Monday, April 20, 2009

Day 97/365 Tom and Jemmy Sittin' In A Tree

K-I-S-S-I-N...... No wait, that's a different Tom and Jemmy.

I so enjoyed the Weird President Stuff yesterday that I decided to make it an occasional series,but being that the next president is the third, i.e. My Favorite President (Thomas Jefferson), I also decided "occasional" means "next day".

And of course, one president is never enough, so I'll include the fourth as well, especially since he was such a protege of Tom Jefferson.

Is Tom Jefferson good-looking or what? We always think of The Founding Fathers as old white-haired guys but they were really young revolutionaries in their early thirties.

Jefferson was a country farmer, fit as a fiddle, and for that reason he decided after his swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol that he would walk back to his boardinghouse with some of his friends. That was the beginning of the traditional inaugural parade. Really. However, Jefferson did not have Secret Service guys walking on all sides, nor was he wearing heels.

Once Jefferson made it to the White House, he kept a pet mockingbird. It rode around on his shoulder while the President fed it food from his fingers. One can only wonder about the condition of the carpets.

In the spirit of Michelle Obama, Mr. Jefferson was the first President to grow tomatoes. Up until they received his seal of approval, they had been thought poisonous.

Jefferson spoke and understood Italian, Spanish, French, Irish, Latin and Greek. He also suffered terribly from migraine headaches, possibly from trying to understand all those languages at once.

The next time you climb aboard a bus, notice the folding doors (they are modeled after a Jefferson design). And the next time you decide to get fit (whether walking an inaugural parade or elsewhere) and pick up your pedometer, know that Jefferson designed that too.

This is Jemmy.

He adored Thomas Jefferson so much that he served as Vice President, and then took over as the fourth president. His formal name was James Madison, but to his friends he was Jemmy.

Jefferson is usually given credit for the Lousiania Purchase, but James Madison pretty much engineered it and saw it through -in effect doubling the size of America overnight. He then went to the Virginia Statehouse, and convinced them to give up some territory, say, for instance, what is now Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. Once they turned it over, he labeled it the Northwest Territory (of course this is way before Oregon, Washington State, Idaho, and definitely before Alaska).

Jemmy was the very first president to................wear long pants. No, the others did not wear Bermuda shorts. But back then the style was those odd knickers that only reached the knees. Jemmy was a trend setter, a purveyor of fashion if you will.

Actually, Jemmy was probably just lucky,in that he was married to Dolley, a woman famous for her sense of style, her outrageous parties, and her social panache. I suspect Jemmy just put on what he was told to put on.

Some things never change.

Dolley loved turbans with ostrich feathers, was several inches taller than her husband, seventeen years younger, and made her own lipstick, which she gave away as presents to a lucky few. She was also the only First Lady to be given a permanent seat on the floor of the House of Congress. (Little known tidbit: after a three month courtship, Dolley married Jemmy, and in the process was excommunicated from the Society of Friends, since Jemmy was a non-Quaker.)

And of course she made those great cupcakes.

In a final homage to Tom and Jemmy (at least for now), this is the inscription at President Jefferson's Memorial, lest we forget during these heady days of changing state laws and court decisions:

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

And how can we forget:

"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."

Tom had it pegged. He absolutely hit one out of the park for our country.

1 comment:

  1. "[...] We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

    Thank the gods that children will rebel! (she reminds herself, muttering so said child won't hear...)