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A Monarchy in America

A Monarchy in America

by William H. Benson

January 12, 2017

     An interesting column appeared in the New York Times on November 6, 2016, the Sunday before the presidential election. Its author, Nikolai Tolstoy, an Englishman of Russian ancestry and a distant cousin of the novelist Leo Tolstoy, argued that the United States needs a king.

     Tolstoy looked across the Atlantic Ocean and saw the messy campaign then raging in America, and of the two candidates, he said, “neither appears to be a Washington or a Lincoln.” He then wondered if “the founding fathers’ republican system of government is leading them toward that promised ‘more perfect union.’”

     He lists his reasons why America needs a monarch. First, consider Canada. “That example alone,” he says, “demonstrates that democracy is compatible with constitutional monarchy.”

     Then, he points to Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur’s decision in August 1945, to allow the defeated Japanese to keep their emperor. “This wise policy,” he says, “enabled Japan’s remarkable and rapid evolution into the prosperous, peaceful democratic society it has been since.”

     Then, Tolstoy quotes Winston Churchill. When asked what led to the rise of Nazi Germany,
Churchill pointed to the decision after World War I to drive the Hapsburgs out of Austria and Hungary, and the Hohenzollerns out of Germany. “By making these vacuums, we gave the opening for the Hitlerite monster to crawl out of the sewer onto the vacant thrones.”

     Tolstoy quotes the Englishman Samuel Johnson, who said, “Now, Sir, that respect for authority is much more easily granted to a man whose father has had it, than to an upstart.”

     Tolstoy further says, “America may have thrown off the yoke of King George III, but Americans chose to be governed by George Bush II,” but, I might add, not by Clinton II.

     As an American, I read Nikolai Tolstoy’s reasons that a king and his progeny should rule over the fifty united states forever, but I do not believe them, and neither would Thomas Paine, who published his fifty-paged pamphlet Common Sense, on January 10, 1776, 241 years ago this month.

     Paine hated the King of England at that time, King George III, whom Paine calls, “the Royal Brute of Great Britain.” Paine argues that a monarchy is an evil institution. “Monarchy is ranked in scripture,” he says, “as one of the sins of the Jews.”

     Then, he writes, “To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession,” the idea that a king’s son, daughter, or wife shall replace the king or queen after his or her death. This “opens a door,” Paine says, “to the foolish, the wicked, and the improper, and it hath in it the nature of oppression.” A king’s sons and daughters grow up believing “themselves born to reign, and others to obey,” and they “soon grow insolent,” and “are the most ignorant and unfit of any.”

     “Where,” Paine asks, “is the King of America?” He answers, “In America the law is king.” Once independence is declared and a governing charter is written, Paine suggests a crowning. Officials would lay that charter upon “the Divine Law, the Word of God,” the Bible. Then, he says, “let a crown be placed thereon.” This crowning will signify that “in absolute governments the King is law,” but “in free countries the law ought to be king.”

     In the aftermath of the bloody French Revolution, and after the military general Napoleon Bonaparte had seized the reins of France’s government, he decided that he too should wear a crown.

     On Sunday, December 2, 1804, in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, in a well-orchestrated ceremony, Pope Pius VII stood before Napoleon and said, “Receive the crown.” Napoleon then took the crown from the pope, placed it on his own head, and thus he crowned himself. Then, he placed both hands on a Bible and took the oath of office.

     Thomas Paine witnessed the French Revolution up close, during the fifteen years he lived in Paris. He met Napoleon, and it was then that he felt “the full force of Napoleon’s well-known bad temper, crude insults, and impatience with contradiction.” Paine soon despised Napoleon and called him “the completest charlatan that ever existed.”

     The gifted Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, told only part of the story of Napoleon’s attack upon Russia in his book War and Peace, and the immense suffering that he brought upon the Russian people. 

     On January 20, 2017, on the Capital’s east steps, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts will administer the oath of office to Donald Trump, who will place a hand on a Bible, hold up his other hand, and say, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me God.”

     No one will offer him a crown, nor will he receive a crown. He will became President of the United States, and not King of the United States of America.