Sunday, September 30, 2012

10 Fun Facts About James Buchanan

James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States

1. James Buchanan was born in a Pennsylvania log cabin in 1791, one of eleven children born to his parents. His father, also named James, was an immigrant from Ireland and was a well-respected businessman and farmer. Buchanan attended Dickinson College in the early 1800's, and after being expelled for bad behavior (which included heavy drinking, "cigar smoking," and practical jokes), he was later allowed to return and eventually graduated with honors in 1809.

2. Buchanan studied law after graduating from college and became a member of the Federalist party. He served in the defense of Baltimore during the War of 1812, and was also active in the Freemasons.

3. Following the end of the war, Buchanan served at term in the Pennsylvania legislature, then moved on to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1821 to 1831. Following the collapse of the Federalist party in the 1820's, Buchanan joined the new Jacksonian party, which would eventually come to be known as the Democratic party. After serving a brief stint as the U.S. Minister to Russia, he returned to the States to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate in 1834. He remained in the Senate until 1845, when he resigned to become Secretary of State under James K. Polk.

4. During his tenure as Secretary of State, he turned down an offer to become a justice for the U.S. Supreme Court, and instead focused his attention on negotiating the Oregon Treaty with Great Britain, which ultimately settled a long-standing dispute regarding territorial ownership in the Pacific Northwest. The present border between the state of Washington in the U.S., and British Columbia in Canada, was established by this treaty. To date, Buchanan is the last Secretary of State who eventually became president.

5. Following his tenure as Secretary of State, Buchanan returned to diplomacy, serving as the U.S. Minister to Great Britain. Because he was overseas for much of the early 1850's, he was not involved in the divisive political debates that occurred during that time, most notably the highly controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act. This set the stage to make him a solid compromise candidate for the 1856 presidential election.

6. Though he did not expressly seek the nomination of the Democrats in 1856, he knew his name was being floated by a number of high-ranking officials in the party, and when the nomination was finally cemented at the convention, Buchanan accepted. He faced two opponents in the general election: former president Millard Filmore, now running as a member of the extremist Know Nothing party, and John C. Fremont, running as the first presidential candidate of the new Republican party. The Know Nothings and Republicans split their vote, and Buchanan won the election, marking the last time (to date) that a Democrat has won the presidency following directly on the heels of another Democratic president (in this case, Franklin Pierce).

7. Buchanan is the only president in U.S. history who never married. His neice, Harriet Lane, whom he had adopted at age 11 following the deaths of her parents, served as White House hostess during Buchanan's presidency.

8. Buchanan's presidency was marked by immense partisan strife over the issue of slavery. Buchanan attempted to take a middle ground approach in an effort to appease both sides, but the result was that both sides felt alienated and viewed Buchanan's leadership as weak and vascillating. He had promised not to run for re-election, and he kept true to that promise in 1860, retiring to his home in rural Pennsylvania. On his last day in office, Lincoln's inauguration day, Buchanan famously told him: "If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel upon leaving it, you are a happy man."

9. Much speculation has been made about Buchanan's sexual orientation, with the majority of modern experts convinced he was unquestionably gay. He had been engaged early in life, but his fiancee broke off the engagement due to neglect, dying very shortly thereafter. Following this, Buchanan vowed to never marry, and instead lived for many years in Washington with Alabama Senator William Rufus King, who became vice-president under Franklin Pierce. Rumors abounded about their relationship, and they were jokingly referred to by other congressmen as "Buchanan and his wife." Following both men's deaths, their personal correspondence to one another was destroyed by their surviving family members, leading to even more speculation about the nature of their relationship.

10. Buchanan died in 1868 of respiratory failure, having published his memoirs a few years earlier - the first president to do so. In those memoirs he defends himself and his choices in office, particularly his highly criticized choice to do essentially nothing about the seccession of the southern states following the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln. He predicted that history would vindicate him, but to this day, he is generally ranked by historians among the worst of U.S. presidents.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Why the Tea Party Has to Go



(Stick with me through the following poll numbers and percentages.  I promise there is a point, but the background has to be set.)  

The 112th Congress is coming to an end.  The term won't officially end until the next Congress begins in January, but most of the bloodletting is done.

In both February and August of this year, Gallup polls found this 112th Congress's approval rating as low as 10%, the lowest ever in Gallup's 38 years of performing this poll.  The previous low was 14%, in 2008 during the 110th Congress and at the height of the worst economic recession since the 1930's.  Prior to 2007, Congressional approval ratings had only fallen below 20% twice - in 1992 and 1979 - both times during a recession.  

Throughout the 1980's and much of the 1990's, Congress's approval rating tended to vary between 20% and 40%.  Following the economic boom of the late 1990's, then the national unity after 9/11, the rates got as high as 84%, then quickly fell back to the traditional range between 20 and 40, with the average being roughly 30%.  A few quick snapshots to illustrate: In December of 2005, it was 29%; in October of 2006 is was 24%; in January of 2007, it was 35%.  

Then the economic recession happened.  That year, in 2008, the numbers began plummeting.  They entered the territory of the teens for the first time in years.  As mentioned above, they got as low as 14% at one point.  

However, in 2009, a new president and a new Congress came into office and the numbers returned to the normal equilibrium around 30%, getting as high as 39% in March of that year.  But the return to normal didn't last.  In 2010, the numbers began to fall into the 20's again, and began hovering in the low-20's and upper teens.  Even with the start of a new Congress in January of 2011 (the current 112th Congress), there was no new enthusiasm seen in the polls and the bad numbers have continued. 

This current Congress has only been at 20% or higher three times and not at all since May of 2011.  As stated above, it has twice rated as low as 10% - the lowest ever.  Its average approval rating in Gallup polls over the last two years has been 15.4% - easily the lowest in Gallup's history.  Compare that to (for instance), the 102nd Congress of 1991-1993 whose average approval rating was 30% (and that was during a mild recession).

So why have this Congress's numbers been so abysmal?  What separates this Congress from the one hundred and eleven that have come before it?  

There are a lot of reasons, of course.  According to a recent editorial in USAToday, which refers to the 112th Congress as the "Do-Nothing Congress" and opines that this Congress is easily the "worst ever" in the modern era, the rise of "rampant partisanship" is clearly the smoking gun, with both Democrats and Republicans "too beholden to special interests" to actually get any legislating done.  That's true of course, and the rise in partisanship can also be blamed, I believe, on the flow and availability of information in the modern world, where we are all inundated with different opinions in a constant stream, and everyone can find a partisan niche to wall up around themselves.  There's never been a time in U.S. history when so much information and so many different perspectives were so available on such a large scale.  Anyone looking for like-minded individuals can find them in the instantaneous click of a mouse, smart phone, or remote control button.

But the fact remains that there have always been partisan divides in this country.  We have functioned under a 2-party system for more than 150 years now, and it would be short-sighted, not to mention completely indefensible, to suggest that our partisan quarrels are somehow worse today than at any other time in the past.  Republicans and Democrats have always fought over ideologies, management and labor have always been at each other's throats, and the Left and the Right have always been avowed enemies.  

So what's different in the last few years?

Enter the Tea Party.

The Tea Party movement seems to have begun around 2008, springing from the 2008 presidential campaign of Texas Republican Ron Paul, a favorite among fiscal conservatives and Libertarians.  Following the recession and subsequent federal bailouts of 2008, as well as the election of Barack Obama in November of that year, the movement really got going.  According to the website of the so-called Tea Party Patriots, the movement found its voice in 2009 "from the reaction of the American people to fiscally irresponsible actions of the federal government."  

Gallup first began tracking support for the Tea Party movement in early 2010.  Since that time, support for the movement has been as low as 21% and as high as 32%, with the average during that span (up through August of 2012) around 27% - or roughly 1 in 4 Americans at any given time.  Percentages for Americans who claim to be "opponents" of the movement are about the same - averaging around 25%.

What this means, of course, is that the Tea Party first became a major political force in 2010, after about a year of formation.  Therefore, the first major federal election that the movement influenced was the 2010 Congressional election - the election that brought in the current low-rated 112th Congress.

In that election, numerous candidates supported by the Tea Party won seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Earlier that year, motivated by the growing strength of the movement, Michele Bachmann, Representative from Minnesota, formed and became the chair of the congressional Tea Party Caucus.  After the election later that year, the Caucus grew and currently has 66 members in this 112th Congress, making it one of the biggest ideological caucuses in Congress.

In addition to the 66 official members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, there are numerous other members of Congress who are affiliated with the Tea Party movement, but have chosen not to join the congressional caucus.  Among them are prominent Tea Party favorites like Ron Paul, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio.

The point of all this is to say that our current Congress, particularly the House of Representatives, is heavily populated by active members of the Tea Party movement, or by people closely associated with, and heavily influenced by, the Tea Party. 

The fact that the 112th Congress has, in many ways, been characterized by its takeover by the Tea Party, and the fact that this Congress is among the least effective, and certainly the most unpopular of all Congresses in modern memory (remember the Gallup poll numbers above), can surely be no accident or coincidence.  The first fact is undoubtedly one of the direct results of the second fact.  

I asked above what separates this Congress from the one hundred and eleven that have preceded it.  Partisan and ideological divides have always existed, and we have been living in the Information Age, with information overload, for at least 20 years, so the only difference between this Congress and the ones before it is the Tea Party.  It's the smoking gun.  It's the cause that has led to the effect of an abysmally inoperable Congress, and the most unpopular Congress in modern memory.    

So why has the Tea Party caused this situation?  What is it, exactly, about the Tea Party movement that has led to such a deadlock in Congress, causing it to be so wildly ineffective and widely condemned?

Two words: No Compromise.

This brief phrase has essentially been the rallying cry of the Tea Party movement.  Numerous Tea Party-backed candidates have won election to Congress on this slogan, and have made it the centerpiece of their ideology.  

Richard Mourdock, the current Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Indiana had this to say on MSNBC following his primary win in May: "I think bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view."  

An article in the Tea Party Tribune (a Tea Party news website), dealing with budget issues, was titled "Our Moment: No Compromise. No Surrender. Total Victory."  

On a Tea Party newsletter from Tennessee, the biggest words on the page are simply: "NO COMPROMISE!" 

On Amazon.com, a DVD detailing the history of the Kansas Tea Party says it is produced by "No Compromise Productions."  

In the Oregon Tea Party online store, you can buy a hooded sweatshirt with an image of the cracked Liberty Bell and the slogan "No Compromise."  

As Juan Williams, of Fox News, wrote in May of this year, "The Tea Party's no-compromise ideology has become an accepted part of the political game."  

The fact is, the Tea Party's central political strategy and rallying cry is a refusal to compromise.  It's what makes the Tea Party the Tea Party.  

Can there be any wonder, then, why the 112th Congress has been so ineffective?  When we, as Americans, go to the polls and elect a slew of political leaders who have vowed to never compromise, can we really be surprised when we end up with a deadlocked Congress that gets nothing done?  When we end up getting exactly what we asked for?

When people vote for Tea Party candidates who promise no compromise, what sort of government are they expecting to get?  One that actually works?  In what way is "no compromise" related to the democratic ideals this country was founded on?  The fact is, in a free republic, built on democratic principles, compromise is the only way to get anything accomplished.  And to our great detriment, we have seen the truth of that statement played out over the last two years during this 112th Congress.  No compromise means, effectively, no government.  Is that really what we want as a country?  Maybe it's time to start voting for candidates, Republican or Democrat or any other party, who actually want to compromise, who actually want to move this country forward into the 21st century, instead of imagining a fantasy world where the 18th century lives forever.

And, of course, that's the really ironic thing about the Tea Party movement.  They claim to uphold the ideals of the Founding Fathers, but what they are really upholding are the very ideals that the Founding Fathers fought against and revolted against.  

"No Compromise" is the rallying cry of autocrats and dictators.  

Dictators don't compromise.  In a free society, compromise is what sets us apart from dictatorships.  And the Founding Fathers knew compromise better than any Republican or Democrat alive today.  A simple elementary school review of the drafting of the Constitution makes that abundantly clear.    

If you think Congress is ineffective; if you are tired of the partisan gridlock in Washington; if you are ready to see this country move forward; then you might want ask yourself if the group of "No Compromise" is really who you want to be casting your vote for.  

As long as we continue to elect ideologues who refuse to compromise, we will continue to get exactly what we asked for - a pitifully ineffective, virtually inoperable Congress that only masquerades as a government.  


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rush in Indianapolis




On Thursday, I attended my seventh Rush concert, this time in Indianapolis.  Now, seven may sound like a lot to some people, but be assured, it's nothing compared to many Rush fans.  I discovered Rush later than some of my fellow fans, not becoming interested in them until I was about 26, and I didn't attend my first concert until 2004.  By then, they had already been putting out albums and touring for thirty years.  I know other fans who have seen thirty or forty shows over the years.

In any case, I had originally intended to sit this tour out, not because I didn't want to see them again, but simply because they weren't coming anywhere very close to me, and I figured I'd save the money.  My wife was totally down with that.

But after I heard their new album, released in June, I simply couldn't resist** the urge to find a show and buy a ticket.  The closest venue was Indianapolis (about two hours away), so that made the most sense.  However, the tickets for the show had already been on sale for over a month by that time, and I had very little hope of getting a very good seat.

It's important, at this point, to note that I refuse to see concerts unless I have a very good seat.  I've simply seen too many shows up close to ever settle for the rafters.  That may sound snotty, but I don't go to that many concerts, so when I do spring for a show, I want to be up close.

As I had feared, the ticket offered to me on TicketBastard was not very good.  So I made the somewhat rash decision to purchase a ticket through a broker called VIP Nation.  I received a 13th row, center stage seat, a commemorative ticket and show pass, a T-shirt, and a bag.  The cost was $325.00 - way more than I've ever dreamed of paying for a concert, even Rush.  But it had to be done.

Despite the fact that my car had been acting up for about a week prior to the show, and despite suffering from a sinus infection, I said a little prayer and headed off to Indianapolis on Thursday.

Ironic, no?  Rushville, Indiana, is halfway between Indy and Cincy.

The weather was fine and the car ran well and I arrived at the venue around 5 pm.  Since I had some time on my hands, I had a few beers in a nearby bar called The Tilted Kilt.  Think British Pub mixed with Hooters.  The servers were all in skimpy kilts, knee socks, and push-up bras with bare midriffs.  It was pleasant.  I'm pretty sure there was something on TV.

Anyway, when the doors opened, I headed inside and found my seat in the 13th row.  Next to me was a middle-age father and his teenage son.  On the other side was a forty-something woman and her husband or boyfriend.  She told me she had seen Rush thirty-five times, but this was the first time she had ever been on the floor close to the stage.  She was so excited she was literally quivering.  She was also drunk.  She was so keyed up, I was afraid to bump her for fear I'd give her an orgasm.  It was unbelievable how excited she was.  Her partner seemed embarrassed.

Right on time, the lights dimmed and the opening video montage came on.  These are always amusing and quirky little films starring the three members of Rush, usually dressed up in some outrageous costume and doing extraordinarily bizarre things.  While the video is playing, the members sneak onto the stage in the dark, then the video segues into the opening chords of the first song - in this case, the 1982 fan favorite, "Subdivisions," with its familiar and chest-buzzing opening keyboard riff.

The first set can best be described as "Deep Cuts of the 80's."  For hardcore fans like me, this was very satisfactory, but I'm sure a lot of casual Rush fans, who prefer the more familiar older stuff, were baffled by the lack of "concert standards" like "The Spirit of Radio," "Freewill," and "Limelight."

By the end of the first set, I was feeling pretty crappy.  Naturally, I had been on my feet the whole time, bouncing and fist-pumping and whooping it up, and my sinus infection did not agree with these actions. I was glad to have twenty minutes to sit in my seat.

During the second set, the boys did something they have never done before: they brought other performers onto the stage to play songs with them.  In this case, a small string orchestra consisting of about six violins and two cellos.  This group played along with every song of the second set except the final one.  The first nine songs of the set consisted of songs from their new album, "Clockwork Angels."  About halfway through this run of new songs, I heard the girl next to me - the one who was wetting herself at the beginning of the show - remark to her guy: "Guess we should have bought this album, huh?"

They ended the set with another song from the 80's, one from the 90's, then two old fan favorites, "YYZ" and "Working Man."  The latter was their first radio hit, from their first album in 1974.

After letting the crowd cheer and scream for a few minutes, Rush came back out for a 2-song encore, ripping into their most famous song, "Tom Sawyer," and finishing with what is probably their most popular concert song, "2112" (the latter in abbreviated format, since it's almost 20 minutes long).

Overall, I enjoyed the show and it seems to me that, despite being over 60, the boys still have it.  Every new Rush tour breeds fear in the breast of the hardcore Rush fan that this will be their last, but it seems to me like they could keep going for a while.  I sure hope so, anyway.

By the time the show ended, I was sweaty, tired, and had a sinus headache.  I was looking forward to getting into the air-conditioned car, getting a Diet Dr. Pepper for the road, and getting home to bed.  I was already planning on going to the doctor the next morning.

I had parked in a pay lot near the venue in downtown Indianapolis.  Recall that my car had been acting up for about a week prior to the show.  I got out to my car, got in, turned the key, and it wouldn't start.  Turned the key again.  Still wouldn't start.  I now found myself sick, tired, ears buzzing, and stranded in a strange city, in a downtown parking lot at 11 o'clock at night.

By sheer luck, I have an aunt and uncle who live in Indianapolis.  Without dragging this sorry tale out, they came and got me, waited with me until after 1 o'clock for Triple-A to arrive (their Triple-A account), and arranged to have the car towed to a local Nissan dealer.  They also offered to let me take their car home the next day so I could get to work, then bring it back Saturday to pick up my own car.  After the car was towed, they took me home, put me up in a room, watered and drugged me, and let me sleep.  I got up the next morning to towels and a new toothbrush in the bathroom.  I called the Nissan place, explained my predicament, and they got the car fixed by 9:30.  It was just a sensor that was easily replaced.  Big relief.  I made it home with almost two hours to spare before I had to be at work at 1 pm.

And so ends another sordid account of Scott and Rush concerts.  This wasn't the first time I had driven a long way to watch Rush only to find my car not starting when I attempted to leave.  The previous time I was able to get the car started after about ten minutes, and it turned out to be nothing - just a glitch or something.  That was five years ago.  Same car.

But the sordid tale ends with a silver lining in the clouds: the silver lining of family.  How fortunate to have family in Indianapolis who love me and care about me and are willing to put themselves out, late at night, to haul my sorry ass out of a downtown parking lot, put me up for the night, and help me get my car fixed!  And they were going to let me take their own car home, if need had been!  So a big shout-out to Uncle Michael and Aunt Sheila - thanks for being there for me :)



** As I have been typing this post, I have had my Rush mix playing in the background.  When I typed the word "resist" above, my thoughts immediately went to the 1996 Rush song by the same title.  Wouldn't you know it, not five seconds later, "Resist" popped up in the mix - out of 172 songs.

Friday, September 07, 2012

10 Fun Facts About George W. Bush


George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States

1. George W. Bush was born in the summer of 1946 in New Haven, Connecticut.  His father, the future 41st president, was an ex-Navy pilot and current student at Yale University when his first child was born.  His grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a successful businessman who would later serve in the U.S. Senate.  The oldest of six children, one of Bush's younger sisters died of leukemia at the age of three.

2. Following his father's graduation from Yale in 1948, the Bush family relocated to Midland, Texas, where the elder Bush got involved in the oil business.  George W. Bush attended public schools in the Midland area until the family moved again, in 1959, to Houston.  In high school, Bush was sent to Massachusetts to attend the prestigious Phillips Academy boarding school.  In the 1960's, Bush attended Yale, graduating with a degree in History, then earned an MBA from Harvard, the only president to have earned such a degree.

3. In 1977, Bush met and married Laura Welch, a school teacher who had also worked as a librarian in the Houston Public Library system.  She gave birth to fraternal twin daughters in 1981, their only children.  When Laura was still in high school, she ran a stop sign two days after her 17th birthday and caused a collision in which a passenger in the other car was killed.  She was not charged with any crimes, and has since stated that the episode caused her to lose her religious faith for a very long time.

4. Shortly after marrying, Bush made his first foray into politics, running for a seat in the House of Representatives from Texas.  Following his defeat by Democrat Kent Hance, Bush left politics and instead went into the oil business like his father before him, creating and overseeing a number of oil exploration companies.

5. In 1988, when his father ran for, and eventually won, the presidency, Bush served as one of his father's primary campaign advisers.  After the successful run, Bush returned to his business interests and became a managing partner in the Texas Rangers baseball team.  When he sold his shares in the team nine years later, he made more than 14 million dollars over his initial investment.

6. After serving again as a campaign adviser for his father's failed bid at re-election in 1992, Bush, who was now widely known and recognized, entered politics again, running for Texas governor in 1994.  He faced a strong incumbent in Ann Richards, but Bush defeated her easily by a margin of more than 7%.  A popular governor in Texas, he won reelection in 1998 with nearly 70% of the popular vote, and became the first Texas governor in history to be elected to two consecutive 4-year terms.  During his second term, he controversially declared June 10, 2000, to be "Jesus Day" in Texas, a day when Texans were encouraged to help those in need.

7. Throwing his name into the hat for the 2000 presidential election, Bush very quickly moved to the head of the pack of potential Republican nominees, and it came down to a race between Bush and Senate icon John McCain.  The primary was a nasty business, with both candidates accused of running a smear campaign, and in the end Bush came out ahead, winning his party's nomination.  One of the accusations of smearing leveled by McCain's camp was a rumor that McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter was actually a black child that he had fathered out of wedlock.

8. The general election proved to be no less divisive.  Polls throughout the year showed both Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore neck and neck, and in the end, Gore won the popular vote, but Bush won more of the electoral vote, and thus won the presidency.  The electoral vote count was contested based on problems with vote-counting in Florida, leaving the results in limbo until early December when the Supreme Court reversed a decision by the Florida Supreme Court and put a halt to all recounts, effectively giving Bush Florida, and thus the presidency.

9. Bush's time as president was one of increasing political cynicism in the U.S., and increasing political instability abroad.  He won reelection in 2004 over Democratic challenger John Kerry, but many saw the election as one deciding between the lesser of two evils.  Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Bush enjoyed the highest approval rating of any president since polling began, but by the end of his second term, his approval rating had plummeted and he actually attained the highest disapproval rating of any president - 71%.  This was largely due to the global economic collapse that occurred during the final few months of Bush's second term as president.  Bush was applauded by his supporters for his leadership in the War on Terror, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his educational reforms, but criticized by his foes for blurring the lines of Church and State, not responding adequately to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, and for turning a large government surplus into a large national debt.

10. In retirement, Bush has kept a low profile, rarely appearing in public and staying almost entirely out of the political arena.  He and his wife purchased a home in the Dallas area, and Bush published his memoirs in 2010.   He was forced to cancel a speaking engagement in Switzerland in 2011 due to increasing pressure on the Swiss government by human rights groups to arrest him for human rights violations if he ever enters the country.  These accusations are related to his administration's use of torture on suspected terrorists.  In 2010, he teamed up with former president Bill Clinton to raise funds for earthquake victims in Haiti.  

Monday, September 03, 2012

10 Fun Facts About Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States

1. Thomas Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Virginia Colony, in April of 1743.  His father was a large landowner and farmer, and Jefferson received a classical education, studying Greek, Latin, French, mathematics, and science.  He entered the College of William & Mary at age 16 and graduated just two years later.  From there, he began studying law and was admitted to the bar in 1767.

2. Shortly after beginning his law practice, Jefferson also joined the colonial legislature of Virginia, where he served from 1769 to 1775 and quickly rose to prominence as an opponent of continued British rule in the colonies.  During this time he met and married Martha Skelton, a young widow who had already suffered the deaths of both her husband and her son.  Together the Jeffersons had six children, but only two daughters lived to adulthood, and only one survived Jefferson himself.  The other died in childbirth during Jefferson's presidency.

3. In 1775, Jefferson became a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, where he quickly befriended John Adams and immediately became part of the inner circle slated to compose a formal declaration accompanying the coming vote on independence from Great Britain.  Included in this five-man committee were Jefferson, Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.  After Jefferson wrote the document, a number of changes were made to it, both by the committee and later by the Congress at large.  A section criticizing the slave trade was part of nearly 25% of the original text that was removed.

4. As the war with Great Britain raged, Jefferson served again in the Virginia legislature, helping to draft its constitution and numerous other precedent-setting laws, then served two 1-year terms as governor, from 1779 to 1881.  His term as governor was widely seen, both at the time and by historians today, as a failure, and he was heavily criticized for not raising an adequate militia and for fleeing the capital as the British army approached.  The legislature declined to reelect him for a third term.

5. During the 1780's, following the ending of the Revolutionary War, Jefferson served in the new Confederation Congress, then served a stint as Minister to France.  Jefferson's wife Martha died from childbirth complications in 1784, and it was during his time in France following this grief that he is believed to have begun a relationship with his slave, Sally Hemmings, who was only 14 or 15 at the time.

6. Jefferson was still serving in France during the late 1780's when the U.S. Constitution was written, meaning Jefferson had very little direct involvement in its drafting or passage.  Following George Washington's unanimous election as the first president, he asked Jefferson to serve as his Secretary of State, and Jefferson returned to accept the office.

7. Jefferson's time as Secretary of State was characterized by constant disagreement over the fiscal policies of the new government, with his primary opponent being Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, with whom Washington tended to side.  Due to these ideological differences, Jefferson, along with James Madison, formed the nation's first true political party, calling themselves "Republicans" in order to contrast themselves with Hamilton's faction, which Jefferson characterized as too much like monarchists.  (Historians call this party the "Democratic-Republican" party to differentiate it from the modern Republican Party, which was founded in the 1850's.)  The heat eventually grew too great within the Cabinet and Jefferson resigned his position early in Washington's second term, retiring to his plantation in Virginia.  Jefferson and Washington never spoke again.

8. In 1796, following Washington's retirement, Jefferson ran for president on his party's ticket, while his friend and former colleague, John Adams, ran under the ticket of Hamilton's party, now called the Federalists.  The election proved very close, with Adams winning by three electoral votes over Jefferson.  However, due to rules in place at the time, Jefferson became vice-president because he got the second most electoral votes - resulting in the president and vice-president being from different political parties (this rule was changed shortly thereafter by an amendment to the Constitution).

9. As expected, Jefferson's term as vice-president under Adams was a rocky one, and when they both ran for president again in 1800, Jefferson won handily, taking more than 60% of the popular vote.  As president, he transacted the Louisiana Purchase from France, oversaw a war against pirates in the Mediterranean, and sponsored the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Since his wife had died more than 15 years earlier, he was the first single U.S. president; his daughter acted as hostess at official events.

10. After leaving office in 1809, Jefferson retired to his home of Monticello.  A voracious reader and lover of books, his private library had more than 6,000 volumes - bigger than the Library of Congress at the time - and when the Library was destroyed during the War of 1812, Jefferson sold his collection to the government and it effectively became the new Library of Congress.  Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, during the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  In one of the more bizarre cases of synchronicity in American history, John Adams died the same day.


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