Did Common Law Really Grant Automatic US Citizenship Upon Birth Regardless Of Parentage?

It has been a long debate for over a 3 decades now, but especially since the appearance of one Barack H Obama and his intentions for possible candidacy as a US President. The opposing views could not be further apart and then there are those who cling to the outside possibility that Obama may have been born outside of the US, but for I and many others who are strict constitutionalists, the mere fact that he was born a British subject at birth was the deciding factor that has kept us researching for the past year & a half.

The one factor that the Obama supporters cling to is some dilluted notion that the founding fathers & colonists adopted English common law that automatically granted citizenship to any child born on US soil. They also claim that the requirement for Congress as laid out in A1 that states one must be a “citizen” is the same and equal to the requirement laid out in A2 for the Executive Branch which requires one to be a “natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the constitution” regardless that they are 2 very distinctly different types of citizens.

Researchers & constitutional experts from both sides of the debates agree 100% that the term ‘citizen’ that was adopted for congress allowed for naturalized citizens to attain to those elected offices. Where we have differed is the definition of  term ‘natural born’ citizen. We hold fast to the argument that both parents must be US citizens when the child was born on US soil( born with total & complete allegiance to the US) & the progessive crowd as well as many so called conservative constitutional scholars hold fast to their notion that parentage held no factor in determining citizenship of a child born on US soil.

If that had been the case then there would have never been a need for the grandfather clause in A2S1C5:

No person except a “natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this constitution”

So, did the framers really adopt a common law rule that automatically granted US citizenship upon birth as England did? Let’s take a look at what the US government had to say about certain children born on US soil at the time of the adoption of the constitution from recently acquired documents from the national archives. As I’ve stated in the past, one can not limit their research to such a narrow alley that keeps pertinent information from being brought out into the light. You can not define what ‘natural born’ means without looking into all the laws for all types of citizenship and therein lies the answer to the proverbial question: Is Barack H Obama constitutionally qualified to be president under the definition of ‘natural born’ citizen that was adopted & ratified in 1789 by the colonists?

SoundexIndex to Naturalization  Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois, and Immigration and Naturalization Service District 9



The process of naturalization has been a concern of the people of the United States since colonial times. One of the grievances against George III in the Declaration of Independence charged that “he has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither . . . .” This concern was addressed in the United States Constitution, which provided that “Congress shall have the Power … to establish an uniform Rule of

Naturalization . . . .” (Art. 1, Sec. 8).

Congress passed the first naturalization act on March 26, 1790 (1 Stat. 103). The law allowed any free, white alien over the age of twenty-one to apply for citizenship after two year’s residency in the United States. The process simply required an applicant to visit “any common law court of record,” prove to the satisfaction of the court that he or she was of good moral character, and take an oath of allegiance to the Constitution. A judge then ruled on the applicant’s petition. Married women and children under the age of twenty-one derived citizenship from their husband or father respectively. Children of unsuccessful applicants could apply for citizenship in their own right, at the age of twenty-one.

And then from the national archives on geneology, we find this:

Naturalization Records:


Naturalization is the process by which an alien becomes an American citizen. It is a voluntary act; naturalization is not required. Of the foreign-born persons listed on the 1890 through 1930 censuses, 25 percent had not become naturalized or filed their “first papers.”

This article is adapted from Claire Prechtel-Kluskens, “The Location of Naturalization Records,” The Record, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 21-22 (Nov. 1996).

The Courts

From the first naturalization law passed by Congress in 1790 through much of the 20th century, an alien could become naturalized in any court of record. Thus, most people went to the court most convenient to them, usually a county court. The names and types of courts vary from State to State. The names and types of courts have also varied during different periods of history–but may include the county supreme, circuit, district, equity, chancery, probate, or common pleas court. Most researchers will find that their ancestors became naturalized in one of these courts. A few State supreme courts also naturalized aliens, such as the supreme courts of Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Aliens who lived in large cities sometimes became naturalized in a Federal court, such as a U.S. district court or U.S. circuit court.

General Rule: The Two-Step Process

Congress passed the first law regulating naturalization in 1790 (1 Stat. 103). As a general rule, naturalization was a two-step process that took a minimum of 5 years. After residing in the United States for 2 years, an alien could file a “declaration of intent” (so-called “first papers”) to become a citizen. After 3 additional years, the alien could “petition for naturalization.” After the petition was granted, a certificate of citizenship was issued to the alien. These two steps did not have to take place in the same court. As a general rule, the “declaration of intent” generally contains more genealogically useful information than the “petition.” The “declaration” may include the alien’s month and year (or possibly the exact date) of immigration into the United States.

Exceptions to the General Rule

Having stated this “two-step, 5-year” general rule, it is necessary to note several exceptions.

The first major exception was that “derivative” citizenship was granted to wives and minor children of naturalized men. From 1790 to 1922, wives of naturalized men automatically became citizens. This also meant that an alien woman who married a U.S. citizen automatically became a citizen. (Conversely, an American woman who married an alien lost her U.S. citizenship, even if she never left the United States.) From 1790 to 1940, children under the age of 21 automatically became naturalized citizens upon the naturalization of their father. Unfortunately, however, names and biographical information about wives and children are rarely included in declarations or petitions filed before September 1906. For more information about women in naturalization records, see  Marian L. Smith, “Women and Naturalization, ca. 1802-1940,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Summer 1998): 146-153.

The second major exception to the general rule was that, from 1824 to 1906, minor aliens who had lived in the United States 5 years before their 23rd birthday could file both their declarations and petitions at the same time.

The third major exception to the general rule was the special consideration given to veterans. An 1862 law allowed honorably discharged Army veterans of any war to petition for naturalization–without previously having filed a declaration of intent–after only 1 year of residence in the United States. An 1894 law extended the same no-previous-declaration privilege to honorably discharged 5-year veterans of the Navy or Marine Corps. Over 192,000 aliens were naturalized between May 9, 1918, and June 30, 1919, under an act of May 9, 1918, that allowed aliens serving in the U.S. armed forces during “the present war” to file a petition for naturalization without making a declaration of intent or proving 5 years’ residence. Laws enacted in 1919, 1926, 1940, and 1952 continued various preferential treatment provisions for veterans.

Now a question to all those progressive legal experts & so-called conservative constitutional lawyers out there.

How is it that you can expertly claim that the US adopted some form of common law that automatically granted US citizenship to any child born on US soil; when clearly, as the government archives show, the laws of the day state otherwise? Your claims that the US has always granted US citizenship upon birth on US soil is utterly & completely…


Progressives have been trying to eliminate or redefine the ‘natural born’ requirement for over 3 decades  and yet they all failed miserably. And even though there was sympathy towards immigrants who served in the military allowing for faster naturalization procedures for the ones that served honorably& who were thusly discharged honorably. This gives me further confirmation as to why the progressives thought they could get away with white-washing McCain’s problem of birth in the Republic of Panama.

One thought on “Did Common Law Really Grant Automatic US Citizenship Upon Birth Regardless Of Parentage?

  1. […] Did Common Law Really Grant Automatic US Citizenship Upon Birth Regardless Of Parentage? ConstitutionallySpeaking ^ | 1/15/2010 | […]

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