April 15, 1897
WE have formerly called attention to monarchical ideas that have become somewhat prevalent in this Republic of the United States.
As a faithful sentinel we are obliged to do this again, for the thing continues to crop out.
Not long ago an association of women, sending a communication to President Mckinley, addressed him as “honored ruler.” And this is not the first instance, by a long way, in which this term has been used with reference to the President of the United States.
But the principle of the Government of the United States is a “Government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The national charter of government begins, “We, the people … do ordain and establish this Constitution.” Thus the people are the only rightful rulers in the United States.
According to this principle the President of the United States is the presiding officer of the people in the organization which they have formed by which they make themselves secure in the rights which they possess and according to which they govern themselves. He administers the will of the people in their rulership. He gives his oath to the people that he will faithfully perform their formally expressed will. So that the people are his rulers, and not he their ruler, according to the vital principles of the national government as established. Therefore the President of the United States is not in any right sense a ruler.
Now we are not saying that President McKinley holds the view that he is the ruler of the people of the United States. We are not saying that he accepted this phrase that those women used in addressing him. We are perfectly satisfied that President McKinley understands himself, and the people, and the Government of the United States, better than that. We are satisfied that he understands these things well enough to be disgusted rather than pleased with such suggestive effusiveness. We fully exonerate President McKinley from entertaining any such suggestion of monarchism. But it is impossible to exonerate from monarchical suggestion those who thus addressed him; and this more especially as it is only one of a number of like offenses from such source.
Yet this is only one phase of the thing. The Washington correspondent of the Chicago Times-Herald is filled with it. His account of the late inauguration ceremonies was interlarded with monarchical terms. He actually went so far as to refer to the presidential seat as “the throne.” With him the Secretary of State is “Premier.” The other Secretaries are “Ministers.” The House of Representatives if “the Commons.”
If the presidential seat is “the throne,” what is the rank of him who occupies the seat? It is only kings who occupy thrones. Thrones are associated only with monarchs.
As for the mere naked word “Premier,” it means, of course, only “first in rank or position.” But politically it conveys more meaning than that. Of course it is “English, you know;” and it is evident that that is one of the reasons why it is used in the United States. But England is a monarchy; and when these English political terms are used by a writer in the United States, it reveals the taint of monarchism.
Politically, the Premier is “the responsible head of the cabinet.” But in the government of the United States the Secretary of State is not “the responsible head of the cabinet.” The President of the United States is the head of the cabinet, and he is the only “responsible head of the cabinet.”
Again, the Premier is “Prime Minister;” and if the Secretary of State of the United States is “Prime Minister,” then, of course, all the other Secretaries become Ministers.
And, again, the Premier is “the representative of the country or of a party;” but in the government of the  United States the Secretary of State is not in any sense the representative of the country, nor of the party even to which he belongs.
As “the representative of the country or of a party,” the Premier has “a representative will.” But the Secretary of State of the United States has no representative will.
These ideas comport only with the political methods of a constitutional monarchy as in England. And when used by anyone in speaking of English politics, all these terms are strictly proper, for they mean something. But when an attempt is made to use these terms with reference to American politics, with reference to the governmental system of the United States, such terms are absolutely meaningless; unless he who uses them entertains the monarchical idea to such an extent that he would have this Government transformed to the extent that the terms should mean here just what their proper political meaning is.
And, in the late administration, wasn’t the country given a taste of this view of American premiership? Didn’t the Secretary of State of the late administration entertain just this idea of his position? Didn’t he consider himself “the representative of the country,” having “a representative will” of his own; and didn’t he, in behalf of his “monarch,” serve notice upon the legislative branch of the Government of the United States that their will, even if expressed in law, would be disregarded unless it conformed to his will? And if this idea could have been carried out to its logical extent, and there had come a crisis between the legislative will and this “Premier” will, what could have been done but to “dissolve the Parliament” and appeal to the country for a decision as to whether this “Premier” was really “the representative of the country” of not.
But every one will say, No such thing as that could ever be. True enough; and therefore it is perfectly plain that in American institutions there is no place for a Premier, and in the bright lexicon of American ideas there is no such word as “Premier.”
If the House of Representatives in Congress is “the Commons,” then what is the Senate? This correspondent has not yet expressed that in words, as also he has not yet expressed in words the rank of him who occupies “the throne.” But if the House of Representatives is “the Commons,” there is no escaping the implication that the Senate is “the Lords;” for where there are Commons, in the nature of things there must be Lords; just as in the nature of things where there is a throne there must be a monarch, and where there is a Prime Minister there must be other Ministers, and where there is a Premier he is “the representative of the country.”
It will no doubt be said by many that this correspondent did not mean all this in the terms that he used. Well, if he does not mean what the terms mean which he uses, why, then, does he use the terms? Will any say that terms which are freighted with meaning, are used by an intelligent writer in a way that is meaningless? If, with this writer, those terms have not the meaning that belongs to them, then why does he use the terms at all. In expressing himself with reference to American institutions, why does he use terms that are absolutely meaningless, upon any other hypothesis than that they reveal the presence of the monarchical ideas which the terms convey?
It is perfectly safe to say that both the present President and Secretary of State are men of too much sense and understand American principles too well, to be pleased with the application to themselves of any of these terms. But this is no surety at all that all the men which may ever be called to occupy those positions will be much of such good sense. Let these terms, used too frequently already, become a little more frequent, and it will not be long until men occupying those positions will respond to the ideas thus expressed. Indeed, as already stated, the country has had an inkling of this, and only very lately. Men cannot make themselves monarchs unless there are persons who want a monarch. There never would have been a Pope if there had not been people who wanted a Pope.
Let the people of the United States, who alone are the government, and the rulers, of the United States, see to it that all monarchical terms and ideas shall be resented and kept absolutely under the ban. This the people of the United States owe to themselves, and to all mankind, in order that as long as possible “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”