John Adams, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 21st, 2014

History 101

The Inauguration Date was originally in March to allow for Long Travel Times

It was difficult to be a career politician at the federal/national level at the Founding.  Thanks to the horse.  The primary means of transportation over great distances.  Either on horseback.  Or pulled in a buggy.  Neither of which provided for a comfortable ride.  With that discomfort compounded by the fact you were leaving family and friends behind.  People you wouldn’t see again for a very long time.

When John Adams served in the Continental Congress he rode for some two weeks through brutal winter weather on hard, frozen ground.  Ground so hard and dangerous that they let the horses only walk.  Whether it was traveling to Cambridge to meet with the newly appointed General Washington facing off with the British in Boston.  Or riding on to the federal capital in Philadelphia.  The ride was long, brutal and cold.  As well as lonely.  For Adams missed his wife and family when away serving his country.  Which he did often.  And longed to return home.

James Madison was a Virginian.  And hated traveling up to the federal capital in Philadelphia.  And then later in New York.  For he hated being away from his wife.  And he hated those long rides on hard, bumpy roads.  As Madison suffered from some digestive disorders.  Leaving him with chronic discomfort in his abdomen.  And lower.  For he probably suffered from hemorrhoids, too.  Making those long, bumpy rides unbearable.  This is why the inauguration date was originally in March instead of January like it is today.  They had to allow for long travel times and bad weather for the new office holders to get to their offices.  Unlike today where you can fly from anywhere in the United States to Washington D.C. in one day.

James Reynolds had his Wife seduce and sleep with Alexander Hamilton so he could Blackmail Him

George Washington was president when the nation’s capital was in New York City.  Which was a long way from Mount Vernon.  Washington’s Virginian home.  Other Virginians were the first Secretary of State.  Thomas Jefferson.  The first Attorney General.  Edmund Randolph.  And the first Speaker of the House.  James Madison.  While the first Vice President, John Adams, and the first Secretary of War, Henry Knox, came from Massachusetts.  The first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, on the other hand, was a New Yorker.  Living in New York City.  Close to the capital.

Ironically, the man closest to his wife was the one to have an extramarital affair.  Alexander Hamilton.  Who was targeted by a couple of con people.  Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds.  That’s right, Mr. Reynolds used his wife, Maria, to seduce Alexander Hamilton.  Including actually having sexual relations with him.  Just so he, James Reynolds, could blackmail Hamilton for money.  Threatening to tell Hamilton’s wife.  And ruining his good reputation as a gentleman if he didn’t pay. He paid.  For awhile.  And with his own money.  Reynolds was later arrested for counterfeiting.  And told the opposition party of Hamilton’s affair.  Thomas Jefferson.  And his fellow Republicans (the forerunner to the Democrat party, not the Republican Party of today whose first president was Abraham Lincoln).

Thomas Jefferson loved his wife and hated being apart from her.  The last place he wanted to be in 1775/1776 was at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.  A lonely year spent a very long way from his wife.  Who was sickly.  And died in 1782.  Jefferson was at her bedside when she passed.  And he was devastated.  He had promised her he would never remarry.  And he never did.  He later accepted the post as United States Minister to France.  A much greater distance from Virginia.  Which is probably the first time he wanted to be far away from his beloved Monticello.  To escape the desolation of life without his wife.

The Founding Fathers served Reluctantly and didn’t leave Office Richer than when they entered Office

Hamilton and Jefferson hated each other.  They vehemently disagreed with each other’s vision for the United States.  When Jefferson got wind of the Hamilton affair he pounced on it.  Well, not so much him.  But the Republican Party which he was the de facto head of.  And a guy by the name of James Callender.  A pamphleteer and journalist.  And all around scandalmonger.  He made the Hamilton affair public for the Jefferson Republicans.  Who, being men of the Enlightenment, would not sink to such a low level.  But Callender would.  And did.  Who Jefferson helped with some financial support.  But Callender ended up in jail for sedition.  And when he got out he wanted Jefferson to make him post master general of Virginia in return for services rendered.  Jefferson refused.  Then Callender turned on Jefferson.  Revealing that it was him that was bankrolling his journalistic scandal mongering.  And that he fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings.

George Washington was the commanding general of the Continental Army from 1775 until 1783.  And he spent most of that time with his army in the field.  Away from his beloved Mount Vernon.  Just after he returned to civilian life came the Philadelphia Convention.  And a new nation.  The first president of that new nation?  Much to his displeasure it was him.  George Washington.  Who was the only one people were willing to give the powers of the new federal government to.  And after sacrificing so much he did not want to see it all be for nothing.  So he served one term as president.  Then another.  In New York.  A long way from Virginia.  And pretty much hated every minute of it.  Especially the bickering between his ‘children’.  Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.  He was never happier than when he left office in 1797.  Sadly, he lived just shy of three years in retirement.

The Founding Fathers hated being in office.  They hated being away from home.  And the long travel time to and from home.  Which meant when they were serving in office they did not see their family and friends.  Unlike today.  Where modern transportation allows career politicians to enjoy the graft in Washington.  While breaking it up with numerous vacations back home.  Without having to endure two weeks of bouncy rides with hemorrhoids.  Or riding horseback in blowing snow.  Being a career politician today is like being part of an aristocracy.  Where you travel first class.  And live first class.  Unlike the Spartan loneliness at the Founding.  And the animus.  Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Madison’s and Hamilton’s lives all got worse from serving.  Washington was cheated out of a long retirement he more than earned.  Jefferson suffered bitter loneliness after losing his wife and probably did turn to the comfort of a slave.  (Sally Hemings had accompanied him to Paris to care for his daughter.  And later was a house servant.  Though he didn’t legally free her and her children from slavery they did live their lives out as free people after he died.  Which was probably a compromise by Jefferson to reconcile his feelings for her while protecting his historical legacy).  Something that blemishes his reputation to this day.  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson went from practically best friends to bitter enemies before they left Washington (though they rekindled their friendship later in retirement).  James Madison was the father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Believed in a strong federal government and wrote the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton to help ratify the Constitution.  Then he switch sides.  And sided with Thomas Jefferson and fought for limited government.  Then he was president during the War of 1812 and believed in a strong federal government again after struggling through that war with a weak government.  Madison spent his later years rewriting letters and correspondence.  Making large revisions to his historical legacy.  While Alexander Hamilton’s stand on principle ultimately led to his death in a duel with Aaron Burr.

Washington, Jefferson and Madison all returned home after serving as president poorer than when they left for Washington.  That just doesn’t happen today.  Today once you get elected to a federal office in Washington you return home a millionaire.  Because being a professional politician today pays very well.  Which is why there is less standing on principle in Washington and more doing what it takes to remain in power.  Such as lying to the American people.  “If you like your health insurance and your doctor you can keep your health insurance and doctor.”  The Founding Fathers served reluctantly.  And their lives were worse for serving.  But the country was far better off because they did.  And that’s something else that just doesn’t happen today.

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Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Agrarian Past, Industrial Revolution, Federalists, Republicans, Reynolds Affair and Philip Freneau

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 20th, 2012

Politics 101

Jefferson could not Turn a Profit on his Plantation and was Forever in Debt Leading to a Lifelong Disdain for Merchants and Bankers

At the time of the Founding America was (and would be for a long time) an agrarian nation.  A country of farmers.  Big and small.  Rich plantations.  And lots of hard-working family farms that were far from being rich.  Yeomen famers.  Who, to borrow a phrase from Oliver Wendell Douglas, “got their hands dirty!”  For those of you too young to recognize this line it’s from the 1960s classic sitcom Green Acres.  Where Douglas was a rich New York City (NYC) attorney who moved out of NYC to Hooterville to be a farmer.  Who he called the backbone of America.  Much like Thomas Jefferson.

Douglas and Jefferson shared a lot in common.  Both were lawyers.  Both were part of high society.  And both could make a good speech (or put something great in writing).  Douglas lived on Park Avenue in NYC.  And he and his wife travelled in the top social circles.  Just like Jefferson.  They both enjoyed the best of the best.  But neither were very good farmers.  The Douglas farm was a disaster despite his best efforts.  While Jefferson could not turn a profit on his plantation.  And was forever in debt.  Leading to a lifelong disdain for merchants and bankers.  Especially merchant bankers.

Alexander Hamilton was born on the British Isle of Nevis.  And raised in St. Croix.  Hamilton was a bastard child.  Illegitimate.  A stigma that spurred him to do everything aggressively in his life to show he was not a second-class person.  He worked at an early age.  In commerce.  And he was very good.  A natural.  Very smart.  And brave.  A veteran of two American wars.  He loved America.  But having been born and raised outside of the country he had no allegiance to any state.  Put it all together and it made Hamilton a nationalist.

Jefferson wanted to hold on to the Agrarian Past while Hamilton wanted to bring on the Industrial Revolution

Hamilton was just as much a Patriot as the other Founding Fathers.  Perhaps more so as he actually served in the Continental Army.  And while serving he saw how poor military power and poor financial power made a country dangerously weak.  The Americans almost lost their Revolution because of a weak nation that could not provide for her army.  So he wanted to make America strong.  And united.  The key in Hamilton’s eyes to making America a powerful nation (like Great Britain) that could stand up against any enemy was a strong union.  And in the Washington administration he advanced policies towards that end.  Ironically, policies that would do more to drive the nation apart.

So Hamilton (Secretary of Treasury) and Jefferson (Secretary of State) could not be more different.  And as they started to push their agendas in the Washington administration they grew to hate each other.  For their visions for America couldn’t be more different.  Despite both being ardent Patriots.  Jefferson wanted to hold on to the agrarian past.  While Hamilton wanted to bring on the Industrial Revolution.  Jefferson believed in the landed aristocracy built upon virtue and talent.  Not the aristocracy money could buy you.  Or birth or a title like in a monarchy.  Which Jefferson believed Hamilton was trying to turn America into.  As did all the farmers throughout the South and in the West.  Who all hated bankers and merchants.  Those people who made money off of other people’s labors.  Investors and speculators.  While speculation in land, on the other hand, was perfectly acceptable as it was what the southern gentry did to acquire their wealth.

And so began the political parties.  The Federalists were for a strong national government that Hamilton tried to make as strong as possible.  And the anti-Federalists.  Who already felt that the national government had grown too strong.  Or as they would become under Jefferson’s leadership, the Republicans (which were NOT the forbears of the current Republican Party).  In general, southern planters.  While Hamilton led the Federalists.  In general, northern businessmen.  The game of politics was born.  And it got dirty pretty quickly.  Thanks to each party’s friends in the media.  The newspapers of the day.  Which were pretty much political arms of these parties.

The Newspapers launched Vitriol at each Other including a Lot of Lies, Slander and Libel

The Treasury Department was the largest government department.  It was huge.  With a huge budget.  Whereas the State Department was basically Jefferson and a few clerks.  Hamilton no doubt felt he was the most important man in America next to the president.  And Jefferson was sure that Hamilton was using his position to steal money from the treasury.  So sure that Jefferson and his Republicans launched Congressional investigations that turned up nothing.  Convincing Jefferson that Hamilton was a better thief than even he had imagined.  Jefferson still pressed and had a colleague introduce multiple resolutions in Congress against Hamilton hoping to get Hamilton thrown from office on a House vote.  The House voted down all resolutions.

James Reynolds was a con man who made his money by defrauding veterans.  And other criminal pursuits.  Tired of the scale of these scores he came to Philadelphia to make some bigger money.  By using his wife, Maria, to seduce and have an affair with Alexander Hamilton.  So he could blackmail him.  Which she did.  Then he did.  When Reynolds’ criminal past caught up with him and sent him to jail he talked about the affair.  Which was more than just an affair.  He told some Republicans that he and Hamilton were using treasury funds to fund speculation for personal gain.  Jefferson and the Republicans were overjoyed.  Sure that they at last had a way to get rid of Hamilton. When confronted in his home to answer these charges he fessed up and told the truth.  Which included no speculation with treasury funds.  While all the money paid to Reynolds came from his own pocket.  All treasury funds were present and accounted for.  Politicians being the gentlemen they were then were satisfied and promised to never speak of Hamilton’s marital indiscretions.

So the political battle between Hamilton and Jefferson would carry on in the press.  Hamilton contributed most of his writings to the Gazette of the United States which wrote positively about Federalist policies.  And enjoyed a national circulation.  So Jefferson countered that by setting up a Republican national paper.  The National Gazette.  Who James Madison helped kick off by convincing Philip Freneau to come to Philadelphia to edit the paper.  Which he did.  And Jefferson helped him with his finances by hiring him into the State Department.  Putting him on the payroll to attack Washington’s treasury secretary while he was the sitting Secretary of State.  Trying to undermine the very administration he belonged to.  And the war between the two men escalated.  The papers launched vitriol at each other.  Including a lot of lies, slander and libel.  Enlisting other papers to join in the journalistic malfeasance.  People who talk about negative political campaigns today have no idea how ugly it was back then.  There was no interest in reaching across the aisle.  They just wanted to destroy the opposition so they could advance their policies.   Much like it is today.  Only without it being about principle.  But advancing the privileged government class.  That other aristocracy that Jefferson hated.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #33: “The founding fathers weren’t perfect but they were closer than most.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 28th, 2010

George Washington

George Washington owned slaves.  We all know this.  Whenever we try to revere our Founding Fathers, someone on the Left will speak up and remind us of this fact.  Of course, the context of the times means nothing to them.  We’ll forgive Robert Byrd’s racist and KKK past because of the context of his times.  But not the father of our country. 

Washington inherited his slaves.  With the property he inherited.  He wasn’t a huge fan of slavery.  In fact, he wanted to replace his slaves with paid laborers.  Because he wasn’t making a lot of money with his slaves.  There were large families.  Many old who could no longer work.  And lots of children.  This large slave holding consumed a good percentage of his crops for their subsistence.  While a smaller percentage of them contributed labor to produce those crops.  He tried to sell them.  But others were only interested in the workers.  Not the old and the young.  But he didn’t want to break up the families.  So he didn’t sell.  He continued to use slave labor.  Made less money than he could.  Because it was the decent thing to do.

His will freed his slaves after his wife’s death.  It also provided for them.  His heirs were to provide sufficient training to help these former slaves get a job.  To help them integrate into the community.  But you don’t hear that part from the Left.  Just that he owned slaves.

In the context of his times, he was a great man.  And he still is.  Despite what the Left will remind us of.  He was the father of our country.  The indispensable one.  Without him, there would have been no nation.  For he truly was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin lived a long life.  So long you could say he lived a couple of lives.  Printer and entrepreneur.  Writer and publisher.  Inventor and scientist.  Diplomat, peacemaker and Founding Father.  A great man.  And, yes, with a few flaws.  He saw a prostitute or two in his youth.  Sired an illegitimate child.  William (who would go on and father his own illegitimate child).  He wasn’t the greatest husband.  He could have been a better father.  But he did a lot for this country.  Few did more.  So we can forgive him these few trespasses.  Most did.  Even John Adams would speak kindly of him.

Franklin and Adams were very different people.  Yes, Franklin wrote, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a young man healthy, wealthy and wise.”  But as an elder diplomat in Paris, he came to see the pleasures in staying up late.  Enjoying the company of the ladies in the Paris salons.   And drinking Madeira.  He was a social butterfly.  And the people of France loved him.  The great American scientist and inventor.

When Adams joined Franklin in Paris, their personalities clashed.  Adams went to bed early.  Got up early.  And didn’t enjoy the company of the very forward (for the time) salon women of Paris.  Only one woman interested him.  His beloved Abigail.

Adams resented Franklin’s celebrity.  And had difficulty working with him.  Especially with the hours he kept.  But Franklin’s style worked.  Paris preferred him over Adams.  And they made it known to the Continental Congress.  This strained their relationship.  Adams was concerned the French were playing Franklin, for the French were very adept at diplomacy.  But in the end Franklin proved to be no slouch himself.  He maintained French funding, arms and supplies for the American cause throughout the Revolutionary War, promising all along there would be no separate peace with Great Britain (France was, after all, in it for the spoils a British defeat would provide).  But we made a separate peace.  France got little for all her efforts (other than her own revolution).  And Franklin minimized the damage to the Franco-American friendship.  Not bad for a naughty old drunk.

John Adams

John Adams is the most unappreciated of the Founding Fathers.  There’s no memorial for him in our nation’s capitol.  And yet there probably wouldn’t have been a nation without him.  So why is he the Rodney Dangerfield of our Founding Fathers?

Adams was a flawed man who knew his flaws.  He didn’t try to hide them, though.  He tried to fix them.  But he wasn’t very successful.  He was a very religious man.  And he was oh so pious.  But irascible.  And vain.  It always bothered him that others got so much credit.  For doing far less than he did.  Especially Jefferson.  These were his flaws.  Which could make him hard to like at times.  And bitter.  The story that Adams often told about the writing of the Declaration of Independence went like this.  He said Jefferson should write the Declaration of Independence, not him.  First of all, Jefferson was a Virginian.  With all the trouble in the North, it was important to show a united front.  All the colonies.  Even those not facing the wrath of the British army and navy.  Second, no one liked him (Adams).  So no one would like anything he wrote.  (Which was not true as he did help some colonies write their state constitutions.)

And sometimes he could come across as kind of an elitist.  Because he was so well learned and so well disciplined.  He was part of that old school who thought that the best and brightest should serve in government.  And some thought he was too British.  Yes, he represented the British soldiers implicated in the Boston Massacre and supported the Jay Treaty, but he was no British toady.  At a last attempt at peace and reconciliation, King George was willing to forgive many who rebelled against the crown.  But not Adams.  He was ‘too’ responsible for all that independence trouble.  He would hang.

Anyway, that’s about the extent of Adams’ flaws.  A bad personality trait or two.  Nothing scandalous.  He had a loving marriage.  He was a good father.  Highly principled.  Honest.  And just.  One of the best of the best.

James Madison                                                        

James Madison was the most erudite of the Founding Fathers.  Jefferson may have thought big thoughts.  But Madison could, too.  As well as master the details.  When it came to constitutionality in the inaugural administration, Washington didn’t turn to his Secretary of State (Jefferson).  He went to the Speaker of the House.  James Madison.

Washington had no children.  But he admired and loved Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison like sons.  And then the fighting started between his ‘children’.  Especially between Hamilton and Jefferson.  Who saw two different Americas.  This animosity would extend to the president.  And the entire Federalist ‘party’.  Jefferson and Madison saw Washington as a senile old man manipulated by a puppet master.  Hamilton.  So Jefferson and Madison led an opposition party against the Washington administration.  While Jefferson was still a member of the administration.  The Jefferson-Hamilton feud got so bad that Jefferson would eventually leave and ‘retire’ to Monticello.  Madison would carry on the opposition, taking his orders from Monticello.  Sort of a Jefferson toady.

The Jefferson-Madison hatred of the Federalists bordered on the ridiculous.  They saw everything through a prism of conspiracy.  That the Federalists were trying to reunite America with Great Britain.  Thus making them, the Republicans, fiercely pro-France.  Even during the height of the Terror of the French Revolution.  Jefferson once advised the French ambassador not to worry about Washington.  He was old and senile.  Those of right mind were clearly on France’s side.  When Washington learned of this, he never would talk to Jefferson again.

Madison kept up the hysteria.  Even during the Adams administration.  He was sure Adams wanted war with France.  And when the French insulted the Americans in the XYZ Affair (you want to talk to us French?  First you give us French a lot of money), Madison said Adams fabricated the whole thing.  So he could declare war on France.  Well, he didn’t make it up.  It happened.  And while war fever gripped the nation, Adams tried one last time.  And got peace.

Despite this Hamilton/Federalist paranoia, Madison was one of our best.  He was the father of our constitution.  He (and strangely enough Alexander Hamilton) led the ratification process.  And Madison led the fight to add the Bill of Rights.  Few men have been so instrumental in the founding of a nation.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson may have had an intimate relationship with a slave.  Some may call it rape.  But, in the context of the times, it was no big deal.  Others were doing it.  Just like we forgive the Aztec for their human sacrifices.  In the context of their times, it was no big deal.  A lot of less-advanced people were doing it. 

Jefferson was a complex man.  Some would call him a sphinx.  He could tell lies that even he believed.  Quiet and shy, he was not the ladies man.  He looked like one, but he wasn’t.  Rejected once while in college and he was ready to live a life of celibacy.   But he did meet another woman.  Who he loved and married.  She was a frail thing, though.  And a couple of babies later, she died.  This just devastated Jefferson.  Shook him to his core.  It took months before he emerged from that deep depression.  He would never marry again.  And the female company he kept after that was often with married women.  His daughters.  Or, perhaps, a slave.  He no doubt yearned for female companionship.  But he would never open his heart again to another woman.

Perhaps he did, though.  With Sally Hemings.  His slave.  His concubine.  If the allegations are true (DNA evidence cannot conclusively prove but indicates a high probability).  She looked after his daughters.  Sort of a mother role.  Perhaps she was a surrogate wife.  If so, perhaps it was less than rape.  Maybe there were mutual feelings.  Anything is possible.  But we’ll never know.  What we do know is that if anything did happen, they hid it.  Out of shame on one part.  Perhaps fear on the other.  She was, after all, only a concubine.  Property.  And being a concubine is not being a wife, wedded or common-law.  No doubt it was a complicated ‘relationship’.  If there was a ‘relationship’.

That said, he did do a lot of good.  He was one of the greatest champions of limited government.  He was one of the gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  And there was little to fear from them.  But some of these gentlemen wanted to give the new central government great power.  Because it was the dawn of a new era.  Where like-minded gentlemen would follow them and continue to govern with disinterest.  But Jefferson had his doubts.  He didn’t trust men with power.  He didn’t trust government.  And because of him, they’d keep the beast of Big Government at bay.  For a little while.

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton had illusions of grandeur.  And this from a man who had done some fantastic things.  Still, he always wanted more.  He was a driven man.  Probably goes back to his illegitimate birth and abandonment.  He always had something to prove.  To himself.

Some feared him.  First Jefferson.  Then Madison.  They thought he was pulling the strings in the Washington administration.  When he proposed his funding, assumption and banking plans as Treasury Secretary, Jefferson & Madison were frightened by what they saw.  A way too powerful central government.  So they formed the opposition.  Thus American party politics was born.  But neither side was as bad as the other side thought. Still, it didn’t stop Jefferson from trying to destroy Hamilton. 

Hamilton had money from a successful law practice.  And he ran the treasury department.  Someone took notice.  A guy named James Reynolds.  A con man that was in Philadelphia preying on veterans.  His wife, Maria, was beautiful.  And quite the actress.  One sob story of an indebted husband who abandoned her with his debts later, she lured Hamilton into her home.  He brought money to help her settle her debts.  But they soon ended up in her bedroom.  Once they consummated their affair, Mr. Reynolds stormed in on cue and began the extortion of Alexander Hamilton.

Well, when Jefferson learned of this juicy little morsel, he leaked it to the press.  The newspapers attacked him.  Said he was stealing money from the treasury to pay his blackmailer.  He wasn’t.  They did look, though.  And how they looked.  When they couldn’t find the evidence they wanted to find, Jefferson said that was proof positive of what a good thief Hamilton was.

But Hamilton was no thief.  Say what you will about him, but he was a man of integrity.  And the father of American capitalism.  The American dream took root and grew largely because of him.  And his financial acumen.  You know what they say.  Money talks and bull [excrement] walks.  Jefferson could write and he wrote some good stuff.  But words don’t build a nation.  Money does.  Foreign credit.  And Hamilton delivered.

Flawed but Great

Flawed men, yes.  But compare them to our contemporary politicians.  To their flaws.  To their accomplishments.  Who were/are better?  And who were/are more flawed?  More corrupt?  The comparison is ridiculous.  For there is no comparison.  Our Founding Fathers, with all of their flaws, are THE greatest generation.

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