my year with 44 men

Reading the Presidents One by One

‘Murica

In honor of America’s 236th birthday, I’d like to leave you with these gems (all of which come from and all credit should go to Sharpwriter.deviantart.com). Happy 4th!  ‘MERICA!

Abe on a bear

Mecha-FDR

Thomas Jefferson fist fighting a gorilla

Teddy Roosevelt fighting Sasquatch

Reagan riding a velocoraptor

JFK: Alien Hunter

George Washington fighting zombies

Ben Franklin vs Zeus

Andrew Jackson: Alien Slayer

Also because I love to shamelessly show off my dog, I’d like to tell you a story.  See, she loves walks.  I figure, what better way to celebrate the 106 degree weather than take my dog on a walk to Dairy Queen to sit under giant shady umbrellas, eat an Oreo Blizzard (what’s more American than that), and have a big cup of ice water (that was for Lucy).  It started fine, but within just a few blocks, this is what happened.

One of us has a genuine smile.  The other does not.  You can guess which one is which.

And within seconds of  <li><del>walking</del></li> being carried in the door, Lucy found the fan and waiting with baited breath for me to bring her a bowl of ice water.

 

Advertisements

Looking Forward to This Dapper Fellow

My new friend James Polk, the oft-overlooked 11th president is next up.  Hopefully I can break the recent trend and manage to get this one read before September.

Image

John Tyler is No Friend of Mine

Image

Known as “His Accidency” because of the way he sort of fell (he actually sort of pushed his way) into his position as President, John Tyler was number 10 on my list to read. I am not exaggerating when I say that the only book that has ever taken me longer to read was Moby Dick (barely), and that’s because I read all 1200 pages of that in spurts of 4-5 pages at a time. Before I even blogged about Harrison, way back in late March/early April, I had started John Tyler: The Accidental President. I didn’t like it, so I set it in my backseat (literally). I then spent a lot of time grading papers, writing lesson plans, playing Solitaire, baking cakes that didn’t turn out, and trying to beat my computer’s version of Mahjong (at which I’ve had a very low success rate, you should know). You know what I didn’t do? Read John Tyler: The Accidental President. In fact, until the school year ended and I realized that I couldn’t play Solitaire for 8 hours a day to fill that time that school previously monopolized, I didn’t even get him out of my backseat. Once I did, I started over, sucked it up, sat outside, and thought, “even if this book tanks, maybe at least I’ll get a tan reading it.” That was not the case.

The Book: This book is a little intense. It was pretty clear that Edward P Crapol (I couldn’t make up a last name like that) was super excited about John Tyler. I mean, in order to write a book on a President who has sort of been pushed aside for politicians that have actually done something pleasant while in office, one would have to be excited, but Crapol was still a little special. Crapol (heh) knew that Tyler wasn’t the best politician. He was sensitive only to his own agenda, against nearly everything that his party (the Whigs) advocated, pro-Confederacy, and picked and chose only what parts of the Constitution he wanted to follow. Still, the author tried to spin Tyler in a way that appealing. It was cute to watch him try. It didn’t work. Even upon Tyler’s death when Lincoln refused to lower flags to half-mast and make an eloquent speech about the former leader, Crapol makes Lincoln out to be the bad guy in hopes to push his pro-Tyler agenda. Nobody messes with my home-boy Abe. That made me mad. The book wasn’t the most boring book I’ve read (even among the Pres project), but it certainly wasn’t the best either. It didn’t keep me engaged, and in fact, shall henceforth be known as the “book that furthered my addiction to Solitaire”. It was very focused on Tyler’s political career and didn’t tell much information about his personal life. Not much is out there on his youth, just that his mother died when he was a child, a bit about his education and that he was well connected, as his father roomed with Thomas Jefferson while at college. Even his early political career and the happenings that pushed him into presidency were sort of brushed over (or maybe it was just me rushing to get through them). What I thought was the most heavily focused part of the biography was what happened to Tyler during and after his stint in the White House. 5/5 would not recommend.

The President: Tyler was kind of a boring man too. It is fairly well known that he fathered some children with one of his “prized” slaves, and the fact that he gave two of his children, John and Charles, his last name implies that he wasn’t the least bit private about it (65). Lots of things changed during the time that Tyler was in office, and I don’t know how much credit can be given to Tyler versus how much of that was the natural evolution of the United States. America became a little bit more reputable during his time in office. Between annexing Texas, opening the door to China following the Opium War and beginning a relationship with the East, and approving the Wilkes Exploring Expedition which provided the United States with maps that spanned 800 miles west off of our coast (and these were the maps that we used for over 100 years up until the end of WWII), Tyler did seem to be a fairly efficient man. However, he also managed to piss off his Congress with his reluctance to sign the Tariff of 1842 in order to fund the needs of federal government revenue. This relationship was completed broken by the time he vetoed the bills to reestablish the Bank of the US, and that action caused his entire cabinet to retire, and he was forced to denounce himself as a Whig. Crazy times, y’all. It was a crazy time. Also joining the party during Tyler’s presidency was the first threat of a civil war. The trouble had been looming for years, and gradually building, but by the time Tyler pushed his was into office, it was pretty much undeniable. Tyler, a life-long defender of slavery, continued in the path of his predecessors and just pushed the drama under the rugs. In fact, for years after he was out of office, he continued to deny the problem. When Lincoln was elected, Tyler actually lamented that America had fallen onto evil times, which naturally made my buddy Abe upset. So, in return, when Tyler died no flags were lowered in his honor. By this point, he wasn’t really liked by anyone anyway. He didn’t belong to a political party, and yet he continued to push the buttons of everyone around him. He sort of reminds me of the stereotypical old man who doesn’t like anyone or anything, but continues to voice his opinion because “It’s ‘murica and I can”. I don’t think I would have liked him had I met him, and I want to use my influence to encourage you to also not like him.

How Do You Praise- The Guy was Dead in 30 Days

Remember when I said that Martin Van Buren was the least active President?  Well, I was wrong.

The Book: Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time, written by Freeman Cleaves, was the quickest read yet, but I didn’t  care for it.  The first 344 pages of the book were all about Harrison’s involvement in the military.  Less than 100 pages actually discussed his life outside of the military (personal life, family history, or political history- which was really the majority of his life). For most people who have any level of understanding of fighting-type things, this might not be a huge issue, but I’m really embarrassingly uneducated on such things, and it took me the better part of a dozen pages (and probably a quick Google search) to be able to figure out what war he was involved in.  There wasn’t a ton of jargon or specific language in the book, but I teetered between skimming (from lack of interest) and slogging through (again, from lack of interest).  Probably not something I’m able to recommend in good conscience to anyone.  That is, unless you’re looking for a book on WHH.  Then I have to recommend it, as it’s the only reasonably priced one.

The President:  Harrison was apparently a general with seemingly the same amount of respect as General Washington.  Fighting against Native Americans (or as my book calls them, shoot, I can’t even type those words) in the Battle of Tippenanoe (1811), and then leading troops in the War of 1812, he gained enough notoriety that he was elected to Congress, nominated for Senate, and from there things escalated.  A few things were pretty interesting about him.  He was a prohibitionist, which basically means that so far he is the only leader I’ve read about who isn’t a raging alcoholic.  I’d consider that a positive.  For each positive, there’s a negative: he actually opposed Congress’ attempts to limit the spread of slavery.  He was down with slavery.  That was kind of a turn-off.

Politically, he associated himself with the Whig party, though he didn’t have many political ties to speak of.  In fact, short of Lincoln and Van Buren, no other politician is even mentioned in this book.  I was a little surprised to see that he of all of the campaign sites he went to, the one that the book mentioned was in Springfield, IL.  While here, he found out that his son had died, and yet carried forth down Main Street. This apparently was important because it showed his dedication to his political aspirations.  While I’m sure some readers were put off by his lack of mourning of his son, others were glad that he fulfilled his prior commitment.  Mostly I wanted to know what Main Street was.  As a life-long resident of Springfield, I’m not aware of any such street, and I’d like to know.

As for actual election platform, he said he would: “Confine his service to a single term [little did he know…], disclaim all right of control over the public treasury, eschew any attempt to influence the elections, exercise due regard for laws passed by representatives of people and within limitations limit his exercise of veto power, never suffer the influence of his office to be used for partisan purposes, and furnish to the Senate his reasons for removal from office.” (412).  I’m interested in knowing how these would have turned out if he had lived for more than 29 days and 12 hours (and done anything more than host dinner parties and get sick).  Rather, that was not the case, and instead, what he really did was help make sure that people knew what would happen in the case a President died and they needed to fill his position.  I guess that’s important too.  Actually, on the day he was inaugurated he didn’t wear an overcoat or hat and gave a 2-hour speech in the rain.  Within the month he had pneumonia and died.  I feel like I could use this against my children.  “Wear your coat or you, like President Harrison, will die.”  What do you think?  Will it work?

Fun fact: After he did, the government felt they owed something to his wife (though not his salary), so they gave her free postage for life.  Talk about generous! WOW!

William Henry Harrison- Old Tippercanoe

If you recall back several weeks, I mentioned I was having trouble finding a book on WH Harrison.  This problem was eventually solved by my buying the first book I could find on him that was less than $40.  What I ended up with was this:

Image

I didn’t really pay much attention to the book before starting, and it wasn’t until our author, Freeman Cleaves, started using words like “halfbreed” and “painted redmen” that I realized this book had been written in 1939 and terms like that were perfectly acceptable then.  After a second scan online, it’s true that there aren’t any current books on him to be found.  I guess no one has much to say about a man who was only President for about a month (but somehow was interesting enough to have a 500 page book written about him).

Matty Van

When I started this project, I mentioned that there was one thing I was good at.  That thing was reading.  I failed to mention that above all else in the world, the one thing I was terrible at (besides anything that requires athletic coordination and skill) is blogging.  I’m terrible.  I’ve been done with the book I’m about to review for over a week, but I never even got around to mentioning that I was starting it.  I’m sure that the three of you that I can continually persuade to read my blog are terribly disappointed.  Sorry dudes.

Onto a less self-deprivating topic now. Martin Van Buren.  This guy might be the most forgettable president yet.  It’s sad to say that he really didn’t do much aside from both hold the country together and help it fall apart.

The Book: The book that I read was simply called Martin Van Buren and was written by Ted Widmer.  It was the shortest one I’ve read yet, and rightfully so, because so far Van Buren has done the least worth mentioning.  Widmer did something rather silly at the beginning of the book; he welcomed me into an elite club of people who actually care to read about the 8th President.  Even he knew that few people give a rat’s tail about what the man actually did.  Widmer did seem a little flippant, giving the impression that his editor said, “You’re going to write about X” and he sort of agreed because it was something to do.  Because of this, he comes off as feeling ambivalent towards him, and uninvested in the project.  On the other hand, Widmer was an entertaining enough storyteller.  Reading about Van Buren and Lincoln sitting down, getting drunk and telling political horror stories sounds like an amazing time.

The President: Martin Van Buren, or Matty Van as he was known to friends and mocking enemies of the day, was maybe not the most interesting president, but he certainly did some changing to American politics.  He is known as the first professional politician to fulfill his aspirations of becoming President.  However, as President he left no lasting social legislation, sustained disastrous reverses, and ended in defeat after a four-year term.  Very forgettable indeed.  Part of what made him different than his predecessors was that he was the first ethnic President.  Though he was born and raised in New York, he spoke Dutch as his native tongue, and that made him a little suspect to many Americans.  He also was the first President that was born after American was recognized as an independent nation, so technically he was the first “American born” President.  He totally used this to his advantage, claiming that he would usher in American politics and leave behind the old ways leftover from former British-influenced leaders.

In the political realm, he idolized Thomas Jefferson and managed to get mentorship with Jefferson, which of course influenced his politics (62).  His relationship with other leaders wasn’t focused on, with the exception of Andrew Jackson, to whom he couldn’t be any more different.  Even though their differences were great, they were offput by mutual respect.  Jackson was known for being irrational and temperamental, loud and persuasive.  Van Buren, if this gives you an idea was nicknamed the Careful Dutchman, and was not particularly good at wooing the people.  As Davy Crocket said, “Van Buren is as opposite to Jackson as dung is to a diamond.” (76).  Well, there we go.  Even still, Van Buren managed to help Jackson win his Presidency, and so in return, when Matty was running, Andy J gave his blessing, which put people at ease over this new little guy.

Once he was in office, though, things weren’t so great.  We all know good and well what happens to a president when disaster strikes shortly after one takes office, in the style of George W Bush.  Just like that, only some 165 years before, the Panic of 1837, which is considered the worst economic crisis in American history (save for the Crash of 29), happened just 13 days after Van Buren swore in.  What terrible timing!  As Widmer sums it up, “Van Buren inherited a superheated economy that was completely unregulated in some ways and draconically controlled in others.” (101).  There had been too much credit given to banks, inflation had skyrocketed, international banks demanded that American pay them back and we had diddly to do that.  Pair that with crop failure (the primary income of Americas) and it was the equivalent to a match being lit at a gas-station, only a giant nation-sized gas station.  It sucked.  To try and fix the situation, Matty Van created our independent treasury to try and put more money into circulation.  It worked for a bit, but wasn’t the best solution.

Meanwhile, there was that whole slavery issue.  It had been growing for years now, and no one had the solution. The South wanted to become more independent (and they wanted some locomotives like the North had), the North wasn’t going for that.  It was a civil war waiting to happen.  So what did Matty do?  Nothing.  In fact, he knew he was not the most well-liked guy, so instead of having a polarizing opinion that could turn more people off to him, he didn’t express an opinion at all.  He just kind of let things slide and hoped he wouldn’t have to deal with the aftermath.  Things finally came to a head in the well-known incident of the Amistad in 1939.  Basically, if you haven’t seen the movie (which funny story, I had to watch it in one of my classes, but my professor couldn’t figure out how to turn the sound on, so we watched the whole thing on mute, which was so confusing!), a ship carrying slaves from Africa was taken over by the slaves in a revolt off the coast of Cuba.  There was a huge amount of drama over what was to become of the slaves, and to whom they should be returned.  Matty Van, who was President at the time, was worried about our relations with Spain (since no one else in Europe seemed to like us) and acted accordingly.  Meanwhile, John Quincy Adams gets his turn to shine (finally) and delivered a stirring defense for the freedom of the slaves.  Other than his famous silence on the issues of slavery and creating the independent treasury, not much else is noteworthy.

Martin van Buren died in July 1862, the same day that Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation.  He was born during the American Revolution that created America, and died during the Civil War that nearly destroyed it.  In the middle, he was the ruler that did neither to advance nor degrade it.

A few fun facts about Matty Van:

  • He did most of his campaigning in bars.  Because of this he became a highly-functional alcoholic and for a little guy could carry on perfectly rational conversations while highly intoxicated.
  • He is the only President to date that can’t trace their lineage back to King John (yes, the same King John from Robin Hood)
  • His skull was taken by grave robbers and it’s still never turned up.

An American Lion (the Andy J Story)

I finished reading about Andy J some 4 or more days ago, but I can’t figure out how I feel about him.  I feel like he really did a lot to change things to a model that more closely resemble our modern system.  A lot of things were positive changes, but there were also some very poor decisions he made and some had devastating repercussions.

The Book: I enjoyed American Lion.  Like most of the others I’ve picked up (surprisingly) it was readable and pleasurable.  It didn’t cover much of Andrew’s early life, spending the beginning of the book focusing primarily on the scandalous relationship of Andrew and his (already/ still married) wife, Rachel.  Apparently this was very important in the scheme of things because their torrid affair really shaped the election process.  The early parts of his life that were mentioned were that his father died before he was born, both of his brothers died in war, and his mother was hugely influential in his life (and her last words would be shared here if the block quote wasn’t an entire page of text ) (14).

Another perk of this text was that it was very thorough in its background context for the reader.  There are mini biographies on each major player in Jackson’s life, which was super helpful.  Even as someone who is, by this point, fairly confident in the political happenings at the time Jackson was elected, I was glad to get more information.  Jon Meacham really knew his stuff, and wanted to ensure that his readers were equally knowledgeable, and chose to focus the majority of the book on Andy’s presidency.  While I typically like to know a lot about their personal life and can recognize that it helps to get more insight into their actions, I am reading specifically about the presidents so I can gain political history, so it was refreshing to see that a solid 300 pages were spent on those 8 years, compared to a few books that merely toss presidential terms in 50 pages.  I also really loved the pages.  God bless deckle edge!

Where there’s good there’s also bad.  Probably the most disappointing things about this read was that some of it really scattered.  It wasn’t bad enough that I was consulting Wikipedia to help me through (or anything of that nature), but it kind of read at times like Post-its; like an idea would just pop in Meacham’s brain and he’d write it down…which is fine, but some of it read like he didn’t go back and fix some organizational problems.  Mostly just the timeline of events was confusing.  He’d say something, then go to a point that had influenced that years before, and then skip back to where he was; or opposite, he would write an event, then skip several years down the line to make a connection to a future event, and then go back.

The President: Last week when I made a comment about Jackson being a badass, a friend commented that he was terrible because of his treatment of Native Americans.  While I agree, and the Trail of Tears (through his lead, but not his implementation or under his guidance) was an absolutely horrific act of injustice, I can’t say that I rule his full presidency by that single action.  Meacham said it best with, “There is nothing redemptive about Jackson’s Indian policy, no moment, as with Lincoln and slavery, where the moderate on a morally urgent question did the right and brave thing.  Not all great presidents were always good and neither individuals nor nations are without evil” (97).  I can say with full confidence that Jackson’s biggest errors were because he didn’t have a wife talking sense into him.  Rachel died literally a couple of days before he found out the results of the election, and he was left a widow with a ton of kids that she had inherited (I guess you could say adopted without a choice?).  It seems like he maybe had issues keeping his household, and required that his young niece be in charge of that, along with his entertaining, a duty that’s serious business for a president.  Many of his colleagues (opponents and allies) were decided based on Emily’s (his hostess niece) liking.  If she didn’t like them, they didn’t come to a party, and that sets a mood in the political world.  I think she had too much power for a teenager.  However, by the guests who made the list, he was very well liked. After following Adams, who was kind of a flop, his presence was reassuring, as he was a well known war hero.  Many associated him with George Washington in that respect, which in early American history, I can’t think of a single person I’d rather be associated with.

With his influence from being so well-liked, Jackson was able to surmise a great deal of power.  Unlike the Presidents before him, he made strong and bold choices and dared to do something no leader before him in American history had done: he put himself in the center of the government.  Once in his position of power [he’s quoted as saying, “The President is a representative of the American people” (287)], he balanced the banks (and is the only president in US history who has paid the debt in full), passed the 1834 Tariff, continued to sweep the possibility of a civil war under the rug, and once fought a man who had two guns with his cane and won.  In doing these, Jackson paved the way for many of our great leaders and opened up a lot of doors to modern politics.  Some famous leaders who cite Jackson as a role model include Lincoln, Truman, FDR and Teddy Roosevelt.  Plus, school teachers would use Andrew Jackson as a name to frighten the children, and he became a biblical legend, as in “Who killed Abel?” “General Jackson.” (260).  Sounds reasonable.  Do you think I could use this strategy with my 8th graders?  They probably don’t even know who Jackson was.

Where there is good, there is of course a flip story.  While many seemed to get along and certainly respect Jackson, there were of course those who couldn’t seem to tolerate him.  Particularly, Jackson and Clay had their fair share of opinions on the other.  Jackson was essentially the first presidential candidate to actually run a campaign, and he found that he was more successful that Clay, and he found that the old standard “A vote for Jackson is for the people; a vote for Clay is for the privileged “ worked in his favor (219).  Others found his “my way or the high way” attitude too harsh, and he was very bold (which sometimes change can be scary), adding to his list of potential personality flaws.  Perhaps the biggest blunder, and it certainly can’t be a blunder as it was just a policy he had was the Indian Removal Act.  I’d like to think there are a billion excuses I can use in Andy’s favor, but I can’t think of a single way (thank goodness) to justify his policies, actions, and eventually the consequences that followed.

In short: I think, aside from a few issues, I like Jackson as a president.  He transformed the role of a leader into more than just someone who threw parties.  Now, not all of what he did was beneficial or even acceptable, it did revolutionize American politics, and that’s nothing for me to balk at.  Plus, he seemed to get himself into all sorts of situations involving gunfire, and that makes for great stories.  AND, because he was an orphan and this and that, I think he has a true rags to riches story; maybe the first Presidential one so far.

Andy J was a B.A

That stands for bad ass.  Because I think he was.

On Read Across America Day (or in my case, Read Across American History Day) I started the next guy in line, Andrew Jackson.  While I spent the weekend traveling and doing lesson plans, I managed to get a bit of reading in.  So far, he’s pretty awesome.

Also, now that I’m up to like, 5 presidents behind schedule (thanks a lot to my new job…and who am I kidding…Pinterest), I’ve decided to stop caring and stressing and start spending more time enjoying each fellow.

Don’t worry- it was wrinkled and ripped when it arrived.  I CERTAINLY didn’t do that to a book!

The First Founding Son

What an odd fellow!  Johnny boy might be up in my top-5 presidents now.  I can’t really explain much about his actions (particularly political actions), but he seems like a pretty easy-going fellow.  All I can figure is that he saw how much everyone hated his dad and made it his life goal to be his exact opposite.  It seems that way until his later life, anyway, at which point he became mean and bitter and hateful and other bad adjectives.  We’ll get there.

The Book: The book, John Quincy Adams: a Public Life, A Private Life, really did a nice job covering all aspects of JQA’s life and career.  Unlike some of the other books so far, there was a nice balance between public and private career.  The first good chunk focused primarily on his formative years.  His relationship with his dad was rocky and that really shaped the rest of his life.  In fact, I would go so far to say that he actually took his dad’s advice, threw it out the window, and (like George Costanza) did the opposites.  For example, John Adams told him not to go into politics, “I’d rather have a shoemaker for a son than a statesman” (127).  Them be fightin’ words.  The book also spent a lot of page-space on his private life as an adult.  I know perhaps more about his family life than any of the previous presidents.  I can feel really what his relationship with his wife was like and the tragedies they faced with the death and loss of some many children.  On a side note, I started reading this whilst on a bus with (54) 12-14 year olds, and I was actually able to digest what I read, which surely says something about the ease of getting through it.  Other than getting pulled aside to make kids lying in the middle of the aisle find a seat, I didn’t have a difficult time following, so apparently it’s not too hard to read.

One of the major downsides of this book was that it really didn’t focus much at all on his life during Presidency.  In fact, after I finished, I can’t name more than one or two things that Johnny actually DID during those four years.  Luckily, Monroe’s book really got me up to date on what was going on during this time, so I wasn’t too out of the loop.  6 weeks ago I would have been clueless.  However, other parts of his life focused on his private career, such as the time he spent in Russia (which from what I understand, much time was spent drinking), and his time on Harvard’s Board and as an educator there.

The President: Even though the John Quincy Adam book showed a miserable man on the cover, only probably the last 50 pages really described a miserable man.  Even though his life had a lot of rough parts (and his whole family was littered with alcoholics who were “disappointments” to the family), he wasn’t just a curmudgeon, but seemed to live a fairly happy life.  Someone once described his personality as disagreeable because “he held opinions too strongly for he always insisted his views were correct and that meant he usually disagreed with almost everyone” (42).  Unlike his dad, he did get along with many of his colleagues.  He considered Jefferson a “man of great judgment” (35), had a love-hate relationship with Andrew Jackson (which really mirrored Adam’s relationship with Jefferson), at first being quite fond of him but after Jackson beat him in the 1829 election and he refused to attend his inauguration (just like his dad had done) they hated each other, and by the time Jackson died, Adams said of him, “was a hero, a murderer, an adulterer…who in his last days of his life belied and slandered me before the world and died.” (403).  He also apparently didn’t like John Tyler and said of him, “A worthless and profligate faction has taken ahold of the nation” and assigned him a place with the “slave breeders” (382-3).  It should be noted at this time that Johnny HATED the notion of slavery (hooray!).  In fact, he referred to himself as “the acutest, astutest, archest enemy of Southern slavery that ever existed” (386).  Now that’s my kind of fellow.  What it really sounds like is that John like back-stratchers, but once they overshadowed him for one reason or another, he took an immediate disliking to them, and did his best to sling mud.

Quickly, a few things I liked about Johnny Q:

  1. He was an alcoholic.  I know that’s not typically the kind of attribute that I admire in a person, but it really added a lot to his character.  Knowing that the worst thing that ever happened to him (in his words) was when the boat he was on got pillaged and 373 bottles of his “choiciest” wines got taken really helped me get a feel for his character.
  2. He loved his wife.  I cried when he saw her shortly before his death and didn’t know who she was.
  3. Every time I’d read something about it, I imagined him saying it in the context of Good Will Hunting.  For example, when he was teaching at Harvard, he frequented the bars in the area.  I would like to imagine him and James Monroe walking into a bar and saying with a deep Bostonian accent, “So this is a Hahrvahrd Bahr, huh?  I thought there’d be equations and shit on the walls.”
  4. When the doctors told him it probably wasn’t healthy to be swimming nude anymore, he tried to swim clothed.  He wrote in his diary how difficult that was for him.
  5. He found that the one way to ease his depression was to plant trees.  That’s nice.

A few things I disliked about Johnny Q.

  1. He was an alcoholic.  That’s a bummer.
  2. He got into a fight with his mom and didn’t go to her funeral.  What a jerk-move.
  3. Didn’t want to spend time educating his kids. He complained about the time spent and lamented to lost “production of something more important than teaching a child the first elements of knowledge.” (204)  At a teacher, that pissed me off. EDUCATION STARTS AT HOME, Y’ALL!
  4. Composed poetry.  That’s lame.
  5. He once gave a 2 hour and 50 minute speech.  I’d have wanted to punch him in the face if I’d been forced to listen to that bs.

More than anything, it’s important to note that I really liked some aspects of Adam’s character.  He was supportive of his family and took a very strong interest in his household.  He didn’t seem extreme like other presidents, lived within his means, and planted trees.  Other aspects I wasn’t so fond of.  He was a sore loser, and found enjoyment in mocking others’ losses.

Maybe the biggest message I took away from this book is that it would be terrible to be Tom Adams.  His dad was President.  His brother was President.  His cousin made a delicious beer.  He kind of got left in the dust and died an alcoholic whose life and finances were run by his little brother.

The Kind of Fellow I can Admire

I’m not quite finished with JQA, but I just wanted to put out on the great interwebs some of the things that I really like about him (unlike his father, who had absolutely no characteristics I liked).

1. His favorite hobbies included a daily nude swim in the Pontomac River at between 4:15 and 5 am and getting shitfaced and playing the flute.  I can imagine that it turned out like this gem:

2. Apparently no one in the world was good enough to marry him, according to his mother.  He kept falling in love with ladies and Mommy Dearest kept putting the kibosh on it.  At one point he mentioned that he really needed to get to finding a lady friend because he had “a receding hairline and was a few pounds overweight.”  Sounds an awful lot like a line from my favorite movie (first 15 seconds or so of this clip).

Post Navigation