Conspiracy Theories

Chester Arthur and the Original Birther Conspiracy


where's the birth certificate?
Library of Congress

Given the brouhaha over the "born in Kenya" claim in a lit agency's bio of Barack Obama and the Arizona Secretary of State looking for more proof Obama was born in Hawaii, here's a reminder that President Obama wasn't the first president dogged by rumors of foreign birth, a 2005 (pre-Obama!) blog post explaining the controversy surrounding Chester Arthur's place of birth:

Chester Alan Arthur (he pronounced his middle name al-AN) was, according to the official account, born in Fairfield, Vermont, Oct. 5, 1830, the son of Reverend William and Malvina (Stone) Arthur (his gravestone confirms this date). One biographer, Thomas C. Reeves, has concluded that he was born a year earlier—on Oct. 5, 1829— and that Arthur changed the date "no doubt out of simple vanity."

Changing his year of birth is forgivable (Arthur was well beyond the age requirement for the presidency); but could he have changed his place of birth as well? Arthur P. Hinman thought so. Hinman, a New York lawyer, brought the issue to the attention of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in a letter early in August, 1880, while Arthur was yet a candidate for the Vice-Presidency. Arthur evidently had flip-flopped on the issue in the past. One article, dated August 13, quotes a leading Republican in a way reminiscent of more recent campaigns: "Why in —— don't the General come out and say where he was born, and put an end to all this mystery."

Hinman first theorized that General Arthur was born "in Belfast or Aberdeen," before his parents emigrated to America. Arthur could easily dismiss this theory, for he had always maintained that his father emigrated at eighteen years of age—before he married and had children.

Hinman pushed on. The following story appeared in the New York Times of Dec. 22, 1880:


ST. ALBANS, Vt., Dec. 21.—A stranger arrived here a few days ago, and registered at the American House as A. P. Hinman, of New-York. Since then he has been very busy in the adjoining town of Fairfield, ostensibly collecting materials for a biography of Vice-President-elect Arthur. He has privately stated to leading Democratic citizens, however, that he is employed by the Democratic National Committee to obtain evidence to show that Gen. Arthur is an unnaturalized foreigner. He claims to have discovered that Gen. Arthur was born in Canada, instead of Fairfield; that his name is Chester Allen instead of Chester Abell [sic]; that he was 50 years old in July instead of October, as has been stated, and generally that he is an alien and ineligible to the office of Vice-President.

Arthur Hinman would publish a book, How A British Subject Became President of the United States, the substance of which was related in a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article dated June 2, 1884:

The main charge of the book is that William Chester Alan Arthur was born in Dunham Flats, Canada, on [sic] March, 1828, and that he represented himself to have been born at North Fairfield, Vermont, the birthplace of a younger brother, Chester Abell Arthur, who was born in 1830, and died a year later. It is stated that in 1834 when another son was born he received the name of William Arthur, Jr., and then the name William was dropped by William Chester Alan Arthur, and he was henceforth known as Chester Alan Arthur. The records, copies of which are given, show that in 1845 Chester Alan Arthur entered Union College, stating his age to be 16.

Reeves dismisses Hinman's theory, while admitting that President Arthur lied about his age. He cites the Arthur family Bible, held at the Library of Congress, which gives the President's year of birth as 1829, and makes no mention of a child named "Chester Abell.

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  1. (he pronounced his middle name al-AN)

    Funny that, Vanneman pronounces his fist name A-nal.

    1. According to his ex-girlfriend, Barack pronounced his name, ‘BAR-ack.’ Later, he changed it so it would not sound so British, so they say.

      BAR-ack likely also called humans, ‘hoo-MONS.’ My best guess is his space alien accent got slightly better through contact with hoo-MONS.

      1. It’s entirely possible. Which begs the question: if a space alien was a natural born citizen, meaning born here in lower 48, AK and HI, and all its territories to a hoo-MAN mother (or father even, we are talking space men here), would it be eligible to hold office? The Constitution says nothing about whether or not the candidate must be of a specific species, just age and birth locale requirements.

        1. That would certainly be the case. I don’t see why it necessarily needs to be a sentient creature. How about one of those one hundred year old sea turtles born in the DC zoo. Let’s get a sea turtle elected president, and prove how useless the office is.

          1. That would be a big upgrade over any of the the major-party candidates in the last few elections.

        2. “Which begs the question …”

          No, it does not.

      2. So Obama is General Zod? Planet Hoo-ston.

        1. Well, it sure ain’t Ferengi. Obama isn’t anything like the Space Joos.

        2. He can’t be General Zod. General Zod actually got shit done. If it weren’t for Superman tricking him into losing his powers, he’d have succeed with his plans.

  2. About this issue I have but one thing to say: Fuck the Chinese!

  3. Actually its not brouhaha, its brouhahaha.

    1. But wait a minute, this is your doorknob!

      … “Nick Danger” Hobbit

  4. It would totally make up for the White House website presidential biographies thing if the Obama White House adds this to the Chester A Arthur page.

    “A book was released attempting to prove that Arthur was not born in the USA. During President Obama’s Presidency, books were also written alleging that he had covered up his foreign birth. “

  5. Way to propagate a century old red herring Reason. The real problem with Arthur is that his father did not naturalize until 14 years after his birth. Arthur appreciated the focus on a foreign birth since it allowed him to hide the fact that his father was himself a foreigner. Sound familiar?

    1. Sound familiar?

      Yeah, it sounds like your familiar misconception that American citizenship is granted only through jus sanguinis and not jus soli.

      1. Oh, he was a citizen, but not a natural born one.

        1. A passage in a philosophical text book does not get to be law just because you and a handful of other crackpots want it to.

          And your Supreme Court case does not support your view at all. If anything, it contradicts it.

          And Vattel is a French name. And the language in which he wrote his book was French. I don’t care if his actual nationality was Swiss he was ethnically French from the French section of Switzerland. Hence froggy bastard.

          And no matter how widely read his work was it doesn’t overrule reams of contrary precedent and the fact that colonial America followed British law in making jus soli with no regard for the citizenship of parents the primary requirement for citizenship.

          You also have to account for the fact that there has never been a single opinion in law expressed in support of your theory. The legal meaning of natural born citizen has always been recognized to mean what is normally inferred from that simple three word combination. ie someone who became a citizen as a consequence of their birth.

          1. Please link to the SCOTUS opinion that specifically deals with the question of the definition of natural born citizen. As in “We hold that a natural born citizen is …”. Don’t bother you won’t find one. So there is no opinion that supports your argument either.

            1. I’m pretty sure that that’s because everyone pretty much accepts the self-evident definition as a person who is automatically a citizen at their birth and needs no further legal action to artificially make him into a citizen.

              Congress, as it is empowered to do in the COTUS, has passed a variety of laws as to who is and who is not a citizen at birth or a natural born citizen.

              That’s the definition that is the most widely accepted and the one that will most likely be recognized in l courts.

              If it weren’t so, the Clintons would have seen to it that B Hussein Obama was never nominated.

              1. Please show me the law that agrees with your definition. If you can not then all of your rantings are just your opinion and therefore meaningless.

            2. The Chief Justice of the United States swearing in Arthur is opinion enough.

              1. Please show the he was aware of Arthur’s father’s citizenship status. An uninformed opinion is no opinion at all.

                1. You still continue to refuse to confront the issue of why no one has ever contested the “natural born citinship” issue of a presidential candidate on the grounds of the Vattel doctrine.

                  I submit to you that if they did they would be laughed out of court.

                  I declare peace on this. But I do so with the proviso that no matter what you believe, no one else believes anything other that what I have spelled out.

                  Hence, no matter how much you insist otherwise, someone like B Hussein Obama who was born in the one of these United States is going to be declared to be a “Natural Born Citizen” of these United States, whether you, or I, like it or not.

                  1. You have provided no evidence of your claim. Everyone believed the Earth was flat, until Columbus proved them wrong, too. Just because a lot of people hold an ignorant view on a subject doesn’t make their view correct.

                    1. Ice Trey –

                      Even if you thought that he wasn’t natural born at the time of his birth due to his father’s citizenship status, the ratification of the 14th Amendment would have applied retroactively to him as it did to slaves and free blacks who – because of state law – were not considered citizens. That would mean that in 1880 he was a birthright citizen.

                      So, there’s no need to go into the enormous body of case law on the subject to prove your error. The 14th Amendment is the trump card.

  6. No Mention of the Old Pretender? For Shame!

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