17

Reading the list of presidential qualifications by country I have noticed that in many countries the minimum required age is 35 (some countries raise it to 40). I am wondering if there is any historical data related to where this limit comes from.

My assumption is that there must a common source for this limit and it is not coincidence that it is a shared value among so many states.

Question: Is there a historical source that might explain why so many countries use 35 as a minimum age for the president / the highest office person?

  • 6
    i would guess the idea is roughly based on the Roman cursus honorum. but why 35 i dont know. – ed.hank Jan 24 at 13:12
  • 6
    Worth noting that 35 is often perceived to be the cutoff point between young and not young. Perhaps because 20s are unambiguously young and 40s are unambiguously not young, but 30s could go either way. So 35 is a mental midpoint at which people make the distinction - those below are lumped together with the 20s, and those above, with the 40s. – Semaphore Jan 24 at 15:38
  • 4
    When a life span was considered to be three score years and ten (i.e. 70), a man of 35 would have lived half of his life. – KillingTime Jan 24 at 17:55
  • 1
    Just a guess, but I would bet that most of those countries copied large parts of their constitutions from the US. After all, it seems to have worked fairly well... – jamesqf Jan 25 at 5:14
  • 1
20

For the US, there's an article on Constitution Daily which says something about this. First it says:

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, there was little public debate about the age requirements and no discussion about the age requirement for the presidency.

Then it gets more helpful when it refers to James Monroe.

James Monroe also wrote about the presidential age requirement making it difficult for a father and son to serve in a dynastic way. “The Constitution has provided, that no person shall be eligible to the office, who is not thirty five years old; and in the course of nature very few fathers leave a son who has arrived to that age,” he said in “A Native of Virginia, Observations upon the Proposed Plan of Federal Government.”

Also, some clues can be found in what two founders said when discussing the senate and house.

The one discussion of note involved two important Founders: James Wilson, a future Supreme Court Justice, and George Mason, a constitutional dissenter. Mason, who was 62 years of age, argued that a requirement of 25 years of age was needed for the House because of his own experience. Mason said, “if interrogated [he would] be obliged to declare that his political opinions at the age of 21 were too crude and erroneous to merit an influence on public measures.”

And there is also this.

Madison talked about the need for “senatorial trust” which required “greater extent of information and stability of character … that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages.”

Madison also discussed some points that some scholars believe led to the age requirements: a distrust of foreign influence and a fear of families trying to put children in place in federal office to serve in a hereditary manner. He feared the “indiscriminate and hasty admission” of people to Congress that “might create a channel for foreign influence on the national councils.”

Going by this train of thought, the president should be even older but I admit it doesn't really explain why 35 and not 30.

Generally, maturity and experience are probably very important but some countries have very different age requirements, like only 18 in Croatia, France and Finland but 50 in Italy. (this is from Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Age of Eligibility for Election to the Office of President) Bill 2015: Second Stage)

  • 3
    Hmm, I'll bet James Monroe was really upset about his immediate successor then... – Darrel Hoffman Jan 24 at 21:41
  • 1
    With 30 being the minimum age for senator, it seems like they went 25 for junior congressmen, 30 for senior congressmen, and then 35 for president seems logical (but then the fact that unless I'm missing something my 3 month niece could be a supreme court justice breaks that logic) – Foon Jan 24 at 22:26
  • 2
    @Foon The difference is that Congressmen, Senators, and President/VP are elected by the people, and their judgement couldn't be trusted. Justices are appointed and approved by POTUS and Senate. Their judgemnent used to be assumed to be reasonable -- now I wouldn't be surprised if RBG were to be replaced by Ivanka. – Barmar Jan 25 at 0:15
  • 7
    @AzorAhai I think he was saying that few fathers will have a 35-year-old son by the time they leave office. John Quincy Adams served 24 years after his father left office, and George W Bush was 8 years after his father. It's not really a dynasty if there are other presidents in between. – Barmar Jan 25 at 7:38
  • 3
    @jamesqf I don't think Monroe wanted to explicitly bar Presidents' sons from becoming president, he just wanted to make it difficult for fathers to install their sons as their successors. – Barmar Jan 25 at 21:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.