Today we address the President of the United States as “Mr. President.” But did you know that the proper title for the office was almost “His Highness the President?”
In this episode, Kathleen Bartoloni-Tuazon, author of For Fear of an Elective King: George Washington and the Presidential Title Controversy of 1789, leads us on an exploration of the presidential title controversy of 1789, the first controversy to wrack the United States Congress.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
In this episode, Kathleen Bartoloni-Tuazon, a visiting scholar at the First Federal Congress Project and author of For Fear of an Elective King: George Washington and the Presidential Title Controversy of 1789, leads us on an exploration of the first congressional controversy in United States history: the presidential title controversy of 1789.
During our investigation, Kata reveals the origins of the controversy; the different titles senators, congressmen, and ordinary citizens proposed and favored for their new president; And, the ways specific individuals involved in the controversy helped shape precedents for the offices of president and vice-president that we still use today.
What You’ll Discover
- How Kata became interested in George Washington and the presidential title controversy of 1789
- The First Federal Congress Project
- The origins of the presidential title controversy of 1789
- Titles used to address George Washington pre-presidency
- How early Americans thought about the new office of president
- Title proposals for President Washington
- Early Americans’ obsession with titles
- Early American uses of “mister” and “esquire”
- Congressional phase of the presidential title controversy
- Why the Senate wanted a grand title for the President
- Why the House of Representatives preferred a simple title
- The roles John Adams and Richard Henry Lee played in the presidential title controversy
- Why John Adams thought the president needed a monarchical title to strengthen the office
- What Americans outside of Congress thought about the presidential title controversy
- Where George Washington stood on presidential titles
- The role George Washington and James Madison's relationship played in the controversy
- The outcome of the presidential title controversy of 1789
- How the simple title “President” helped Americans accept the new government of the Constitution
- Consequences of the controversy for men who had approved of regal titles
- How the presidential title controversy affected the working relationship of George Washington and John Adams, the first president and vice-president
- How the men who have held the presidency and vice presidency have shaped those offices
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- Kathleen Bartoloni-Tuazon
- For Fear of an Elective King: George Washington and the Presidential Title Controversy of 1789
- For Fear of an Elective King Facebook Page
- The First Federal Congress Project
- Episode 18: Danielle Allen, Our Declaration
- The Organization of American Historians 2016 Conference
Time Warp Question
In your opinion what might have happened if George Washington had wanted a regal title? Do you think congress and the American people would have accepted it? How would the agreement between John Adams and Washington have changed the working relationship between president and vice president?
Questions, Comments, Suggestions
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