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I have not yet read Ms Cheney's new book about James Madison, but I intend to.

However a cursory examination (if I'm wrong please correct me) would seem to indicate that she failed to mention that James Madison was an American-French dual citizen.

It is not that widely known but James Madison (as well as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Payne) were offered French citizenship by the Assembly of the French Revolution in 1792 as an acknowledgement of their contributions for the cause of liberty.

AFAIK, we have no documents recording either Washington or Hamilton's answers, but we do have a rather enthusiastic letter from Madison gladly accepting such an offer and (I'm paraphrasing) saying that every enlightened person had two homelands: his own, and France.

More under the orange squiggle.

These were not "honorary citizenship", because there is no such thing in France (unlike the US which has indeed conferred Honorary Citizenship upon many worthy people including, I believe, Mother Teresa.) Therefore, there would have been no need or any requirement for any of these people to travel to France and swear an oath.

If you read French, the full text of the decree of the Legislative Assembly conferring citizenship upon these great Americans on 26 August 1792 is here on French wiki,

The reply letters from Jefferson and Madison on the topic can be accessed through here.

The letter by Madison to Jean Marie Roland de La Platière, French Minister of the Interior, dated April 1793, gratefully accepting the French citizenship conferred on him and avowing his wishes for the prosperity and glory of the French nation, and the victory of liberty over the minds of its opponents, constitutes express consent to the grant of citizenship.

By contrast, Washington and Hamilton never replied, and one might rightly argue that by doing so, they might have turned town an offer of citizenship. But one can't do that with Jefferson and Madison.

What's interesting about Jefferson's and Madison's cases is that, this took place before they ran for the office of President. Their opponents raised the issue of dual citizenship during the campaign (at least, Madison's did); however, it proved to have no traction (as we might say today) and didn't prevent them from being elected.

The reason why I think this is significant is that the Louisiana Purchase was effected in 1803 while Jefferson was President and Madison was Secretary of State, before his being elected in 1809; by today's standards, there certainly would have been a HUGE conflict of interest in having two dual US/French citizens being in charge of such a transaction.

Clearly, neither Jefferson not Madison were BORN dual citizens, but they were offered and accepted such dual citizenship. If the intention of the Founders was to protect the Presidency from "foreign influence", as many idiots on the Right say looking at Obama (wink, wink), certainly they would have turned the offer down, or risk being barred from office, especially during the tricky negotiations that led to the Louisiana Purchase.

During one of the most momentous event in the entire US history,the acquisition of over 800,000 square miles for 68 million francs, both the President and Secretary of the Interior were dual citizens of the two nations buying and selling this huge tract of land.

One cannot conceive of a greater conflict of interest. At the time, many thought that the Purchase was unconstitutional, and it was Jefferson who argued otherwise -- and won. Was his judgment affected by the fact that his second homeland, France, desperately needed the money at the time? Should he have tried to strike a harsher bargain?

We will never know, of course, but if Jefferson and Madison, two of the Founding Fathers, were known to be dual citizens when they were elected to public office, at the very moment when they brokered such a major deal between their two homelands, surely the notion of the Founders being worried about "foreign influence" does not seem too convincing?

I'm sure Jefferson and Madison thought of themselves as 100% Americans and whatever they did, they did it for the good of the US of A, not France. But legally, one cannot argue that they were not French and indeed they are still honored in France (as well as FDR) to this day -- there is Square Thomas Jefferson in Paris, for instance.

I would have thought this would have been a challenging issue worth revisiting by Ms Cheney but, unless I missed it, it doesn't appear to be. Yet, in these xenophobic times we live in, I think it is worth remembering that two of our greatest Presidents welcomed their French citizenship.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (11+ / 0-)


    by Lupin on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 07:10:04 AM PDT

  •  Very interesting angle. Thank you. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As a dual citizen of the US and La Belle Louisiane, I'm abashed that I did not know this.

    I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

    by Crashing Vor on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 07:19:02 AM PDT

  •  If FOX and WSJ and Drudge were around in 1812 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    They would have savaged him for letting the White House getting torched.

  •  And the ghost writer is? (0+ / 0-)

    I think that would also be of interest..

    •  The point I made may not be of interest... (0+ / 0-) the great majority of Kossacks, but nevertheless I do not wish to see this thread derailed by such accusations.

      Ultimately whether Ms Cheney wrote the book or someone else did,  my point about two great US Presidents being also dual citizens remains just the same

      OVER HERE: AN AMERICAN EXPAT IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE, is now available on Amazon US

      by Lupin on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 07:58:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting, and (0+ / 0-)

    I applaud your fortitude in planning to read Ms. Cheney's screed. Me, I'll continue working through my towering to-be-read list without her, or her ghost writer*.

    But this whole topic is so très amusant: I've maintained for years that it's ironic that so many of the congresscritters who spew bile at all things French ("freedom fries", indeed) have Continental-sounding surnames and come from states that were part of the Louisiana Purchase.

    Bravo for finding out about this, and reporting on it.

    * If there's an acknowledgement to a non-political name included, it's often the ghost; or s/he may be mentioned in the copyright or elsewhere in the very tiny print.

    Great Questions of Western Philosophy: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

    by Mnemosyne on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 09:26:51 AM PDT

  •  FYI: Lynne Cheney is the author... (0+ / 0-)

    not Liz.

    You might be a Republican if you think that intentionally sabotaging the economy for four years is an election strategy instead of treason.

    by Constant Comment on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 12:26:37 PM PDT

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