Sec. 64. But what reason can hence advance this care of the parents due to their off-spring into an absolute arbitrary dominion of the father, whose power reaches no farther, than by such a discipline, as he finds most effectual, to give such strength and health to their bodies, such vigour and rectitude to their minds, as may best fit his children to be most useful to themselves and others; and, if it be necessary to his condition, to make them work, when they are able, for their own subsistence. But in this power the mother too has her share with the father. (John Locke, Second Treatise, Chapter VI)
On matters arising under the Constitution of the United States, the Federal courts have the power and duty to examine and decide issues of law (including the natural law) where such decisions are essential to achieving the goals set forth by the people in the Preamble to the Constitution. It was reasonable to expect that once the issue of Obama’s eligibility was brought before them, members of the Federal Judiciary, who have a sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, would examine the very real issues involved in this case and offer an opinion. That they have refused, and are still refusing to do so is dereliction of such magnitude that it threatens the very core of their authority- which lies ultimately in the respect the people owe and extend to them on account of the integrity of their faithful adherence to the Constitution from which their authority is derived.
Yet, as I have pointed out before, this dereliction extends to officials in every branch and at every level of government in the United States. The logic of the Constitution’s Framers leads to reasonable arguments that would allow a reasonable judgment to be made about Obama’s eligibility, one way or the other. Of course, the questions involved require serious examination. They cannot be prejudged until all the evidence has been gathered, and the facts it supports ascertained. These questions also involve a prudential judgment that weighs the people’s natural right to secure the blessing of liberty against the consequences of those individual rights connected with parental ties and obligations.
Neither I nor anyone else can honestly say that they are certain what that prudential judgment will or ought to be. We don’t have the facts. What is more, most of us have, in any case, no Constitutional authority to make the judgment. But those who do have the authority also have the obligation to make use of it as the public good requires.
Foremost among the grievances that led to the American Revolution the Declaration of Independence cites several that involved the King of Great Britain’s refusal to make use of governmental authority when “necessary for the public good.” Already the issue of eligibility is causing conscientious uncertainty in our armed forces. If those vested with the authority continue their obstinate refusal to do their Constitutional duty on this issue, who knows what tragic consequences will follow?
Why then do they persist in their stubborn refusal? There are many possible explanations, not all of which involve cowardice or selfish, factional political ambition. The most profound one, however, has to do with the fact that the reasonable arguments to be made on one side or the other of this case require an appeal to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God”. The present American political elite by and large reject the natural law foundation of America’s liberty. They have been indoctrinated in schools and universities that reject it. They are lifted up and sustained by economic interests that reject it. They have succumbed to material passions and vain political and intellectual ambitions utterly inconsistent with the decent moral and political constraints it requires. The root of it all runs to this: the natural law has no substance or authority without acknowledging the existence and authority of the Creator God. This is the logical and indispensable prerequisite for the concept of political justice on which America’s democratic republican form of government is based.
If Barack Obama were not a doctrinaire socialist; and if the American elites were not committed to rejecting the natural law basis of the American constitutional republic; the controversy over Barack Obama’s claim to be President of the United States would quickly have been laid to rest. For his part, instead of spending large sums of money to argue that citizens have no right to seek enforcement of the clear provisions of the U.S. Constitution, Obama would have released his records and sought and opportunity to resolve the issue on the merits. Based on his alleged knowledge of the Constitution he would have instructed his lawyers to make the very reasonable argument, based solidly on the understanding of political principle that prevailed at the time the Constitution was framed: He is a natural born citizen on account of a fact that is not in dispute: the American citizen status of his mother.
The passage quoted at the beginning of this post is taken from the chapter entitled “Of Paternal Power” in John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government. In that treatise John Locke presented the case against the Divine Right of kings. Concisely, and with remarkable clarity, he presented the reasoning that justifies the self evident truths spoken of in the American Declaration of Independence. He develops the logical foundation for the conclusion that the just powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed, and aimed at securing their God-given unalienable rights. He traces the relationship between unalienable rights (arising from “the laws of nature and of nature’s God”) and the just limits of all government power; And he follows the logic of political liberty to the reasonable conclusion that, when any government systematically transcends those limits in order to violate their unalienable rights, the people have the right and natural obligation to effect a revolution (literally, an action that brings them around again to their previous condition of liberty.)
Familiarity with this work was commonplace during the founding period, and it has been used ever since to introduce students to the logic that is the basis for the democratic republican form of government implemented in the U.S. Constitution. That logic provides a straightforward line of reasoning to support the position that Barack Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States. I presented the gist of it in my last post, “Obama gives reason to question his legitimacy.”
In order, therefore, to arrive at a reasonable understanding of what it means to be a “natural born citizen” we have to consider what it means to be born with any natural quality or trait whatsoever. It is commonplace to refer to people as “natural blonds” or “natural redheads.” We easily understand the difference between someone whose eyes look naturally blue, and someone using tinted contact lenses to mimic that appearance. The provisions of inheritance law in vastly different parts of the world have been based on the difference between a parent’s “natural children” and their adopted children, in whom the kinship with their parents is recognized to be the result of a choice ratified by the provisions of positive human law. With no disparagement intended, the naturalized citizen is like a “bleached blond”, for whom the appearance of blond hair required intervention by a human agent (a barber or hairdresser, for example.) Only where citizenship is the result of a fact true at birth and without reference to the intervention of any human agency (the legislature, for example, or the courts), can it in like manner be ascribed to nature.
Though reasonable this argument alone does not settle the issue. Still, except for the objection arising from his dual citizenship at birth, all the arguments against Barack Obama’s constitutional claim to be eligible for the Presidency rely on the provisions of some positive human law. The idea of limited government refers in the first instance to government limited in its powers and actions by respect for natural, unalienable rights. It rests on the presumption that the provisions of the natural law override and take precedence over the provisions of positive human law. (Without this presumption natural unalienable rights would not limit the scope of human legislation or executive action.) The U.S. Constitution uses language in regard to eligibility that requires application of the overriding natural law standard. This precludes judgments about eligibility that simply apply without question the provisions of existing laws and statutes. The first task for judgment is to ascertain whether the facts and circumstances of the particular case before us present us with a claim to citizenship based on the natural law. Once that claim is established, further examination is required in order to determine whether there is any cause or reason to set aside that claim. But such a conclusion would have to be based on the assertion of a conflict between one aspect of the overriding natural law and another.
No one disputes the fact that Barack Obama’s mother was a citizen of the United States. Locke makes a reasonable case for the equality of men and women in matters of parental authority and right. His reasoning happens to correspond to the common sense of our own time. All other things being equal, therefore, it would be reasonable for us to conclude that the American citizen status of his mother gave Obama a natural claim to American citizenship at birth, regardless of the statutory provision that legally limited her ability to transmit citizenship at the time. The Constitution’s words explicitly accept the natural claim as sufficient. As an expression of the supreme law of the land, it is reasonable to argue that its words take precedence over the statute.
One question however remains to be dealt with: Is there also a basis in natural law for the government of the United States to place limitations or restrictions on the actual exercise or implementation of the individual’s natural claim? In itself, the establishment of government requires and implies some limits on the individual exercise of unalienable rights. This is clearly the case with regard to matters for which a naturally lawful and properly delegated power of government serves a purpose (for instance, insuring domestic tranquility) that requires that the collective judgment of the people (ascertained by their votes or by the constitutionally empowered action of their representatives) override by law the judgment of each individual. Once a people establishes civil government, this natural prerogative of the people’s collective right accounts for the wholly justifiable limits placed, for example, on each individual’s right to act for themselves to enforce the law of nature with respect to criminal acts, or by force to impose resolution of disputes arising from conflicting claims to the use of land or water resources. As Locke among others points out, there can be no security for natural rights where everyone is left to be the judge of his own cause, unless by security we mean the confidence of victory arising from superior power.
With respect to the eligibility provisions of the Constitution, a reasonable argument can be made that, on the whole, the security of the people’s unalienable rights (securing the blessings of liberty) requires a) that the possibility of divided allegiance arising from the bonds of nature be precluded or minimized for individuals taking up the office of President of the United States; and b) for all individuals to be recognized as citizens, the absence of any real, substantive ties and allegiance to the United States be minimized or precluded. A reasonable way to achieve this is to provide by law that residency or other relevant requirements be met before a U.S. citizen parent can effectively pass U.S. citizenship to their offspring.
All this goes to show that there are reasonable arguments on both sides of the eligibility issue. There is no reason to treat them as frivolous, or to pretend that they should be dismissed as ludicrous. At some point, what merits the suspicion of insanity is the obstinate refusal of responsible officials to recognize and weigh such reasonable arguments bearing on a critical Constitutional requirement. However, I seriously doubt that mental illness is their problem. Americans determined to restore and preserve their liberty need to open their eyes to a harder truth.
In the essential point that concerns political justice, Barack Obama and the present American political elite have entrenched themselves against the self-evident truths without which American liberty would never have existed and cannot survive. I recently read an article that described Barack Obama as “the first anti-Israeli President.” Truth to tell, he is also “the first anti-American” to claim the Presidency. The cloud of doubt as to the legitimacy of that claim could easily be dispelled. But Obama and the elites that openly or covertly sustain him will not entertain the arguments that can do so because they reject the authority of God.
They reject the natural law. They reject the constitutional sovereignty of the people, and the U.S. Constitution that embodies it. They prefer the judgment of history to the concept of right that appeals to the judgment of the Creator. They prefer encouraging people to believe that justice is power or material goods for the greater number, so that power and material goods become the only standard for the legitimacy of any exercise of governmental authority. Meanwhile, they are amassing the power, and securing control of the material benefits that they believe will make the irresistible case for their suppression of the people’s sovereignty and decent freedom. This is the real source of the crisis that besets America today. It will not be resolved until the God fearing people of the nation choose with courage to reassert the truth of God’s authority; the truth that affirms our natural rights; the truth that sets us free. As a good first step, we must demand accountability on the issue of Obama’s eligibility for the presidency, based on the natural criterion the Constitution invokes.