The closest definition we have to the founders was the Naturalization Act of 1790 which stated that “the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens”. (Act to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, 1st Congress, 2nd session, March 26, 1790, 1 Stat.L. 103 at 104, 2 Laws of the U.S., ed. Bioren & Duane (1815) 82 at 83.)
It has been interpreted and reinterpreted by various laws and court decisions ever since, with people on various sides of the issues clinging to whatever interpretation that suits their point. This one is the closest to the founders as it was in part written by Madison and other founders who were in congress at the time.
If FReepers can’t even agree on the interpretation of this issue, we shouldn’t expect any legal traction out of it.
Some freepers are more knowledgeable than others, but even the less knowledgeable ones want to express their opinions. This is not a reason to ignore the more knowledgeable ones.
Mnehring, your citation is, of course, correct, but you neglected to mention that it was entirely rescinded in 1795, and Congress never again attempted to interpret natural born citizenship. Many of guessed at why Washington signed the 1st Congress ruling, but he certainly signed its complete replacement in 1795. Some suggest that Washington or Franklin or some other founder had children born overseas, and he signed the 1790 law as a favor. For most founders the grandfather clause made them eligible - 14 years resident and a citizen. This requirement made it clear that as of 1787, a presidential candidate had fought in the revolution, and risked his life to reject British tyranny.
Washington and Hamilton were well known to hold Vattel in the highest esteem; Vattel’s “Law of Nations” was reported by several interviewers as the only book on Washington's desk in New York on his first day in office It may be that the 1st Congress attempt was a loose interpretation of Vattel’s Section 217, “Children born in the armies of the state...”. One wonders whether, had Congress not overstepped its bounds quite so far, Vattel’s Section 217 might not have been accepted, and McCain, but not Obama, would have been eligible?
The fact is, as Madison explained, constitutional definitions are deemed essential to retaining the framer's intent and meaning, and must come from the common-law and language familiar to its framers. Those were almost exactly the words of Chief Justice Waite in the key statement in Minor v. Happersett.