until it was taken from free men of colour a few years since by our amended constitution. But surely the possession of political power is not essential to constitute a citizen. If it be, then women, minors, and persons who have not paid public taxes are not citizens – and free white men who have paid public taxes and arrived at full age, but hove not a freehold of fifty acres, inasmuch as they may vote for one branch and cannot vote for the other branch of our legislature, would be in an intermediate state, a sort of hybrids between citizens and not-citizens. The term “citizen” as understood in our law, is precisely analogous to the term subject in the common law, and the change of phrase has entirely resulted from the change of government. The sovereignty has been transferred from one man to the collective body of the people – and he who before was a “subject of the king” is now “a citizen of the State.” Considering therefore the defendant as having a right to the protection of the clauses in the constitution and declaration of rights on which he relies, we proceed to the examination of the alleged repugnancy between these and the act of 1831. The 39th section of the constitution is in these words: “The person of a debtor, where there is not a strong presumption of fraud, shall not be continued in prison after delivering up bona fide all his estate, real and personal for the use of his creditors in such manner as shall be hereafter regulated by law.” ….

It is quite clear that Judge Gaston’s references to “our law” and “our constitution” are references to the statutes and Constitution of North Carolina. As North Carolina has a reception statute the cited sentence is true in North Carolina. The same can not be said for the federal government which does not incorporate common law via Constitution, reception statute, or other method. The cited sentence is inapplicable to the federal government.

Gray’s cite of Manuel to justify use of English common law is dishonest.

Gray’s use of English common law is inappropriate:

Jefferson letter to Edmund Randolph, August 18, 1799:

Of all the doctrines which have ever been broached by the federal government, the novel one, of the common law being in force and cognizable as an existing law in their courts, is to me the most formidable. All their other assumptions of un-given powers have been in the detail. The bank law, the treaty doctrine, the sedition act, alien act, the undertaking to change the State laws of evidence in the State courts by certain parts of the stamp act, &c. &c. have been solitary, unconsequential, timid things, in comparison with the audacious, barefaced and sweeping pretension to a system of law for the United States, without the adoption of their legislature, and so infinitively beyond their power to adopt.

Gray ignored legislative history of the Fourteenth Amendment and interpreted the intent of the jurisdiction clause territorially rather than politically ignoring the specifically stated intent of its Framers.

He arrogated to himself a system of law “infinitively beyond [his] power to adopt” and erected himself into a legislator deciding “what parts of the common law would, and what would not, be properly applicable to the circumstances of the United States” (Madison letter to Jefferson, Jan 18, 1800).

The holding is binding on lower courts: the SINGLE question of whether Wong was a citizen of the United States by virtue of the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was answered in the affirmative.

The rationale when erroneous is dicta. It has little value as precedent or guidance and is not binding on lower courts.

Neither Amend. XIV nor WKA touch Art. II’s eligibility requirements.

Conflating citizen, naturalized citizen, and natural born citizen is absurd, such construction is inadmissible.


2 thoughts on “Commentary on United States v Wong Kim Ark”

  1. REALITY CHECK : 1789 ~No Bastard Daughter of a Catholic African Alien Can Be President

    Natural Law versus Natural Rights; Obama vs Genesis

    Primal Law & Fundamentals of Citizenship

    The Truth about Vattel, Presidents, Citizens & Subjects

    The Truth about Allegiance & Natural Citizenship

    Cities & Citizens; Natural vs Legal

    Natives, Tribes, & Forgotten Citizenship Truths

    Nations, Citizens, Responsibility, & Natural Law

    The Bastardization of Citizenship Law & Principles

    1. That’s quite a lot of reading.

      I think a key point to keep in mind is that natural membership in a group is the “natural born” part and that “citizen” necessitates a government part.

      What you are describing would be true in a state of nature. The child, by nature, belongs to the parents.

      When families coalesce into tribes/nations they form governments to protect their natural rights. The individuals of that nation are its citizens.

      The necessary element for the existence of citizenship is a government.

      Conversly, without a government there is a collection of persons existing in a state of nature.

      “Natural born” by blood, “citizen” by government.

      “Natural born citizen” is dependent upon both place and blood.

      Jus Sanguinis et Jus Soli = Natura et Civis = natural born citizen.

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