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02/10/2014

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John Cowan

President first lands on English shores in the 14C, when it means either 'appointed governor' or 'one who presides over an assembly'. The latter sense is clearly that of the Spanish word. The assemblies in question were first ecclesiastical, then academic, and only then political.

Before the (present) Constitution of 1789, the first minister of the United States held the title of "President of the United States in Congress assembled", or "President of Congress" for short, and was elected by that body. Only since 1790 has he borne the title "President of the United States of America", no longer connected with Congress but rather stepping into the place of the British kings. (Indeed, the First Congress of 1790-91 discussed the President's style for a while, with such proposals as "His Most Benign Highness, "His Elective Majesty", and "His High Mightiness" — Washington counter-proposed that the Vice-President be known as "His Superfluous Excellency" — before finally settling on the simple "Mr. President".) The use of "President" for a head of government or head of state or both throughout the world clearly derives directly or indirectly from this American origin.

Peter Harvey

Thank you John for that interesting information. As you say, in the Americas a president is the executive head of state.

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