Is this the first reference to semi-presidentialism? (9)

Welcome to this week’s installment of ‘Is this the first reference to semi-presidentialism?’ Last Friday, I identified the first references to the term by Duverger. Today, I am going to focus on references by other academics. Next Friday, I will look at the earliest non-academic references to the term.

To recap previous posts, the term ‘semi-presidential’ was not coined by Duverger. As I mentioned last week, he was using the term from 1951. However, there are references prior to this time. In a previous post, I identified that the first reference dated to 1875, but it was not an academic reference. More on that next week.

In terms of academic work, the first two references that I can find are still:

1.) Herbert Arthur Smith, Federalism in North America: A Comparative Study of Institutions in the United States and Canada, 1923, p. 35, where a reference is made to the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George acting in a semi-presidential way; and

2.) James Morgan, Our Presidents: Brief Biographies of our Chief Magistrates From Washington to Eisenhower 1789-1958, Macmillan, New York, 1930, p. 50. I have only been able to obtain the 2nd ed. of this book, dating to 1958, where the reference is on p. 58. However, it is in the chapter on John Quincy Adams. So, even though the book was updated from the 1930 version, I am pretty confident that the original reference dates back to that time.

In addition, I have found a number of other references prior to Duverger’s first use of the term in 1951. In chronological order, they are:

A. C. Fernandez, ‘Portugal’s New Constitution’, in The Modern Review (Calcutta), vol. 64, no. 1, 1938, p. 72. This is an interesting article because, for the first time, it contrasts presidentialism, parliamentarism and semi-presidentialism. Salazar’s constitution is not exactly semi-presidential, at least in the way that it is used in this blog, but this is the first time, to my knowledge at least, that semi-presidentialism is being used in a comparative institutional context alongside the two standard regime types.

Maurice Maier, Le véto législatif du Chef de l’Etat. Etude de droit constitutionnel comparé, Thesis no. 456 presented to the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva, published by A. Mayor, Geneva, 1947. There are references on pp. 94, 105 and 107. The ref. on p. 94 is to the Peruvian and Ecuadorian systems, indicating that they are not entirely presidential. The ref. on p. 105 is to the 1928 constitution of Lithuania. The ref. on p. 107 is to a number of European countries. The last two references identify a country as semi-presidential when the president has a qualified power of veto.

Georges Vlachos, ‘La nouvelle constitution bavaroise’, Bulletin de la Société de législation comparée, vol. 71, 1948, pp. 284 and 287. As its name suggests, this article identifies the Bavarian constitution as having semi-presidential features (though, having read the article, I am not at all convinced!)

Gordon Wright, The Reshaping of French Democracy, London, Methuen, 1950, pp. 48, 50 and 82. This is another interesting reference because it places de Gaulle’s post-Liberation constitutional ideas in the context of semi-presidentialism, e.g. his Bayeux speech in 1946. So, this reference also seems to be broadly relevant to the way in which we now use the term.

The usual disclaimer applies. I have found these references by using a variety of search engines. So, it is entirely possible that there are other, possibly earlier, references out there that are not being picked up by the search engines that I have used.

Together, these references show that Duverger was one of the first to use the term ‘semi-presidential’, but that, even so, the term had been in academic circulation for nearly three decades before he used it. For me, the gold medal really goes to Professor A. C. Fernandez who was the first to use the term in something approaching its ‘modern sense’.

Next week, non-academic references, including the unveiling of a new record-holder for the earliest use of the term!

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