Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Kings of America

George Washington famously turned down the opportunity to be our country’s first king. What might have happened, though, if he had accepted?

George I (House of Washington)

George Washington died only two years after completing his term as president. Thus, his presidency and his reign would have neatly overlapped.

Unfortunately, Washington also left no heirs. So, this whole experiment in monarchy may simply have disappeared at this point.

It may also, however, simply continued. In cases like these, there is a precedent for electing a new ruler.

NOTE: Washington did have an adopted son. George Washington Parke Custis was the grandson of Martha Washington and was raised by the Washingtons at Mt. Vernon. If he had been given the kingship, he would have ruled as George II, and started the Custis dynasty. His only surviving child would be Mary Anna Custis, who would marry Robert E. Lee. Thus, if this scenario had played out, the descendants of the South’s most famous son would have ruled the entire country. Which would probably have made for some interesting history, to say the least. But let’s continue on …

John I (House of Adams)

Who would Congress have elected though? My guess is it would probably have been John Adams.

Having been Washington’s real vice president, chances are pretty good Adams would have been equally active in Washington’s hypothetical reign as well. That Adams was also elected as Washington’s successor as president further boosts his chances of being elected as his country’s next king.

Interestingly, Adams’ reign would have gone far past his mere four-year term as president. In fact, the idea of a staunch Federalist on the throne for the presidencies (or premierships, or whatever) of Democratic-Republicans like Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe make me wonder if this whole royal thing would have stood up. Perhaps, though, it may simply have gone the way of the British monarchy – i.e., toward a more constitutionally proscribed, functionally limited role.

John II

Conveniently, John Adams’ oldest son, John Quincy Adams, also became a president in his own right. Thus, three strong rulers in a row may well have cemented monarchy in the United States for good.

Interestingly, John Quincy’s presidency and reign would have both started in the same year. John II’s reign would, though, have outlasted his presidency by a good 18 years. And that means that he probably would have had some conflicts with Jacksonian democrats, as well as pro-slavery Southerners. If, however, he really played more of a figurehead role, I don’t see this causing any problems.

Charles I

Now, here’s where things get interesting. Though Charles Francis Adams (Charles I) was quite accomplished (as a politician and diplomat), and would have made another excellent king, he was not John Quincy’s firstborn son.

George Washington Adams was. He did not, however, outlast his father, committing suicide in 1829, at age 28. Though GW Adams had been a state representative, he was also an alcoholic and a big-time womanizer. Thus, he would have represented our first royal scandal. He died unmarried.

John Quincy’s second son, John, also failed to outlast his father. John was also something of a disaster as well. His exploits include getting thrown out of Harvard, being accused of cowardice for turning down a duel, business failures, and his own bouts with alcoholism.

NOTE:  He did marry, though, and actually produced two daughters. Depending on any laws of succession we may have voted in, John’s eldest daughter, Mary Louisa, may have then ascended to the throne as Mary I. She would have reigned until 1859, with her son John (I guess he would have been John III) taking over from her. As she married some guy named William Clark Johnson, John III would thus have started a new dynasty, the Johnsons. John failed to have any children however, so the line would have reverted back to the Adams, to Charles II (see below) in particular.

Let’s stick, though, with a male-only, or Salic, accession. It’ll also make this post a lot easier to write, if nothing else.

Charles I would have weathered the Civil War. Here’s hoping he would have provided the country with something to rally around other than the flag.

John III

John (known as John Quincy Adams II) was Charles I’s oldest son. He followed in his forefathers’ footsteps by serving in the state legislature, and also running – unsuccessfully however – for lieutenant governor, governor, and vice-president. He married into the very prominent Crowninshield family of New York. John III died at age 60.

George II

George II (George Caspar Adams) was John III’s oldest son. He represents the first real departure from our long line of political service in the Adams family. George was, in fact, known primarily as a player and coach of the Harvard football team. He also was a yachtsman and a real estate investor. He died of tuberculosis at the young age of 37, never having married.

Charles II

Charles II (known as Charles Francis Adams III) was John III’s second-oldest son. He represents a return to political service – as well as a return to a much lengthier reign. He also continues the naval theme from George II, being in fact a fine yachtsman, but also Secretary of the Navy as well. I see him making his royal appearances in a rear admiral’s uniform.

Charles III

Charles III (known as Charles Francis Adams IV) was Charles II’s oldest son. He was a naval officer in WWII and then later head of Raytheon. I see him in a naval uniform as well.

Charles IV

Sorry, don’t know a darn thing about this guy.