July 4, 1776, the Birth Day of the
Nation and the Natural Born Citizen
By Mario Apuzzo, Esq.
July 4, 2015
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.
David Ramsay (April 2, 1749 to May 8, 1815) was an American physician, patriot, and historian from South Carolina and a delegate from that state to the Continental Congress in 1782-1783 and 1785-1786. He was the Acting President of the United States in Congress Assembled. He was one of the American Revolution’s first major historians. A contemporary of Washington, Ramsay wrote with the knowledge and insights one acquires only by being personally involved in the events of the Founding period. In 1785 he published History of the Revolution of South Carolina (two volumes), in 1789 History of the American Revolution (two volumes), in 1807 a Life of Washington, and in 1809 a History of South Carolina (two volumes). Ramsay “was a major intellectual figure in the early republic, known and respected in America and abroad for his medical and historical writings, especially for The History of the American Revolution (1789)…” Arthur H. Shaffer, “Between Two Worlds: David Ramsay and the Politics of Slavery,” J.S.Hist., Vol. L, No. 2 (May 1984). “During the progress of the Revolution, Doctor Ramsay collected materials for its history, and his great impartiality, his fine memory, and his acquaintance with many of the actors in the contest, eminently qualified him for the task….” http://www.famousamericans.net/davidramsay/. In 1965 Professor Page Smith of the University of California at Los Angeles published an extensive study of Ramsay's “History of the American Revolution” in which he stressed the advantage that Ramsay had because of being involved in the events of which he wrote and the wisdom he exercised in taking advantage of this opportunity. “The generosity of mind and spirit which marks his pages, his critical sense, his balanced judgment and compassion,'' Professor Smith concluded, “are gifts that were uniquely his own and that clearly entitle him to an honorable position in the front rank of American historians.”
In his 1789 essay, Ramsay explained:
The “United States” are a new nation, or political society, formed at first by the declaration of independence, out of those “British subjects” in “America,” who were thrown out of royal protection by act of parliament, passed in “December,” 1775.
A citizen of the “United States,” means a member of this new nation. The principle of government being radically changed by the revolution, the political character of the people was also changed from subjects to citizens.
The difference is immense. Subject is derived from the latin word, “sub” and “jacio,” and means one who is “under” the power of another; but a citizen is a “unit” of a mass of free people, who, collectively, possess sovereignty.
Subjects look up to a master, but citizens are so far equal, that none have hereditary rights superior to others. Each citizen of a free state contains, within himself, by nature and the constitution, as much of the common sovereignty as another. In the eye of reason and philosophy, the political condition of citizens is more exalted than that of noblemen. Dukes and earls area the creatures of kings, and may be made by them at pleasure; but citizens possess in their own right original sovereignty.
Id. at 3. (emphasis in the original).
Here Ramsay described how the new nation came into being from the revolution with Great Britain and that its new members were citizens and not subjects. He then explains the “immense” difference between a citizen and a subject. Indeed, citizens were masters of their own destiny, all equal to each other, and under no one.
Then he went on to explain how one became a citizen, stating: [...] Continued here.