One of the very first articles I wrote for this web site, in December 2008, was George Washington, first in war, first in peace, and first presidential usurper. It wasn’t intended to be serious, but rather to expose the silliness of some literalist reading of history. The specious argument discussed in that article said that George Washington was not a citizen of the United States at the time of the ratification of the Constitution (Virginia joined later), and so not eligible to be president. The reason this argument is false is that the United States existed before the ratification of the Constitution, at least since the Articles of Confederation and I would argue following the Declaration of Independence.
Implicit in that story and the source where I found the idea, is the idea that George Washington was only eligible to be president because of that special exception in the Constitutional requirement of natural born citizenship, for those who were already citizens when the Constitution was ratified. However, that is not really the case. George Washington was a natural born citizen. Continue Reading →