Sunday, April 19, 2009
After the tax history the other day, and being reminded of President Taft getting stuck in the White House bathtub, several other unusual stories of presidents came to mind. While some are busy complaining about the current occupant, let us give thanks that others are no longer there.
I'm thinking this will be an on-going feature, off and on, now and then. So let us begin at the beginning, with "His Mightiness the President" (the title George Washington preferred, in place of the eventually adopted "Mr. President" or "Commander-in-Chief").
Gilbert Stuart painted the portrait above of His Mightiness. Sortof. It's all-George from the neckline up. But the body, arms and legs, is actually John Adams' son-in-law. And Stuart didn't even paint that. The portrait is a composite -the face painted by Stuart, the body by another artist.
During his first year as President, George also moonlighted as a ferry service operator across the Potomac (well, really, he was right there, so why not??)
Martha Washington was such a poor speller that George would often write her letters for her. She spelled "cat" with two t's.
The United States actually had a Vice-President nine days before it had a President. John Adams was sworn in on April 21, and Washington on April 30. Why? Adams got to town first.
Of course, after Washington's first term, which lasted 8 years, Adams stepped up again and became the second President.
John and Abigail Adams were the first First Family to live in the White House - dubious honor that it was. Only six rooms were ready, it took thirteen fireplaces to keep them warm, and there were no stairs to the second floor. Just outside the back door was a swamp while the front door opened to a thick forest.
One late night, on their way home from a Washington soiree, the Adams' got lost in the forest. Fortunately, a passing stranger took pity on them and led them home to the White House.
And in one final bizarre twist: In 1770, several British soldiers were standing trial for firing into a Boston mob shortly before the Revolution. Their lawyer was none other than John Adams, who won the acquitals of six soldiers, while the remaining two were only convicted of manslaughter.
Nineteen years later, when he was sworn in as Vice-President, this came back to haunt him as various newspapers questioned his loyalty.
For comparision, imagine President Obama running for office, having served as defense lawyer for one of the 9/11 terrorists.
See? It could be much, much worse.
P.S. We do know that the portrait of John Adams (below) is all-John, from head to hand. Although that hand looks a little strange.