On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath of office as President of the United States from the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. The President and Congress shared space in Federal Hall with the New York Society Library.
Some of the records of that Library are of particular interest when considering the influence of the works of Emmerich de Vattel on our Founding Fathers.
Why does this matter? Because of how Vattel
defined explained the Natural Law definition of a term that our Founders wrote into our Constitution, and the implications to Barack Hussein Obama.
From Article II Section 1:
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens
There is good reason to believe that Vattel’s explanation of the definition of “natural born citizen” played a central role in a letter that Founder John Jay wrote to George Washington, then Presiding Officer of the Constitutional Convention, on July 25th, 1787:
“Permit me to hint, whether it would be wise and seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government; and to declare expressly that the Commander in Chief of the American Army shall not be given to nor devolve on, any but a natural born Citizen.”
On October 5, 1789, President George Washington checked out two books from the New York Society Library: Emmerich de Vattel’s “Law of Nations” and volume 12 of the English House of Commons Debates.
The ledger does not record whether the president came in person or sent a messenger, nor is there any record of either volume being returned, or the president or vice-president being fined.
A few news stories recently have made much ado about how large the library fine would be in today’s dollars. But those same stories have neglected the importance of which books Washington checked out.
Again, it is important that we understand the relationship between President George Washington, first Chief Justice John Jay, the works of Vattel, and the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court held its first session on Feb. 1, 1790, in New York City. The New York Society Library charging ledger provides a record of the books borrowed by Chief Justice John Jay, including:
. The works of Jonathan Swift; “Don Quixote”, Voltaire’s, “Candidus, or “All For the Best,” as the volume is noted in the ledger; “The Fair Syrian, a novel”; Frances Burney’s, “Cecilia, or Memoirs of an Heiress”; “Arabian Nights Entertainments, consisting of one thousand and one stories, related by the Sultaness of the Indies” and John Aubrey’s “Miscellanies,” a collection of stories on ghosts and dreams.
. Plutarch’s, “Lives”; “Lives of the Admirals, and other Eminent British Seamen”; “The History of the Five Indian Nations of Canada”; “The History of the Revolution of South Carolina, from a British Province to an Independent State”; and “An Essay on the Life of the Honorable Major-General Israel Putnam.”
. Captain James Cook’s, “A Voyage towards the South Pole, and Round the World”; “A Tour through Sicily and Malta”; “Travels into Muscovy, Persia, and Paris of the East-Indies, containing an accurate description of whatever is most remarkable in those countries”; “A Voyage Round the World in the Years 1766-1769,” by the Comte Louis Antoine de Bougainville; “A General Description of China, containing the topography of the fifteen provinces which compose this vast empire”; “Travels in Spain”; “Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in 1768-1773”; and “Travels in North America in the Years 1780-1782”, by the Marquis Francois Jean de Chastellux.
. Comte de Buffon’s “Natural History”; “Chambers’, Cyclopaedia, or General Dictionary of Arts and Sciences”; and “Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man.”
Chief Justice Jay must have had his own collection of law books, for few of the books borrowed by him from the New York Society Library are law-related.
As that author concluded, there is little doubt that the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court had his own collection of law books. And since John Jay wrote to George Washington on multiple occasions, sometimes referencing Vattel, I think there is little doubt that John Jay’s library included the works of Vattel. Here is an excerpt from one of Jay’s letters to Washington… this one being from 28 August 1790:
… comprized within two Classes vizt cases of urgent necessity, and cases of convenience—The present case belongs to the latter. Vattel who well understood the Subject, says in the 7th chapter of his 3d Book— That an innocent Passage is due to all Nations with whom a State is at Peace, and that this …
(That URL link may not preserve the search results, so just do a search yourself on the bolded text).
Other references by the Founders to Vattel can be found here.
Now George Washington, having a background as a military General, not an attorney, did not have a copy of Vattel’s works in his personal library. At one of his earliest opportunities to check out Vattel’s work, George Washington did so, and apparently kept it in his library permanently.
Our Founders founded this country on “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God“.
Vattel was the de facto authority on the “THE LAW OF NATIONS OR PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW OF NATURE APPLIED TO THE CONDUCT AND AFFAIRS OF NATIONS AND SOVEREIGNS”.
Now, if John Jay and George Washington had meant for the usage of “natural born citizen” in Article II Section 1 of the United States Constitution to mean something other than
how Vattel defined it the Natual Law definition as explained by Vattel, don’t you think they would have explicitly said so?