Post by Insane Ranter
Do the Articles of Confederation meet your requirements?
I discussed the argument of John Kaminski, longtime director of the
Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution project,that if
the controversy between Congress and New York on the impost could have been
resolved, there would have been no Constitutional Convention. I quoted
Calvin H. Johnson: "Kaminski believes that confederation form of government
would have been better for 1787 America than was the strong national
government the Constitution ordained. He believes that Congress would have
evolved into a Parliamentary form of government with John Jay [Secretary of
Foreign Affairs] as prime minister.146 The Founders would have avoided an
imperial President, modeled on the King."
I also quoted Johnson's point that "In discussion of Kaminiski's thesis at
the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic, Philadelpia, July
25, 2005, Professor Pauline Maier of MIT took issue with the argument that
the Congress under the Articles would have evolved into a parliamentary-prime
minister system, in part because not even England had evolved into a
parliamentary-prime minister system at the time.'
As I noted, "Sir Lewis Namier makes this point in a defense of George III:
'in the eighteenth century the King had to intervene in politics and was
bound to exercise his political influence, for the party system, which is
the basis of Parliamentary government, did not exist. Of the House of
Commons itself probably less than half thought and acted in party terms...'
*Personalities and Powers: Selected Essays,* p. 43. So the question is
whether you would eventually get national parties--at least in the form of
loose coalitions of state parties--in the Confederation."
Rich Rostrom objected that "A parliamentary government would have to
be at least as unitary as the OTL Constitutional regime. The Congress of
the Confederation voted by states, not members." My reply was "By
itself, that would not necessarily preclude the eventual development of a
party system and parliamentary government. One party could get majorities
of the members in most states, and thus dictate who would become 'prime
(2) It has also been argued that if Andrew Johnson had been convicted in the
Senate, the US could have gotten a de facto parliamentary system. To quote
an old post of mine:
"One possible consequence of a Johnson conviction was stated by a friend
of J.A. Garfield (quoted in W.R. Brock, _An American Crisis: Congress
and Reconstruction 1865-1867_, Harper Torchbooks edition, p. 260): "The
next great question to be decided in our history is this--is the
National Legislature to be as omnipotent in American politics as the
English is in English politics?...May we not anticipate a time when the
President will no more think of vetoing a bill passed by Congress than
the British Crown thinks of doing the same thing?"
"Also note the remarks of Wisconsin Senator Timothy Howe on the Tenure of
Office Act: when a Democratic Senator referred to the President's "own
cabinet" Howe specifically denied that it was such. It was, he said,
"the Cabinet of the people." He compared the American and British
systems and said of cabinet members that "it is no more necessary that
they should be on confidential terms with the president than that they
should be on confidential terms with the representatives of the people."
(Brock, p. 259)
"We should not rule out the possibility that the U.S. could have moved
toward a parliamentary system without any formal change in the
Constituion. After all, much of the diminution of the power of the
British crown has not been the result of formal changes in the law."
I am less inclined today than when I wrote this to think that a Johnson
conviction woud result in parliamentary or even quasi-parliamentrary
government for the US. It is more likely that the Republicans would go back
to more traditional ideas of presidential power once Grant was in the White