The Natural Born Citizen Clause as Originally Understood

43 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2014 Last revised: 20 Jan 2016

Date Written: 2015


Article II of the Constitution requires that the President be a “natural born Citizen.” The phrase is derived from English common law, and the Supreme Court requires examination of that law to ascertain the phrase’s definition. This piece presents the pertinent English sources, combined with statements by early American jurists. Based on a reading of these materials, the article concludes that, in the eyes of the Framers, a presidential candidate must be born within the United States. The article is important because there has been a candidate who “pushed the envelope” on this question in many elections over the last 50 years, and no article in the last century has correctly explained the common law definition. This article is timely because there is again such a candidate for president as Sen. Ted Cruz was born in Canada.

Keywords: citizenship, natural born citizen, constitutional law, common law, president, citizens, aliens, presidency, originalism, Ted Cruz, John McCain, George Romney

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

McManamon, Mary Brigid, The Natural Born Citizen Clause as Originally Understood (2015). Catholic University Law Review, v. 64, no. 2 (2015), Widener Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-21, Available at SSRN:

Mary Brigid McManamon (Contact Author)

Widener University Delaware Law School ( email )

4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803-0406
United States

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