Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A: Martin Van Buren first president born in independent United States

Presidents born in this country

I've heard that John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, but is considered a natural-born U.S. citizen — and allowed to serve as president — because it was a U.S. territory at the time. Have any U.S. presidents been born on foreign soil before?

No U.S. president has been born on foreign soil. However, several of the earliest presidents technically weren't born in the United States, since the country didn't exist at the time of their birth. They started life as British subjects in the colonies that later became the United States.

These men were still allowed to serve as president based on a clause in Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution. It reads: "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."

Eight of the first nine presidents — George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison — were born as British subjects before the United States declared its independence.

The first president who began life in the independent United States of America was Martin Van Buren, who was born on Dec. 5, 1782, in Columbia, N.Y. The nation's eighth president served from 1837 until 1841.

Appointee to finish Senate term

How will the seat of John McCain or Barack Obama be filled in the U.S. Senate after one is elected president?

The governor of the state of the winner will appoint a person to finish the president-elect's Senate term. Both McCain and Obama are up for re-election in 2010.

The governor of Arizona is Democrat Janet Napolitano. State law requires her to select someone from the same party as the person vacating the seat.

The governor of Illinois is Democrat Rod Blagojevich. Unlike Arizona, Illinois has no law requiring same-party appointment.

Candidate endorsement

How does the Times make an endorsement for president, and who decides?

Tim Nickens, Times editor of editorials, answers: ''For recommendations for president, we study the candidates' positions and backgrounds. We talk to policy experts, other politicians who know the candidates and evaluate both their past performance and the effectiveness of their campaigns. We sometimes interview the candidates and attend campaign events in Florida, and we attend the political conventions.

''Then, we have a good feel for the candidates. The editorial board discusses the candidates and reaches a consensus. We don't take a vote. The Times has not recommended a Republican for president — yet. Each election is different and each set of candidates is different.''

Q&A: Martin Van Buren first president born in independent United States 11/03/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 4, 2008 7:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    Adeiny Hechavarria is quick to make his presence felt.
  2. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  3. At College World Series, the save goes to an LSU dad/doctor


    OMAHA, Neb. — The father of LSU pitcher Jared Poche' helped revive an 87-year-old man who was slumped on the TD Ameritrade Park concourse with no pulse during Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

    UF’s Tyler Dyson delivers against LSU in Tuesday’s late CWS Game 2. Go to
  4. Plant City police searching for drive-by shooter


    PLANT CITY — Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in an early morning drive-by shooting outside a home.

    John J. Keeper, 49, was shot in the thigh in a drive-by shooting early Tuesday outside this home at 516 E Laura St. in Plant City. [Hillsborough County Property Appraiser]
  5. FSU-Tulane coming to Amalie Arena in December


    Florida State basketball is coming to Tampa.