5 Stories That Prove The Founding Fathers Were Total Maniacs
The United States loves its founding fathers. They've been made into icons -- infallible, larger-than-life heroes who risked everything to create one of the greatest countries the world has ever seen. But these supposed pillars of society could be occasionally (or chronically) prone to the kind of incoherent behavior you'd expect from people who think they're George Washington instead of those who are, y'know, George Washington. Case in point ...
Thomas Jefferson Had A Dead Moose Shipped To Paris To Win An Argument
In between helping create the United States and sleeping with his slaves, Jefferson was also minister to France from 1785 to 1789. While in Paris, he discovered that the haughty Europeans still had their noses in the air over America. Literally. According to a popular French theory, America had poor air quality which stunted people's growth, both physically and morally.
Jefferson could not stand idly by while these aristocrats in powdered wigs called Americans frail wimps, so he hatched an insane plan. He would import a giant moose from America to France, just to shut up all those size-shaming Frenchies.
Over the next year, Jefferson kept badgering his colleagues back in America to stop doing all that unimportant statecraft and bag him a moose. Eventually they put the governor of New Hampshire on the case, and he sent out hunters to shoot the biggest moose bull they could find. Which they did. 20 miles from the road. In the middle of winter. But if Thomas Jefferson needed a moose, by god would he get one. The hunters dragged the beast through towering snow for 14 days to deliver it to civilization, had it spruced up a bit by a taxidermist, and shipped it off for a year-long-voyage to Europe.
Naturally, by the time the moose arrived in Paris, it was a putrid, stinking mess with no antlers -- though the governor had included spare parts from other animals, in case Jefferson wanted to "mix and match as he saw fit." Yet bold Jefferson was unfazed, presenting the rancid moose to his French critics and simply telling them to use their imagination to fill in the blanks. If nothing else, he proved that Americans do have one thing (well, a pair of things) that's pretty big.
Ben Franklin Electrocuted Himself Trying To Cook Turkeys
It turns out kite-flying wasn't the only way Ben Franklin tinkered in God's electrical domain. Centuries before drunken dads perfected the craft, he set out to find a way to nuke turkeys with "electrical fire" so as to provide a nine-minute dinner. Using a six-gallon Leyden jar, he zapped the plump birds with electric currents. Yet each one's goose remained uncooked, with Franklin's defeated reports stating: "The turkies , though thrown into violent convulsions and then lying as dead for some minutes, would recover in less than a quarter of an hour."
Undeterred, Franklin eventually managed to successfully electrify the life out of a gobbling victim, making all this electro-murder worth it when he noted that "the birds killed in this manner eat uncommonly tender."
However, the contempt Franklin showed to his wobbly friends came back to peck him in the butt when one experiment resulted in self-electrocution. Describing the incident in a letter from 1750, Big Ben recalled that he was distracted by a bystander and zapped himself instead of the bird: "I then felt what I know not how well to describe; an universal Blow thro'out my whole Body from head to foot ... that part of my hand and fingers which held the Chain was left white as tho' the Blood had been Driven Out." Sadly, unlike the birds, this didn't make Franklin more tender, and he continued to happily fry fowl for the rest of his days.
Related: Little-Known Facts About The Founding Fathers
John Paul Jones Graffitied His Name On An Enemy Ship Just To Show Off
John Paul Jones was one of the greatest naval commanders to have ever lived. As one of the heroes of the American Revolution, he sank and captured countless ships, and was dubbed "the Father of the American Navy." And while he was a little late to the party to sign the Declaration of Independence, he did sign his name on something else: a Turkish ship he really, really wanted to sink.
Despite a stellar performance during the Revolution, Jones' naval career hit a bit of slump afterward, as the United States had sold off its entire navy to cut costs. But while the rest of America was tired of fighting, Jones just packed up his duffel and traveled to Europe, hoping someone there would make him admiral. His big break came when Catherine the Great offered him a rear-admiralship to fight in her war against the Turks. But there was a problem: Jones didn't want to be an admiral, he wanted to be the admiral.
In order to get the clout he deserved, JPJ went out and scored several major victories for the Russians. But when being a crack commander wasn't getting him enough recognition, he decided to get attention the same way a rebellious teenager does: by spray-painting his name in big letters. During one scouting mission, Jones had a Cossack warrior row him right up to a Turkish dock. There, he wrote on one of the Turkish hulls in chalk "TO BE BURNED. PAUL JONES." And like Washington, Jones could not tell a lie, because the next day, he used that graffiti to hunt the ship down and sink it.
Unfortunately, that showboating only made him more hated among his Russian colleagues, who plotted to have the American rear-admiral kicked out. One of his rivals bribed a 12-year-old girl to claim that Jones had raped her. Jones vehemently denied the charge, putting forth the legit 18th-century defense that he had in fact paid that 12-year-old for perfectly legal consensual sex. Nonetheless, he was run out of Russia, and Jones died in France soon after, never having sailed again.
Related: 6 Presidential Secrets Your History Teacher Didn't Mention
Gouverneur Morris Lost His Leg Sleeping With A Married Woman (And Didn't Stop)
Gouverneur Morris (we didn't misspell his office, that's his actual name) is the founding father known for writing most of the Constitution. But in his day, he was more widely known for another sort of penmanship. Morris was very popular with the ladies -- a popularity he reciprocated by trying to bed anything in corset across the breadth of D.C. Nothing would slow down this horny crusader, not even losing an entire leg.
But this wasn't some battle wound from the War of Independence, though it did involve him getting some action. One night, the 28-year-old was caught red-handed bedding another man's wife. The husband chased Morris out onto the street, where the unfortunate future statesman got run over by a four-wheeled carriage, breaking his leg in several places. Doctors had to amputate the leg below the knee, replacing it with a wooden prosthetic -- a stark reminder to always look both ways when having an affair with a married woman.
You'd think that after losing a leg, Morris would learn a lesson not to play around. But the wooden leg didn't slow him down one bit, even when he hobbled away on it after getting caught cheating again. For decades, the peg-legged Morris kept screwing around, until he finally settled down and stopped chasing women at the age of 58, much to the relief of his remaining leg and other lower-body appendage.
Related: 4 Constitutional Debates America's Founders Never Saw Coming
Benjamin Rush Thought Black People Were White People With Leprosy
Benjamin Rush is no one's favorite founding father. He isn't even anyone's favorite founding father named Benjamin. But to his credit, Rush was a renowned academic, humanist, and physician. The onetime surgeon general even spent a great deal of his life trying to save mankind from the debilitating disease of ... blackness?
A few years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Rush declared that he had finally figured out the holy grail of bad '80s stand-up comedy: the real difference between white people and black people. Black people, according to Rush, were merely white people who are suffering from a weird form of leprosy that turns skin black, lips big, and hair "woolly" -- an illness he coined as "negritude." And there was only one cure for negritude: becoming white. Even if that meant burning off the black skin and curly hair with dangerous acid to reveal the natural, godly whiteness underneath.
Despite this -- and it's not often you can say this of a guy who thinks you should "burn away the black" -- Rush was one of the most progressive founding fathers. He was against the death penalty and championed women's higher education (to a point). Most ironically, Rush was also strongly anti-slavery, condemning the capture of these poor sick whites as evil. Which makes him the only guy to say ethnic minorities were a "disease" that must be "cured" who wasn't being ghoulishly metaphoric, but ghoulishly literal.
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