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Forget What Happened Inbetween

July 4, 2017

George Washington did not sign the Declaration of Independence.  He was either in camp or on the battlefield at the time.  Of the 56 signers only two were future Presidents of the United States.  When Washington became President, one of these two signers was his Vice President for two terms.  The other was his first Secretary of State.

In 1796 Washington did not run for a third term.  The two major candidates that year were the two signers mentioned above.  When the Electors met, Washington’s Vice President became the new President, and Washington’s first Secretary of State became the new Vice President.

By 1800 it was obvious they could not work together.  In the first negative campaign in U.S. history, the Vice President’s agents were calling the President a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

In turn, the President’s men responded by calling the Vice President “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

The Vice President became the new President, and the outgoing President chose not to attend the inauguration of the successor who unseated him.  Many miles separated them, and they were not on friendly terms for many years.

By 1826 they had long since patched things up.  On July 4 of that year, with his dying breath, the 2nd President of the United States seemed comforted by the notion that at least one signer of the Declaration still lived.  But he was mistaken.  The other signer, the man who had been the principal author of the Declaration, had died that morning.

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