Homethe shedUnveiling the Captivating Journey of America's Founding Leaders: From Washington to Lincoln

Unveiling the Captivating Journey of America’s Founding Leaders: From Washington to Lincoln

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President’s Day is a kind of bizarre American holidays the place nobody fairly is aware of why it’s there or what it’s, nevertheless it’s a break day so nobody asks too many questions.

The vacation type of celebrates Washington’s birthday (February 22), type of celebrates each Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays (Feb 22 and 12), and type of celebrates all 43 presidents abruptly.

In any case, it appeared like the proper time to analysis presidents for 60 hours and publish a 7,000-word, 30-hour-late publish diving into who every American president actually was and what he actually did. (My apologies to all non-American readers—you probably did nothing to deserve this.)

In deciding the place to begin, I regarded on the complete line of presidents, and it seems the story of america divides cleanly into three even elements, every 75 years lengthy:


I’d prefer to finally undergo all 43 American presidents, however for as we speak, it made excellent sense to begin out with the primary and most unstable a part of US historical past, the one bookended by the 2 birthday boys, Washington and Lincoln, and the part throughout which the nation’s borders, legal guidelines, ideas, and nationwide id have been all nonetheless forming. Let’s name it the “Shaping the Nation Period.” This period was a time when main precedents have been being set with each new administration, permitting the 16 presidents mentioned beneath to form the nation in a deeper method than anybody as we speak might have the chance to.

Right here’s a chart depicting the outcomes of each election and the way the political events have shifted over time, additional exemplifying how rather more chaotic the Washington-Lincoln years have been than the remainder of US historical past:


Earlier than we get began, eight common ideas I had throughout my analysis:

1) 17/43 presidents, or 40% of them, have been named John, James, George, or William.

2) There was a Mustache Period. The 44 years between 1869and 1913 noticed 9 presidents, 8 of whom had mustaches:


And by no means earlier than or after this period did any different president have a mustache.

3) There was a ridiculous run of horrible presidents between 1841 and 1877.

I name it The Dangerous President Circus, and we’ll cowl most of it as we speak. Beneath is a chart exhibiting simply how dire this era was. Every sq. represents one of many 44 presidencies, so as (so Washington is all the best way on the left and Obama is all the best way on the appropriate). The crimson squares symbolize the underside 10 ranked* presidents:


Beginning with William Henry Harrison and ending with Ulysses S. Grant, The Dangerous President Circus is a run of ten presidents that embody eight of the underside ten in historical past. A grim time.

4) It’s loopy to me that every of probably the most well-known presidents has no less than one mother or father who has no concept their son turned out to be something particular.

George Washington’s dad died when he was 11. Think about dying and by no means understanding that your son is the nice George Washington.

Thomas Jefferson’s dad died when he was 14.

Andrew Jackson’s dad died when he was an toddler and his mother died when he was 14.

Abraham Lincoln’s mother died when he was 9.

It seems that that is extra the rule than the exception—of the newest 10 presidents, solely JFK and George W. Bush have two mother and father who know they raised an American president. The idea blows my thoughts.

5) A president’s “final phrases” is a humorous phenomenon. I included the beneath presidents’ final phrases at any time when they have been recognized. They’re largely poetic and grand, clearly having been deliberate upfront and thought by means of rigorously. The humorous factor is picturing a president mendacity on his deathbed, surrounded by household, and his total thoughts targeted on when to say the important thing “final phrases” sentence. If he says it too early, he then has to not say something once more and that will get awkward if somebody asks him a query or he lives a pair extra days (this may increasingly have occurred to Jefferson, as you’ll see). If he waits too lengthy, he dies with out saying the right final phrases. One last quandary to take care of for these males who labored so arduous to form their historic legacies.

And a few ideas particularly on the primary 16 presidents:

6) Folks have been obsessive about dying again then. Studying about these 16 males, their households, buddies, and contemporaries, it’s astounding how a lot simpler it was to die simply 200 years in the past within the US. It looks like kids had not more than a 50% probability of constructing it previous age 5, and as soon as an grownup hit 50, one thing like catching a chilly or consuming spoiled meals might very nicely imply you have been useless 5 days later. Tragedy was a way more outstanding a part of life in these occasions.

7) Books have been every little thing. Many of those early presidents acquired some or most of their thorough educations from studying books on their very own. It’s a reminder of how groundbreaking the invention of the mass-produced e book was. Till then, the one method to study one thing was by means of having a human clarify it to you in individual. The e book allowed a hungry learner (which these 16 guys virtually all have been) to take issues into their very own arms and take in the ideas and data of hundreds of different individuals’s brains. And taking a look at it from the opposite aspect, it allowed somebody like Abraham Lincoln to publish the Lincoln-Douglas debates and transmit his ideas on slavery to tens of hundreds of individuals all through the nation, as if every e book have been a mini-version of him and he might all of the sudden be in every single place on the similar time.

8) The story of the primary third of the nation’s historical past will be fairly nicely summed up with one sentence:

Aggressive (and controversial) growth of United States territory exacerbated the nation’s tensest and most divisive debate—slavery—by forcing the query of whether or not the brand new territories ought to be capable to self-determine whether or not or to not enable slavery, highlighting the haziness round the place state rights finish and federal energy begins and accelerating the nation towards Civil Conflict.

Positive, there have been debates in regards to the Nationwide Financial institution and tariffs, over the remedy of Native People and dealings with Europe, however most of the foremost points these 16 presidents confronted have been contained someplace inside that italicized sentence.

*A word on rankings: The presidential rating I used for every president each within the chart above and beneath every portrait was taken from right here, which averages out a lot of polls taken over time and spanning the political spectrum.

And off we go—

1) George Washington


Presidency: 1789 – 1797 Lived: 1732 – 1799 Rating: 3/43

Slave Proprietor? Sure.

His Deal: A person’s man. No highschool, no school, no regulation faculty, simply quite a lot of manly prudence and knowledge. A key officer within the French and Indian Conflict and the pinnacle common within the Revolutionary Conflict, he was the one individual everybody trusted to deal with being the primary president responsibly. And for good purpose—after successful the Revolutionary Conflict, he resigned as commander-in-chief fairly than seize energy, and when he took the workplace of President, he made certain to not act like a king or dictator, restricted himself to 2 phrases, and left workplace with a peaceable transition of energy—setting these as key precedents for the way forward for the nation. He’s a kind of individuals People aren’t allowed to say something dangerous about.

His Presidency: A typically peaceable time, though he needed to take care of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, his two key cupboard members, having tantrums at one another over differing views of coverage the entire time. In his farewell deal with, he cautioned towards the evils of partisanship and the risks of getting concerned in international wars—People have heeded these phrases and to at the present time, we stay a nonpartisan nation that by no means will get concerned in pointless wars overseas.

Issues He Can Brag About:

  • Being the primary president
  • Being nicknamed “The Father of Our Nation”—enjoyable nickname to have
  • Being the one to pick out Washington, D.C. as the placement of the nation’s capital
  • Being the one president to win an election with 100% of the electoral votes
  • Someday, Jimmy Carter determined that Washington needs to be named a “six-star common,” so now he’s the highest-ranking army officer in US historical past
  • Being on the quarter, the one greenback invoice, and Mount Rushmore
  • Having 9 trillion issues named after him, together with being the one president with a state named after him
  • Being the most important distiller of whiskey in all of Virginia

Issues He Hopes We Don’t Keep in mind:

  • He owned slaves his complete life, and his property owned over 300 when he died. He had all of them freed after his loss of life, however not a minute earlier.

Issues He’s Irritated About:

  • Dropping all of his tooth by the point he took workplace
  • His overbearing mother who disapproved of the Revolution

Different Notable Information:

  • He apparently had fairly a sassy aspect—he was an excellent dancer, an inside decorator, and a passionate fashionista.
  • Martha Washington was 5’0″ to his 6’3″.
  • His first inaugural speech was 183 phrases lengthy and lasted 90 seconds. His second one was even shorter.
  • He was typically filthy and hated taking baths.
  • His annual wage was $25,000, equal to over $500,000 as we speak, and he spent 7% of that on alcohol.
  • He wouldn’t shake anybody’s hand as a result of he thought it was beneath the president to take action, and bowed as a substitute (Thomas Jefferson reversed this custom a decade later).
  • Upon his loss of life, his property was price $1 million, or $19 million in as we speak’s {dollars}.

Final Phrases: “Tis nicely.” Washington was too cool to provide a shit about final phrases.

2) John Adams

John Adams

Presidency: 1797 – 1801 Lived: 1735 – 1826 Rating: 12/43

Slave Proprietor? No.

His Deal: A brief, fats, extremely educated mental whose philosophies on authorities performed a essential position within the founding insurance policies of the nation. His drafting of the Massachusetts Structure in 1779 supplied a lot of the thought and construction for the eventual American Structure, and he was on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence (and was the unique man chosen to write down it earlier than he handed the dignity on to Thomas Jefferson). He was additionally the one who nominated George Washington to be commander-in-chief and John Marshall to be Supreme Courtroom Chief Justice, each of which turned out to be good strikes.

His most important challenge was that he wasn’t one of many cool children. A lot of the founding fathers have been quiet, dignified Southerners, they usually didn’t significantly like or embrace Adams, or invite him to their birthday events. He spent his complete life annoyed about this, and it actually did matter—with a bigger circle of highly effective buddies (Washington was one however he died proper after his time period ended), he might need had extra assist when he was the president, completed extra, been elected to a second time period, and be on Mount Rushmore and the ten greenback invoice as we speak.

His Presidency: Adams’ presidency had some successes, like stopping a warfare with France when many have been urging him to struggle, however he spent most of his time in workplace with Hamilton and Jefferson yelling in his face from each side of the aisle. He acquired little assist from both the Democrat-Republican Celebration or his personal Federalist Celebration, and was ousted after one time period (becoming a member of his son as the one two one-term presidents of the nation’s first 50 years).

Issues He Can Brag About:

  • Being the primary vp
  • Being the primary president to stay within the White Home
  • Opposing slavery earlier than it was cool. One of many solely pre-Civil Conflict presidents to take action brazenly.
  • Creating the Navy
  • Inventing the custom of fireworks on the Fourth of July
  • Talking seven languages

Issues He Hopes We Don’t Keep in mind:

  • His passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which prevented individuals from criticizing the federal authorities, as a result of he was unhappy everybody was yelling at him (it was repealed the yr after he left workplace)

Issues He’s Irritated About:

  • Having to comply with George Washington, of all fucking individuals
  • Being the second president and by some means managing to not find yourself on Mount Rushmore or any cash or payments
  • His presidential nickname, “His Rotundity,” mocking his brief, fatness

Different Notable Information:

  • He and Thomas Jefferson shaped a decades-long pen pal relationship after their occasions in workplace, and each died the identical day, on July 4, 1826—the nation’s fiftieth anniversary.

Final Phrases: “Thomas Jefferson survives.” Sort of embarrassing to speak about one other president in your final phrases.

3) Thomas Jefferson


Presidency: 1801 – 1809 Lived: 1743 – 1826 Rating: 4/43

Slave Proprietor? Duh.

His Deal: A dignified, extremely revered, probably dickish member of the Virginia elite, Jefferson was profoundly mental and knew and did principally every little thing—on high of his political achievements, he spoke 4 languages, studied zoology, structure, botany, faith, regulation, historical past, literature, and the violin, and invented each the swivel chair and the folding ladder. Jefferson was one of many main architects of the brand new nation and based a complete philosophy of governing adopted by successors like Madison and Monroe.

His Presidency: He did some main issues, most of them in his first time period, like presiding over the outlawing of the importation of slaves (however proudly owning and buying and selling slaves contained in the nation have been nonetheless okay) and sending Lewis and Clark out to discover the West. However his crowning achievement was buying your complete center of the nation from Napoleon’s France for $15 million ($234 million as we speak, or 42 cents/acre) within the Louisiana Buy:


Issues He Can Brag About:

  • Drafting the Declaration of Independence in his early 30s, about the identical age a few of us are once we’re drawing unimpressive stick figures on a weblog as a substitute
  • Being on the nickel and Mount Rushmore
  • Founding the College of Virginia

Issues He Hopes We Don’t Keep in mind:

  • His fetish for proudly owning a whole lot of slaves and never releasing them ever
  • That he knocked up his personal slave, Sally Hemmings, who was really 3/4 white and the half sister of his spouse (his spouse’s father had six children along with his personal slave, of which Sally was one)

Issues He’s Irritated About:

  • His spouse saying, “Please don’t ever get remarried after I die” after which dying a second later. Jefferson was solely 39 and needed to go the subsequent 44 years with no spouse due to this, which was tremendous annoying. Particularly since his hypocritical spouse had been a widow when she married him.
  • Earlier than marrying his spouse, proposing to a lady named Rebecca Burwell and being rejected
  • The truth that after he drafted the Declaration of Independence, it went earlier than Congress for overview, who made substantial adjustments to it, reducing it down by one fourth, which in line with Jefferson, “mangled” what he had written
  • John Adams pondering he and Jefferson have been finest buddies and writing Jefferson 1,000 letters later in life that Jefferson had to reply to
  • Being placed on the $2 invoice, the one small invoice to exit of fashion

Different Notable Information:

  • He was Washington’s Secretary of State, however resigned from the cupboard after Washington saved siding along with his rival Alexander Hamilton. Washington by no means forgave Jefferson and by no means spoke to him once more.
  • He hated making speeches, solely making two throughout his eight years as president—his two inaugural addresses
  • Jefferson discovered about varied European cuisines whereas touring and introduced his favourite again, introducing to the US ice cream, waffles, macaroni and cheese, and French Fries.
  • He had a bizarre quantity of pets. 2 canine, 8 birds, 9 horses, and a pair of stay grizzly bears, which Louis and Clark (by some means) introduced again for him from their expedition.

Final Phrases: “Is it the fourth but?” This wasn’t his plan. He mentioned his desired final phrases just a few hours earlier:

I’ve carried out for my nation, and for all mankind, all that I might do, and I now resign my soul, with out concern, to my God, – my daughter to my nation.

However then as a substitute of dying like he was purported to, he awakened yet one more time, forgot that he wasn’t supposed to speak, and requested the date. Then he died, and now his final phrases are perpetually, “Is it the fourth but?”

4) Alexander Hamilton


No wait, he wasn’t a president, so cease pondering he was.

4) James Madison


Presidency: 1809 – 1816 Lived: 1751 – 1836 Rating: 13/43

Slave Proprietor? Yup. Owned a whole lot.

His Deal: At an cute 5’4″ and 100 kilos, Madison is our pixie president. His best achievements occurred earlier than his presidency, when he was thought-about probably the most influential thinker behind the drafting of the Structure and Invoice of Rights, granting him the nickname “Father of the Structure.” He was then one in all three authors of The Federalist Papers, a collection of articles constructing assist for ratification of the brand new Structure.

His Presidency: He started his presidency persevering with the insurance policies of Thomas Jefferson, however quickly acquired wrapped up within the hideous Conflict of 1812 with Britain, which the US misplaced (there are differing views on this, and a bunch of commenters have instructed that the Conflict of 1812 a tie. It relies upon whether or not you suppose the US was secretly making an attempt to take Canada or not—in that case, they misplaced).

Issues He Can Brag About:

  • Weighing underneath 100 kilos as a grown man, an unbelievable feat
  • Being Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State and the one who really negotiated the Louisiana Buy
  • Based on my analysis, being the primary president to put on lengthy pants. Unclear what this implies the earlier three wore.

Issues He Hopes We Don’t Keep in mind:

  • The truth that late in his life, after his presidency, he turned obsessed along with his legacy and paranoid to the purpose of altering letters he had written or others had written him

Issues He’s Irritated About:

  • Being the one president to be bodily pushed out of the White Home or shot at in warfare whereas being president (each by the British within the Conflict of 1812)

Different Notable Information:

  • The Star Spangled Banner was written throughout his time in workplace

Final Phrases: “Nothing greater than a change of thoughts, my expensive. I all the time discuss higher mendacity down.” (In response to a niece asking him what was the matter)

Web page 2 (Monroe to Tyler) →

Web page 3 (Polk to Lincoln) →


Unveiling the Captivating Journey of America’s Founding Leaders: From Washington to Lincoln插图10

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