John A. on American Electoral Politics


Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas refused to attend a White House Party honouring his team. Was the snub a victory for free expression of political belief? Or mere rudeness?

It depends who invited the Bruins, says Mark Tunnicliffe in this morning’s National Post (January 27, 2012). The President of the United States is the country’s head of state and also the head of government. “If it was in the context of his role as head of state that the Bruins were feted, then Mr. Thomas’ behaviour was incorrect, he says. But if it was Mr. Obama the politician who invited them, “the snub might have been justified.”

Can you hear John A. Macdonald applauding? Here’s what Macdonald says about the U.S. Constitution. “By the election of the president by a majority and for a short period, he never is the sovereign and chief of the nation. He is never looked up to by the whole people as the head and front of the nation. He is at best but the successful leader of a party. This defect is all the greater on account of the practice of re-election. During his first term of office, he is employed in taking steps to secure his own re-election, and for his party a continuance of power. We avoid this by adhering to the monarchical principle – the sovereign whom you respect and love. I believe that it is of the utmost importance to have that principle recognized, so that we shall have a sovereign who is placed above the region of party – to whom all parties look up – who is not elevated by the action of one party nor depressed by the action of another, who is the common head and sovereign of all.”

Macdonald is speaking in the Legislative Assembly of the old province of Canada, on February 6, 1865.




30 Responses to “John A. on American Electoral Politics”

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    During the same debate, Cartier praised the clergy’s loyalty to the Crown since the Conquest, and then criticized the Rouges, “the French Canadian annexationists,” for their republican ideals. He also took on the American Constitution, and argued that its one great flaw was

    “the absence of some respectable executive element. How was the head of the United States Government chosen? Candidates came forward, and of course each one was abused and vilified as corrupt, ignorant, incapable and unworthy by the opposite party. One of them attained the presidential chair; but even while in that position he was not respected by those who had opposed his election, and who tried to make him appear the most corrupt and contemptible being in creation. Such a system could not produce an executive head who would command respect. Under the British system, ministers might be abused and assailed; but that abuse never reached the Sovereign.” [Debates, 62]

    Alastair Sweeny

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