Originalism, Natural Born Citizens, and the 1790 Naturalization Act: A Reply to Saul Cornell
14 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2016 Last revised: 1 Dec 2016
Date Written: October 27, 2016
In his essay The 1790 Naturalization Act and the Original Meaning of the Natural Born Citizen Clause: A Short Primer on Historical Method and the Limits of Originalism (2016 Wisconsin Law Review Forward 92), Professor Saul Cornell uses the debate over the Constitution’s natural born citizen clause to illustrate what he regards as the shortcomings of originalist methodology. He makes three main points: (1) that historians’ methodology is different from and superior to the approach of originalist legal scholars; (2) that originalist scholars have reached an erroneously broad reading of the 1790 Naturalization Act; and (3) that, as a result, originalist scholars have misread the natural born citizen clause. I believe each of these points is mistaken. This response addresses them in turn.
Keywords: natural born citizen, president, election, eligibility clause, 1790 Naturalization Act, originalism, constitutional interpretation
JEL Classification: K30, K37, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation