Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lafayette for President in 2012

via Dan Lewis of Now I Know.

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, better known as the Marquis de Lafayette, was a French nobleman who famously served as a major general for the Continental Army in the American Revolution. Lafayette was integral to France's support of American troops in the war as well.

These contributions did not go unacknowledged; roughly two dozen states have towns named after him amongst a host of other honors. But the most impressive acknowledgement came on December 28, 1784 -- roughly a year after the American Revolution officially ended under the Treaty of Paris. On that date, the state of Maryland passed a resolution, making Lafayette a "natural born citizen" of the state. The resolution also did the same for all of Lafayette's male heirs, extending to and beyond the present day.

In 1919, the New York Times (pdf of article here) concluded that this designation is likely unconstitutional under our present framework -- as the power to define "natural born citizen" resides with Congress, per Article I Section 8 Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution. But, as the Times notes, Maryland's grant of citizenship to Lafayette and his heirs predates the Constitution, and comes from a time when states were empowered to define who was a citizen.

Why is Lafayette's designation as a "natural born citizen" notable? Because Article II Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution states, in part "[n]o person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President[.]"

Lafayette's male heirs -- whomever and wherever they may be -- have met the first prong required to be eligible to be President of the United States, in a manner unique to them.


  1. And he's a hero of the Revolution as well.

    I hope the Anti-French sentiment has died down in the US, although the fact that he's a white man stands him in good stead as opposed to poor Barack Obama (notice nobody mentions that John McCain was born in Panama).

  2. Based on what you have quoted, I would agree that Lafeyette himself would have been eligible to run for President in his lifetime since he was "a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution". It would not extend to his heirs yet unborn at the time of the Constitution's ratification though because they were niether natural born nor were they citizens at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.

    As for McCain, I wondered about him as well when he was running. He was born in a U.S. Territory if that counts for being born in the United States, I don't know the answer.

  3. FWM, McCain's parents were citizens, so it doesn't matter where he was born.

    Sheesh, next we're going to have people claiming that anyone born by C-section isn't a 'natural born' individual.

    We not only have cities named after the esteemed Marquis, there are plenty of other landmarks and monuments, like bridges and schools, named for him as well.

  4. Dog Gone,

    Laci raised the question of McCain, not me, but I did find his comment intriguing.

    There can be a big difference between a citizen and a natural born citizen.

  5. Any person born of C-Section is not of woman born, Just ask King MacBeth who was told that "none of woman born shall harm Macbeth" and that he should beware Macduff.


    Coz Macduff was born by c-Section.

    And for MAcduff's next trick, Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill came against MacBeth.

  6. Thank you.

    Just remember:
    Brush up on your shakespeare,
    Start quoting him now.
    Brush up on your shakespeare
    and the women you will wow

  7. I've heard that somewhere before.....ah, that bawdy bard....

  8. Laci, Thanks for elevating the literary qualify of the blog.