Original Citizenship – Why do Article I qualifications differ from Article II qualifications?

September 23rd, 2010

Yesterday I posted many thoughts about original citizenship. I had some more thoughts on the Article II qualifications for the Presidency.

Article II provides:

No 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; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.

This clause recognizes what is implicit in my unified theory. There were two ways to obtain citizenship of the United States in 1788. The first was to be a natural born citizen–that is a citizen of one of the states. That citizenship was based on the social compact theory based election process following the Declaration of Independence, and the establishment of new civil governments. The second way to become a citizen was to be a make the election following the adoption/ratification of the Constitution. In other words, after the ratification in 1788, a person became a citizen by making an election, and not exercising the right of expatriation.

So why are Article I and Article II different? Why does Article I require that a person be an “inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen” and Article II requires he merely be a “resident within the United States.” Additionally, why does the Presidential qualifications explicitly recognize the two paths of citizenship, while the Congressional qualifications do not? This, I think, has much to do with the nature of the respective offices.

The President was serving as a unified figure for the entire nation. A Representative was simply a representative for one state. The focus in Article I is on state citizenship and inhabitance in the state. There was less fear of the challenges of the qualifications based on fickle state law. The focus on the latter is on broader notions of national citizenship–either through election after the Declaration, or election after the Constitution–and a resident within the United States as a whole. Here, fears of state law allowing the challenging of the qualifications was mitigated, and perhaps eliminated.

Remember, the figure of the President was quite controversial at the time. It stands to reason that the Framers would want to put the qualifications of this office on a much surer footing.

Still developing this idea, but it is getting closer.