Howard and Trumbull see the phrase “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” as key in determining the limits of citizenship. In a response to Anton in the Washington Post, Elizabeth Wydra dismisses the importance of this phrase as a fixation of those who “deny the plain meaning of the citizenship clause.”

However, the meaning of this phrase was the central topic of debate precisely because it qualified who was to be considered a citizen in the citizenship clause. It is this phrase that made it clear that Indians were not included because even though they were born on American soil, they were not under the full and complete jurisdiction of the United States.

For Sen. Trumbull, “It is only those persons who come completely within our jurisdiction, who are subject to our laws, that we think of making citizens.” Senator Johnson agreed, stating that he knows “of no better way to give rise to citizenship than the fact of birth within the territory of the United States, born of parents who at the time were subject to the authority of the United States.”