At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Alexander Hamilton proposed his own replacement for the Articles of Confederation, then the supreme law of the land. While Hamilton was an important advocate for a strong national government, his specific plan for what that government should look like was… extreme. He was no fan of the idea that the States were sovereign and should have a direct say in the election of the executive of the federal government. More significantly, though, he believed that the head of the government (and the Senators) should be elected for life (well, or until/unless removed from office). This sounds like a terrible idea, but Hamilton’s plan was an important counterweight to the Articles of Confederation and served as an example to the other delegates as to the scope of changes being considered.

So: who would our presidents have been, under Hamilton’s plan? Well, this is a silly speculative exercise, of course, but let’s go with it. We’ll start with George Washington, and go until a president dies, resigns, or is removed from office. We’ll then pick whoever won the real-life election closest to that death, and repeat the process.

* George Washington⁰
* John Adams
* John Quincy Adams
* Zachary Taylor
* Millard Fillmore
* Ulysses S. Grant¹
* Grover Cleveland
* William Howard Taft
* Franklin D. Roosevelt²
* Harry S. Truman
* Richard Nixon
* Gerald Ford
* George Bush

To be clear, I don’t think this would actually be the list, since the world would be dramatically different (notice no Lincoln in there, for example?). I don’t think this tells us much of anything other than that the list would be much easier to memorize (and suggesting that progress would be a lot slower).

Three notes here:

0) Washington was tremendously popular at the end of his second term, but was very opposed to the idea that the President should become a perpetual ruler. In this list, I’m taking his departure as a resignation. If you continue his rule to his death, replace the two President Adamses with Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and James K. Polk.

1) Millard Fillmore died in 1874, after Grant’s election to his second term and before the election of Rutherford B. Hayes. I had originally put Hayes in this slot since, while Grant won his second election easily, he became less popular as that term progressed, and, facing pressure from his own party, declined to run for a third term. Hayes' return to national politics was only brought on by his 1875 bid to become governor of Ohio; he would not have been a significant national figure in 1874. Coincidentally, under the rules defined, both men would have been succeeded by Grover Cleveland, owing to him having won two non-consecutive terms.

2) Taft died in 1930, roughly midway between the election of Herbert Hoover and FDR. Given the crash in 1929, beginning the Great Depression, I’m positing that an election in 1930 would have gone to the already popular Roosevelt. Reversing this would have replaced President Truman with a President Johnson, followed by the same Nixon-Ford-Bush run.