I was enjoying a cappuccino with my friend and her teenage daughter when the discussion turned to history and politics. As her eyes glazed over, my friend’s daughter said, “History is sooo boring. Who cares about politics? It doesn’t affect me!”
Here’s my perspective on history: STORIES are the key. History becomes fascinating and relevant when I learn about people from the past who had the same desires and conflicts I have today. Americans have had disagreements over the same political issues for over 200 years.
History also reveals that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction:
George Washington’s Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, and his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, were bitter rivals. Washington repeatedly ignored Jefferson’s advice on foreign policy and other matters, following Hamilton’s recommendations instead. Thoroughly disgusted with Hamilton’s influence, Jefferson resigned.
Years later, Jefferson’s first vice president, Aaron Burr, killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.
Jefferson lost the 1800 presidential election to another political foe, John Adams, by three electoral votes. As runner-up, he became Adams’s vice president. Putting it into perspective, imagine if Al Gore had served as George W. Bush’s vice president, or vice versa!
What Are the Odds?
Here’s an astonishing fact: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who were the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to become president, both died on July 4, 1826.
The First President to Die in Office—With Barely One Foot in the Door
The man with the shortest presidency had the longest inaugural address in history. Unfortunately, his verbosity led to his demise. William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia one month after giving his prolonged inaugural speech outside without a coat. His successor, John Tyler, was nicknamed “His Accidency.”
A Suspicious Death
After serving little more than one year in office, Zachary Taylor became violently ill after consuming a huge bowl of cherries and pitcher of cold milk on July 4, 1850. He died five days later.
In 1991, his body was exhumed and tested for arsenic poisoning. “Old Rough and Ready” wasn’t the victim of assassination by poison, as conspiracy theorists had believed.
Coincidence or Providence?
On January 30, 1835, a would-be assassin, Richard Lawrence, fired a pistol at President Andrew Jackson at point blank range. The gun misfired. Lawrence pulled out a second pistol, which also misfired. The pistols were later examined, tested, and re-tested, and found to be in perfect working order.
Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy weren’t so lucky. Here are a few of the many eerie similarities between them:
- Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theatre.
- Kennedy was shot in a car made by Ford—a Lincoln.
- Lincoln was shot in a theatre, and his assassin ran to a warehouse.
- Kennedy was shot from a warehouse, and his assassin ran to a theater.
- Each had a vice president named Johnson.
Is history boring? You be the judge!