The Patriot King’s American Friends

There’s a familiar story that, on leaving the Convention the day it ended, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what the delegates had given the country. “A republic, if you can keep it,” answered Franklin. But what was the alternative, if we wouldn’t be able to keep it? Not a democracy, surely. That simply wasn’t on the table. Rather, the alternative to a republic was a monarchy, and that was what Franklin feared might become of America.

Corruption was what you got with legislatures, he argued, and for a remedy he looked to the possibility of a virtuous monarch, a “patriot king” who would rule above partisan and corrupt politics.

So also today, many Americans begin to look for a virtuous president, be he a Reagan or an Obama, to govern in the interest of the whole of the country, and to fend off the corrupt designs of special-interest groups.

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