I learned recently that there is an Internet meme that John Bingham took a view that means Barack Obama is not eligible to be President. This argument suffers from the flaw of being wrong, so let’s discuss.
For starters, it’s worth noting that the Natural Born Clause was never addressed during Bingham’s career in Congress. Thus, he never gave a speech about the Clause or thought much about it. In some speeches on other citizenship issues, though, Bingham said that someone born here to parents not bearing allegiance to another country was a native-born citizen. Aha! President Obama’s father was a Kenyan citizen, so he did bear allegiance to another nation. This means Obama, despite being born here, is not natural born.
Well, no. What Bingham meant by allegiance (note he did not say that both parents must be American citizens) was the common-law understanding that birth made you a citizen unless: (1) your parent was a foreign diplomat; or (2) your parent was a foreign soldier who was occupying American territory. Diplomats and soldiers bear allegiance to a foreign sovereign in a manner that is very different from the average person. (Slavery was the exception to the common law rule and Bingham strongly condemned that exception.)
Accordingly, Bingham did not say anything that undercuts the President’s eligibility (or Ted Cruz’s, for that matter). Nice try.