Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Chester A. Arthur: The First Birther President

Many people believe that the birther movement began with claims that President Obama was born in Kenya and not Hawaii. The truth to the matter is that the birther movement was born in August of 1880 when Chester A. Arthur was a candidate for Vice President.

Arthur claimed he was born in Fairfield, Vermont, on October 5, 1830. However, some claim that he was actually born on October 5, 1829. Biographer Thomas C. Reeves said he changed the date of his birth out of simple vanity. Although a New York Lawyer by the name of Arthur P. Hinnman suggested that he also changed the location of his birth.

In an article in the Booklyn Daily Eagle, Hinnman suggested that Arthur was born in Belfast or Aberdeen before his parents emigrated to America. Arthur made no attempt to dismiss the theory, and so it lives on to this day. Other democrats claimed he was born in Canada.

Since then, John McCain, Barack Obama, George Romney, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were all accused of being born outside the United States. The birther movement remains an issue because what qualifies a person to be a U.S. citizen is not clearly defined by the Constitution. The term "Natural Born Citizen" is not defined in the Constitution. It is also not defined by those who framed the Constitution.

Why it is not defined may go back to British common stature law, which also does not define it. This left the issue up to debate. In the U.S., the issue is still being debated. So, while some may think it's a modern issue, the birther movement has actually been an issue for well over 100 years.

Further Reading

  1. Krayewski, Ed, "Chester Arthur and the Original Birther Conspiracy," May 19, 2012, reason.com, http://reason.com/blog/2012/05/19/chester-arthur-and-the-original-birther, accessed March 17, 2016