Everyone grows up learning about George Washington's apple tree and Benjamin Franklin's kite-and-the-key experiment. It turns out that a lot of the things "everyone knows" about our Founding Fathers are either slightly or completely wrong, and the things most people don't know are actually terrifying. There are a lot of strange and shocking details about the Founding Fathers that were probably left out of your history textbooks on purpose.
Who were the Founding Fathers? They were some of the most influential people in American history, and almost all of them were way more drunk and morally questionable than most people can remember. And while we often look back at the American Revolution through rose-colored glasses, the truth is that these men weren't always so noble. It's not easy creating a nation from scratch, and nothing proves it quite like the dark American history surrounding these Founding Fathers.
As the oldest signer of the Declaration of Independence, 65-year-old "Honest John" Hart faced especially terrible consequences for his patriotism. In 1776, he began to lose everything. Within months of signing the Declaration, his wife of 36 years passed while British forces forced him and his 13 children from their New Jersey home. He sent the youngest children to live with neighbors.
According to legend, Hart spent a long time hiding from the British by living in caves, open fields, and the forest. As this elderly man toiled in the elements, the British looted his property, slew all of his livestock, and partially destroyed his home.
In the summer of 1793, yellow fever swept the city of Philadelphia, taking out thousands of people. Though the city's doctors ranked among the best in the world, they lacked the knowledge of how to treat the disease or prevent its contraction. Signer of the Declaration of Independence Dr. Benjamin Rush, among the most respected medical pioneers of his day, believed purging the body through bloodletting and forced vomiting would cure patients. As it turns out, these fluid-based treatments failed to help patients; if anything, they likely made their situations worse.
His peers harshly criticized his efforts, and to this day, historians still debate whether or not he qualifies as a hero or villain of Philadelphia history. Despite a large community of physicians openly critiquing his practices, Dr. Rush wouldn't stop bleeding his sick patients and forcing them to vomit.
Thomas Paine, the Founding Father famous for his pamphlet Common Sense, passed in 1809. Less than 10 people attended the funeral of the once-famous Paine, who lost popularity for opposing the church. Next to broke at the end of his life, Paine was buried in a modest grave on his farm with all his burial requests ignored.
Ten years later, William Cobbett dug up Paine's remains to take him back to London for a more respectful burial, but this bit of grave-robbing backfired. Paine's remains ended up being passed down to Cobbett's relatives, who sold them off piece-by-piece. While devotees of Paine routinely attempt to give him a proper burial in New York, finding all of the pieces of his body remains an impossible task. Today, they say Paine's head lies in Australia and the rest of his body is at the four corners of the world.
President #2, John Adams, came into office having to fill some big shoes. The shadow of George Washington, popular and beloved across the country, made adapting to the White House even harder for the way less charming Adams. His political ideas did him in from the very beginning. As vice president under George Washington, he suggested the president should be referred to as “His highness, the President of the United States of America, and Protector of the Rights of the Same.” Certainly an interesting title choice for the leader of a country that actively resisted monarchy.
Furthermore, John Adams remains one of the few presidents to only serve one term. His administration created some of the least popular legislation of all time, including the Alien and Sedition Acts that made criticizing the government illegal. Needless to say, a whole country of people who just escaped one egotistical monarch felt little love for someone who fashioned himself as the same.