by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
… [O]ur Founders tried to protect republican government from becoming royal government, but they also hoped our leaders would act with virtue, dignity, modesty, and grace.
We can appreciate this most clearly in the personage of George Washington, whom everybody at the Constitutional Convention knew would be the first president. He was most certainly not “one of us,” as Falwell put it. Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee came closer to the mark when, in eulogizing the late president, he said that Washington was “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Washington did not see himself as a king — endowed by God with the authority to rule. But he did see himself as the tribune of the nation — endowed by his fellow countrymen with the authority to rule. And the noble bearing that he brought to the office of president reflected what he perceived as the nobility of the people themselves. …
… America’s Founders worried in the early days about aristocracy or monarchy corrupting the republic, but that does not mean they wanted leaders to be profane or slovenly. Rather, they hoped that representatives would come from, in the words of James Madison, a subset of the citizenry, “whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.” In this way, they would not be removed from their fellow citizens, dictating terms to the people as a monarch does; they would be the best of the people, and thus be able to “refine and enlarge the public views,” just as Washington sought to do.