Last night, several million people spent an hour of their lives watching two people shout personal insults back and forth. Now, this could be just about any reality show on television—“The Bachelor,” “Teen Mom,” “House of Carters”—but we’re talking about the The FOX Business Network's Republican presidential debate. More specifically, we’re talking about Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, whose bromance came to a bitter end like it was straight out of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In fact, Trump, ever the social butterfly, told CNN, "I guess the bromance is over," after the debate.
The drama centered on Cruz’s presidential eligibility due to his birth outside of the United States. It went a little like this: Trump said some things about Cruz having dirty Canadian blood, Cruz said some things about Trump’s mom, Trump stuck his fingers in his ears and repeatedly yelled, “I’m beating you, I’m beating you, I’m beating you!” and everyone’s IQs went straight down the toilet. However, the discussion did raise interesting questions as to what the exact definition of a natural-born citizen is and what the Founding Father’s intentions were when including this bit. While the former is a political swamp, The Washington Post probed into the latter with a little more clarity, citing our nascent nation’s fear of foreign powers as motivation.
At the Constitutional Convention, George Mason spoke of “foreigners and adventurers” trying to “make laws for us” and “a rich foreign nation, for example Great Britain” sending “tools who might bribe their way” into federal office for “invidious purposes.”
The Washington Post goes on to explain that the phrase “natural born citizen” reportedly comes from former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Jay, who was in correspondence with George Washington at the time of the convention.
The first draft of the provision only required that the president be a citizen. But in a letter to Washington dated July 25, 1787, Jay wrote: “Permit me to hint, whether it would not be wise & seasonable to provide a strong check to the admission of Foreigners into the administration of our national Government, and to declare expressly that the Command in chief of the American army shall not be given to, nor devolved on, any but a natural born Citizen.”Washington, according to Seymore, wrote Jay “thanking him for the ‘hints contained in your letter.’” Seymore continued: “Two days later a second version of the presidential qualification clause was presented to the Convention,” which contained the “natural born” requirement. It passed without any discussion, or at least any discussion passed down through history.
Head over to The Washington Post to read more.
Feature image by Micahel Vadon via Flickr