I am sure that by now most people are simply fed up with the continuing debate about the citizenship status of various presidents and presidential hopefuls. Given that there were Republicans who pushed for changing these requirements so that Arnold Schwarzenegger might consider a run for the White House while the status of Republican hopeful Ted Cruz is questioned by some people who want to engage in tit-for-tat, one has to consider the contingent nature of such outrage.
What more people overlook is that there was some discussion about George G. Meade’s citizenship status back in 1863 when he was named to command the Army of the Potomac in June 1863. You see, Meade was born in Cadiz, Spain, on December 31, 1815. His father, Robert W. Meade, was serving at the time as the US consul there.
Accounts that describe Abraham Lincoln’s decision to elevate Meade to the command of the Army of the Potomac sometimes involve issues of Meade’s citizenship and identity. There are those tales that cite Meade’s foreign birth (thus disqualifying him for the presidency) as weighing on the president’s mind, while other narratives recount that Lincoln thought Meade would fight better “on his own dunghill” of Pennsylvania, which would suggest that Lincoln saw Meade as being a good American (and perhaps a better one than Joseph Hooker, whose talk of dictatorship as a good thing had made its way back to the president’s ears months before).
After Gettysburg, this discussion did not go away. Indeed, it became quite public. The New York Times contained a discussion of the issue, with one Michael Hennessy taking the view that Meade was a natural born citizen in reply to the short missive shown to the left.
(That’s right, a Hennessy from Brooklyn, future home of the New York Islanders, taking part in a dispute in print … but I digress.)
Meade’s prospects as a presidential candidate faded rather quickly, although the general and his wife were always ready to discuss the matter endlessly if only to make the ever-sensitive-to-a-slight Meade feel that someone liked him.
By the way, Meade’s status has been mentioned by participants in more recent controversies.
And, as a cherry on top, perhaps this will remind you why history is harder to write than fiction.