Founder and Historian David Ramsay Defines a Natural Born Citizen in 1789
by Mario Apuzzo, Esq.
Friday, April 2, 2010
In defining an Article II “natural born Citizen,” it is important to find any authority from the Founding period who may inform us how the Founders and Framers themselves defined the clause. Who else but a highly respected historian from the Founding period itself would be highly persuasive in telling us how the Founders and Framers defined a “natural born Citizen. ” Such an important person is David Ramsay, who in 1789 wrote, A Dissertation on the Manners of Acquiring the Character and Privileges of a Citizen (1789), a very important and influential essay on defining a “natural born Citizen.”
In his 1789 article, Ramsay first explained who the “original citizens” were and then defined the “natural born citizens” as the children born in the country to citizen parents. He said concerning the children born after the declaration of independence, “[c]itizenship is the inheritance of the children of those who have taken part in the late revolution; but this is confined exclusively to the children of those who were themselves citizens….” Id. at 6. He added that “citizenship by inheritance belongs to none but the children of those Americans, who, having survived the declaration of independence, acquired that adventitious character in their own right, and transmitted it to their offspring….” Id. at 7. He continued that citizenship “as a natural right, belongs to none but those who have been born of citizens since the 4th of July, 1776….” Id. at 6.
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