Cheating Politicians Are As Old As America

Modern American politicians don't have the market cornered on infidelity and illegitimate children.

John Jay. The first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court deserves much more credit from history. In addition to his brilliant legal work and a profound influence on a strong central government, he helped stave off a second war with the British (but couldn't stem the tide of the War of 1812) and very likely conducted no extra-marital affairs. His personal life was unremarkable. and he never remarried despite surviving his wife by twenty-some years.

Thomas Jefferson. Open the floodgates. Obviously, the big story is Sally Hemings. DNA has, with some small shred of doubt, proved that the architect of the University of Virginia made some number of babies with a woman who was his legal property. Not sure if it makes it better or worse but Hemings was (allegedly) half-sister to Jefferson's late wife. The Hemings story first came to light from mud-slinging rabble-rouser named James Callender (an 18th century cross between Perez Hilton and Andrew Breitbart, either way, he didn't draw male DNA on celebrity's daggeurreotypes). However, while he was envoy to a pre-guillotine era France, Jefferson had what can best be described as an emotional affair with Maria Cosway and corresponded with her until his death. Though the events were likely sensationalized, the Nick Nolte vehicle, Jefferson In Paris, centers on this possible intercontinental love triangle.

James Madison. The Father of the Constitution was the author of the Bill of Rights and the fourth president. He was married to a real sweetie pie named Dolley Madison. Dolley was a widow when she hitched her wagon to Madison's star, and he actually adopted her son from her previous marriage. Legendary pistoleer Aaron Burr introduced the couple and it was largely gravy from there. Historians essentially agree that they had a pretty excellent relationship, though I've long held that she didn't like the White House, so convinced Madison to start the War of 1812 in order to convince the British forces to raze the old columned building.

George Washington. The man on the $1 bill was a lot of things: first president, inspirational general, man unable to tell a lie, namesake of America's most phallic monument and possessor of fake teeth*. But did he have a sidepiece on Martha (also a widow with children)? Again, historians aren't quite sure if he had any sort of affair with a lady named Sally Fairfax. Some historians posit that the future first president sought to better his position in life in order to be good enough for this incidentally married woman. Though the letters he sent her were full of ardor and the flowery language you'd expect from a candy ass like John Hancock, it's most likely that this relationship was never more than a matter of correspondence and mutual admiration.

So, if you're keeping score at home, the Founding Fathers were party to: a couple of readily-proved affairs, some randy correspondence (a proto-Weiner), a minimum of one blackmail, a few illegitimate children, more dead spouses than you could shake a Declaration of Independence at, a scosche of muckraking and a heaping bowlful of unsubstantiated innuendo. Despite their shortcomings, these guys managed to forge the greatest and fairest nation the Earth has ever seen. Maybe some of the knuckleheaded choices our current pols make in their personal lives are exemplary of personal shortcomings and untrustworthiness. But maybe the first generation of American leaders wouldn't have welded thirteen disparate colonies into a cohesive nation had the Puritans/salacious media of that era been up their butts all the time… powdered wigs, wooden teeth and all. Secret Love Lives of US Presidents

Happy 4th of July. USA USA USA USA

*Please Note: Many historians find the cherry tree story to be highly apocryphal. Also, Washington's chompers were made of a combination of gold, ivory and animal teeth. You're thinking of Captain Ahab, dude.