President (government title)
The titles "Mr. President
and Madam President
may apply to a person holding the title of president or presiding over certain other governmental bodies.
"Mr. President" has subsequently been used by governments to refer to their heads of state. It is the conventional translation of non-English
titles such as Monsieur le Président
for the president of the French Republic
. It also has a long history of usage as the title of the presiding officers of legislative and judicial bodies. The speaker of the House of Commons of Canada
is addressed as président de la Chambre des communes
in French and as Mr. Speaker
The 1787 Constitution of the United States
did not specify the manner of address for the president. When George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States on April 30, 1789, the administering of the oath of office ended with the proclamation: "Long live George Washington, President of the United States."
No title other than the name of the office of the executive was officially used at the inauguration. The question of a presidential title was being debated in Congress at the time, however, having become official legislative business with Richard Henry Lee
's motion of April 23, 1789. Lee's motion asked congress to consider "what titles it will be proper to annex to the offices of President and Vice President of the United States – if any other than those given in the Constitution". Vice President John Adams
, in his role as President of the United States Senate
, organized a congressional committee
. There Adams agitated for the adoption of the style of Highness
(as well as the title of Protector of Their [the United States'] Liberties
) for the President.
Adams and Lee were among the most outspoken proponents of an exalted presidential title.
Others favored the variant of Electoral Highness
or the lesser Excellency
, the latter of which was vociferously opposed by Adams, who contended that it was far beneath the presidential dignity, as the executives of the states, some of which were also titled "President" (e.g. the President of Pennsylvania
), at that time often enjoyed the style of Excellency
; Adams said the president "would be leveled with colonial governors or with functionaries from German princedoms" if he were to use the style of Excellency
. Adams and Richard Henry Lee both feared that cabals of powerful senators would unduly influence a weak executive, and saw an exalted title as a way of strengthening the presidency.
On further consideration, Adams deemed even Highness
insufficient and instead proposed that the executive, both the president and the vice president (i.e., himself), be styled Majesty
to prevent the "great danger" of an executive with insufficient dignity.
Adams' efforts were met with widespread derision and perplexion; Thomas Jefferson
called them "the most superlatively ridiculous thing I ever heard of", while Benjamin Franklin
considered it "absolutely mad".
Washington consented to the demands of James Madison
and the United States House of Representatives
that the title be altered to "Mr. President".
Nonetheless, later "The Honorable" became the standard title of the President in formal address, and "His/Her Excellency" became the title of the President when addressed formally internationally.
Historically, the title was reserved for the incumbent
president only, and was not to be used for former presidents, holding that it was not proper to use the title as a courtesy title when addressing a former president.
According to the official website of the United States of America, the correct way to address a letter is to use "The Honorable John Doe" and the correct salutation is "Mr Doe".
Despite that, some sources maintain that living former U.S. presidents continue to be addressed as "Mr. President", both formally and informally, and some contemporary experts on etiquette maintain that it is entirely appropriate.
In the United States, the title "Mr. President" is used in a number of formal instances as well: for example anyone presiding over the United States Senate
is addressed as "Mr./Madame President", especially the Vice President, who is the President of the Senate
. Other uses of the title include presidents of state and local legislatures, however only the president of the United States uses the title outside of formal sessions.
In other countries
By the 18th century, the president of a Frenchparlement
was addressed as "Monsieur le Président". In Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
's 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses
("Dangerous Liaisons"), the wife of a magistrate in a parlement is referred to as Madame la Présidente de Tourvel ("Madam President of Tourvel"). When the Second French Republic
was established in 1848, "Monsieur le Président" became the title of the president of the French Republic.
In pre-revolutionary France
, the president of a Parlement
evolved into a powerful magistrate
, a member of the so-called noblesse de robe
of the gown"), with considerable judicial as well as administrative authority. The name referred to his primary role of presiding over trials and other hearings. In the 17th and 18th centuries, seats in the Parlements
, including presidencies, became effectively hereditary, since the holder of the office could ensure that it would pass to an heir by paying the crown a special tax known as the paulette
. The post of "first president" (premier président
), however, could be held by only the King
's nominees. The Parlements
were abolished by the French Revolution
. In modern France the chief judge of a court is known as its president (président de la cour
The word "presidents" is also used in the King James Bible
6:2 to translate the Aramaic term סָרְכִ֣ין
, a word of likely Persian origin, meaning "officials", "commissioners", "overseers" or "chiefs".
The first usage of the word president
to denote the highest official in a government was during the Commonwealth of England
. After the abolition of the monarchy the English Council of State
, whose members were elected by the House of Commons, became the executive
government of the Commonwealth. The Council of State was the successor of the Privy Council
, which had previously been headed by the lord president
; its successor the Council of State was also headed by a lord president, the first of which was John Bradshaw
. However, the lord president alone was not head of state, because that office was vested in the council as a whole.
The modern usage of the term president
to designate a single person who is the head of state
of a republic
can be traced directly to the United States Constitution
of 1787, which created the office of President of the United States
. Previous American governments had included "presidents" (such as the president of the Continental Congress
or the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress
), but these were presiding officers in the older sense, with no executive authority. It has been suggested that the executive use of the term was borrowed from early American colleges and universities, which were usually headed by a president
. British universities were headed by an official called the "Chancellor
" (typically a ceremonial position) while the chief administrator held the title of "Vice-Chancellor
". But America's first institutions of higher learning (such as Harvard University
and Yale University
) didn't resemble a full-sized university so much as one of its constituent colleges. A number of colleges at Cambridge University
featured an official called the "president". The head, for instance, of Magdalene College, Cambridge
was called the master
and his second the president
. The first president of Harvard, Henry Dunster
, had been educated at Magdalene. Some have speculated that he borrowed the term out of a sense of humility, considering himself only a temporary place-holder. The presiding official of Yale College, originally a "rector" (after the usage of continental European universities), became "president" in 1745.
A common style of address for presidents, "Mr/Mrs. President
", is borrowed from British Parliamentary tradition, in which the presiding Speaker of the House of Commons
is referred to as "Mr/Mrs. Speaker". Coincidentally, this usage resembles the older French custom of referring to the president of a parlement
as "Monsieur/Madame le Président
", a form of address that in modern France applies to both the president of the Republic
and to chief judges. Similarly, the Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada
is addressed by francophone
parliamentarians as "Monsieur/Madame le/la Président(e)
". In Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
's novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses
of 1782, the character identified as Madame la Présidente de Tourvel
("Madam President of Tourvel") is the wife of a magistrate in a parlement
. The fictional name Tourvel refers not to the parlement
in which the magistrate sits, but rather, in imitation of an aristocratic title, to his private estate.
In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the powers of presidencies have varied from country to country. The spectrum of power has included presidents-for-life and hereditary presidencies to ceremonial heads of state.
Presidents in the countries with a democratic or representative form of government
are usually elected for a specified period of time and in some cases may be re-elected by the same process by which they are appointed, i.e. in many nations, periodic popular elections. The powers vested in such presidents vary considerably. Some presidencies, such as that of Ireland
, are largely ceremonial, whereas other systems vest the president with substantive powers such as the appointment and dismissal of prime ministers
, the power to declare war
, and powers of veto
on legislation. In many nations the president is also the commander-in-chief
of the nation's armed forces, though once again this can range from a ceremonial role to one with considerable authority.
In almost all states with a presidential system
of government, the president exercises the functions of head of state
and head of government
, i.e. the president directs the executive branch of government. When a president is not only head of state, but also head of government, this is known in Europe as a President of Counsel
(from the French Présidente du Conseil
), used 1871–1940 and 1944–1958 in the Third
and Fourth French Republics
. In the United States
the president has always been both Head of State and Head of Government and has always had the title of President.
Presidents in this system are either directly elected by popular vote or indirectly elected by an electoral college or some other democratically elected body.
In the United States
, the president
is indirectly elected by the Electoral College
made up of electors chosen by voters in the presidential election. In most states of the United States, each elector is committed to voting for a specified candidate determined by the popular vote in each state, so that the people, in voting for each elector, are in effect voting for the candidate. However, for various reasons the numbers of electors in favour of each candidate are unlikely to be proportional to the popular vote. Thus, in five close United States elections (1824
, and 2016
), the candidate with the most popular votes still lost the election.
, the president
is directly elected for a six-year term by popular vote. The candidate who wins the most votes is elected president even without an absolute majority. The president may never get another term. The 2006 Mexican elections
had a fierce competition, the electoral results showed a minimal difference between the two most voted candidates and such difference was just about the 0.58% of the total vote. The Federal Electoral Tribunal
declared an elected president after a controversial post-electoral process.
, the president
is directly elected for a four-year term by popular vote. A candidate has to have more than 50% of the valid votes. If no candidates achieve a majority of the votes, there is a runoff election
between the two candidates with most votes. Again, a candidate needs a majority of the vote to be elected. In Brazil, a president cannot be elected to more than two consecutive terms, but there is no limit on the number of terms a president can serve.
A second system is the semi-presidential system
, also known as the French
model. In this system, as in the parliamentary system, there are both a president and a prime minister; but unlike the parliamentary system, the president may have significant day-to-day power. For example, in France, when their party controls the majority of seats in the National Assembly
, the president
can operate closely with the parliament and prime minister
, and work towards a common agenda. When the National Assembly is controlled by their opponents, however, the president can find themselves marginalized with the opposition party prime minister exercising most of the power. Though the prime minister remains an appointee of the president, the president must obey the rules of parliament, and select a leader from the house's majority holding party. Thus, sometimes the president and prime minister can be allies, sometimes rivals; the latter situation is known in France as cohabitation
. Variants of the French semi-presidential system, developed at the beginning of the Fifth Republic
by Charles de Gaulle
, are used in France
, Sri Lanka
and several post-colonial
countries which have emulated the French model. In Finland, although the 2000 constitution moved towards a ceremonial presidency, the system is still formally semi-presidential, with the president of Finland
retaining e.g. foreign policy and appointment powers.
The parliamentary republic
, is a parliamentary system in which the presidency is largely ceremonial with either de facto
or no significant executive authority (such as the president of Austria
) or de jure
no significant executive power (such as the president of Ireland
), and the executive powers rests with the prime minister
who automatically assumes the post as head of a majority party or coalition, but takes oath of office administered by the president. However, the president is head of the civil service, commander in chief of the armed forces and in some cases can dissolve parliament. Countries using this system include Austria
, Czech Republic
, and Singapore
Only a tiny minority of modern republics do not have a single head of state. Some examples of this are:
- Switzerland, where the headship of state is collectively vested in the seven-member Swiss Federal Council, although there is also a president of the Confederation, who is a member of the Federal Council elected by the Federal Assembly (the Swiss parliament) for a year (constitutional convention mandates that the post rotates every New Year's Day).
- The Captains Regent of San Marino elected by the Grand and General Council.
- In the former Soviet Union from 1922 until 1938 there existed an office of collective head of state known as the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union that consisted of four and later seven chairmen representing the central executive committees of all union republics from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Trans-Caucasusia and from 1925 Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan. From 1927 until 1989 however, real power was exercised by the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. After 1938, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet executed powers of a collective head of state, and its chairman was often called "president" in the West, though a singular head of state named "president" was later established in 1990.
- Yugoslavia after the death of Josip Broz Tito, where a presidency consisting of members from each federal unit ruled the country until its breakup.
- Ukraine, in 1918–1920 there existed Directorate composed of seven leaders of parliamentary factions and served as a collective head of state.
- The three-member Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina contains a member from each of the country's largest ethnic groups and serves as the collective head of state of Bosnia and Herzegovina
- National Council of Government in Uruguay from 1952 until 1967
- Junta of National Reconstruction in Nicaragua from 1979 until 1985
Between 1982 and 2018, the constitution stipulated that the president could not serve more than two consecutive terms. During the Mao era
and also since 2018, there were no term limits
attached to this office. In 2018, the term limits of the presidency were abolished, but its powers and ceremonial role were unchanged.
As the country's head of state, in most countries the president is entitled to certain perquisites, and may have a prestigious residence, often a lavish mansion or palace, sometimes more than one (e.g. summer and winter residences, or a country retreat) Customary symbols of office may include an official uniform, decorations, a presidential seal, coat of arms, flag and other visible accessories, as well as military honours such as gun salutes
, ruffles and flourishes
, and a presidential guard. A common presidential symbol is the presidential sash
worn most often by presidents in Latin America
as a symbol of the continuity of the office.
member countries in columns, other entities at the beginning:
Titles for non-heads of state
However, such an official is explicitly not the president of the country
. Rather, he/she is called a president in an older sense of the word, to denote the fact that he/she heads the cabinet
. A separate head of state
generally exists in their country who instead serves as the president or monarch of the country.
Thus, such officials are really premiers
, and to avoid confusion are often described simply as 'prime minister' when being mentioned internationally.
There are several examples for this kind of presidency:
- The Prime Minister of Spain is officially referred to as the president of the Government of Spain, and informally known as the "president". Spain is also a kingdom with a reigning king.
- The official title of the Italian Prime Minister is President of the Council of Ministers (Italian Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri)
- Under the French Third and the Fourth Republics, the "President of the Council" (of ministers – a prime minister) was the head of government, with the President of the Republic a largely symbolic figurehead.
- From 1963 until 1992, the head of government of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was the President of the Federal Executive Council after the 1963 Constitution abolished the office of Prime Minister of Yugoslavia and transferred its functions to the President of the Federal Executive Council. Despite this, foreign media sources continued to refer to individuals holding the office of President of the Federal Executive Council as being the "Prime Minister of Yugoslavia".
- The Prime minister of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1937 was titled President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State. At the same time, the Irish Free State was a constitutional monarchy with a reigning monarch, the King of Ireland, as well as a resident Governor-General carrying out many head of state functions.
- Under the constitutional monarchies of Brazil and Portugal, the president of the Council of Ministers (Portuguese Presidente do Conselho de Ministros) was the head of government, with the Monarch being the head of State. Under the Portuguese First and Second Republics, the head of government was the president of the Ministry (Portuguese Presidente do Ministério) and then the president of the Council of Ministers, with the president of the Republic as the head of State.
- The official title of the Croatian prime minister is President of the Government of the Republic of Croatia (Croatian: Predsjednik Vlade Republike Hrvatske).
- The official title of the Polish prime minister is President of the Council of Ministers (Polish Prezes Rady Ministrów).
- In British constitutional practice, the chairman of an Executive Council, acting in such a capacity, is known as a president of the Executive Council. Usually this person is the Governor and it always stays like that.
- Between 1918 and 1934, Estonia had no separate head of state. Both prime ministers (1918–1920) and state elders (1920–1934) often translated as "presidents") were elected by the parliament.
Other executive positions
In Poland the President of the City
: Prezydent miasta
) is the executive authority of the municipality elected in direct elections, the equivalent of the mayor
. The Office of the President (Mayor) is also found in Germany and Switzerland.
Over the course of the 2010s the presidents of Russian republics would progressively change their title to that of Head
: глава), a proposition suggested by the president of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov
and later made law by the Parliament of Russia
and President Dmitriy Medvedev
in 2010. Despite this, however, presidents of Tatarstan
would reject this change and, as of 2017, retain their title in defiance of Russian law. The new title did not result in any changes in the powers wielded by the governors.
, the executive leaders of the autonomous communities
(regions) are called presidents. In each community, they can be called Presidente de la Comunidad
or Presidente del Consejo
among others. They are elected by their respective regional assemblies and have similar powers to a state president or governor.
Below a president, there can be a number of or "vice presidents" (or occasionally "deputy presidents") and sometimes several "assistant presidents" or "assistant vice presidents", depending on the organisation and its size. These posts do not hold the same power but more of a subordinate position to the president. However, power can be transferred in special circumstances to the deputy or vice president. Normally vice presidents hold some power and special responsibilities below that of the president. The difference between vice/deputy presidents and assistant/associate vice presidents is the former are legally allowed to run an organisation, exercising the same powers (as well as being second in command) whereas the latter are not.
In some countries the speaker of their unicameral legislatures, or of one or both houses of bicameral legislatures, the speakers have the title of president of "the body", as in the case of Spain
, where the Speaker of the Congress is the president of the Congress of Deputies
and the Speaker of the Senate is the president of the Senate
legal terminology, the president of a court consisting of multiple judges
is the foremost judge; he chairs the meeting of the court and directs the debates (and is thus addressed as "Mrs President", "Madame la Présidente", "Mr President", or Monsieur le Président
. In general, a court comprises several chambers, each with its own president; thus the most senior of these is called the "first president" (as in: "the First President of the Court of Cassation
is the most senior judge in France"). Similarly in English legal practice the most senior judge in each division uses this title (e.g. President of the Family Division, President of the Court of Appeal).
Spousal or female titles
Titles for a president's spouse, if female, have ranged from "Marquise" to "Lady" to simply "Mrs." (or "Ms.").
If male the title of the president's spouse may be "Marquis", "Lord", or merely "Mr.".
President George Washington's wife, Martha Washington
, was often called "Lady Washington". By the 1850s in the United States, the term "lady" had changed from a title of nobility to a term of address for a respected and well-mannered woman. The use of "First Lady
" to refer to the wife of the president of the United States was popularized about the time of the US Civil War
. Dolley Madison
, the wife of President James Madison
, was remembered after her death in 1849 by President Zachary Taylor
as "truly our First Lady for a half a century".
First ladies are usually referred to simply as "Mrs. [last name]" 
In the media
On 8 November 2016, the night of the 2016 presidential election
in the United States, images of leaked pre-printed copies of Newsweek
magazine showed the magazine celebrating the win of the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton
, with the cover titled "Madam President". It is common for Newsweek
to prepare for the eventuality of either candidate winning, though it was unusual that it was both published and distributed; the cover was pulled from newsstands after it became clear that Donald Trump
had secured a majority of electoral votes, winning the election.
Head of state
Other head of government
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- ^ Keller, Kerrie (5 January 2013). "Addressing a Former President of the United States". The Emily Post Institute. Retrieved 5 January 2013. When addressing a former President of the United States in a formal setting, the correct form is "Mr. LastName". ("President LastName" or "Mr. President" are terms reserved for the current head of state.)
- ^ "Presidents, Vice Presidents, and First Ladies of the United States".
- ^ "Forms of Address: How to Address the President". HuffPost. 1 January 2013.
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- ^ But presidential moral suasion is increasingly confirming that the "neutral powers", in this country, often find in the head of state the best defender from executive interference: Buonomo, Giampiero (2014). "Autorità indipendenti e sistema costituzionale". L'Ago e Il Filo. – via Questia (subscription required)
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- ^ Mayo, Edith (1996). The Smithsonian Book of the First Ladies. H. Holt. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-8050-1751-9.
- ^ "President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump Welcome Governors to the White House". whitehouse.gov. Executive Office of the President. 26 February 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2017. Mrs. Trump added that, "the scents of jasmine and roses fill the air as we give thanks for this great Nation and the glory of renewal."
- ^ Greenslade, Roy (10 November 2016). "Madam President: how Newsweek reported a Clinton victory". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
Last edited on 6 June 2021, at 09:22
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