History

The Danger of a Cult of Personality

If George Washington had been a man like Donald Trump, our democracy would have quickly perished

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

Idolatry

The Christian Bible warns against idolatry. That concerned itself with images of “false” gods, but there is a parallel and a strong connection with rulers. Throughout much of history, and even in some instances today, kings ruled by Divine Right and were sometimes worshipped as gods themselves. Some of the idolatrous images the Bible objected to were of living gods stamped onto coins or erected as statues.

George Washington saved us from that

Many readers might be unaware that in 1786, the President of the Continental Congress, one Nathaniel Gorham, actually invited Prince Henry of Germany to be the King of America. This was not a unique idea; it apparently had a least some support from other members of that Congress. Americans hated the British King, but so did the German monarchy, so the idea was not entirely unimaginable.

But the cult almost continued

As early as 1786, plans were afoot for a federal coinage. It should come as no surprise that Washington’s visage was proposed for the coins. Samples were even produced in 1792.

Image for post
Image for post
Wikipedia, public domain
Image for post
Image for post
Wikipedia, public domain

The crack splits wider in 1909

Lincoln, as we know, was a national hero of epic proportions. As he had been born in 1809, there was pressure to produce a centennial coin to celebrate that. Theodore Roosevelt, a fellow Republican, loved the idea. We might well have made a one year commemorative as had been done with Columbus, and that was the original intention, but Lincoln’s importance and popularity nixed that. The Lincoln Cent has been produced ever since.

Image for post
Image for post
WikipEduardo, public domain
Image for post
Image for post
Wikipedia, public domain

Will we ever escape the cult of personality?

Few politicians are likely to vote against Lincoln. Even though inflation has caused our one cent coin to cost much more than that to produce, efforts to retire it haven’t succeeded.

Retired Unix Consultant. Kicking back and enjoying writing now. Not seeking work, not selling anything. No longer responsible for my old aplawrence site.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store