How did the United States change from the republic envisioned by the framers into a monarchy with its royal court that it has become today? I started thinking about this when I was analyzing the State of the Union speech given by President Barack Obama recently and I decided to go back and look at State of the Union speeches given in the past. What I found was that Thomas Jefferson, when he became President, decided not to give a State of the Union speech at all because he thought that walking out in front of a joint session of Congress reminded him of the British monarchy that the country had gone through a war to be rid of. Instead of a speech, he wrote a letter to Congress, intentionally vague, so that it wouldn’t seem like a royal decree and then he had a clerk read it out loud to the Congressmen and Senators.
The Constitution doesn’t require a speech. Article II, Section 3, says only that from time to time the President is required to give Congress information of the State of the Union and to recommend things for their consideration. That’s all that it requires. Jefferson’s example became a tradition that was carried on until it was broken by Woodrow Wilson in 1913. The 20th century, in many ways, became Wilson’s century as he brought into existence much of what we see today. In the very least he laid the groundwork of what we have become today. Continue reading