June 20, 2024
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June 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Every year, in honor of President’s Day, I present a bunch of fun facts about one of our presidents, going in chronological order. I plan to do this every year until I get to a recent-enough president that people get upset at me for the jokes.

This year we’re up to the 4th president, who was definitely either Madison or Monroe. My research insists that it’s Madison, so we’ll go with that.

—James Madison was our nation’s fourth president, apparently.

—His nickname was “the Father of the Constitution,” but his son just called him Father, for short.

—He was also our shortest president, standing at five feet four inches and weighing under 100 lbs. But he told the shadchan he was six feet tall.

—Madison did not fight in the Revolutionary War because he had a bunch of health issues, including, but not limited to, stomach aches. Which are pretty unhelpful in heated battles.

—James was born on a plantation in Virginia called Montpelier, which you’re definitely pronouncing wrong. And I know this, because I looked it up and found no less than six pronunciations.

—James was the youngest delegate at the Continental Congress, and as such, everyone made him take notes. His notes are considered to be the only comprehensive history of the proceedings. Everyone copied his notes before the tests

—When it came to writing the Constitution, James showed up 11 days early with a pen and paper, and he and the other delegates spent 86 days in heated debate developing the structure of the federal government. When they were done, the room smelled like anything!

—He was also one of the writers of the Federalist Papers, which were like fake reviews of the Constitution written anonymously and sent out to local newspapers to convince people to ratify it. For example: “Another great hit by the writers of the Declaration! This Constitution has it all—taxation, representation, legislation… I brought home a copy for my husband, and my sholom bayis has never been better! 13 Stars!”

—Madison married a woman named Dolly, which is a nickname that she must have picked up as a child. Dolly came from yichus. Her parents were eidim of George Washington’s brother, Sam Washington. This sounds made up, but so is most yichus.

—After living in Philly with his wife for three years, Madison retired from politics and moved back to his house in Montpelier, where he spent his free time correcting people on how to pronounce it.

—His retirement lasted four years. He was very bored.

—Case in point, Madison still kept up with his friend Thomas Jefferson (the two had even gotten arrested once for driving on a Sunday). Anyway, in those days, there was a big controversy over whether American mammals were smaller than European mammals. So in one of his letters, Madison wrote down 33 measurements he’d made of a deceased weasel (including its heart and spleen) and sent it to Jefferson.

—In 1801, Jefferson asked Madison to join his new presidential administration as Secretary of State. Madison succeeded Jefferson’s previous Secretary of State, Levi Lincoln Sr., who was in office for less than two months before he quit, probably after he opened the president’s mail and found a weasel.

—One of the main things Madison’s presidency is known for is that his wife had major rebbetzin vibes. Dolley was particularly famous for popularizing ice cream parties, without which a lot less Mishnayos would be learned today.

—The couple’s favorite flavor of ice cream was reportedly oyster, made with fresh oysters from the Potomac. This might explain James’s constant stomach issues.

—Other popular ice cream flavors back then were asparagus, parmesan and chestnut. The parmesan one made you milchig for six hours

—The big event of Madison’s presidency was the War of 1812—a war that to this day they haven’t thought of a name for.

—In June of 1812, Congress declared war against England, at which point American forces immediately invaded Canada.

—For most of the war, we were not doing well. At the start of the war, the British had more than 600 ships, while the US Navy had, at a moderate estimate, about 17. And one of them was that boat from the famous George Washington painting. Literally. We were a shtickel outmatched.

—Madison was the only president to lead his troops into battle during his presidency. In August of 1814, the British marched on Washington, and Madison said, “I’m going to go stand in front with my tiny frame and intimidate them.” I’m paraphrasing here.

—Madison was also the only president to lead his troops in the subsequent fleeing of Washington.

—This left the British to raid the White House (and eat all the food and, of course, the ice cream because it was August), and then burn it down.

—During the “battle,” Dolly supported her husband by supervising the evacuation of the White House.

—After that day, Madison was our first homeless president.

—Actually, he then took up residence in the Octagon House, which was so called because it was brown.

—“Scholars” believe no one won the war, but all sides involved believe that they did. The US lost most of the battles, and one of the few battles we won happened after the war was over; England didn’t even consider it its own war, but rather a minor part of their Napoleonic wars in which they got to stop for ice cream; and Canada was just happy to be included.

—For Madison’s second term, his vice president was Elbridge Gerry.—“Elbridge Gerry” sounds like a flavor of ice cream from the 1800s.

—Madison died on June 28, 1836. This was six days away from July 4th, and it created a major scandal, because the presidential minhag was to die on July 4th, as established by Adams and Jefferson, who had died on the same day, possibly in a barbecuing accident. The doctor offered to keep Madison alive until the 4th using stimulants and possibly puppetry, and Madison said, “What? No!”

—His final words were, “I always talk better lying down.” Now he says that. Not while he was president.

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

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