May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Every year, in honor of Presidents Day, we list a bunch of amazing facts about one of our beloved presidents (non-beloved too—we just go in order). And this year we’re up to… John Adams. OK, this is our second year.

John Adams was our first president to have what is clearly a fake name.—John was born in a Massachusetts town called Braintree, which sounds like a company that makes scientific toys that are also environmentally friendly.—In 1776, the Congress appointed five men to write the Declaration of Independence: Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman. And as with every school project, one guy ended up doing all the work.

We are not making this up. According to Adams’ notes, he and Jefferson argued that the other should write it. In fact, the original text of the document read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, except John Adams, who wears a wig.”

In addition, Jefferson voted to send Adams as part of a delegation to negotiate with the British in Staten Island, which is how John came to spend a night sharing a bed with Benjamin Franklin. Neither of them wanted to talk about it.—Seriously. Adams actually mentions the episode in his autobiography. The two of them were part of a three-man delegation, along with South Carolina politician Edward Rutledge, when they decided to stop for the night in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The inns were all full, and there were only two rooms left. Rutledge, who was in his 20s, ran for the smaller room, leaving Adams and Franklin to share, in Adams’ words, “a chamber a little larger than the bed, and with only one small window.” Hilarity ensued.

Basically, there was no room for anyone to sleep on the floor, no room for Adams’s sheitel head, and it was only a matter of time before someone stepped on Franklin’s glasses.—For the most part, the two spent the whole night arguing about whether to leave the window open. Adams wanted it closed so he wouldn’t get sick, and Franklin wanted it open because, in his words, “The air within this chamber will soon be, and indeed is now, worse than that without doors.” This is a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin that should be used way more than it is.—“Come!” he told Adams. “Open the window and come to bed, and I will convince you: I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds.”—So Adams left the window open, and he had to lay there all night listening to Franklin go on about his theory anyway, while he stared at the ceiling in silence and wondered if it was too late to bunk with Rutledge.

The peace conference they were traveling to lasted just a few hours and produced no results. Probably they were tired. The war was over seven years later.—Adams was also the first person to propose the idea of a U.S. military academy. Before that, the soldiers were volunteers and had no idea what they were doing. Half of them forgot to bring shoes to the war. “We didn’t think we’d need them,” they said. “Do you have, like, a gun I could borrow?”

When George Washington was unanimously nominated as president, John Adams became our country’s first vice president, going on to do the same kinds of important things as all the other vice presidents since.—We make fun, but Adams was disappointed too, once he got into office and learned that the vice president didn’t really do anything. He seems to have spent most of his time trying to stave off boredom by coming up with an official title for the president. He didn’t like the term “president,” because it sounds like that guy in your shul who does the announcements.—In the end he had it down to, “Elective Majesty” which was not catchy, or “His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of the Rights of the Same,” or HHTPOTUSOAAPOTROTS for short.—Jefferson called Adams’ proposal “The most superlatively ridiculous thing I ever heard of,” and everyone started calling Adams “His Rotundity,” which is Colonial passive-aggressive for “Fatso.” Unfortunately, as vice president, he didn’t have the power to get them to stop.

So when Washington retired in 1796, Adams ran for president, under the slogan, “Make America Great Again.”—He beat out Thomas Jefferson, who was none too happy, because the latter was up all night writing campaign speeches.—When Adams won, Jefferson became his vice president, because at the time, the rule was that the person with the second most votes for president became vice president. Second place prize, right? This sounds like an excellent idea.—During his presidency, Adams’ main accomplishment was keeping the United States out of war with France. This wasn’t easy, because everyone was pushing for a war, including three negotiators in France whom he referred to in his notes as X, Y, and Z, because loshon hara.

He was also the first president to live in the White House. He moved in in November of 1800, and at that point, the building wasn’t even done. It was damp and smelled like paint fumes, and Mrs. Adams used the unfinished East Room (now a banquet hall) to hang the presidential laundry. Presidential laundry had to be hung indoors, or people would keep making off with his knickers.—The president lived in the White House for four months, until he was kicked out, probably because of the laundry situation.

In both 1798 and 1799, Adams tried to proclaim a national fast day. In a letter in 1812, he wrote that he believed that that’s what lost him the election in 1800. It was pretty unpopular.—Or maybe it was the campaign itself that made him lose. He was once again up against Thomas Jefferson, who was still sore at Adams for failing to mention that the vice president didn’t really do anything. And so began one of the most mud-slingingest campaigns in history.—In the end, Jefferson won. And as policy dictated, Adams became his vice president.—Over his dead body.—In the end, the two of them died on the same day (in 1826)—July 4th. Their cause of death was unknown, but we suspect that someone got super competitive with the fireworks.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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