The birthers of 1881

After 100 years of obscurity, President Chester Arthur is back in the news—and you need a map to really get this story. Arthur was the center of America's first "birther" controversy in 1881... when opponents claimed he had been born in foreign nation (Canada). Arthur said he was born in Fairfield, Vermont, just 11 miles or so from the Canadian border. But he could provide no proof that his mother didn't jog over to Canada while in labor.... give birth... and then carry the newborn Chester back to Fairfield. The Donald Trumps of that era (the guy's actual name was Arthur P. Hinman) pitched a variety of theories claiming Arthur was not a "natural-born" citizen.  Hinman even wrote a book (You can actually read the whole thing here). None of this is really news—in fact, the prospect of a president born outside US borders was treated mostly with yawns in the 1880s. The more interesting question is whether the laws signed by a non natural-born president would have to be voided? A lot of modern-day birthers think they would. If that's true, then we might have to overturn the Edmunds Act, signed by president Chester Arthur. The Act prevents bigamists and polygamists from voting. Good grief, imagine roving bands of polygamists casting ballots willy-nilly!  Then there's the international time agreement Arthur instigated. Overturn that one, and all our clocks will be wrong! It goes on and on. My solution to the chaos is this: a new amendment that says that as long as you are born in a country that ends in the letter "A" you can become president. That solves Chester Arthur's problem... and Barack Obama's. (Then again, my amendment adds about 2 billion people to the list of who could be come president. Check a world map and you'll see what I mean)

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