Monday, February 20, 2012

Quote of the Day

Almost by accident, then, America got a very strong presidency - or, rather, an office which any particular president could make strong if he chose. He was much stronger than most kings of the day, rivaled or exceeded only by the 'Great Autocrat," the Tsar of Russia (and in practice stronger than most tsars). He was, and is, the only official elected by the nation as a whole and this fact gave him the moral legitimacy to exercise the huge powers buried in the constitutional thickets. These powers were not explored until Andrew Jackson's time, half a century on, when they astonished and frightened many people; and it is perhaps fortunate that the self-restraint and common sense of George Washington prevented any display of them in the 1790s, when they would certainly have led to protest and constitutional amendment. As it was, the new republic got a combined head of state and head of government entrusted with formidable potential authority.

- Paul Johnson


Dan in Philly said...

Interesting, very very interesting. The reason monacharies died out wasn't really because people rejected the idea of being ruled, but rather they because they rejected the authorities upon which the king relied: Divine right or simply custom and tradition.

Once a democracy showed a ruler could do far more with the covering of "Vox Populi" (which was probably more a result of the French revolution first) that ruler could justify far more intrusive rule than any monarch could dare to try.

It kind of reminds my of Animal Farm, where the pigs covered in the glory of the revolution used their moral authority to repress the other animals far more than the old farmers could every hope.

Michael Wade said...


Which also raises de Tocqueville's warnings of an overly benign government that fosters dependency.