Washington on "the Emperor Problem"

Along with many Americans, I noted with alarm President Obama's Valentine's Day statement at a Google hangout on why he can't take more action on overhauling immigration policy:

"This is something I've struggled with throughout my presidency," said Obama. "The problem is that I'm the president of the United States, I'm not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed."

As any schoolchild should know, our country was established by throwing off the chains of King George III's monarchy. Everyone should also know that the public was so grateful to General George Washington that many would have supported making him king. However, Gen. Washington rejected these ideas, gave up any and all claims to political power and quietly retired to his farm in Virginia.

In a letter to Lewis Nicola dated May 22, 1782 on the subject of some people wanting to make him king, General Washington stated his feelings on this matter in detail and naturally with greater eloquence and force than any one of us could have hoped to express.:

With a mixture of great surprise and astonishment I have read with attention the Sentiments you have submitted to my perusal. Be assured Sir, no occurrence in the course of the War, has given me more painful sensations than your information of there being such ideas existing in the Army as you have expressed, and I must view with abhorrence, and reprehend with severity. For the present, the communication of them will rest in my own bosom, unless some further agitation of the matter, shall make a disclosure necessary. I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable; at the same time in justice to my own feelings I must add, that no Man possesses a more sincere wish to see ample justice done to the Army than I do, and as far as my powers and influence, in a constitutional way extend, they shall be employed to the utmost of my abilities to effect it, should there be any occasion. Let me conjure to you then, if you have any regard for your Country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, banish these thoughts from your mind, and never communicate, as from yourself, or anyone else a sentiment of the like Nature. (Volume 24, p. 272, John C. Fitzpatrick ed., The Writings of George Washington, 1745-1799(39 vols), Washington, D.C.: United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission)

The Father of our Country, the man without whom we would never have had American liberty, could not imagine what part of his conduct could have instilled these sentiments in the people. Once again, we are reminded of how our free nation was formed in such large part by the character of Washington. By contrast, it is clear that the major problem we have today is not that our president is prevented being Emperor of the United States; it is that we have a president who would prefer to be King of the United States. 

Along with many Americans, I noted with alarm President Obama's Valentine's Day statement at a Google hangout on why he can't take more action on overhauling immigration policy:

"This is something I've struggled with throughout my presidency," said Obama. "The problem is that I'm the president of the United States, I'm not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed."

As any schoolchild should know, our country was established by throwing off the chains of King George III's monarchy. Everyone should also know that the public was so grateful to General George Washington that many would have supported making him king. However, Gen. Washington rejected these ideas, gave up any and all claims to political power and quietly retired to his farm in Virginia.

In a letter to Lewis Nicola dated May 22, 1782 on the subject of some people wanting to make him king, General Washington stated his feelings on this matter in detail and naturally with greater eloquence and force than any one of us could have hoped to express.:

With a mixture of great surprise and astonishment I have read with attention the Sentiments you have submitted to my perusal. Be assured Sir, no occurrence in the course of the War, has given me more painful sensations than your information of there being such ideas existing in the Army as you have expressed, and I must view with abhorrence, and reprehend with severity. For the present, the communication of them will rest in my own bosom, unless some further agitation of the matter, shall make a disclosure necessary. I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable; at the same time in justice to my own feelings I must add, that no Man possesses a more sincere wish to see ample justice done to the Army than I do, and as far as my powers and influence, in a constitutional way extend, they shall be employed to the utmost of my abilities to effect it, should there be any occasion. Let me conjure to you then, if you have any regard for your Country, concern for yourself or posterity, or respect for me, banish these thoughts from your mind, and never communicate, as from yourself, or anyone else a sentiment of the like Nature. (Volume 24, p. 272, John C. Fitzpatrick ed., The Writings of George Washington, 1745-1799(39 vols), Washington, D.C.: United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission)

The Father of our Country, the man without whom we would never have had American liberty, could not imagine what part of his conduct could have instilled these sentiments in the people. Once again, we are reminded of how our free nation was formed in such large part by the character of Washington. By contrast, it is clear that the major problem we have today is not that our president is prevented being Emperor of the United States; it is that we have a president who would prefer to be King of the United States. 

RECENT VIDEOS