10 Dark Facts About The Founding Fathers That Aren't Taught In School

By C.L. Illsley on June 30 2020 in Politics

Image credit: Voinakh/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Voinakh/Shutterstock.com
  • On the same day, July 4, 1826, which also marked the 50th anniversary of America's independence, not one but two founding fathers died- John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
  • George Washington was not only known for his firey temper and use of profanity but also for the host of health ailments that he suffered from until his death at the age of 67.
  • Thomas Jefferson was so interested in mastodons that he had a set of mastodon bones sent to him in hopes of reconstructing the massive creature.

The Founding Fathers is a reference to the highly respected group of 18th century American leaders whose combined efforts united the Thirteen Colonies, defeated the British in  the Revolutionary War (1775- 1783), and established the foundations upon which the United States of America is based. Members included George Washington (the first U.S. President), John Adams (the second President), Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson (second Vice President and third President), and James Madison (the nation's fourth President). While every schoolchild in America learns about them in their history books, here are some dark facts about them that are never taught.

10. Strange Coincidence

On the same day, July 4, 1826, which also marked the 50th anniversary of America's independence, not one but two founding fathers died- John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Adams was born in 1735 and lived to the ripe old age of 90. Jefferson was born in 1743 and died at 83 years of age. To commemorate Adams' role in shaping the United States of America the Library of Congress named one of its buildings after him. Thomas Jefferson was not only a politician but also served as a lawyer, diplomat, philosopher, and architect. Jefferson died from a combination of arm and wrist inflammation which was caused by an injury, as well as disorders related to his intestines and urinary system. 

9. Franklin's Farts

Fart Proudly, by Benjamin Franklin. Image credit: Kevin Jarrett/Flickr.com
Fart Proudly, by Benjamin Franklin. Image credit: Kevin Jarrett/Flickr.com

Benjamin Franklin once penned a scarcastic essay entitled, "Fart Proudly." Franklin wore many hats and was a man of many talents including inventor, philosopher, politician, scientist, postmaster, Freemason, and humorist. Also known by the title, "A Letter to the Royal Academy about farting", Franklin's fart essay was written in 1781 while the founding father was serving as the U.S. Ambassador to France. The text was written as a response to what he thought to be the pretenious direction taken by an array of European academic societies. Franklin sent his essay to Richard Price, a Unitarian minister and philosopher living in England.  

8. Sex Scandal

Alexander Hamilton portrait by John Trumbull
Alexander Hamilton portrait by John Trumbull

Alexander Hamilton has the distinction of being part of the first sex scandal while in office. Hamilton married Elizabeth Schuyler in 1780 and the couple had eight children together. During his tenure as the secretary of the U.S. treasury Hamilton had an affair with a married woman named Maria Reynolds. Their affair was popularly referred to as the Reynolds Affair. Afterwards this founding father was blackmailed for about three years due to his extra marital activities.  When Reynolds' husband finally threatened to expose the scandal to the public Alexander Hamilton penned and circulated a pamphlet in an attempt to explain his side of the affair. 

7. Smuggler

John Hancock's name has become interchangeable with that of the word signature. This may be due to the fact that this founding father's sprawling signature is the first one on the Declaration of Independence and takes up six square inches on the landmark document. Before his important role in shaping early America John Hancock had been a smuggler who sold colonists highly taxed and in demand products such as tea, paper, and glass. British leaders were so concerned about Hancock's illegal activities that they put a bounty of five hundred pounds on his head. 

6. His Highness

John Adams by Gilbert Stuart (1823).
John Adams by Gilbert Stuart (1823).

John Adams was often described as an intimidating and unpleasant man. He is known to have campaigned to have the President of the United States be referred to as "His High Mightiness" or "His Highness".  Adams viewed the post of American presidential leader as being worthy of a lofty sounding title. During his own time in office (1797- 1801) Adams became the first President to live in the White House. His household included a couple of canine companions, one of whom was ominously named Satan.  

5. Contempt for VP

John Adams didn't have much use or respect for the office of Vice President despite having been given that post in 1789 under the presidency of George Washington.  Adams is said to have called the second highest office in the land, "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived".  Adams, a lawyer and activist, was perhaps dissatified with the VP role because he had been on the ballot for the 1789 presidential election but lost out to the more popular Washington. As runner up Adams became the nation's very first Vice President. 

4. Racist Rhetoric

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, 1791
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, 1791

Thomas Jefferson was known to be an ardent rascist and slave owner who had a reputation for routinely sleeping with his black slaves, likening African Americans to orangutans, and putting in place policies designed to remove Native Americans from their lands. Jefferson was also known not only to have had a sexual relationship with Sally Hawkins, a mixed race woman who was also one of his slaves, but he's also thought to have fathered several of Hawkins' children.

In Jefferson's 1787 text "Notes on the State of Virgina" this founding father made the case against ending the barbaric practise of slavery. He described African Americans as being ugly and foul smelling and surmised that they suffered less and were intellectually inferior to their white counterparts.    

3. Jefferson's Mastodon Obsession

Thomas Jefferson was so interested in mastodons that he had a set of mastodon bones sent to him in hopes of reconstructing the massive creature. Mastodons were elphant like mammals that roamed the Earth during the Pleistocene Epoch.  Although the animals were long designated as being extinct Jefferson was obsessed with finding one still living somewhere in America. He believed that the creatures might be found in the nation's uncharted western frontier and drafted explorering duo Lewis and Clark to help him in his efforts to locate them.  For most of his life Thomas Jefferson was an avid collector of fossils and bones and even owned bison and giant sloth fossils along with moose and elk antlers.

2. Washington's False Teeth

George Washington
George Washington

George Washington is said to have used some of his slaves' teeth in order to make his own false dentures. The Father of Our Country and first U.S. President lost all but one of his teeth because of serious tooth decay problems. He was already wearing crudely assembled dentures when he came into office and had several sets of false teeth made for him throughout his lifetime. Washington's dental problems were so severe that he was often in dire pain and began using Laudanum, a drug containing opium, in order to relieve the discomfort. 

Contray to popular myth George Washington's false teeth weren't made of wood but rather human and cow's teeth as well as pieces of elephant ivory. Today a set of Washington's dentures are on display at Mount Vernon. 

1. Bled to Death

George Washington was not only known for his firey temper and use of profanity but also for the host of health ailments that he suffered from until his death at the age of 67 on December 14, 1799.  His medical problems included bouts of smallpox, malaria, diphtheria, and even tuberculosis. During this time in American history the practise of bleeding (or bloodletting) was thought to be an effective treatment for a variety of illnesses. During his final days  Washington suffered from a sore throat, chest congestion, and problems breathing. His doctors removed five pints of blood and Washington died soon after.  

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