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While reading this answer, I noticed some odd wording in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution (emphasis mine):

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.

Does this mean that, to be eligible for the office of President, one must have been a citizen when the Constitution was signed or otherwise 'adopted', presumably years ago? If not, what does "at the time of the adoption" mean in this context?

  • I think you're missing some parentheses. "No person except (a natural born citizen) or (a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this constitution)... – Kevin Feb 16 '16 at 18:21
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    corrigible = able to be corrected. negligible = able to be neglected. dirigible = able to be directed. eligible = able to be elected. This understanding of the word "eligible" seems largely forgotten. (This of course does not address the question, but it's relevant to understanding that part of the Constitution.) – Michael Hardy Jun 9 '16 at 23:44
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No, it means the following are eligible:

  • Natural born citizens
  • Citizens of the United States, at the time of the adoption of the constitution

The second part was to allow people that were citizens of the US in 1788 (but were obviously not "natural born citizens", since the US didn't exist when they were born) to be eligible for the Presidency.

Check out Alexander Hamilton's draft of this clause:

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.

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