Why do U.S. presidents have to be natural born citizens?

I was just wondering what the reasoning behind this requirement is. I can’t see any useful purpose it serves. I apologize in advance for overlooking some painstakingly obvious basis, since I tend to do that a lot. :stuck_out_tongue:

Because it says so in the Constitution.

As to why that requirement was put there, it was probably because the Founding Fathers felt it best that the President have lived in the country all his life. They may have feared someone asking some foreign-born ruler to take over.

I think part of the reason is they did not want any ties with a monarchy. Back in the day, when the popular vote did not contribute to the electoral college’s choice, a bunch of hoity toities could vote King Whatshisname for President.

At the time of the constitutional convention, there was still a great amount of fear regarding foriegn influence in the new country’s government.
Before the electoral college was formulated, it was thought that the legislature would elect the President. This group was still highly influenced by foriegn interests.

For a pretty complete discource on this subject follow the link: http://www-cpr.maxwell.syr.edu/~jyinger/facfa/history.htm

Just last year, Barney Frank , Dem from Mass. proposed an amendmentment to the constitution that would allow anyone who has been a citizen for 20 years and otherwise eligible to hold the office of President. It didn’t go anywhere. For the the amendment and transcripts of the initial hearing see: http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/judiciary/hju67306.000/hju67306_0.HTM

Some believe it was included in the Constitution partly to spite Alexander Hamilton, whose political ambitions may only have been outnumbered by his political enemies. Having been born in the Virgin Islands, he was thus barred from seeking the highest office in the land; so the best he could get was a cabinet position (Secretary of the Treasury).

It could be to keep the French from taking over.

Agreed that he had many enemies but wasn’t he a citizen at the time of the Adoption of the Constitution? That would have made hime eligible to serve.

Hamilton presumably was a citizen of the U.S. in 1787. He had served in the Continental Army and in the New York State Government.

However, it is doubtful that Hamilton ever could have been elected president because he had a lot of baggage (being illegitimate) and had sexual proclivities that would make Bill Clinton look like a Benedictine monk.

I think part of it was that England was in the middle of the Hannoverian dynasty (George III was the first Hannoverian king to speak English), and the Hannovarians tended to be more interested in governing Hannover than England. In order to avoid “dual loyalties”, the requirement got put in.

And, hundreds of years later, the Founding Fathers’ shortsightedness has kept us from electing Ah-nuld Schwarzenegger to lead us out of the darkness. Oh, the bitter pain!


Hmm… “natural born citizens”? So that means “born through mother’s effort only” and excludes people born through cesarian section or other reproductive technologies? Or did they just mean “people who were born in the USA and therefore are citizens”?


If someone was born to foreign parents who were in transit at a US airport (but who were inside the US customs zone), would that person be a US citizen, and thus able to move to the US later and be eligible for the Presidency?

“Natural born citizen” is the term for anyone who came about their citizenship naturally at birth. And anyone who wanted to become President would have to live in the US for at least 14 years first.

“Citizen” is not the same thing as “natural born citizen.” Hamilton was not eligible to run for president under our current Constitution.

From Article II, section 1 of the Constitution:

NOBODY of age to serve as President at the time of the Constitutional Convention was a Natural Born American Citizen as there was not yet a United States. They were mostly British born. Anybody who was a citizen at the time of the adoption of the Constitution was eligible. The “Natural Born” thing only applied those born after the adoption of the Constitution.

I do not think I’m misreading this.

peepthis- At the time Hamilton would have ran for president, he would have been eligable. The clause includes those were 'citzens when this Constitution is enacted". Thus, anyone who was a citizen in 1787 could run for prez, no matter where he was born. It could be argued that most of our early Presidents were not born in the USA.

If I’m not mistaken, I believe the phrase “or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution” was added specifically for Hamilton’s benefit.

Thanks for the correction, everyone. Obviously, I was mistaken and should have actually consulted the Constitution’s text (big difference the word “or” makes:eek: ). I thought one had to be “natural born,” meaning born in what was then the territory of the new United States.

List of Presidents not “Natural Born Citizens”

Adams (the son)
Van Buren

I was down at Disney World recently, and the guy working at the Hall of Presidents made a presentation before the show, in which explained that their are 5 ways to be considered a natural born American:

  1. Born on US soil (this seems to apply only to the 50 states, as those born in Puerto Rico, for example, cannot become president)
  2. Born on the territory of a US embassy
  3. Born on a US military base
  4. Born on an airplane or ship, including those privately owned, registered as an American plane or ship, as these are considered mobile US soil
  5. Born to parents who are American citizens (Unless the child is illegitimate. In that case, if only the mother’s an American, it’s still automatic. If only the father is, he has to do some things in court before citizenship can be granted, but there’s a case before the Supreme Court right now regarding whether a formal recognition should be required.)

I’m just passing along what he told me, so this might not be completely correct. But I think it is, because it’s his job to know this kind of stuff.

I would tend to doubt that part about Puerto Rico and other non-state soil of the US. Puerto Ricans (and American Samoans, and Virgin Islanders, and Washingtonians, and the like) are American citizens, and hold that status by virtue of their birth, so they’re natural-born citizens. Mind, I don’t think it’s likely that a non-stater would get elected President (except for maybe DC), but that’s for purely political reasons, not legal ones.