History of the United States

The Weird Suggestions For George Washington's Title Before "Mr. President"

There isn't a lot that politicians across Washington D.C. agree on these days. It seems like nearly everything is divided down party lines. But one thing that seems universally accepted? The holder of the nation's highest office, when addressed, should be called Mr. President.

Welcome, Mr. President

On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the oath that would secure him in history books as the first president of the United States. (After Washington, Inauguration Day moved to March 4 for nearly 150 years. The January 20 date didn't come into play until the 20th amendment was passed in 1933. The first president to actually be inaugurated on January 20 was Franklin Roosevelt in 1937, when he was sworn in for his second term.) Washington was the first popularly elected president in world history, and along with this milestone came a unique dilemma: no one knew what to call him. There were no precedents for addressing an elected president, so people of the time started to get creative.

Your Most Benign Highness

Suggestions for Washington's title included Most Illustrious and Excellent President; Your Most Benign Highness; His Highness, the President of the United States, and Protector of the Rights of the Same; His Majesty the President; His Elective Highness; and George. The debate ended with the simple suggestion of calling Washington Mr. President. But, just for fun, let's imagine for a minute that people went around calling him Your Most Benign Highness. It has quite a ring to it.

Written by Curiosity Staff February 19, 2016

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