The enigmatic phrase “natural born citizen” poses a series of problems for contemporary originalism. New Originalists, like Justice Scalia, focus on the original public meaning of the constitutional text. The notion of a “natural born citizen” was likely a term of art derived from the idea of a “natural born subject” in English law—a category that most likely did not extend to persons, like Senator McCain, who were born outside sovereign territory. But the Constitution speaks of “citizens” and not “subjects,” introducing uncertainties and ambiguities that might (or might not) make McCain eligible for the presidency.
Lawrence B. Solum,
Originalism and the Natural Born Citizen Clause,
Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol107/iss1/22