George Clinton: VP 4 and Maybe 5

Presidential History Blog

Everyone knows John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, VPs 1 and 2. Some know Aaron Burr, VP 3. But George Clinton?

George Clinton’s Qualifications

George Clinton (1739-1812) was a New Yorker from upstate, considered among our Founding Fathers (perhaps minor, but still worthy) who performed excellent service to both his country and to New York.

Gov. Clinton hosted GW’s first dinner as President.

Having served in the French and Indian War, he returned to Ulster County, read law, and began a career in public service. By his mid-thirties, he was elected to represent New York at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, where he met George Washington and formed a lifelong friendship.

No hat – but different uniform!

By 1777, he was elected Governor of New York – one of seven terms, still a NY record. Despite serving in his gubernatorial capacity, he had another hat, as a Brigadier General in the…

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Criticism from Former Presidents

Barack Obama is being hailed as the first former President to bluntly criticize a sitting Executive publicly. While his words at the Democratic National Convention were frank, they are far from the most biting commentary ever recorded.

During Wilson’s bid for reelection in 1916, none other than Theodore Roosevelt shared a rather harsh opinion of the sitting President in a typed letter to a government official:

LOC Collection

His conduct in Mexico, his conduct in the face of Germany, and his conduct in the face of the hyphenated Americans at home, stamps him as being, on the whole, the most wretched creature we have had in the Presidential chair…”

Tell the country how you really feel, TR.

Defense of the Electoral College

Madison and Hamilton created the Electoral College for specific reasons… and suppressing minority voters was not one of them.  Plurality is part of the Federal electoral process, but integrated to meet the needs of federalism.  States matter in our compound republic.  Madison wanted them involved in the process of choosing the executive.

James_madison

Madison said,  “The executive power will be derived from a very compound source.  The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters.  The votes allotted to them are in a compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society.” – Federalist #39

506px-Alexander_Hamilton_portrait_by_John_Trumbull_1806

Hamilton saw the dangers in misguided passions leading the electorate astray,  “The choice of several, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of one who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place” – Federalist #68

Think of the electoral vote this way…  In the 1960 World Series, the New York Yankees outscored the Pittsburgh Pirates 55-27  and out-hit the hapless Pirates 91-60.  Using the rationale of plurality as demanded by the national popular vote crowd, the Yankees were clearly world champs that year.  But runs are integrated into games, and in 1960, the Pirates won 4 games, the Yankees 3.  Runs and hits are part of a process, but the process integrates all parts of the sport into choosing a winner.

An 1863 assassination attempt on a US Army commander near Pottsville

Wynning History

In the summer of 1863, tensions were running high in Schuylkill County. With the Federal government drafting men into the US Army and an armed military occupation taking place in the Coal Region, the situation was perilous. And amid this dangerous moment, someone attempted to assassinate the US Army officer in command at Pottsville.

The Federal government had begun drafting men into the service of the US Army in July 1863 and stoked tremendous controversy in that act. A major outbreak of violence in response to the draft had taken place in New York City in mid-July, leaving more than 100 people dead and parts of that city in rubble. Other than New York City, the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania continued to present the staunchest opposition to the government’s war effort.

No Draft An illustration of mobs in New York City against the draft in July 1863.

This initially came in…

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Benjamin Franklin and The Free Public Library

Presidential History Blog


Arguably the most famous portrait of Benjamin Franklin.  

Our Founding Grandfather

Benjamin Franklin (1706-90) was old enough to be father to George Washington and John Adams. He was also old enough (perhaps) to be grandfather to James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. He was the oldest signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

One of the earliest images of Benjamin Franklin – when he was around 40.

Benjamin Franklin today is considered a “polymath.” Or a Renaissance Man of the Age of Enlightenment. Call him what you will, he was a towering figure of imagination, determination, wisdom, wit, and dare we say, genius. Happily for posterity, all those qualities were dedicated to the betterment of mankind.

Born in Massachusetts, he left for the opportunities of Philadelphia when he was seventeen, and began a lifelong mutual love affair with the city.

Having apprenticed as a printer, he hoped…

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Bailyn May be Irreplaceable

Bernard Bailyn rescued our remembrance of the American Revolution from the cynical hands of so-called Progressive historians, primarily Charles Beard and his acolytes. Beard propagated the one-dimensional theory that our Founders were acting purely out of economic self-interest. An entire generation of academics were groomed to believe this.

Ideas

Bailyn’s Ideological Origins, came along in 1967 and challenged this economic orthodoxy. He reestablished that the Founders were men of ideas, and that such men could act on their beliefs. Our struggle for independence started in pamphlets and pubs long before April 1775, as John Adams observed, “The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations …

These Revolutionary ideas impacted North America far beyond the War for Independence. Bailyn’s study has been built upon by one of his most noteworthy students, Gordon Wood, who demonstrated just how radical these ideas truly were; Radical ideas that have completely changed western civilization.

The academic pendulum is clearly swinging the other direction, as evidenced by the recent controversy surrounding the 1619 Project published in the New York Times. Rather than arguing our Founders were driven by economics, the current “progressive” critique is racial. Our Founders sought Independence only to defend slavery; once again, the ideas behind the Revolutionary cause are ignored.

Gordon Wood, Brown University professor of History.

It is a shame that Bailyn was forced to witness this latest barrage of academic chicanery. Critics went as far as to accuse Gordon Wood of being a white supremacist because he questioned the dubious conclusions. The American public is taking an increasingly negative view of the Founding generation at this most critical time. The efforts of the Bailyn may be lost in the revisionist tide.

The Authority Passes- Bernard Bailyn

Eminent historian Bernard Bailyn passed away Friday at the age of 97. His work earned him all the important historical accolades, including two Pulitzers. Many credit him with creating an American Cambridge(Mass.) school of historiography, influencing such students as Pauline Maier, Mary Beth Norton, and Gordon Wood.

Still enlightening

No other scholar impacted the study of the American Revolution more than Bailyn. His masterwork, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, continues to challenge readers 50 years after it was published. Bailyn was able to express the unique qualities of American civilization without politicizing the history with talk of exceptionalism.

Bailyn advocated viewing people from the past on their own terms; he cautioned against “presentism” and imposing our values on historical figures.

The establishment, in some significant degree, of a realistic understanding of the past, free of myths, wish fulfillments and partisan delusions, is essential for social sanityThe fact — the inescapable fact — is that we know how it all came out and they did not.”

Facts in Five- Lee and Slavery

Robert E. Lee and slavery edition: misinformation, hyperbole, and unfounded revision are clouding the facts behind Lee’s slave owning

  • There is very little evidence Lee personally owned slaves- his mother, Ann Carter-Lee, may have willed him six slaves upon her death in 1829; the same year he graduated from West Point and entered military service.
  • Lee married into the wealthy Custis family in 1831.  His father-in-law, George Washington Parke Custis, owned as many as 198 slaves by 1856.
  • Lee and his wife, Mary Ann Randolph Custis, were both lifetime members of the American Colonization society.  Lee did not speak publicly against slavery, which was typical of US military officers.  Lee’s opinions on slavery were neither progressive nor vehement.
  • George Custis’s will called for the manumission of his slaves within five years of his death in 1857.  Lee was the executor of the estate and kept the people in bondage all five years.  They were not freed until 1863.
  • Lee’s failure to free his father-in-law’s slaves nearly caused a slave revolt at Arlington in 1858.  Lee did oversee the capture and punishment of the Norris family, after a failed escape attempt. The evidence does not support Lee personally whipping the captives.

Levin_C._Handy_-_General_Robert_E._Lee_in_May_1869

Smallpox Blankets and Guilt by Association

“You will Do well to try to inoculate the Indians, by means of Blankets, as well as to Try Every other Method, that can Serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race. — I should be very glad [if] your Scheme for Hunting them down by Dogs could take Effect; but England is at too great a Distance to think that at present.”  Lord Jeffrey Amherst to Colonel Henry Bouquet- July 16, 1763. 

NPG 150,Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst,by Thomas Gainsborough

A small passage from an insignificant letter…from the Royal Governor of North America to a  British soldier under his command during Pontiac’s Rebellion(1763-1766)- its ramifications are infamous.  The astoundingly befuddled plans of two British officers(most North Americans had already been exposed) has been inexplicably  linked  to American Indian policy of the late 19th century.  There is not a scrap of evidence that any US officer advocated using biological warfare against any Indian nation; yet, popular sentiment holds it as an indisputable fact. Our government committed many wrongs in its dealings with American Indians- this is not one of them.

The myth of the United States committing genocide through biological warfare cannot stand up to peer review– see the link marked here.

Presidential sites on Virginia’s Northern Neck

The History Mom

Did you know that within a one-hour drive on Virginia’s Northern Neck, you can visit 3 different Presidential birthplaces?  Virginia is called the Mother of Presidents for a reason!  These mostly outdoor sites make great places to visit during the COVID-19 pandemic, when families are looking for safe places to social distance.  From nature walks to beach fun, these sites are a good place to let your kids run and play while learning more about Presidents George Washington, James Madison, and James Monroe!

Spread across two counties, the Northern Neck is bounded by the Potomac River in the north, Rappahannock River in the south, and the Chesapeake Bay to the east.  Home to some of the oldest estates in Virginia, several of the families of future Presidents all got their start here.  During the summer, I recommend making this tour in the morning, as it gets very hot after lunch.

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