October 29, 2009


Janet pretty much covered everything in the way of introductions, but there are two things I should add.

1. She and I met when we overlapped for one day working at the greatest bookstore in history in Boston. It was my first day, and her last day, and she was supposed to train me. Within probably eight minutes she had set off the fire alarm.

2. I am stuck in Fort Wayne, Indiana, doing a sort of legal internship for the year. This accounts for my enthusiasm that J. referenced earlier. She thought that my life's ennui would "shine through" my posts, but I think it is better to put it out front.

Onto the books. These first three guys are serving as more of an introduction to the Presidency than as an accounting of it.

Washington, Adams, and Jefferson were very different men with one thing in common. Their greatest moments did not involve their being President. This is almost inconceivable today, where Presidents are lifelong politicians whose careers have been meticulously planned as not to interfere with the goal of attaining the presidency. The office is not a reward--becoming President is the main thing. The culmination, of this trend is our recently electing a 46-year-old junior senator, who recently (very recently) had been serving in the Illinois State Capitol.

But not our first three chief execs. In 1776, John Adams, through persuasion and guile, convinced a majority of the delegates at the Congressional Congress to vote for Independence. He passed the ball to Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence (and Adams fought for every last word of it on the floor of Congress when weak-kneed PC delegates tried to temper the fightin' words). Then Washington went and won the damn war. By 1781 these guys were has-beens, or at least would-be has-beens. GW fancied himself the American Cincinnatus, who would retire to his plantation after winning the war. Adams wanted to finally spend some time with Abigail, the 18th-century Natalie Portman.

By the time they (spoiler alert) became President, they really didn't want to do it. Washington even maintained plausible deniability that his name was on the ballot. Again, inconceivable today.

Excited to start Madison. He mostly grew up in a time where the presidency existed---it was something he wanted.


  1. Great project! I am chipping away at Presidential biographies as well, although at a much slower pace. Looking forward to Mr. Culberg's famed storytelling.

  2. Bergerson! I will be disappointed if you don't contribute regularly.