Senate formed. The secretary, as usual, had made some mistakes, which were rectified, and now Mr. Elsworth moved for the report of the joint committee to be taken up on the subject of titles to add to “President.” It was accordingly done. Mr. Lee led the business. He took his old ground—all the world, civilized and savage, called for titles; that there must be something in human nature that occasioned this general consent; that, therefore, he conceived it was right.
Mr. Elsworth rose. He had a paper in his hat, which he looked at constantly. He repeated almost all that Mr. Lee had said, but got on the subject of kings—declared that the sentence in the primer of fear God and honor the king was of great importance; that kings were of divine appointment; that Saul, head and shoulders taller than the rest of the people, was elected by God and anointed by his appointment.
I sat, after he had done, for a considerable time, to see if anybody would rise. At last I got up and first answered Lee as well as I could with nearly the same arguments, drawn from the Constitution. I mentioned that within the space of twenty years back, more light had been thrown on the subject of governments and on human affairs in general than for several generations before; that this light of knowledge had diminished the veneration for titles, and that mankind now considered itself as little bound to imitate the follies of civilized nations as the brutalities of savages; that the abuse of power and the fear of bloody masters had extorted titles as well as adoration in some instances from the trembling crowd; that the impression now on the minds of the citizens of these states was that of horror for kingly authority.
The vice president repeatedly helped the speakers for titles. Elsworth was enumerating how common the appellation of “President” was. The vice president put him in mind that there were presidents of fire companies and of a cricket club. Mr. Lee at another time was saying he believed some of the states authorized titles by their constitutions. The vice president, from the chair, told him that Connecticut did it. At sundry other times he interfered in a like manner.
I collected myself for a last effort. I read the clause in the Constitution against titles of nobility; showed that the spirit of it was against not only granting titles by Congress but against the permission of foreign potentates granting any titles whatever; that as to kingly government, it was equally out of the question, as a republican government was guaranteed to every state in the Union; that they were both equally forbidden fruit of the Constitution. I called the attention of the house to the consequences that were like to follow; that gentlemen seemed to court a rupture with the other house. The representatives had adopted the report and were this day acting on it, or according to the spirit of the report. We were proposing a title. Our conduct would mark us to the world as actuated by the spirit of dissension, and the characters of the houses would be as aristocratic and democratic.
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