Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 | Next Page
An Imperial Presidency?
John Adams
Vice President John Adams by John Singleton Copley, April 29, 1789
(Courtesy of the Harvard University Collection)

John Adams arrived in New York and took the oath of office on April 21. He immediately assumed an active role as the President of the Senate, even participating in the debates. On April 23, Adams's long time ally, Sen. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, called for the appointment of a joint committee to consider what "STYLE or TITLES it will be proper to annex to the OFFICES of President and of Vice President of the United States--if any other than those given in the Constitution." Some members of the Senate, most notably Sen. Maclay, voiced strong objections to any consideration of titles. Maclay, believing that conferring any title would be a step towards establishing a monarchy, fought vigorously against acceptance of royal forms and trappings. Adams in a letter to Benjamin Rush, argued that:
  You may depend on being the Contempt, the Scorn and the Derision of all Europe, while you call your national Conductor, General or President. You may depend on another Thing. The State Government will ever be uppermost in America in the Minds of our own People, till you give a superiour Title to your first national Magistrate. (July 24, 1789, Massachusetts Historical Society)

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