The Natural-Born Citizen Clause - Paper Example

Published: 2021-08-02
631 words
3 pages
6 min to read
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
Course work
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The Constitution of the United States directly outlines the minimum qualifications for an individual to run for presidency. In addition to fourteen years of residency in the country and at least thirty-five years of age, the constitution also requires that an eligible candidate be a natural born citizen. The routine interpretation of the natural-born citizen clause confirms that it has a specific, consistent interpretation; that the candidate be a US citizen at birth and without the need to go through proceedings for naturalization at a later date. Subsequent interpretations by the Supreme Court and Congress have expanded the definition to include persons born to American-Citizen parents outside the territory of the United States. The merits and perceived limitations of the clause have triggered significant discourse over the years over whether or not it should be preserved. In this essay, I will attempt to outline the historical origins of the clause and proceed to argue for its abolition.


The history of the clause can be traced back to initial discussions between the founders of the country. One of the earliest verifiable mentions of the natural-born citizen clause is in the form of a letter sent by John Jay to George Washington, and possibly other delegates at the Constitutional Convention, in 1787 hinting at the possibility of the inclusion of a clause limiting the involvement of foreigners in the national administration of the United States. In the letter, Jay opined that the commander in chief of the US army should only be given to, and never devolve from, any but what he called a natural-born citizen. The letter is widely considered to have been informed by rumors that convention was contemplating erecting a monarchy likely to have been headed by a foreign ruler. The clause was subsequently adopted in the form and language proposed in the letter.

Case for Its Abolition

According to Federalist Papers, the overarching concern driving the inclusion of the natural-born citizen clause was the determent of foreign powers from exerting undue influence on the newly founded nation. The clause was essential in guaranteeing national security to a young experimental democracy. It could be argued, however, that the reasoning behind the clause- America's susceptibility to foreign influence- is no longer applicable to modern American Society. The United States of America has grown over the last two centuries from the fledging experimental easily influenced democracy into a global superpower and to a great extent, influencer. In this era of increased surveillance, also, a candidate for the presidency is subjected to intense scrutiny with thorough background checks that will expose any subversive elements of their history and agenda.

The natural-born citizen clause is also arguably antithetical to the Central American ideals of liberty and equal rights. The natural-born citizen clause effectively ostracizes a naturalized population standing at more than 13 million including more than 250,000 foreign-born adoptees. The constitution, during its writing, embraced the American ideal of equal rights through the inclusion of the 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments. The next logical step would be to abolish the requirement that a candidate for president of the United States be a natural-born citizen. The actual effects of abolishing the clause may not be substantial, but the symbolism of such an action is likely to prove much more beneficial. Preventing immigrant citizens from ascending to the presidency of the United States is nothing more than a pointless insult. The nativism attempted by this clause is oddly out of place in the charter of a largely multicultural society where immigrants are in charge of some of the most successful corporations and even the United States Army. The clause elevates the accident of location of birth over more meritorious metrics like individual accomplishments. Overall, it compromises the American belief that openness and social mobility are central to national unity.


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