Regarding Alexander Hamilton’s “Born Citizen” Requirement

“In any discussion of Hamilton’s formal suggestions for the proposed Constitution of the United States, it is important to keep in mind the distinction between the brief outline which he read in connection with his important speech of June 18 and the longer and more elaborate plan which, near the end of the sessions of the Convention, ‘was placed in Mr. Madison’s hands for preservation by Colonel Hamilton, who regarded it as a permanent evidence of his opinion on the subject.'”[1]

Alexander Hamilton – Attended the Convention on May 18; left June 29; was in New York after July 2; appears to have been in Philadelphia on July 13; attended Convention August 13; was in New York August 20–September 2.[2]

June 18 – Hamilton delivered his plan in a speech that “occupied in the delivery between five and six hours”[3] This is the speech that led to the famous charge that Hamilton advocated a monarchical system. This was denied, and it was replied, that “he proposed a system composed of three branches, an assembly, a senate, and a governor.  That the assembly should be elected by the people for three years, and that the senate and governor should be likewise elected by the people during good behaviour.”[4] There are several versions copied down, all of which specify the Executive “to be a governor elected, during good behavior, by electors chosen by the people in the election districts” (with slight variations in wording).

Hamilton’s more detailed plan given to Madison at the close of the Convention, states in Article IX § 1, No person shall be eligible to the office of President of the United States unless he be now a Citizen of one of the States, or hereafter be born a Citizen of the United States.[5]

This plan differs from that presented June 18.

According to a letter[6], Hamilton was chagrined when his plan (June 18) failed and he left the House in disgust (June 29), he returned however on a subsequent day (July 13?, August 13?) and delivered his sentiments in writing, then went to New York (August 20-September 2).

There is no record of any presentation by Hamilton on July 13 or August 13, although this does not rule out any written transmittal. If a written plan was delivered it may be lost.

Hamilton claimed the detailed plan given to Madison delineated the Constitution which he would have wished to be proposed by the Convention: He had stated the principles of it in the course of the deliberations.[7] It is true that he proposed a system composed of three branches, an assembly, a senate, and a governor. Although details vary it is the general structure of the government adopted. The detailed plan may have been political cover[8].

There is no way to know if any delegates knew of Hamilton’s “born a Citizen” idea. The record does not support any claim that they did.

_____

[1] See J. F. Jameson, Studies in the History of the Federal Convention of 1787, at 143

[2]  See 3 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787, at 588. Accessed at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28fr003443%29%29

[3] See 1 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787, note 9, at 293. Accessed at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28fr00198%29%29

[4] See 3 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787, at 395.  Accessed at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28fr003315%29%29

[5] See 3 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787, at 619, 629. Accessed at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28fr003449%29%29

[6] Anonymous Letter to Alexander Hamilton. New York Augt. 30th. 1793

A publication appeared some time since in Greenleaf’s paper, charging you with having moved in Convention that the Government of the United States should be by a King, Lords & Commons–I took some pains to discover the author of that piece, but without success — But a conversation lately happened between Comodore Nicholson & Mr. Leonard Bleeker, in the hearing of others, in which the Commodore said; he had read the piece before alluded to, but doubted the truth of it untill it was lately confirmed by Mr. Abraham Baldwin, who was also a member of the Convention–This Mr. Baldwin did publicly in a pretty large company at the Commodores own Table. He said your motion was seconded by Mr. Gover Morris & that you was so chagrined when it failed that you left the House in disgust; That you returned however on a subsequent day, delivered your sentiments in writing, & Came off to New york, declaring you intermeddle no farther in the matter — Notwithstanding you returned, & assented to the Constitution as it is — This writing he suggested contained your Ideas of the kind of Government proper to be adopted — In repeating from other persons, words are often changed; but the foregoing is the substance of what the Commodore reports Mr. Baldwin to have said — I leave to yourself the expediency of taking any notice of it.

See 3 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787, Appendix A, CCLXXI, at 369. Accessed at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28fr003294%29%29

ed: An investigation of Baldwin’s papers might provide some clues as to whether Hamilton did supply a written plan upon his return (July 13 or August 13), and if so what the contents of that plan were.

[7] See 3 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787, at 619. Accessed at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28fr003449%29%29

[8] Jared Sparks visit to James Madison, April 25th, 1830

recounts an anecdote

It is well known that Hamilton inclined to a less democratical form of government than the one that was adopted, although he was a zealous friend of the Constitution in its present shape after it had received the sanction of the Convention. He considered it less perfect than it might have been, yet he thought it an immense improvement on the old confederation. He drew up a plan in accordance with his own views, which he put into the hands of Mr. Madison, who took a copy of it, and returned the original to the author, telling him at the same time that he had preserved a copy. Mr. Madison says he knew not Hamilton’s motive for doing this, unless it was for the purpose of securing a written record of his views, which might afford a ready confutation of any future false statements respecting them.

See 3 M. FARRAND, THE RECORDS OF THE FEDERAL CONVENTION OF 1787, Appendix A, CCCLXVII, at 480. Accessed at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28fr003390%29%29

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