October 25, 2014

ALL WE EVER WANTED WAS A BETTER MONARCHY:

For Want of a King : Many of the Founders, including John Adams, believed that the colonies belonged to the crown. They settled for a president. (ANDREW O'SHAUGHNESSY, Oct. 23, 2014, WSJ)

This twist in the imperial struggle is traditionally dismissed as a tactical maneuver in the fight for independence or as a desperate bid to save the imperial union by colonists who were reluctant to become revolutionaries. It is generally believed that they adopted this position because they had no other means of redress against an uncompromising Parliament, which claimed to have absolute authority in America. But Eric Nelson, a professor of government at Harvard University, believes that most commentators on the subject have imposed their own ideas about what the colonists must have been thinking rather than accepting at face value what they said and wrote. He sees not a shift in strategy in the 1770s but a profound ideological realignment in which the colonists embraced the royalism of the Stuart kings, who had been deposed during Britain's own revolution in 1688.

Following the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, colonial authorities, in Mr. Nelson's telling, began to contemplate the idea of a more powerful and independent monarch at the helm of a re-configured imperial government. The doctor and future spy Edward Bancroft was at the forefront of this movement with a 1769 pamphlet arguing that "Though the King's Prerogative extends, indiscriminately, to all States owing him Allegiance, yet the Legislative Power of each State, if the People have any Share therein, is necessarily confined within the State itself." Alexander Hamilton wrote a more expansive version, "The Farmer Refuted," in 1775, and other important proponents of this royalist ideology included John Adams and two future Supreme Court justices, James Wilson and James Iredell.

Mr. Nelson acknowledges that such ideas about prerogative were for a time overshadowed by Tom Paine 's assault on the mythology of monarchy in "Common Sense" (1776). But they were revived in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 (drafted by Adams), and a broad resurgence of monarchial enthusiasm thereafter culminated in 1787 with the creation of the strong presidency in the "recognizably Royalist constitution for the new United States." Mr. Nelson concedes that the presidency could never possess all the pomp and trappings of kingship but notes that the Constitution assigned "its rechristened chief magistrate far more power than any English monarch had wielded since William of Orange landed at Torbay in 1688." He quotes the historian Mercy Otis Warren complaining in 1788 that the new constitution created a "Republican form of government, founded on the principles of monarchy."

The American presidency has succeeded to precisely the extent it replicates monarchy. The rest is a muddle.




Posted by at October 25, 2014 7:21 AM
  

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