Treason!

Aaron Burr's 1807 trial challenged the Constitution

In late March 1807 Aaron Burr arrived in Richmond, Virginia, in a vile mood, filthy and stinking. He had just endured a month of hard travel under heavy guard through the dense forests of the Southeast. “It is not easy for one who has been robbed and plundered till he had not a second shirt,” he complained to a friend, “to contend with a Govt having millions at command and active and vindictive agents in every quarter.” Read more »

Jefferson on the Bible

Thomas Jefferson took his scissors to the Bible in search of truth

LIKE A CURMUDGEON who writes cranky letters to the editor, retired president Thomas Jefferson wanted to get the news without editorial bias or commentary—the Good News, that is, because he was reading the Bible. Whiling away his dotage at Monticello, he finally had time on his hands to finish a task begun decades earlier, namely to compile and edit a personalized version of the New Testament, which he titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.Read more »

The Imperial Congress

An impetuous and sometimes corrupt Congress has often hamstrung the efforts of the president since the earliest days of the Republic

On a little-remarked, steamy day in late June 1973, a revolution took place in Washington, D.C., one that would transfer far more power and wealth than did the revolt against King George III in 1776. On the 29th, a sweaty, angry majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate defied the president of the United States and voted to end armed American involvement in Vietnam. Read more »

July 4 In 1826

As Adams and Jefferson died, America came of age

The approach of the fiftieth birthday of the United States, in 1826, naturally animated the minds of Americans with thoughts of the nation’s past, the heritage they had received from those who had asserted and won independence, and the dwindling number of Revolutionary leaders who survived.

 
Read more »

Compromise 2: Missouri, Slave Or Free?

Over the question of whether Missouri should be admitted to the Union as a free or slave state in 1820, creative moderates brokered an ingenious compromise that averted civil war

On February 13, 1819, 35-year-old Congressman William Cobb unfolded his six-foot frame from his chair in the chamber of the Old Brick Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and locked his gray eyes on James Tallmadge Jr. of New York. There was little love lost between the grandson of Georgia’s most famous patriarch and the accomplished city lawyer. They had tangled on issues before, Cobb eloquently if savagely attacking Andrew Jackson over his campaign in Florida against the Seminoles; Tallmadge had defended the general with equal vigor.Read more »

Compromise 1: Philadelphia Story

Without major compromises by all involved and the agreement to avoid the contentious issue of slavery, the framers would never have written and ratified the Constitution

In September 1789, at the end of the Constitutional Convention, James Madison wrote in dismay to his old friend Thomas Jefferson, who was an ocean away in Paris. “I hazard an opinion,” he lamented, “that the plan should it be adopted will neither effectively answer the national object nor prevent the local mischiefs which everywhere excite disgust against the state governments.”Read more »

Did Sally Hemings And Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other?

A historian tackles one of American history’s thorniest questions

In the nearly 11 years since the publication of my book Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, I have traveled throughout the United States and overseas talking about them—and life and slavery at Monticello. Writers are, in the main, solitary creatures. Or, at least, the process of writing forces us into solitude for long stretches of time; I find it refreshing and gratifying to meet people who have read one’s work (or plan to) and have questions, observations, and opinions about it.Read more »

George Washington, Founding CEO

Sharp business skills ensured the first president’s phenomenal success

America’s greatest leader was its first—George Washington. He ran two start-ups, the army and the presidency, and chaired the most important committee meeting in U.S. history, the Constitutional Convention. His agribusiness and real estate portfolio made him America’s richest man. He was as well known as any actress, rapper, or athlete. Men followed him into battle; women longed to dance with him; famous men, almost as great as he was, some of them smarter or better spoken, did what he told them to do. He was the Founding CEO.Read more »

Second-term Blues

Why Have Our Presidents Almost Always Stumbled After Their First Four Years?

Pity poor George W. Bush, stuck in the morass of those second-term blues! As of this writing, Mr. Bush’s poll numbers—those now ubiquitous barometers of presidential popularity—are barely creeping up after hitting record lows earlier this year.

Read more »

What Would The Founders Do Today?

Suppose they could go on "Meet The Press"...

Who cares what the founders would do? Who believes that the experiences, opinions, or plans of men who lived 200 years ago could have any relevance to our problems? Who imagines that the Founders could answer our questions?Read more »