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Reference to a key source cited by Founding Fathers in their development of the constitutional qualifications for the presidency is missing from Wikipedia’s entry on “natural-born citizenship” in the wake of Barack Obama’s release of his long-form birth certificate.

Blogger Paul Smith points out that reference to the Swiss legal philosopher Emmerich de Vattel and his seminal definition of natural-born citizenship can no longer be found in the Wikipedia entry.

De Vattel defined natural-born citizenship in this 1757 treatise “The Law of Nations” as “those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.”

The definition is relevant to President Obama’s eligibility, because while his publicized birth certificate indicates he was born in the United States, it also shows that his father was Barack Obama Sr., a non-immigrant foreign student whose citizenship was Kenyan.


Screen capture of reference to de Vattel in Wikipedia entry April 10, via the Wayback Machine

De Vattel’s definition and the reliance on his work by Founding Fathers such as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin are crucial because the Constitution does not define natural-born citizenship, and the Supreme Court has not given Congress an authoritative definition with which to work.

Scholars generally agree that a natural-born citizen must be born of two U.S. citizens, but there is division over whether a person must also be born on U.S. soil. According to either definition, Barack Obama would not qualify.

(Story continues below)

 

The Founders were concerned that a president born of a foreigner might have divided loyalties.

De Vattel explained that “it is necessary to be born of a person who is a citizen, for if he be born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country.”


Screen capture of Wikipedia entry’s treatment of the case United States v. Wong Kim Ark, April 29, which no longer cites de Vattel.

A capture of the Wikipedia “Natural born citizen of the United States” entry by the Wayback Machine, which archives website pages at various points in time, shows a reference to de Vattel on April 10 in an account of the court case United States v. Wong Kim Ark.

In the current version, the reference in the text and two citations at the bottom are missing.

Wikipedia, however, has a separate entry for de Vattel that features his definition of “natural born citizen” from “The Law of Nations.”

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