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"Could Lafayette have become President of the USA?" Topic

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734 hits since 14 Mar 2017
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Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2017 5:41 p.m. PST

"Whoa, Nellie!" I can hear you say.
He was born a Frenchman!
However ….

In 1784 the Maryland legislature passed a resolution proclaiming him a "natural born citizen" of the United States.
This was good enough for both the Articles of Confederation AND the Constitution. So, once he grew up, he could have been President.

I didn't know that! I was just amusing myself surfing links.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2017 5:42 p.m. PST

I was tracing links from an article about Galvez, another honorary citizen.

vagamer63 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2017 5:52 p.m. PST

I believe so, as there was no mention within the Resolution as to it being an "Honorary" designation! So even a court challenge against it would have likely not succeeded! It would, of course, lay solely upon the judge's reading and interpretation if it were challenged in court!

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2017 5:52 p.m. PST

The term "natural born citizen" got thrown about a bit during the runs of McCain and Cruz for the Presidency.
The legal eagles twisted themselves into knots because the Constitution does not define the term. They depended on period useage of the term. However, here Maryland comes right out and, no nonsense about it, proclaims M de Lafayette a "natural born citizen".
Seems pretty cut and dried to me. Unless it isn't. grin

Bill N15 Mar 2017 7:37 p.m. PST

The rule was that a person had to either be a "natural born citizen" OR "a Citizen of the United States at the time of adoption of this Constitution". In theory Lafayette could have met that second requirement. The rules also state though that a person would not be eligible unless he was "fourteen years a resident within the United States". Since La Fayette came to the U.S. in 1777, at a minimum he would have needed to stay in the U.S. continuously through 1791 before running.

However it is possible he would have had to wait even longer. Albert Gallatin was unseated as senator from Pennsylvania in 1793 for failing to meet the Senate's nine year residency requirement. Although Gallatin lived in the U.S. for more than nine years, the Senate voted the nine years started running from when Gallatin became naturalized resident of Virginia in 1785, not from when he arrived in the U.S. in 1780. If the same rule applied to La Fayette, he would not have qualified until 1798, assuming he had remained continuously in the U.S.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2017 8:30 p.m. PST

Heck, I don't care, I'd vote for him!

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 1:41 a.m. PST

I did mention "when he grew up".
He was born in 1757, so not 35 in the year of the Constitution's ratification. I'm sure he would not have run against his beloved General Washington. Nor against his friend Jefferson.
BUT, what if he hung around and didn't get involved in the French Revolution? I say "yes".

KTravlos Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 1:42 a.m. PST

I am indiffrent to whether legally he could stand for election. For example I am "natural born citizen,born abroad" which is its own weird thing(or something to that). If I ever run for president I am sure there will be people here who would take me to court :p Might be worth doing to clarify stuff :p

Anyway, I do not thing Lafayette could be president, and if he was president he would be a bad one. I finished reading Peter McPhee's "Liberty or Death: The French Revolution", and the picture I got of the man was that he had inssuficcint willpower to be a good politician. I am not questioning his personal bravery, nor neccessrily his character (though he did break his oath imho). Just that under pressure he would break.

whitejamest16 Mar 2017 4:58 a.m. PST

I can hear the demands for his birth certificate already.

Personal logo 22ndFoot Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 6:55 a.m. PST

Since all presidents before van Buren were born British subjects anyway, did it really matter?

vtsaogames16 Mar 2017 6:57 a.m. PST

He did some dubious things in France. And he wasn't lucky.

bsrlee16 Mar 2017 7:18 a.m. PST

I believe a lot of US embassies have (or had) maternity provisions so that US citizens who are out of the country while pregnant can give birth on 'US soil', entitling their child to run for office in future.

rmaker16 Mar 2017 7:35 a.m. PST

I think there would have been a large fight over whether Maryland (or any other state) could unilaterally declare somebody a US citizen. And don't forget that the whole reason for the natural born citizen clause was to debar Alexander Hamilton (who was born in the West Indies).

Kevin C Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 9:49 a.m. PST

Thank God the provision disqualified Hamilton -- musical or not, he would have been a horrible president.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 9:53 a.m. PST

States were more sovereign back then.
A wise historian (whose name I forget grin) said that before the Civil War "United States" was a plural noun. Afterwards it was a singular noun.
So, if Maryland said he was a citizen, he was a citizen. You can get into the deep grass in the outfield over that.

Martin van Buren was the first president born as a citizen of the United States, unlike the preceding 7 who were born British subjects.
If Gore Vidal is to be believed, he was also the natural son of Aaron Burr. grin

I was not aware of the Hamiltonian motivation for that clause. There were plenty of other reprobates that could also apply to.
But if Hamilton, born in the West Indies as another British subject, was a citizen of, say New York when the Constitution was adopted, he would have been eligible. Hip hop or no hip hop.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 9:55 a.m. PST

I'm going to ask our club lawyer this at our next game. grin

Militia Pete Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 11:53 a.m. PST

What if Dekalb survived Camden and became a great general. Could he have been Pres?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 12:12 p.m. PST

If some state proclaimed him a "natural born citizen", and he had been residing in the United States for 14 years, why not?

Brechtel19816 Mar 2017 1:15 p.m. PST

There is an interesting comment on Lafayette in John Elting's Swords Around A Throne, 733:

'Fouche regarded Lafayette as an 'old imbecile whom one can use like a…ladder which one throws down after one has used it.' Which is exactly what he [Fouche] did. The Lafayette in American schoolbooks is mostly an imaginary creature.'

I don't believe he would have made a worthy president.

14Bore16 Mar 2017 1:32 p.m. PST

Not a chance

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 2:08 p.m. PST

The question is not whether he would have been a GOOD president. I too have my doubts. In my opinion he was the equivalent of the hippies who went to cut sugar cane for Fidel in the 60s.

I'm just throwing out whether he met Constitutional requirements. Maryland seemed to think so.

The list of honorary US citizens is rather short. I believe it's only 8, with some eclectic choices.

RudyNelson16 Mar 2017 2:24 p.m. PST


Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 2:49 p.m. PST

No, he could not be President because he was not a natural born Citizen. Do we not teach Civics anymore?

SJDonovan Inactive Member16 Mar 2017 2:55 p.m. PST

I always used to wonder what "natural born citizen" meant and somehow managed to persuade myself that it meant that your mother couldn't have had a Caesarian section.

Following this reasoning, I think Lafayette could have been president.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2017 3:31 p.m. PST

No, he could not be President because he was not a natural born Citizen. Do we not teach Civics anymore?

Do we not teach reading comprehension anymore? grin
Read my OP.
The state of Maryland declared him a " natural born citizen" in 1784. That is what this thread is all about.

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP17 Mar 2017 7:58 p.m. PST

How could he have been any worse than John Quincy Adams or Martin van Buren or Franklin Pierce or Millard Fillmore or some of the other forgotten presidents of the early 19th century? What was the worst he could have done?

Supercilius Maximus18 Mar 2017 2:21 a.m. PST

Made everyone wear hats with red and black feathers?

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