May 17, 2015


Is the US president an elected monarch? : President Obama has been accused of acting like a monarch. But the US presidency has been an elected kingship since 1776 in all but name, argues the historian David Cannadine. (BBC Magazine, 5/15/15)

To begin with, the denunciation - and the demonisation - of King George III in the Declaration of Independence was based on a seriously misleading exaggeration of his royal prerogatives. Those powers were increasingly being claimed by the politicians, and insofar as George III did re-affirm Britain's right to rule, to tax and to legislate for the American colonies, he believed he was asserting the sovereignty of the British parliament rather than that of the British crown.

But ironically, when the leaders of the American Revolution tried to work out what powers they should give to the newly created American presidency, the only models available were those of contemporary European monarchies, and especially the British. And so the founding fathers gave to the American presidency just those powers they erroneously believed King George III still possessed - to appoint and dismiss his cabinet, to make war and peace, and to veto bills sent up by the legislature. From the outset, then, the American presidency was vested with what might be termed monarchical authority, which meant that it really was a form of elective kingship. So when Henry Clay, the leader of the American Whig Party regretted that, under Andrew Jackson, the presidency was "rapidly tending towards an elective monarchy", he was in error because it had been an elective monarchy from the very beginning.

Indeed, better-informed Americans fully understood this. "We elect a king for four years", Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State once observed, "and give him absolute power within certain limits, which after all he can interpret for himself". Some commentators went even further, insisting that although America claimed to be a republic, because it had no hereditary sovereign, it was in reality a disguised monarchy - whereas Britain might claim to be a monarchy, because it had a royal head of state, but it was in fact a concealed republic, because the politicians rather than the sovereign were actually in charge. In the words of one late 19th Century American newspaper: "Great Britain is a republic, with a hereditary president, while the United States is a monarchy with an elective king." That may not have been the whole truth of things then, and it is not the whole truth of things now, but it should certainly give both President Obama, and also his Republican critics, some food for thought - to say nothing of the occupants of 10 Downing Street and of Buckingham Palace.

The British monarch sould exercise the power to veto bills and dismiss governments and both our kings should override legal rulings.
Posted by at May 17, 2015 6:29 AM

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