Article II, Section 1, Clause 5:
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.
All Presidents from Martin Van Buren on were born in the United States subsequent to the Declaration of Independence. The principal issue with regard to the qualifications set out in this clause is whether a child born abroad of American parents is
a natural born citizen in the sense of the clause. Such a child is a citizen as a consequence of statute.1 Whatever the term
natural born means, it no doubt does not include a person who is
naturalized. Thus, the answer to the question might be seen to turn on the interpretation of the first sentence of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, providing that
[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens.2 Significantly, however, Congress, in which a number of Framers sat, provided in the Naturalization Act of 1790 that
the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond the sea, . . . shall be considered as natural born citizens . . . .3 This phrasing followed the literal terms of British statutes, beginning in 1350, under which persons born abroad, whose parents were both British subjects, would enjoy the same rights of inheritance as those born in England; beginning with laws in 1709 and 1731, these statutes expressly provided that such persons were natural-born subjects of the crown.4 There is reason to believe, therefore, that the phrase includes persons who become citizens at birth by statute because of their status in being born abroad of American citizens.5 Whether the Supreme Court would decide the issue should it ever arise in a
case or controversy – as well as how it might decide it – can only be speculated about.