His Most Serene Highness, the President of the United States…
In their wonderful book “Washington’s Circle” David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler characterize the maiden voyage of the US Senate:
“In the new constitutional government’s first days, the Senate argued at length about appropriate titles for officials, particularly for George Washington. Makeshift titles for the president had popped up in print in various places, some of them–such as “his Most Serene Highness”–distasteful for a republic at its outset. 1 John Adams regarded this matter as something he could sink his teeth into, and he ultimately made a fool of himself by insisting that lofty titles were necessary for the president, vice president, and senators. At this early stage, the men in the Senate were prepared to be charitable, even to the point of reckoning Adams’s idea as a mark of his concern for the new government’s prestige. A majority agreed on “His Highness, the President of the United States of America, and Protector of the Rights of the Same.” Some senators, however, thought the episode confirmed what they already knew about Adams. The plump little man became a comic figure whose concern for titles was lampooned with one reserved especially for him in cloakroom conversations: “His Rotundity.” 2”
If you are sentimental about government you believe in a “golden age” of conscientious discourse. The cloakroom conversations in the Senate was always coarse, especially concerning the inflated rhetoric of others.
In our time we recall Sen. Arlen Specter as “Snarlin’ Arlen”.
“Senator: a person who makes laws in Washington when not doing time.” (Mark Twain)
Poor John Adams, who believed a good name resided in the name.
Now I grew up in the age of the Imperial Presidency and so did you. There are three political liabilities of the IP:
- A belief in his most serene highness.
- A belief in his ability to protect our rights.
- A belief in his military infallibility.
The last two “serene highnesses” have instigated a systematic killing of civilians.
They have suborned our right to privacy and free inquiry.
They have employed the military without transparency or clear objectives.
Right about now I’d welcome “His Rotundity”.
Adams had his faults, but a lack of accountability was not one of them.
I’m voting for John Adams.