This is the final installment in the current series of the ‘Is this the first reference to semi-presidentialism?’ posts. However, I am absolutely certain that it will not be last.
As promised, I am going to reveal the earliest reference to semi-presidentialism that I have come across so far.
Previously, I identified the earliest post as:
D. Christie Murray, ‘A Scrap of Crimean History’, The Gentleman’s Magazine, New Series, vol. 14, Jan-June 1875, pp. 171-183, with the reference on p. 178.
This reference was made in a quasi-political way, but seemingly more in the context of a story than a journalistic report.
Using various search engines of historic magazines and newspapers, I have since come across one earlier reference. It is:
INTERESTING FROM WASHINGTON.
New York Times; Dec 22, 1857; pg. 1.
There is no author named. However, the reference is clearly political. It refers to a speech by Senator Bigler – presumably William Bigler, Senator from Pennsylvania from 1856-1861 – in the context of a debate on the Kansas Question with Senator Douglas – undoubtedly Stephen A. Douglas.
The relevant text of the very small report reads:
“Senator Bigler’s carefully-written speech on the Kansas Question is generally understood to be semi-presidential. It threw no new light on the subject. In the subsequent debate with Senator Douglas, the latter again badgered him severely, and he was quite vanquished”.
There is no further detail. There is no indication of the sense in which the term ‘semi-presidential’ is being used. Moreover, the next reference to the term in the New York Times is in the 1960s! So, it is unclear whether the term was the invention of the unnamed author of this article or whether it was current at the time but is not being picked up in the search engines.
Anyway, for now, it is the earliest reference that I have come across.