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Table of contents :
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II. Growing Up to Be Great!
III. What Could or Would George Do Now?
IV. George Takes A Wife
V. George Becomes a Mason?
VI. What Was George’s Tie To The Stamp Act, Townshend Acts, & The Continental Congress
VII. Revolutionary War, 8 Long Years
VIII. George Retiring? From What? Farming? Military?
IX. George Has Doubts He Can Lead The Nation
X. George Elected First President – 1789
XI. George and God
XII. No Looking Back – On to Mt. Vernon
I. The Orphan of the Caribbean
II. The New Boy in New York
III. A Revolutionary for Washington
IV. A Commanding Critic and a Man of the Constitution
V. A Titan of the Treasury: Reports
VI. A Titan of the Treasury II: The Two-Party Tango
VII. Resignation, the Reynolds Affair, and Wounds
VIII. A Flawed Man Through and Through
IX. Further reading
II. Born to Privilege
Inheritance and More Learning
Lawyer and Politician
III. Marriage and Monticello
Marriage, Family, and Sorrow
Return to Politics
IV. Revolution and Nation Building
Declaration of Independence
The State of Virginia
Congress and Foreign Affairs
Secretary of State
Election of 1796
First Barbary War
Native American Policies
VI. Second Term
The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair
VII. Return to Private Life
University of Virginia
Jefferson and Adams
The Sally Hemings Question
IX. The Measure of a Man
II. Early Life
The Childhood of Benjamin Franklin
Ben Franklin: The Beginning Pieces
III. The beginning of a Master Mind
The Start of Freedom
IV. Family Life with Benjamin Franklin
A Relationship of Two Colonials
Father and Grandfather
V. A kite, Electricity, and Inventions
And Electrified Life
Discoveries of Electricity
An Inventor Before his Time
VI. Other Pieces of Benjamin Franklin
A Well-Rounded Individual
To Better a Community in the Eyes of Franklin
VII. Benjamin Franklin and the American Revolution
An Enemy of Benjamin
No Taxation without Representation
A Revolutionary Song
Benjamin’s Various Revolutionary Tasks
VIII. Benjamin Franklin’s Last Chapter
Benjamin Franklin is Sent to France
Benjamin Franklin’s Last Return Home
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GEORGE WASHINGTON, ALEXANDER HAMILTON, THOMAS JEFFERSON, AND BENJAMIN FRANKLIN THE FOUNDING FATHERS
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CON TE N TS
GEORGE WASHINGTON I. Introduction II. Growing Up to Be Great! III. What Could or Would George Do Now? IV. George Takes A Wife V. George Becomes a Mason? VI. What Was George’s Tie To The Stamp Act, Townshend Acts, & The Continental Congress VII. Revolutionary War, 8 Long Years VIII. George Retiring? From What? Farming? Military? IX. George Has Doubts He Can Lead The Nation X. George Elected First President – 1789 XI. George and God XII. No Looking Back – On to Mt. Vernon XIII. Strengths XIV. Weaknesses XV. Conclusion ALEXANDER HAMILTON I. The Orphan of the Caribbean II. The New Boy in New York III. A Revolutionary for Washington IV. A Commanding Critic and a Man of the Constitution V. A Titan of the Treasury: Reports VI. A Titan of the Treasury II: The Two-Party Tango VII. Resignation, the Reynolds Affair, and Wounds VIII. A Flawed Man Through and Through IX. Further reading THOMAS JEFFERSON I. Introduction II. Born to Privilege III. Marriage and Monticello IV. Revolution and Nation Building V. Presidency VI. Second Term VII. Return to Private Life VIII. Legacy IX. The Measure of a Man
X. Bibliography BENJAMIN FRANKLIN I. Introduction II. Early Life III. The beginning of a Master Mind IV. Family Life with Benjamin Franklin V. A kite, Electricity, and Inventions VI. Other Pieces of Benjamin Franklin VII. Benjamin Franklin and the American Revolution VIII. Benjamin Franklin’s Last Chapter IX. Epilogue X. Afterword XI. Acknowledgments Your Free eBook! YOU CAN HELP!
G E O R G E WA S H I N G T O N FA LS E WO ODE N TE E TH
As we grow up in school and study the presidents, we learn of course who our First President was that served the United States. We keep in our mind for some reason as we grow and get older that George Washington wore false wooden teeth and that is why you never see a picture of him smiling. The explanation sounds good when you are a child, and at that time you can’t refute that story. As you get older, you learn about the political system we live in today and odd as it may seem, the majority of it we pick up by osmosis because we sure don’t seem to listen carefully to what the news is telling us unless it has been given to us as an assignment for that evening. We all think that when we were young that politicians were noble, but since the beginning of time, maybe that has not always been the case. Instead, they too have cheated and maybe lied their way to the top just as they do today. The difference is social media, wiretapping, up to the minute news reporting, and hidden security cameras that look like buttons and light switches that can record anything that is said up to 200 feet away with pure clarity. In this version, you will find things about George Washington that might surprise you and that you did not know before you read this book. You will find out that he was the type of man that tried to lay things out in such a way as to make his opponent look bad or if need be, to bend the truth if necessary. It is about the boy who was not supposed to tell a lie about chopping down a cherry tree, but when it came to war and the presidency, telling the truth did not always serve him well, so it was better to make up a fictional fabrication to keep himself out of trouble. You will still not have every answer to every question you might want to know about this man. In some ways, he was an exciting man, deep thinking and quiet, while in other ways, you will be able to make many comparisons to the way our government is projected now in the fake news and what the press tells us is supposed to be factual reporting on our government. I guess it is true that there is nothing new under the sun.
I am one that still believes in the inherent goodness of man. Somehow, that seems to be getting dimmer with every birthday that comes along. In its place comes the shrewd but hateful side of people who will sell out their own country for some fool’s gold.
GROWING UP TO BE GREAT!
“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.’ — GEORGE WASHINGTON
Most people in George Washington’s time started out life in the same way. You were either very poor, lower middle class, or extremely rich. George Washington, however, was one of the lucky kids of his generation. He was born into money on February 22, 1732. His family was not the richest by any means, but they were considered very comfortable and had a large family plantation on Pope’s Creek located in Westmoreland County, Virginia. George’s great-grandfather migrated to Virginia from England. They were a family of “distinction” in the old country and henceforth were granted land by King Henry VIII. During the Puritan revolution, George’s grandfather lost most of their family’s wealth. His father, Augustine Washington lived from 1694 to 1743, and he was married to his second wife, Mary (Ball) Washington who lived from 1708 to 1789. Mary was 14 years younger than her husband, but she lived 46 more years after his death. During their marriage, they had six children, and five of them survived childhood which was extremely unusual for that time. While George was growing up, he never lacked for children to play with and it made no difference to him as to the color of their skin. At Pope’s Creek, George was surrounded by every farm animal one could imagine such as chickens, dogs, pigs, cows, and horses. When George turned three years old, Augustine decided it was time to move the entire family to a much larger plantation farther north up the Potomac that was known as Little Hunting Creek. It was in what is known now as Fairfax County in Virginia.
A few years later when they moved again, and for the last time, it was to be near Augustine’s iron mine, he was so vested in at Accokeek Creek, which is today known as Stafford County and lies on the Rappahannock River. It was called the “Ferry Farm,” and this was what George would always consider his childhood home. They were recognized as moderately prosperous middle-class folks. If it’s true that George did cut down that cherry tree, then it probably happened here at Ferry Farm. George’s childhood was spent sailing on the river, hunting and fishing, and swimming. What more could a boy ask for while he was growing up? George went to a small school for a time in Fredericksburg and took practical subjects that were required for everyone. But what he aspired at was subjects like math and draftsmanship which would serve him well as a great land surveyor. The knowledge that George gained in everyday life would bode well for him just by knowing the backwoods people, the plantation foremen, and he also learned the art of growing tobacco, surveying, and raising stock. George had been away visiting a cousin that lived not too far from Ferry Farm when he received by messenger an urgent note to come home as fast as he could get there. The letter said his dad was dying. It is not precisely known, but it could have been exacerbated by pneumonia, but when they ruled the official cause of his death, it was “gout of his stomach.” Augustine died on April 12, 1743, at the age of 49 years old. Lawrence being his oldest son by his first marriage, in Augustine’s will, he left him the Little Hunting Creek. Lawrence would rebuild this home and rename it, Mount Vernon. To George, his part was left in trust with his mother until he came of age and he would inherit the Ferry Farm and all its surroundings. His father’s death had an impact on George that no one will ever realize. George’s mother Mary never remarried and felt George should have the title as head of the estate, but it didn’t seem to matter because she still supervised everything. George preferred the company of his half-brother Lawrence who lived at Mount Vernon and Fairfax children at the Belvoir Estate. George did become a surveyor and quite a successful one at that. For his profession, he went on many expeditions, and it led him to go into the
Virginia wilderness, and it was there that he learned the area. George earned enough money that he was able to start buying up land. In 1748, George turned 16 years old and traveled with a group of surveyors in the western territory of Virginia, learning the trade and working along the side of men who were experts at the craft. In 1749, with the aid of Lord Fairfax, George was appointed to be the official surveyor for the County of Culpepper. For the next two years, George would remain busy surveying in Culpepper, Augusta, and Frederick counties. The experience alone helped toughen his mind and body, and become a very resourceful man. He started to become interested in land holdings out west, and that seemed to remain with him throughout his entire life as he purchased land in that direction. In 1751 Washington went on a trip with his half-brother who was older than he, outside of America. It was George’s first and only trip out of America’s borders. He and Lawrence traveled to Barbados. Lawrence had been suffering from tuberculosis, and they hoped by going somewhere the climate was warm he might recuperate. They had only been in Barbados for a short while when George contracted dreaded smallpox. George survived, but smallpox left his face covered in scars. In 1752, George’s mentor and half-brother, Lawrence who had received his education in England, died. It was only two months later that Lawrence’s only child, Sarah, died. Washington now found himself without his father and his friend and mentor, Lawrence. Eventually, George would be the one to inherit Lawrence’s estate, on the Potomac River, Mount Vernon. George was twenty years old at the time. No matter what happened to him in life, George would always feel that farming was one of, if not the most honorable professions a man could pursue. George would eventually work to increase his acreage to about 8,000 acres.
WHAT COULD OR WOULD GEORGE DO NOW?
“Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.” — GEORGE WASHINGTON
It was the early 1750s; Britain and France seemed to be at peace. But the French Military started sneaking in and occupying more and more of the Ohio Valley supposedly to protect the King’s interest in the land and watch over the fur trappers and what was going on with the French settlers. It seems that the death of George’s brother Lawrence had left a vacancy for the post of Adjutant General. It was then that George decided to stop surveying land and begin to be a soldier, pursue the position because he was inspired by Lawrence’s previous service to Admiral Edward Vernon. In December 1752 he was assigned to a less-distinguished District in the Southern part of the Colony of Virginia by the Lieutenant Governor at the time Dinwiddie. Then, Fitzhugh resigned as the District adjunct of the North and George lobbied for that position. He was appointed the position in February 1753 and was going to receive an annual payment of 100 pounds. He accepted the appointment of British Ambassador for the Military to French Officials and the Indians that reached north as far as Erie, Pennsylvania. George was 21 years old in 1753. Washington had seemed to be showing “early” signs of leadership that appeared to be natural for him and shortly after Lawrence died, Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, made George the Lieutenant Colonel in the militia of Virginia. It was October 1753 on Halloween that Dinwiddie sent George to Fort LeBoeuf. Today it is known as Waterford, Pennsylvania. He was to warn the French to leave the land that had been claimed by Britain. The French
said they were not going to go anywhere so George rode as fast as he could back to Williamsburg. Dinwiddie then sent George back, only this time with troops and they set up an encampment at the location of Great Meadows. George led a party of about forty men all night long as they marched forward to where the French were positioned. At dawn, this small group spotted the French and attacked the post. Shots were being fired, and the firefight was non-stop in that wooded wilderness. George’s group killed thirteen of the French soldiers and took twentyone more as prisoners. It seems that George got his first thirst for blood at this battle, wanting the taste more and more each time he would go to battle. Both sides wanted to claim that the other side fired upon them first, but the bottom line was this battle sparked a war that spread around the world to Africa, Europe, and India. It was the beginning of the French and Indian War. The French drove home a counterattack and pushed George, and his men back into their post in Great Meadows also called Fort Necessity as it was built in the middle of the meadow, causing it to be in a poor location and vulnerable if a fire started in the nearby woods that encircled the field. It was after this full day siege on July 1, 1754, that George gave up and surrendered, and he was soon released. George signed what appeared to be a falsely translated document of surrender that stated he had been “assassinated” in Jumonville, and this mistranslated confession that was false became what they used to blame George for starting the war. Historian, Joseph Ellis feels this episode revealed George’s initiative and bravery, but it also glaringly showed his carelessness and inexperience. When George got back to his home state of Virginia, George refused to take a demotion in his rank down to captain and therefore resigned his commission. George was somewhat embarrassed to be captured but was glad to receive a thank you from the House of Burgesses and see in the London Gazettes where his name had been mentioned. Though he had lost on all counts, George was a mere aide-de-camp volunteer who was unpaid and answering to Edward Braddock instead of what he felt was his militia rank.
He felt subordinate to the junior officers and was subjected to embarrassment. He could taste receiving a Royal Commission so much that the went to Boston to see Governor Shirley that had taken over as commander in chief when General Braddock died. George did not succeed in getting what he went after, but Governor Shirley issued a decree for officers that served in the militia in Virginia that they would outrank any of the British officers that were lower in rank in 1755. This army was to capture Fort Duquesne. Their march of the troops was beginning to slow down as it proceeded forward, and George told Braddock that he thought they should divide the army into two parts – one, a primary column, and a more lightly mobile and equipped “flying column” as their offense. In this Battle, the French along with their Indian friends ambushed the divided forces, and mortally wounded the general. The British were in trouble. They had suffered a severe number of fatalities and started retreating in a panic with at least two-thirds either injured or killed. Washington, who had a fever and a headache and was recovering from dysentery, but managed to get what was left of his troops organized, and they retreated. During this battle, he lost two horses that had been shot out from under him, his coat and hat both were riddled with bullet holes. The British loss was 977 that were either wounded or killed. For this one act alone George was given the title of “Hero of Monongahela” by Governor Dinwiddie, who also changed George’s rank to Colonel over the 1,200 man Regiment of Virginia. To some, it seemed that his conduct under fire might have redeemed his reputation at this point among the critics in his command that had been in the Battle at Fort Necessity. When it came to the new Commander Colonel Thomas Dunbar when he was planning the new force movements, he did not include George, possibly because of Georges’ recommendation of the flying column formations that had turned out so badly. August 1755 rolled around, and Dinwiddie gave George the reward of naming him Colonel of the Virginia Regiment as well as Commander in Chief of any forces raised that defended His Majesty’s Colony. It came with the task of protecting the frontier of Virginia.
The Virginia Regiment became the first non-British military unit, fulltime formed by the new colonies and George was told to “act offensively and defensively” and do what he thought best. George was happy to get the commission, but he wanted a red coat that the higher ranking officers wore so badly he could taste it, and it continued to escape his grasp. With that, so did the pay that with which came with that commission. Why George desired the salary seems to elude this author’s understanding as he was already the owner of several acres of farmland and had been acquiring more as he surveyed land and acquired more as he continued to work. Dinwiddie tried to get the British group to include the Virginia Regiment with its ranks, but no way would they let this happen. George was so sure that Braddock would recommend him for the commission in the British Army, that George asked Lord Loudoun. Loudon told him, “NO” and instead he transferred the responsibility for Fort Cumberland to the state of Maryland, and this freed up Virginia’s Regiment of most of its duty, and this unnerved one angry George Washington. Washington had to command over one thousand men, and he was such a disciplinarian that believed in training. He led his troops in brutal campaigns, and they fought 20 battles in ten months time, and he lost onethird of his men. It seemed to be Georges only unqualified success during the time of the French/Indian War. If one was thinking rationally, it was an easy decision. The troops had already struggled to come through the central Pennsylvania wilderness, and all were sick, poorly fed, and deserting at a fast pace. It was hard to get provisions in because of the rough road that had been cut through the forests and then over the four ridges of the Alleghenies that was between Forbes’ and Ligonier supply base in Carlisle, so in winter they would not be able to get supplies. They could not get a good idea of the number of hostile Indians that were at Fort Duquesne. They were not even sure of the size of the garrison at the French fortress. Also, if they could take over the fort, they did not know if they could hold it all winter. The attack was delayed until after winter passed. It took only two weeks to realize that the situation around Forbes’ army had undergone a dramatic change and that Forbes’ expedition would be the
one to stand out. The real reason for this war was for nothing less than who would maintain control of the fertile Ohio River Valley, and the real struggle was between the French and British. Today, on this site, is where the Monongahela River and the Allegheny River meet in the city of Pittsburgh. It was at Great Meadows that George Washington attempted to obtain a foothold for Virginia on July 4 th, 1754 when a French force that had been based at Duquesne that made him surrender at this poorly located Fort Necessity. So, trying again, in the summer of 1755, there was a British force led by General Braddock who set out to seize Fort Duquesne. Braddock’s army, moved along the north by the Monongahela River, got ambushed and routed, its leader killed on July 9 th. The British colonials in Pennsylvania were beginning to panic and started sending letters to Philadelphia, letters to one another, telling of the terror that was sweeping through their counties like a wildfire, and trying to get their leaders to please send them soldiers and to build forts for them. Governor Robert Hunter Morris of Pennsylvania could do little to help. November 11, 1758, Brigadier General John Forbes decided to call together a council of war where else but at his headquarters at Fort Ligonier that was about 40 miles due east of what was then considered the French stronghold, Fort Duquesne. He had a distinguished group of experienced battle-hardened men. Among them were, Sir John St. Clair, Henry Bouquet, Archibald Montgomery, George Washington, William Byrd, John Armstrong, James Burd, and Hugh Mercer. He had about 6,000 men to make up his army that was poised to strike Fort Duquesne and winter was upon them and could trap his army up in the Allegheny Mountains. Forbes had to decide as to whether to advance now on that French fortress or settle down for the winter and wait until the spring came. It would not be until late in 1758 that the British finally came up with a strategy to reverse the tide. The British planned on attacking the French at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, drive them out of the Champlain-Lake George area in New York by grabbing Fort Carillon; and then get rid of the little chain of forts that ran south of Lake Erie down to Fort Duquesne. If this feat was to be accomplished, they felt they would need Brig. Gen. John Forbes to oversee the provincial and British expeditionary force.
Forbes building a road caused two difficulties that proved to be significant. No one was sure how they would be able to clear the way through the mountains to get 6,000 soldiers through and then manage to bring in a steady stream of supplies to those soldiers. The second difficulty was that the Virginians were being led by no other than George Washington who did not want Pennsylvania to open any roads leading into the Ohio territories. It was a sore point with Virginia as it caused a significant dispute inside Forbes’ group and almost undermined his plans. The soldiers all started getting sick with stomach and respiratory infections. Even Forbes’ officers would be stricken and bedridden for days at a time. Forbes, having been trained as a physician knew he was dying and only lived until March 11, 1759. Forbes, who realized he had the ‘bloody flux,’ was dehydrated, blinded by migraines, terribly constipated, and could barely walk to the point he could not get out of bed. It seemed even to the end, as ill as he was his mental capacity, remained intact. There were multiple small units from here and there representing different factions, but there were two Virginia Regiments that were commanded by George Washington and William Byrd. Forbes’s group was often riddled by the desertion of their soldiers, those that stayed were drunk all the time and were behaving ridiculously. Washington would at times conspire against Forbes ideas to finish a new road. Those actions would be to the point of getting rid of General Forbes himself. When one reads Washington’s old letters, it reveals his anger about Forbes’ constant refusal about their incessant arguments. In one such letter, George complained of how much time had been wasted. He felt that Forbes probably did not have orders for some of the things he carried out. George wrote that if it were necessary, he would travel to the planned Virginia mission to England to let the king know just ‘how much the Public’s money had been misused.’ George was not mincing words; he finished his letter by saying he could prove what the truth of the mission indeed was, as he had taken more pain than anyone else to get to the bottom of this disgrace. When Forbes found out that George was going behind his back, he said that George was unfit for duty and Forbes was furious. He had seen through
George’s planned maneuver that would only advance Virginia and its claim to all the western territory and keep Pennsylvania from claiming its own. George Washington tried to learn from his mistakes since one of his letters had landed in the hands of Forbes, but Forbes continued to ignore George’s arguments to use the Braddock road. All evidence seems to suggest that Forbes went forward to carry out his orders with due diligence. Forbes big problem was the man he had chosen to oversee provisions and logistics, St. Clair could not get along with anyone. No matter who he encountered, he seemed to alienate them as soon as he met them. His problems of being nice to others started with bureaucrats and farmers, then continued to his fellow soldiers. When it came to it, the French met George Washingtons group. There is an anonymous account in the Pennsylvania Gazette on November 30, 1758, that state during the battle that part of Forbes’ group upon hearing the action of the conflict hurried through the early morning hours to help Washington and his group. They were soon being shot at by the soldiers they were coming to help (friendly fire if you will). Before anyone figured out what was happening, there were 14 Virginians killed. The British still scored a significant victory, captured Fort Duquesne and took control of the Ohio Valley. It was considered this war and the battles involved were won due to the abilities of General Forbes. Even though Forbes had to struggle with great difficulties and maintain his armies in a seeming wilderness and marched them over almost what one would consider impassable mountains and through thick woods; his actions required that of experience and foresight. Considering how ill he was and that he was able to surmount all of these problems and was still able to drive the French out of Ohio and blow up their Fort. The French and their reign in the United States were gone forever. In December of 1758, George said he had had enough, he resigned from his commission, went back to Mount Vernon totally disillusioned and retired. He felt his experience during his time in the war was just plain frustrating, as decisions were made too slow, there was weak support from the legislature, and the recruits were so poorly trained it was pitiful.
GEORGE TAKES A WIFE
“It is far better to be alone, than to be in bad company.” — GEORGE WASHINGTON
After George left the army, he married one Martha Dandridge Custis on January 6, 1759. Martha was a widow, 28 years old, and was a few months older than he. Martha came to their marriage with considerable wealth. Martha being a gracious woman; she was also intelligent and extremely experienced in managing a farm estate, so it made for a harmonious marriage. She had an 18,000-acre “estate,” and George purchased 6,000 acres of it from her. After buying this land, and with what land he already had, and along with what he had earned for his military service, George was one of the top landowners in Virginia. To this marriage, Martha brought her two young children. John (Jacky) who was six years old and Martha (Patsy) who was four. George could not help but lavish affection on both of them. Since George was never able to have any biological children, he was happy to have two children to raise. When Patsy was about eleven or twelve, she started having seizures caused by epilepsy. George and Martha consulted several doctors and tried every cure they heard about, but nothing worked for poor Patsy. During this time in history, there were no anti-seizure medications. Even during the 1700s, it was not normal for anyone to die from epilepsy. Patsy had lots of seizures after they started, but she always recovered from them just fine. It was June 1773, and Patsy was talking to her “about to be sister-inlaw,” Eleanor Calvert at Mount Vernon. Patsy had gone to her room to gather a letter that Jack had sent her while he was away at college. Eleanor heard a weird sound and found Patsy lying on the floor in her bedroom in the middle of a seizure. George and Martha were called to the
bedroom immediately. George picked her up and laid her on her bed. In family letters, it describes George at Patsy’s bedside, kneeling, with tears running down his face, asking God for her to recover. In two minutes, Patsy was dead. They buried her the next day. George wrote to his brotherin-law that Patsy his “innocent, sweet, girl had passed away.” He goes on to say that Patsy had eaten dinner that afternoon and was feeling better than she had in a long time. This time when she had a seizure she died within two minutes and did not utter a groan, a word, or a sigh. It was unexpected and sudden, and Martha is very depressed. By reading George Washington’s account of Patsy’s death, it is undoubtedly one of the best and earliest descriptions of SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). It is still not known how it causes death. It seems to be the typical pattern for death in the young that are between the ages of 20-40. They are generally in excellent health except for the fact of their seizures. Most of the time it happens at night and goes unwitnessed. Families usually find them prone in their beds or at least near their beds. SUDEP is rare; you will see that it strikes one out of 1,000 to 3,000 people who suffer from epilepsy every year. If death is going to be considered SUDEP, there can be no other reason for the cause of death. The next day George wrote a friend: “It is easier to conceive, than to describe, the distress of this family, especially that of the unhappy Parent of our dear Patsy Custis when I inform you that yesterday removed the sweet, innocent girl into a more happy and peaceful abode than any she has lived with, the afflicted path she hitherto has trod.”
George canceled anything to do with business and did not leave Martha for a single night for three months. Patsy’s death did enable him to get rid of
the British creditors since he did inherit half of her inheritance. Then Jacky passed away during the Revolution. He was serving as a civilian aide to the camp for George Washington during the time of the Yorktown Siege. Unfortunately, Jacky Custis came down with “camp fever,” which in today's time would be referenced as dysentery. Custis died November 5 th, 1781. When Custis died so young at age 26, his wife (widow) let her two youngest kids live with George and Martha for them to raise. When this happened, George immediately adopted both of Jacky’s children, Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis. Martha and George were never able to have any children of their own, and it is thought that maybe his bout with smallpox left him sterile. When George married Martha, he became one of the wealthiest men in Virginia, and it did help his standing socially. He gained control of one-third of Martha’s 18,000 acres which was worth $100,000, managed the remaining for Martha’s children, and since Dinwiddie had promised land to the soldiers in the French and Indian War, George acquired 23,200 acres more to add to his 8,000 acres from his brother Lawrence. In 1783, Custis’s widow remarried a Dr. David Stuart from Alexandria, Virginia and had 16 more children. Even though Custis was well-established when he died, his financial arrears were in such a mess due to his poor business decisions and the wartime taxes that after he died in 1781, it took administrators over ten years in negotiating an end to the final transaction over the purchase of Abingdon. It did not entirely liquidate until 1811 when his widow died. His four children then inherited over 600 slaves. After George retired from the Virginia militia and until the start of the Revolution, he made his priority developing his land, managing his livestock, rotating crops, and trying to keep up with the latest in scientific advances. George loved being the farmer and being out on his horse overseeing his land. He enjoyed fishing, fox hunts, and cotillions. He was working six days every week. You would find him out with his coat off working beside his hired hands. He bred his horses and cattle and tended to the fruit orchards he owned. He kept over 100 slaves, and it is said that he did not believe in slave ownership, but then again accepted the fact that the law was for slavery. It is
difficult for this author to understand if he was indeed against slavery why he kept slaves. Why did he not free them and pay them as laborers? During this time, George got his first taste of politics when he was elected to the House of Burgesses of Virginia during 1758. George was a ‘respected’ landowner and military hero; he held a local office and was elected to the Virginia legislature. He represented his County at the House of Burgesses for a total of seven years starting in 1758. When it came election time, he filled the voters up with beer, hard cider, brandy, wine, rice punch totaling 170 gallons – all while he was away on the Forbes expedition. There were three other candidates, and he won the election by about 40 percent of the vote. During these years George made sure he positioned himself as a political figure and social elite in the state of Virginia. For over eight years he would invite 2,000 guests to join him at his Mount Vernon home, most of them being “people of taste and rank.” If people were not among the elite social status, he would treat them civilly but made sure to hold them at a proper distance, so that they could get to know him. In 1769 he became more active in politics when he tried to get the Virginia Assembly to pass an embargo on any goods coming from Great Britain. Washington lived a lavish type lifestyle. His favorite hobbies were dances, fox hunting, parties, races, theater, and cockfights. He liked playing backgammon, cards, and billiards. George imported the fine luxuries and whatever goods he wanted from England and to pay for them, he exported his tobacco crop. When 1764 rolled around, all the luxuries and the tobacco market being weak, he found himself 1,800 pounds in debt which in today’s times would be $2,359. He had a lot of holdings, but no liquidity, no easy cash. He decided to bolster his solvency by paying more attention to his money, diversifying his business, and not ordering so much from England. He changed his cash crop to wheat from tobacco, so that he could process the wheat in its various forms in the colonies. He kept diversifying his operations, and it would include fishing, milling flour, hog production, horse breeding, weaving, and spinning. It would be twenty-six years later when he would build a distillery for making whiskey that would produce 1,000 gallons each month. Of significant note, in 1779 fall, George inspected the lands that had been given to the veterans of the French and Indian War. He surveyed the
land and was given the best of the acreage anywhere on the tract. George told the other veterans that their land was no good as it was unsuitable for farming and he would buy it from them. It was a total of 20,147 acres. Most of the veterans seemed to be happy about the sale of their land while there were others that realized they had been duped. (For someone who believed for justice for all, this was a mean thing to do to others who had fought with him.
GEORGE BECOMES A MASON?
“To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” — GEORGE WASHINGTON
George was only 21 years old when as a young Virginian he became a Master Mason which at the time was to be considered the highest of the basic rank in this secret fraternity of what they called Freemasonry. Due to the decline of cathedral buildings or “lodges” as they were also called it was decided to admit those who were not stonemasons to increase and maintain their membership. It allowed the secret fraternal order to grow even more in popularity in Europe. The first Masonic Lodge in the American colonies was built in the city of Philadelphia in 1730 and the future leader of the revolution; Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding members. Freemasons are each governed by their local order’s many rites and customs. Their members can trace their origins of the Masons all the way back to the building of King Solomon’s Temple in the Bible, and all of them are expected to believe in the “Supreme Being,” to follow certain religious rites, and to keep a vow of secrecy when it comes to the ceremonies conducted in their meetings. Of note, the Masons of this time adhered to what was considered liberal democratic principles that would include loyalty to the government and religious toleration. The Free Mason’s seemed to encounter lots of opposition from the organized religious faction, and most of it from the Roman Catholic Church. George considered it another feather in his hat, a showing of his civic responsibility. When he became a Master Mason, George could go through a series of rites that would let him “rise” in status in the Masons. Right
before he became president of the United States, George had been elected as the first Worshipful Master of Lodge No. 22. There were leaders who had fought in the American Revolution that were Free Masons. Some of them were John Hancock and Paul Revere of the Boston Tea Party. The Masonic seal can be seen on the design of the seal on the one-dollar bill. It is the All-Seeing Eye above a pyramid unfinished with the scroll beneath it that states “New Secular Order” in Latin. This seal began showing up on the one-dollar bill during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency who was also a Mason. Today, Freemasonry is still playing an important role in United States politics, with at least 15 presidents, five Justices on the Supreme Court, and Congress that have numerous members of Masons.
W H A T WA S G E O R G E ’ S T I E T O T H E S TA M P A C T, T OW N S H E N D A C T S , & THE CON TINEN TAL CONGRESS
“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.” — GEORGE WASHINGTON
The British Government decided to play ugly and imposed a “Stamp Act” on their American Colonies. Taxpayers in Britain were already paying a Stamp Tax, and the state of Massachusetts had already dabbled with a similar type law, but what was required of the residents living in the colonies was above what already existed. Britain was trying to raise the money they felt was needed to provide military expenses for the colonies. The law was passed on March of 1765, but it was not to go into effect until November of 1765. There was so much resistance to this tax that the protests around it were called the Stamp Act Crisis. The Stamp Act Congress repealed the said stamp act. The Stamp Act - was soon noted as an economic and political failure for Britain. The realization soon came that the colonies knew they needed to begin to organize the efforts to be rid of Britains power. The Townshend Acts – In the colonies there were four acts that Britain had passed attempting to exert its authority over the American colonies. They tried by suspending a stubborn representative assembly and came up with strict ideas for collecting revenue duties. The colonists named this set of acts after the man who sponsored them, Charles Townshend. It all happened between June 15- July 2, 1767. Suspending Act – it kept the New York Assembly from being able to conduct any more business until it complied with all of the financial
requirements for the Quartering Act to address the expenses of the British troops that were stationed in the American colonies. Townshend duties – it enforced a direct revenue duty. That means money aimed not merely at trying to regulate trade but to put money in the British treasury. You needed to pay at the colonial ports, and the duties were on tea, paper, glass, and lead. It would be the second time for the colonies that they had a tax forced on them to raise the revenue. Third Act – It established some strict and mostly capricious machinery of collections regarding customs in the American colonies. It would include the searchers, officers, coast guard vessels, spies, writs of assistance, search warrants, and even a Board of Customs Commissioners in Boston. It was all to be financed from the customs revenues. Fourth Act – it lifted the commercial duties that were in place on tea, letting it be exported to the American colonies free from Britains taxes. The four acts were an immediate threat to what had been traditions already established by the colonies as self-government, mainly the practice of taxing through representing the provincial assemblies. All the acts were repealed March 5, 1770, except for the one dealing with tea. By lifting the acts, it seemed to avert hostilities temporarily. Then came the Boston Massacre on the same day the acts were repealed. Five colonists were killed by British regulars. It culminated tension between the American colonies and the British troops that had been there to enforce those tax burdens. The trial had some interesting aspects in that the Captain and the eight soldiers trial was the longest so far in the colonies history. It was the judges the first time to voice "reasonable doubt." There was Benefit of Clergy that was used in this trial by two of the soldiers that helped them to escape the penalty of death. The Intolerable Acts played a specific roll in causing the American Revolution. To guide the American Colonies from 1774 to 1789, it would be the Continental Congress. It was to be considered as the first government of the thirteen American colonies. In the year 1776, the Continental Congress declared that America was independent of Britain. It would be five years later that Congress would pen and ratify its first national constitution and the Articles of Confederation.
The country would use these documents to be governed until 1789 when it would be replaced with the United States Constitution.
R E V O L U T I O N A R Y WA R , 8 L O N G YEARS
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” — GEORGE WASHINGTON
When the fighting broke out in April 1775, George showed up at the meeting of the Second Continental Congress wearing his military uniform. He wanted Congress to know he was ready for war. George wanted everyone to know he had the military experience, the prestige, the military bearing, the reputation of a staunch patriot, and he felt the people of Virginia supported him. George was not there on purpose to seek the office of commander and told them he was not equal to, or even up to it, but, there was no other competition for the position. Congress formed the Continental Army on June 14, 1775; John Adams nominated George to be appointed as the Major General and the Congress elected him to be the Commander-in-Chief. When George left his home in Mount Vernon, he would not be back for more than six years. In the winter, it seemed the months would drag on forever, and fighting between the colonies and the British would come to a standstill. It would be during this time George would ask Martha to be with him wherever he was stationed. Poor Martha, every year when the winter came she would make the hard trip to get to his camp, no matter where it would be. Martha would stay with him for months on end. Usually, during the entire time of the war, Martha was able to be with George about half the time he was away from Mount Vernon. Martha was liked by the Patriots, but the loyalists hated her. Some of the people were afraid she would be kidnapped and then be used for leverage
against George. Martha helped with the war effort in that she would raise money for the Patriots to help purchase items like food or uniforms for the soldiers. Martha donated over $20,000 of her own money for the war effort. Before Martha could ever go to the winter camps with George, she had to undergo being vaccinated for smallpox. At that time in history, smallpox was one of the deadliest diseases a soldier could encounter while at war and highly contagious. While with him, Martha worked as George’s secretary and entertained guests. It seemed by her being there it would boost the morale of the troops and her husband. In July of 1775, George took over his command at Cambridge, Massachusetts in the heart of the siege of Boston. He walked into an army that was in desperate shortage of gunpowder, his soldiers poorly outfitted, poorly sheltered, and a group that was undisciplined, so he asked for new sources. George started reforming the men he had to work with by drilling his soldiers, and he imposed strict discipline that included fines, floggings, and even incarceration. He told his officers they should get to know their men and to help their recruits understand the military duties that were best suited for each soldier, they were to respect civilians and to be reading their military manuals. Anyone who was a coward was gone. He had to get gunpowder for his men. British arsenals were raided, there was an attempt to manufacture some, and a little bit of supply was gathered toward the end of 1776, most of it from France. Washington restructured his army during the standoff and made the British withdraw by placing artillery at the top of Dorchester Heights that overlooked the entire city. The British got out of Boston immediately, and George moved his group of men to New York City. Britains newspapers were always against the Patriots in the Continental Congress, but for some reason, they were still praising George Washington for his qualities and personal character as a leader and military commander. Both sides in Parliament seemed to find George's endurance, courage, and attentiveness to his troop's welfare worthy and excellent examples of what they wish they had in their commanders. George refused to get involved in the politics. Instead, he stayed focused on his mission to his men.
In August of 1776, British General William Howe hurled a massive land and naval campaign that was designed to take New York and then bargain a settlement. Under George Washington, the Continental Army fought the enemy for a first time army as the Independent United States for the thirteen colonies; it was to be the biggest battle of the war. It was and the British having several more victories caused George Washington to hightail it with his men out of New York and into New Jersey. They threw caution to the wind, and it placed considerable doubt as to just how stable the Continental Army really might be. Of all the famous pictures one remembers, it is the one of George Washington crossing over the icy Delaware River. It was sundown, the lousy weather was getting much worse, and a light rain had started falling. On that night George Washington led his men to cross the Delaware River, moving 18 heavy pieces of artillery, working against fast currents and ice blocking their way. Because of the weather, George had divided his troops into three divisions, but only one made it across the raging, icy river that night. The other two made it across the next morning in heavy snow and sleet. Christmas Eve night 1776, George Washington decided to attack by leading his men across the icy Delaware River and capturing almost 1,000 Hessians in New Jersey. He then went on to Princeton in early January. The winter time victories raised his group's morale, secured George’s position as a leader, and made every young man in the world want to join the armed forces. In February George and his men stayed in New Jersey and he felt sure that all of his troops needed to be vaccinated against smallpox so he would not lose any more of his troops. September 1777 there was a skirmish between the British and Washington's men in Philadelphia that was much too complex for George’s men who were less experienced and they had to accept defeat. While this was happening, there was the Battle of Brandywine, and George’s men tried to attack the British garrison at Germantown in the early part of October, but they were not to be so successful. When the British Burgoyne was forced to surrender his entire group at Saratoga, France decided to enter the war, by being an ally to America and this act turned a Revolutionary War into what would be a World Wide War.
George’s losing in Philadelphia caused some of the Congressmen to start discussing removing George from his post. When they tried to do this, it failed due to George’s supporters standing up for him. It seemed at this point that the admiration for George was starting to wane, and on top of this John Adams was not giving him any credit. It happened that George’s army stayed at Valley Forge during December of 1777 and stayed there for six months. During winter, out of 11,000 men, the group lost 2,500 to 3,000 of them to exposure, the right clothing, inadequate shelter, lack of food, extreme cold, and disease. The British were paying for their goods with sterling and were living well in Philly. George, on the other hand, suffered terribly in getting the supplies he needed with American paper money depreciating. The food source of wild game from the nearby woodlands was exhausted. When February rolled around, George had to face the enormous task of keeping morale up and discouraging desertion. George had asked over and over from the Continental Congress for the provisions that were so desperately needed but he met with total resistance. Due to his urging, in January of 1778, there were five Congressmen that came to examine just how bad the conditions were at Valley Forge. After this visit, Congress backed George with full support and expedited the process. By the end of February, George’s men had everything they needed. When spring arrived, the army seemed to emerge in good shape, in part due to a training program that had been supervised by a veteran of the general staff of Prussia. There was one thing that George was ever wary of, and that was to always be on the watch for espionage, and he developed a system that he would be able to identify British plans and their locations. George usually being on top of situations that involved betrayal seemed to be looking the other way when it came to incidents of disloyalty of the one and only Benedict Arnold who was his trusted Army Officer. Benedict had shown himself well in many battles, and George had come to trust him and depend on his skills. Benedict had been injured during a battle and could no longer ride horseback into combat. Because of this, Benedict was talked “into” by his ‘loyalist-leaning’ wife to meet up with a merchant by the name of Stransbury so Benedict could defect to the British.
Arnold could sight several reasons he was angry and was prepared to commit treason against his country. He was furious because he had been passed over for promotions that were given to officers under him and it made him mad at Congress; he had been war profiteering, and if caught Benedict could very well face a court-martial; and have to pay back all he had stolen. There were no clues that the British had come looking for him to betray his country. It seemed clear he was set on deserting his country. Starting in the summer of 1780, Arnold began his nasty plot. He kept the information highway open to Andre’ with as much sensitive information he could get his hands on that would cause problems for George Washington so the British could take over West Point. Benedict kept aggravating George for promotion and George finally made him the commander of West Point. It came September 21st, 1780, and time for Benedict to meet Andre’ Stransbury out on the banks of the Hudson River where Benedict gave Andre’ the plans so the British could overtake West Point. Andre’ took the plans and hid them down in his boot. Two days rolled by and Andre’ was caught by army officers who found the plans hidden in his boot. Reinforcements were sent just in case to ensure that West Point would be safe and secured. Benedict, knowing full well what had happened, took off on horseback (remember if you will, before now, his battle injuries had kept him from being able to ride a horse), he boarded a sloop that was waiting for him and managed to escape. When George found out he had gotten away, he was livid and immediately brought in every commander that had answered to Benedict as a precaution. At this point, George had no idea that Benedict Arnold’s wife was involved in this terrible plot. George took over command of West Point, and this caused the British to give up hope, and they never tried to take over West Point again. When Benedict Arnold got off the sloop in New York, he was paid by Clinton for his betrayal and was named a senior British commander fighting patriots in Connecticut and Virginia. Andres’ trial by a military court was for spying, and he was sentenced to death. George Washington tried to trade Benedict Arnold for Andre,’ but the British turned down the offer. Andre’ asked George to let him be killed by a firing squad. George started to grant that request but changed his mind
so he could make an example of a traitor. Andre’ was hanged in New York, October 2 nd, 1780. In 1778, the British left Philadelphia and went to New York, but George and his army launched a full attack on them at Monmouth and pushed them off the battlefield. The British kept heading toward New York. George then moved his group of men to the outskirts of New York. In the summer of 1779, under George’s direction, General John Sullivan was sent to retaliate for the Tory and Iroquois Indians attacking American settlements early in the war. They carried out a mission that they called “Scorched Earth” crusade that demolished about forty Iroquois Indian settlements along with their crops in upstate New York. For the winter 1779 – 1780 George decided to settle his troops in Morristown. It would be the troop’s worst exposure to the elements yet during the war. They suffered temperatures of 16 below. The ground was frozen over with ice and snow for weeks on end, and again the troops were without provisions. The final blow was in 1781 when the French Navy win allowed the French and American armies to trap a British Legion in Virginia. It was seventeen days after the successful Siege of Yorktown that Jack Custis would no longer be among the living. He had joined George Washington as a volunteer aide at the camp specifically for this one campaign. Jack had contracted the ever famous “camp fever” which covered any number of illnesses. The disease was causing him to fail fast. Jack had wanted so badly to see the surrender that faithful comrades lifted Jack on his stretcher so he could see all of the proceedings. It was probably the most significant achievement of George Washington’s life to this point. To try and save Jack’s life, they moved him 30 miles to Eltham Landing in Virginia, where one of his uncle’s, Burwell Bassett, owned some land and had a plantation. They called his wife, Eleanor and his mother, Martha to come to his bedside. Before George Washington could be with Jack, Jack slipped away on November 5, 1781. It was the last of Martha’s children that she had birthed. Martha went into a “solemn and deep distress.” George Washington held Jack’s widow and told her that he felt that Jack’s two kids were the same as if they were his own. George and Martha would take over raising Jack’s two youngest children. Jack’s widow, while leaving the two children with Martha and
George, would by the time the war was over be remarried to a Dr. David Stewart and they would have a family of sixteen children. October 17, 1781, the surrender at Yorktown, ended most of the fighting. George was known for his accomplishments in this war, but George suffered several defeats before attaining victory. March 1783 was upon them, and George Washington did everything he could to diffuse a situation with a group of Army ‘officers’ (the Newburgh Conspiracy) who said they were going to confront Congress about their back pay. They wanted their money and wanted it now. In September 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed that would declare the United States as Independent and free of Britain. George Washington dispersed his men, then on November 2nd, 1783 said goodbye to his soldiers with a farewell address. November 25 th, 1783 the Brits left New York City, and then George and the governor took ownership. December 4 th George told his officers goodbye, he had led the Continental Army for 8 ½ years; and then on December 23 rd, 1783, he turned in his notice that he was resigning as commander in chief. It was in the Senate Chamber in Maryland that George made a statement to the Continental Congress where he said, “I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life, by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to His holy keeping.”
During this period in history, the United States was following the Articles of Confederation and were without a President. It was to serve as the forerunner to the United States Constitution.
GEORGE RETIRING? FROM WHAT? FARMING? MILITARY?
“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.” — GEORGE WASHINGTON
When George retired, he went back home to Mount Vernon, but his retirement was to be short-lived. He was interested in what the western frontier held, so in 1784 he went on an exploratory expedition. He checked out the land he had been granted as payment for serving in the French – Indian War. He was persuaded to present himself at the Constitutional Convention in the City of Love, Philadelphia in the summer during 1787 as a representative of Virginia. While there, he was elected to be president of the Constitutional Convention. George was critical however of the Articles of Confederation for what seemed to be a weak central government as he referred to them as no better than “a rope of sand” to hold a new nation together. George felt there should be a strong federal government due to all the years he was so frustrated with British officials not being able to provide for their military when they so desperately needed supplies. The general consensus did not feel the same as George Washington because they thought a federal government would become more dictating like the British they had overthrown. George did not debate much, he participated in the voting for and against the different articles, but with George’s prestige it helped maintain cooperation, and the delegates kept their noses to the grindstone. When the delegates were designing the presidency, they did so with George Washington in mind and asked him to define the office of President of the United States.
After the Constitutional Convention, George’s support caused many, even the Virginia legislature, to go ahead and vote for approval; the new United States Constitution was then approved by all thirteen states. The electors that represented the states under this new Constitution would vote for their new President February 4 th, 1789. The official count would be delayed to wait until Congress achieved a caucus in New York, George Washington was suspicious that most Republican electors did not vote for him.
GEORGE HAS DOUBTS HE CAN LEAD THE NATION
“True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation.” — GEORGE WASHINGTON
The Inauguration was supposed to be held March 4 th but had to be delayed because Congress could not meet the quorum before April 6 th. Washington did win the election, unanimous in each state. John Adams came in second and therefore was elected as the vice president. Bear in mind the electoral college was set up entirely different at that time. Each elector was able to vote twice (what a mess that must have been). Maybe that was due to there only being thirteen states. There was a delay in certifying the election which made more time for doubts as George considered what the task would be like if he were elected. George enjoyed this period of waiting like it was a vacation; if he were elected, he was sure it would feel like he was being led to his execution. George loved his peaceful life at Mount Vernon. He always felt that he was not smart enough to be the president. The 13 colonies faced what he called an “ocean of difficulties.” While writing a letter to his friend, Edward Rutledge, he expressed the fact that he felt the Presidency was about the next thing to a death sentence. He felt his private life would never be the same again. There were 72 electors, and everyone but three voted and each elector could vote two times. George Washington appeared on every ballot of the 69. Almost half the electors cast their second vote for John Adams, who was named vice president. The rest of the votes went to 10 other candidates who were running for president.
The electorate college was nothing then to what it is now. The popular vote remains the same, however.
GEORGE ELECTED FIRST PRESIDENT – 1789
“When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen.” — GEORGE WASHINGTON
The day after the electoral votes had been counted and Washington was declared the first president; Congress told Charles Thomson, secretary of Congress to ride to Mount Vernon and notify him of his presidency. I am sure that Thomson was not looking forward to making the trip to Virginia to tell George that he had been elected President. He was going to face bad roads, terrible weather, and wide rivers he would have to cross; broad rivers that may be deep. It was okay with him though because he felt that Washington would be almost “a father and a savior” to get the colonies on the right track. Washington considered Thomson to be an exemplary patriot and a faithful public servant. April 14, 1789, George opened the main entrance door at Mount Vernon and embraced his visitor, Mr. Thomson. After entering Mount Vernon, Thomson read the proclamation to George Washington that he was now the new President of the United States. George did not feel he could meet the tasks laid out for the requirements of the job description for president. He said he knew the work itself was arduous and since it was laid at his feet he felt unable to rise to the occasion. He told Thomson that all he could do was try his best and go at the job with honest enthusiasm. This job in front of him was not like anything he had ever attempted in his entire life. All the aspirations for a republican government now lay in his hands. Before this turn of events, he had been able to stay in a cocoon of silence, but with this presidency, there would be nowhere to hide, and he would be continuously exposed to public scrutiny as never before.
Since the vote counting had been delayed for so long, George who was 57 years old, was starting to feel the crush of what was to come from the public affairs that would be left up to him. For this reason, he decided to set out as soon as possible for New York the morning of April 16 th. With him came Thomson in George’s elegant carriage and his aide, David Humphreys. He had written in his diary, and it gave way the sense of dread he felt: “About ten this morning I said goodbye to Mount Vernon and my private life, to domesticity, and my mind feels so disturbed to the point that I am ever so anxious that I am having pain, more pain than I can express. I start my journey to New York, with my best intention to give my best service to my country and answer the call to which I have been assigned, but continue to feel little hope about meeting everyone’s expectations.”
As he left, it was Martha that stood there waving goodbye to George. She would not join him until the middle of May. She watched as George started his journey. It was a bittersweet feeling as she wondered if he would ever come home to Mount Vernon. She had doubts about him taking on this public job, but I guess it couldn’t be avoided. Martha felt their whole family would be dysfunctional, so she must get there as soon as she could follow him. So George could travel quickly, he and his group started out every morning at sunrise and traveled all day. He wanted to keep distractions to a minimum, which he soon found was going to be impossible. He foresaw eight long days of partying ahead of him. George had only journeyed a mere ten miles toward Alexandria when he has intercepted with a dinner that was prepared, and the lunch was drawn out by 13 mandatory toasts. Washington was a professional when it came to
saying goodbye. His response to the townspeople was that he bid them all as being his kind friends and neighbors a goodbye. It was soon realized that this trip would form a Republican equivalent to that of a procession leading to a royal coronation. George acted like he had been a politician forever as he left political promises all along the route. While George was in Wilmington, he spoke to the Delaware Group that Promoted Domestic Manufacturers. It was there he gave a hopeful speech. George told them he wanted to promote domestic manufactures, and with his plan, it would be one of the first issues to be expected to come from the new energetic government. Arriving in Philadelphia, the town dignitaries met him and asked him to ride into town on a white horse. He came to a bridge to cross over the Schuylkill River and found it had been wrapped with evergreens and flowers. A little boy wearing a flower crown on his head and looking cherubic was lowered by a mechanical device, to place a flower crown on George’s head. Everyone was chanting “Long Live George Washington.”
When George entered Philadelphia, he found himself in front of a grand parade with 20,000 people along the sides of the streets, with their eyes watching him in astute wonder. Church bells were ringing as George continued to one of his old hangouts, the City Tavern. The next day, George was so tired of all the partying that when the light horse troops showed up to escort him on to Trenton, they found George had left the city an hour before them to stop the pomp and circumstance. When Washington neared the bridge that spanned Assunpink Creek in Trenton, the exact spot where the Hessians and British had been held back by him, he noticed the townspeople had made an elegant and beautiful arch made of flowers to honor him. As George came closer, 13 young girls, robed in white, walked toward George with baskets full of flowers as they scattered their petals at George’s feet. He was sitting on his horse with tears standing in his eyes. He bowed to the young girls. The three rows of unmarried ladies, women, married
ladies, and young girls burst into song about how he had saved them. All this admiration only made George doubt himself more. George hoped he would be able to enter New York unnoticed and quietly. He had pleaded with the governor to please have no celebrations as he was ready for some peace and quiet. He was crazy if he thought this would happen. When he had made it to Elizabethtown, New Jersey, April 23 rd, he noticed three senators, three state officials, and five congressmen waiting for him. He had to have an idea that this welcome would be over the top compared to those in Trenton and Philadelphia. There was a special barge, tied at the wharf, freshly painted and built in his honor, equipped with red curtains for an awning at the back so it would protect him from the elements of the weather. The craft was being steered by 13 oarsman wearing white uniforms. As George’s barge started drifting out into the Hudson, he could make out a shoreline of Manhattan that was “full of a vast number of citizens all waiting with exultation for his arrival.” Many ships were in the harbor anchored and decorated with banners and flags for George Washington. When George’s Presidential barge pulled up to the wharf of Wall Street, there was Mayor James Duane, Governor Clinton, and James Madison along with other dignitaries who welcomed him to the fair city. George told everyone that for now, he would go along with this plan, but this needed to be over soon. The streets were solid with people and George to get to his new house at #3 Cherry Street; it took him one-half hour to get there because of the crowds of people. It was noted that George's attitude changed on his way to his new home as he gave in to the mood of everyone's high spirits, and it seemed especially so when he noticed the numerous adoring women. Washington was continually bowing to everyone and always taking his hat off to the women looking out their windows. The women were waving their hankies and throwing flowers and crying tears of congratulation and joy. The new Constitution did not call for a speech at the inauguration. George had been thinking about this even before he had been elected and asked David Humphreys to draft one for him. Humphreys turned out a speech 73 pages long. The address was a little on the ridiculous side due to
George spending so much time defending why he decided to run for president. Fortunately, this speech was not given. Madison then helped George write a more compact speech. Madison would be there to help George in whatever way he needed. Madison became George’s advisor and true confidant. It was odd that Madison was never bothered that in his relationship with Washington, it might somehow become interpreted as a violation of the balance of powers. George realized that all that he would do at the inauguration and swearing in would set the tone for America's future. Since it was the first time in the nations new future, it would set a precedent. He told Madison that he religiously hoped on his part that the examples would be founded on true principles. George would not wear his uniform to the inauguration, but he did wear a brown double-breasted suit that had been designed from broadcloth. The suit was adorned with a sanctified button that bore the symbol of an eagle on each one. He wore white hose, yellow gloves, and shoe buckles of silver. To polish off his image as President, George powdered his hair and put on a dress sword that had been sheathed in a scabbard made of steel. George Washington’s inauguration was held where Nassau and Wall Streets interconnect in a building that for a long time had been used as the City Hall for New York. In September of 1788, Pierre-Charles L’Enfant remodeled the building into what was called Federal Hall making it the perfect home for Congress to reside. There was a covered arcade located at street level and on the second story a balcony. George would step out on this balcony and take his oath of office. Historians feel that it being the first inauguration was NOT by any means a pomp and circumstance affair but instead a slapdash affair. The preparations for the inauguration were rushed, and work on the building went on until just days before the big event. A couple of days before the inauguration, the eagle was placed upon the pediment, and that would complete the building. The building was white and topped by a white and blue cupola with a weather vane on top. It would be a little after noon April 30 th, 1789, and after listening all morning to prayers and church bells that a team of troops riding on horses would accompany carriages filled with legislators that would stop in front of George’s new residence on Cherry Street to escort him to the inaugural site.
The processing trailed at a snail’s pace as it went through the Manhattan streets and stopped 200 yards from their destination, Federal Hall. When George stepped off the carriage, he walked through soldiers who had formed a double line to enter the building where the members of Congress were waiting for him. When George entered, he bowed to each house of the legislature to show his respect. The room became extremely quiet. The new Vice President, John Adams stood to give the official greeting and told George that this moment in time was upon him. He said the House of Representatives and the Senate were ready to give him the oath of office that the Constitution required of them. Washington let them know he was prepared to begin. When George stepped out onto the balcony, there was a deafening roar from the crowd below. People were everywhere they could squeeze on the streets and every rooftop. George acted modest, stately, and it had a profound effect: he placed a hand over his heart and bowed to the crowd several times. Because of George’s integrity, dignity, and his prior unrivaled sacrifices he had given to his country, he was a success with the people. Congressman Ames from Massachusetts stated that time had already reeked havoc on George’s face, and he already looked careworn and haggard. Just that morning before the inauguration the Congressional committee wanted to add that George lay his hand on the Bible while he took the oath. A Masonic lodge provided a deep brown, thick, leather Bible that lay on a crimson velvet cushion. When it was time for the oath to be taken, the Bible lay on a table that was covered in red. Chancellor Robert Livingston executed the oath to George Washington. George seemed visibly moved. When George had finished his oath, he bent over, picked up the Bible and lifted it to his lips. It is not known for sure, but legend has it that George added, “So help me God.” It seemed to onlookers that George Washington was feeling this experience to the depths of his soul. The crowds watching could not hear a thing, and Livingston had to raise his voice to notify the crowd below that the oath was finished.
With this part of the ceremony finished, George went to the Senate to give his inaugural speech. Congress stood as he entered the room and after Washington bowed in response, everyone sat down. George seemed very nervous when he started his speech. His voice though deep was a little shaky and so soft everyone had to pay close attention so they could hear what he was saying. George seemed embarrassed and agitated at the same time. When he gave his speech, he spoke of his anxieties about not feeling fit for the job as he thought he had inferior endowments by nature and no practice in civil government affairs. During his speech to Congress, he told them that he did not want to be paid, but Congress ignored his request and gave him an annual pay of $25,000. The one thing George did know was that "God" had been the overseer when it came to the birth of America. George went on to say that no one can be forced to acknowledge and worship the invisible hand of God, which does conduct the lives of men, more than the citizens of the United States. George may have been referring to the fact that he was feeling much older. He told those present that Mount Vernon was his retreat from the rest of the world. George did not go into matters of policy but did cover the ideas that he would use to govern his administration. The first and foremost being national unity. George was careful that he did not endorse any specific religion. There was so much riding on his attempt to have a republican government. After giving his speech, George led a procession up Broadway, to attend an Episcopal service at the Chapel of St. Paul’s. After the devotions, George finally had a chance to relax for a short while. That evening, the lower Manhattan area was covered in shimmering lights. Washington watched the fireworks for two hours. Finally, George could rest and get on with his new job as President of the United States. It did seem that George was excellent at delegating and made a reasonable judgment with people of character and talent. He was out and with his staff and talking regularly with his department heads and would listen to what their advice was before he made a final decision. He seemed orderly, systematic, solicitous of others opinions, energetic, decisive, but he was intent on the general goals and the actions it would take to achieve them.
George Washington, now President believed there should be a strong Presidency. Since he was the first President, that meant he could set several new rules, basically play the office by ear. George felt it was essential to work closely with his staff and he relied heavily on the advice of his cabinet members. George was popular, and that was no doubt, Congress did not try and challenge any of his appointments to his cabinet. It was this principle that set Presidents to be able to get approval for their cabinet appointments unavoidably. While George was serving his first term, he was forced to deal with significant problems. The old Confederation did not have the powers to handle its load of work. There was weak leadership, and part of it was because there was no executive, and only a small number of clerks; but they had a massive debt, no powers to tax, and paper money that was utterly worthless. George had to face the fact that the United States was still not unified because Rhode Island and North Carolina had yet not joined the new Union, and the status regarding the independent Vermont Republic was still uncertain. George was burdened with bringing together an emerging executive department; and he leaned heavily on Tobias Lear, his personal secretary, to help him with this selection. Congress assembled the executive departments during the first few months of Washington's term in office, and it included the Department of War, The State Department, and the Treasury Department. Two additional officers were chosen without having departments, and they were the Attorney General – Edmund Randolph and the Postmaster General – Samuel Osgood. George also appointed Thomas Jefferson from Virginia as the Secretary of State, Secretary of War would be Henry Knox, and Alexander Hamilton he picked for the Treasury Department. In 1791 Hamilton and Jefferson got into a huge argument that went public because of the nosey newspaper the “National Gazette.” The fighting got so bad that Jefferson went to George Washington and told him that Hamilton’s system would totally undermine and probably overthrow the Republic. Hamilton believed there should be a strong federal government that needed a Federal bank backed with Foreign Loans. Jefferson, however, felt
the government should be under the direction of each state, and all the farmers resented the idea of Foreign Loans and Federal Banks. Hamilton was angry and demanded that Jefferson should be the one to resign if he would not go along with what Washington felt was right. George talked and pleaded with Jefferson and Hamilton to stop this mess of open warfare and remember they were there for the nation, but the two were so headstrong and entirely ignored what Washington had to say about the subject. George knew with this strife that he would have no choice but to run for a second term. He would not be able to leave the Presidency with such a hot mess going on. Jefferson’s actions in trying to undermine Hamilton outright almost caused George to release Jefferson from his cabinet position. He was saved this duty however as Jefferson resigned voluntarily in December 1793. Foreign and Indian Affairs dogged and plagued Washington as well. April of 1792 saw a time when the French Revolutionary Wars had broken out. It was between France and Great Britain. After George gained the approval of his cabinet, he stepped up and proclaimed the neutrality of America. Hamilton designed the Jay Treaty to normalize the trade relations they had with Great Britain, get them out of the western forts, and settle the financial debts left over from the Revolution. It was John Jay that negotiated and then signed the Jay Treaty. Washington supported the Treaty, and he was not resistant to criticism from the Republicans. They even accused Washington of taking more than what his yearly pay; he never responded publicly to this accusation. Sometimes it is better to ignore remarks that have no basis than try to respond as it will only make you look guilty. Anyone who holds a public office must have thick skin as there will always be someone there ready to tear you down no matter what you do or say. They will be sitting with their cloak and dagger to kick and stab you at anything you try to do for the good. After the treaty had been signed, the United States relations with France started to deteriorate, and this would throw problems in the lap of future President John Adams. For George’s second term, George seemed to be re-elected easily, but John Adams became Vice President by seventy-seven to fifty votes.
George, even though winning a second term, was criticized by the National Newspaper because of his birthday being celebrated and everyone felt he was starting to appear like a “monarchist.” Because of all the criticism, Washington laid low, he came to his inauguration wearing plain clothes and arrived in a plain carriage. His inauguration was held inside the Hall of the Senate Chamber of Congress in Philadelphia. The oath was administered by Associate Justice Cushing. George delivered the shortest inaugural speech ever on record. In 1793, George signed into law the Fugitive Slave Act that would allow the owners of slaves to cross over state lines and bring back their escaped slaves. When he went to Congress to talk to them about foreign treaties, he didn’t like the way he was treated. He did not feel he was being treated like a President. He would never consult Congress again on any foreign policy decision. It would set forth what would happen for all future presidents, that they rarely would discuss with Congress before they made any foreign decisions about policy. While Washington was President, two major political battles took place. The first hurdle was when those who had a strict translation of what the Constitution said and then those who opposed. The second dispute that broke out was due to those who favored England and then those who supported France in the European War. The followers who stood for strict Constitutional translation were headed up by no other than Madison. They meant for the government to be no stronger than what had been defined in the Constitution. Then there were the Federalists, that Alexander Hamilton led, that felt the government had powers that were implied over each state. Hamilton even proposed the Federal Government create a Bank of the United States so it would help to fuel economic growth. Madison’s group said the government did not have that kind of power from the constitution. George Washington went along with the Federalists and BOOM; there was a Bank built. Secretary of State under Washington was Thomas Jefferson, and he took the side of France who was at war with England. Hamilton took the side of England. Washington stood in the middle. George felt the United States should step back and stay out of Europe's problems and conflicts. He also thought the United States should have
peacetime as long as possible so they could increase strength before getting involved in any more wars. Alexander Hamilton had a plan to improve America’s economic condition and to pass an excise tax on whiskey. Western Pennsylvania farmers were angry about the tax; they felt it was targeting them. The farmers sold whiskey, and it was an easy way to transport their extra grain over the mountains to the eastern markets. The angered farmers living in the west started protesting the tax the moment it passed in 1791. When 1794 rolled around Congress decided to make some changes, which would include that they would not require farmers to be assessed with any payments according to the law, to come to Philadelphia. At this time, a mandate was issued against 75 of the farmers who Congress believed to be defying the law. A marshall was assigned to serving the farmers. He served all but the very last farmer on the list and his name was Miller, and he was out in the field when the agent came by the farm. Word spread quickly that the agent was in their town and 37 of the farmers took off for the house of the revenue agent who thought this might happen and had posted guards around his home. When the farmers got to his house and would not leave, the soldiers opened fire. Six farmers were wounded and one killed. They disbursed but came back the next day with 500 men. One of the men were killed and the rest burned down the home of the revenue agent who had taken off the night before. It did not take long before 6,000 people marched through Pittsburg as part of the rebellion. When word reached George Washington, he immediately called for the states to prepare their militia to stop the revolt. Each state sent a total of 15,000 men to Washington’s army that he was personally leading. When George and the military had made it to Western Pennsylvania all the rebel rousers had scattered. Ten people were arrested, but they were all pardoned or acquitted. It ended the only armed rebellion until the beginning of the Civil War. One of the more significant events that took place during Washington’s term was concluded with a lot of debate but almost no conflict. It was ratifying the first ten amendments of the constitution which we know as the Bill of Rights.
George and Martha owned slaves from Africa and those slaves descendants. Martha and George were not personally responsible for the institution of slavery, but since he was the President, after all, he could be found as the one responsible for encouraging and tolerating the act of slavery. It seems from historical research that George considered his slaves not worthy of decent clothes as well as other basic needs of life. You find conflicting reports as to how he treated his slaves. More often than not you will see that the following is what you will uncover. It does not seem to fit the man that we consider as the first President of the United States. Some authors who will take a stand for George will tell you that he would never take his slave's teeth; so much so that he would pull their teeth to replace his bad teeth with the healthy teeth he had extracted from their mouths. There seems to be much argument and debate over this issue. I for one believe that he did procure his real teeth from the slaves, he might have bought them, but it may have possibly been part of his punishment as he encouraged violence to make his slaves stay in line. They will go on to tell you that he might have paid them or other slaves that did not work on his plantation for their teeth. He did not pay much for teeth, however. It seems the going rate for teeth was usually two front teeth for a guinea. It is documented in his plantation record books. It seems there was a dentist in Philadelphia that made George’s first set of false teeth and guess where rumors say he got the teeth for his dentures. George Washington as a slaveholder “followed” what they called the “standards” that everyone else did with their slaves. George believed and downright encouraged being violent with his slaves as a way to keep them scared and subservient to him. It has been said that he sold and bought his slaves only for economic reasons. Of course, because of this, it would sometimes separate families. He made sure while he was President that his slaves did not learn about their right to freedom. If he was able to do all of this, I say he would take their teeth to those who think that George would never be a part of that practice. For George’s entire life he had trouble with his teeth, and it seems that the historians have researched issues with his teeth extensively. At age 22 he lost his first adult tooth, and by the time he was president he had only one tooth left. A dentist by the name of John Greenwood made him four sets of false teeth, and while he was President, he went through several sets.
Because of his dental issues, he was in constant pain, and he took a lot of laudanum (today it is a controlled opioid drug), which Tobias Lear would seek out for him. (One has also to wonder if he was hooked on this drug as well. He didn’t just have slaves at Mount Vernon; he had them while he was President at his Presidential home. He selflessly supported liberty for white people but opposed freedom for the Blacks. While Martha and George were living in Philadelphia, there were some of their slaves who worked around the President’s home. Others were made to live in the slave quarters, which were just five feet from the entrance of what is now called the Liberty Bell Center. What irony? It seems George was a great leader as a President, a general, and a patriot. His greatness did not overflow to caring for his slaves – especially when it came to the terms of how they existed or in regards to their clothing, food, health, and shelter. Several of the slaves had to rummage for old burlap bags to wear for their outer garments because George would not dress them appropriately. George could be caught in a lie when it came to owning slaves. On December 19 th, 1786, he made a vow that he would never purchase another slave. It did not matter, he accepted slaves as a form of payment on a debt and bought them to work on some renovations at Mount Vernon. Those he brought to Philadelphia he treated in a demeaning, degrading, debasing, and dehumanizing manner. The nine he brought with him to Philadelphia suffered so much that two of his favorites – Oney and Hercules Judge – escaped as well as two more – Christopher and Richmond Sheets. At Mount Vernon, while he was away, seven left, although they did not live in freedom for long as George had them hunted down and brought back. While George was serving his first term in office, the political parties were starting to emerge. Alexander Hamilton wanted a Federalist Party, and Thomas Jefferson wanted the Democratic-Republicans. If you visited the President’s Home while it was in the temporary capitals before it was decided that its forever home would be Washington, D.C. you would find Martha had warm hospitality that always made her guests feel comfortable. Martha did not like high society and the “formal compliments and all the empty ceremonies” that went with that group. Martha only cared about what came from someone's heart. Abigail Adams always praised her and
knew that Martha was one of those genuine people who created esteem and love in others. When George first began his Presidency, they rented a house on Broadway, and it also served as his office. It exposed Martha to all of George’s visitors, and because of that it drew Martha into political discussions more than she would have ever been involved in had George’s office and home been separated. When the seat of the new government moved to Philadelphia, the Washingtons moved into a house on High Street, and Martha’s entertaining started to become more elaborate. Martha was careful and would not take any stands on public issues, and this caused her to be criticized. Some of the people attacked her for the fact that they felt she was entertaining on too large a scale and much too opulent for a Republican government. When George was nearing the end of his second term, it seemed he could do nothing right for the people. They were critical about his past successes, and they felt he had Federalists leanings. They even accused him of being greedy and ambitious. It was such a massive shift to the man that they had laid flowers at this feet, held parades, and cried over when he came into town for his first inauguration. He started to feel that the press was out to get him because a lot of what they printed was nothing but falsehoods. He even expressed the same in his farewell address as to how troubled he felt about the backbiting and lying that came from the press. His Farewell address did not help calm people. Instead, they became angrier. When it was time for George to retire after his second term of office was over Martha was too glad to go back to Mount Vernon and some peace and quiet.
GEORGE AND GOD
“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.” — GEORGE WASHINGTON
When you try to find out about George’s religious beliefs, you will find how difficult it is to come up with absolute conclusions. It seems that George has been reviewed in different lights all the way from being a Deist to a believing, practicing Christian. This author and researcher, however, believes he was a practicing Christian. But no matter what the conclusion seems to be, there seems to be a common thread about Washington’s view with religion. Washington was found as a devoted member in the Anglican Church. It was in 1762 when he became a vestryman who oversaw the affairs for the Pohick Church in Truro Parish. He also served as churchwarden for three terms, (however long their terms were), in helping care for the poor. It seems that church attendance for George varied during his lifetime. We must remember he was away at war for several years and therefore could not bring the war to a halt to run home to church. It seems that history wants to claim his attendance got better during his Presidency. It does not indicate that it was more during his second term when the newspapers were hounding him constantly or not. There was one prior pastor at Pohick that said he had never known a more faithful attendant at church as George. Regarding his spirituality, George was one of those people who was just quiet about his religion. It is reported that George would conduct his prayer sessions in private. His nephew witnessed his Uncle George during his personal times of devotions with his Bible open and kneeled every morning and every evening. Many Christians seek quietness and solitude to pray and speak to their God. It is an individual’s choice.
It has been said that Washington refused to take part in communion, but there seem to be some conflicting reports on this issue. One of the stories says that George participated in Communion before he was the leader of the Continental Army. After coming back from the army, it became his practice to leave the church before communion would take place and leave Martha there to partake. It has also been said that the assistant rector in Philadelphia of the Christ Church got on to him for leaving. How do we know that maybe his conscience bothered him for having killed so many while at war and he felt he could no longer take Communion? Whatever the reason, it was his reason and no one else's business. Some question as to whether George was one that believed in Heaven or the afterlife. There is a reference in some of his writings about there being a coming judgment, and that one day in the future of meeting with “the Creator.” Remember he was a Freemason and their tenets require that you believe in Heaven and the afterlife. When his step-daughter Patsy died, he prayed for God to bring her back as she lay dying. When you look at Washington’s beliefs about God, it is not hard to figure out that he did believe in God the Creator of some sort. The God he believed in seemed to have three main traits; he was inscrutable, wise, and irresistible. George seemed to refer to God by several names, but the one he used most was “Providence.” Sometimes he used the Creator God. It seems George thought and believed that people were not just passing through this world. Whatever happened to someone was by the will of Providence. Washington did feel that God was instrumental when the United States was developed. It seems that armed with these facts; he believed in a God that is continuously influencing all the happenings around us every day. Research does not tell us he was a devout Christian. The only mention of Jesus Christ is in public papers. It may mean nothing however as it may have been the practice of the day by the Episcopalians or Anglicans of that time.
N O L O O K I N G B A C K – O N T O M T. VERNON
“The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.” — GEORGE WASHINGTON
When George finally retired from his Presidency, and he and Martha made it back to Mount Vernon it was with sheer relief. He worked and devoted a lot of time to his plantations, his distillery, and his business interests. His distillery made its first batch of spirits in 1797. Of all his plantation operations none of them were making any money. He was losing money quickly just at Mount Vernon because of his unproductive slaves. It was like a hole in a bag of marbles with the way money was running out it. When 1798 rolled around, the relations of the United States and France had before were deteriorating so much that war was unavoidable. Shockingly, George accepted and did serve as a senior officer in the United States Army until his death. George could be found planning in meetings for emergencies that might arise but avoided any involvement with the fine details. Most of the work he delegated to Hamilton and that included the active leadership. George never returned to field duty. Most people in America thought he was rich because of where he lived and how much he owned. His wealth was tied up in slaves and land. It has been estimated that he was worth about $1 million in dollars of that day and that would be equivalent to about $21 million today. His money was in his land and holdings, but it was not liquid, there was no cash available due to this fact unless he sold some of his holdings. It began on December 12, 1799, when George was out riding on a horse around his plantation. It was freezing rain, hailing, and snowing. He and Martha had guests coming that evening, and he did not want to keep them waiting, so he went to eat supper and did not change out of his wet clothes.
The next day the weather got even worse, and the snow got much heavier. George had a very sore throat, and he walked through the snow down the hill to mark trees that he had decided should be cleared. When he got home that evening, his chest was feeling very congested and was getting hoarse, but he was still in a good mood. Around 3:00 a.m. he woke up because he was having great difficulty breathing and could barely speak or swallow. George was a firm believer in bloodletting, so he had Albin Rawlins to take about a pint of his blood. At this point, Martha had Tobias call the second doctor to the home. It was a Dr. Gustavus Brown. Dr. Craik came at nine that morning and made a blister on George's throat to balance out Geroge's fluids in his body. Craik bled Washington again and then commanded that a potion be made of sage tea and vinegar for George to gargle. It was eleven o'clock, and Dr. Brown had not arrived yet, so Craik sent for another doctor. At noon they gave George an enema, but it seemed not to have any effect on George. They then bled George for what was to be the fourth time. It was later revealed that with the last bleeding they took thirty-two ounces of blood. When they were finished with him over half of his blood had been taken from him. Dr. Craik gave an emetic so George would vomit and again it did not serve any benefit. At four-thirty that afternoon, George wanted Martha to come near to him so he could talk to her and asked her to bring his two wills from his office. When he reviewed them, he threw one away, and Martha went immediately and burned it. George then asked for Tobias Lear. He told Tobias that he knew he was dying and then gave Tobias some instructions about some of his business. At five George got up from his bed, got dressed, and went to sit in his chair. Within thirty minutes he went back to bed. George thanked all three doctors for trying their best. At eight that evening Dr. Craik attempted more blisters, and even poultices were applied to George’s legs and arms. One doctor wanted to do an emergency tracheotomy which MIGHT have saved his life, but the other two doctors said no. George finally told them to stop trying; he knew he was going to die. George told his Doctor that he died hard, but that he was not afraid to die. His death came quickly and for sure unexpectedly. For his final instructions, he said to bury him decently and wait three days before putting him in the vault. The last words he ever uttered was “Tis well.” Martha sat
at the foot of his bed calmly composed. George died a peaceful death at 10:00 p.m. December 14, 1799. George’s Masonic Lodge took care of the funeral and the arrangements. When the news made it to Washington, D.C., Congress immediately closed for the rest of the day. The next morning the chair of the Speaker was veiled in black. Four days later the funeral was held at Mount Vernon where they were to inter his body. The Foot Soldiers and Cavalry lead the entire procession, while six other Colonels that had served for Washington at the time of the revolution served as George’s pallbearers. The funeral itself was only for family and friends. Congress had chosen Henry Lee III to give the Eulogy. In December 1800, Congress passed a bill to build a mausoleum that would cost $200,000. The measure was defeated by the Southern Senators and Representatives because they opposed the entire plan and thought George’s body should stay at Mount Vernon. Martha wore black for one year to signify she was still in mourning for her George. It was at this time that Martha went through and burned all the letters that she and George had written to each other to protect their privacy. It seems that only five letters have survived. Martha also released all the slaves that she and George had owned and gave them their freedom. Martha was depressed after George passed away and she quit eating and wasted away. Martha came down with a high fever of 105.3, developed heart failure and death overtook her at age 70 on May 22, 1802. They are both buried at Mount Vernon, and neither of them has extravagant tombstones.
As a President, he was remarkably orderly, systematic, and solitious (This is a good quality for anyone in any area of your life. To have these characteristics will serve you well through your entire life. Never be a sloth or a slob. It can only slow you down.) He tried to involve his staff in making Presidential decisions (Remember, there is no “I” in Team. The more heads put together is better than one and others may come up with ideas or had experiences in the past that may help you solve a problem or know someone who has had more experience in the field that you can talk to about the issue to allow your venture to be a success on any decision.) His first year as President he could do no wrong and brought the country together. When he would set a goal for himself, or a vision he always worked until it was obtained (George never gave up, he kept on trying no matter what he was faced with and this is to be admired. A good lesson for anyone in life; to never accept defeat.) He assumed a leadership role as a soldier for which he had no formal training; he was just thrown into the position, and he had to learn by the seat of his pants. (He made the best out of the situation and as always, learned from his mistakes. He made many in the role of a soldier, but he knew not to remake some of the mistakes he had made before.) George always learned from his mistakes (This invariably is a good quality for everyone to pursue. If you cannot learn from your mistakes, you will never advance and gain any of your goals in life.)
George seemed to be a whiner and a backstabber when it came to wanting to move up in his career military wise. George gave away locks of his hair to admiring women. He was a bit what you would call cocky as he would go against the orders of his superiors and it caused problems, some problems that cost the lives of soldiers. He had written a letter to a married woman letting her know he loved her while he was engaged to Martha. He must have thought of her all the time while he was married to Martha because after his Presidency he still wrote her again saying that everything he had accomplished in his life has not been able to make me forget the happiest moments of my life which I enjoyed in your company. (Shame on him.) George was a careless soldier at the beginning of his career as a soldier. He never thought things through. He loved being noticed, and he would do anything for attention. At election time he would fill voters up with beer, hard cider, brandy, wine, and rice punch too as much as 170 gallons to buy their votes. He was a snob in many ways as he never wanted to be around anyone that was beneath his status. He cheated veterans of the French/Indian War for their land. He deceived them badly. Some were glad to get the money, and others realized how badly they had been duped. He was terrible at public speaking (he never spoke where you could hear him, and he did not keep up with what was going on now if it did not involve war.) He lost more battles than he ever won.
No matter whether the person you study is alive today or they were alive 200 – 300 years ago, no matter how hard you try you will never know everything there is to know about that person. I say this because George Washington was a quiet man and most quiet people, you must draw out of them what they have on their minds and then you never know what is going on inside their brain. Those who are talkative creatures you will usually know them from their toes to the top of their heads. I think there was a lot more to George Washington than what can be found in any of the books dedicated to him. I think he was a man who always wanted biological children but knew that would never happen. It seems he was also a big flirt with women when Martha was not around. It seems he spent a lot of time smiling and encouraging their glances in his direction. It appeared he glowed when other women would look at him arduously. He would go so far as to clip locks of his hair and send it to women who would request it. When you study George closely, it seems that he never had a real sense of confidence in anything that he did or started to do, but he always learned from his mistakes. No matter what, it took a lot of nerve to be able to step out and serve the people of this great country as the first President of the United States and play everything by ear knowing that you were setting a precedence of what was to come for all future generations. I am not writing this book to “run down” George Washington. I wrote this book to show that even great people have flaws. We are all human, and in some way, we are all flawed. It is to be expected as none of us are perfect. Just because he was considered the “Father of our Country” does not mean he was ever a perfect man. He had his strengths and weaknesses, and he wanted so badly to be known for something. All the while he was making history, he never realized it and craved for more. More good books you may want to read about George Washington:
Washington – A Life - by Ron Chernow His Excellency – George Washington – by Joseph J. Ellis George Washington, First Guardian of America – by Michael Crawley
A L E X A N D E R H A M I LT O N ON E OF TH E MO S T IN F LU E N TIA L F OU N DING FATH E R S
THE ORPHAN OF THE CARIBBEAN
“A promise must never be broken.” — ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Alexander Hamilton started his life in the British West Indies and would grow to become one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States. For many Americans, his story seems like a classic tale from rags to riches, of a poor boy whose hard work and perseverance allowed him to become one of the greatest historical figures of a nation. This popular perception is recent, caused by the explosive success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway show Hamilton: An American Musical, which spread across the globe like wildfire. The truth is not as pretty, certainly not neat, and not as politically correct as the musical, but that makes it no less interesting and instead means there’s a lot that the general public can learn from such a complex figure as Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton entered a world where both sides of the Atlantic Ocean were dominated by Europe and Great Britain in particular. The 18th century featured the gradual rise of Britain to global prominence through the strength of its navy and colonies. Britain not only owned the thirteen North American colonies that would become the United States later in the century, but it also possessed significant regions of the Caribbean, including the British West Indies. The Atlantic slave trade was in full swing, and white European landowners continued to be the top of society. Hamilton was born on January 11 th, 1755 or 1757. Hamilton himself listed his birth year in 1757, but Dutch papers uncovered during the 1930s listed him as 13 years old in a probate document from St. Croix made in 1768. The document, drafted after the death of Hamilton’s mother, might have the wrong age listed from an error on the part of the writer. Another theory is that the young, orphaned Alexander deliberately gave the wrong birthdate to appear older and therefore more employable since thirteen-
year-old boys were eligible to enter apprenticeships. Whatever the case may be, historians know his parents to have been Rachel Faucette and James A. Hamilton. Rachel Faucette was a married woman who abandoned her original husband and children and traveled to St. Kitts in the British West Indies. However, she did have her reasons for leaving. Rachel had married a man by the name of John Lavien, an unsuccessful merchant when she was 16 and he 28. By all accounts, Lavien had done his best at pretending to be wealthy whilst arranging the marriage with Rachel's mother and quickly turned into an abusive man after the wedding when he found out that the Faucette family did not have money. When Rachel started to associate with other men, Lavien had her jailed as punishment despite his infidelity. Eventually, Lavien decided to petition for her release, believing Rachel would be more docile and obey him. However, once out of jail, Rachel quickly packed up with her mother and left, making the trip to St. Kitts. While there, she met James Hamilton and commenced an affair. James Hamilton was a noble Scotsman, the fourth son of a Laird, or a Scottish noble with an established estate. The pair moved to Nevis in the Leeward Islands and had two children: James Jr. and Alexander. Eventually, the older James Hamilton abandoned Rachel and their children when he discovered that her original husband intended to divorce her for adultery and Rachel could then be charged with bigamy, a serious crime that would result in her return to prison. Although James seemed to remain in contact with Rachel and his sons, he did not offer any significant financial or emotional support to the family. Rachel moved to Nevis because she inherited some property in the region from her father in the capital city of Charlestown. However, she could not sustain herself and her children in the region and moved the family to St. Croix instead a little later. In St. Croix, she established a small store and ran it until her death from yellow fever in 1768. Her death did not bode well for Alexander, who suffered emotionally for years from the loss of his mother. To make matters worse, Rachel’s official husband seized the shop and estate in probate court and auctioned off her possessions, keeping the money for himself. Alexander received only his mother’s collection of books, which a family friend purchased at auction and returned to Alexander and his brother. Alexander’s father once again did not appear to be in the picture and offered little support to his sons.
At the tender age of 13 (or 11), Hamilton became a clerk at an importexport firm called Beekman and Cruger, which frequently traded with the American colonies in New England or the northeastern section of the United States which includes places like New York and Massachusetts. He and his brother briefly lived with their cousin, an emotionally depressed man by the name of Peter Lytton. Unfortunately, in 1769, Lytton committed suicide and left all the property to his mistress and their son. James Jr. and Alexander found themselves separated as the older James left to work with a carpenter and Alexander found a home with a family friend, one Thomas Stevens. During his time with the Stevens family, Hamilton continued to work in the trading industry and became friends with Edward Stevens, Thomas's son with whom he shared many interests. He made a significant impression on his bosses and was deemed competent enough to be left in charge of the firm for five whole months in 1771 when the owner went to sea. At 15, the young Alexander Hamilton already showed more ambition and determination than many adults. Accounts indicate he already wanted to leave the British West Indies to pursue a life in an area with more opportunities. Alexander’s tenacity would serve him well since he was in a rare position. He could have opportunities if he tried, but he would need to work for them. Although he experienced a rough period following the death of his mother, Hamilton lived a privileged existence compared to other boys his age. Instead of being taken advantage of or sent to live on the streets, he and his brother were taken care of by family friends and obtained influential apprenticeships. His mother had owned at least two slaves, and the families Hamilton lived with also possessed slaves that took care of menial labor and the upkeep of the home. Even as an illegitimate child, Hamilton was given significant advantages that would set him up later in life. Although the Church of England refused to admit Hamilton to the church school due to his parentage and the circumstances of his birth, he had received some private tutoring and schooling at an institute led by a Jewish headmistress. This schooling would have been considered enough for a boy of his social status, but Hamilton was not satisfied. He heavily supplemented this formal education with his innate love of reading and writing. Around 1771, Hamilton began to yearn for a life outside of the British West Indies but leaving would be no small feat. After all, even with
his advantages, he was still a young orphan even if he was developing some success in the trading business. What he needed was someone who would be willing to not only get him off the islands but also offer a modicum of support in a new location. And this Hamilton received. In 1772, Hamilton wrote an elaborate and detailed letter to his father describing a massive hurricane which struck the island on August 30 th of that same year. The letter, with its graphic descriptions and religious tones and themes, garnered the praise of one Hugh Knox, a minister, journalist, and acquaintance of the older James Hamilton. Knox published the letter in the Royal Danish-American Gazette, where it, in turn, drew admiration from fervent readers. Several critics wrote in praising the sophisticated language and imagery, and community leaders collected a fund to send the intelligent clerk to the North American colonies for more formal education. In short, Hamilton earned his ticket out of the British West Indies with an essay.
THE NEW BOY IN NEW YORK
“There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.” — ALEXANDER HAMILTON
The funds collected by community leaders were enough to buy the teenaged Alexander Hamilton passage across the Atlantic. He arrived in Boston sometime in October of 1772 and from there traveled to New York by stagecoach. While in the city, he received lodging from one Hercules Mulligan, the brother of a trader who had worked with the firm of Beekman and Cruger. Mulligan worked with Hamilton to sell cargo and goods that would go towards paying for Hamilton’s food, schooling, and other expenses while staying in the British colonies. Starting in 1773, Hamilton attended classes at the Elizabethtown Academy in New Jersey. His education in the British West Indies, because he had been banned from attending the church school, included many gaps that would be essential for college work. In particular, Hamilton needed to brush up on the popular subjects of the time, including rhetoric, geography, history, and French. While at a preparatory school, Hamilton associated with future revolutionary and politician William Livingston and even lived with him for a short period. That fall, Hamilton was able to attend King’s College (the current Columbia University) as a private student before becoming fully matriculated in 1774. While there, Hamilton made numerous friends and acquaintances, among them many future revolutionaries. Indeed, looking at just who Hamilton lived and worked with during his formative teenage years, it’s not surprising that he would grow to become one of the Union’s most fervent supporters. Mulligan was a revolutionary and eventual spy during the war and Livingston already spent much of his time spouting new, revolutionary ideas against the British and King George. Records indicate
that Hamilton's first public appearance included him concisely and succinctly explaining the position of many patriots, as they were known in the 1770s, at Liberty Pole. While in college, Hamilton and his friends additionally formed an unnamed literary society that would go on to become the famous Philolexian Society at Columbia University. He also developed some impressive writings during this time, fleshing out his political ideas and literary prowess. His first political writings, A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress and The Farmer Refuted, appeared in 1774 when Hamilton responded to the work of loyalist and Church of England clergyman Samuel Seabury. Seabury wished to scare people away from the revolutionary cause and was writing to a large audience – what many modern individuals don't realize is that the thirteen colonies were not filled with people chomping at the bit for independence. At least 1/3 were Loyalists while another 1/3 just wanted to be left alone to live their lives in peace. Hamilton went on to author many more pieces that year, including two documents that targeted and attacked the Quebec Act of 1774. The Quebec Act was part of a series of British political acts lumped together and collectively known as the Intolerable or Coercive Acts by colonial patriots. Although targeted at the territory of Quebec, many patriots believed that the new political system contained within would soon be applied to the thirteen American colonies and that the colonies would lose their elected governments. It's also believed that Hamilton wrote fifteen anonymous installments of "The Monitor" in the New York Journal that same year. Despite being a fervent patriot, Hamilton proved himself to be a peaceful man off the battlefield. He condemned the mobs that went about attacking loyalists and even saved the loyalist president of his college in 1775. How? By orating to the crowd long enough for the president to slip away to a safe place. This calm and pacifism did not extend to the battlefield, though. During that same year, following the first engagement of American and British troops at Lexington and Concord, Hamilton and many other students from King’s College joined a New York voluntary militia. Originally called the Corsicans, the company would be renamed the Hearts of Oak. Hamilton regularly performed drills with the company before classes. The militia established its training area in a graveyard of a nearby chapel.
They wore uniforms they designed themselves: short green jackets, badges with red tin hearts and the motto “God and Our Right,” and round leather hats with cockades (circles of ribbons) and the phrase “Liberty or Death” around the band. In his spare time, Hamilton studied military tactics and history and deliberately made use of this new knowledge during drills. Soon, his dedication and studies paid off, and his superiors in the militia recommended him for a promotion. In August 1775, Hamilton received his first taste of combat when the Hearts of Oak received orders to raid the Battery and take possession of cannonry held inside. While under heavy fire from the British HMS Asia, Hamilton and his comrades successfully grabbed the equipment. The Hearts of Oak became an artillery unit afterward and were able to keep the cannonry. Despite being a great student and doing well in his studies, Hamilton was forced to leave King's College in 1776 when the college shut down following the British occupation of the city. Hamilton remained a part of the militia and managed to attain the rank of captain after being promoted through his connections to patriots like John Jay and Alexander McDougall. Hamilton received a new task: gather forces to form the New York Provincial Company of Artillery. Through his efforts, he managed to gather together sixty men and was placed in charge of the company. The New York Provincial Company of Artillery under Hamilton participated in the campaign of 1776 around New York City. He led them through the Battle of White Plains and the Battle of Trenton. During the Battle of Trenton, Hamilton stationed his soldiers at the intersection of Warren and Broad streets to keep hired German mercenaries trapped in the barracks and out of the main fighting. The maneuver was a success, and Hamilton went on to participate in the Battle of Princeton in January of 1777. Washington led the American forces and managed to beat the British back far enough that they took refuge in Nassau Hall. At this point, Hamilton brought out three cannons and commenced fire upon the Princeton College building, forcing a surrender out of the British. Hamilton’s time at school would not continue until after the American Revolution. Instead, he set his sights on a military career, believing that the glory it offered would be sufficient to carve out a place for himself in the new world approaching.
A REVOLUTIONARY FOR WA S H I N G T O N
“I think the first duty of society is justice.” — ALEXANDER HAMILTON
The desired military career did not start the way Hamilton expected. He received offers to become the aide to several influential generals, including William Alexander (Lord Stirling) and either Alexander McDougall or Nathanael Greene. He rejected both positions, striving to earn his glory in combat. However, he soon received one that he could not brush aside: a request from General George Washington to become one of his own aides de camp. Seeing as how Washington was the leader of the Continental Army, it would have been political and social suicide to decline. Hamilton then became Washington's chief staff aide in 1777 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, a position he would retain for four entire years. Because he was an educated man and an eloquent writer, Hamilton became responsible for recording many of Washington's letters and correspondences, including documents sent to Congress, state governors, and the other military personnel in the Continental Army. Soon, he even issued orders dictated by Washington but signed with his name. His role as one of Washington’s aides additionally put him on the path where he would meet his wife, Elizabeth Schuyler. Elizabeth (Eliza) Schuyler was the middle child of the wealthy General Philip Schuyler. By all accounts, she possessed a fiery and impulsive personality tempered by her desire to help others. She met Alexander Hamilton when she was 23 years old in Morristown, New Jersey. The pair hit it off immediately and exchanged letters for a single month before becoming engaged. Hamilton seemed particularly infatuated with Elizabeth, although many of his detractors believed he married her for the fortune he received after the wedding. The two spend a brief honeymoon together in
1780 before Hamilton returned to his military duties. Their first child, Philip, was born less than a year later and would be one of eight over the next 24 years. While serving as the chief staff aide, Hamilton became involved in other high-level intrigue and administration, including diplomacy, intelligence, and negotiations with other senior officers in the army. He even formed lasting friendships with important figures like the Marquis de Lafayette and John Laurens. However, he continued to desire active combat and another military command of his own, one that he would have more freedom to run since he had been given such a high rank. Around 1781, as the war quickly drew to a close, Hamilton became frantic. In February, he used a slight reprimand from Washington as the excuse he needed to resign from his staff position. He began to petition for and request a field command, going so far as to send a letter to Washington with his commission – papers that made him an officer – enclosed in July. By the end of the month, Washington relented. Hamilton received a new commission as a commander of the light infantry companies from the 1 st and 2 nd New York Regiments and two more provisional companies that came north from Connecticut. Hamilton even got his chance to see combat by participating in the final major military operation in North America during the Revolutionary War: The Battle of Yorktown. He was placed in charge of three battalions and ordered to fight with allied French troops to take two British fortifications around the city of Yorktown. Hamilton and his battalions managed to take one of the battalions in a nighttime action, fighting with bayonets at close quarters. The French, although they suffered heavy casualties, also took their target. The British, having lost their advantage over Yorktown, surrendered. Following his success, Hamilton resigned from the Continental Army and set his sights on attending the Congress of the Confederation being held. He gained the appointment of a New York representative in July 1782, with his term beginning in November of that same year. This fit into Hamilton's plans nicely: In his letters, he already expressed his disappointment and frustration with how the wartime Continental Congress ran, in particular, its decentralization and need to receive financial support from the states on a voluntary basis. The Articles of Confederation which established the Congress in the first place could not collect taxes or other
money from the states, meaning the federal government was weak and unable to garner the support it needed without full state cooperation. Hamilton's first goal as a representative was to garner support for an amendment proposed by Thomas Burke that gave Congress the power to collect a 5% duty on imported goods from each of the states. The amendment had been proposed in 1781 but needed the support of all the states to be passed, and Rhode Island rejected it in November 1782. Hamilton worked together with James Madison to get a delegation together to send to Rhode Island and wrote an argument for them to present. The argument stated that the national government needed to retain some level of financial autonomy and had the ability to make laws that surpassed those of the states. However, Virginia soon took back its ratification of the amendment, and the delegation to Rhode Island was canceled. However, Hamilton did not give up on his attempts to get money from the states. While he was a member of Congress, the disgruntled and frustrated soldiers of the Continental Army sent a delegation to Congress. Because the fledgling federal government had no way to raise revenue, it had no money to supply its soldiers and hadn’t paid them in eight months. The officers from Valley Forge had been promised pensions they didn’t receive. The delegation arrived before Congress led by one Captain Alexander McDougall and stated three demands. First, that the regular soldiers receive the wages owed them. Second, that the officers receive their pensions. Third, if the government could not afford to pay the pension for life, then it gives the money as a lump sum to the officers. Congress rejected the demands as it had no money. Hamilton joined a group of Congressmen which encouraged MacDougall to be aggressive and threaten Congress with unknown consequences while simultaneously voting against any proposals that did not include general federal taxation. He did not want a temporary tax or the states to assume the military debts: He wanted federal taxation, only this time with representation. Hamilton wanted to use the discontented army for this purpose and wrote to several officers, suggesting they defy civil authority. Washington wrote to Hamilton and rebuked him, stating that it was dangerous to manipulate the military in such a way. Washington eventually defused the situation by dealing with the officers personally and sending them on their way around March 15 th. Congress disbanded the Continental Army in April 1783, ending the standing
American military. At the same time, Congress created a 25-year tax or impost and suggested that the government turn the officers' pensions into five years of full pay instead of a lifetime of half pay. Both measures required the approval of all 13 states, and Rhode Island once again refused to support either measure. An angry Hamilton was viewed as excessive, but he soon had another chance to petition for a strong federal government. In June 1783, angry soldiers marched from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Philadelphia, where Congress was held. Congress ordered Hamilton and two other former militia members to intercept the mob but gave them no reinforcements. Hamilton ordered the Secretary of War to try to intervene, but his maneuvers were unsuccessful. Finally, Hamilton suggested that the Congress move to Princeton, New Jersey to avoid the angry soldiers, which it did. While in Princeton, Hamilton drafted a new measure, this time to call for a revision of the weak Articles of Confederation that held the fledgling American government together. His resolution featured some aspects that would make their way into the current U.S. Constitution, including the separation of powers into the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches. Unfortunately, some time would pass before a revision of the Articles of Confederation came to fruition. Hamilton resigned from Congress and continued his studies during his personal time, eventually passing the legal bar and establishing his own practice in Albany, New York. He specialized in defending former loyalists – also called Tories – and damages done by British subjects during the war. He consistently made sure that legal judgments upheld the law established by the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War and strived to follow the letter of the law as well as the spirit, demonstrating his fastidiousness and reverence for a strong, commanding government. While the issues of the federal government still plagued him, Hamilton focused on accomplishing some of his other goals. His fondness and sense of duty towards his former university encouraged Hamilton to restore King's College as Columbia College, ending its eight-year suspension and helping rebuild many of its destroyed halls. In 1784, Hamilton also founded one of the oldest banks in the United States: The Bank of New York. While working on these accomplishments, he assumed a leadership role in the Annapolis Convention of 1786, which was a political convention attended by twelve delegates from five states. The purpose was to discuss the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, which Hamilton did with
gusto. He personally drafted the Convention’s resolution to hold another constitutional convention, this time to create a stronger government.
A COMMANDING CRITIC AND A MAN OF THE CONSTITUTION
“I never expect to see a perfect work from an imperfect man.” — ALEXANDER HAMILTON
In 1787, Hamilton was chosen to be an assemblyman representing New York County in the New York State Legislature. He was also chosen to be a delegate for the Constitutional Convention due to the support of his fatherin-law, General Schuyler. Even though Hamilton was a central figure in the decision to call another Constitutional Convention, he failed to be directly influential. New York had two other delegates attending the event: Robert Yates and John Lansing Jr. Both men represented Governor George Clinton of New York and opposed the idea of a strong federal government, instead of petitioning for powerful state legislatures and a weak national government. The two men always voted in unison, ensuring none of Hamilton's changes to the Articles of Confederation could get through. While at the Convention, Hamilton managed to alienate many of the other attendees by giving a speech in which he proposed electing a President-for-Life. His idea was that the president and elected senators would hold their positions until they died or were removed for corruption or abuse of their power. Hamilton believed that the “English model was the only good one on this subject” and that a leader for life had a far more invested interest in the future and wellbeing of a nation than one who left office after a few years. His ideas did not go over well with revolutionaries like James Madison, who believed Hamilton was a not-so-secret monarchist attempting to bring back the very regime the colonies had fought to escape. By the time the Constitutional Convention ended, Hamilton was not happy with the results but thought the document was much better than the original Articles of Confederation. He signed it and convinced several of the other delegates to do so as well. By the end of the Convention, he was
the only member of the New York delegation to sign since Yates and Lansing had already gone home. Afterward, Hamilton returned to New York and campaigned heavily for the document to be ratified by the state since the new constitution would not be nationally accepted without the approval of all thirteen states. Hamilton developed a small faction that verbally fought against Governor Clinton's supporters. Two members of Hamilton's faction were John Jay and James Madison, who still had his doubts about Hamilton as a person but fervently supported the new Constitution. The trio wrote a series of intricate and thorough essays that defended the new iteration of the Constitution. These essays became known as the Federalist Papers and included 85 separate documents. Hamilton wrote the majority, having completed 51 in less than a year. Madison wrote 29 while Jay finished a measly 5, primarily because his areas of expertise were not as relevant as those of Hamilton and Madison. Hamilton remained in charge of the entire project and oversaw the publication of the essays while also enlisting new participants and divvying up the essays based on the different areas of experience of himself and the other two politicians. So, Hamilton covered the executive and judicial branches of the federal government as well as matters related to taxation, the military, and certain parts of the Senate. Jay was in charge of foreign relations and interactions while Madison wrote about the checks and balances of the new federal government as well as the history of confederacies and republics. The Independent Journal published the papers throughout 1787. Hamilton signed the first one under the nom de plume Publius, and the other two men followed suit. Eventually, New York voted to ratify the new iteration of the constitution 30 to 27 on July 26 th, 1788. Hamilton would serve a second and final term in the Continental Congress under the original Articles of Confederation as the United States transitioned to a new government model. While he was arguing in favor of the new constitution, Hamilton was also fighting for the independence of Vermont. Back in 1764, King George settled a dispute between New York and New Hampshire over the region that would become known as Vermont. He ruled in favor of New York, and the state then refused to recognize property handed out to citizens by the government of New Hampshire in previous years. Over the next decade, strife broke out in the region and a faction attempted to establish a state
government for a new place called Vermont. For eight years, the Continental Congress refused to recognize Vermont as a state since New York continued to claim the territory as its own. Around 1787, New York refused to abandon its claims to Vermont but had long given up on exerting control over the region. Hamilton argued that Vermont should be allowed to become a state because the territory of Kentucky was going to petition the new Congress for statehood. By Hamilton’s logic, Kentucky would join the southern states and argue for their interests, so it would benefit the north to have another state sending representatives and senators to the federal government. He exchanged many letters with a lawyer representing the territory of Vermont, Nathaniel Chipman. Eventually, Hamilton’s petitioning to the New York legislature paid off, and New York renounced its claims to Vermont in 1790.
A T I TA N OF T H E T R E A S U RY: REPORTS
“It's not tyranny we desire; it's a just, limited, federal government.” — ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Following the Revolutionary War, George Washington was made the first president of the United States since he was the one figure the thirteen states could agree upon. He began to stock his Cabinet or the group of secretaries that would handle different aspects of the federal government. On September 11th, 1789, he made Hamilton the first-ever Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton's term would be a difficult one since the structure of the government continued to be shaped and molded throughout Washington's five-year presidency. Historians tend to think that Hamilton considered his position to be similar to that of a British minister, and he thus strove to oversee his colleagues while remaining under the influence of Washington. Upon taking the position of Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton immediately focused on his previous goals like strengthening the federal government. In particular, he wanted the government to be powerful through economic stability. As the leader of a new treasury, Hamilton became responsible for defining the economic future of the nation. This would not be an easy feat. The states to the north and south possessed economies based on completely different factors and relied heavily on either industry or agrarianism to make money. Some members of the new government wanted the states to run independently, while others thought the country needed a powerful central government to keep everything in check. To examine all these factors and come up with a pleasing system required intense research, preparation, and a willingness to be shot down by critics. There also needed to be a simple way for Hamilton to communicate his ideas. These would be the reports. Hamilton wrote many of these documents during his five-year
term. Each one laid out a new potential policy for the United States and included projections and materials that Congress could study in depth. Hamilton's writing commenced immediately upon his acceptance of the position of Secretary of the Treasury. During one of the first meetings of the House of Representatives in September of 1789, the House asked Hamilton to write his first report. The subject was how the federal government could improve the public credit of the nation, and the deadline was January 1790. Hamilton had been considering this issue for almost a decade and sought out advice and suggestions from other influential thinkers of the time like James Madison and John Witherspoon. All three thought that extra taxes should be placed on the manufacture of alcohol as well as its importation into the new United States, but Madison expressed his concern that the securities from the debt of the government could be bought up by foreign powers – in other words, the United States would wind up owing more money to countries like France. Hamilton took such concerns seriously and wrote into his report that the securities from debts should be paid to their original owners and that the government should honor all its contracts even if it had difficulty paying. He viewed this as a matter of public and private morality. He further divided the country’s debt into several groups: national, state, foreign, and domestic. The United States owed money to France, who had helped during the Revolutionary War, and already had a plan to pay the country back. The problem was that the new government had been paying soldiers and militia with promissory notes and IOUs. The soldiers, who needed to eat and feed their families, wound up selling the notes to speculators for pittances. In a move that demonstrated Hamilton’s own privileged upbringing, he wrote that the government should pay the speculators and not the soldiers because the military men had shown such little faith in the government – never mind that they literally couldn’t take care of themselves or their families. Hamilton also decided to combine state debts with the national debt and renamed it the federal debt to try to simplify the country's economy. This also diminished state power some, as the state debts came from trading with foreign nations as individual entities or from a failure to pay soldiers. When Hamilton submitted the report to the House of Representatives, it drew immediate consternation. Hamilton had once again drawn on British
practices when developing his plan, and many detractors wanted to be as far away from the British as possible. Some argued that the plan also took power away from the representatives and gave it to the executive branch of government, which naturally angered those in the legislative branch. Others pointed out that many of Hamilton’s friends were speculators who had purchased the debt of soldiers and would benefit from the new plan, thus calling Hamilton’s character into question. Finally, representatives like Madison wanted the money from promissory notes to go to the original holders, claiming that the soldiers sold the notes out of necessity and desperation. His ideas were immediately defeated in a vote by the House. The next problem was that the states could not agree about whether the national government should assume state debts. Arguments lasted for over four months, during which the House requested that Hamilton explain just how this process was supposed to work. Overworked, Hamilton failed to deliver in time, and the House voted against the assumption. A minor issue Hamilton did win, unrelated to his report, was convincing the House to temporarily move the capital of the United States to Philadelphia. The bill passed in July 1790. One month later, another measure suggested by Hamilton passed. To protect shipping to and from the United States, he suggested the creation of ten cutters, or ships designed to stop smuggling and piracy. Each cutter was stocked with well-armed men and cannonry to protect the interests of all states, from the tip of New England down to Georgia. Congress had no issue with the suggestion, and it went into effect on August 4th, 1790. The House of Representatives next asked Hamilton to craft a report on the potential for a national bank. Now, Hamilton had been thinking about a national bank for the United States for over a decade at this point. Ever since 1779, he had gathered and collected ideas from many different sources, drawing inspiration from famous philosopher and economist Adam Smith, the failures of the Bank of North America, the workings of the successful Bank of England, and his own work in helping establish the Bank of New York. He wrote to several confidantes and asked for their opinions but relied heavily on the inner mechanisms of his own mind and imagination to craft the idea he presented to the government. His report went as follows. Hamilton wanted Congress to charter a new National Bank with a capitalization of $10 million. The government would contribute 1/5 of that amount and, since it didn’t have that kind of money, it
would “borrow” the funds from the bank and repay the loan in ten installments. The other $8 million would be available to investors, and the bank’s board of directors would consist of 25 independent members. Hamilton wanted these members to be private shareholders. He did not want the government to be involved in public debt. His vision was of a bank with a firm but elastic supply of funds which would contribute to economic development and the basic function of stable businesses. To get the tax revenue to start the bank, Hamilton once more suggested raising taxes and tariffs on alcohol. The Senate, upon reading the report, passed the bill immediately. As usual, the House of Representatives was full of objections. Representatives from the southern states believed Hamilton’s bank only benefitted states to the north and completely ignored the agrarian economy prevalent in places like Virginia. Madison and Thomas Jefferson were fervent opponents, as were representatives who feared that any capital generated by the bank would stay in Philadelphia and never move to other states. Despite numerous protests and several angry and impassioned speeches, the bill to create the national bank passed with a magnificent vote of 39 to 20 on February 8th, 1791. Hamilton was thrilled and wrote of his success to multiple friends, believing the creation of the bank would contribute to a strong federal government – his ultimate goal. However, Hamilton still needed to get the bill past Washington, who hesitated when presented with it. Washington received advice from multiple parties like Hamilton, but also from people like Jefferson, who believed that the bank did not qualify as “necessary and proper” according to the Constitution. Hamilton retorted that a bank was necessary as a means of collecting taxes and creating one official account for the federal government. After much deliberation, Washington signed the bill into official law and the United States gained its national bank. Although he celebrated his victory, Hamilton was not satisfied. Constantly working and ever the ambitious sort, he next set his eyes on the creation of a mint. Mints were and are the manufacturing centers of a nation’s currency. Now that the United States was an official nation, it needed a legitimate currency approved of and backed by the federal government. Later in 1791, Hamilton presented his Report on the Establishment of a Mint to an awaiting House of Representatives. Once again, he drew inspiration from European models and economists, some of
his friends, a few detractors like Jefferson, and the original resolutions from the Continental Congress in 1785 and 1786. Hamilton drew inspiration from the current situation of the United States in the 1790s and suggested a plan which was realistic rather than idealistic. Since the most circulated coins at the time were Spanish, Hamilton wanted the minted U.S. dollar to weigh roughly the same amount as the standard Spanish peso. This made sense because currency at this time was minted on precious materials like silver and gold rather than being made of paper backed by a supply of metals held by the federal government. Hamilton additionally preferred silver to gold as the standard because the United States received a lot of silver from the West Indies. Another suggestion he included was the idea of minting coins with small values, such as a silver ten cent and single copper cent so poorer individuals would have experience handling money and could manage their expenses more accurately. Surprisingly, Congress had fewer objections to Hamilton’s currency ideas than they had about his national bank. In 1792, Congress accepted Hamilton’s proposal and created the Coinage Act of 1792 as well as a new United States Mint. The next report Hamilton submitted would be his Report on Manufactures on December 5 th, 1791. Congress requested the document a year ago, but the subject was not an easy one. The federal government wanted to know whether it should become involved in the industrial work of the nation or if it should adopt a policy of noninterference. Hamilton fervently argued against noninterference and a sole focus on agrarianism, believing such a policy would be detrimental to trade with other nations. He also that manufacturing would be important when trying to carve out a place for the United States in the global industrial theater. Some of the suggestions he included for the federal government would be instituting high tariffs and duties on foreign manufactured goods that could also be produced in the United States, lowering the duties on raw materials sold within the country, and even encouraging immigration for people seeking employment in the United States. Congress shelved his ideas for future consideration, and Hamilton pursued the development of American manufacturing on his own. In 1791, he and several colleagues from Philadelphia and New York formed the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures. Contrary to its name,
the Society was a private industrial corporation. In 1792, the directors met with Hamilton’s father-in-law, Philip Schuyler, and scoped out a piece of property near the Passaic Falls in New Jersey for a new manufactory. Hamilton and his colleagues did manage to build their manufactory, but it failed quickly due to financial issues. Many shareholders refused to pay for their stocks, several members of the board went bankrupt, and the overseer of the program died in debtors’ prison. Despite his best efforts, Hamilton could not keep his hopes of industrialization afloat.
A TITAN OF THE TREASURY II: THE T WO-PART Y TANGO
“A well-adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous.” — ALEXANDER HAMILTON
During his time as the Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton found himself pitted against many of his contemporaries and participated in the shady dealings of politics. Upon his appointment in 1789, for example, Hamilton began to correspond with British agent Major George Beckwith, the same man who convinced well-known traitor Benedict Arnold to betray the Continental Army almost a decade earlier. In his letters, Hamilton revealed information discussed during secret Cabinet meetings to the British and notably misdirected President Washington about the nature of his correspondence. Why? To influence the direction the new United States would take when it came to foreign policy. By all accounts, Hamilton viewed his work as absolutely essential. As stated earlier, he firmly believed that his work would shape the economy and policies of the United States. Due to his background in trade and finance, Hamilton focused heavily on realism when it came to commerce, trade, and foreign policy. He was challenged by notable Virginian agrarians like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who were more idealistic and wanted the nation to focus more on agriculture and the slave economy native to the southern states. Starting in 1789, politicians like Hamilton and Jefferson began to separate themselves and form two rival parties, even though this behavior was exactly what the states had wanted to avoid. Hamilton’s group named itself the Federalists after the Federalist Papers written previously. The Federalists wanted a strong national government protected by a national army and navy, as well as a government that was involved in the economy
and foreign policy. Jefferson and Madison, meanwhile, headed a group known as the Democratic-Republican Party, shortened to the Republicans. Republicans wanted the opposite of the Federalists: strong state governments based in rural areas dedicated to agriculture, with statesponsored militias and almost no navy to speak of. Jefferson and Madison can be seen as Hamilton’s two major enemies during his time as the Secretary of the Treasury. Both men denounced him frequently, claiming he was a monarchist who did not support the cause of republicanism. In particular, they believed he focused too much on cities, banking, business, and was far too friendly with Great Britain. In many regards, these claims were true – Hamilton was concerned about the future of the United States and felt that a good relationship with Great Britain was essential for protection and economic prosperity. He saw no potential in a purely agrarian society and likewise dismissed Madison and Jefferson as idealists with no practical life experience. At the beginning of his term, Hamilton started to assemble a nationwide coalition to support Washington’s administration, including Hamilton’s own financial programs and the president’s decision to be neutral during the new war between Britain and France. He specifically attacked French agents like Citizen Genêt, who tried to convince American citizens directly to get involved in the war. Hamilton, like many other Federalists, wanted the new Americans to view themselves as national citizens of the United States, not of the countries their families might have migrated from. To bolster this, Hamilton additionally believed that a powerful national government dedicated to the principles of the Constitution was necessary. The Jeffersonian Republicans wanted to support France in its war against Britain since the French aided the United States during the American Revolution. They also wanted to shy away from policies that helped cities and did not want a national bank, which directly targeted Hamilton’s policies. Both the Republicans and the Federalists began to build up political factions and developed their own newspapers to bolster their rhetoric and policies to the general public. These newspapers were anything but impartial; they were full of personal attacks, rumors, scandalous and invented claims, and deliberate exaggerations about the opposing political party. Hamilton created one in 1801, then called the New York Evening Post. It still exists, this time under the name of the New York Post.
The fights and long-lasting rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson truly shaped and defined American political history. Some historians even consider it to be the most important quarrel to ever happen in the country because the victor of their debates would have the power to shape the future of the entire nation. Their fighting was only enhanced by each man’s desire to be Washington’s most trusted advisor, as each man looked up to Washington and wanted to be the most influential person to the United States’ most beloved figurehead. These party tensions heavily influenced Hamilton during his time as Secretary of the Treasury. Every time he submitted an economic report to Congress, it was guaranteed that the Republicans and Jefferson would have something to say. They constantly attempted to thwart Hamilton’s plans and caused him no amount of stress during that period of his life. To make matters worse, in 1791, the Senate election in New York resulted in the election of partisan Republican Aaron Burr, who soundly defeated Hamilton’s father-in-law. Hamilton personally blamed and took out the loss of the election on Burr, who he knew from previous engagements. The next big issue in Hamilton's life was the creation of the Jay Treaty. When Great Britain and France went to war in 1793, Washington called for a meeting of his Cabinet and Hamilton attended. He and the others voted unanimously to adopt a position of neutrality because the United States did not have the resources necessary to fight a European war. Hamilton additionally voiced concerns about what might happen to the United States if Britain decided to retaliate by cutting off European trade to the states. The troublesome Citizen Genêt was sent home. The policy of neutrality lasted for about a year before new trade issues emerged in Congress in 1794. Hamilton and his Federalists found themselves fighting with the Republicans over trade with Britain. Hamilton wanted to increase trade with the powerful seafaring nation, while the Republicans proposed a trade war and declared Britain the ultimate threat to the republicanism of the United States. Hamilton spoke at length with Washington about the issue. After some time, Washington decided to send Chief Justice John Jay to Great Britain to negotiate a future trade relationship. Before he left and while he was in Britain, Jay received the majority of his advice and instructions from Hamilton, who continued to push for better trade. The result was the Jay Treaty, which stated that relations between the two countries would include:
most-favored-nation status for trading between the two countries, the evacuation of forts in the American northeast by the British, reparations paid by the British to the United States for its attacks on shipping, and repayment of old loan debts held by Americans to the British. The United States also received limited opportunities in the British West Indies and had to stop much of its trade with France. This deal was great to Hamilton and the Federalists but enraged Republicans, who believed the United States was betraying France and the country's ideals for money. The Republicans denounced the treaty and tried to stop Congress from passing it, but Hamilton quickly mustered up the support needed. The Senate passed the Jay Treaty in 1795 with the bare minimum 2/3 majority needed to get it through the government. This treaty would become one of the United States and Hamilton’s greatest victories, as it prevented another war with Britain and managed to bring the United States great economic prosperity. The Jay Treaty’s acceptance came after Hamilton finally decided to take a break, though. After spending so many years fighting for and trying to establish the American government and economic policies, he gave Washington two months’ notice of his resignation on December 1 st, 1794. This decision was heavily influenced by Eliza’s miscarriage earlier in the year, which Hamilton had missed because he was occupied with political business. In many ways, this halfway period in the 1790s could be seen as the beginning of Hamilton’s downward spiral. While still a successful man, his ambition and tendency to overwork himself started to catch up with him. Combined with these pressures were his own personal flaws, such as his inability to withstand criticism without trying to drum up a response. Politically, he had done great work. But politics are always intertwined with personal attacks, affairs, and business, and this was exceptionally true of Hamilton.
RESIGNATION, THE REY NOLDS AFFAIR , AND WOUNDS
“When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation.” — ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Hamilton resumed his law practice in New York and stayed close to his family following his resignation. He continued to write and meet with Washington, whom he considered a close friend. He even drafted Washington’s Farewell Address several times, and the two men compared ideas and what the Address would mean to a nation that was not ready to let go of the only non-partisan president the country would ever have. Since Washington resigned in 1796, a new presidential election occurred that same year. Around this time, the United States had a different voting system which hadn’t expected the presence of political parties. In fact, early drafts, documents, and even letters between the writers of the Constitution had indicated that the creators thought the idea of parties was disreputable and contradictory to the good of the nation. But Hamilton and Jefferson had created their Federalists and Republicans, and now they vied for power. Each person in Congress had two votes which they could use on two separate candidates. Whoever received the most votes would be president and whoever had the second most would be the vice president. The plan of the Federalists was to overwhelmingly vote for John Adams and then have a few people choose Thomas Pinckney as the vice president. However, Hamilton didn’t like John Adams and frequently spoke unfavorably about him to Washington. For his part, Adams also resented Hamilton and thought he was overambitious and improper. Hamilton conspired to have Pinckney receive more votes than Adams while still trying to keep Jefferson (the Republican choice) out of office.
Unfortunately for him, the Federalists found out. The final results of the election ended with Adams as president but Jefferson as vice president. Adams’ resentment and hatred of Hamilton grew. This would not be the only blunder or mistake in Hamilton’s grand designs and intrigue. The next year, 1797, Hamilton became embroiled in the first major sex scandal in the history of the United States, when it was revealed that he had become involved with a woman eleven years younger than him in 1791. The affair was with a woman named Maria Reynolds, who was married but claimed her husband abandoned her. She solicited monetary aid from Hamilton but then quickly developed a sexual relationship. Her husband, James, soon found out and requested Hamilton pay him $1000 in exchange for his silence about the matter. Hamilton paid but then resumed his visits to Maria. James continued to solicit money from him until Hamilton ended the affair a year later. For five years, the incident remained a secret from everyone, including Eliza. However, James Reynolds and his friend Jacob Clingman were arrested in November 1792 under charges of counterfeiting money and illegal speculation. When Clingman made bail, he immediately went to politician James Monroe and explained that the imprisoned Reynolds had information about Hamilton that could incriminate the other man. Monroe spoke of the issue with several other congressmen. The trio seemed to believe that Hamilton was involved in some form of speculation and illegal money handling. In December, they confronted Hamilton. Hamilton revealed the affair, ending the rumors about illegal speculation or mismanagement of the national treasure. As evidence, he showed the other congressmen the letters he exchanged with Maria and James Reynolds and explained that the payments made were blackmail. Monroe and the other congressmen were to keep the documents a secret from everyone, and they did for the next five years. Unfortunately for Hamilton’s desired secrecy, a journalist by the name of James Callender published a document called "A History of the United States for the Year 1796." Within its pages were accusations that the imprisoned Reynolds had been an agent of Hamilton's that misused treasury funds. Hamilton, who could not handle criticism or rumors well, decided the best course of action that summer of 1797 was to publish a 100-page booklet that explicitly described and discussed his affair with Maria Reynolds.
The reaction was immediate. Hamilton became the laughingstock of the Republican party, who believed his actions were immoral and imprudent – the affair and the decision to publish such a long document about it. Many of Hamilton’s friends and colleagues were disgusted with his behavior and some, like Monroe, never forgave his impropriety. Surprisingly, many others remained unaffected, including Washington. As for his family, Eliza packed up and moved away from her husband, choosing to live apart from him for at least a year. She eventually forgave him and returned to live with him, but he did not regain her trust for some time. As for Hamilton's children, the younger did not quite understand the situation, but the older were disappointed, especially Hamilton's oldest son. Hamilton remained out of the spotlight for a few months following the revelation of the affair and stayed focus on his law practice. He did not return to any major political actions until he was made a major general of the United States' army by President Adams. Why? The United States was facing a potential French invasion during an incident called the Quasi-War of 1798-1800. The Quasi-War began following the infamous French Revolution when the monarchy fell, and several republics developed in France in rapid succession. The United States refused to keep paying off the debt it owed France from its assistance during the American Revolution, claiming the money was owed to an old regime. This angered the new French government, and it sent its navy to attack American ships. Hamilton became the inspector general of the army until the war’s end. Since Washington did not want to leave his home at Mount Vernon unless actual fighting broke out, Hamilton became the de facto leader of the military, which displeased Adams. Hamilton frequently fought with Adams, much as he fought with other politicians because he believed he had better ideas about the direction the country needed to take. If a full war broke out with France, Hamilton wanted to march his troops down to the colonies of France's ally, Spain, and take that territory. He was additionally prepared to quash any resistance in the southern United States if that section of the country did not agree with his and Adams' decisions. To fund the army, Hamilton harassed the new Secretary of the Treasury, a man named Wolcott. Hamilton never received his chance to march down to the Spanish colonies. Adams, who did not want a full-scale war with France, opened
negotiations with the other nation in 1800. France sued for peace, and the Quasi-War came to an end. Hamilton's army was disbanded, much to his annoyance. Adams, meanwhile, fired several of his cabinet members, believing they were far more loyal to Hamilton than to him. Hamilton went back to his law practice with his hopes of more military glory quashed and his friends in the Cabinet thrown out. Hamilton's animosity with Adams came to the forefront later that year, when the Federalists sought to reelect Adams as president during the 1800 presidential election. This time, the two Federalists up for election were John Adams and a man named Charles Pinckney, who was the elder brother of Thomas, the man who ran for vice president during the 1796 election. Hamilton once again attempted to convince more Federalists to cast their votes for Pinckney than Adams and wrote to congressmen from South Carolina with the same idea. He went so far as to create a pamphlet entitled "Letter from Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States." The entire pamphlet was extremely critical but did reluctantly endorse Adams at the end. He mailed it to two hundred other Federalists, but a copy came into the position of the Republican party. They published it, damaging Hamilton’s reputation among the Federalists. The Federalists became divided, and the Republican nominees won instead. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received the same number of votes in the Electoral College, and Hamilton became the deciding vote over who would become president. He chose Jefferson, despite the two men’s animosity, believing him to be less of a threat than Burr. However, soon Jefferson became unwilling to support Burr as the vice president and made it clear that he would not be chosen as Jefferson’s partner in the 1804 election. Hamilton's joy from his political victory was short-lived. In 1801, his oldest son met with an opponent to duel over a matter of honor. Philip, the same son who had been disappointed with his father years ago, was shot and killed at the age of 21. Hamilton and Eliza mourned for months, even as another child was born to the couple shortly after Philip's death. Once again, Hamilton withdrew from political life for a little while but rapidly returned. He was like a machine, constantly needing to be in motion. Burr, desperate for some political office, instead ran for governor of New York in the 1804 election. Hamilton heavily worked against him,
writing letters to many individuals throughout the state to destroy Burr’s political base. When some of these documents came to light, Burr suspected his honor had been attacked and demanded an apology from Hamilton, preferably in a letter. Hamilton responded with a letter claiming that he knew of no such instance where he insulted Burr. Although the two men sought several forms of reconciliation, neither was willing to admit they were wrong. Eventually, they decided to end the issue the gentlemanly way: a duel. Hamilton valued his honor and had, in fact, been part of seven previous matters of honor, most of which did not result in duels. Before the duel took place, he wrote out a letter to his family, explaining his decision to go through with the duel but fully intending to throw his shot – in other words, deliberately miss. Hamilton valued his role as a father, husband, and lawyer and did not want to compromise his family’s welfare. However, he thought the duel was necessary because he had insulted Burr and it was the moral thing to do. He had no intention of killing Burr, primarily because he wished to be involved in future political endeavors and it would look back if he murdered his opponent. The duel took place on July 11 th, 1804 along the west bank of the Hudson River. Sadly, the duel took place near the place where Hamilton’s oldest son, Philip, died three years previously. Hamilton and Burr both fired: Hamilton’s shot struck a tree above Burr’s head, while Burr directly shot Hamilton in the lower abdomen. Several of his ribs fractured, and the bullet ricocheted internally, causing severe damage to several organs. Eventually, the bullet became lodged in Hamilton’s spine, paralyzing him. No one knew who fired first. Historians speculate that Burr fully intended to hit and kill Hamilton, especially since he wore his glasses and took his time to aim the shot. Friends carried the injured and dying Hamilton to the nearby Greenwich Village. He laid in the home of his friend, William Bayard Jr. Eliza and their children appeared shortly after hearing the news to say their goodbyes. Accounts indicate that Eliza, who was beside herself, chastised Hamilton for his decision in her grief. More friends arrived to also say farewell to Hamilton throughout the day and well into the evening. After more than twenty-four hours of suffering, Hamilton died the next day at 2:00 pm on July 12 th, 1804. He was buried shortly afterward in the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery.
A F L AW E D M A N T H R O U G H A N D THROUGH
“Learn to think continentally.” — ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Alexander Hamilton left behind an impressive legacy, in no small part due to his success in defining the economic and political systems of the United States. This legacy was especially important to Hamilton’s family. His wife, Eliza, lived an additional forty years following Hamilton’s death and strove to preserve the memory of her husband by publishing many of his papers and documents. Hamilton’s Federalist Papers continue to be the basis for Constitutional interpretation and court decisions throughout the nation, and his creation of a national bank and decision to support a strong federal power over states’ power helped lay the groundwork for what could be considered a national issue over a state issue. However, his reputation wasn’t always so golden. Up until the 20 th century, Hamilton was seen as dangerously aristocratic and downright conservative, someone who would strengthen the federal government to the point of tyranny. He was a threat and the embodiment of everything wrong with the original British system of government which had plagued the thirteen colonies that formed the United States. It wasn’t until the Progressive era that Hamilton gained the support of historians and politicians like Theodore Roosevelt, who saw the bonuses and benefits to be obtained from a powerful centralized government. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for historians and professors to show Hamilton as an energetic and visionary architect of the contemporary capitalist United States. His archenemy Jefferson, meanwhile, is seen as a naïve, hypocritical dreamer in numerous academic circles. Perhaps because of his creation of a national bank, designers depicted Hamilton on more currency notes than any other figure in history. As of
2018, he has appeared at different times on the $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $1,000 bills. In modern times, he is on the $10 bill, where he has remained since 1928. As a fun historical note, the U.S. Treasury planned to remove him from the $10 bill in 2015 and replace his image with that of Harriet Tubman, but the unprecedented success of Hamilton: An American Musical meant he kept his place. Hamilton also appeared on a few commemorative stamps, but none more recent than 1957. Multiple statues and memorials exist to honor Hamilton, both in the United States and the former British West Indies. People can find statues in Central Park, at the U.S. Treasury in Washington D.C., in Lincoln Park, and at the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park near Hamilton’s failed business venture. His historic home was restored to its original appearance in 2011 and is now the Hamilton Grange National Memorial in St. Nicholas Park. Although his childhood home in Charlestown on the island of Nevis was destroyed long ago, the government built a new center called Hamilton House that is currently the site of the Alexander Hamilton Museum. The second floor is the meeting place for the Nevis Island Assembly. Interpretations of Alexander Hamilton’s character vary. Although he appeared in a few television dramas and movies during the 20 th century and even had a musical in 1917, he wasn't a well-known figure outside of historical circles. Many might have heard the name, but few could actually say who he was and what he did. Now, in the contemporary world with the success of a new musical, it's not uncommon for people to make their judgments about Hamilton's character based on the show and not the actual man. So, what were the real Alexander Hamilton's strengths and weaknesses? Individuals can certainly draw inspiration from Hamilton’s persistence, tenacity, ambition, and discipline. Although he did begin with a relatively privileged background in the 18 th century – his father and mother both had noble ancestry, he received an education, he was white and an English citizen – he still needed to work to earn his position. He overcame his illegitimate heritage and studied rigorously while in the British colonies to gain a better understanding of government and economics. He joined the American Revolution even though most people thought it would fail and he would be punished with quartering and death. His ambition drove him to marry a wealthy woman, get in good with the right people, and eventually
become a Founding Father. Such a fate would not have been possible if he had kept his head down and accepted his life in Nevis. With such a background and ambition though, it should come as no surprise that Hamilton’s greatest flaw was his pride. He knew that his accomplishments were unusual and unprecedented. He strove to defend his reputation at all costs and was willing to hurt those around him if it meant he could hold his head high and claim to be serving the good of the country – for example, the Reynolds Affair. More importantly, his pride and arrogance would lead to his death through his duel with Aaron Burr. While being a proud man, he was additionally plagued by feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy, no doubt fueled by his illegitimate background and difficulties relating to the other nobles who formed the Constitutional Congress and early American government. These volumes offer a fuller picture of the life of Alexander Hamilton and the various factors that combined to make the life of such a driven, intriguing man.
People who would like to learn more about Alexander Hamilton can check out other biographies, such as: Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton Charles A. Conant’s Alexander Hamilton Michael W. Simmons’ Alexander Hamilton: First Architect of the American Government
THOMAS JEFFERSON PATR IO T. S TATE S MA N. P R E S IDE N T
“One man with courage is a majority.” — THOMAS JEFFERSON
Thomas Jefferson was all of these things and more. He was one of the men who helped to bring the United States into being, and he shepherded the country through some of the most dynamic political years in its history. It is very possible that without his brilliance, the fledgling democracy, the first in the world since the end of Ancient Greece, may not have survived its first few trials by fire. Jefferson was a great man. He was also a complicated man and a man whose moral convictions were unwavering in some areas and completely conflicted in others. To many of us, he is like a statue, a perfect image of a man frozen in marble. Look more closely, though, and you can see that the statue has feet of clay.
BORN TO PRIVILEGE
“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” — THOMAS JEFFERSON
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, as a subject of the British Crown. He was the third of ten children of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph, who at the time of his birth lived at Shadwell in the Colony of Virginia, in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He was part of the well-to-do elite. Peter Jefferson was a planter and surveyor in the County of Albemarle. His mother was the daughter of Isham Randolph, a sea captain who was the son of William Randolph, one of the wealthiest planters in all of Virginia. Theirs was a large family, as was normal at the time: Jane, who would die a spinster; Mary, who would marry a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses; Thomas Jefferson himself; Elizabeth; Martha, who would marry Jefferson’s best friend, Dabney Carr; two boys named Peter, both of whom died in infancy; Lucy; and lastly the twins, Anna and Randolph.
n 1745, Colonel William Randolph, Jane Randolph Jefferson's grandfather, and Peter Jefferson's close friend passed away, leaving Peter as the executor of his estate and the guardian of his infant son, Jefferson Mann Randolph. The estate that Randolph left behind was a plantation called Tuckahoe. In order to attend to his new duties, Peter relocated the family from Shadwell to Tuckahoe. Thomas Jefferson later recorded that his first memory arose from this time when he recalled being carried on a pillow by a slave during the family's move. Slavery would shadow Jefferson until the end of his life. While he was at Tuckahoe, Jefferson began his education with private tutors. His father regretted never having had a proper education of his own, so he pushed young Jefferson, his first-born son, to enter school early. He began his studies at the tender age of five years old. The family returned to Shadwell in 1752, when Jefferson was nine years old. He was enrolled in a local school run by a Presbyterian minister from Scotland. His learning incorporated Latin, Greek and French, and he began to study the natural world, which would remain a lifelong passion. He also learned horseback riding and spent many hours reading the books in his father’s library. In 1758, his tutelage passed to Reverend James Maury, who ran a boarding school near Gordonsville, Virginia. It was not a boarding school in the traditional sense; rather, Reverend Maury hosted the children that he taught, and they lived in his home with his family. Here, he added history, science, music and the classics (Cicero, Homer, Plato, and Aristotle among them) to his curriculum. He traveled to Williamsburg with Reverend Maury and met Patrick Henry, the future patriot, who was eight years older than Jefferson but whom he came to like a great deal unless they were arguing against one another in court. The two bonded over their common love of music, specifically the violin, which they both played. He stayed with Maury for two years, returning to Shadwell in 1760. At that time, Virginia was on the frontier, and Jefferson came to know many Native American traders who stopped over at Shadwell while they were traveling to Williamsburg for business. Among these Native Americans was the Cherokee chief Ontassete. When Chief Ontassete took
his leave of his people before he made the perilous trip to London, Jefferson was in attendance. The chief's oratory and the connection he had with his people moved him, and he vowed that he would try to emulate the chief's eloquent example.
INHERITANCE AND MORE LEARNING
hen Jefferson was only 14 years old, his father died, leaving his estate to be divided between Jefferson and his brother, Randolph. Jefferson’s share of the inheritance was about 5,000 acres of land and between 20 and 40 slaves. He was able to take full command of the property once he turned 21. Despite the beauty of the place and lucrative nature of the inheritance, he dreamed of living on a mountain. When he was 16 years old, only two years after his father's death, Jefferson entered the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. His professor, William Small, taught him mathematics, metaphysics, and philosophy, and he introduced him to some of the premier minds of his day. These included George Wythe, a brilliant law professor, and Francis Fauquier, the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Colony. Fauquier used to throw lavish parties, and Jefferson was invited to them all, where he would play the violin, flirt with ladies and drink expensive, imported wine. More serious companions were British Empiricists and philosophers like John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton, all of whom had a strong influence on Jefferson. He was befriended and invited into their inner circle, and on Friday nights he and these learned men would gather to discuss politics and philosophical questions of the day. Although he was much impressed by geniuses around him, he was still a young man, and he wasted much time and money in his first year at the college on the parties that Fauquier would throw. He quickly regretted his profligacy and dedicated himself to rigorous study at the beginning of his second year. He would study for fourteen hours every day, and his skills at French, Greek, and the violin improved immensely. He graduated in 1762 after only two years. He took work as a law clerk in the office of Professor Wythe, who taught him the law and helped him to obtain his law license. Jefferson was always a voracious reader, and he read English classics, political treatises, law, philosophy, history, natural law, “natural religion,” ethics, architecture, botany, and agriculture. Professor Wythe was so impressed by his intellect and driven curiosity that when he died, he bequeathed his entire library to Jefferson. His love of reading was a quality he never lost, and in later years, he stated,
“I cannot live without books.”
L AW Y E R A N D P O L I T I C I A N
efferson became a licensed attorney in 1767 after he passed the Virginia bar. He also began his political career, representing the county of Albemarle in the Virginia House of Burgesses, one of the houses of civilian government in the colony. He served from 1769 until 1775. Among Jefferson's efforts in the House of Burgesses were a series of attempts to reform slavery. In the colonies, the Governor of Virginia and the Royal Court had the last word on the emancipation of slaves. In 1769, he introduced legislation to change that. He wanted masters to have the right to emancipate their slaves as they wished, and even persuaded his cousin, Richard Bland, to join him in attempting to pass the bill. The Burgesses' reaction was strongly negative, and the law was never passed. He turned instead to his legal practice, where he accepted several cases for slaves seeking freedom, which he took on pro bono, meaning he waived his fee. While arguing for the freedom of one client, who sought emancipation while he was still technically too young by law, Jefferson made his first argument in support of individual rights and personal liberty, which he stated were granted by God as part of Natural Law. The judge in the case refused to let him finish his statement and summarily ruled against his client. In response, Jefferson gave his enslaved client a large sum of money, and the client mysteriously vanished, heading north with Jefferson's assistance. He had several notable cases that he argued before the highest court in the colony: Howell v Netherland (1770), in which he stated that all human beings are born free; Bolling v Bolling (1771), during which he and his old law professor Wythe argued for opposite sides; and Blair v Blair (1772), a scandalous divorce case that had such flagrantly sexual content that Jefferson’s notes called the evidence “voluminous and indecent.” Legal scholars have called the Blair case the baby steps of the ideas of liberty that led to American independence.
MARRIAGE AND MONTICELLO
“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.” — THOMAS JEFFERSON
Jefferson had long wished to live on a mountain, and in his boyhood, he had spent many happy days playing on the 868-foot mountain that stood above his home in Shadwell. He named the mountain Monticello. In 1768, Jefferson hired workers and deployed his slaves to clear a 250 square foot patch of ground on the highest point of that mountain, and for the next forty years, he would design, build, tear down, and rebuild the house until it became the architectural showpiece that still stands today. The first structure of Monticello was a small, single-room brick house with a walk-out basement and workshop. This came to be known as the South Pavilion, and in 1770, he took up residence in the house, which he had designed from the ground up, and which overlooked his 5,000-acre plantation.
M A R R I AG E , FA M I LY, A N D S OR ROW
n January 1, 1772, Thomas Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton, his 23-year-old widowed third cousin. She was a gifted household manager, a glittering hostess and blessed with both intellect and musical skill. She was an accomplished pianist, and Jefferson would often accompany her on violin or cello. She was also renowned for the delicacy and skill of her needlework. The years of their marriage were the happiest of Thomas’s life, and together they had six children, only two of whom lived to adulthood: Martha, called Patsy; Jane, who lived only one year; a son who died nameless after two weeks; Mary Wayles, called Polly; Lucy Elizabeth, who died after one year; and another daughter named Lucy Elizabeth, who only lived for three years. Patsy and Polly were the only survivors, and though this was tragic, it was not terribly unusual for the time. Martha’s father died in 1773, and the couple inherited 135 slaves, including Martha’s half-sister Sally Hemings. Under the law, any child born to an enslaved mother was herself automatically enslaved, and though Sally was as cultured, intelligent and educated as Martha, she remained a slave until her death. Future years would see Sally and Thomas Jefferson extremely close, and the controversy around their relationship survives to this day. In addition to humans in bondage, Martha and Thomas also inherited an estate, a slave-trading business, and a mountain of debt. It took Jefferson years of effort to settle his late father-in-law's business liabilities, but he paid off everyone. Martha was not a strong woman, nor a healthy one; her mother had died quite young, and she had endured difficult relationships with two stepmothers. During the ten years of their marriage, Martha bore many children, and with each pregnancy, her health declined. She died on September 6, 1782, only a few months after the birth of the last Lucy Elizabeth, with Jefferson at her bedside. Before her death, she made him swear to never remarry because she didn't want her daughters to suffer at the hands of a stepmother as she had done. He swore the oath as she requested.
Jefferson was nearly undone by his wife's death. He would spend long, grief-stricken nights pacing and weeping until he nearly dropped from exhaustion. He would take long, aimless rides with Patsy, and though he tried to conceal his suffering from his children, he would sometimes suffer "violent bursts of grief." Some who knew him said that he never stopped grieving for his "cherished companion."
RETURN TO POLITICS
n December 16, 1773, a group of radical separatists calling themselves the Sons of Liberty boarded a ship in Boston Harbor that belonged to the British East India Tea Company. They were acting in opposition to the Townsend Acts, a set of laws passed by Parliament to undercut Colonial businesses in favor of companies based in Britain. Dressed as Native Americans, they tossed crates of tea overboard, destroying the entire valuable cargo. In retaliation, Parliament passed what came to be called the Intolerable Acts in 1774. Until these acts had passed, Massachusetts Colony had enjoyed a marked degree of autonomy and self-governance. These rights were granted by the Massachusetts Charter, which was revoked by the Intolerable Acts. The Acts also closed Boston Harbor to shipping until the Colonists paid reparations for the ruined tea shipment, effectively denying Boston merchants the right to trade. The acts were meant to punish Massachusetts for the actions of the Sons of Liberty, with the intention of forcing the wayward colony back into line. In response to these punitive measures, the colonists formed the First Continental Congress, and a body made up of representatives from all thirteen colonies which met in Philadelphia to determine their future course of action. Jefferson wrote a resolution calling for a day of fasting and prayer and arguing that the people have the right to govern themselves. He also called for a boycott of all goods from Britain. He published his resolution under the title A Summary View of the Rights of British America. This treatise was presented to the First Continental Congress as a list of grievances against King George III and his government. The Continental Congress forwarded their grievances to the king as a petition for change. The petition was ignored. The Summary was printed in pamphlet form and distributed widely in London, New York, and Philadelphia, which earned him a reputation as a skillful, persuasive and radical political thinker.
REVOLUTION AND NATION BUILDING
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” — THOMAS JEFFERSON
The lack of an acceptable response to their petition drove the colonists to convene a Second Continental Congress in 1775. This time, instead of trying to find a way to reconcile with their royal master in London, the colonists turned their attention to independence. They issued the Lee Resolution, which declared that the United Colonies were independent from Britain. The formal political revolution had begun.
DECL ARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
n July 1776, the Colonies had been at war with Great Britain for almost a year, with the first battles being fought at Lexington and Concord in 1775. Despite the open hostilities, many colonists were still hoping that there might be some form of reconciliation with the Crown. When Parliament passed the Prohibitory Act in February 1776, which blockaded American ports and declared all American ships to be enemy vessels, the Massachusetts pro-independence firebrand John Adams stated that Parliament had already declared American independence and that it was time for the British Empire to be dismantled. Many Americans agreed. There were fully ninety different declarations of independence that circulated throughout the colonies, but there were none that every colony endorsed. The colonies were declaring themselves independent in a piecemeal fashion, but there needed to be a more uniform document to which all of the colonies agreed. Jefferson, one of the youngest delegates to the Second Continental Congress at 33 years old, was included in the Committee of Five, which was formed to draft a declaration of independence. Another member of the Committee of Five was John Adams, who would become one of Jefferson’s closest friends and bitterest political rivals. The Committee of Five worked on the draft of the Declaration for seventeen days, with Jefferson doing most of the writing. He believed that Adams should be the principal author of the Declaration, but Adams pushed tor Jefferson to take the lead. He drew from a proposed draft of the Virginia Constitution that he had written as well as from the Virginia Declaration of Rights by George Mason. The other committee members made a few changes, and the finished draft was provided on June 28, 1776. Congress tinkered with the Declaration for two long days, arguing vehemently about what should and should not be included. There was a long passage that was deeply critical of the slave trade, claiming that Britain had forced the institution onto the colonies. The delegates from the southern colonies were all planters and slave owners, and after two days of debate, the passage was struck from the final document. The slavery passage was omitted so that the document would appear less radical, thereby not offending some individuals in the British Parliament who were secretly
supportive of American independence. Jefferson never spoke publicly about the revisions, but he personally resented the changes that were imposed upon his document. He wrote privately that Congress had “mangled” his draft. The Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and all of the delegates signed it on August 2, 1776. There is a legend, possibly apocryphal, that when John Hancock placed his famously largesized signature on the document, he said, urging unity of action, “Now we must all hang together.” Benjamin Franklin supposedly responded, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” The act of signing the document was an act of treason against King George, and they all knew that if the revolution failed, their lives would be forfeit. Jefferson and his fellows showed great bravery in openly defying their imperial master.
THE STATE OF VIRGINIA
hen the revolution began, Jefferson held the rank of Colonel and was appointed the commander of the Albemarle County Militia. Almost immediately, in September 1776, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates to represent his county. For three years, he concentrated on writing the constitution for the State of Virginia. He entered legislation called the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, which prohibited state support or enforcement of religious institutions or beliefs. He also entered a bill seeking to disestablish the Anglican Church in Virginia. Both bills failed to pass. As one of the pre-eminent legal minds in the state, Jefferson was tasked with revising the entire corpus of Virginia’s laws. He wrote 126 bills in three years, a monumental achievement and effort. His laws reformed the judicial system established requirements for standardized general education and attacked the "feudal" system of primogeniture which had dominated inheritance laws. Jefferson was elected as Governor of Virginia in 1779 and 1780, serving two one-year terms. During his tenure, he transferred the state capital from Williamsburg to Richmond and continued his work to reform and promote education, freedom of religion and revised inheritance laws. He was in Richmond when British forces marched on the city under the command of traitor Benedict Arnold, and he narrowly escaped with his life when the enemy burned the city to the ground. He was the target of a cavalry detachment sent by British General Charles Cornwallis, and he and other members of the Virginia General Assembly would have been captured had it not been for the intervention of Jack Jouett and the Virginia Militia. He took refuge his second plantation, Poplar Forest. There were suggestions that he had acted with cowardice, but an inquest by the Assembly determined that he had acted with honor. Jefferson received a letter from French diplomat François BarbéMarbois in 1780, asking about the geography, history, and government of Virginia. He published his response in a book called Notes on the State of Virginia. Over the course of five years, he wrote an exhaustive study of his state, including reviews of scientific knowledge, history, politics, state law, natural resources, economy, culture, and geography. He also commented at
length on slavery and miscegenation (mixing of the races). He believed that blacks and whites would never be able to coexist as free people because of the depth of resentment that would necessarily and rightly be caused by the institution of slavery. The book was first published in French in 1785, and an English language version was published in 1787. It was hailed as a great achievement and is still much respected, believed by many to be the most important American book published before 1800.
CONGRESS AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS
fter the capitulation of the British army and the peace treaty that followed, the newborn United States formed a Congress of the Confederation. Jefferson was the delegate from Virginia. He joined a committee dedicated to setting foreign exchange rates, and it was his suggestion that American currency be based on the decimal system. Jefferson was chairman of a committee that was dedicated to establishing a new system of government for the nation, as well as to determine a standard set of rules for the settlement of western territories. The committee met during the 1783-1784 session of Congress. Jefferson proposed that Virginia should cede to the national government all of the territory it had claimed in the Ohio River basin, with the condition that the territory should be sectioned into areas that could in time become new states. He also suggested that slavery should be banned in all of the nation’s territories. This bill was called the Land Ordinance of 1784, and it underwent a great deal of revision by Congress, including the elimination of the anti-slavery provision. This provision, called the “Jefferson Proviso,” was incorporated into the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The Congress of the Confederation sent Jefferson to join Benjamin Franklin and John Adams in Europe, where he would work to negotiate trade agreements with England, Spain, and France. He spent five years in Paris as Minister to France, and his work there helped to shape the United States' foreign policy. He traveled to France with his daughter Patsy and two servants, including James Hemings, a slave and the older brother of Sally Hemings. He had James trained in the ways of French cooking, and he sent Patsy to be educated at the Pentemont Abbey. In 1786, he had a torrid six-week affair with Maria Cosway, an English/Italian musician. They were together frequently, but Maria had a husband. The affair ended when she returned to England, but the two continued to correspond for the rest of their lives. Jefferson sent for his daughter Patsy in June 1787, and she was accompanied by Sally Hemings, who was at that time 16 years old. While in Paris, it is believed that Jefferson and Sally began a sexual relationship, during which she became pregnant. According to an account written later by Sally’s son Madison, she agreed to return to the United States on the
condition that Jefferson would free her children when they reached the age of majority. During his stay in France, Jefferson became close friends with the Marquis de Lafayette, who had come to the aid of the colonies during the American revolution. The Marquis helped Jefferson to obtain trade agreements with the French crown. Jefferson was a supporter of the French Revolution, although he was uncomfortable with the more violent aspects of the undertaking. He was in Paris when revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, and he allowed the Marquis de Lafayette and his republican allies to meet at his residence. When the Marquis was writing the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, Jefferson consulted with him and helped him draft the document.
SECRETARY OF STATE
efferson returned to the United States in 1789 and accepted President George Washington’s invitation to serve as Secretary of State. At that time, the two items of greatest concern were the national debt and the location of the capital. Jefferson believed that each state should be responsible for its debt, which put him in direct conflict with Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, who favored the consolidation of the states' debts into one debt held by the federal government. Hamilton was also dedicated to the establishment of a national bank, which Jefferson also opposed. He did everything he could to undermine Hamilton's plans, which so angered Washington that he nearly dismissed Jefferson from the cabinet. Jefferson and Hamilton sparred over the location of the capital, as well. Hamilton wanted to situate the capital in the Northeast, near the cities that formed the center of commerce in the fledgling nation. Jefferson, Washington and other members of the planter elite wanted the capital further to the south. The Compromise of 1790 settled the argument, with the capital being located on the banks of the Potomac River and the national government taking on the war debts of all of the states. In May 1792, Jefferson took umbrage at the developing political rivalries that he saw forming, and he wrote to Washington asking him to run for re-election, hoping that the great man would be a stabilizing influence. He wanted to create a political party to counter the Federalists, who were led by Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson espoused a position that would become the platform of the Democratic-Republican Party, which sought to increase states’ rights and to oppose the sort of centralization of power that the Federalists pursued. While he was a member of Washington’s cabinet, he was an enthusiastic supporter of France. When France and Britain entered into conflict in 1793, he pushed for the United States to support France against her enemy. His efforts were undermined by the antipathy that the French Revolutionary ambassador, Edmond-Charles Genêt, showed to President Washington. The interpersonal and political in-fighting caused Jefferson to develop migraines and garnered resentment from Washington. In December 1793, Jefferson resigned his cabinet position. Washington never forgave him, and
the two men never spoke again. The animosity between the two was so great that when Washington died in 1799, Jefferson chose to remain at Monticello rather than attending his funeral. In 1794, Washington negotiated the Jay Treaty with Great Britain. The treaty was largely authored by Alexander Hamilton and formed an agreement whereby Britain relinquished territories in the Northwest that it had claimed in violation of the post-revolution peace treaty (the Treaty of Paris) in return for increased trade between the two countries. Jefferson saw this treaty as a serious overreach on the part of Jay and Hamilton, and he warned that it would undermine the republic and unduly increase Britain’s influence. From Monticello, he organized a national resistance to the treaty, which became the Democratic-Republican Party.
ELECTION OF 1796
efferson ran for president in 1796 on the Democratic-Republican ticket, running against John Adams of the Federalist Party. He lost in the electoral college, but because of a quirk in the proceedings, he won the position of Vice President. He became the presiding officer of the Senate, but he limited his participation to issues of procedure, allowing the Senators to debate as they wished. While he was Vice President, during the spring of 1797, Jefferson met four times with French consul Joseph Létombe. He attacked and undermined Adams and encouraged France to invade England. He also advised Létombe to stall any and all envoys to Paris sent by the Adams administration, which resulted in an openly hostile approach to the sitting president. Adams sent peace envoys to Paris, but they were rebuffed, an embarrassment that led Jefferson and his fellows to call for a release of all documents related to the issue. Unfortunately, this backfired, as the documents revealed that French officials had demanded bribes. The incident, called the XYZ Affair, turned public opinion against France and led to an undeclared war between the two countries called the Quasi-War. The Adams administration passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which Jefferson believed were both unconstitutional and aimed at suppressing his party. With the assistance of James Madison, he anonymously wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. These resolutions permitted states to protect their citizens from federal laws that they believed were unconstitutional, something called interposition. Jefferson also advocated nullification, which was the right of states to invalidate objectionable federal laws completely. Washington was horrified by these resolutions, correctly recognizing in them the seed of future disunion. Nullification and interposition contributed to the American Civil War. Jefferson and Madison moved to Philadelphia in 1791 and founded the National Gazette, which was meant to directly counter the Federalist newspaper the Gazette of the United States, which had been created by Jefferson’s old adversary, Alexander Hamilton. The National Gazette ran pieces by “Brutus” (James Madison) that sharply criticized Hamilton’s policies and ideas. It was a war of words.
“Politics is such a torment that I advise everyone I love not to mix with it.” — THOMAS JEFFERSON
The 1800 Presidential election was one of the most heated and hateful affairs in all of American history. Jefferson ran once again at the head of the Democratic-Republican ticket, opposed by John Adams, who was seeking re-election. The incumbent was weakened by unpopular taxes and political backlash over the Quasi-War with France. Jefferson accused the Federalists of being secret monarchists; Adams accused Jefferson of being a libertine who was under the control of the French. Ultimately, the Democratic-Republicans won more electoral college votes, but Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr received exactly the same number of votes in total. The election was decided by the House of Representatives, which was dominated by the Federalists. Alexander Hamilton unexpectedly argued in favor of a Jefferson win, relegating Burr to the office of vice president. Jefferson won the election. When Adams had come to power, his administration had included many of the same people who had served under Washington, since Washington’s people and Adams were all Federalists. Jefferson’s administration would be drawn from his Democratic-Republican party faithful, with an almost wholesale reseating of the officers of government. This was accomplished with no violence and no strife. The election of 1800 was the first peaceful transition from one political party to another in American history.
efferson was sworn in on March 4, 1801, by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. Unlike his predecessors, Jefferson had no taste for formality or pomp. He rode to the inauguration on horseback, taking his horse to the stable himself. He was dressed plainly and came without any escort. His inaugural address stressed reconciliation with the Federalists, and his cabinet was made up of moderates. He was a fiercely political animal, but he came to Washington willing to work with the other side on behalf of the people. The nation was burdened with an $83 million debt when he came into office. With the help of his Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, he set about dismantling Hamilton's fiscal system and tried to disassemble the national bank. He eliminated a tax on whiskey, closed what he called "unnecessary offices" and reduced the Navy on the grounds that it wasn't needed in peacetime. He turned the Navy into a fleet of cheap gunboats that were useful only in defense, believing that this would not provoke any hostility from foreign powers. By the end of his second term, he had reduced the debt from $83 million to $57 million. Jefferson oversaw the establishment of the United States Military Academy at West Point, which was founded on March 16, 1802, as part of the Military Peace Establishment Act. The Act also established new laws and limits for the military, bringing it firmly under the control of the civilian government. In 1805, the Jay Treaty expired, and he did nothing to renew it. He also pardoned a number of people who had been imprisoned under the Alien and Sedition Acts.
F I R S T B A R B A R Y WA R
he Barbary States were nominally provinces of the Ottoman Empire, but they were independent countries. Tripoli, Algiers, Tunis and the Sultanate of Morocco fell under this umbrella title. The Barbary Coast of North Africa was rife with pirates, who were the scourge of the Mediterranean. It was estimated that from the 16 th through the 19 th centuries, the Barbary pirates kidnapped and enslaved some 1.25 million European citizens. While the States were still colonies, American shipping in the Mediterranean was protected from these pirates by the Royal Navy. These protections obviously fell away after independence, and as a result, the pirates began to attack American shipping. They captured American merchant ships, pillaged the goods in their holds, and kidnapped the crews, whom they later either ransomed or sold as slaves. The first American ship to be attacked by the Barbary pirates was the Betsey, which was seized in October 1784. The Spanish government intervened and negotiated the release of the American men who had been taken a prisoner, and they advised the American government to pay tribute to the pirates in return for a cessation of future raids. In 1785, Algerian pirates captured the American ships, Maria and Dauphin, enslaving 115 American sailors. Each of the four Barbary States demanded $600,000 for the release of the men. Unfortunately, the maximum budget that the American envoys had at that time was $40,000 to split among the Barbary States. Diplomacy failed to achieve any success, and the crews of these ships were to spend an entire decade in chains. While he was still Minister to France, Jefferson sent envoys to Morocco and Algeria to attempt to negotiate treaties. Morocco signed a treaty with the United States on June 23, 1786, the first Barbary State to do so. Under that treaty, all piracy against American vessels was to cease, and any Americans captured by any of the Barbary States would be set free if they were to dock in any Moroccan city, to be protected by the Moroccan state. It was a diplomatic success. Algeria was more of a problem. They were not interested in ending their raids on American shipping. Jefferson and John Adams traveled to London in 1786 to negotiate with Tripoli’s representative, Sidi Haji Abdrahaman.
Abdrahaman stated that the Koran required all followers of the Prophet to plunder and enslave all people who were sinners, which, as non-Muslims, the American sailors were. The only solution, he advised, was more tribute. In 1795, Algeria offered to release the 115 American sailors in return for a tribute payment of $1 million, which at that time was fully one-sixth of the entire budget of the United States. Jefferson argued, and many came to agree, that giving in to the Barbary States’ demands would only encourage the pirates to push for more tribute in the future. The United States Department of the Navy was created by an act of Congress in 1798. Just before Jefferson’s inauguration, Congress passed an addendum that put six frigates under the direction of the President. These ships were to “protect our commerce and chastise their (the Barbary States’) insolence – by sinking, burning or destroying their ships and vessels wherever you shall find them.”
After Jefferson was sworn in, Yusuf Karamanli, the Pasha of Tripoli, demanded $225,000 in tribute from the new administration. Jefferson refused. In retaliation, the Pasha declared war on the United States by cutting down the flagstaff in front of the U. S. Consulate in Tripoli. Algiers and Tunis did not join Tripoli in its declaration of war, and Morocco continued to abide by its earlier treaty with the Americans. In 1801, Jefferson ordered the United States Navy under Commodore Richard Dale to travel to the Mediterranean to make a show of force. This was the first time an American naval squadron crossed the Atlantic. The fleet engaged with the Barbary pirates, and after this first violent contact, Jefferson sought and was granted a declaration of war from Congress. It was the first foreign war fought by the United States. Commodore Dale’s fleet joined a Swedish fleet that was already blockading Tripoli, and the USS Enterprise vanquished the Barbary ship Tripoli in August 1801.
The Pasha of Tripoli, Yusuf Karamanli, allowed and possibly ordered a group of Barbary pirates to capture the USS Philadelphia. The United States Marines were able to take the ship back in a daring night raid. Jefferson sent the United States’ Consul to Tunis, William Eaton, with a military force to topple Yusuf and place his brother on the throne. Eaton and a force of US Marines and 500 mercenaries marched from Alexandria, Egypt to Tripoli, where they captured the city of Derna. This victory was the first time the flag of the United States was raised on foreign soil. With the threat of further military incursion by the Americans, and with the American blockade and bombardment of his city wearing his people down, Pasha Yusuf signed a peace treaty with the United States that restored peace to the Mediterranean, albeit temporarily. The people of the United States were overjoyed with the victory, and a monument was raised in the Washington Navy Yard. The Marine’s Hymn includes a line about the shores of Tripoli in honor of the exploit.
n 1800, Spain ceded its ownership of the Louisiana territory to France. At the time, France was ruled by Napoleon Bonaparte, and Napoleon's interest in his new property posed a potential security risk to shipping on the Mississippi River and the United States as a whole. At Jefferson’s behest, James Monroe and Robert Livingston went to Paris in 1803 to negotiate for the purchase of New Orleans and its adjacent coastal region, thereby placing the mouth of the Mississippi River firmly in American hands. Jefferson offered $10 million for a tract of land that was roughly 40,000 square miles. Much to the surprise of Monroe and Livingston, Napoleon made a generous counteroffer. Realizing that his military had no way to hold such a large expanse of land and needing money to continue to prosecute his wars in Europe, the French leader offered to sell nearly 828,000 square miles of land for $15 million. This land purchase would effectively double the size of the United States. With limited time and communication across the Atlantic being such a lengthy proposition, the negotiators accepted Napoleon’s offer and signed the treaty of sale on April 30, 1803. Jefferson learned of his purchase on July 3, 1803. Although there were some concerns about the constitutionality of the federal government purchasing land, the Senate nevertheless voted to ratify the treaty on October 3, 1803. There was great optimism about the purchase, and the land that was obtained turned out to be incredibly fertile, making the new nation selfsufficient in foodstuffs and other resources for the first time. The purchase also ended British and French military incursions into North America, and the way was opened for the westward expansion of the United States to begin.
efferson knew that it was only a matter of time before settlers started pushing west into the new territory, and he wanted to know what he’d just bought. He also wanted to state a claim to the rumored Northwest Passage for the United States, hoping to head off the European powers who were seeking the same thing. Armed with the exploration accounts of Le Page du Pratz in Louisiana, published in 1763, he convinced Congress to fund an expedition to explore the continent all the way out to the Pacific Ocean. The Corps of Discovery was founded in 1803, and Jefferson tapped Merriweather Lewis and William Clark to be its leaders. He personally tutored Lewis on mapping, botany, natural history, mineralogy, astronomy, and navigation. He gave Lewis unlimited access to the library at Monticello, which at the time boasted the largest collection of books in the world on the natural history and geography of North America. He also had a sizeable collection of maps, which Lewis obviously found to be of great value. The Lewis and Clark Expedition lasted from May 1804 to September 1806 and returned with a wealth of information about the continent, significantly expanding knowledge and understanding of the geography, resources, and Native peoples of the land. Lewis and Clark were not the only explorers that Jefferson sent westward. He also sent William Dunbar and George Hunter to the Ouachita River in Arkansas and Louisiana; Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis to the Red River; and Zebulon Pike to the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest. Every expedition brought back valuable information, much to the delight of the eternally intellectually curious Jefferson.
NATIVE AMERICAN POLICIES
efferson’s attitude toward Native Americans was as conflicted as his attitude toward blacks. He openly disputed with the popularly held belief that indigenous people were inferior to those of European descent, and he believed that they were in fact equal “in body and mind” to whites. That is where his magnanimity ended. As governor of Virginia, he advocated forcibly relocating the Cherokee and Shawnee tribes west of the Mississippi, allegedly because these tribes had supported the British during the Revolution. Once he became President, he arranged for Georgia to give up the lands it had claimed in the west in exchange for federal military assistance in clearing the Cherokee out of the state. He believed in assimilation and sought to “civilize” the Native Americans. He attempted to secure peace treaties with the tribes that encouraged them to adopt the American agricultural lifestyle and to relinquish their old ways. Many tribes accepted his proposal, but some opposed it. The Shawnee tribe split into two factions over the issue, with the side led by Black Hoof agreeing to Jefferson’s policies and the other side, led by Tecumseh, actively and violently opposing them. Jefferson told Secretary of War General Henry Dearborn, “If we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down until that tribe is exterminated or driven beyond the Mississippi.”
“Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.” — THOMAS JEFFERSON
Jefferson replaced Aaron Burr as his vice presidential candidate when he ran for re-election in 1804. His new running mate was George Clinton. Jefferson's relationship with Burr had been severely eroded by the outcome of the 1800 election, and Jefferson never stopped suspecting that Burr wanted the presidency for himself. In order to prevent Burr from gaining any sort of power base in Washington, Jefferson refused to appoint Burr's supporters to federal office, which infuriated Burr and opened a rift between them that would not heal.
s soon as Jefferson was sworn in for his second term, he became involved in a political fracas with Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase. Chase was a staunch Federalist, and he was unabashed in ruling in favor of his political allies. Jefferson determined to remove all Federalists from the bench, and he began by encouraging Congress to impeach Justice Chase. Virginia Congressman John Randolph and the House of Representatives served Chase with eight articles of impeachment based upon his judicial performance. The impeachment trial began in the Senate in 1805. Ultimately Chase was acquitted, Jefferson earned a permanent enemy in the form of Chief Justice John Marshall, and the proceedings raised constitutional questions regarding the independence of the judiciary. Although Chase was not convicted, his impeachment still helped to cement the idea that judges were prohibited from actively issuing rulings to further their partisan politics. The Republican party suffered a serious rupture in March 1806, when fellow Virginian John Randolph accused Jefferson on the floor of the House of moving too far in a Federalist direction, betraying their party's political base. The split was hurtful, because Randolph was Jefferson's second cousin, and he had previously been a staunch ally. In 1808, Randolph and his companions found an extra reason to be alarmed when Jefferson became the first president to push for a federal building project aimed at constructing roads, bridges, and canals across several states. Jefferson’s popularity also was damaged by his response to events in Europe. He had a personal dislike for the British envoy, Anthony Merry, and this led to an erosion of previously positive relations between the two countries. Napoleon was waging a war of conquest in Europe, and after his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, he unilaterally changed the terms of France’s trade deals with the United States, and Jefferson’s administration failed to counter these changes. Jefferson’s response was the Embargo Act of 1807, which was aimed at goods from both France and Great Britain, but the end result was economic chaos at home. He abandoned the policy less than a year later. The states had abolished the international slave trade during the revolution, but South Carolina reopened in 1806. Jefferson decried this
action in a December 1806 speech, calling on Congress to criminalize the international slave trade through federal legislation. In accordance with his wishes, Congress passed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, which Jefferson signed into law in 1807. The act barred international slave trading, but it did nothing to address the trade within the United States.
n 1804, shortly after he was dumped from the Democratic-Republican ticket, Aaron Burr suffered a drubbing at the polls when he ran for governor of New York. During the campaign, Alexander Hamilton had made inflammatory comments in public about the nature of Burr’s character, and so Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. On July 11, 1804, Burr shot and killed Hamilton. He was indicted for murder in New York and New Jersey, so he fled to Georgia. At about the same time, he was approached by New England separatists who wanted him to lead them in a New England Federation. They quickly distanced themselves from Burr after Hamilton’s demise, and the still-sitting vice president’s reputation and business dealings suffered. Looking for a way to improve his lot, he approached British ambassador Anthony Merry and offered to capture territory in the western United States in return for money and British ships. After his term as vice president ended, Burr traveled to Louisiana and began to conspire with the territorial governor, James Wilkinson. They began to recruit for a military expedition with the help of additional conspirators Senator John Smith of Ohio and an Irishman named Harmon Blennerhassett. During this time period, Burr floated a number of ideas that ranged from having New Orleans secede to create its state to invading and conquering Mexico or Spanish Florida. The ideas he came up with were many and varied, and to this day, nobody really knows what his goal really was. In Fall 1806, Burr and a flotilla of ships with approximately sixty men set sail down the Ohio River toward New Orleans. At this point, Governor Wilkinson turned on him and reported Burr’s activities to Jefferson, who immediately ordered his arrest. Burr was finally caught in Bayou Pierre, a wild area in Louisiana, and on February 13, 1807, he was sent to Virginia to stand trial for treason. Burr’s trial was a circus. Jefferson tried to influence the verdict by proclaiming Burr’s obvious guilt in a speech before Congress. When the case actually came to trial, the judge was John Marshall, the Supreme Court Justice who was a political foe of Jefferson’s, and he dismissed all charges. Burr’s lawyers attempted to subpoena Jefferson to testify, but he invoked
executive privilege and refused. This was the first exercise of executive privilege in the American presidency. The trial lasted for three months, ultimately resulting in Burr’s acquittal. Jefferson was furious and denounced the verdict. He removed Wilkinson from his position as governor but permitted him to retain his military commission.
THE CHESAPEAKE-LEOPARD AFFAIR
hroughout 1806 and 1807, the British Navy’s press gangs busily raided American merchant ships and press-ganged their crews into service with the Royal Navy. Diplomacy did nothing to stop the impressment of American sailors, and Britain continued to harass American shipping. In June 1807, the HMS Leopard hailed the USS Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia. The commander of the American vessel, Commodore James Barron, accepted Lieutenant John Meade from the Leopard, and upon his arrival, Meade served Barron with a search warrant. The British, he claimed, were looking for deserters from the Royal Navy. After a brief discussion, Meade returned to the Leopard, and British Captain Humphreys demanded that the Americans surrender. The Americans declined, and the Leopard fired broadsides into the Chesapeake. Three of the crew were killed, and 18 were injured, including Barron. Completely unprepared for battle, Barron had no choice but to surrender. Humphreys refused the capitulation and boarded the Chesapeake, seizing four Royal Navy deserters, three of whom were American citizens. The British citizen was hanged from the yardarm of the HMS Halifax, and the three Americans were sentenced to 500 lashes each. The sentences were commuted. Jefferson was furious. He issued a proclamation banning British ships from American waters and called on the states to call up 100,000 men and the materiel to arm them. The USS Revenge was sent to demand an explanation from the British government, but when it, too, was fired upon, Jefferson called a special session of Congress to discuss either an embargo of British goods or a declaration of war. In December, Napoleon announced an embargo of British goods, preventing Britain from legally conducting any commerce in Europe, which was largely under Napoleon's control at that time. In response, George III ordered the impressment of American sailors to be intensified. Congress, in turn, passed the Embargo Act, which prohibited all British goods. The embargo was not what one might call a success. The American economy suffered, and smugglers and scofflaws began to sell British goods at high prices on the black market. Jefferson sent federal agents to track down and apprehend these smugglers. There was no real way to prevent
American merchants from importing foreign goods, especially since they could just sail into international waters to conduct their business, but exports were sharply curtailed. The embargo failed. Another unintended consequence of the Embargo Act was Jefferson, who had always been against centralization of power, found himself expanding federal authority at the expense of the states. It was an untenable position politically, and the economic difficulties caused by the embargo helped to return the Federalists to power. In December 1807, Jefferson announced that he had no intention of seeking a third term and he retired to Monticello. Although he was still President, he left the actual affairs of state and business of running the country almost entirely to James Madison and Treasury Secretary Gallatin. Just before he left office in 1809, Jefferson repealed the disastrous embargo. Shortly after Madison’s inauguration as his successor, Jefferson said that he felt like a prisoner who had been released from his chains.
R E T U R N T O P R I VAT E L I F E
“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God I just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” — THOMAS JEFFERSON
During the years immediately after his time as President ended, Jefferson turned to his first love: education and learning. He sold his extensive book collection to the Library of Congress and began to correspond with the country’s leaders. He advised James Monroe on westward expansion, and many see Jefferson’s fingerprints on the famous Monroe Doctrine of 1823. Jefferson happily developed a routine. He would rise early, spend several hours reading and writing his copious correspondence, and in the afternoon he would oversee his plantation from horseback. In the evenings, he would spend time with his family in the garden, and then go to bed late at night with a book. He would have been happy to live his life just this way, with only his family around him, but his peace and quiet was frequently interrupted by visitors and even tourists who called without warning. He complained that Monticello had become a "virtual hotel," but he never turned anyone away.
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
efferson had never been a religious man, and he believed that the key to a successful society was education without the interference or influence of any church. He wanted a university where students from all walks of life could study any topic they chose, where their studies would be publicly funded, and they could enroll based on ability rather than social class or wealth. In 1819, at the age of 70, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. He organized a campaign in the state legislature for its charter, and he purchased the land for the university with the assistance of Edmund Bacon. He designed most of the buildings, planned the curriculum, and acted as the school’s first rector when the university opened its doors in 1825. Like most of Jefferson’s architecture, the buildings at the University of Virginia were based on Greek and Roman structures. The university library, called the Rotunda, was based upon the Roman Pantheon, and each academic unit was designed with a two-story façade in the form of a columned Greek temple. The Rotunda was the center of the campus, which was a controversial thing at the time – all other universities were centered on churches. The university was always meant to be a secular institution. The standard university education at that time had three possible areas of focus: medicine, law or divinity. Under the Jefferson’s direction, the University of Virginia had eight separate and independent schools: medicine, law, mathematics, chemistry, ancient languages, modern languages, natural philosophy and moral philosophy. These were all areas where Jefferson himself was skilled. Jefferson hosted dinners at Monticello on Sundays for faculty and students for the rest of his life. When Jefferson passed away, he bequeathed the majority of his library to the university.
JEFFERSON AND ADAMS
here have rarely been two politicians as entwined throughout their careers as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. They began as good friends when they served in the Continental Congress together and then again when they represented the United States’ interests in Europe. Party politics shattered their friendship, and after Jefferson’s election to the presidency, the two men were not on speaking terms for more than ten years. In 1804, when Jefferson's daughter Polly passed away, Abigail Adams wrote to Jefferson and attempted to arrange reconciliation, but when the men did write to one another again, their old arguments flared up, and they became hostile once more. Benjamin Rush, another signer of the Declaration of Independence, was dedicated to healing the rift between the two men. He prodded them continually to contact one another, and his efforts combined with the passage of time led to Adams sending a New Year’s letter to Jefferson. Jefferson responded with warmth, which prompted Adams to write back. The two began a 14-year correspondence during which they exchanged 158 letters debating politics, history, and the impact of the American revolution on the world. When Adams died, his last words were, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” Unfortunately, in an extraordinary coincidence, Jefferson had actually died a few hours before.
n 1821, when he was 77 years old, Jefferson put pen to paper and began writing an autobiography. He focused exclusively on the years of the revolution, excluding his boyhood and youth. He wrote about nothing that happened after July 29, 1790. Jefferson had never been particularly interested in his family history, but he did write that his family had come to the New World from Wales, settling in Virginia in the late 17 th Century. He described his father as a good man with a strong mind and sound judgment despite the fact that he was uneducated. After these basic sketches, he concentrated on the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of the state government of Virginia. He took the opportunity to express his opinions and insights about human nature, politics, and historical events. He decried the aristocracy of landowners, saying that he would rather see an aristocracy of talent and virtue. Jefferson also stated that he felt his personal affairs were unimportant and best if overlooked.
L AFAY ET TE
hen he left Paris in 1789, Jefferson had parted from his good friend the Marquis de Lafayette. The two had written to one another, but they had not seen each other in many, many years. In 1824, Lafayette accepted an invitation from President James Monroe to visit the United States to see what he had helped to create. He visited New York, New England, and Washington, but when his official visits were done, Lafayette went to Monticello. The visit was an emotional one for them both. Jefferson’s grandson, Randolph, described how the two men burst into tears and embraced when they saw one another. Lafayette stayed at Monticello for 11 days, during which he, Jefferson and President Monroe toured the University of Virginia and attended a banquet. Jefferson had prepared a speech for the occasion, but his voice was weak, so he had someone else read it for him. It was his last public appearance.
n his final years, Jefferson was deeply indebted, to the tune of $100,000. He worried about making good on this debt, especially as he realized that his life was coming to an end and he would have little to leave to his heirs. He applied to the General Assembly of Virginia to hold a public lottery as a fundraiser, and the Assembly consented. His health began to fail in 1825, a combination of disorders of the intestines and urinary tract, rheumatism, and old and painful injuries of the wrist and arms. He was confined to bed in June 1826, and on July 4, at 12:50 pm, Jefferson died at the age of 83. The date of his death was the 50 th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, and it was also, as previously mentioned, the date of John Adams’ demise. When he died, a golden locket was found around Jefferson’s neck. It contained a lock of his wife Martha’s hair, bound by a faded blue ribbon. At the time of his death, Jefferson was still deeply in debt, and though he left instructions for the disposition of his estate and the emancipation of Sally Hemings’ children, the estate was sold at public auction in 1827. His possessions and slaves were all sold to pay off his expenses, and in 1831, his heirs sold Monticello.
“When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself a public property.” — THOMAS JEFFERSON
Thomas Jefferson was one of the most influential political philosophers of his day. He had marked opinions, and his persuasive writing ensured that his influence would continue to be felt long after his death.
is vision of government based upon ideals of political equality is known as "Jeffersonian democracy." Jefferson strongly believed that each individual was born with "certain inalienable rights," which included liberty up until the moment that liberty infringed on the rights of others. He was also a staunch supporter of the separation of church and state. He distrusted cities and bankers, and he believed that tyranny was an outgrowth of corruption in politics and monarchies. He was opposed to centralization of power, which informed his support for states’ rights. At the time of his death, the United States was the only existing republic in an age of monarchies. Jefferson was a tireless opponent of monarchies and hereditary power, and he opined that frequent small outbreaks of rebellion and revolution were necessary to keep monarchies, governments and other powerful entities in check. He believed that the majority of human history was a tale of a majority oppressed by a powerful minority, and he believed in democracy as pure majority rule. Jefferson believed in public education and freedom of the press. He also supported the idea of providing the vote not just to landholders but also to laborers who did not own land. He wanted to increase voter participation, and while his party was in power, this did indeed happen. He was displeased that the vote was largely in the hands of rich and powerful landowners, believing that this was an echo of the feudal system of monarchy. He wanted to expand suffrage to include "yeoman farmers," but he excluded tenant farmers, day laborers, vagrants, most Native Americans, and women. It was his belief that voting should be restricted only to those people who were free of outside influences and corrupting dependence on other people or institutions. While he was a firm believer in democracy, he realized that there would be times when there would be failures or excesses. These would be the fault of corrupt institutions rather than the foibles of human nature, which separated him from some of his more cynical compatriots who doubted if human beings could be trusted to govern themselves.
efferson was baptized into the Episcopal Church, but after being influenced by Deists and studying the New Testament on his own, he broke from traditional Christianity. He called himself a Christian, "in the only sense in which Jesus wished anyone to be."
He compiled all of Jesus's words and teachings, omitting all references to the miracles or the supernatural, and created The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, which is known today as the Jefferson Bible. He strongly disliked priests and clergy of all kinds, and he toyed with the idea of banning all members of the clergy from public office. He believed that the clergy, dedicated to the hierarchies of their respective churches, were the enemies of liberty and discouraged individual liberty in favor of conformity. He drafted the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which was ratified in 1786, and he was so proud of this accomplishment that it was only one of his voluminous writings to be included in the epitaph he wrote for his gravestone. Jefferson hoped that the American people would be educated in multiple faiths and would create an "Apiarian" religion, which meant that the people would rationally take the best features of every religion and discard the rest. He believed in a Creator and an afterlife, but he denied the divinity of Jesus and rejected the concept of the Trinity. These beliefs were extremely controversial in their time, and they featured strongly in opposition to his election for a second term as President. During the campaign for the 1800 election, the New England Palladium referred to Jefferson as an "infidel," and the Federalists called him a "howling atheist." He never denied the existence of or his belief in God, but the opposition to his views that he experienced during that campaign led him to become more reticent to discuss his beliefs in public.
e was always a farmer at heart, and he believed that agrarian citizens were hurt in the long run by government banks and public borrowing. He believed that such institutions encouraged risk-taking, long-term debt, monopolies and dangerous financial speculation. He disliked Alexander Hamilton primarily because his rival was a staunch supporter of a national bank, and that friction was the seed of all the acrimony between them. Jefferson and Madison both felt that a national bank would be neglectful to the needs of individuals and farmers. Jefferson also believed that the foundation of a national bank would violate the Tenth Amendment and would be a violation of states’ rights. He wanted to abolish the national bank when he became President, and only the efforts of Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin convinced him to let the bank remain.
S L AV E R Y
homas Jefferson was a slave owner, which was a dreadful contradiction for a man who so frequently stated his belief in personal liberty. Over his lifetime, he owned over 600 human beings. He inherited 175 of these people, and the rest were born into bondage on his plantations. While he may have been a benevolent slaveholder, the fact remains that he continually denied personal liberty to the people who worked his land while he sat in Monticello and wrote vaunted words about liberty and freedom. He felt that slavery was harmful to everyone involved with it, both slave and master, but he never saw fit to distance himself from it completely. His personal wealth, based as it was on the plantation system, depended upon slave labor to be maintained. At the same time, he frequently included verbiage highly critical to the institution of slavery in his writings. Passages calling for the abolition of slavery were included in, but later struck from, the Declaration of Independence. He believed, as many white men of his time did, that blacks were inherently inferior to whites both mentally and physically. Despite this, he also believed that they had innate rights that should not be violated. In Notes on the State of Virginia, he called slavery a moral evil and stated that the United States would one day be called to account by God. He supported freeing slaves, but immediately deporting them to Liberia or Sierra Leone. He did not believe that whites and blacks could live together as free members of the same society, and following the slave revolt in Haiti, he feared a race war in America. Jefferson was allegedly a benevolent slaveholder. He purchased slaves to reunite families, but he also sold about 110 slaves to obtain funds. By the standards of the day, he didn't force his slaves to work on Sundays or Christmas, and he allowed them personal time during the winter. He provided them with log cabins with fireplaces, good, clothing and household goods, and he gave them financial incentives for jobs well done. He also allowed them to raise their chickens and to grow gardens. His nail factory was operated by child slaves, but these same slaves went on to become craftsmen, and he frequently promoted slaves to better positions on the plantation.
Benevolence as a slaveholder, however, is still an offense to the personhood and liberty of the slave, and in a way, saying Jefferson was a "good master" is damning with faint praise.
THE SALLY HEMINGS QUESTION
n 1802, a man named James Callender was denied the position of postmaster. He immediately retaliated by proclaiming in public that Jefferson had taken slave Sally Hemings as “a concubine” and that she had borne him several children. This allegation was dismissed by polite society, but it was an open secret that many slave owners had children with women they enslaved. Sally Hemings was the daughter of John Wayles, Jefferson’s father-inlaw, and Betty Hemings, Wayles "mulatto" slave. She was his wife Martha's half-sister and was three-quarters European and one-quarter African. Jefferson’s family denied the relationship, but visitors to Monticello often remarked on the close resemblance of the Hemings children to Jefferson himself. Randolph Jefferson, Thomas’s grandson, once claimed that the last Peter Carr, Jefferson’s nephew by his sister, had fired Hemings’ children, but this claim was never credited. In 1794, Jefferson freed his slave Robert Hemings, and in 1796, he also freed James Hemings, who was his cook. A slave named Harriet Hemings was freed in 1822 when she tried to run away, and in his will, he freed five more male slaves named Hemings. Sally had four children who survived to adulthood: William Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston Hemings. All but Madison identified themselves as white and lived in white communities. In 1873, Madison Hemings went on record in an Ohio newspaper stating that Jefferson was his father. He claimed that all of his siblings were Jefferson’s children, and that claim was backed by Israel Jefferson, another freed slave who had worked at Monticello. Madison was dismissed as a liar. The rumor would not go away, something that plagued Jefferson’s descendants. Mainstream historians gave no credence to the story, but African-American historians kept the story alive. Finally, in 1998, a DNA study was conducted on the Y-chromosome of a direct male-line descendant of Eston Hemings. It was found to be a nearly perfect match to descendants of Jefferson’s paternal uncle. Peter Carr’s descendants were not a match to the Hemings sample. The results of this test were interpreted as stating with 99% certainty that Jefferson was indeed the father of Sally Hemings’ children.
In July 2017, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation announced that archaeologists who were excavating at Monticello had located what they believed were Sally Hemings' quarters, adjacent to Jefferson's bedchamber. This chamber has been preserved as part of the Mountaintop Project, which is dedicated to the restoration of Monticello. Tours of Monticello now include acknowledgment of Jefferson's relationship with Hemings. Sally Hemings was never emancipated. She was, however, permitted by Jefferson’s daughter Patsy to live with her freed sons as a free woman in Charlottesville, Virginia. She died in 1835.
THE MEASURE OF A MAN
“I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.” — THOMAS JEFFERSON
Thomas Jefferson is remembered today as an icon of personal liberty, democracy, republicanism and as one of the Founding Fathers whose efforts brought the United States into being. He was more than a politician, and his contributions to American society are nothing less than staggering. He was a true Renaissance man. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society for 35 years and served as the president of that organization for 18 years. He was a scientist, fascinated by the development of new crops and scientific agricultural techniques. He was an architect who helped to promote the popularity of neo-classical and Neo-Palladian architectural forms. He was a prodigious writer, a linguist who mastered several languages, and a naturalist who studied birds, wine, natural bridges and soil conditions. He designed gardens and invented the swivel chair, the prototype of which he used while he was writing the Declaration of Independence. He improved many contemporary inventions, adapting them to his needs. These inventions included the pedometer, the polygraph (not the lie detector, but a device that duplicated writing), the revolving bookcase and a form of plow called the moldboard plow. His strong support of states’ rights caused him to lose popularity during the Civil War years, and his contradictory record on human rights, particularly slavery, have dimmed his luster over the years. Despite this, he was named as the fifth greatest President the country ever had in a 2015 Brookings Institution poll of the American Political Science Association. Thomas Jefferson was a complex individual, with good qualities and bad qualities, as most people have. His accomplishments may be blemished
by his failings, but he stands out as one of the most remarkable men of his day.
Bernstein, Richard B. (2003). Thomas Jefferson. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195181302. Bober, Natalie (2008). Thomas Jefferson: Draftsman of a Nation. University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0813927329. Cogliano, Francis D (2008). Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0748624997. Meacham, Jon (2012). Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. Random House LLC. ISBN 978-0679645368. Randall, Willard Sterne (1994). Thomas Jefferson: A Life. Harper Collins. ISBN 0060976179.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN TH E LIF E OF A P R IN TE R , S CIE N TIS T, A N D R EVOLU TIONA RY
“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” — BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
Benjamin Franklin is one of the most famous names in American history. While he is mainly known for flying a kite during a thunderstorm and being one of the 56 Founding Fathers of the United States of America, he is also known as being the one to say, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” But there is a lot more to this man. Not only was Benjamin Franklin a son, brother, husband, and scientist, he was also one of the most famous men during his time. Not only was he very popular and highly respected in the American colonies, which would become the United States of America in his later life, but he was also highly respected in other countries in the world, such as England and France, at least during some periods of his life. Throughout his life, Benjamin Franklin was determined and hardworking. He was also highly intelligent and a very generous and compassionate human being, who often woke up early and would ask himself what good he could accomplish that day. He is a man who had many excellent chapters in his life. This work will be a focus of all the pieces in Benjamin Franklin’s life that helped make him the Benjamin Franklin most people know and love to this day.
“Tell me, and I forget; teach me, and I may remember; involve me, and I learn.” — BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
THE CHILDHOOD OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
enjamin Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, to Josiah and Abiah Franklin in Boston. He was the 15 th out of 17 children. His father had immigrated from England in 1682. His mother was the daughter of one of New England’s first settlers, Peter Folger. While the Franklin family was not rich, they did well for themselves. Josiah had his own candle and soap making business. His mother kept busy in the home. Not only did she care for her all her young children, but she also cleaned, cooked, sung psalms, spin wool, kept her husband’s bank books, wove cloth, sew and taught the children prayers. Religion was a vital piece in the Franklin household. Benjamin was raised in a Puritan home and spent many Sundays and Thursdays listening to Cotton Mather as a child. The family would sit in church for up to four hours. The Puritans had strict rules in the church, and one was that you had to sit up straight and be quiet. On top of this, they also had to follow other rules, such as the color of clothing and what type of activities the church could do on Sundays. As a child, Benjamin spent a lot of time alone, and he did not particularly get along with any of his brothers and sisters. During his time alone, he would teach himself specific life skills, such as learning how to swim. He was able to learn these skills by reading books. Benjamin Franklin loved to read books. He would save every penny he could to buy books and borrow from friends. Education was also crucial in the Franklin household. However, there was not a lot of formal education. But because Josiah had dreams that Benjamin would one day become a Clergyman, Benjamin was enrolled in the Boston Grammar School when he was around eight years old. However, Benjamin’s time at the Boston Grammar School was short lived as a year later, Josiah took Ben out of the school. Many historians continue to wonder why Josiah pulled Benjamin out because he was at the top of his class. Some believe that the reason was money while others think that Josiah simply gave up on the idea of Benjamin becoming a Clergyman. Other historians feel that Josiah believed he could get a better education elsewhere. Whatever the reason was, Benjamin was later enrolled in Mr. Brownell’s School for Writing and Arithmetic.
Later in his life, Benjamin wrote that he excelled in writing but struggled in arithmetic. He was taken out of Mr. Brownell’s School for Writing and Arithmetic a year later. This would be the end of Benjamin’s formal education. Instead, his father believed that he could start learning at home and in his candle and soap business. While Benjamin did not enjoy making candles, he did enjoy listening in on the political and life advice and opinions his father would often give the town people. They would usually come to Josiah while the family was sitting down at the dinner table. Josiah would allow Benjamin to stay at the table to listen in and enrich his mind. Later in life, Benjamin wrote that he would become so interested in the conversation that he would forget to eat.
BEN FRANKLIN: THE BEGINNING PIECES
hen Benjamin was twelve years old, his father decided to make him an apprentice at his brother, James’ printing press. This was one of the first steps in Ben’s young life that would lead him down his life’s path. Benjamin was in charge of setting the letters for the printer along with selling the newspapers in the town. However, this job did not satisfy Benjamin Franklin. Instead, Benjamin had dreams about wanting to write for the newspaper and not just continue with the busy work. However, Benjamin knew his brother would object to the thought of Benjamin writing for the newspaper, which was called, The Courant. Therefore, one day Benjamin left an anonymous article under the door of his brother’s print house. But, instead of signing his name, he signed it as Silence Dogood. James liked the Dogood letters so much that he published all of them, which he received from April to October of 1722. Unfortunately, the letters did not sit well with the Assembly, and they asked James to reveal the writer. When James refused, mostly because he did not know who the real author was, he was placed in jail for two weeks, which left Benjamin in charge of the printing business. When James was released, he was banned from printing the newspaper, so Benjamin continued for a while. However, he grew tired of his brother’s abuse and decided to take the opportunity to escape from the apprentice contract he had signed three years earlier, at twelve years old. But because James had gone around Boston and told other printers not to hire Benjamin, he was unable to get another printing job in Boston. Therefore, Ben snuck out of his brother’s house in 1723, at sixteen years old, and onto a ship headed to New York City. It did not take Benjamin long to realize he was not going to find a printing job in New York City. So, with the advice of New York City printers, he headed to the biggest city in the American colonies, Philadelphia. Once in Philadelphia, Franklin found a job with Samuel Keimer. It was not too much longer the governor of Pennsylvania went to see Franklin. He ended up offering Franklin a way to set up his own printing business. Benjamin Franklin agreed, and the governor sent him to London for supplies. However, once Benjamin landed in London, he realized he was stranded. Governor Sir William Keith did not send along any letters of
credit or money. Benjamin was now penniless, homeless, and in a foreign country. So, he did the only thing he could - find a printing job. Eventually, Franklin was hired at Palmers. He worked there for a year and a half until Thomas Denham paid for Benjamin’s trip back to Philadelphia. Once Benjamin stepped foot back on American soil, he knew more than any other printer in Pennsylvania. Within a year after being back, Benjamin opened his own printing business.
THE BEGINNING OF A MASTER MIND
“I am for doing good to the poor, but...I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty but leading or driving them out of it. I observed...that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.” — BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
THE START OF FREEDOM
ecause of an essay Benjamin Franklin wrote in Pennsylvania titled, “The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency,” Franklin became the official printer in the colony. Six years later, in 1736, Benjamin Franklin would become the official printer for paper currency in New Jersey. However, even holding one of the most prestigious printing jobs in Colonial America was not Benjamin’s most significant business accomplishment. His greatest business accomplishment would be the Poor Richard’s Almanac. The first one was printed under the name Richard Saunders on December 19, 1732. For the next 25 years, the Poor Richard’s Almanac would be published annually. The publication held a variety of information, such as weather predictions, demographics, a calendar, poems, trivia, proverbs, recipes, and other interesting facts and information. Very quickly, the almanac became the most read material in the American colonies, especially for those who could not afford books. About 10,000 copies of the Poor Richard’s Almanac were printed annually. With the success of the Poor Richard’s Almanac and his other business ventures, Benjamin Franklin had become very wealthy and famous. But Benjamin knew he wanted to do other things in his life. So, in 1748, he hired a partner to take care of the daily printing tasks. With David Hall employed, Franklin was able to engage in experiments and public projects. Hall and Franklin would remain printing business partners until 1766 when Franklin would sell the business to Hall. One of Benjamin Franklin’s favorite things to do was writing. During his life, he not only became one of the best printers in Colonial America but also became a well-known writer around the globe. Not only did he write thousands of letters to various people, including family, friends, and business associates, but he also wrote and published pamphlets, almanacs, articles, and essays. Other than the Poor Richard’s Almanac, one of Franklin’s most wellknown works was Father Abraham and “The Way to Wealth.” Father Abraham was created when Benjamin Franklin was gathering all the articles in the Almanac about investing money. Through these articles, Benjamin wrote a story about Father Abraham, who had been an avid
reader of the Poor Richard’s Almanac for 25 years. The story was published in the 1758 almanac and was an immediate hit with its readers. Even though the story was ironic, it was also humorous and had its readers laughing. Benjamin also spent many nights writing his autobiography. He had started in the late 1760s, however, would never be able to finish it. When the American Revolutionary War began, he had to put the autobiography aside, and it was nearly lost. After retirement, he did work on it but very little. When he died, the book only went as far as 1757. But, even though it is unfinished, Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography is a famous work in American literature.
FAMILY LIFE WITH BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
“Half a truth is often a great lie.” — BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
A REL ATIONSHIP OF T WO COLONIALS
enjamin Franklin met his future wife, Deborah Read, when he first got to Philadelphia. He ended up boarding with Deborah and her parents. They quickly fell in love but had a rough courtship. While Franklin was stuck in England for eighteen months, Deborah married John Rogers, who was a potter in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Deborah and John’s happy marriage was short-lived. Not only did John spend money freely and occur a significant amount of debt, but there was also a rumor that he had a wife in England. Deborah could not take anymore heartache from John, so she went back to her mother’s house, and John headed to the West Indies. Around the same time that John sailed off, Franklin returned to the colonies. Benjamin was heartbroken to hear of their marriage as now he could not marry Deborah. However, it was not too much longer when rumors started circulating that John had died at sea. Both Deborah and Benjamin hoped these rumors were true. While Benjamin stated, “I took her to wife on September 1, 1730,” they did not record their marriage to the church. Instead, Benjamin and Deborah had a common law marriage. Deborah moved in with Benjamin and started referring to herself as Mrs. Benjamin Franklin. A common law marriage was an acceptable marriage in the 1700s. Deborah and Benjamin believed this was the best marriage for them because they did not truly know if John was dead or if it was just a rumor. If John was not dead, Deborah was not free to marry. If Deborah and Benjamin recorded their marriage to the church and John returned, both Benjamin and Deborah would be charged with bigamy. This was a severe crime in Colonial America, and it was publishable by life imprisonment and 39 lashes. Through Benjamin Franklin’s marriage, you can read how much he loved and cared for Deborah, even if he was not always around. During their marriage, and for the rest of Benjamin Franklin’s life, Benjamin would only talk and write about his wife’s positive points. He never talked ill of
her or would discuss her flaws, even though many other people Benjamin spoke and wrote to knew about her shortcomings. He never wrote of any frustrations he had towards Deborah. In fact, he once wrote that Deborah was “a good and faithful helpmate.” He further wrote that Deborah “cheerfully attended me in my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old linen rags for the papers makers, etc., etc.”
However, just because Benjamin and Deborah love each other and spoke well of one another, does not mean Benjamin and Deborah had a perfect marriage. As Benjamin Franklin started to make his mark in the American colonial world as a printer, writer, scientist, and statesman; the couple began to drift apart. The more and more Benjamin was gone, spending time with the public and not his wife, Deborah became more and more jealous and lonely. “All the world claims the privilege of troubling my Pappy.” Deborah once told a good friend. Pappy was Deborah’s nickname for Benjamin. As Benjamin Franklin’s fame began to reach increasing heights around the world, he started traveling abroad. In 1757, he left for England. No matter how much Deborah would plead with her husband to return, Benjamin would not return home. Benjamin did not even return home when his wife suffered a severe stroke, leaving her with slurred speech and poor memory, in 1768-1769. Benjamin Franklin found out about his wife’s death in February of 1775, through the Pennsylvania Gazette, which read, “On Monday, the 19 th of December, died Mrs. Deborah Franklin, wife of Dr. Franklin.” While this may make Benjamin seem like he had given up on his marriage to Deborah, the opposite is proven in Benjamin’s writings after his wife’s death.
He stated, “I have lost my old and faithful companion…and I every day become more sensible of the great loss which cannot be repaired.” This is proof that Benjamin still loved and cherished Deborah, as he always had.
FATHER AND GRANDFATHER
enjamin Franklin’s first born son was named William “Billy” Franklin. No one is really sure when William was born but know that he was born either late 1730 or early 1731. Of course, many people around Philadelphia talked and discussed rumors about Benjamin Franklin’s illegitimate son. Many people, including historians today, wondered who William’s mother was. To most people, there were only two choices. The first choice was William was Deborah's son, conceived before their common law marriage. However, the increasing mistreatment that Deborah gave to William often makes people believe this was not the case. The second choice was another woman, who many believed was a servant who worked in the Franklin household named Barbara, was William’s mother. While we never get any definitive answer from anyone on who William’s mother is, later in his life, Benjamin Franklin wrote that William was a product of lust. This lust, Benjamin would explain, was an action he was unable to control. Even so, Benjamin loved William, just as he loved his other two children, and took full responsibility for being William’s father. Deborah agreed to raise William as her own, and while she did, she gave him little affection compared to her other two children. And the older William would get, the more and more Deborah would openly discuss and show her dislike for William. Thankfully for William, he received great love and attention from Benjamin. While their love and adoration for each other would last the rest of their lives, they would not always be on the best terms, especially after the American Revolution. Because of King George III’s influence over William in 1757, which was when William followed his father to England, William remained loyal to the king during the American Revolution. During America’s fight for independence, it was father against son. Benjamin had fought hard to save his life, lives of the other Founding Fathers, and gain America’s independence. William did not believe America could win the war or govern themselves and fought against the American cause. After the American Revolution, the two wrote to each other. These letters would prove that they still loved and cared for each other but would not be able to
get over their emotions caused by their different sides during the American Revolution. William, who was living in London, wrote to his father: “How I desire to revive that affectionate intercourse and connection which till the commencement of the late troubles had been the pride and happiness of my life. You must know I acted from a strong sense of what I conceived my duty to my king and my country. I verily believe if that were the same circumstances to occur tomorrow, my conduct would be exactly similar…All this, however, his history…My fondest hope is now to resume our relationship as it was before.”
In response to his son’s letter, Benjamin wrote: “Nothing has ever hurt me so much and affected me with such keen sensations as to find myself deserted in my old age by my own son. And not only deserted, but to find him taking up arms against me in a cause where in my good fame, fortune, and life were all at stake… There are natural duties which proceed political ones, and cannot be extinguished by them…This is a disagreeable subject. I drop it…I shall be glad to see you when convenient, but would not have you come here at present.”
When Benjamin wrote this response to William, he was in France and still angry over the betrayal of his firstborn son. But in 1785, when Benjamin
was heading back to America from France, he met up with William in England. However, it was not the greatest father and son reunion. Benjamin could not let go of the anger he felt towards William. Furthermore, William could sense his father’s hostility, which made him feel awkward and uncomfortable. This would be the last time William and Benjamin would see each other as nothing was resolved at their meeting. William would not be Benjamin Franklin’s only son but would be his only son to live to adulthood. In 1732, Benjamin and his wife welcomed Francis Folger. Francis contracted smallpox and passed away at four years old, so not much is known of his life. What historians do know is that he loved to follow his father at the printing business. It is also well known that Benjamin never got over the death of little Francis. Until his dying day, Benjamin would cry for his second born son. He would wonder what would have become of his Francis. Whenever he saw a young boy, his mind would think of the young son he lost. “I always thought he would be the best of my children.” Benjamin Franklin would write of Francis near the end of his life, fifty years after the loss. “To this day, I cannot think of him without a sigh.”
In 1743, Benjamin and Deborah would welcome another child into their lives. This time, they would welcome a daughter, whom they would name Sarah. However, she was usually called by her nickname of Sally. With William a teenager and Francis already passed, Sally often felt as though she was an only child. Like with his other two children, Benjamin adored his daughter. He proudly wrote about Sally, stating she “…is the greatest lover of her books and school.”
Because Sally’s true love was music, Benjamin sent her a harpsichord when he was living in England. Upon his return to America, the father and daughter would spend some of their most treasured time making music. Sally would play the harpsichord as Benjamin would play the glass harmonica, an instrument that he developed. Sally married a man by the name of Richard Bache in 1767, while Benjamin was in England. Sally and Richard would continue to live in the Franklin household, where they would raise their seven children. Sally would also care for her father in his old age, especially the last four to five years of his life. Benjamin could not think of a better way to live out his remaining years than living with his daughter, son-in-law, and his grandchildren, or his little prattlers, as he would call them. He wrote of Benny, Willy, Betsy, Louis, Deborah, Richard, and little Sarah, “I am now in the bosom of my family, and find a batch of new babies who cling about the knees of their grandpapa, and afford me great pleasure.”
A K I T E , E L E C T R I C I T Y, A N D INVENTIONS
“If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” — BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
s a child, Benjamin’s mind was always on the go. He would be performing a daily activity, such as swimming, and have an idea he would have to experiment with. For example, one day Benjamin decided to go for a swim as he was flying his kite. He laid down on his back in the water, held the stick, and let the kite pull him along the surface of the water. Today, this is considered Benjamin Franklin’s first scientific experiment. Later in his life, he wanted to expand this experiment to the English Channel. However, he realized that it would be much better and safer to use a boat or a ship instead of test his little experiment. Another scientific childhood activity was creating his own magic square of squares. This activity was forming a square filled with numbers so that the sum of every vertical, horizontal, and diagonal row was equal. This activity would follow Benjamin into adulthood when he would often create a magic square of squares when he was bored or has some downtime. Throughout his childhood and into adulthood, Benjamin Franklin continued to observe, explore, and examine everything around him. Franklin wondered how ants were always able to find their way into his molasses jar. He had even moved the jar, and every time the ants would find their way. Through his various experiments with the molasses jar and ants, Benjamin believed that ants have their own language, and when one ant finds out about something, such as food, it goes back to the colony to inform the other ants.
AND ELECTRIFIED LIFE
hile Benjamin conducted several experiments, he is most well known for his experiments with electricity. In fact, electricity was one of Benjamin Franklin’s favorite topics for experimentation. Furthermore, Benjamin would become famous when he was performing his electrical experiments. He once wrote, “my house was continually full of persons who came to see the new wonders.” Often, the experiments Benjamin would perform in front of an audience, he had done many times. One such experiment was called the counterfeit spiders. In this experiment, Benjamin creates a life-like but fake spider out of a burned cork and linen thread. The cork was the body, and the linen thread was the legs of the fake spider. This counterfeit spider was then attached to a wire. The spider would then move and jump around when the wire was touched by a form of electricity, such as an electrical battery, which had been one of Benjamin Franklin’s inventions. Benjamin always enjoyed this experiment because his audience would believe it was a real spider as it would move so fast and they would not be able to tell the difference. With each new experiment, Benjamin would record the steps and the process down and share them with his good friend, Peter Collinson. Peter thoroughly enjoyed reading about Benjamin’s experiments and told Franklin they needed to be shared. Therefore, in 1751, Collinson gathered together all of the descriptions of Benjamin Franklin’s experiments he had received and published them in a book. It would be this book, which was titled, Experiments and Observations on Electricity, that would make Benjamin Franklin a worldwide scientist. Nearly everyone has seen a painting of Benjamin Franklin and his son, William, flying a kite in a thunderstorm, waiting for lightning to strike. There are many versions of this painting and is Benjamin Franklin’s most commonly discussed experiment. The great date occurred in June of 1752. It was this afternoon when Benjamin was watching for an intense thunderstorm that was supposed to
roll through his area. By this time, Benjamin had come to the belief that lightning and electricity were the same. To test his theory, Benjamin made a kite out of silk instead of paper. The kite also had a miniature metal rod at its top. Benjamin had also attached a handkerchief at the end, so the person holding the kite would be better protected by an electrical shock. There was also a wire that went from the top of the metal rod and down. At the bottom end of the wire, a key was attached. This key, Benjamin believed, would be able to collect an electrical charge and start moving due to the charge. Benjamin’s goal was to fly the kite in the eye of the storm. As the kite was flying in the storm, Benjamin touched the key. It was then he became very excited because he felt a very familiar electrical shock. In fact, it was the same type of electrical shock he felt when he would touch one of his invented electric batteries. However, unlike his other scientific experiments, he did not share this experiment with the scientific community right away. In fact, Benjamin did not even record the day or time of the experiment. Benjamin Franklin kept his findings of the kite experiment a secret for months. To this day, historians are not sure why he did this, but some suspect that it was because he knew what this type of finding could do in the scientific community, and he would be in the middle of it. Others feel that Franklin wanted to make sure that he had indeed discovered what he believed he discovered. Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite and lightning experiment led him to invent the lightning rod. With this invention, Benjamin stated, “One should fix, at the highest parts, rods of iron, made sharp as a needle…and from the foot of these needles, a wire run down outside of the building and protecting them from lightning.”
DISCOVERIES OF ELECTRICIT Y
hrough all of his experimenting with electricity, Benjamin made several discoveries, which he noted. One of these notes was that both electricity and lightning make a noise when they explode. He also noted that they both give off light, can cause a fire, and can kill. In fact, that lightning and electricity could damage property or kill someone was one of the reasons why people were cautious about putting a lightning rod on the top of their homes. While some people did follow Benjamin Franklin’s advice of the lightning rod after they read about it in the Poor Richard’s Almanac, many people continued to feel it was too dangerous. Benjamin also developed the terms “negative” and “positive” when referring to an electrical charge. On top of this, he also discovered that some materials had better conditions than others, therefore, allowing electricity to pass through them easier. Through a previous experiment, before the famous kite experiment, Benjamin discovered that some materials, such as silk, would be insulators from an electrical shock. While most of Benjamin Franklin’s scientific experiments and discoveries seem little or minor today, they were extremely important and valuable during Benjamin Franklin’s life. In fact, they were so groundbreaking that The Royal Society awarded him the Copley Medal, which was England’s highest honor for a scientist. On top of this, three highly esteemed universities, Oxford, Harvard, and Yale, awarded Benjamin Franklin with honorary degrees. This would be the reason why some people would start referring to Benjamin Franklin as Dr. Franklin. These honorary degrees were some of the most treasured materials that Benjamin Franklin ever received. Franklin was always a bit embarrassed that he only had two years of formal schooling. And, on top of that, while schooling was more informal than formal during Benjamin Franklin’s time, it was not often that a person like Franklin, who had such little formal schooling, would become so highly respected in a field, especially the scientific community.
AN INVENTOR BEFORE HIS TIME
ot only did Benjamin Franklin dive into scientific experiments, but he was also an inventor of many items. Along with the glass armonica, he also invented bifocals. Benjamin Franklin is well known for wearing glasses. While not all of his portrait paintings have him painted with glasses on, a couple do. And while people know he wore glasses, it is a little-known fact that from the 1780s until the end of his life, Benjamin Franklin wore one, if not the first pair, of bifocals. Benjamin wore glasses throughout most of his adult life, however, as time went on, he started to need two pairs of glasses. He needed one to see this close up and he needed a different pair so he could see things far away. This means that Benjamin Franklin was both near and far sided. Therefore, he had to carry two pairs of glasses. Eventually, Benjamin felt changing between the two pairs of glasses was impractical. He then brought both pairs of glasses to a glass shop, where he asked the owner to cut each pair of lenses in half. He then glued one half from each pair of glasses together to create new lenses. He was then able to either look through the top half of his glasses or the bottom half of his glasses to see what he needed to see better. When discussing his bifocals, Benjamin stated, “I found this most convenient.”
To continue his scientific experiments, especially the ones that focused on an electrical charge, Benjamin realized he needed a contraption to give himself enough of an electrical charge. Knowing the rubbing two items together could create friction, Benjamin realized he needed to invent something built off that idea. This was when he invented what he called the electrostatic machine. Basically, the machine was a very early version of an electrical generator. The contraption had a glass globe at the top, a wheel, and a piece of chamois skin. When the glass globe would rub against the chamois skin, a static electric charge would result. The electrical charge
came from a bunch of knitting needles and was stored in a Leyden jar. Benjamin was thankful that this invention worked for his experiments. With this invention, Benjamin knew he would receive enough electricity for his experiments. For his inventions, Benjamin did not always create an object. At one point, Benjamin tried to create an easier alphabet for the English language. This came about because he saw how poorly many people, especially women, spelled. Of course, during Benjamin’s time, formal education was not as easy as it is today, and women simply received none to very little formal education. Because of the lack of formal education, people would write words simply by how they sounded. In his alphabet, Benjamin eliminated certain letters that did not match their sounds, such as q, x, and y. He also went on to create new letters that he felt would be necessary to help people spell better when they spelled by how a word sounded. Benjamin tested this newly formed alphabet on some of his friends when he wrote them letters. While some friends tried to write back the same way, it was challenging for everyone, including Benjamin Franklin, to let go of the alphabet they had known all their lives. Therefore, he set his invented alphabet aside and kept using the regular English alphabet. As Benjamin wrote that he could not “uz a simplrverzun al hizlyf.”
OTHER PIECES OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
“If you would know the value of money, go try to borrow some; for he that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing.” — BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
A WELL-ROUNDED INDIVIDUAL
ot only was Benjamin Franklin a scientist and inventor, but he also held many other pieces throughout his life. One of these pieces was starting a volunteer fire department in Philadelphia. He also helped build a hospital and worked on bettering formal education. While America was still the thirteen colonies, Franklin was its head postmaster. But, above all these puzzle pieces which helped develop Benjamin Franklin’s life, he focused on becoming the best person he could be. Just like Thomas Jefferson and many other people during his time, Benjamin Franklin followed a strict daily schedule. Not only was this schedule to help him stay on task, but it was also so he could help himself in becoming perfect. Benjamin was in his late 20s when he decided he would try to become perfect. To achieve this goal, he came up with a list of thirteen rules to follow, which he wrote down and kept in a small notebook that he carried with him wherever he went. His theory to better himself with these thirteen rules was to work on one rule a week. Once week thirteen was up, he would start over. However, Benjamin eventually came to realize that perfection was impossible. Even so, he kept the little notebook with him for the rest of his life. He would not only carry it with him wherever he went, but he would also show people this notebook and explain the thirteen rules. Benjamin Franklin’s thirteen rules were as follows: 1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness. Drink not to elevation. 2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation. 3. Order. Let all things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time. 4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve. 5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e., waste nothing. 6. Industry. Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful.
7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly. 8. Justice. Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your own duty. 9. Moderation. Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve. 10. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents, common or unavoidable. 11. Cleanliness. Tolerate to uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation. 12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring. 13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
One service that Benjamin Franklin continued throughout his life was community service. Benjamin always believed that the “best service to God, is doing good to man.” Therefore, one of the first questions Benjamin would ask himself in the morning was “What good shall I do today?”
This part of his day was so important to him that he wrote it into his daily schedule. Of the task, he once wrote: “I rose at five each morning, and addressed Powerful Goodness (Benjamin’s name for God) with the same daily question: What good shall I do today? I then studied and planned my day until eight, worked until twelve, dined and overlooked my account book until two, worked again until six when I had supper, music, and conversation. At
ten, I examined my day. What good had I done that day?”
TO BETTER A COMMUNITY IN THE EYES OF FRANKLIN
n 1736, Benjamin Franklin organized the Union Fire Company, which would basically be Philadelphia’s first volunteer fire department. Benjamin got the idea from a club which had been started in London and formed to fight fires. Benjamin helped create a group of thirty men with the men appointing Benjamin Franklin as its first fire chief. All the men were not only trained in fighting fires but also rescuing people. Due to Benjamin’s work within the fire department and their monthly meetings discussing fire prevention, the department became huge in numbers of volunteers. Another way Benjamin worked on the safety of his community was making the streets safer. The same year he established the fire department, he worked on getting the trash picked up from the roads and improved the street lights. These lights had a hole at the top, so instead of having the smoke from the candle stay trapped in a globe, like the previous street lights, the smoke of the candle could escape through the hole. On top of this, Benjamin hired a group of individuals to be the lamplighters for the city. These men were in charge of lighting the candle at night and any maintenance. One of Benjamin Franklin’s goals in life was to develop better formal education for boys. Benjamin always regretted not getting enough formal education in his childhood, and he wanted better for the future generation. Therefore, in the late 1740s, Benjamin published the “Proposals relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania.” This booklet explained Benjamin Franklin’s plan for free education for boys in the colony. The plan would only cover boys ages eight to sixteen and did not include girls. While some historians believe that girls were not included because it was simply not typical for girls to obtain a formal education during Benjamin’s time, others have a different theory. While Benjamin Franklin was known to be a kind soul, he had a certain view of women that was a bit typical of his time. No matter how ahead of his time Benjamin was in his thinking with experiments and inventions, he believed women had a certain place, and they were not to be removed from that place. And this place,
even in Benjamin Franklin’s mind, was in the home, as he discussed when he wrote about his ideal female: “With the best natural disposition in the world, she discovers daily the seeds and tokens of industry, economy, and in short, of every female virtue… and if success answer’s the married couples fond wishes and expectation, she will, in the true sense of the word, be worth a great deal of money, and consequently, a great fortune.”
To further explain why many historians believe Benjamin did not include girls in his education plan, they look at the written conversation Benjamin had with one of his female friends, who talked of her interest in education. Benjamin stated, “…but there is nothing of equal importance than being a good daughter, a good wife, and a good mother.” Simply, Benjamin did not understand women who wanted more than what, he and many others of his time believed, women needed. While he did believe that women should be taught the basic functions and skills, which would be useful to them and their families, such as writing, accounting, and reading; he did not believe they needed to learn outside of that box. And this educational belief was carried in his own home. While his son, William, learned was involved in all types of classes from geography to history to philosophy; Sally learned how to embroider, knit, and spin. On top of excluding girls from his formal schooling plan, Benjamin Franklin had a very clear vision of the school. He wanted it to be a comfortable, kind of home-like environment for the students. In his booklet describing the school, Benjamin stated the school should have a garden and a field. He also stated that the school should have a grand library, which should include not only books but maps, globes, and equipment for
experiments. He also wanted swimming to be a focus of the school’s curriculum, along with other forms of exercise. On top of explaining his plan for what should be taught at the school, he also discussed the conduct of the teachers. This was very important to Benjamin because, in one of his schools, he had a teacher that he did not get along with and it affected his grades. Once he was able to switch to a different teacher, one who he liked, he was one of the best students in his class. Benjamin said that the teachers at his school should be patient with a child’s learning. He also stated they should set morals and be an example of these morals. After Benjamin released his booklet explaining the school, he set about raising funds, gathering individuals for a Board of Trustees, and oversaw construction. In 1751, the first school of its kind opened its doors to all boys who showed the ability to succeed at the school, no matter what their financial background was. The school was called the Philadelphia Academy, and Charitable School and attendance grew quickly. The school was renamed the University of Pennsylvania in 1779 when Pennsylvania’s assembly gained control of the school. Along with a school, Benjamin Franklin also helped build a hospital in Philadelphia. While this was not originally Benjamin’s idea, when Dr. Thomas Bond, who was having trouble with support and funding for a hospital, came to Franklin, Benjamin threw himself into the role. To raise support and money, Benjamin began to hold meetings, noted and wrote about the cause in his newspaper, and petitioned congress for funding. Thanks to the help from Benjamin Franklin, the Pennsylvania Hospital, which is still in operation, was founded in 1751. The hospital’s first patient was admitted in 1752, but construction was not completed until three years later. Because of the humane treatment, the hospital not only provided to the physically ill but also mentally ill, the hospital grew rapidly. Soon the hospital had more patients than beds. By the time Benjamin Franklin passed away in 1790, there were two more wings and many more doctors.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN AND THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
"All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move." — BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
AN ENEMY OF BENJAMIN
hile Benjamin Franklin is known as a scientist, to many people, he is more well known as a Founding Father of the United States of America. Benjamin Franklin was generally known as a very generous and compassionate gentleman. He always tried to do good in the world and be the best person he could be. But, there were a few people Benjamin Franklin would grow to dislike and one of these men was King George III. While Benjamin supported King George III when he was crowned King in 1760, Benjamin started to feel that George did not genuinely care about his people. Benjamin felt King George III especially did not care about the people’s happiness in the American Colonies. By the time 1776 rolled around, Benjamin Franklin wanted nothing to do with King George III. Benjamin stated, “The King will stand foremost in the list of diabolical, bloody, and execrable tyrants.”
NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESEN TATION
hile there were many steps which helped cause the American Revolution, one of the biggest ones was the Stamp Act of 1765. In attempts to raise money, the British Parliament passed this act to try to raise money so they could get out of debt. This act stated that many paper materials, such as newspaper, pamphlets, legal contracts, and wills included a special tax. On top of this, the tax could only be paid in gold or silver coins. Like many American Colonists, Benjamin Franklin was outraged about the Stamp Act stating, “This act is the mother of mischief.”
With Benjamin living in London when the Stamp Act made its way throughout the colonies, a rumor was started that Benjamin and the Franklin family were supporters of the Stamp Act. Through a letter from his wife, Deborah, Benjamin learned many colonists created a mob in front of the Franklin house. The letter to Benjamin from Deborah read, “I fetched a gun or two…we maid one room into a magazin. I ordored sum sorte of defen upstairs such as I could manaig my self.” This letter would also be an example of why Benjamin, at one time, felt the English alphabet could be improved as many women of the time spelled as badly as Deborah. The news of a mob forming in front of his family’s home not only disturbed Benjamin because he was concerned about the safety of his family. It also bothered him because he knew these were not the American Colonists he had ones lived near and knew. For the change of behavior from the American Colonists, Benjamin began to blame the Stamp Act.
Because of the American Colonists reaction to the Stamp Act, British Parliament asked a few colonists, one being Benjamin Franklin, why the American Colonists felt the way they did about the Stamp Act. In his speech to the British Parliament, Benjamin asked and answered questions about the situation that he had rehearsed previously. The first question Benjamin asked the British Parliament was “Do you think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp duty if it was moderated?” When he asked moderated, he was asking if the British Parliament would limit or change the Stamp Act. For his answer, Benjamin Franklin stated, “No, never, unless compelled by force of arms…” Many historians believe that when Benjamin Franklin was speaking to the British Parliament about the Stamp Act, he was leading to the fact that American Colonists were leading towards independence from Great Britain due to some of the things he said, such as the American Colonists would only pay the Stamp Act if they had to due to losing a war. The second question and answer Benjamin Franklin discussed when he met the British Parliament was “What was the temper of American towards Great Britain before the year 1763?” Benjamin’s answer to this question was “The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government of the Crown…They had not only respect, but an affection for Great Britain, for its laws, its customs and manners, and even a fondness for its fashions…” The third question Benjamin asked the Parliament was “And how was their temper now,” and its answer was “Oh, very much altered.”
According to one member of the British Parliament, they were all ears when Benjamin Franklin was asking and answering his own questions during the meeting. Today, some people wonder if, because of Benjamin’s use of the words “their” if he was hinting that the American Revolution was approaching. However, no evidence can truly support this reasoning. About a week after Benjamin Franklin spoke before the British Parliament, he received news that the Stamp Act had been repealed. “I am just no made very happy by vote…for the repeal of the Stamp Act.” Benjamin wrote after he had received the news. Many other American Colonists were also happy and gave Benjamin Franklin a lot of credit for getting the Stamp Act repealed. Once the news started to reach the American Colonies, they began to cheer for Benjamin and praised him for his work. However, much of the hard feelings from the American Colonists towards Great Britain would stick with them for many years to come. On the other side of the sea, the British were less excited about the repeal of the Stamp Act. As the American Colonists were cheering for Benjamin Franklin, the British newspapers were publishing cartoons which showed Benjamin Franklin in a bad light. They were angry that the Stamp Act had been repealed and continued to believe that American Colonists should pay for the British government’s costs for printing all the stamps that were not worthless. When Benjamin Franklin heard about this, he was displeased at their anger towards the American Colonists. Just like many other American Colonists, Benjamin Franklin did not believe that the now worthless stamps, which had caused the British government so much money, were at the hands of the colonies. In response, Benjamin published a strange and slightly naughty story in the London newspaper.
A REVOLUTIONARY SONG
ecause of the way the British still felt towards the American Colonies after the Stamp Act was repealed, the colonies also started to feel anger towards their Mother Country. And these hard feelings did not help with Great Britain continued to try to pass acts on the colonies, without their consent. In 1767, the Townshend Acts were passed on the American Colonies by the British Parliament. The parliament was convinced that the American Colonies existed only because Great Britain supported them, especially financially. Therefore, they continued to try to add tax to certain goods in the colonies. The Townshend Acts were a series of acts that placed taxes on specific materials, such as paper, tea, and glass. In response, the American Colonists began to boycott the items that had been taxed. Benjamin Franklin approved of the boycotting as he felt that Britain had a bad attitude towards the colonies and wanted this attitude to change. As Benjamin stated during that time, “…every man in this city seems to think himself a sovereign over America; seems to jostle himself into the throne with the king and talks of our subjects in the colonies.” With the Townshend Acts, the American Colonists continued to rise against the new taxes and other acts Great Britain was sending their way. In fact, the riots in the American Colonies got so bad that the British Parliament decided to send British soldiers to the colonies to try to stop the rioting. However, many American Colonists started to attack the British soldiers through insulting and teasing them. It was at this moment that Benjamin Franklin began to warn the British Parliament that they were pushing the American Colonists too far and they were taking a dangerous step sending troops to the colonies. In 1770, after all the backlash the American Colonists were giving the British Parliament, the Parliament finally decided to repeal all but one Townshend Act. The one act that remained was the tax on tea. It was then that the Colonists and British soldiers came to a head in Boston. On March
5 th of that year, the British soldiers starting shooting at the unarmed American Colonists, at least the ones who came to throw snowballs at the British soldiers. Benjamin Franklin was heartbroken and angry when he read what the British soldiers did to the American Colonists in London. Franklin called the soldiers cowards for their actions. In 1773, the Tea Act was passed on the colonies by the British Parliament, which resulted in the Boston Tea Party. It was at this time that Benjamin Franklin realized that there would probably be no reconciliation between the American Colonies and their Mother Country. Benjamin stated of the situation, “I am at a loss to see how peace and union are to be restored.”
It was also at his time that Benjamin Franklin put a song to the feelings the American Colonists had towards Great Britain. The song was titled “We have an Old Mother” and had the following lyrics, which were sang to the tune of “Which Nobody Can Deny:” We have an old mother that peevish is grown. She snubs us like children that scarce walk alone. She forgets we’re grown up and have a sense of our own. Which nobody can deny, deny. Which nobody can deny. If we don’t obey orders, whatever the case; She frowns and she chides, and she loses all patience, and sometimes she hits us a slap in the face. Which nobody can deny, deny. Which nobody can deny.
Her order so odd are, we often suspect That age has impaired her sound intellect. But still an old mother should have some respect. Which nobody can deny, deny. Which nobody can deny. We’ll join her in lawsuits to baffle all those Who, to get what she has, will be often her foes; But we know it must all be our own, when she goes. Which nobody can deny, deny. Which nobody can deny.
After the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament passed the Coercive Acts, which the American Colonists began to call the Intolerable Acts. Because the British Parliament felt the American Colonists needed to be better controlled, they sent more British soldiers to the colonies. On top of this, they closed the Boston Harbor and suspended town meetings until the American Colonists repaid the tax on the tea. With Benjamin Franklin still in London during this time, he hears what the British citizens are saying about the American Colonists, and it angers him. “I have heard the government condemn Americans,” Benjamin Franklin wrote, “as the lowest of mankind, and almost of a different species from the British of England. They heap upon us both scorn, and contempt…in my mind government should pay us for all the duties extorted by armed forces.”
At this point, Benjamin Franklin felt and knew that war could easily be the next step for the American Colonists and he wanted to try to end this before any type of war started. Therefore, he requested to meet with the British Parliament but was turned down. Instead, the Privy Council, which was a group of nobles who would advise King George III, asked to see Benjamin Franklin in a meeting. The meeting between Benjamin Franklin and the Privy Council occurred at the beginning of 1774. During this whole meeting, the council took out all their anger towards the American Colonists on Benjamin Franklin, completely humiliating him in front of many British citizens. While it is said that Benjamin Franklin stood there like a rock the whole time, he let his anger towards Great Britain show after the meeting ended. He was walking beside the main council person who tormented him during the meeting. It was then Benjamin Franklin grabbed the man by the arm and stated, “I will make your master a little king for this.” It was at this point Benjamin Franklin knew the war was to come as it could longer be pushed aside or denied.
B E N J A M I N ’ S VA R I O U S R E V O L U T I O NA RY TA S K S
n 1775, Benjamin came back to the American Colonies, which was now at the start of the war. Less than 24 hours after being on American soil, Benjamin Franklin was appointed to the Second Continental Congress. Once Ben started to go to the meetings held by the congress, he soon realized that he was one of the few men who knew that the American Colonies had to fight for their independence. Because of this, Benjamin threw himself into doing whatever he could for the independent cause. These tasks would often keep him so busy while he was not sitting in his seat in the Continental Congress that he barely slept, and it began to show when he was in his seat. At one point, Founding Father and second President of the United States of America, John Adams said that Franklin was often “fast asleep in his chair” during Continental Congress debates. The tasks Benjamin did for the Revolutionary cause were varied. For almost two years, Benjamin raised funds and weapons for the army, organized the Pennsylvania militia, reviewed troops, drew up plans for Philadelphia’s naval defense, and create a new mailing system. The British government still controlled the previous mailing system, so nothing was being delivered to the American Colonists. Therefore, Benjamin set up a system in various cities around the colonies. On top of all this, Benjamin was also part of the committee which was to draft the Declaration of Independence. While the task of writing the Declaration of Independence went to Thomas Jefferson, who became the third President of the United States of America, Benjamin did help with it. While Benjamin Franklin was getting over an illness, which had caused a nasty rash, Thomas Jefferson asked Benjamin Franklin to edit the finished draft of the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin mainly did minor editing, such as straightening phrases. However, there was one significant change the Benjamin Franklin made, which was changing Thomas Jefferson’s “sacred and undeniable” to “self-evident.” Therefore, the statement then said, “…we hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”
When the Second Continental Congress read and edited the draft of the Declaration of Independence, they were not as kind as Benjamin Franklin was. Throughout the whole process, Thomas Jefferson sat there as he watched and listen to members of the Second Continental Congress tear apart the draft. Benjamin Franklin could tell that this was not only embarrassing Thomas Jefferson but also saw he was becoming angry at the editing. In attempts to try to make Thomas Jefferson feel better about the situation, Benjamin Franklin told Thomas Jefferson a story. From this day on, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin continued to be friends. Thomas Jefferson had high respect for Benjamin Franklin, especially for the help Franklin had given Jefferson during the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson also had a soft spot for Benjamin Franklin because of the kindness Franklin showed Jefferson when the rest of the Second Continental Congress was tearing apart his draft of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, Thomas Jefferson was one of the last friends to visit Benjamin Franklin before Franklin’s passing. This get together took place in March of 1790. Jefferson went to visit Franklin in his home, and the two spent their day talking about the times they had and Jefferson mention that he was rather excited to hear about how Benjamin Franklin had been writing his autobiography. Benjamin replied, “I cannot say much of that, but I will give you a sample of what I shall leave.” When Jefferson promised to read it and then return it to Franklin as soon as he could, Franklin told Thomas Jefferson to keep the sample. Later in his life, Thomas Jefferson discussed how great this gift was that Benjamin Franklin had given him stating, “The venerable and beloved Franklin gave me handwritten pages of his life.”
The Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence on June 2, 1776, and all fifty-six Founding Fathers had signed the document on July 4, 1776. Once the document was signed, Benjamin Franklin reportedly stated, “we must hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin, like all the other Founding Fathers, knew they were committing treason, which had a punishment of death. It was also on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was read to the public in Pennsylvania’s Statehouse Yard. The Declaration of Independence was printed and handed out to as many colonists as it could be. The colonists then started to tear down statues of King George III as they celebrated in joy. For Benjamin Franklin, declaring independence from the Mother Country meant that everything needed to be done at the same time. As much as possible needed to be completed as soon as possible. Just as many other Americans knew, and what every Founding Father knew, the newly formed United States of America would need to win that Revolutionary War, which had been going on for a little more than a year, if they really wanted to gain their independence.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S LAST CHAPTER
“Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” — BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN IS SENT TO FRANCE
t the end of 1776, with the Revolutionary War still raging on, Benjamin Franklin said goodbye to Philadelphia. Even in his old age, he was tasked with traveling to France to gain support for the American cause. At the time, Benjamin felt he would never return to America, so it was a very solemn farewell to his family, friends, and the newly formed United States of America. Benjamin knew that this would not be an easy task, trying to get France to side with the United States of America, but he knew it was possible and Benjamin worked hard to gain the respect of France officials. Through his time in France, Benjamin heard of all the news about the Revolutionary War. He would hear of the victories which were won by the American forces and the battles which were lost by the American forces. Throughout this time, Benjamin tried not to let the losses distract him from his mission in France. However, this was especially difficult when Benjamin Franklin received the news that the British had captured Philadelphia. This was where his family was located. This was the city that Benjamin Franklin’s daughter, Sally, her husband, and her children lived. Benjamin was devastated and worried about this news. But when the news broke in November of 1777, Benjamin was at the height of trying to get France onto the side of the United States of America. Of course, for France, this only escalated their feelings that the United States of America could not survive without Great Britain. However, for Benjamin Franklin, it just put a brighter fire in him to accomplish his task so he could help make sure that the United States of America would win the war and indeed gain their independence. By this point, it meant not only saving his life, and the lives of all the other fifty-five Founding Fathers, but also the life of his family. It was only a month later from the news that the British troops had taken of Philadelphia when the French realized that the United States of America would make a good ally for them. It was in December of 1777 when word spread to Benjamin and France that the whole British Army were prisoners of war. That following year, on February 6, 1778, the Treaty of Alliance was signed. This marked that France had finally joined the United States of America in their fight for independence. At the same time, King Louis XVI began to not only see the United States of America as an independent
country but also saw Benjamin Franklin as the country’s ambassador. Therefore, instead of heading home to the United States of American after the treaty was signed, Benjamin Franklin remained in France as the United States of America’s ambassador. It was not until after the Treaty of Alliance was signed that France started to learn the actual state of the American Revolution and the soldiers fighting it when Benjamin Franklin started to become involved in military planning with France. While others were looking into shipping French soldiers off to America, Benjamin Franklin was looking at sending some to England. Benjamin started working with John Paul Jones, who was an American Navy Captain. The first thing they did was get Jones and his crew a bigger ship to sail towards England. Benjamin then gave Jones a strict order to watch the British prisoners. Benjamin told Jones that his men were not to hurt any of the men. He also told Jones, “…though the English have wantonly burned many defenseless towns in America, you are not to follow their example.” While Jones and his crew were sailing to England, they encountered Serapis, the British ship which was on its way to America. Jones, his crew, and the British on the Serapis engaged in battle on September 3, 1779, with Jones ending the battle by capturing the Serapis. With the news of the capture, both France and America gave joyous praise. Not only was this an American victory but it was a victory which was won in England’s sea. With the British General Charles Cornwallis surrendering the British army to George Washington in October of 1781 in the Battle of Yorktown, the American Revolutionary War was over, and America had fully gained its independence. However, a peace treaty still needed to be negotiated between The United States of America and England. Therefore, Congress chose John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and Temple Franklin, who was Benjamin’s grandson as the American Peace Commission to negotiate the treaty. However, the negotiations would go on for a couple of years and came very close to ending a few times. At first, England offered America limited independence, but the men refused. They wanted England to pay for some of the cost of the war, England refused. It was not until near the end of 1783 that a peace treaty was negotiated and
signed. England agreed to pay for all the towns and homes they had destroyed if the United States of America would pay for the businesses and homes they seized from loyalists. England also recognized the United States of America’s full independence and maintained peace with the newly formed independent country. The Peace Treaty was signed by John Adams, John Jay, and Benjamin Franklin on behalf of the United States of America. On the side of England, the treaty was signed by David Harley, who was a member of the Parliament. It was at this moment that Benjamin Franklin truly felt the war for independence was over, and he celebrated with joy, writing to a friend, “We are now friends with England and with all mankind. May we never see another war! For, in my opinion, there was never a good war or a bad peace.”
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S LAST RETURN HOME
n July of 1785, Benjamin Franklin retired from his ambassador position and decided to live out his remaining years with his family in Philadelphia. Benjamin stepped foot on American soil in September of 1785 to a joyous welcome. Benjamin was elected the sixth President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania on October 18, 1785. A position he held until October 31, 1787. For the rest of his life, Benjamin laid low, mainly due to illness. He was often bedridden, even during his time as President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. After telling his daughter, Sally, that he was ready to go to his eternal home after she begged him to stay, Benjamin Franklin passed away on April 17, 1790.
Throughout his life, Benjamin Franklin was a man before his time. He was also a man who never gave himself as much credit as he deserved. Even with his fame and fortune, he never stopped trying to do good every day and be the best person he could be. But this is only one of the legacies Benjamin Franklin has left behind. Even today, Benjamin Franklin is considered one of the most prominent Colonial Americans not only of his time but throughout the history of Colonial America. Many feel that Benjamin Franklin is the real father of the United States of America. This is because he was the only one of the Founding Fathers who sighed all four documents so that the United States of America could truly claim its independence from the Mother Country. These documents were: The Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance, the Treaty of Paris, and the Constitution of the United States. Benjamin Franklin has many strengths that helped him become such an iconic figure in American history. A few of these strengths were intelligence, determination, compassion, understanding, and hard work. Often, Benjamin would mix these strengths together to make his goal of becoming the best person he could be. For example, being able to help negotiate not one but two peace treaties would have used the strengths of intelligence, determination, and understanding at least. Today, we can learn from Benjamin Franklin’s strengths in many ways. One of the most significant ways we can learn from Franklin is simply to ask ourselves the same question he asked himself every morning: What good can I do today? Like many countries in the world today, Benjamin Franklin lived in an everchanging world and not only lived through the American Revolution, which is one of America’s bloodiest wars but also was a grand part of the American Revolution and the fight for independence. He was able to use all his strengths to create a better world not only for himself and his family but for most people in the United States of America. As Benjamin felt in his life, people deserved to be treated with respect and compassion. They deserved to be understood. And this is very true today. All people deserve to be treated with respect, understanding, and compassion.
Of course, like every human, Benjamin Franklin is just that: human. Therefore, with all his great strengths he also has weaknesses. While a man of his time, one of his weaknesses was not spreading his understanding and compassion to all human life. While he believed women were not to be harmed, he also believed they were not capable of the same education as a male. Furthermore, for part of his life, Benjamin Franklin supported the institution as slavery and never saw African Americans as equals. However, near the end of his life, Benjamin did petition Congress to end slavery, he still did not truly believe in equality. Another weakness of Benjamin Franklin was forgiveness and anger. When it came to his oldest son, William, siding with England during the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin never forgave his child. While he still loved his son, their relationship was never restored after the American Revolution because Benjamin Franklin simply could not let go of the anger he held towards William to truly forgive him. We can learn from Franklin’s weaknesses by being able to let go of our anger and forgive others who have hurt us at any points in our lives.
A F T E RWO R D
This book is only a piece of the history of Benjamin Franklin, his legacy, and the times Benjamin Franklin lived in. Historians have been studying and writing about Benjamin Franklin for decades and, as a result, there are dozens of excellent books about Benjamin Franklin. The first book is titled, The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. This book was written by H.W. Brands and published in 2002. The second book is titled, Benjamin Franklin, An American Life. The author of this book is Walter Isaacson and was published in 2004. The third book is The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which was written by Franklin himself and has been published numerous times.
Beeman, Richard R. "Benjamin Franklin and the American Enlightenment." In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin: Penn Reading Project Edition edited by Conn Peter, by Franklin Benjamin and Gutmann Amy, 145-49. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005. "Benjamin Franklin." Biography.com. August 02, 2017. Accessed June 05, 2018. "Benjamin Franklin Quotes (Author of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin)." Goodreads. Accessed June 14, 2018. Brands, H. W. The First American: The Life and times of Benjamin Franklin. Norwalk, CT.: Easton Press, 2002. Franklin, Benjamin, and Alfred H. Tamarin. Benjamin Franklin; an AutobiographicalPortrait. London: Collier-Macmillan, 1969. Franklin, Benjamin. The Benjamin Franklin Papers. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1962. Franklin, Benjamin. "Unpublished Letters of Benjamin Franklin." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 15, no. 1 (1891): 35-40. Hornberger, Theodore. "Benjamin Franklin." In Benjamin Franklin - American Writers 19: University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers, 5-45. MINNEAPOLIS: University of Minnesota Press, 1962. Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Seeger, Raymond J. "Benjamin Franklin, American Physicist." Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 66, no. 2 (1976): 139-46. "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin." In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin: Penn Reading Project Edition, edited by Goodman Nathan G. and Conn Peter, by Franklin Benjamin and Gutmann Amy, 7-142. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.
Ward, John William. "Who Was Benjamin Franklin?" The American Scholar 32, no. 4 (1963): 541-53. Wood, Gordon S. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. London: Penguin Books, 2005.
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