The original title for President of the United States was His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties. Wow, that was a mouthful if ever I said one. Why is it then that the original title for President of the United States was so grandiose and almost regal that it was changed to the rather plain and uninspiring Mr President? Well, it was a product of its time.
Following the cessation of hostilities in the American War of Independence, the new nation sought to produce a document that defined the nation and how it would operate. This document became the Constitution of the United States of America, and stood as a model for nearly all future nations. However, for all that the document did cover, it failed to make any mention for the official title for the commander in chief, the chief executive of the nation, the President. What would the President be called? Would he be called by name, or should a more specific title be used? After all, this was the leader of a nation, and all other leaders around the world had titles. For example, Kings were called Your Majesty, prime ministers were called by their position.
Over the course of a month, the Joint Congressional Committee on Titles decided that the title for the President should be His High Mightiness, the President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties. You could argue that a month was a little rushed, especially with the decision that they came forward with. It really just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it? When George Washington was sworn in as the first President, he took on the extravagant title. But it wasn’t going to last.
The title was not well received, and critics said that it smacked of monarchy, something that they had just fought a fierce rebellion against. At the behest of James Madison and the United States House of Representatives, George Washington consented to the title being altered to only Mr President, a title still in use today.
While the majority of Americans at the time supported the dumping of the superfluous title, some objected to the change. One of those was the first vice-President and second President, John Adams. He felt that the new title showed too little deference and lacked prestige for the important position of President. But he was in the minority.